Alaska Night by Daisy Sweeney

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

What’s it About? 

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

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

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High School for Adults

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Under the Skin by Zara West

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

What’s it About? 

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

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Two Peas in a Pod

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

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

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The Spiral

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Hurricane Crimes by Chrys Fey

This story of murder in the midst of a deadly hurricane certainly packs a punch. And in just 43 pages!!

What’s it About?

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After her car breaks down, Beth Kennedy is forced to stay in Florida, the target of Hurricane Sabrina. She stocks up supplies, boards up windows, and hunkers down to wait out the storm, but her plan unravels when she witnesses a car accident. Risking her life, she braves the winds to save the driver. Just when she believes they are safe, she finds out the man she saved could possibly be more dangerous than the severe weather.

Donovan Goldwyn only wanted to hide from the police, but the hurricane shoved his car into a tree. Now he’s trapped with a beautiful woman while the evidence that can prove his innocence to a brutal crime is out there for anyone to find. As Hurricane Sabrina wreaks havoc, Beth has no other choice but to trust Donovan to stay alive. But will she survive, or will she become another hurricane crime?

First Impressions

I started this book before leaving for work one morning, thinking it’d be a somewhat low stakes novella to start and leave without finishing. Lemme say, bad idea! I read just 10 minutes of this before walking out the door, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it all day long. I seriously considered whipping my Kindle out during my lunch break to finish the rest of it all up in one sitting. Unfortunately that would have left my coworker to just watch me eat and read at the same time, and may have been slightly awkward. No talking allowed!!

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I was completely shocked at how much story the author was able to pack in here in just under 50 pages. Overall it was an absolute perfect blend of romance, suspense, and mother nature trying to knock down the front door. It’s not just a story of two strangers waiting out a storm together. We have the added drama of Donovan being framed for his brother’s murder, and it becomes a fascinating tale of trust. Beth has no reason to believe this stranger when he declares his innocence, but when she sees the desperation shining through his sultry violet eyes? Who could say no to that?

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A Bathtub Fit for Two

Although it was short in length, I never felt like any part of the story was rushed, or that any key plot points were left out. Did Beth and Donovan become intimate rather quickly considering the time frame? Sure, but hell, you can’t blame ’em! It’s an intense situation, and quite possibly their last moments alive as a deadly hurricane passes over them. And seriously, the dude has violet eyes. I say go for it! The only question I have is what the hell kind of bathtub did this woman have in her house where it could not only fit two people, but they had a bit of extra room to remove their jeans for some sweet, sweet, lovin’? (Note: as someone with a ridiculously shallow and narrow tub, this is just pure jealousy).

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Beth, Donovan, and Sabrina

The key players in this little novella are Beth and Donovan. However, through the brilliant use of metaphors, Hurricane Sabrina becomes a third main character in her own right. The descriptions or her rapid approach and violent wrath can practically be characterized as poetic. My favorite scene would have to be at the beginning when Beth struggles to make it to Donovan’s car which has crashed into a tree outside her house as the hurricane ravages on. You’re transported into the moment with Beth. You can feel the wind and rain lashing upon your face, feel the gravel digging into your hands as you crawl along the ground. Feel the tightening in your stomach from fear wondering if you’ll ever make it to this man before the storm carries you both away. For all of you authors out there wondering how to craft the perfect novella, I say use this as your template. Honestly, I really don’t have any criticisms! A rarity indeed 😉

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

Series: Disaster Crimes, book 1. I officially want to read this whole series.

Should you read it? Yes! It’s less than 50 pages, you’ve got nothing to lose. Normally with novellas I make the comment that I wish it were a full-length novel. Is that the case here? Kind of. I loved the characters, the story, the drama of the storm and our murderous side plot. A full-length novel would have just given me more to enjoy. What can I say, I’m greedy at times 🙂 However!! I can honestly say that having a full-length novel was in no way a necessity. It’s perfectly wonderful as a novella, and I didn’t feel for one second that I was missing out on anything. Who needs extra fluff when you can just get to the meat of the story? Maybe instead of having a longer version I’ll just have to give it a second read!

Smut Level: We get some sexy kisses, but no details for the act itself. Considering the short length, probably a wise decision to use every bit of limited space towards the plot rather than the naked times. Never thought I’d say that!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $1.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 43 Pages.

