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.

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Gull Harbor by Kathryn Knight

This small coastal town harbors a deadly secret that one woman is determined to uncover. In order to do so she’ll need the help of a beloved local, her ex-boyfriend…and a ghost. Nobody ever said being a medium was easy!

What’s it About?

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When Claire Linden’s job sends her to the sleepy town of Gull Harbor, she never expects to encounter her ex-boyfriend. As a medium, the prospect of tackling a haunted house is less daunting than seeing Max Baron again. Throughout their passionate college relationship, he promised to love her forever. Then, without explanation, he abandoned her on graduation day.

Max never intended to break Claire’s heart–a cruel ultimatum forced him to disappear from her life. While he’s shocked to find her in Gull Harbor, he isn’t surprised by the bitter resentment she feels for him…or the fiery attraction that remains between them. Claire is determined to rid her temporary home of its aggressive ghost, but Max soon realizes she’s facing a danger beyond the paranormal. When Claire risks everything to help a desperate spirit, Max must race to save her–before another tragedy tears them apart forever.

First Impressions

This novel blends together a second chance romance with a supernatural murder mystery. Claire has traveled to Gull Harbor to rid a beautiful home of the spirit of a young woman who met a tragic fate within the house at the hands of a drug dealer. As if that wasn’t a trying enough itinerary, Claire quickly discovers that this quaint town also contains her ex-boyfriend, Max, who deserted her years before with no explanation. Upon first reading, you immediately assume that in addition to dealing with the awkward end to their relationship, Max and Claire must also butt heads over her supposed supernatural abilities to communicate with spirits. However, something which I found to be rather refreshing when it came to this novel is the fact that we don’t really encounter any characters who doubt Claire’s ghostly abilities. We never come across a scene where Claire must desperately try to convince someone of her morbid gift, and I must say I absolutely loved this feature. From the beloved coffee shop owner, to the devastatingly handsome Max, and eventually even the murderer of our sad ghost, it really doesn’t take much for all of them to believe in her abilities. These characters have enough drama to deal with, we don’t need to add on another element of questioning doubt to the story.

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A Meddling Father

From the opening scene of the book, we are presented with two separate mysteries. The first revolves around the complicated history between Max and Claire. The two were inseparable towards the end of their collegiate careers, and yet for some inexplicable reason Max left her just when their lives together were about to start. What reason could Max possibly have for leaving town without a word, and will Claire ever be able to forgive him when the truth is eventually revealed? Only time will tell. The fact that Max can serenade the lass with a soothing voice, avid guitar skills, and a healthy sexual appetite…well let’s just say I’m confident the two will work it out.

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We quickly discover that Claire’s father played a meddling role in ridding her life of Max all those years ago. There’s also an additional interesting ultra-side story involving Claire’s mother who has been stuck in a coma for years. While interesting, I couldn’t help but feel as though this drama revolving around her mother didn’t really fit in with the rest of the story. On the one hand I do wish we’d learned more about the dynamic between Claire and her father, but at the same time I feel like any more attention on this side story would have made the novel as a whole feel more disjointed. As it stands it’s sort of a weird limbo of not knowing enough, wanting to learn more, yet also wanting to get back to our ghostly haunting.

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A Tale of Woe

The second mystery of our novel is significantly more tragic, in that it deals with our mournful ghost with unfinished business. We discover the heartbreaking tale of a young woman named Maria who fled Mexico in the attempt to earn money which she could send to her family back home. Rather than find a land of opportunity, she is quickly used, abused, and pays the ultimate price with her life. The reality of the scenario is difficult to deal with at times, and yet I must say some of the best and most heartbreaking scenes of the entire novel deal with Maria sharing with Claire the experiences which led up to her death. The hopelessness, the fear, and even the moment when her spirit floats away to stare down at her lifeless body. But who was responsible for Maria’s death?

