Dangerous Secrets by Allie Zanders

Does anyone else out there find it kind of weird when a romance novel either features or mentions a threesome scenario involving a female lead and two male siblings? I can’t help but go noooooooooo thank you. This wasn’t the first time I’ve encountered it, and I have a feeling it won’t be the last.

What’s it About?

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Two secret pasts… one passionate love story. Taryn Malone is stranded, broke, and desperate for help. But even if the sexy bartender she’s been eyeing offers her a job for the evening… even if he seduces her with his impossibly intense blue eyes… even if every fiber of her heart tells her to stay with him… she can’t. Because Taryn Malone doesn’t exist.

Jake Callaghan has been running the family’s Irish pub for years now. When he sees Taryn standing out alone in the rain, he does what he’s been trained to do as a SEAL – he rescues her. It has nothing to do with her full, firm curves, or her loose, golden-blonde hair, or the way she brushes against him that sends lightning bolts through his body. It’s just the right thing to do. Really. But both Taryn and Jake are hiding secrets from each other. Dangerous secrets. And neither one of them knows just how dangerous it can be to fall in love…

First Impressions

During the opening scene of this novel, my first gut impression was, “What the hell have I gotten myself into?!” Definitely an interesting and action packed start. We have a young woman chained to a bed, and a creepy man watching her sleep who has obviously abused her physically, mentally, and sexually. Unfortunately, I chose to start listening to this as I got ready for bed one night. So much for a good night’s sleep!! Eventually the story evolves into this young woman being on the continual run from her captor, and finding solace in the arms of a rugged stranger. There’s also a smidge of political espionage thrown in there as well.

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Sexual Chemistry in the Family

While a threesome with Taryn, Jake and one of his siblings doesn’t actually occur, it seems to be considered at some point by multiple parties. Taryn thinks about, as does Jake before he is quickly overcome with an alpha protective sense of “mine and no one else’s”. In addition to the obvious sexual tension between Taryn and Jake, it seems as though there are some sparks flying between her and almost every single one of Jake’s brothers. And there’s a decent handful of them!

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Jake is clearly supposed to be Taryn’s main love interest. However, strange as it may seem, every time another brother arrives on the scene you kind of question if a love triangle is about to happen. Or perhaps an awkward familial threesome. A foursome perhaps? With this many single, muscled and burly brothers on the premises, the possibilities are seemingly endless.

Some Time Apart

This novel follows a different arch than what you’d expect. It begins with a crazy intense intro, then a time jump to years later with Taryn on the run. She meets the devilishly handsome and flirtatious Jake, and it’s not too long before they’re rolling around in the sheets. That being said, about half-way through the book Taryn runs away from Jake over fear of discovery from her former captor, and ultimately spends the majority of the second half of the book with one of Jake’s brothers in a secluded mountain cabin. She has no idea he’s related to Jake though. I just found it interesting that such a large portion of the novel was spent apart from the male lead and love interest.

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Who Do You Root For?

When all was said and done, I can’t say I was 100% convinced that Taryn was actually in love with Jake as a person. I think she idolized his lifestyle more than anything else. A strong, independent figure who had a loving relationship with his large and supportive family. I don’t think she and Jake really got to know each other well enough to call it love, especially considering they both kept pretty massive secrets form each other for the limited time they did spend together. She was hiding her true identity and history of being on the run, whereas he was hiding the fact he was onto her secret past.

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While the two had chemistry, I was actually a bit shocked to find that I almost preferred Taryn with Jake’s brother, Kane. They are both two troubled souls who are able to find comfort in each other. There is one moment in particular where they are able to take a moment in the midst of all the hiding and drama to let loose and be silly. It was just so freakin’ adorable, especially considering Kane is supposed to be the ultimate hard-ass. Maybe I just want to see him have a happy ever after, no matter who it’s with!

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Series: Callaghan Brothers, book 1. With every entrance of another Callaghan brother you can easily envision another additional book in the series. I’d be very interested to read Kane’s tale of romance.

