Seismic Crimes by Chrys Fey

It’s hard to tell at times if Mother Nature is throwing everything she has at our main characters in an attempt to crush them, or to bring them closer together.

What’s it About?

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An Internal Affairs Investigator was murdered and his brother, Donovan Goldwyn, was framed. Now Donovan is desperate to prove his innocence. And the one person who can do that is the woman who saved him from a deadly hurricane–Beth Kennedy. From the moment their fates intertwined, passion consumed him. He wants her in his arms. More, he wants her by his side in his darkest moments.

Beth Kennedy may not know everything about Donovan, but she can’t deny what she feels for him. It’s her love for him that pushes her to do whatever she has to do to help him get justice, including putting herself in a criminal’s crosshairs.

When a tip reveals the killer’s location, they travel to California, but then an earthquake of catastrophic proportions separates them. As aftershocks roll the land, Beth and Donovan have to endure dangerous conditions while trying to find their way back to one another. Will they reunite and find the killer, or will they lose everything?

First Impressions

This sequel literally picks up right where book one left off, in the aftermath of a devastating hurricane which initially brought our two main characters into each other’s lives. Similar to the first book, we see mystery, intrigue and suspense woven into the plot as Donovan and Beth struggle to bring the corrupt cops who killed Donovan’s brother to justice. While Hurricane Crimes was a quick, action-packed novella at just under 50 pages, this longer sequel provides our characters the opportunity to truly get to know one another in a somewhat slower-paced setting. As the disaster of the hurricane starts to recede, Donovan and Beth are able to connect on a deeper, emotional level as she comforts him in his grief.

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Beth becomes a shoulder to cry on, and a voice of encouragement to Donovan. She had to cope with the death of her parents all by herself years before, and as Donovan struggles with feelings of remorse and guilt following the loss of his brother, Beth is able to offer him comfort in a way she never had. There are moments where Donovan’s strength seeps out of him completely, and it’s through these heart-breakingly tender scenes that we see how Beth draws him back up on his feet. You couldn’t help but wonder at the end of book one whether these two would last beyond the initial drama which brought them together, but as this second story progresses it’s clear that they’re meant to last. It’s not as though one character is always the damsel in distress coming to rescue the other, but rather they manage to find strength in each other in a way which proves their love is the real deal.

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Hurricane vs. Earthquake

Throughout the first book I was shocked at how the author managed to make the hurricane which blasted against Donovan and Beth feel like a primary character. When I found out this second book would present our lovers with another natural disaster in the form of an earthquake, I couldn’t help but think, “well…that’ll certainly be easier to deal with than a hurricane.” What can I say?! An earthquake seemed like a rather quick disaster compared to the lengthy and thunderous rampage of a hurricane. Boy oh boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong! We once again see Mother Nature referenced as a formidable force that simultaneously seems to have it out for our main characters, yet also manages to save them in their hour of need.

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At one point Beth compares the calamities which have befallen her and Donovan, and relates how the hurricane was preferable compared to the earthquake in that you can prepare for the former, whereas the latter can unexpectedly hit at any time. Although the earthquake is over in a matter of minutes, the brilliance in the description of this second disaster comes more in the aftermath rather than the event itself. On the one hand, we see the heartlessness of some who take advantage of the hectic nature of the fallout through selfishness and stealing. And yet, in the next scene we’re presented with the juxtaposition of that greed through selfless acts of heroism by some characters. I’ll admit it damn near brought tears to my eyes to see how, in times where all hope appeared lost, there were those who banded together to help complete strangers all in the name of good. No demand for reward or payback, but rather proof that sometimes the beauty of the human spirit can surprise you.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Disaster Crimes, book 2. Technically you don’t have to read book 1 to understand the events of this novel, but I think you still might as well read it. It is only 43 pages after all! This sequel ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, but it isn’t one that will leave you feeling annoyed. Rather, you can’t wait to see what might happen next!

Final Impressions: This was a great follow-up to the Disaster Crimes series. While there was certainly suspense and intrigue as Donovan and Beth chase after his brother’s killer, the first part of the novel slows things down a bit so that our characters have the chance to simply “be” with each other. True, they’re struggling with immense grief and heartache, but it allows them (and us) the opportunity to get to know who the other person truly is. Towards the half-way point we switch gears once again to get back to the suspenseful side of the story, but it was this first part that was the most revealing and poignant in my opinion. Their struggle to combat Donovan’s grief was an intense fight, but it demonstrated that these two are stronger together than they could ever be apart.