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Maria’s murderer is a sleazy drug dealer who once inhabited the home that Claire is now investigating. I must say, it seemed like a rather strange place for a drug dealer to be based. A cozy house in a small harbor town? It just seemed like he would have risked drawing unwanted attention to his nefarious activities seeing as he’s living in a quaint town where everybody knows everybody. Sure, access to the coast would be convenient when getting a drug delivery, or even the delivery of a young woman who unknowingly got caught up in human trafficking. At the same time though, it seems like the last thing he’d want is to possibly have a nosy neighbor coming by to deliver a pie.

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He Is Here!

This novel starts off particularly strong with the immediate tension between Max and Claire meeting again after so many years apart, especially considering their awkward end. Plus, you have the supernatural element on top of this where Claire is trying to connect with Maria so she can move on to a better place. While they encounter some communication difficulties at the beginning, eventually Claire discovers that Maria is lamenting the details of her death in Spanish. Once this language barrier is discovered the two ladies reach an understanding in that Claire is just trying to help Maria find peace. However, this is also the moment when the momentum of the story starts to slow down a bit.

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You’d think that once they figure out how to communicate, the truth surrounding Maria’s death would come to light fairly quickly. Instead we end up waiting around a bit for the final showdown of when Maria’s killer inevitably returns to town to try and shut up Claire’s snooping. A rather frustrating feature of the story is when the drug dealer sneaks into the house, and is momentarily scared away by Maria’s ghost. Maria proceeds to tell Claire just once in Spanish that “he is here”, and of course it had to be at a point when Claire wasn’t really paying attention. Maria then switches focus to urging Claire to find the location of her buried body, and the whole time you’re sort of yelling at Maria to re-warn Claire that the bad man is back in town.

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

Series: Stand-alone

Should you read it? In hindsight I think I almost would have preferred if Max and Claire didn’t know each other upon meeting in Gull Harbor. While I did enjoy certain aspects of their history, it did open up additional side stories involving Claire’s mother and father that weren’t really fully explored. If Max was just a sexy bartender in town who helped Claire get to the bottom of the ghostly mystery haunting this old house, I think it could have lessened some of those moments where the romance and supernatural aspects seemed disjointed. That being said, I found Maria’s story to be really interesting, and while I wish Maria had been more forceful in warning Claire of the reappearance of her murderer, it did result in an exciting and worthwhile climax to the novel.

Smut Level: Max and Claire usually get intimate at his place…or even in his office! Can’t blame them for wanting to avoid a ghostly audience!!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.82. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 270 Pages.

Love Comes in the Mourning by Erin Bevan

A big city girl in a small Georgia town. When house renovations are involved, you just know fun mayhem is bound to happen.

What’s it About?

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Recently divorced and down on her luck, Lesley DeLoach is determined to make a new life for herself. When she inherits her great aunt’s estate, Rosalyn Manor, her future seems to be heading in the right direction—until she sees the home’s crumbling skeleton.

Widower John Hambrice is barely keeping his construction company afloat and his children fed, so when he’s offered a job restoring the Rosalyn Manor he can’t turn it down. But the big city client with the high falutin lifestyle reminds him too much of the last time he was burned by big money.

As the summer temperatures rise, so does their attraction. He learns there’s more to the city girl than he expected, while she learns the country boy’s gruff exterior hides a heart of gold. But each has lost so much in love already…is the chance of another broken heart worth the risk?

First Impressions

My goodness ladies and gents if I have one piece of advice for you, it’s be sure to have the tissues ready before you attempt this one. Little did I know that by reading the short prologue I’d be going on an emotional roller coaster that would basically have me ugly crying by the time I got to the first chapter. This is what I get for thinking I can just nonchalantly start a new novel 15 minutes before bedtime. We open on a hospital room where John is saying his final goodbyes to his wife as she dies from cancer.

