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!

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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.

 

A Witch’s Holiday Wedding by Tena Stetler

And you thought planning your wedding was stressful! Imagine having to accommodate your fiancé‘s werewolf pack members, your own witchy parents, and a gathering of ghostly relatives. And on top of all that, running a wildlife sanctuary for injured animals. I’m starting to understand the immediate need for honeymoons!

What’s it About?

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Elemental witch, Pepper McKay and former Navy SEAL, Lathen Quartz have built Lobster Cove Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center on enchanted McKay land. During a romantic interlude on Halloween night, Pepper happily agrees to become Lathen’s wife. What better day than Winter Solstice for their wedding in a town that loves celebrations and Christmas. However, planning a wedding and operating their wildlife center takes a toll on both Pepper and Lathen.

When the couple takes a much-needed break for Thanksgiving with family in Colorado, a Maine snowstorm fills the center with injured wildlife. Lathen finds himself drawn into a covert military mission, while trying to deal with issues with friends and family. Pepper wants to cancel the wedding. Is she having second thoughts? Will the nosy McKay ghosts, Lathen’s werewolf pack, Pepper’s parents, and her best friend help or hinder the wedding and holiday plans?

First Impressions

This novel is a sweet continuation of A Witch’s Journey, as we get to tag along as Pepper and Lathen put the finishing touches on their wedding plans. The entire novel spans pretty much the whole holiday season, from a family Thanksgiving celebration, to a Christmas wedding, to ringing in the New Year with loved ones. It’s a cute read that demonstrates the importance of family, including the new one you might be marrying into. And every time you get frustrated with family trying to plan the whole blessed event themselves, just take a relaxing dip in the hot tub with your sexy werewolf fiancé. He’s sure to keep you extra warm!

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Smooth Sailing

Although this novel was a cute read, and there was a lot of wedding planning/celebrating going on, I did feel like the majority of the plot was lacking any real struggle. There were moments where some issues could have been expanded upon to create some real drama, but they were all resolved very quickly and without any major problems. Throughout the book I kept expecting there to be some kind of eventual twist or complication, but it was pretty much smooth sailing.

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For example, at one point Lathen’s former SEAL buddies come to recruit him for a secret mission. I thought there might actually be some danger involved, but alas, the mission took one day and just required his computer skills. Little fuss. Who knows if this could possibly be featured again in a future novel, but when it comes to this book the focus is primarily on the holidays and family.

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

Series: Lobster Cove, book 2.

Should you read it? I think some kind of drama would have made the book slightly more engaging. Even the stresses of wedding planning were resolved with very little cause for worry. Almost too smooth of a read at times. But my goodness is Lathen extra yummy!

Smut Level: Overall pretty clean, especially considering family is in the next room, but in some scenes Lathen’s animal side is let out to play. Tee hee!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 318 Pages.

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Andromeda’s Fall by Abigail Owen

YAASSSS! Another addictively gripping series from Abigail Owen that will suck you in and leave you wanting even more!

What’s it About?

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Andromeda Reynolds is being hunted. After witnessing her mother’s violent death at the hands of a pack of wolf shifters, Andie has devoted her life to protecting her community of cougar shifters from a similar fate. But now, a greater threat lies within her own pack, and she must run. If she stays, Kyle Carstairs will force their mating, seeking the added political power their union would provide.

Andie would rather chew off her own foot than end up with Kyle. Though, knowing him, she won’t live long either way. Andie’s only hope of survival is to mate Jaxon Keller, the Alpha of the Keller Dare with which she is seeking asylum. But before she can get to him, Andie must first go through A.J., one of the Alpha’s Protectors. What Andie doesn’t realize is that A.J. has secrets of his own. All Andie knows is that the incredibly frustrating shifter insists on challenging her story, her skills, her trust… and her heart.