Should you read it? Things all come together in the end, but it almost felt too quick and convenient. I guess when you have a family of private operatives on your side though, things will probably end in your favor. The political side of the story never felt fully explained to me, but it’s definitely an intense and suspenseful read.

Smut Level: If I remember correctly, we are really only privy to one full sex scene. Definitely hot, but not my favorite, as they aren’t…facing each other. They also have a pretty big argument about 5.7 seconds after finishing.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 356 Pages.

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Close to the Skin by Zara West

A hardened criminal? Or a loving protector? Bella debates whether she should turn to the intimidating Vernon for help considering his past, but she can’t deny how he looks at her with love in his eyes.

What’s it About?

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Never back down, never turn your back, and never fall in love. Head of a multi-million dollar criminal enterprise, Vernon Newell doesn’t let family ties or misplaced sympathy get in his way. But there is one chink in his armor—Sirena Patras, the beautiful young Greek girl he seduced and deserted eight years ago. When Vernon discovers that Bella Bell, a prospering tattoo artist in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is actually Sirena, he sets out to woo and to win her. Despite her attraction to the fabulously sexy man, Bella wants nothing to do with a hard-headed, ruthless criminal. But when threatening messages start arriving, and Vernon disappears, Bella must choose to abandon the man she loves, as he did her, or risk her life to save him.

First Impressions

This novel presents us with a fascinating debate of whether or not to love a “former” hardened criminal. I think a quote from this book which perfectly encapsulates our heroine’s struggle is “Could a man who touched her with such love, kill over and over again in cold blood, and still have a heart left in him?” It’s basically a question of whether a killer can transform into a passionate lover. However, as the novel progresses we also question if the two personas can coexist at the same time. Such an intriguing dichotomy that doesn’t necessarily have a nice answer.

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Falling for the Criminal

First of all, Vernon is charming as hell. He and Bella have a ton of chemistry, not to mention a passionate past, and he draws on it every chance he gets. He’s intent to marry her, constantly trying to convince her of his worth, and how amazing their lives will be together. On the one hand, you really do want them to be together, as they seem like kindred spirits. At the same time though, you completely understand her hesitancy to get involved with him. It almost reminded me of a mob movie, like Goodfellas, where you almost scream to the woman on the screen, “Why are you risking your life to get involved with this man?”

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The last thing Bella wants is to get mixed up in Vernon’s criminal world. You just never know when his former enemies might come looking for him, or possibly torture her to get to him. Vernon insists he’s given up that world. That he’s gone straight. The fact that he constantly has a bodyguard with him reflects that danger still lurks behind every corner. I will say, he’s so charming and convincing that even I believed him. Unfortunately, we quickly find out that he wasn’t necessarily telling the whole truth.

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Stretching the Truth

Sooooo, Vernon basically straight out lies to Bella regarding his criminal activities. While he’s not necessarily his father’s heinous henchman anymore, he still hasn’t removed himself entirely from that world. Definitely an interesting set up for a main character. When Bella initially pushes Vernon away we want her to overcome her hesitations, and realize he’s the only one for her. However, when we see how he lies to her we also question if she deserves someone better. Probably the most intense up and down of an emotional roller-coaster regarding my opinion towards a main character ever! I didn’t really know as the novel progressed what my final opinion of him would be, or if he could redeem himself in Bella’s eyes. Or mine for that matter! Fascinating progression to be sure.

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Burning Fire

Bella has a fiery personality, which also equates into a burning temper. She’s often quick to pounce on Vernon, and jump to conclusions with those closest to her. We also see how this “quick to assume the worst” attitude carries over into her business life. When she has the opportunity to design tattoos for a new TV show, she’s convinced she doesn’t have the time to draw them all and still maintain her tattoo parlor. But, she does. When she loses those designs she laments over the fact she could never possibly recreate all that hard work in such a short amount of time. All is seemingly lost. But, she does.