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My God, the waterworks are coming again just thinking about this scene! Definitely a sad start, but believe me when I say this book actually has some funny shenanigans thrown in as well! Those begin a year later when Lesley moves to town following her divorce, and starts renovations on the old mansion she inherited from her Aunt Myrtle. And just who do you think is selected as the contractor for this huge project? Why John of course! It’s a tale of second chances at love and starting over, even if you didn’t think you’re ready for it.

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Moving On

Lesley has moved to Georgia in an attempt to start her life over for herself. To live independently for the first time in her life following the separation from her cheating ass-hat of an ex-husband. People think she’s crazy for putting so much time and money into the decrepit old house her Aunt Myrtle left her, but she sees this potential to run her own B&B as a way to take back control in her life. She seemingly doesn’t have time for love, but upon her first consultation meeting with John it’s undeniable that something is pulling them together. Should she take a chance on this man so soon after the end of her marriage?

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As for John, he too is contemplating this immediate attraction he has towards Lesley. Not only is the woman a complete and total klutz, but John has already found and lost the love of his life to a terrible sickness. He also has his two children to think about. Getting involved with a big city girl who might give up on these crazy renovations before the week is out isn’t something he can take a chance on. Or is it? The more time these two spend together fixing up her aunt’s house, the more difficulty John has at staying away. But is he betraying the memory of his wife by essentially moving on with someone else? To quote his own inner turmoil, “…thinking about Sandra and Lesley in the same thought just seemed wrong. Completely wrong. Like he disrespected both women without even trying”. This poor man! Can I have the chance to give him a hug please?

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The Renovations From Hell

Although this novel has a decidedly sad prologue, I was surprised at the abundant amount of humor we get injected into the story line as well. Lesley is far from a HGTV star, and seemingly trips over everything. That being said, this woman has dedication, and she’s no quitter. John quickly recognizes the fight in her, and he becomes determined as well to help her through this renovation.

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A large portion of the novel is spent focusing on John and Lesley within the confines of the house, working and sweating away on getting the house in tip-top shape. However, every once in a while we also get to see the various personalities of the locals, and they added just as much hilarity to the story as the bickering between John and Lesley. Heck, they even hold town hall meetings à la Gilmore Girls. What’s not to love here? And although the novel starts off with Lesley as an outsider to this small little corner of the world, with time we see how they start to adopt her as one of their own. It’s pretty touching to see this whole town rally together to support someone they once saw as an outsider.

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An Unexpected Romance

They tried to fight it as much as possible, but we all knew that eventually John and Lesley would end up in bed together. And it’s so delightful when they do. However, something I wasn’t expecting is that this novel also presents us with a little historical romance as well. Soon after arriving in the house, Lesley locates some journal entries from when her Aunt Myrtle was a teenager which recount a passionate romance she had with a poor artist who was traveling through town. I must say the author did an amazing job at weaving together these two romances; one contemporary and one historical. We see that there are corresponding themes between the romances, such as learning to take a risk in life, as well as opening up and taking a chance on a stranger.

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Unfortunately, things are a bit more depressing when it comes to the aunt’s story, mainly because we know from the get-go that she won’t get her happily ever after, no matter how much we cross our fingers in the hopes that she will. When the story opens we are told that Aunt Myrtle lived her life as a recluse, never marrying or having any children. In addition, as Lesley researches more about this artist Myrtle fell in love with, she mentions early on that he only became famous after his untimely death. Sooooo…we all know this won’t end well! That being said, having these brief journal entries interspersed throughout the novel still created a sense of anticipation in that you wondered how it would all come together, even though in a way we knew how it was going to end.

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The Warm and…Depressies?

Although I really really enjoyed this unique inclusion of a historical romantic story line, I must say I wasn’t thrilled with the timing of how it all ended. Essentially, the novel ends with a happily ever after between John and Lesley, and then in the epilogue we read one last sad journal entry which ultimately closes the book on our historical romance. It’s quite a jarring juxtaposition to see that while John and Lesley took a chance on finding new love after their first loves ended, Aunt Myrtle took no such chance. She chose to live out the rest of her life with just the memory of this one great love.

