Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts

Jumping out of a plane in general doesn’t hold much appeal for me. Doing it with a raging fire burning below? No thank youuuuu!

What’s it About? 

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Little else in life is as dangerous as fire jumping. But there’s also little else as thrilling—at least to Rowan Tripp. Being a Missoula smoke jumper is in Rowan’s blood: her father is a legend in the field. At this point, returning to the wilds of Montana for the season feels like coming home—even with reminders of the partner she lost last season still lingering in the air.

One of the best of this year’s rookie crop, Gulliver Curry is a walking contradiction, a hotshot firefighter with a big vocabulary and a winter job at a kids’ arcade. And though Rowan, as a rule, doesn’t hook up with other smoke jumpers, Gull is convinced he can change her mind…

But everything is thrown off balance when a dark presence lashes out against Rowan, looking to blame someone for last year’s tragedy. Rowan knows she can’t complicate things with Gull—any distractions in the air or on the ground could be lethal. But if she doesn’t find someone she can lean on when the heat gets intense, her life may go down in flames.

First Impressions

This book has three main areas of focus. 1) The developing romance between Rowan and Gull, 2) the mystery person who seems intent on blaming Rowan for the death of her jump partner the year before, and 3) the logistics and intricacies of jumping fire. While points one and two were entertaining, I must say I felt there was almost too much focus on the details of jumping fire, as well as the process involved to put out a forest fire. Now, I know what you’re thinking. The book is called Chasing Fire, what the hell did you expect the book to be about?!

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I know, I know, I should have expected some background information as to what that involved, but after awhile it just got to be too much. One too many metaphors comparing the fire to a dragon, cutting off the head and tail, flanking it, jumping it, drowning it, cutting down trees with saws, etc, etc. Let’s just say if you wanna know the ins and outs of putting out a forest fire, this is definitely the book for you. I could definitely appreciate the hard work and research which undoubtedly went into making these details as accurate as possible, but it almost overtook the book at times.

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Coming Together Through Fire

It might be against Rowan’s personal code to get intimately involved with a fellow fire jumper, but we all knew it was just a matter of time before she and Gull went for a tumble in the sheets. All that heat and adrenaline was all the kindling that was needed to set their loins a burnin’. Ok, ok, enough with the fire+sex puns. While Rowan was insistent in the beginning that nothing could happen between them, as the summer progresses and the dangers of fire and their mystery assailant continue to grow, Rowan and Gull developed a kind of connection and closeness which was deeper than that between mere teammates.

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Gull is determined to protect Rowan from whoever is taunting and blaming her for the death of her former teammate the year before. As the threats against her grow in intensity, I must say I appreciated that they didn’t just sit back and wait for the cops to give them information about the case. Although hell, considering how quickly gossip and info spreads in this small Montana town they really didn’t need the cops at all to start contemplating possible suspects and motives! While they didn’t necessarily do their own sleuthing (which would have seemed unrealistic given their strenuous day job), they did plenty of their own hypothesizing. They were very logical with their thought processes, but almost too methodical at times. Whenever they would come together to discuss possible culprits, they almost lacked emotion in their exchanges, as though they were reading from a list of clues from top to bottom. It was a bit too robotic at times.

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From opening bell I identified three main suspects as to who I thought might be behind Rowan’s torment. One is murdered fairly early on, so that narrowed it down a bit. The cops in the novel were so focused on one particular character, and you couldn’t help but feel that the answer can’t be that cut and dry. Once we do finally uncover the identity of the killer, and said killer is subdued (let’s face it we’re dealing with happy endings here), I can’t say it was incredibly satisfying. It was actually kind of a tragic conclusion. We see what can happen when someone is overcome with pain and the loss of a loved one. It can drive them to do crazy things, and commit heinous acts, all in the name of love or justice. Gull manages to show a bit of sympathy towards this villain, which was really quite endearing. As for Rowan though, she always has been and always will be a tough-as-nails woman. The way she sees it, this person put her team in danger, and threatened the lives of her comrades. She’s one to constantly look forward rather than back, so in her mind it’s not something to cry about. I can appreciate her strength in the face of all this danger, but her response was also a tad heartless when all was said and done.