Smut Level: In the first novella Donovan and Beth initially explored their desire while hiding out in a bathtub. In this second novel they’re excited to have the chance to take their time getting to know every inch of each other’s bodies, and in a comfy bed no less!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 284 Pages.

The Elusive Sun by Rebecca Hefner

Vampyres have lived in the dark for centuries. For Lila and Latimus, openly declaring their love for each other seems just as elusive as seeing the sun again.

What’s it About?

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Lila, a high born aristocrat of the Vampyre kingdom, was betrothed to Sathan, King of the Vampyres, for a thousand years. The betrothal, declared by the goddess Etherya, was deemed unbreakable. Although she cared for Sathan, and loved him as her king, secretly her heart yearned for his brother. When Sathan falls for another, Lila ends the betrothal, terrified at what her life will become now that she won’t be queen.

Latimus has loved Lila since they played together on the grassy riverbank as children. Knowing that his brother was the better man, he never begrudged his betrothal to the woman he secretly loved. Now that Sathan has married another, Latimus becomes aware of Lila’s feelings. Determined to push her into the arms of a worthier man, he believes that a war-torn army commander such as he could never offer her the life she deserves.

As the war against the Deamons rages, Latimus fights for his people, protecting them from the evil Dark Lord Crimeous. When Lila suffers a brutal attack, Latimus is shaken to his core. Resolved to avenge her, he acknowledges the emotion that has always burned for her in his blackened heart. But Lila has moved on and, as the war ensues, he worries that it might be too late to claim her…

First Impressions

A common theme of this novel focused on how Lila and Latimus struggled to cope with the expectations for the lives they’ve been born into. Both were raised around a sense of duty. For her, it was an aristocratic one. She had a duty to her king, to her people, and an overarching duty to produce heirs for said king to continue ruling their subjects together. For him, it was a duty to lead and command his Vampyre army. Latimus has constantly led a hard life of danger and service, constantly seen as second best to his brother, the king. After the events of the last novel, and with the opening of this one, Lila and Latimus are both starting to realize they’ve had a mutual attraction to each other for centuries.

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You can’t help but question why they don’t take full advantage of their new situation in life, and tear each other’s clothes off!! After all, Lila is no longer betrothed to his brother, and she’s free to choose whoever she wants in life. However, when you’ve spent the last 1000 years living a certain life, and fulfilling a particular duty in that life, you can see why they’d both struggle to suddenly toss out everything they’ve been raised to believe about their purpose in life. Duty was always first and foremost to beat out love or emotion. Latimus in particular feels these countless years of killing has tainted him to the point where he’s not worthy of touching Lila considering how much blood he’s had on his hands. He constantly focuses on the bad, whereas she and everyone else can recognize the good in him.

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The Slowly Ticking Clock 

Obviously seeing the romantic relationship develop between Latimus and Lila was a high point of the novel that makes your toes curl in delight with every scene. However, another one of the more fascinating observations with this read was the concept of time for our immortals. On the one hand, they feel like they have forever, so they convince themselves that some admissions of love or emotion can wait. In reality, they are still vulnerable to the ceaseless and unmerciful Deamon attacks which have been ramping up since the events of the first book.

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At one point in the story we see a 1000 year-old vampyre killed in battle. As a human you can’t help but think, geez he had a good run! That was a long time for others to know and love him, and a long time to live as a soldier. Yet in the same vein you see how soul crushing the deaths of comrades can be. When you’re an immortal expecting to live forever, any moment of death is seen as too soon. This also plays out in the relationship between Lila and Latimus. After pushing aside their long-held grievances they finally have an immortal lifetime to spend together, and yet they still lament over how much time they’ve wasted these last 1000 years bickering with each other. It helps them realize that they don’t want to waste any more time, and make up for as much time as they can which was spent apart from each other.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Etherya’s Earth, book 2. I am squirming in anticipation for book 3!!

Final Impressions: I am officially addicted to this series. The characters draw you in, and you find yourself holding your breath in anticipation wondering what troubles might befall them. At times Latimus and Lila are almost too overly supportive of each other, fawning over how amazing the other is whenever one says they deserve someone who isn’t flawed. This sequel does sort of lack the sense of urgency and momentum which was so prominent in book one. While the Deamon King, Crimeous, is still an active threat in this second book, the battle against him isn’t really the driving force of the plot. Instead, it’s really about Lila and Latimus learning to communicate their feelings for one another after keeping them secret for centuries. It was still an interesting tale to see their trust in each other and romance unfold, but also kind of lacking in the suspense department.