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I almost wish these journal entries had provided us with the conclusion to aunt Myrtle’s story at maybe the halfway or 3/4 point in the novel. Instead, our book closes on both an incredible high and rather depressing low. Get the tissues out again folks! I found myself thinking about this ending a few days after finishing the book, as you’re sort of caught in an emotional limbo. You want to celebrate the fact that John and Lesley found happiness with each other, but at the same time you’re stuck thinking about poor Aunt Myrtle and her artist. Instead of ending the book with the warm and fuzzies, it sort of felt like the warm and…depressies.

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

Series: A beautiful stand-alone.

Should you read it? This book will have you experiencing almost every range of the emotional spectrum. From a devastatingly sad start, to a quirky and funny middle, and a romantic finish at the end. While slightly predictable, there’s moments of suspense and the exploration of faith. It’s a great read if you’re debating between a contemporary or historical romance, as you sort of get both mixed in together! My one piece of advice would be to start this book when you have enough time to get a few chapters into it so that you can get beyond the initial sadness of the death of John’s wife. It’s an emotionally heartbreaking start, but you’ll soon find yourself smiling at the sexy flirtations between John and Lesley. Trust me!

Smut Level: When a hurricane is blowing into town you just know what that means. Sex in the rain!!! Or at least, sex starting in the rain before stumbling indoors. And we get some delightful moments of being pushed up against a wall of course. Classic!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 300 Pages.

A Model Engagement by Charlotte O’Shay

Alright, after reading this book I have one very important question that must be answered immediately. Is Maryland actually considered to be part of the South?? Our female lead apparently has a southern accent that comes out when she lets her guard down, and she hails from Maryland. The reason I need this question answered is because as someone who lives in Washington, DC, right on the border with Maryland, I need to know if I should start implementing more “y’alls” into my daily vocabulary.

What’s It About? 

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Lacey Reed jumps at the chance for independence with a career in the big city. But her naivety and ambition blind her to the lure of a blackmailer. With her savings gone, she has nowhere to turn when she literally runs into financier Connor Devlin. Though dazzled by Lacey, Connor sees the desperation she tries to hide. His gut tells him to help, and he hires her as his fake fiancée. Now Lacey has a job, and Connor has put a bandage on a family crisis. When the blackmailer ups the ante, Lacey resolves to face him down—no matter what the consequences. Does that mean Lacey will lose the only man who’s ever seen who she truly is?

First Impressions

A passionate romance at a beach house in Montauk? Count me in! This is the second novel in the City of Dreams series, and something I really do appreciate about these tales of fake fiancées is how the author presents us with characters who truly seem to have no other option. I think it’s safe to assume that not many of us could imagine a scenario in which we would enter into a fake engagement with someone who is a near stranger. Surely there must be some other way to get over whatever hurdle is presented, right? However, I was surprised to find that in both of these novels the female leads clearly had no other choice, and in order to look out for themselves and those that they love they have to do something kind of crazy. Heck, I even found myself wanting to yell at them, “What is there to think over? The solution is right in front of you, just take it already!” Who knew I’d be so supportive of fake engagements?!

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A One Day Fiancée 

In this novel, Lacey agrees to become Connor’s fake fiancée in order to help him care for his mother who would otherwise refuse the help of someone hired to be there. She’s willing to enter into such an absurd arrangement because she’s desperate to pay off a blackmailer who has a video tape of her in a rather compromising situation. As I mentioned earlier, I definitely understand how Lacey’s desperation to prevent this tape from ever being released could push her into accepting this completely unorthodox position. Connor on the other hand?

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Connor has known Lacey for basically just one day. In that short amount of time he can clearly identify she’s desperate for money. But to have him trust her enough to take care of his ailing mother, and also suggest they pretend to be engaged? After just one day? I guess I found it easier to believe her motivations rather than his. I did like that later on Connor admits his suggestion that they enter into this ruse so quickly was one of the dumbest ideas he’d ever had, but in that moment where he first tells Lacey she’ll be his fake fiancée I couldn’t help but think, “Woah, that was fast”.