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It shows that when she sets her mind to something she can accomplish the most seemingly impossible of tasks. At the same time though, when it occurs repeatedly throughout the novel it also makes us wanna tell her to “calm down girl, have some tea and take a deeeeeep breath”. When Bella also insists that she could never possibly love Vernon because of his violent past, and determinedly swears they’re over it’s easy to question how steadfast she’ll really be.

Some Additional Minor Points

Vernon has a pretty strange relationship with his younger brother. He’s tried to keep him out of the criminal world, but to no avail. Their relationship is almost in limbo as Vernon struggles to acknowledge that his little brother isn’t necessarily sweet and innocent. I don’t want to give away too much of this story line, but I will say it didn’t seem 100% resolved to me by the end of the novel. It does however allow for Vernon to make a choice of what is more important to him: Bella, or his family and extravagant lifestyle.

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Lastly, I’m sorry to admit that I did have some trouble remembering all of the details surrounding Bella and Vernon’s relationship from the previous novel. I read a lot of books, okay?! 87 books to be precise since I read the first one. I think a brief summary at the start of the novel would have been extremely beneficial, especially concerning the dynamic with Vernon’s deceased brother who kidnapped Bella. While the story does eventually come full circle, answering a lot of the question marks from book one, it came together a bit too piece meal for my liking. At one point I even found myself rereading some of the end of the last book to try and remember some of the details.

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

Series: The Skin Quartet, book 2. I am absolutely in love with the supporting characters in this series, specifically our band of graffiti artists. If a future novel features one of them as the lead character I am sooooo reading it.

Should you read it? I did prefer this over book one, even though we do see some of the same themes carry over into this novel as well. Most significantly, our main characters aren’t always 100% likable. They have flaws, just like we all do. However, whereas this feature in book 1 made it difficult for me to relate to said characters, I felt it was developed so much more prominently in book 2. It demonstrates our feelings towards the characters are fluid. One minute you want Bella and Vernon to have a happily ever after. The next you wonder if Bella is right to keep her distance. So interesting that as Bella contemplates her feelings for Vernon, we too can sympathize with her debate.

Smut Level: Nothing like a little hanky panky on the kitchen floor!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 264 Pages.

Vengeance by Shana Figueroa

What makes this female private investigator different than any other? Well…her magical vagina for one.

What’s it About? 

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Corruption. Greed. Illicit sex. Murder. Private investigator Valentine Shepherd thinks she’s seen it all, and her strange ability to glimpse the future gives her an edge no one else in the world has. But when her fiancé is killed trying to exonerate his client, billionaire Max Carressa, Val makes it her personal mission to bring the people responsible to justice, no matter the cost. Convinced the two men are linked by more than attorney-client privilege, she enlists Max’s help in her investigation and gets more than she bargained for. On the run, Val and Max must uncover who wants them dead and why. The answer leads them to a conspiracy that has Val herself at its center. She doesn’t understand how or why, but time is running out to expose the truth and escape the danger she knows is coming . . .

First Impressions

Mkay, you just know that when a book starts off with a magical vagina it’s gonna be unique. And when we find out that Val isn’t the only with supernatural genitals? Well, stand back ladies and gentlemen. How exactly are Val’s lady bits special? She has visions of the future whilst getting it on. Definitely a party trick you don’t see very often. The one downside to this “gift” is that Val never really gets to experience the pleasure of an orgasm. She gets the build up, and the aftermath, but the boom moment causes her to pass out in a vision. Not sure how I’d feel about that to be honest. Especially considering her visions usually involve seeing someone’s death.

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On the Run

While Val’s visions can sometimes prove useful, she discovers they aren’t always accurate. Case in point, when she envisions her lawyer fiancé question a possible witness who could help with one of his cases, she never saw him get run down and killed by an unknown assailant. In an effort to uncover the truth about his death, she eventually crosses paths with Max Carressa, a mysterious billionaire accused of murdering his own father.