Smut Level: Daaaaamn! This sequel was 10 times steamier than book one. Plenty of dirty talk and passionate thrusting to really get your blood flowing.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 224 Pages.

Alaska Night by Daisy Sweeney

A land where the days are short and the nights are long. The arrival of a bad-boy outsider plunges this small Alaska town into rumors, mystery, and for good-girl Jules, a tumultuous romance unlike any she’s ever known before.

What’s it About? 

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An arrogant stranger with a mysterious past. An innocent girl desperate to heal her broken family. Thrown together by fate, they find themselves fighting a harsh Alaskan winter. Will they ignore their blistering sexual chemistry or will they give in under the skies of an Alaska Night?

Jules Harper knows that no one comes to Bright Bay in the middle of winter. But one January morning, Night Calloway proves her wrong, riding into the wild woods, ready to break hearts with his chiseled body and grass green eyes. He’s there to make fast money and get away from the dark past that’s been chasing him in the lower 48. If he warms the bed of every pretty girl in town while he does it, all the better. He’s scored logging work with the help of the town’s golden boy and he plans on sweating hard, pocketing the cash and moving on.
Then he sees her.

A sweet-faced local girl raising her little sister, begging her alcoholic father to pick life over death, forced to grow up before her time—the first real emotion Night has felt in years is to protect Jules. But she’s heard the rumors. He’s in town to steal the jobs, and the women. Yet somehow, as soon as he locks his tattooed arms around her, she’s ready to stay in them forever. She doesn’t care that she has no idea who he was before he roared into Alaska.

Just as she falls hard, her world is consumed with dangerous accusations, breathless calls and nightly disappearances. Jules wants to jump to Night’s defense, but when he’s accused of terrible crimes, she doesn’t know if Bright Bay is plotting to bring an outsider down or if she’s really in bed with the enemy. Tangled in a web of lust and law-breaking, Jules knows what her real fear is: When winter ends, will Night disappear with it?

First Impressions

Jules is a virginal good-girl who keeps to herself in this small Alaska town. She might just be in her early twenties, but she’s been forced into adulthood early in life. Her mother died when she was little, resulting in her father turning to alcohol and ultimately leaving Jules to take care of her younger sister. She’s never really had time to live her own life, but when bad-boy Night arrives into town, she can’t help but be drawn to this mysterious outsider. While the circumstances of their backgrounds are certainly different, I couldn’t help but compare the romance between Jules and Night to that of Rory and Jess in Gilmore Girls.

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Their sexual chemistry is off the charts, and they’re both willing to stand up for their connection in the face of criticism from locals who are cautious of this outsider. However, you also can’t help but question if Night is really good for Jules. He’s secretive, has the tendency to disappear for days with no explanation, and doesn’t return her texts or phone calls when she inquires if he’s alright. Surprisingly, it seems that Jules is always the one apologizing to Night, as he’s constantly saying he warned her that he wasn’t the relationship type. Whenever he gets phone calls, glances and come-ons from other women she questions him relentlessly, while he chastises her for not trusting him. Again, Jules is usually the one apologizing to him, but has he really given her any reason to trust his actions considering his inability to open up?

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High School for Adults

While Jules and Night are both in their twenties, I couldn’t help but feel that certain aspects of their romantic relationship were reminiscent of high school drama. Perhaps this is because they both experienced such life-changing events when they were teenagers that they never really had the chance to be young. Some of their actions and reactions to each other were quite frustrating, from Night pushing her pleas to discuss his past to the side, their default of turning to sex instead of using words to connect, and especially Night keeping silent whenever Jules was concerned about his whereabouts after days of absence.

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On top of their own interactions with each other, we also see added drama in how the townsfolk respond to their relationship. Essentially, nobody is rooting for them to succeed, and instead are just waiting around for Jules to realize that this outsider is bad news who sleeps around. Throughout the book we see Jules’ cousin, as well as the rest of the ladies in town completely fawn over Night. This constantly causes Jules to question why Night is with her, and worry that he’ll leave her for some other willing woman. Then you have Jules’ ex-boyfriend trying to win her back, cat fights, bro fights, and a lot of theatrics that will make your head spin!