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Tales of Romance

This book was kind of loooong. There was a side story of romance involving Rowan’s father and his new lady love that felt somewhat unnecessary in my opinion. I mean, good on ya buddy for finding a woman to make you happy, both in and outside of the bedroom, but what does this have to do with the overall story? We see how there’s an attempt to link it back to Rowan, and her inability to cope with another woman in her father’s life. I won’t necessarily try to bring Freud into the discussion here…but Gull certainly did! I did find it funny that the romance between Rowan and Gull was, in a way, less romantic than the other one we see playing out with her father. For Gull and Rowan, their relationship definitely starts off as a horny itch that needs scratching. They do respect each other, and there’s a definite admiration for the other’s strength and ability to jump fire. However, at the end of the day there was something lacking in their exchanges that just didn’t make me feel all warm and tingly.

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Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: In a word I’d say it was an ok read. It starts and ends on a suspenseful and fiery note, but some of the central story elements started to feel repetitive after a while. The identity of our mystery villain wasn’t too big of a surprise, although I will say I was surprised at how emotional this read became at the end. If this book were 100 pages shorter I think it could have been a big improvement.

Smut Level: You’d think these two would be too exhausted to get down and dirty after jumping fire, but it seems they can always find a bit of extra strength. They also have the delightful tendency for shower sex. Nothing like washing off the dirt and grime of one blaze merely to start another blaze between them.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $7.99 Kindle Price. Berkley Publishing. 481 pages.

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Beck by Harper Sloan

For any of you with a positive childhood association with pop rocks, let’s just say this novel takes a rather R-rated spin on the beloved candy.

What’s it About?

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Dee
I’ve always been good at wearing masks. Not letting anyone see the real me. I’m content being the happy-go-lucky best friend. The strong willed boss. The independent woman who doesn’t need a man. But the truth is I’m just as broken as the rest of you. I’m terrified that all it will take is one person to make all my carefully constructed walls crumble into fine dust. So I guard my heart with everything I have. Determined to never let anyone get close enough to hurt me again. All is perfect until HE walks into my life. No… he doesn’t just walk. He struts his good-looking, sex-oozing self right into my space and demands that I see HIM. Making me want what I know I can’t have. So I did the only thing I know how to do. I run. But he just won’t let me go.

Beck
The second I see her, I know she will be mine. I see past the gorgeous smiles and heart-stopping laughter. I see HER. She doesn’t want me to know her secrets or the past that haunts her, but I make it my mission to find out. To make her mine. She can run all she wants, but it will never be far enough to stop me from coming after her. She’s it for me and she knows it. She’s just too scared to admit it.

First Impressions

It’s important to note right off the bat that if you haven’t read the first two books in this series, then you should set this book down right now and walk away slowly. This book is categorized as a “inter-connected standalone”, which I guess makes sense since we deal with a new couple in every book, but there are some pretty crucial back stories and dramatic events that unfolded in books one and two which have an immediate impact on our couple for this third book. If you were to skip out on these first two books I have a feeling you’d find yourself pretty lost when it comes to this one. That being said…I have read books one and two and even I found myself a bit confused and lost at times.

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Back to the Beginning

When this novel starts off we actually do a mini travel through time back to when Dee and Beck first met in the first novel in this series, Axel. After a few scenes involving their first foray into a physical relationship, we then jump ahead to “present day” which finds us picking up where book 2 left off. Here’s my problem with this approach. The jump back to their first meeting was pretty unnecessary. We’ve seen this all play out before, but now we just see it from Dee and Beck’s point of view, and honestly I feel like it didn’t add a whole lot of insight into their relationship. But here’s the real problem. A LOT of stuff happened between their first meeting and the present day situation that actually was important, and it was basically glossed over. Was it cute to read about how they both desired each other upon first meeting? Yeah, sure. But did it actually say anything that would help me better understand the dynamic of their relationship today. No, not really.

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Something which would have been much more enlightening and crucial to get insight on was how Beck helped Dee cope with PTSD after seeing her best friend get shot, how she spiraled into a deep depression, how he had to pull her back from the brink of committing suicide, how he helped her find a professional to speak to about all that she’s suffered through in life. Instead, we just get a brief mention that these events took place throughout the past two years. This is why I couldn’t help but feel lost at times throughout the book. Why didn’t we focus more on those important moments in their relationship? Did I miss something here? I feel like those moments would be so telling as to why Beck consistently stays by Dee’s side even though she closes herself off from the prospect of engaging in a long-term relationship with him. It would show why he keeps coming back to her, and indeed why she keeps coming back to him for help. I couldn’t help but feel let down that we didn’t see more focus on those first instances where things started to spiral out of control for her. Instead we see what comes after, where she’ll have some setbacks here and there, but not so much the impetus for how it all began.

