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.

Locked, Loaded, & Lying by Sarah Andre

Cheese and monkeys this book is intense! A piece of advice: when you read this make sure you have no other plans for the day because you won’t want to put it down.

What’s it About? 

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He might be innocent. Or he might be very, very guilty… Olympic skier Lock Roane was on top of the world: smashing world records, collecting medals, and basking in the love of a nation and his beautiful heiress girlfriend. It all comes crashing down after Lock discovers his girlfriend had an affair – then wakes from a drunken bender to find himself covered in her blood. Disgraced and dethroned, Lock awaits his murder trial with dread, not knowing if his girlfriend died at his own hands. Journalist Jordan Sinclair is out of options. To satisfy her blackmailer, she must get the inside scoop (and its cash reward) on Lock Roane. An attraction to the arrogant athlete was not part of the plan. Neither is trying to find out what really happened that night. Now Jordan risks everything – including her life – to help the man she’s falling for. A man who just might be a cold-blooded killer…

First Impressions

See what I mean? Intense! It’s like the Oscar Pistorius trial, but for the winter Olympics instead of summer. Unfortunately, every time I tried to read this book I kept getting interrupted, so I could only read a chapter or two at a time. My stupid social life kept getting in the way! I can’t even remember how many times I considered calling in sick to work so that I could stay home and finish reading this book in one go. Don’t worry, I still went to work, but this story would pop up in my mind multiple times a day. Not gonna lie, it kind of messed with my sanity.

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Baggage and Poor Timing

Both Jordan and Lock have an immediate attraction to one another, but they also carry a heavy load of baggage from their respective pasts. Lock is only a week away from being tried for the murder of his girlfriend, which he can’t say with absolute certainty he didn’t commit. Jordan, on the other hand, is on the run from her abusive father, and is on a deadline to collect a reward for interviewing Lock so she can pay off her dad to leave her and her mother alone.

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Needless to say, they both have baggage, and their budding attraction for one another couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time. However! Something I absolutely loved about this book was that they both admitted how ridiculous it was that they were thinking about getting each other naked when they had much more pressing issues going on. Their admission to the poor timing almost made it seem more realistic, not to mention romantic because they simply couldn’t deny their inner feelings/horniness.

So Much Sexual Tension!

Humina yumina bumina. For the majority of the novel, Jordan and Lock are trapped together in a small cabin with a roaring fire, and a snow storm just outside. I can’t really think of a better setting for complete and total seduction! Of course, you can’t help but feel sorry for Lock’s poor brother Leo, who is also stuck in the cabin with them, and is the official third wheel of the novel. The sexual tension between Jordan and Lock continues to intensify as the story goes on, as they are constantly interrupted whenever they try to do the dirty. I usually don’t like when a romance novel prolongs the arrival of the sex scene, but in this case it just worked by adding to the overall intensity of the book. Rest assured though, once we do finally get around to the good stuff, it is described in slow and delicious detail. Not at all disappointing, and well worth the wait!

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The Big Reveal

Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything! I will tell you I thought I had the whole mystery figured out right away in the first chapter. But as the story moved on I think I questioned who dunnit about 50 times, and probably suspected just about every main character at some point for committing the murder. I will say though I thought the big reveal was a tad disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, it was extremely interesting, and an emotional scenario, but it was also kind of unrealistic. It was one of those, “Oh, let me tell you everything about the murder in exact detail so the cops can stop for a doughnut and still get here on time”, kind of situations.

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

Series: Not that I know of, but I crave a sequel featuring Lock’s brother Leo more than I crave Hershey’s chocolate. And that’s saying something. He was one of the more captivating characters of the entire novel.

Should you read it? Oh yeah. It’s the perfect blend of suspense and romance. The characters just draw you in until you can’t look away, and you really feel like you’re part of the team in trying to prove Lock’s innocence.

Smut Level: There is only one sex scene, and you have to wait for it, but you’ll love it. Trust me.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Select Suspense. 331 Pages.