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*A copy of this novel was provided for an honest review*

Series: When I finished this read I was convinced it was part of a series. There were a lot of questions left unanswered, plot points left undeveloped, and we’re left with kind of an open-ended conclusion that makes you wonder what might come next. The fact this is a stand-alone kind of makes me scratch my head wondering why we didn’t see more elements come full-circle.

Final Impressions: The most compelling part of this novel for me was the beginning. We see Jules struggle in her interactions with her alcoholic father, as well as with raising her young sister all by herself. A romance with a bad-boy outsider seems like something she doesn’t have time for, but you’re initially drawn in by their connection. As time goes on though we see Jules’ father and sister kind of disappear from the story once she and Night finally get together, and the focus of the plot switches to them proving their love to the town. We get snippets here and there of a mystery involving Night being set up for a crime he didn’t commit in an attempt to push him out of town. Overall it was kind of a far-fetched scheme, and not fully developed, but it did bring some exciting suspense to the end of the book. Again, I assumed most of this final drama was introduced to set up the events of a sequel, but it looks like that’s not happening?

Smut Level: They certainly like to get busy in her father’s old airplane, and manage to fly high without ever leaving the ground.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 269 Pages.

Out Too Far by Andrea K. Stein & Sawyer Stone

An exciting and humorous conclusion to the Love Overboard series!

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Rania Elsaeid is the brilliant engineer aboard the 115-foot yacht, the Bonnie Blue. She’s also a deadly, well-trained security guard. She keeps her cool when everything around her heats up. Morris “Moj” Johnston, internationally famous music producer, is on a much-needed vacation cruise through the islands of the Indian Ocean. He’s not looking for love but trying to heal a broken heart. When Moj meets Rania, everything changes. Suddenly, they find themselves on the run from pirates, lost on a deserted island, and dangerously close to going…OUT TOO FAR!

First Impressions

It’s always sad to see the end of a series, but this final installment in the Love Overboard trilogy manages to keep you giggling as Rania and Moj navigate their love in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Both characters are dealing with the stresses of life. She’s lying low, trying to keep off the radar so her crazy ex doesn’t find her. As for Moj, he’s keeping busy as a famous music producer, trying to keep his mind off the recent and untimely death of his wife. Neither is looking for love, but once their eyes lock during a crowded music festival, there’s no going back. The connection between them is immediate. While they’re initially hesitant to explore anything physical between them seeing as she’s working on the yacht he’s chartered, it’s not long before fate pushes them to take things to the next level.

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Funnily enough, the moment when they decide to finally give into the desire which has enveloped them since they first met is not the moment I would have guessed would be the most opportune for sexy fun times. Moj and Rania find themselves stranded on a seemingly deserted island with kidnappers, albeit hilariously incompetent ones, hot on their tail. This is the moment where I’d be freaking out, convinced that starvation and dehydration would soon portend the end of it all. However, Moj and Rania take an entirely different approach, seeing this deserted island as an opportunity to finally get some privacy from all of Moj’s fame. Sure, they need to explore the island for water, food, discover whether or not it actually is deserted, but they first choose to look at the silver lining of the situation. Beautiful beach, just survived an adrenaline inducing escape from kidnappers…seems like the perfect time to get naked, no? Priorities people!

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“There is maybe one chance in hell we’re going to survive this ordeal. I say we make the most of the time we have left…”

The Need to Stand Aside

Something I really loved about this read, and the series as a whole for that matter, was that we were presented with a strong female lead character. Oftentimes throughout the books we find it is the ladies who are stepping up to protect the gents, or help them out of a sticky situation. This holds true in the character of Rania, a strong woman who can take care of herself, and has been trained by the very best to do so. Moj on the other hand, is a man who was determined to take care of his first wife who died from cancer. Caring wholeheartedly for others is part of his very nature, and the concept of stepping aside to let Rania take care of herself is one he’s struggling with. Where his first wife needed him, Rania doesn’t really need him at all. Even though their time together has been brief, it’s not long before Moj can’t imagine what life would be like to have Rania pulled away from him so suddenly.