The Deep Well of Love and Murder by Brenda Whiteside

A burly Argentinian rancher with a penchant for cooking and intimate tea ceremonies? Oh yeah, I’ll take me one of those. Looks like this one’s in Flagstaff. Give me a moment whilst I research flight costs, please and thank you.

What’s it About?

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After an abusive childhood and a bad marriage, Laura Katz finally finds a home, stability…and possibly love. But her blissful refuge as nanny on the Meadowlark Ranch, miles from Flagstaff, shatters when her ex is released from prison, determined to reclaim her.

Randy Silva, the ranch’s foreman, has dreams of his own ranch, but a nasty land grab is underway.While the battle escalates, Laura steals his heart, but dangerous outsiders and a criminal ex-husband stand in their way. Randy’s in a perilous fight for his land and the woman he wants by his side.

Stakes are high, as the attacks on Randy and his ranch draw blood. While the vengeful ex-husband stalks Laura, a mob-backed land developer teams with a desperate gambler. Randy can’t be sure where the next attack will come from–or who will be caught in the crossfire.

First Impressions

Hands down this has been my favorite book in the series so far. It’s so cleverly crafted where it really does keep you guessing who our mystery vandal could be. There are three obvious suspects, but you constantly question who might be the ultimate perpetrator. It definitely kept me guessing, which is hard to do, and you’ll wonder if maybe it’ll end up being some unassuming fourth person who will end up being a complete shock. The possibilities are truly endless when we’re dealing with so many smarmy people in such a small town. These top three suspects are obviously people with selfish intentions, but you wonder which one has the stomach to do some of these more dastardly deeds.

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A Villainous Reveal

In my opinion this is where the book was extra clever. We do discover the identity of our perpetrator about half-way through the book. When this came to light, I was immediately a bit let down thinking, well darn! There goes all the mystery and intrigue. As it turns out, I couldn’t be more wrong! I feel like if anything this is when the novel really hits its stride and ramps up the intensity level, especially when our lovable characters are unknowingly in the presence of such a ne’er do well. Another aspect I admired with this read is that the author never tried to rush a scene, specifically when it would come to a suspenseful scene at the end involving our villain and Laura.

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These scenes would always start you off on the edge, and then build and build in intensity, and you can tell our villain’s rage increases in these moments as well. Just when you think the scene will switch to something more mellow, or there will be a break in intensity, it ends up lasting a bit longer than you think it will. In these moments you really find yourself wondering, my goodness how far is this going to go? Will there actually be a happy ending for everyone where justice ultimately prevails? At times it can even bring you to the edge of your own comfort level where you may start to squirm in anticipation, but in a way I feel this almost puts us in the shoes of our lead character. We wonder what fate might befall them in that moment. Well written for sure!

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The Rancher and the Nanny

As for the romance aspect, overall I liked it. Can’t say I fell head over heels with it, but it was definitely good. I appreciated the fact that Randy and Laura’s relationship wasn’t solely about sex, even if it sort of starts out that way. They have both set their sights on each other, and Laura in particular is pretty brazen about wanting to start a physical relationship. However, they are both able to open up with each other about important aspects of their lives which they’d never revealed to another person before.

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For Randy, he shares his desire to start a horse camp for young children on his property, and also opens up about his wife’s death years before. Laura on the other hand delves into the details of her sad childhood and upbringing, as well as the abuse suffered at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend. The one aspect of their relationship that I didn’t particularly care for was when Laura would try to push Randy away. In the beginning, I could definitely understand why she would want to keep things more casual. Her past relationship with her ex-husband didn’t exactly end well, and he’s been stalking her recently. It’s clear why she might not trust her choices in men. But when this theme comes back around again at the end, it was a smidge frustrating, especially considering all the ways Randy has demonstrated his love for her through both his words and actions.

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

Series: Love and Murder, book 5. Best book in the series so far! Some characters from the previous novels are referenced, but I don’t really feel as though it’s mandatory you read all of the previous books before trying out this one.

Should you read it? For those of you who like a little mystery and suspense thrown in with your romance, I get the feeling you’ll enjoy this one. Prepare to second-guess yourself every time you think you have the villain figured out. You’ll be on the edge of your seat by the end. Again, overall I did enjoy the romance aspect, specifically their emotional connection, but I feel like Laura’s multiple attempts to push Randy away seemed a bit unnecessary.