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Those You Least Suspect

Something that I think this novel did extremely well was to focus on the impact that depression can have on relationships and friendships with others. Beck is really the only person who knows the depth to Dee’s struggle with depression. He’s apparently been there for every low moment. Even though Dee eventually pushes him away due to her general distrust of men because of her ass-hat father’s behavior, the two always manage to find each other again for a very complicated on-again off-again relationship. This is something their respective friend-groups simply don’t understand, and even mock at times. Their constant back and forth seems somewhat childish and too “high-school” drama for them. But here’s the thing. None of them know the truth about Dee’s depression. She wears a mask of happiness and enacts a bubbly persona to keep them off her scent.

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It’s such a sad glimpse at how far someone will go to keep all of their depression inside and hidden away from those closest to them. Eventually though, both Dee and Beck come to admit the truth behind Dee’s depression these last few years to their immediate friends. Beck gets especially snippy at one of Dee’s best friends, and the focus of book 2 in the series, Cage. He definitely loses his cool by insisting that if Cage were a true friend, and not so swept up with focusing on his own life, he would have been able to see the reality of what was lying underneath Dee’s mask. It’s an interesting conversation for sure about finding a balance between love and friendship. Was Cage so focused on his own love life that he missed the signs of his best friend falling so deep into despair that she felt the need to end her life? Is it fair to ask Cage to put aside the dramas and issues of his own life to focus on Dee, especially seeing as she is so adept at putting this mask into place? These are questions that really don’t have answers, but the debate which is waged in this novel opens up both sides of the argument in a very intriguing way.

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Series: Corps Security, book 3. I feel like I keep saying this when it comes to this series, but while this book definitely wasn’t my favorite, I’m really looking forward to what comes next.

Should You Read It? Overall, not my favorite book. The first half or so is kind of slow, repetitive, and didn’t hold my interest as much as I would have liked. BUT! And this is a big freakin’ but. The second-half of this book is phenomenal. The suspense and action really kick in, and there is a shockingly emotional twist which takes place towards the end that left me in tears. I don’t want to spoil it, but let’s just say it results in these tough-as-nails military men breaking down to the point where they don’t try to hide their own tears from flowing. It also sets everything in place for the next novel that I am really looking forward to reading.

Smut Level: Whenever these two have sex, I’d say 9 times out of 10 they end up on the floor. It doesn’t matter where they start their exploits: the bed, the kitchen counter, the kitchen table, eventually they’ll roll their way in a screaming and panting mess to the floor. They usually manage to break a few things in the process too!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 238 Pages.

Love Me Only by Hebby Roman

From the elegant ballrooms of Mexico City, to the mosquito-filled swamps of the jungle, this novel takes us on an adventure to discover the wild unknowns in Mexico’s mountains.

What’s it About? 

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A stranger in a strange land, her father murdered, Diana McFarland must protect her father’s secret formula, the only legacy she has. One thing stands in her way–darkly handsome Seguin Torres, a man who wants the formula for himself. For Seguin, the formula is a way to avenge himself against the man who stole his birthright, but convincing Diana to part with it will prove almost as difficult as resisting his attraction to her. Betrayed by his family, Seguin doesn’t believe in love and marriage. As Mexico erupts into civil war, Seguin is honor-bound to protect Diana from his unscrupulous stepfather and the ravages of war. But their flight across the war-torn countryside is fraught with danger, as well as the challenge of their growing passion. Can Seguin get Diana to safety and let her go, or will their love overcome all the dangers and change Seguin’s heart?

First Impression

Arriving in a new city where you don’t really speak the language can be a challenge. Arriving in that city to discover that your father has been murdered, and that his scarred killer is still on the loose with some unsavory stalkerish tendencies? Ummmm yeah where the hell can I book the fastest train outta here? Let’s make it snappy people!! Thankfully for everyone, our heroine proves to be braver than I, as she sticks around in Mexico to try and discover what happened to her father. This is when the devilishly handsome former business partner of her father comes into play. Can she trust this man who seems dedicated to protecting her? Or did he have a hand in killing her father to get at his secret silver mining formula? Such intrigue. This historical drama definitely draws you in from the get-go, as we see Diana navigate through this new world which can be lavish yet harsh at the same time. The fact she’s a woman in a man’s world makes her all the braver. By the end of the novel though, we find ourselves venturing into a completely different and uncharted territory. Quite literally.