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Needless to say, it’s been a rather stressful week for Val Shepherd! Not only is she witness to her fiancé’s murder, but she’s trying to avoid being killed herself as she attempts to solve his murder. All of this is further complicated by the fact that, in a way, Max is someone she’s been searching for for a large portion of her life. Or someone like him anyway. He’s the first person she’s ever met who has the same abilities that she does. Val does put up a valiant effort to fight her growing attraction to Max, but when they discover they both share the same sexual gift, we know it’s just a matter of time before they get busy seeing visions together. With an ability grounded in sex, it seems meeting someone else with the same gift heightens their feelings of arousal. Poor girl didn’t stand a chance!

Magical Genitals Collide

As the novel progresses I was curious to find out if Max and Val’s eventual first time together would be out of necessity to find out key information in a vision, or from a development of real feelings for each other. Interestingly enough, it’s sort of a combination of both. Val senses a growing attraction to Max that can no longer be ignored, so she kind of uses her gift as an excuse to finally get physically close to him.

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Something I did find particularly interesting about their supernatural power is how it influenced their sexual dynamic. In most romance novels, we often see a male lead who wants to make himself last as long as possible, while giving his woman as many orgasms as possible. However, for Max and Val they both try to delay the inevitable in order to prolong their pleasure. The fact is, they each only have one shot before they literally pass out in a vision. In their efforts to make it last, they often talk about other topics to keep their mind off it. In addition, they can’t necessarily come together, or else risk passing out on top of each other and squishing some rather important bits and pieces. Like a true gentleman, Max lets Val come first before taking his own pleasure with a desperate attempt to try and pass out beside her.

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One benefit to their strong libido is that although they can only come once at a time, they can quickly regroup after their visions and go at it again. Seeing as Val often foresees death of some kind you’d think it would kind of spoil the mood, but nope! They are ready and raring to go pretty quickly.

Building Suspense and Leading Characters

While Val and Max explore their visions together we also have the underlying story line of her fiancé’s murder, and uncovering a conspiracy rooted in politics and greed. There’s quite a lot of suspense towards the end which lasts for a good chunk of the novel. Definitely nice that it wasn’t a wam, bam, thank you ma’am kind of deal. I was also initially worried that their ability to see the future might make the end of the book less exciting, but that wasn’t the case either as both Val and Max desperately try to alter the course of events which could lead to their deaths.

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I will say there are a LOT of moving pieces in this novel, including a plethora of different characters, motives, and a seemingly endless number of interconnecting story lines. At times it was tricky to keep everything straight, and you can tell some aspects weren’t fully explored so that they can be featured more prominently in a future novel. While I definitely understand the appeal of this for certain plot points, I felt it sort of detracted from us getting to know our main leading lady on a deeper level.

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Considering Val was a former sergeant in the army it means she’s literally a bad ass, and one woman I would never want to cross. Unfortunately, it was also a smidge difficult to like her at times, or connect with her on an emotional level. After mourning the loss of her fiancé it seemed like Val sort of shut off her emotions in order to move on and focus on finding his killer. In a way this also closes herself off to us as the audience. Honestly, I couldn’t help but see Max as a more compelling character due to the fact that we uncover a significant portion of his back story, and get a good glimpse of his hardships and inner turmoil. I wish we had been offered the same for Val, specifically in relation to the impact of her sister’s untimely death, and her developing relationship with Max. It’s definitely possible we’ll see more of this in future novels, but I think a brief window into her personality would have helped us connect with her.

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

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Series: Valentine Shepherd, book 1. There’s an unexpected twist at the end which sets things up for a sequel. Not a cliffhanger per se, but it will leave you wondering what happens next.

Should you read it? The ending of the novel was definitely my favorite, as we see all the various plot points come together for one climactic finish. It does take a while for the story to develop, and with there being so many different characters and interwoven plots it sort of feels like you’re being unwillingly pulled in a multitude of different directions. In addition to the magical genitals, there is also a larger supernatural connection which is briefly touched upon towards the end of the novel. Not really sure how I feel about it at this point.