Smut Level: Apparently Randy needs to write a how-to book when it comes to shower sex. Immediate best-seller for sure.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 257 Pages.

The Search by Nora Roberts

This is a tale of intrigue, murder, and a copy cat killer on the loose. And yet, I must say I found one of the most disturbing scenes in this novel to revolve around a soft drink. At one point a friend of our main character goes over to her house and is offered a cold beverage, at which point the friend requests a Coca-Cola. Our female lead responds that she just has Pepsi. Diet Pepsi. And the friend…proceeds…to drink it. Now, whether you prefer Coke or Pepsi I think we can all view this scene as an affront to human nature! You can’t just flip flop between the two!! Let alone accept diet when you wanted regular (for the record Coca-Cola is the best).

What’s it About?

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To most people, Fiona Bristow seems to have an idyllic life—a quaint house on an island off Seattle’s coast, a thriving dog-training school and a challenging volunteer job performing Canine Search and Rescue. Not to mention her three intensely loyal Labs. But Fiona got to this point by surviving a nightmare. Several years ago, Fiona was the only survivor of the Red Scarf Killer, who shot and killed Fiona’s cop fiancé and his K-9 partner.

On Orcas Island, Fiona has found the peace and solitude necessary to rebuild her life. But all that changes on the day Simon Doyle barrels up her drive, desperate for her help. He’s an intensely private wood artist and the reluctant owner of an out-of-control puppy named Jaws. As Fiona embarks on training Jaws, and Simon begins to appreciate both dog and trainer, the past tears back into Fiona’s life. A copycat killer has emerged out of the shadows, a man whose bloodlust has been channeled by a master with one motive: to reclaim the woman who slipped out of his hands.

First Impression

This novel presents us with a rather odd blend of romantic comedy and murder mystery. On the one hand, we have Fiona, our strong-willed dog trainer who happens to find love with a new client who is having trouble with a rambunctious puppy. On the flip side, a killer has his sights set on Fiona, as she escaped from the clutches of this copycat’s mentor years before. I’m not gonna lie, it was kind of disorienting to be laughing at the crazy antics of our untrained puppy while also remaining fearful of the evil we know is lurking in the background. Personally I felt the novel focused a bit too much on the light-hearted romance aspect. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a cute romantic comedy, and it was refreshing at times to be presented with another funny furry shenanigan after a rather brutal murder scene. However, it was also jarring to have so many cute scenes, and then suddenly switch gears to a short chapter involving our demented killer. In my opinion, the novel would have benefited from a more evened balance of romance vs. suspense.

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Give it To Me Straight

Now, I know what you all are wondering. Sure, we have a killer out there terrorizing young college females out for solitary runs through the woods. But…do any of the dogs die? Don’t lie, that’s exactly what you were wondering! Well, to all those pet lovers out there, let me take this moment to give you a brief spoiler alert so you know whether or not to give this novel a chance. When it comes to the question of whether or not any beloved canines lose their lives, the answer is…sort of. Ok, yes, a dog dies. BUT! We only hear a quick retelling of a story where a dog dies by getting shot. It’s not a dog that we develop any emotional connection to. That being said, if you’re anything like my mom, I’m sure some of you will see this as a reason to avoid this book entirely. However, trust me when I say you can get past it! The dogs in this story are adorable, strong and heroic. You might even pick up on a few training techniques, so it just might be worth the read!

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Red Scarf Killer 2

While our killer was in no means a fun character to be around, I felt that we didn’t get enough of a focus on him to truly understand his drive behind these killings. When it comes to the original killer, we are presented with a clear motive which revolves around a troubled childhood and a neglectful mother. For our copycat though, we are briefly introduced to a familial undercurrent, but the desire for fame and celebrity status apparently overrides all else. However, considering he hadn’t committed any crimes before coming into contact with this original killer, it seemed like we missed the driving force, the impetus if you will, behind why he felt the need to suddenly carry out such violent and devious crimes. Unless the true reason really was to make a name for himself. In which case…well that’s just freakin’ depressing.