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By the end of the novel, Moj finally accepts that when it comes to attempted kidnappers and matters of international espionage, his interference would probably cause more harm than good. He succeeds in stepping aside to allow Rania to shine in all her bad-assery. The final scene is quite funny even though it’s the climax of everything coming together, and it’s described in such perfect detail I could practically see it playing out in my head like a movie. Moj still worries for Rania’s safety, that’s something that will never go away completely, but he can learn to let her take care of herself when necessary. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t need him at all. She needs his presence in her life, she needs his love and support, but she doesn’t need him to treat her as a damsel in distress. If anything, Moj is the one who needs her protection and strength in certain moments. There are many times where they learn to place their full trust in the other person in order to make it out of a sticky situation, and acknowledge that there are some things they can’t do all by themselves. Sometimes they need a shoulder to lean on.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Love Overboard, book 3. It’s always fun to see the earlier characters from the series come back in the end, although it was kind of disappointing that the couple from book 2 never made a surprise guest appearance.

Final Impressions: This was a sexy, funny read, and a great conclusion to the series. Some scenes were a bit over the top, and other areas could have been explained more fully, such as Rania’s past with her ex. However, it’s still a fun and silly read that’ll have you giggling along. Aside from the delight of having a strong female lead character, my other favorite part would have to be our would-be kidnappers. At the start you worry about how they might cause trouble for Moj and Rania, but as the story progresses you see they are hilariously inept at being criminals, and I was shocked to find myself liking them more and more with each new scene.

Smut Level: The first time Moj and Rania do the deed it’s on the beach of a deserted island they’ve been stranded on. I can’t imagine how much sand must have gotten into some extremely uncomfortable places.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Muirgen Publishing, LLC. 211 Pages.

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The Rogue King by Abigail Owen

This is the kind of book that will immediately make you crave the sequel as soon as you reach the last page.

What’s it About? 

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Kasia Amon is a master at hiding. Who—and what—she is makes her a mark for the entire supernatural world. Especially dragon shifters. To them, she’s treasure to be taken and claimed. A golden ticket to their highest throne. But she can’t stop bursting into flames, and there’s a sexy dragon shifter in town hunting for her…

As a rogue dragon, Brand Astarot has spent his life in the dark, shunned by his own kind, concealing his true identity. Only his dangerous reputation ensures his survival. Delivering a phoenix to the feared Blood King will bring him one step closer to the revenge he’s waited centuries to take. No way is he letting the feisty beauty get away.

But when Kasia sparks a white-hot need in him that’s impossible to ignore, Brand begins to form a new plan: claim her for himself…and take back his birthright.

First Impressions

I’ve been a huge fan of the Fire’s Edge series by Ms. Abigail Owen, and I’ve been craving more information about the dragon clan drama we’ve only heard hints of so far. When The Rogue King, which is the first book in the companion Inferno Rising series, landed in my lap I was positively tinkled pink. I’m happy to say this alternating series doesn’t disappoint, and has finally provided insight into the issues which have been playing on the edge of this dragon world up until now. What I love about any Abigail Owen book, and which certainly holds true in this premiere novel, is that there are so many layers at work to the plot beyond mere romance.

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You have Brand fighting to belong to a clan once again after going rogue hundreds of years before. His desire to earn the trust of his fellow dragons has the slightest hint of both desperation and exasperation to it, as he constantly struggles to become fully incorporated into this family/brotherhood. Then there’s the element of family legacy for both Kasia and Brand. She saw her mother die in front of her, and is now the phoenix of legend who can bring unbridled power to whichever dragon she eventually chooses to mate. Brand too witnessed the slaughter of his entire family, and now seeks to earn back his rightful place as king of the Gold Clan. There are battles for power and immortality, friendship, trust, loyalty, and on top of all that you have Brand and Kasia discovering their love for each other. That’s a full package right there!

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Blind Faith

Even the developing romance between Brand and Kasia is a complicated one that contains multiple layers which go deeper than simple infatuation. He has been ordered to bring her back to mate his king, but his king isn’t merely his ruler. This is his one true friend in the world who took him in when no one else would. In the beginning Kasia was his mission, pure and simple. Yet the more time he spends protecting her, and getting close to her, the more Brand can’t deny his feelings for her are growing. However, to act on them would be the ultimate betrayal to the one man he’s considered a brother. The one man who might be able to aide him in his desire for revenge against his family’s killer. Can he really put all of that in jeopardy for a woman?

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As for Kasia, she’s been taught from an early age to run from dragons. Her existence as a phoenix will bring ultimate power and luck to the clan of her future dragon mate. In spite of this power, she’s never wanted to be a pawn in the chess game these dragons have waged for centuries against each other. Kasia is a strong female who is convinced she’s no damsel in distress who needs rescuing. Imagine her annoyance when she’s confronted by this alpha rogue dragon who insists on taking care of her. However, even Kasia has to admit when she’s in need of help, and she quickly realizes the need to place all her blind faith and trust in Brand. She’s willing to meet and possibly even mate his king to endure her own survival. Her growing infatuation for Brand is undeniable, yet she understands that by giving into this desire she might be putting both of their lives at risk. You just have to wonder how long they can both hold out for.