Smut Level: This book has pretty much every combination you can imagine under the sun. We’ve got m/f, f/f, m/m and m/m/f. I guess the only version missing is f/f/m?

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Forever Yours Publishing. 336 Pages.

 

Carnal Secrets by Suzanne Wright

Ok, I have a question for ya. Why is it that male wolf shifters can always smell the arousal of their female mates, whereas the females only get an increased scent of woods and pine for their male counterpart? Doesn’t exactly seem fair, does it? Could also make certain situations hella awkward!!

What’s it About? 

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Half-shifter Shaya Critchley may hold a submissive role in her pack, but she’s done taking orders. After her Alpha wolf mate refused to claim her—but committed to interfering in her life—she took off. Now she hides from him, posing as a human in a town full of anti-shifter extremist groups. She thinks he’ll never find her again, and that suits her just fine. But she’s wrong.

Nick Axton can barely control his feelings for Shaya, but he could never claim her—not if he truly cares for her. The degenerative brain condition he keeps secret would ultimately leave her with a burden rather than a mate. But when Shaya runs away, Nick can’t bear the thought of never seeing her again. After tracking her down, he discovers Shaya’s feisty and passionate side in the process…a side he’d never seen before. Under the menacing gazes of territorial local packs and violent human extremists, Nick vows to finally claim the spirited Shaya…and despite her initial resistance, Shaya just might find his fiery determination to be the ultimate aphrodisiac.

First Impressions

This was definitely an enjoyable continuation of the Phoenix Pack series, as this story takes us away from the other pack members for a large majority of the novel. This allows us to meet some new characters along the way; some are delightfully awesome, others are homicidal psychopaths. It’s all good fun! Another way this novel sets itself apart from the others in the series is that our two lead characters, Nick and Shaya, knew upon first meeting they were mates. No confusion about it! Their mating did create some added complications though. As alpha of his pack, Nick doesn’t want to claim Shaya because she is a submissive wolf, meaning she would constantly be challenged by other females who could push out dominant vibes over her. To escape the pain of being near her mate without being claimed, Shaya runs away. Little did she know Nick would give up being alpha of his pack to come after her. But come on, we all knew he wouldn’t let her get away!

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Wholesome Little Town

What I really enjoyed about this book was that it was so distinct from the others in the series so far. Yes, we have two mates struggling to come together, but in this instance we also have the added complication of battling human extremists. Unlike books 1 and 2, which dealt more with feuds between or within packs, this dealt with a battle between species. And I gotta say, humans can kind of be major dicks!

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Within this small town Shaya settled down in there is a group of human extremists who want shifters removed from their society; tagged and registered. If that doesn’t work they’re willing to go to ever greater lengths. In this case, the extremists have even created a game preserve where they take captured shifters to be hunted by other humans. Good God Shaya, could you have picked a shittier town to settle down in?! Seriously, it’s like we’ve wandered onto a filming of the Purge: Shifter edition. Definitely creepy, yet also a clever way to demonstrate a threat which impacts all shifters, not just one particular pack.

That Time of the Month

In addition to hearing more about the interactions and obstacles facing shifters and humans, I also liked that we got to learn some more day-to-day aspects of shifters that are rarely discussed. For example, did you know that female shifters have periods?! Shocker!! To quote this book directly, “the shifter menstrual cycle is a bitch.” I mean, you’ve got both the female and wolf to contend with, throwing around all kinds of hostile attitude. No male shifter wants to be around that much irritability. I don’t know why, but I just loved this little detail. Let’s face it, you don’t usually read much about this monthly occurrence in romance novels! The fact that Nick chooses to stay by Shaya when most other male wolves would run for the woods means I might officially be in love with him.