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Past Deeds Impact the Present

Shockingly, I found myself more enthralled with the story of Lacey’s blackmail rather than her romance with Connor. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved ALL the sexual tension going on with her and the hunky gentleman, but it seemed that Lacey’s growth as a character was more linked to this other story going on with her ass of a blackmailer. To summarize, Lacey used to be a model, and when she started coordinating on a new ad campaign with a man who was highly regarded in the industry, he drugged her and filmed the two of them in some non-consensual sexual scenarios. This man then proceeds to blackmail her, demanding payment which reduces all of her life savings to nothing.

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The absolute best part of this book was seeing Lacey transform herself from a victim into a survivor. She was able to stand up for herself on her own two feet, and face the piece of shit who abused and blackmailed her. Lacey had the courage to say, “no more”. What was even better was that she came to this decision completely on her own. Nobody had to convince her of it, or push her into it. I think her budding relationship with Connor did act as a sort of catalyst, showing her how good her life could be if she just gets rid of the dead weight dragging her down. To see a woman who was at the end of her rope decide to rely on herself to escape the torment of her past was truly admirable.

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Mamma Devlin and Communication

There were two aspects of this novel that I felt could have been more fully accentuated. The first was the character of Connor’s mother. In a way, she is one of the primary factors that brings our main characters together. She is slowly going blind, and Connor wants to find someone who can help her through her day-to-day activities. Enter Lacey and the start of their fake engagement. While it is clear that she and Lacey get along, I simply wanted more scenes of the two of them spending time together. Towards the end of the novel we do get a glimpse of how sassy Connor’s mother can be, and if we had seen more of that side of her throughout the novel it might have added an extra layer of depth to Lacey’s interactions with Connor’s family. I think what I enjoyed so much about the first novel was the incorporation of our female lead’s younger brother into the dynamics between her and our male lead to truly cement their relationship. Connor’s mother could have acted as a similarly crucial supplemental character in this second novel, yet in the end it seemed like we never really got to know her.

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The second aspect revolves around the communication between Lacey and Connor. Throughout the book, we are privy to a lot of inner monologues of these two characters which reveal so much about their personalities. With Lacey, we learn all about how she branched out from her small home town in Maryland, and became a model in the big city as a way to rebel against her parents. We also see how she’s going through so much mental anguish over the issue of being blackmailed. With Connor, we uncover how the discovery of his father’s secret gambling life after his death influenced Connor’s relationship with his family. He had to become the protector and the provider. I just wish that Lacey and Connor had shared more of this with each other, rather than having it seemingly reserved for us to know as the audience. So many of these stories are glimpses into the thought processes of our characters. By having more heart-to-heart conversations throughout the novel rather than saving it all for the end could have acted as a real emotional bonding experience for our main couple, and strengthened their link beyond a basic physical connection.

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

Series: City of Dreams, book 2. I have a hunch over who the male lead of book 3 will be, and if I’m right then I just can’t wait!!!

Should you read it? Overall, I think I preferred book 1, mainly due to the more cohesive link between our main couple and supplemental characters. The story arch involving Lacey’s blackmailer was heartbreaking, yet also captivating. I wish there had been more of a resolution to how Lacey’s family responded to the blackmail. Not gonna lie, I kind of want to give her mom a good talking-to. Or maybe a slap. The ending of this novel was so freakin’ adorable though! After how quick their relationship started I really appreciated the patience Connor employed to go at Lacey’s own pace, so that she didn’t feel pressured into doing anything she wasn’t comfortable with.

Smut Level: These two have some intense make-out scenes that will have you fanning yourself! The one in the barn?! Phew!! My oh me oh my!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 210 Pages.

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Close to the Skin by Zara West

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

What’s it About?

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

First Impressions

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

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Falling for the Criminal

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

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

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Stretching the Truth

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

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Burning Fire

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

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

Some Additional Minor Points

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016 in Review!