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The Final Confrontation

In the midst of all our puppy training and developing romance, we know that the whole book is gearing up to a final confrontation between Fiona and the copycat killer who has slowly been making his way closer and closer to her island sanctuary. Our killer starts out his murderous spree in the exact image of his mentor, but as things progress he diverges more and more from the original killer’s teachings, and his killings become increasingly violent. Consider yourself warned that some scenes are pretty disturbingly graphic, dealing with the killer’s dark desires surrounding pain, torture, and even rape. When we finally get to the ultimate confrontation between Fiona and our copycat killer, I must say it wasn’t as climactic of a final face-off as I was expecting.

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Kind of a let down considering we spent the last 400 pages or so waiting around for it to come about. I will say though, in the end it was probably more realistic that Fiona wouldn’t be caught alone and unawares to be kidnapped by a psychotic killer for a second time in her life. Pretty much from page 1 we see how Fiona is the ultimate bad ass, trained in self-defense, and is constantly surrounded by her three loving canines who would do anything to protect her. Throughout the novel I became increasingly worried that we would ultimately be confronted with a scenario where Fiona would suddenly be found separated from her dogs, friends and new lover to be left as a sitting duck for our Red Scarf Killer. While that doesn’t happen, and our female lead does retain her bad ass status when eventually confronted with the killer, it made for a less exciting finish than I was expecting after so much build-up. In the end, the confrontation ends pretty quickly, and without much mystery or surprise.

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Series: Stand-alone.

Should you read it? Oddly enough, we probably could have removed the killer element completely from this story, and still have been left with a perfectly well-rounded romantic comedy. It was kind of bizarre to have this darker murderous element built in at such seemingly random times. In the end I’d have to say the biggest setback to this being a well-balanced suspenseful romance was the length of the novel. If it had been about 100 pages shorter, and with a handful less dog training scenes, it would have been damn-near perfect. The lead characters, both human and canine, have extremely strong and loving personalities. At times our male lead is a bit too fearful of admitting his feelings of love and commitment to Fiona, but in the end they have a special bond that even a killer can’t break.

Smut Level: You’d think it’d be tough for these two to find a moment alone, considering all the dogs constantly surrounding them. But…well that’s the benefit of a shower, now isn’t it?

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $7.99 Kindle Price. $5.88 Hardcover Price. Berkley Publishing. 497 Pages.

Axel by Harper Sloan

When Isabelle seeks to escape from her abusive husband, she has to turn to a man from her past who she thought was gone forever. Translation? Sexual tension is all up in the house!

What’s it About?

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Fate hasn’t always been friends with Isabelle West. In fact, fate has been a downright bitch. Isabelle has learned the hard way how hard life can be when fate isn’t by your side. It can hand you dreams on silver platters, but it can snatch them right back and hand you nightmares. One thing Isabelle knew for sure fate was consistent with was taking away everything she ever loved. For the last two years Isabelle has been slowly clearing the clouds of her past. Happiness is finally on the horizon. She has a thriving business, great friends, and her life back. All she has to do is jump over the last hurdle…her ex-husband.

When problems start causing her to fear her new life, and memories that are better left forgotten start rushing to the surface the last thing she needs is a ghost from her past to come knocking on her door. Axel never thought he would look into the eyes of Isabelle West again, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to now. He’s carried his anger for so long he isn’t sure he can just turn it off, but when he is faced with protecting her and an unexpected desire to have her again, life gets a little more complicated. How will Axel and Isabelle deal when all their cards are put on the table and everything they thought was true blows up in their faces?

First Impressions

When it comes to my first impression of Axel, I’m not gonna lie he was kind of a scary dick! Axel and Isabelle used to be a couple of teenagers in love, but after he went away to join the armed forces, a handful of misunderstandings and lack of communication forced them to split. She thought he was dead, he thought she moved on to love someone else right after he left. But more on that later. Years pass, and eventually Isabelle is on the run from her abusive ex-husband and trying to get a divorce. Her close friend who works for a security firm decides to put his best man on the case: enter Axel. When these two lovebirds reunite after so many years apart their first inclination is to hate each other. Yeah, I was kind of confused too.

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Axel just assumes that Isabelle is seeking a divorce from her husband because she was bored at being a lonely housewife, as though there could be no other reason for a woman to want to leave her husband. He treats her with a shocking amount of hostility and intimidation. Only when he discovers that her husband abused her does he show any amount of sympathy. You’d think the fact that she needs a security firm to act as a buffer with her ex would have been enough of a freakin’ clue. To be fair though, it’s not all Axel’s fault. He continually asks Isabelle what drew them apart so many years before, as well as what happened with her ex, but she consistently remains close lipped and in a state of annoyance for Axel coming into her life again. Jeez people, can’t you just open up and communicate already?!?!