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Matters of Trust

Although Nick gives up his pack to pursue Shaya, she doesn’t initially welcome him with open arms. Trust is definitely an issue in their relationship. For Shaya, she has difficulty accepting Nick into her life considering he rebuffed her from his so many times. To turn your back on your mate is unheard of, and it’s a lasting pain. An event from Shaya’s past also makes it difficult for her to trust men in general. Her first lover tricked her into thinking they were mates, when all he really wanted was to get into her pants.

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As for Nick, events from his own past impact his relationship with Shaya. When he was young, Nick killed a human, and maimed two others who raped his sister. Because Shaya is half human, he thinks she’ll shy away from him after learning the truth. He simply forgot she is also half shifter, which means her loyalties don’t automatically side with humans.

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Nick also has debilitating headaches, and he refuses to go to a female healer for help. The reason being that this healer also has the hots for Nick, and he doesn’t want her scent on him when he’s around Shaya. If ever there was a need for a wolf shifter version of Craigslist calling all male healers this would be it! Eventually his headaches become so terrible he starts to lose his memory, and he decides he’s going to leave Shaya rather than become her burden. Dude! Tell her what’s up, and go to a healer already! I’m sure she’d be supportive of that decision!! Just take a bath if you need to get the other woman’s scent off ya.

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Series: The Phoenix Pack, book 3. Gotta say, I’m really enjoying this paranormal series!

Should you read it? Overall a good read with an intense ending. I do think there could have been a smoother blend between scenes of threatening human extremists and Nick and Shaya learning to trust each other. It felt kind of stop and go at times. The novel starts with him pursuing her to give him another chance, but as things progress and Nick’s headaches worsen we find that Shaya is the one who has to go after him, and convince him to stay. Nice parallel there!

Smut Level: Nick leaves marks all over Shaya’s body. But they’re the good, paranormal claiming mark kind!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Montlake Romance. 377 Pages.

 

Beneath the Skin by Zara West

This novel is far from a standard retelling of your classic beast meets beauty. Instead, it’s a much darker romance. Although we do see how true beauty can lie beneath a scarred beast, we also see how an ugly monster can lie within a supposed beauty of a man.

What’s it About?

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Ex-Olympic wrestler and reclusive billionaire artist Aristides Stavros has one mission—to rescue his sister, a popular tattoo artist from the old enemy who has kidnapped her. But at every turn, he is confronted by anthropologist Melissa Dermot. Is she just an innocent girl in over her head, or is she working for the international crime boss holding his sister?

Only one thing is certain–when Ari holds the beautiful Asian-American in his arms, questions of guilt and innocence fade against an undeniable fiery attraction. But can their wild passionate love survive the tangled web of long-buried secrets, intentional deceit, and murderous revenge that lie just beneath the surface?

First Impressions

I really enjoyed uncovering the complexity of Ari’s character throughout the novel. He may be scarred physically, and is also an intimidating beast of a man, but we quickly discover that he has a heart of gold underneath his tough exterior. He tries so hard to present himself as a beast, someone as ugly on the inside as on the outside. However, his caring nature for those people who are important to him, not to mention the passion for his own artistic talent, can’t help but shine through. Unfortunately, I can’t say I was as enamored by the female lead, Melissa.

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Falling for the Beast

Personally, I got pretty frustrated by Melissa’s continued insistence that Ari must be a beast because of his ghastly appearance, even if it was right after they had passionate sex or a deep conversation. She chooses to ignore her apparent connection to Ari, and instead seems gullible to believe the lies and machinations of a man who, for all intents and purposes, is a beauty. Turns out, he’s actually the true beast of the story.

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Melissa mentions multiple times how she doesn’t really trust this beautiful Adonis of a man, and senses something evil in him. Yet, she basically convinces herself that because this man is gorgeous, he must be telling the truth whenever he denounces Ari’s character. Melissa does eventually come to trust Ari in spite of his looks, but this transition to acceptance almost came too late in the story for me.