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Murder and Mining Mayhem

Looking at this book as a whole, it almost seems to be two separate books thrown into one. In the first half, we see the immediate repercussions and mystery surrounding the murder of Diana’s father, as well as her attempts to stand up for herself and her mother in the face of the dashing Seguin. He’s intent on purchasing her father’s silver mining formula, and after a series of unfortunate circumstances Diana is the only one who knows her father’s formula by memory. I must say I absolutely adored the scenes where we get to see Diana and Seguin go head to head over the formula. They seem like equals in smarts, tenacity, and their simmering sexual attraction doesn’t hurt things too much either.

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A Stroll Through the Mountains

I must say I did prefer the first half of the novel more than the latter half where we see Seguin, Diana, and a small group of friends wade through the unknown dangers of the jungle in an attempt to escape back to America following an outbreak of war in the city. The fact that the murderer is hot on their heels, not to mention the man who orchestrated the whole thing (Seguin’s stepfather) is also in tow makes their journey all the more desperate. Although this is the part of the novel where Diana and Seguin give in to their lustful inhibitions, it’s also where we get a lot of scenes with a lot of walking. And walking. And having sex on a sacrificial altar in an abandoned ancient city. And more walking.

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It was at this point where I even had to think back and ask, wait, how did this story start again? Oh right, father’s murder. While everything does eventually come full circle at the last possible moment of the book, I couldn’t help but feel that as a whole the various story lines at play were a tad disjointed. While I don’t think the book necessarily has to be split into two separate novels completely, I think a few less jungle wandering scenes, and maybe even a distinct marker for Part 1: the City and Part 2: the Wild could have helped things. It may have better prepared the reader for the fact we were switching gears to a vastly different landscape that juxtaposes the comforts and opulence from part one. Just a thought!

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Miss Independent

Another surprising feature of this novel which was divided in two was the romance. We don’t get just one love story, but two! The first is obviously between Seguin and Diana. Both try to hold off on delving deeper into their initial attraction to each other. For Diana, not only had her father just died, but she wonders if Seguin has something to do with it. Kind of understandable why she’d be hesitant to try anything more. When it comes to Seguin, well he’s basically distrustful of all women. Normally when we see this in a romance it’s because of a former failed relationship with a lover. In his case, it instead had to do with his failed relationship with his mother, which they were never able to fully mend before her death. Complicated is an understatement.

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It’s when we transition to the jungle trek that both Seguin and Diana decide they can’t keep their hands off each other anymore. While I’m always a fan of a good ole romp, I must say I preferred their earlier flirtations in the city. Early on in the novel, Diana has spunk, sass, and the cojones to stand up to Seguin. In the latter half though we see Diana become increasingly dependent on Seguin, and even takes to begging him to “love me only”. Not gonna lie, I missed her tenacity and sense of independence.

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Switching Back and Forth

Our second romance is between Diana’s best friend, Sarah, and Seguin’s half-brother, Gilberto. This had more of the feeling of a classic historical romance. They fall quickly for each other after dancing at a ball, and he must prove that he only has eyes for Sarah. Even if it seems every other woman in the city has eyes for him. It’s practically swoon worthy! But here was my problem with it. I can’t say it was entirely necessary. At least, it could have been incorporated more methodically into the story. When the novel starts we are so enraptured with what might develop between Diana and Seguin, but when Diana is forced to bed rest following a rib injury, we suddenly switch gears completely to focusing on Sarah and Gilberto instead. Our other couple essentially disappears from the story completely to the point where I wondered if we’d even see a conclusion to their tale.

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When we do eventually switch focus back to Seguin and Diana’s relationship, then we see our other couple get pushed to the background. It’s almost like they couldn’t completely coexist, though I will say the love story between Sarah and Gilberto does have implications on all of our characters, and the progression of the story. However, I think I almost would have preferred if maybe the focus had instead been more on Diana and Seguin, as well as our half-brothers trying to mend their troubled relationship. Then at the end we could have had an insinuation that Sarah and Gilberto were googly eyes for each other. It may have helped to create a more cohesive story, rather than having two love stories taking place in one book.