First Impressions

I think I could tell from about page 2 that I was going to love this book. The story line kicks off right away with a break-in and a fabulous burst of sexual tension. Sure enough, I couldn’t put this one down, and finished it pretty much in one sitting during a flight from DC to Phoenix. Abigail Owen manages to draw you into her unique world of shifters, bitter rivalries and delightful romance with a sexy male and empowering female lead.

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Ultimate Strength

Abigail Owen never fails to present us with a courageously strong female lead in her novels, and this one definitely knows how to pack a punch. She may be on the run from the leaders of her dare, or cougar pack, but she knows how to survive. She seeks out the leader of another dare, and unbeknownst to her, she meets him upon first entering his compound.

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Jaxon has his reasons for keeping his true identity as alpha of the Keller dare a secret from the bewitching female who literally rolled her way into his compound. However, as they spend more time together he can’t deny the attraction they both feel for one another which extends beyond lust. He’s finally met someone who can hold her own seemingly against anyone, even a powerful cougar alpha such as himself, and he quickly finds himself to be quite the smitten kitten.

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A Little More Please

There were two different aspects of this book where I would have liked just a smidge more substance than what was presented to us. Very minor though. Firstly, some more background info concerning the men Andie was on the run from would have been nice. It’s very clear they are harsh and terrible leaders, but a bit more about their history with the dare, and Andie’s own interactions with them would’ve been good. Although I think this may have been touched upon in a previous anthology that I haven’t read yet!

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The second aspect of the story where I was just hoping for more was the sex! But I’m weird like that, so I could see how others would enjoy the tamer sexual side of this novel. Andie and Jaxon have unbelievable chemistry, and we do get a few passionate details about their exploits beneath the sheets. However, I would have liked at least one scene where we could really see their inner animals let loose. Rawwwr!

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

Series: Shadowcat Nation, book 1. Fabulous set up for book 2 at the end.

Should you read it? One of my favorite things about any book from Abigail Owen are the distinct paranormal elements brought into play, and this novel definitely doesn’t disappoint! From cougar to polar bear shifters, seers and healers, this one is surely unique. I loved the characters, the suspenseful plot, and damn near everything about it!

Smut Level: A bit of licking and rubbing in front of a fireplace during a snowstorm. What’s not to love?

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 260 Pages.

 

The Marriage Ultimatum by Charlotte O’Shay

This book takes the whole concept of the “marriage contract” romance novel theme to a whole new level!

What’s it About?

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Dead-end job? Dreary apartment? Disastrous love life? Check, check, and check. Toddler who makes it all worthwhile? Absolutely. Juggling work, college, and the care of young Alex was never Sabrina’s plan. But Sabrina’s dreams are bigger than any curve ball life can throw at her. Her top priority is keeping her small family together, no matter what the cost.

Vladimir Grigory doesn’t believe in dreams. He earned his position at the top of New York’s corporate ladder with his own sweat. His empire is his baby, and he’ll destroy anyone who threatens it. Even the sexy employee who challenges him on every level. When the New York tabloids and the world call him the baby daddy of Sabrina’s son, Vlad believes Sabrina is part of a plot to expose the secrets of his past. He threatens to destroy her future. But since Sabrina has secrets of her own, she has no choice but to agree to Vlad’s marriage ultimatum.

First Impressions

I literally finished this book in a day. It’s a quick read that holds your interest, and you can’t wait to find out how everything will come together in the end. I think the primary features of this novel which draw you in are the lovable characters. He’s a billionaire businessman. She was just fired from his company. They seemingly come from completely different worlds. However, it is their troubled backgrounds which have made them into the people they are today. Vlad hails from an orphanage in Russia, while Sabrina struggles to support her brother Alex since the unexpected death of their mother. They are fighters. They are survivors. They strive to move on from their pasts, but it is the fact that they both come from broken homes which links them together.

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Sex vs. Trust

These two have the sex side of things down to a science. No question. They find it difficult to remain within close proximity for any length of time without putting their hands all over each other. The part that they have trouble with is trust. He believes she went to the tabloids in an attempt to disgrace his reputation by claiming he’s the father of her child. Sabrina feels she can’t tell him the truth that the young child in her care is actually her brother, not her son. She’s struggled to care for him all by herself, and fears that Alex will be taken away from her if the truth gets out.