Suspense and Mystery

This novel is a mystery from start to finish as both Ari and Melissa try to find his missing sister, Bella. There’s an interesting twist at the end which will sort of throw you for a loop, not to mention an unbelievably intense and exciting final confrontation that will have you gripping the edges of your Kindle in anticipation. I will say I think some aspects of the story were kind of confusing though, from Melissa’s troubled relationship with her murdered sister, to Bella’s complex connection to her kidnapper.

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At times I felt there was almost too much focus on Melissa’s trust issues when it came to Ari, and not enough on the fact that Bella was taken by someone she knew. Ari has a very interesting history with all of the members of his family, including Bella, as well as her kidnapper. I wish more of the background to these relationships had been revealed earlier on in the story, rather than waiting until one final climactic reveal at the end. It may have helped to create more of a flow to the suspenseful side of the story.

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

Series: The Skin Quartet, book 1.

Should you read it? This was almost too dark of a romance for my taste, but I know that’s right up some people’s alley. I did love the dynamic nature of who Ari was underneath the scars, but I just wish it hadn’t taken Melissa so long to realize that he had a loving and peaceful side to him. She was seemingly quick to trust others who were mean and cruel to her, it was almost like she didn’t know what to do when someone showed her kindness.

Smut Level: These two are hawt in their sex scenes. The best one was when she models nude for one of his paintings.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 251 Pages.

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Tempt the Ocean by Agnès de Savigny

This novel is labeled as a “romantic adventure”, but I guess I underestimated how much of a page-turning adventure it would actually be! Complete with pirates and everything!!

What’s it About?

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What happens when a stranded young woman reluctantly accepts a ride on a stranger’s yacht, accidentally falls in love with him, then finds out he might be a killer? Tempt the Ocean is a Romantic Adventure that tells the story of a reluctant heroine plucked from the self-isolation of her apartment and thrown into a harrowing sailing adventure down the west coast of Africa. She puts her life in the hands of Xavier, a handsome sailor with a mysterious past who battles his own demons. The heroine begins to question her trust of Xavier and the wisdom of her decision in the face of high seas pirates, slave traders, corrupt island magnates, jealous lovers, Canadian bureaucracy, and an evil nemesis with a hideous scar. Ultimately she must learn to trust her own wits and will to survive.

First Impressions

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At first, I thought I had this book pegged as your typical serendipitous and predictable romance, but it takes a surprising and delightful turn towards an unexpected tale of suspense, murder and intrigue. The novel starts with our heroine being left on a dock in Spain by her family, who unknowingly sailed away without her. To catch up with them, she hesitantly agrees to travel with a hunky Frenchman on his stylish yacht. A bit of an unlikely and rather improbable start? Of course! But this is an adventure we’re talking about, you gotta start somewhere!!

From Sexy to Suspenseful

The start of the novel was the part of the story I saw coming. All that alone time in such close proximity with a sexily accented muscle man, and you just know it’s undoubtedly going to lead to some naked time. I must say, these two get pretty darn creative with all the wavy rocking going around in that yacht! After they hook up on the boat, I thought the rest of the book would primarily be about their slow and lazy love-making all day long in the glorious sunshine.

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Just goes to show that right when you think you have the story all figured out, it takes an interesting turn towards adventure. This was the point in the story where I simply didn’t want to put the book down! I wasn’t expecting a full-on adventure story, which was sort of nostalgically reminiscent of adventure stories of old, like the pirates of Treasure Island. Only in this novel the pirate is a murderous wretch who is linked to Xavier’s past, and most likely intends on selling our heroine into prostitution. I guess you could say it’s more of a realistic modern twist to your typical pirate adventure.

The Good, and the Room for Improvement

The best thing about this novel is that the story definitely keeps you on your toes. One thing’s for sure: it never gets boring! Our couple begins their tale on a beautiful yacht, only to be kidnapped by pirates on a huge freighter, and they ultimately make their escape to the African coast. The story is constantly moving and developing. Is it 100% believable? Not really, but just loosen up and let the story take you where it will!