Sorry it’s been so long since my last post everyone! Personally, I blame the holidays, and the fact that I entered into a food coma basically every night for the last week and a half. Who knew home cooking could be such a deterrent to productivity?

After the New Year celebrations officially conclude, I usually provide a wrap-up of some of my favorite books from the previous year, as well as a total count of how many books I read. I’m sorry to say that for the first time in three years I failed my designated reading challenge goal!

At the start of 2016 I had set a reading goal of 150 books, and sadly I only finished reading a total of 108. Such shame and humiliation!! You’d think with all the flying I did to China, Australia and all over the USA that I would have found some more time to read. What can I say though? The free movies always call to me on airplanes. That being said, I’m happy to report that just three days into 2017 I’ve already finished reading a book, and it was freakin’ amazing, so hopefully that’s just a sign of good things to come!

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Alright, let’s take a look back at some of my favorite reads from the past year. If you’d like to read my full review of each one, just click on the title!

Andromeda’s Fall by Abigail Owen: An amazing paranormal romance read that contains cougar shifters, polar bear shifters, and a tantalizing amount of sexual tension that will leave you wanting more. Some other great reads from Ms. Owen I read this past year include Crimson Dahlia, Her Demigod Complex, and the Worse for Were. This woman makes me love paranormal romances!

Breathe for Me by Natalie Anderson: Nothing like experiencing a range of fun sexual fantasies with an ex-lifeguard. It’s a quick read with interesting characters, and there’s a good mix of sweet, sexy and a touch of sadness.

Clingstone by Marti Ziegler: One of the best Civil War romance novels I’ve ever read, with an amazing male hero that I want for myself. Suspense, emotion, war, and awesome character development.

Haunted Souls by Kathryn Knight: I’m not normally one for ghost stories, but this one draws you in and won’t let go. A soldier returns home with PTSD to discover he has a son he never knew existed, and a ghost is haunting the house of the woman he loves. Talk about a stressful homecoming.

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Love in the Light by Laura Kaye: This was definitely one of my top reads of the year. Laura Kaye’s writing is superb. You’ll laugh, cry, and possibly even weep like I did, as we get a glimpse into the world of someone living with depression.

The Marriage Ultimatum by Charlotte O’Shay: Taking the concept of the “marriage contract” to a whole new level! Lovable characters who seem different on the surface find they have more in common than they thought by having survived difficult pasts. They also have some explosive chemistry.

Of Love and Betrayal by Louise Lyndon: This historical read has the perfect mix of intrigue, suspense, lust and romance. Not to mention two lead characters you can’t help but adore.

Seize the Flame by Lynda J. Cox: This novel has everything you could possibly hope for in an exciting western romance: a brooding bounty hunter, a brave woman on the run from an abusive husband, and the two of them trapped together in an isolated cabin during a snow storm. Loving it.

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She Laughs in Pink by Jessica Calla: An emotional read that left me in tears, no matter how hard I tried to keep them at bay. Filled with endearing, yet also imperfect characters, you’ll probably roll your eyes at some of the silly mistakes that all young college kids are bound to make. But if you stick with it, you’ll see the beautiful relationships that can bloom and evolve in Sheridan Hall.

Tangled Vows by Stella Hunter: Definitely one of the better romance novels featuring a love affair between a male celebrity and an average woman that I’ve read in a long time. It’s a quick and sexy read. A little bit of suspense is thrown in at the beginning, and there’s the hint of enough family drama to make your household seem like a haven of serenity!

That One Moment by Amy Daws: In my opinion, this was definitely one of the best of the entire London Lovers/Lost in London series. It covers some intense subjects, but there’s also a decent amount of humor woven in as well. From Vi’s over-protective footballer brothers, to her ball-sniffing dog Bruce. Oh, and did I mention it’s sexy as hell?!