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Who knew that entering into a marriage deal would be the answer to both their problems? But can Vlad still keep his distance from this supposed liar as they spend more time together? Can Sabrina continue to let him think she’s Alex’s mother even as he develops a stronger relationship with the young boy? You’ll just have to read it to find out!

Smallest of Faults

If I had to find one teeny, tiny, little complaint about this novel, it would be that it ended too quickly. The entire book is sort of one big build-up to the final reveal of the true identity of Alex’s father. As I got 90% of the way through the book, I wondered if the truth would ever be revealed. And then bam! It happened.

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Vlad discovers the truth and the matter is seemingly resolved in just a matter of pages. After so much build-up, I think I would have liked a longer climactic scene at the end. Again though, it’s just the teeniest of little itty bitty complaints.

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

Series: City of Dreams, Book 1. I’d definitely read more from this series.

Should you read it? Aside from the ending feeling a bit rushed, I really enjoyed this book! The characters are definitely intriguing, the plot keeps you guessing, and there’s enough sexual tension to keep you fully satisfied.

Smut Level: Oh my! What better way to spend an evening trapped inside during hurricane-type weather than with a Russian sex god and a can of whipped cream?

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 176 Pages.

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Haunted Souls by Kathryn Knight

What do a single mother, a soldier with PTSD, an adorably precocious toddler and an 18th century ghost have in common? They are all amazing characters featured in this sexy, yet suspenseful romance.

What’s it About? 

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Four years ago, Emily Shea and Staff Sergeant Brett Leeds agreed to part with no strings attached. Sparks flew during their brief affair, but fate intervened, sending Brett overseas. When an unexpected pregnancy derailed Emily’s own plans, her attempts to locate Brett were soon overwhelmed by the challenges of single motherhood. Now, Brett has returned home, and Emily is forced to share her secret.

Despite feeling betrayed, Brett is determined to forge a relationship with their son, Tyler. As the former lovers battle both their inner demons and their mutual desire, another presence enters their lives—Tyler’s imaginary friend. Soon, however, the chilling evidence points to a different conclusion: a ghost has formed a dangerous connection with their son. Emily’s attempts to help both a lost soul and a friend in need spiral toward a deadly confrontation, and Brett must race to save Emily before he loses her again—forever.

First Impressions

Honestly, I was a bit hesitant to read this book at first. I don’t do ghosts! Horror ain’t my thing ladies and gentleman. However, I am happy to report that this novel is in no way classified as horror. Our ghost is actually rather friendly! Not exactly Casper friendly, but he gets on really well with Brett and Emily’s son, Tyler.

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A Little Bit of Romance

Let’s start our discussion with less ghostly endeavors, and focus instead on the romance side of things. Brett has returned home to the States after an incredibly difficult tour in-country to suddenly discover he is the father of a young boy. He initially seems intent to regard Emily with hatred and disdain for keeping the existence of his son a secret for so long. The closer he gets to his son though, the more he realizes that there’s an undeniable attraction between him and Emily that can’t be ignored anymore.

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Hot damn these two are smokin’ hot! They only had a two week affair years before, and are hesitant to start anything up again with the added complication of their son in the picture. Not to mention Brett’s PTSD, which was handled with absolute perfection by the author. But good God they can’t keep their hands off each other! Their love scenes are filled to the brim with heat, passion, tenderness, and a bit of neck nibbling. My favorite!

A Little Bit of Haunting

Now for the ghostly factor. I was surprised at how much I actually enjoyed this feature of the novel! Our 12 year old ghost, Josiah, died all alone in a jail cell in 1757, and throughout the book we slowly uncover his sad and tragic story. It actually ties in rather well with the rest of the story to show how strong family connection can be. At first, Brett doesn’t believe there’s a ghost who seems linked to his son, but as the novel progresses we see how the family bonds and becomes closer because of this ghostly apparition.