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An Enchanting Landscape

There were two aspects of this novel which completely fascinated me. The first dealt with the historical aspect. This is definitely the first romance novel I’ve ever read which has focused on this time period in history, and it definitely caught my interest. The main reason being, I had zero idea what really came to pass during that time in Mexico’s history, so I had no idea how the historical events could possibly impact the rest of the story. It wasn’t like reading a romance set during the Civil War or WWII, where I know the standard start and end dates, as well as the general progression of the battle timeline. In this case though? It was a total learning process, and one that I’d love to research more fully. Personally I blame my high school’s lack of world history courses. I remember there was only one Global History course offered during my entire high school career, and it conflicted with my French class. Sooooo, yeah, I need to brush up on my history of Mexico.

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The other feature of the novel which was described to perfection was the landscape. I could practically taste the champagne of the royal ball, feel the itch of the mosquitoes from the swamp, and feel the exhaustion of climbing through the countryside. It’s easy to get lost in the description of each scene, as you can picture the beauty and harsher aspects of the setting. Hell, when Diana and Seguin come across an abandoned city in the midst of the jungle you can practically feel the cold stone of the sacrificial altar digging into your back when Seguin worships Diana’s body in the physical sense. Oh my, definitely need to fan myself off here a moment.

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

Series: Stand-Alone

Should you read it? While I did prefer the first half of the novel, everything does come together for an exciting climax. The historical period of the book was fascinating, and I’m simply intrigued to learn more. Although I’m definitely a fan of romance, I think I would have preferred one less romantic story line here so that more of a focus was on Diana and Seguin. As it stands, there was almost a conflict of sorts in the middle of the book for who the main characters actually are. Replacing that second romance with a focus on Gilberto and Seguin fixing their strained relationship is something I might have preferred to see.

Smut Level: Sarah and Gilberto have a few passionate kisses, and an eventual quick love scene in a thatched hut. Diana and Seguin definitely heat things up a bit, with a descriptive make-out scene in a mining vault, and even a rough coupling on a sacrificial altar. Proving once and for all that even historical romances can have a slightly raunchy side.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Estrella Publishing. 353 Pages.

Escape from Behruz by Judy Meadows

Rashid will do anything to get the love of his life out of a country about to be ripped apart by rebellion. Little does he know he’s also rescuing his son in the process. And a widdle baby Lhasa Apso puppy!

What’s it About?

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Rashid will help Olivia and the baby she’s been caring for escape the violence in Behruz, but he must guard his heart. He can’t risk being hurt by her again. Olivia has her own reasons for keeping her distance from Rashid. If he learns that the baby is actually hers—and his—she will lose everything that matters to her. Their escape involves traveling with nomads across the mountains into Iran. As they trek together by day and sleep beside each other in a nomad tent at night, the attraction that has always drawn them to each other grows ever stronger. Can Olivia survive the trip without revealing her secrets and without losing her heart to Rashid once again?

First Impressions

When Rashid first arrives on the scene to rescue Olivia she is quite hesitant to go with him. After all, this is the man who deserted her two years before to supposedly marry another woman. Her brother-in-law, Abu-Khan, is also insistent that the growing tension in the country will soon be squandered, and rebellion is not a risk, so why leave? Now, I will admit it was kind of easy to see Olivia as…well…exceedingly naive. She seems to be placing more trust in a despot ruler who once tried to take advantage of her rather than the former love of her life. Not to mention the fact that more and more of her American newspapers aren’t being delivered. Maybe the political situation in the country is more distraught than he’d have you believe? However, with time we come to understand the extreme pressure Olivia was under following Rashid’s departure years before.

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He left her pregnant (unbeknownst to him), with no word of how to get in touch with him, and it was during this depressing time that Olivia’s sister and brother-in-law convince her to allow them to adopt her son, Jamal, after he’s born. Following her sister’s untimely death, Olivia is left alone with no one but her son, and even then she must pretend as though he’s her nephew. It’s a dynamic web of emotion! Love, betrayal, anger. When Rashid returns and vows to get Olivia and Jamal out of the country by any means necessary, we see how her decision to follow Rashid denotes a level of trust that she could only place in the greatest love of her life. But why did he leave years before? How will he react to discovering Jamal is actually his son? Will they all make it to the border in one piece? And how will they manage to share one tent when all of the lust and passion they’ve suppressed the past two years comes bubbling up to the surface? Should make for an interesting road trip!