Wedding Day by Erin Bevan: If you’re looking for a light-hearted romance featuring a dashing cowboy, a bit of intrigue, a good handful of sexual innuendos, and not too many detailed sex scenes, then this is definitely the book for you. From single parents to stalkers, bets, a cowboy contemplating his rodeo career, and a virgin heroine torn between two men, it’s all here! Another great read by Ms. Bevan is the delightful Christmas romance, Wrapped Up in You.

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Well there you go! That’s just a small sampling of some of my favorite reads from 2016. Thanks for reading everyone! And here’s to hoping that I actually reach my reading challenge goal in 2017.

Sarai’s Fortune by Abigail Owen

Alright all you paranormal romance fans out there! I will let you have your werewolves, vampires, zombies, demons and pretty much anything else if you’ll just let me keep this polar bear shifter. Please! It just seems like he’d be so gloriously fluffy!!

What’s it About?

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Zac Montclair’s first priority is to protect his people. With the escalating war between factions of shifters over land and resources, he has agreed to an alliance between his polar bears and the Shadowcat Nation of cougar shifters. But the treaty comes with a condition…he must accept one of their Seers into his Timik and put her under his personal protection.

Sarai Bouchard doesn’t need her supernatural gift to know that Kyle Carstairs’s obsession with controlling her ability will eventually result in her misery and demise. Her power is essential to her people’s survival, so when Kyle goes rogue, she’s sent to Zac Montclair to keep her safe. However, her visions reveal that while staying will lead to their becoming lovers, it also leads to his death. Leaving Zac will result in her own. If Sarai can’t find a way to change the future, she will be forced to choose…save her lover or save herself.

First Impressions

When it comes to Sarai, this poor girl has got to be experiencing one of the worst cases of “look, but don’t touch” that I’ve ever seen. There is an obvious pull and connection between her and Zac, and she’s foreseen how hot and heavy they can be in bed together, what with all the thrusting, heaving and sweating going on. Unfortunately, she’s also seen that getting involved with the man will undoubtedly lead to one of their deaths. Oh, and did I mention that he has sworn to protect her by welcoming her into his Timik, and insists on being close to her whenever possible? Gotta love the close proximity here!

Memory Lane

A Little Bit Closer Now

When we were first introduced to Zac Montclair in book one, we were offered just a brief glimpse of the dark and brooding polar bear shifter. In this novel, we get a first-hand account of what makes him tick, and it just so happens to be his undeniable attraction to the mysterious seer who has come under his protection.

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The best scenes of the novel in my opinion were those which brought Sarai and Zac into closer contact, specifically when he was teaching her how to spar with an opponent. Nothing like a little physical contact and rolling around on a gym mat to get you in the mood! But beyond that, we see how committed Zac was to looking out for Sarai and keeping her safe. In his ideal world, he would always be there to fight her battles for her, but he realizes her strength and the need to protect herself should the opportunity arise. I just love that he didn’t treat her like a helpless withering wall flower!

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Melding of Stories

Something I really appreciated about this sequel was that it did incorporate part of the story line and some of the characters from the first novel, yet for the most part the story did stand apart by focusing more attention on how Zac and Sarai were specifically affected be previous events. This helped the book come across as both unique, but still obviously part of the same world as book one. In addition, we are introduced to a few intriguing new characters who will undoubtedly be featured as the leads in a future book. I simply can’t wait!

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

Series: Shadowcat Nation, book 2. Gimme more, gimme more!

Should you read it? This sequel provided great development of the original story! We see a continuation of the struggle from the previous novel, yet also the introduction of some new plot twists and future potential issues. My only complaint is that I wish Zac and Sarai had shifted more often. Each one only does a brief shift, and I really would have loved at least one scene of them running together in their polar bear and cougar forms. Other than that? Fabulous!

Smut Level: My favorite part of this book? Zac may be the one to surprise Sarai with a few kisses here and there, but she’s the one to take full initiative by showing up in his bed one night totally naked!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.82 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 202 Pages.