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Foster Mamma June

Aside from Izzy’s abusive asshole of an ex-husband, we do have another ultimate villain in this novel, and that would be Axel’s bitch of a foster mother, June. Although we never actually encounter a scene with her firsthand, she is essentially the puppet master who pulled the strings that brought an end to Axel and Izzy’s former relationship. When Axel rode off to join the military, he and Izzy initially had every intention of spending the rest of their lives together. But all of Izzy’s letters to Axel are returned undelivered, and Axel never gets in touch with Izzy. When she eventually seeks out his unloving foster mother to find out what’s what, June brushes her off by basically telling her to take a hike. When she returns again later on in sheer desperation, June snarkily tells Izzy that Axel is never coming back because he’s dead.

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Um, I’m sorry, but did this book unknowingly take place in the 80s? Why the hell was it so hard for them to stay in touch, or even locate each other? I feel like one simple text message could have resolved any and all issues here. Or hey, maybe ask around to find out if he’s actually dead. However, there was one thing that bothered me above all else. When Izzy and Axel eventually reunite after so many years apart, she doesn’t express any joy to discover he’s actually alive. No, she’s pissed at him. And why? Because although June told her Axel was dead, she assumes that when Axel did return from the military June must have told him Izzy was still looking for him. He simply must have decided not to find her. Are…you…kidding me??? This woman gave you the brush off and told you the love of your life was dead, and yet when you ultimately discover that wasn’t the case you still choose to give her the benefit of the doubt over him? Whyyyyy? This woman was clearly being deceitful, yet you gave her more credit than you gave him.

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Mutual Animosity

So the blessed reunion between Axel and Izzy is tainted by animosity. She assumed he never tried to find her after returning from military training, even though she initially thought he was dead. As for Axel, he basically assumes that right after he left for training Izzy moved on, and ran off to be with another man. They really don’t like each other. But that initial animosity dissolves pretty quickly as far as actual days, although it does take up a large portion of the novel itself. Then they are all lovey dovey again and planning a future together.

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This was the part of the book that I could actually start to enjoy. While their switch from hatred to love does seem pretty quick, we do have to remember that they have a history together; a romantic past that is an interesting technique to get around what initially seems like a quick romance between them. The problem is that I felt like we never truly got to know them when they were younger together, or at least as a couple anyway. We really only get a glimpse of them at the moment they are separated, rather than finding out what it was that initially brought them together. This does sort of make you question what the foundation of their relationship, whether past or present, really is.

When All is Said and Done

Looking back on this novel you sort of have the impression that these two had an inordinate amount of sex with each other. While true, and believe me ’twas rather graphic, it’s also surprising to remember that they don’t actually do the deed until well over halfway into the book. They spent so much of the first half of the book needlessly mad at each other, before spending the second half constantly intertwined…naked. It almost seemed like two separate stories were pushed into one. A little more cohesion would have gone a long way.

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One of the most satisfying moments of this book, aside from the moment Axel and Izzy finally decide to put their convoluted pasts behind them and jump into bed already, was the ending. Izzy finally stands up to her abusive ex in the biggest of ways. When all is said and done you can’t help but feel the asshole finally got what he deserved. Although Axel was instrumental in helping Izzy end things with her ex once and for all, it was really Izzy who had the last word. You go girl!

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Series: Corps Security, book 1. I could see myself giving the second book in this series a try.

Should you read it? I really wish the section of them being pissy at each other had just been completely removed. It seemed totally unrealistic that after believing he was dead for so many years, his reappearance in her life would make Izzy’s first reaction be something akin to, “I can’t believe you didn’t call me.” And the fact Axel could be so cold and harsh when he knew she was going through something difficult with her husband made him come across as an uber dick. It was only when they started opening up to each other about their time apart that I could truly connect with their story. Before that? You just wanna give em both a good slap in the face.

Smut Level: Good God Axel and Isabelle have a sexual magnetism that is intense, and full of the dirtiest of talk you can imagine. We’ve got licking, pulling, pounding, and enough moaning to satisfy the most alpha of males.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 260 Pages.