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A Son in the Shadows and a Missing Villain

There are two characters in this novel who were underutilized. The first is Jamal. I think the main issue here was his age in that he’s only two years old. While he was still an unbelievably adorable child, his young age and lack of speaking ability means that we never get to hear his side of the story upon discovering the true identity of his father. Instead, this emotional connection between father and son is one-sided, as we only get to see Rashid’s opinion on the matter. In addition, Jamal is not really present for a majority of the story. While he is always in the same vicinity as Rashid and Olivia, he’s often passed off to be looked after by one of their nomad friends. I could definitely see the plus side in this as it gives mommy and daddy some sexy alone time, but I just would have liked to see a bit more incorporation of Jamal’s character into the family unit.

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Another character who I would have liked to see a bit more from was Abu-Khan. In the beginning, he is presented as our overarching villain. A ruthless and heartless man who has his eyes set on making Olivia his. The threat of his reach is still felt as they all flee into the mountains. Throughout the novel I kept waiting for Abu-Khan to somehow make a reappearance. Perhaps his soldiers will discover them, or he’ll be slyly waiting for them at the border with an evil grin on his face. Turns out…not so much. The final drama doesn’t come about until the last 10% of the novel, and even then unfortunately we aren’t privy to the final standoff between Rashid and Abu-Khan. It all happens “off-screen”, and is seemingly resolved quickly without much issue. It’s almost like there was an attempt to humanize Abu-Khan’s character at the end. I guess I would have preferred to see him go full villain, or for us to at least witness a sensitive side to his personality. As it stands, his character felt too disjointed.

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A Beautiful Landscape of People

Two aspects of this novel were above and beyond fantabulous, and those would be the scenery and the people. Firstly, the description of the landscape was indescribably beautiful. You can practically picture the sweeping beauty of the mountains. The second standout feature I really enjoyed was the people who helped our family make their escape. They represent the epitome of kindness, friendship and hospitality. We are provided a glimpse of a nomadic culture that is fascinating to discover, and I wish I could have learned even more. It would have been incredible if we’d had a few panoramic photos of both the landscape, as well as the outfits and living spaces of the people who inhabit this seemingly majestic environment. Look at me, I’m almost 30 and here I am still hoping for pretty pictures in my books. Oh well, nothing a simple Google search can’t fix!

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

Series: Stand-alone

Should you read it? This novel presents us with a troubled country on the brink of rebellion, but the main focus is on Rashid and Olivia rekindling their love for each other. While the description of the mountainous landscape is top notch, I would have liked to see more depth to the dialogue, as well as more attention on the background between Rashid and Olivia. Their love affair years before, in addition to their long-standing friendship, was somewhat glossed over. I think if we had been give more info on how they first met, became friends and fell in love, it could have made their eventual split and reunion all the more emotional. I also would have preferred to see more incorporation of their son into the tale.

Smut Level: This couple has two years of missed moments to make up for, and they want to take advantage of it all. From a small river make out to sharing a sleeping bag on more than one occasion, they are rediscovering each other all over the place. Not an excessive amount of erotic detail though.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 208 Pages.

Shooter by Dahlia West

This book definitely proved one of life’s most common sayings: the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

What’s it About? 

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Chris “Shooter” Sullivan has returned to his home town of Rapid City, South Dakota to pick up the pieces of his life shattered by a roadside bomb in Iraq. He only wants to focus on holding what’s left of his old unit together, running his garage where he builds custom bikes and cars, and pretending that his murdered father’s motorcycle gang doesn’t exist. Hayley Turner is a young woman with her own traumatic past. Fresh off the bus from Nowhere, USA, all she wants is a job and a place to live, until it’s time for her to leave again. She doesn’t want to make friends, or enemies, least of all the ex-Army Ranger who obviously doesn’t like her. She bristles under his watchful eye. He’s even got her convinced she’s bad news. But circumstances force two people who don’t need anyone to need each other more and more. The more Chris gets to know Hayley, the harder it is to stay detached. And the more Hayley gets to know Chris, the more she realizes she’s been alone for so long she might never recover from it.