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The Species At War

Dragons, wolves, demons, hell-hounds, vampires, and witches. Oh my! A fascinating feature of this novel is seeing the extent of infighting within the dragon species. They may all be the same in theory, but a key theme is seeing dragons fighting dragons from separate clans. They’re all after power, and they’re willing to take down members of their own species in the pursuit of it. However, we also see the introduction of all these different species which are supposed to be seen as the “other” compared to dragons. Wolves, vampires, etc, who are constantly viewed as a potential enemy. Their distrust of each other is immediate. Be that as it may, in the end we see how some of these different species have to come together in order to survive against a common enemy, and their alliance turns into one of trust and friendship. It’s a rather hopeful outlook that even those who seem so different on the surface might have more in common than they originally suspected.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Inferno Rising, book 1. I’ve been waiting so long for the stories of the clan kings, and it’s finally here! I can’t wait to see what comes next, and how these two series will continue to intertwine.

Final Impressions: Some fantastical aspects of the conclusion were a bit over the top for me, and we are ultimately left with some questions unanswered so that they can inevitably be resolved in a future book. This definitely helps to build the drama, but every now and again there were a few too many things going on at once. However, I loved that this also resulted in the plot constantly keeping you on your toes. It definitely was not a predictable read! You never know what’s going to happen next, what new characters we might meet, and what new alliances may be created or broken.

Smut Level: As if this dragon and phoenix weren’t putting out enough fire and flames of their own!! When Kasia and Brand come together they practically set the roof on fire!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Amara. 400 Pages

Heaven’s Sinners by Bella Jewel

Ever wonder how our lead male character got the nickname of “Spike”? Easy. He has a line of barbell piercings on his willy wally ding dong, and at either end of each barbell he has attachable spikes. Am I the only one who wonders what kind of outline that would form in his pants? Or what a pain it would be going through airport security?

What’s it About? 

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Contains adult content, recommended for readers over 17. A modern day biker romance.

Spike knows tragedy, he knows that feelings are better left hidden. He refuses to put his heart out there again, it’s a pain he’s not willing to feel a second time around. He’s accepted he’s going to spend forever alone. That’s all he deserves.

But then there’s Ciara, the sister of his deceased wife. She’s beautiful and damned determined to throw herself into his life in hopes they can reform an old friendship, but Spike won’t hear of it, and Ciara refuses to give up.

Who will win the battle of wills?

First Impressions 

Spike is trying with all his might to push Ciara away. They have a troubled past, and he’s convinced the two of them are better off away from each other. There’s just one problem with that. The fact they have such a long history together means that Ciara knows all the tricks and ploys he might use to try and push her away. This allows her to not only stay one step ahead of his attempts to get rid of her, but she knows how to push his own buttons to get an emotional reaction from him. Now, I will say some of their attempts to “one-up” each other get somewhat petty. For example there are several instances where they try to use other people to make the other one jealous, which is a bit too high school drama for my liking.

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However, I must admit I did appreciate that Ciara especially didn’t always choose to wither away when Spike was up to something. It’s often the case in romance novel land that a female lead will run off in a huff of anger if she comes upon the male lead making out in the back of a bar’s storage area with another woman. For Ciara though? Well, after catching Spike’s eye during said make-out session she decides to rile him up a bit by erotically touching and stroking herself. Right when he’s on the edge of coming because of her antics, she leaves the room with a knowing smirk and wink. I simultaneously wanted to roll my eyes at how they resulted to some immature methods to provoke each other, yet also applaud Ciara’s ability to stare him right in the face without backing down. An unexpected dichotomy for sure.

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Past vs. Present; Ciara vs. Spike

The format of this novel was rather unique, in that it constantly switches back and forth from the past to the present. The past particularly focuses on the history of Ciara and Spike’s friendship, his pursuit of Ciara’s sister Cheyenne, and the aftermath of Cheyenne’s death. Their present is more focused on both of them learning how to forgive each other for the misunderstandings of their past, as well as pursuing a new romantic relationship with each other. While it was definitely an interesting format, something felt a bit disjointed in the execution of it. Firstly, the scenes in both the past and the present were constantly flip-flopping between both Ciara and Spike’s points of view. Secondly, the flashbacks to the past didn’t necessarily happen in chronological order, which made it rather difficult to keep track of what happened when. At the start of the novel, all we know is that in the present scenes Ciara and Spike have a definite animosity towards each other, and in the scenes from the past we see how close they used to be in their friendship.