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One area I would have liked some more information on was Xavier’s past. He has a previous link to the lead pirate thug, Scar, and although their relationship is somewhat explained I feel like it wasn’t done to the full extent which was really needed. We see how this murderer had a devastating impact on Xavier’s family, but I wanted more of an explanation as to how Xavier got mixed up with him in the first place, and what exactly Xavier used to do for a living. It seemed like a few details were still shrouded in mystery.

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

Series: A delightful stand-alone.

Should you read it? It’s an exciting and short summer read! Some scenes between Scar and our heroine were a little difficult to read though, especially as he prepares to use her for sex with paying customers.

Smut Level: Gotta love a sailor. They can get so creative with their knot tying skills.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services. 174 Pages.

 

 

Still Life by D.B. Kennison

The last 10% of this novel is wicked intense, as our heroine runs for her life from a psychotic killer. The fact that I finished this book while simultaneously watching Forensic Files probably wasn’t the best combination for my nerves. The fact that I did both of these activities about 15 minutes before my scheduled bedtime was probably the dumbest decision I made this month…so far.

What’s it About? 

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Randi Lassiter is twenty-nine, divorced, and remarkably content with her nonexistent social life. Mainly because she moonlights for an attorney, nabbing adulterers—like her ex—with her camera. When she stumbles across a mutilated body, it takes fast talking to convince the arrogant detective she’s not a suspect. One look at him, and she pegs him as a guy who uses his sexy smirk to separate women from their panties. When Detective Jon Bricksen is named the lead investigator of the first murder this microscopic town has seen in forty years, he questions his decision to leave the death and violence of Milwaukee behind. Randi’s cleavage—and her questionable sleuthing skills—aren’t making his job any easier. Theirs is a partnership of aggravation until her small-town network results in critical progress. Forced into an uneasy alliance, they battle a growing attraction—and a killer who’s out to make them the stars of his next piece of deadly performance art.

First Impressions

This book has everything! I’ll admit, I was hesitant at first to read this novel. I figured it’d be really suspenseful, and make me fidgety with nervousness. Which it did. But it was also surprisingly funny, sweet, and sexy as hell. Everything builds towards a suspenseful climax which will keep you on the edge of your seat. In the end, I can’t say I really understood, or cared for, the motivation of the killer, but it was definitely an interesting story. It’s also probably a good sign that I don’t understand the psychotic reasonings behind a serial killer. Sort of makes me feel good about myself.

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The Perfect Blend

Randi and Jon hate each other at first meeting. He thinks she’s interfering with his murder case, and she thinks he’s a dick. And not in the detective sense. Personally, I felt this novel was the perfect blend of romance and sexual tension with a murder mystery. Never would have thought those three things would go together.

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Throughout the entire novel you’re questioning who dunnit, while at the same time wanting Jon and Randi to just kiss already. Right when our couple would start to make some headway in their relationship, the story would switch gears to the discovery of another body. Definitely a risky move style-wise, but I thought it really came together nicely.

Supporting Characters

There was some additional drama thrown into the story about half-way through, when Jon’s ex shows up to help out with the case. This was the one aspect of the story which I could have done without. Let’s face it, Randi and Jon have enough drama to deal with, what with a serial killer leaving bodies all over the place. They don’t really need his ex showing up to rock the boat.

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Randi’s friend and co-worker was a wonderfully eccentric character who had me laughing out loud a few times. Not something I was suspecting in a romantic suspense, but it was a welcome surprise. Jon’s dog, Dammit, was also adorable, and a heroic character in his own right.

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

Series: The Randi Lassiter Series, book 1. Can’t wait to see what comes next!

Should you read it? Some of the murder scenes are pretty graphic, but overall it was a suspenseful mystery with some romance thrown in too. It’ll probably have you suspecting just about every character at some point.

Smut Level: There’s only one sex scene, but it is delightfully sexy kitchen nooki.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.24 Kindle Price. Samhain Publishing Ltd. 290 Pages.