First Impressions

I seriously wanted this book to have a recipe section!! Consider this a friendly warning, don’t read this book on an empty stomach. You’ll definitely want some appetizers or cookies on hand to ensure you don’t salivate whilst reading it. We’ve got descriptions of succulent ribs, decadent chocolate cake, flaming baked Alaska and sweet peach cobbler.

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Upon first meeting, Chris is understandably wary of Hayley. She’s new to town, and he can easily tell she’s hiding details about herself and her troubled past. Hayley isn’t necessarily looking for friends when she arrives in Rapid City, but she doesn’t want Chris and his Army buddies to be suspicious of her either. So let the cooking begin! I will say after a while it did seem a bit over the top, what with Chris and his boys playing poker as Hayley is cooking away in the kitchen. Or this pack of alpha males working on bikes and Hayley bringing them all some home cooked lunches as they refer to her as “honey” or “darlin'”. It was nice at first, but after a while it became almost too Donna Reed for me.

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A Slowly Built Inferno

I really did enjoy the development of a friendship between Hayley and Chris, as well as with his other Army buddies. Having a friendship first means it does take a while before they enter into a sexual relationship. You definitely have to wait until after the half-way point before you get any juicy details. However, I think I preferred this scenario to them rushing into anything too quickly, especially considering Hayley’s own traumatic past. This is the first relationship Hayley has been in since going on the run five years ago.

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She’s kept her past a secret from everyone, including Chris, and we as the readers don’t discover what happened until the rest of the characters do pretty late into the story. At first, Hayley and Chris are strictly friends, but eventually they realize it’s time to take things to the next level. She’s hesitant considering how long she’s been on the run, but Chris convinces her he’ll protect her from any evil, and it’s finally time to stop running and take a chance. They start things off slowly with some kissing, rubbing, zero penetration whatsoever. But it doesn’t take long before he’s going full on dirty talk and demanding she sit on his face. Ohhh boy!

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The Life of a Biker

For the most part I liked Chris. He’s nice to Hayley, doesn’t push her to do anything before she’s ready, vows to protect her from her past, and even gets her a kitten for crying out loud! Something I didn’t appreciate though was when we ultimately discover he’s got a strained relationship with a neighboring biker gang, and that all of Hayley’s actions now reflect on him. If she makes a supposed mistake he could be the one to pay for it. Probably would have been something o share with her when you were convincing her to take a chance on you there buddy!! Then there’s a dramatic plot point with this motorcycle gang that didn’t really come full circle, and sort of fell flat for me.

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Series: Burnout, book 1. I did really enjoy the introduction of each of Chris’s Army Ranger buddies, and am excited to see each one’s eventual story.

Should you read it? It’s a sweet romance that has a strong foundation of friendship. There’s an intense climax at the end where Hayley’s past comes back to interfere with her present. I do think it could have been shortened slightly so that we not only get to the lovemaking earlier on, but also the drama of her past. Perhaps one less scene involving a mouthwatering culinary creation would have been conducive to the overall story.

Smut Level: Daaaaaamn. You have to wait about 60% until anything physical happens, but Chris has got a mouth on him, and he’s more than willing to show Hayley everything she’s been missing out on the last few years.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 472 Pages.

The Dark Side by DB Kennison

Farm life on a cattle ranch can be such an interesting thing. I mean, it seems like one of the only legitimate businesses where one can honestly say they had to take a day trip on the weekend to go buy some cow semen.

What’s it About?

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Addiction, greed, envy…They say every person has a dark side. All it takes to set it off is the right trigger. With the woman who tried to kill her behind bars, private investigator Randi Lassiter is still suffering the effects of post-traumatic stress nearly a year later. And just as she and her cop boyfriend, Jon Bricksen, have finally settled into the routine of a happy couple, someone in town is murdered and the news threatens to send her down the rabbit hole again. What Randi needs now is a case to focus on. When a missing person case waltzes into her office, Randi embraces the chance like the lone life preserver on a sinking ship.