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From that point on the entire novel felt like a build-up to understanding what exactly happened between Ciara and Spike all those years ago, as well as the animosity which developed between them because of his relationship with Cheyenne. While interesting in theory, I found it somewhat difficult to follow along with some of their arguments in the present when we don’t fully understand everything that happened in the past. Whatever happened to end the friendship between Spike and Ciara, and push him into the arms of her sister was obviously the foundation for their current animosity, but because we were left in the dark for soooo long you couldn’t help but feel frustrated at their continual bickering in the present. The true break in their relationship all those years ago never received the amount of attention it deserved, and therefore you just want them to forgive each other and get over it already.

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The Blame Game

Misplaced blame seems to be the name of the game in this novel. Everyone places blame where it doesn’t belong in every argument they have. They’ll blame each other, themselves, Ciara’s deceased sister Cheyenne, etc. The funny thing is that at some point, each of those people were in fact responsible for some kind of misunderstanding or error in the past, but they always blamed them for some other misdeed at the wrong time. This was especially true regarding both Ciara and Spike’s relationships with Cheyenne, including how Spike and Cheyenne ended up marrying each other, as well as the details surrounding her death. We know that Spike only turned towards Cheyenne all those years before out of frustration that Ciara never seemed to notice his attempts to woo her.

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All these years later he’s insistent that he did actually love Cheyenne with all his heart, but it’s kind of difficult for us to understand seeing as we never saw any affectionate moments between them. The only Cheyenne-focused scenes we did see involved Cheyenne being pretty manipulative in her pursuit of Spike, even though she knew her sister was infatuated with him. Spike blames himself for Cheyenne’s death, and Ciara initially blamed Spike as well, but both also admitted that Cheyenne wanted to be there with Spike during some kind of dangerous biker mission. It seemed like the only person they didn’t always involve in the blame game was the man who actually pulled the trigger to kill Cheyenne in the first place! It wasn’t until the very last moment of the book that we got a quick and rather intense focus from Spike on revenge towards Cheyenne’s killer.

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Series: The MC Sinners, book 2.

Final Impressions: This read definitely started strong, as you can’t help but wonder how Spike and Ciara’s strong friendship from so many years ago devolved into pure hatred in the present day. Will they be able to move on from their misunderstandings of the past? The main issue with this book though is in the execution of the story. This constant back and forth from past to present, and the lengthy delay in finding out how their friendship broke down when they were younger goes on for far too long. There was too much focus on their bickering, which resulted in the highly dramatic and suspenseful conclusion to feel rushed.

Smut Level: Spike definitely takes Ciara out of her sexual comfort zone, including going to a sex club where they watch others engage in sexual acts from behind a one-way mirror. Ciara can’t help but feel an initial sense of shame for liking something which seems so perverted. However, he teaches her how to embrace her desires. Hell, I guess when you think about it it’s basically just like watching live-action porn!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 260 Pages

Under the Skin by Zara West

Well folks, the time has come to bid a fond farewell to the The Skin Quartet series, as we’ve arrived at the fourth and final installment of the bunch. This time it’s Hanger’s turn to find romance in the tough city streets of New York. It’s been ten years since we last saw this spunky street kid graffiti artist, and he’s now grown into a wealthy and sophisticated architect. Or has he?

What’s it About? 

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Born poor and raised on the streets, celebrated bridge builder and billionaire, Mic Vargas is knee-deep in the construction of a trouble-plagued bridge from Manhattan to New Jersey. He really can’t afford to take in a stray thief and fall in love with her. But when a beautiful, snappy-tongued, illegal immigrant literally drops at his feet, he becomes consumed with saving her and her family from poverty.

Cat burglar, Lena Correr stopped trusting anyone long ago. Not even a rich, handsome billionaire with good intentions can break through her defenses. At least, not until an East Coast crime boss threatens her family and forces her to steal for him. Mic vows to help her and her family escape the hell they are in. But will the man Lena is coming to love succeed, or will he end up dead at the hands of an old enemy?