Unfortunately, the client is her ex-husband, Stuart, and the missing person is the woman he’s now married to—her former best friend. Randi’s decision to help the man she’s sworn to loathe for all eternity is so out of character that Jon questions not only her judgment, but her mental health as well. To make matters worse, Randi begins to keep secrets from him, the kind that could ruin a relationship. When Stuart is suddenly arrested for murder, Randi stubbornly stands by her ex and tries to clear his name, despite the evidence Jon has against him. Now pitted against one another, not only is the couple’s love tested, but their survival against the dark side of a killer.

First Impressions

Phew, I think…yes I believe I can finally take a full breath and stop clutching my Kindle in a death grip. To say this book is a suspenseful read that’ll keep you guessing from start to finish is an understatement, just like book 1 in the series! This one probably has even more moving pieces than the first, and at times I was really wondering how it was all going to fit into place, but it was almost surprising when it did all come together like one perfect jigsaw puzzle. Looking back, there wasn’t one piece that was left out, and in the end you could tell how well orchestrated the entire plot was. Everything comes full circle, and you’ve gotta hand it to the author for being able to reign everything in at the last moment.

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Who Dunnit? 

Unlike book 1 where we had to wait until the very last moment to discover who our villain was, we actually find out earlier on in this book who is pulling the puppet strings. Granted, we don’t find out right away, so you do still have the fun of suspecting basically every character in the novel of ill-doing at some point. The true brilliance with this book is that once we finally discover who that villain is, if anything the suspense level heightens even more as our main characters are still left in the dark. We also don’t necessarily understand the full motive or end game of our evil doer, but with every turn of the page I found myself starting to rock back and forth a little more in agitation just wanting to yell to our detectives, “you’re so close!”, or “no, don’t discount that theory, it’s right there!!”. And of course, my personal favorite, “Just answer your damn phone!!!”.

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A Bump in the Road

In book one we saw how Randi and Jon had to work together to solve a string of murders that arrived in this small Wisconsin town. With the start of this second book we see how their relationship has lasted through Randi surviving an attempt on her life by the killer from the first book, and you can’t help but smile at their fun-loving relationship. But when murder pops up again in this small town we see their relationship put to the test on multiple fronts. Will this chief of police be able to cooperate with this private detective looking into his crime scene? Or will he push her away in the hopes of saving her from the details of death once again? And when Randi’s cheating ex-husband comes into the picture, well let’s just say the dynamics of their relationship are pushed to the breaking point.

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Cell Phones and Breaking Bad

I will say at times there were certain aspects of this novel that seemed slightly far-fetched. First and foremost, the cell phones. My goodness this must have been the most frustrating part of the book for me. Not only would Randi and Jon continually ignore the most important phone calls at the most important times (repeatedly!!!), but of course we have the joys of cell phones losing their charge right at the climax. Now I get it, stuff like that happens, but after a while it did start to feel almost like a cop-out to show it’s the only possible way these characters could get into these kinds of situations. Honestly, I’d probably prefer a lost cell phone to characters constantly ignoring calls from their significant other during a time of crisis. Just saying. In the grand scheme of things though, that’s really just me searching for something to nitpick. Maybe I just didn’t like that it simply ratcheted up the intensity of the story!

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As for the criminal activities in the book, I will say they felt a bit too Breaking Bad at times, which is funny considering the show is mentioned at least once in the book. One of those big-time crime issues in such a small, tight-knit community definitely isn’t impossible, far from it, but again it was one of those aspects I’d have to say was slightly over-the-top. Overall though, still a really interesting plot point! Again, throughout the whole thing you’re wondering how everything’s gonna come together, and who will survive. Just keep in mind that there are dark sides to this book, as hinted in the title. People die, and normally in violent or disturbing ways. Nothing too egregious, but just something to keep in mind if murder isn’t your cup of tea.

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

Series: Randi Lassiter, book 2. Another good addition to the series, and just as suspenseful as book 1.

Should you read it? This one might be too dark and suspenseful for the beach, but would be great on a cold and rainy/snowy day. This one will probably knock up the blood pressure a bit with the intensity level. Even though we know the identity of our villain earlier on in the novel, that doesn’t detract from the mystery of it all. Overall, a good murder mystery that definitely kept me on the edge of my seat.

Smut Level: The steamy scenes in this book are few and far between as more attention is placed on the murder investigation at hand, not to mention the fact that our lovebirds have some rocky moments in the book that test the strength of their relationship That being said, the few moments we do get are rather saucy.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. W.R. Publishing. 371 Pages

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.