First Impressions

Of all the books contained within this series, this final novel proves to have the most poignant, thought-provoking, and perhaps relatable observation of them all. Up until this point, we have seen a focus on characters who were wealthy billionaires, tattoo artists, and some who lived on the streets. In this final novel we see a focus on Mic, a man who just ten years before was a kid living on the streets, putting up graffiti tags all over the city with his protective sister. He’s now a successful architect, richest beyond his wildest imagination. He lives in an expensive townhouse with fancy clothes, a soft bed, warmth, and plenty of food. And yet, who is he really when you peel away all the outer layers of perceived wealth? Who is he under the skin?

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We’ve all heard the phrase “money can’t buy happiness”, and in this novel we see an examination of how true that statement can be. For even though Mic now seemingly has everything he ever dreamed of and more, underneath it all he misses his former life living on the streets. It may not have been glamorous or safe. He may have gone to bed cold and hungry, but he lived his life the way he wanted, unbound by rules and people dictating where he could and couldn’t go. This observation that Mic carries out throughout the novel in regards to how his life has turned out grounds us as the reader. It encourages self-reflection, and for each of us to consider who we might be when we remove the facade of what others might expect of us.

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Two Peas in a Pod

This deep introspection of who a person truly is on the inside carries over into Mic’s interactions and eventual relationship with Lena. Upon first meeting, Mic has a basic surface-level impression of this young woman. She’s a thief. A child of the streets, just like he used to be. But by having come from that world, Mic understands that there is often more beneath the surface that can drive a person to sometimes do terrible things. Mic becomes transfixed to discover how this beautiful young woman resulted to thievery in order to solve her problems in life.

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As we learn who Lena is under her own skin, we discover that Mic’s initial inkling that there was more to her than meets the eye was entirely accurate. Lena steals, not for herself, but for her family. As undocumented immigrants in a big city, her mother and little brothers have few options, and she’s taken it upon herself to ensure they make it through each day in one piece. Her fall into thievery was not done because of greed, but rather survival and caring for her family. Lena was initially on the path to becoming a nurse, but when her father was deported, and the scumbag lawyer who defended him demands an exorbitant fee, Lena has no choice but to result to a life of crime. We soon see that her life is much like Alice’s, in that once she makes that first fall through the rabbit hole, things start spiraling out of control very quickly.

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The Spiral

Another successful point of this story is that it manages to keep you on your toes from start to finish. Every time you think there might be a lull in the suspense, another dramatic element will be introduced just at the right time to ensure you’re still paying attention. On the one hand, we see some shady and questionable issues surrounding Mic’s latest bridge project. On the other, things start to spiral out of control as Lena’s success as a thief draws the attention of one very seedy character who becomes intent on drawing her into his world of crime. And he’ll do whatever it takes to bring her over to his side, even if he has to threaten the safety of her mother and brothers to do so.

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Mic is intent on helping Lena and her family escape whatever trouble it is they’ve found themselves in, to the point where he’s willing to brush aside the turmoil of his own life in order to focus all his attention on saving this woman who has quickly come to mean so much to him. Lena constantly struggles with the question of  whether or not she should put her trust in Mic, or if she should instead do whatever she can to push him out of her life to spare him any hurt. These inner debates were successful in building up the intensity and unpredictability of a scene, yet also incredibly frustrating at times. We see her logic in the fact that she barely knows this man, and that by asking him for help she might be placing him in extreme danger that he might not be able to get them out of. At the same time though, you just want to scream at her to take the helping hand that’s being offered, to hold on with all her might and never let go.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: The Skin Quartet, book 4. It was an absolute delight to reconnect with old friends from throughout the entire series, as well as thrilling to see a few familiar foes come back into the mix as well.

Final Impressions: Even though Lena and Mic have a dramatic initial meeting, you can’t help but notice that for a good portion of the first third or so of the novel, they don’t really spend any time in each other’s immediate presence. However, that first impression was all it took for them to spend practically ever waking moment contemplating the other. It adds to the intense need of their relationship, yet also helps contribute to those moments where they can’t seem to fully trust each other seeing as they barely know each other. While there was a constant roller coaster of suspenseful moments throughout the novel, the final conclusion did seem a bit rushed over, and possibly with some loose ends still left unfinished. When all was said and done there was a lot of havoc wreaked upon our primary characters, seemingly without end for a decent amount of time, and it was rather jarring to discover that the reason behind a good portion of this pain was quite trivial in the grand scheme of things.

Smut Level: Glow-in-the-dark condom…with black light. Need I say more?

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 217 Pages.