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That being said, I think the fact that Josiah was so friendly and non-threatening meant that at times he was almost pushed to the side in order to focus on another story line. For example, Emily is also trying to help her friend escape an abusive marriage, and although Josiah plays an important role at one point during this story, it was kind of hard to see how all the stories blended together evenly. Overall though, I really enjoyed the ghostly aspect of this novel, and wouldn’t give it up! I would have liked to hear some kind of speech from Josiah at some point in the novel, as we don’t hear the majority of the conversations he has with Tyler. I guess I just wanted more from him!

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

Series: Beautiful stand-alone

Should you read it? Absolutely give this one a read. I found it hard to put down a lot of the time! It has everything you could want, from romance to suspense, the importance of family to moving on from the past. A great read!

Smut Level: These two are undoubtedly creative. Basically, whenever Tyler goes down for a nap, or it’s bedtime, they go at it like rabbits wherever and however they can!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 365 Pages.

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A Leap of Faith by Nell Castle

Goooooing to the chapel and I’m, gonnna find a good looking minister to fall in love with. Ok, definitely not as catchy a tune as “Going to the Chapel of Love” by the Dixie Cups, but it’ll have to do!

What’s it About?

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Desperate times call for desperate measures. At her core, merchandising maven Sophia Anton is an old-fashioned girl. To start a family by age 30, she’ll do what’s needed to make sparks fly with an old friend—including a crash diet. But when Sophia meets Jackson Thomas, the handsome new minister in town, she quickly finds she’s playing with fire. Sophia’s new look is working like a charm to snag the man of her dreams, so why is it Jackson’s face she sees when she closes her eyes?

Jackson, whose troubled past has led him to adopt a life of celibacy, never expects to feel hot under the collar for a woman of his own parish. How can Jackson dream of a future with Sophia after he’s shut the door on love?

First Impressions

Mkay, so technically I don’t know if Sophie found her handsome minister in a chapel, church, priory, rectory, or monastery, but boy did she find a good one! For those of you who may not be familiar with church terms and titles, don’t worry! One thing I do know is that ministers are allowed to get married. No rules being broken here! Jackson may have taken a personal vow of abstinence after the failure of his first marriage, but when he meets the selfless and caring Sophia, he starts to question if she might be the one for him. Which will win out? His vow, or his growing love and appreciation for one of the members of his church?

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Ballet Dancer vs. Minister

Sophia is facing a dilemma of her own. For years, she’s been in love with Christopher, a man who has always treated her as more of a friend than anything else. But Sophia is determined to attract his attention in any way possible, even if it means starving herself to lose weight. This was definitely one of the most fascinating, yet depressing aspects of the novel.

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It shows the lengths one person can go to when desperately searching to make a connection with someone else. She doesn’t realize that there’s a minister who already appreciates her for who she is on the inside. Sophia can’t deny her growing attraction for the new minister, but what will she do when Christopher starts to actually take notice of her new appearance?

Unexpected Twist

The first half of this novel really focuses on Sophia attempting to get involved in some new church volunteer opportunities, all the while also trying to balance her efforts to woo Christopher, and her growing attraction for Jackson. The second half of the book takes a totally unexpected twist that was so unbelievably sudden, I had trouble believing it actually happened at first. Although it was definitely a unique feature, I also felt it kind of interrupted the overall flow of the book.

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Additionally, even though this book is supposed to feature a budding romance between Jackson and Sophia, I felt like they never really spent a whole lot of time together. They have one really deep, emotional conversation, but it sort of seemed like throughout the majority of the book they were mainly thinking about each other rather than interacting with each other one-on-one.

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

Series: Stand-alone

Should you read it? I’d categorize this as a sweet read. It’s not an overly religious novel, but rather really shows the importance of having faith/trust in others, as well as yourself. It highlights caring for others, the close relationships we can make in life, and even the mistakes we can make too.

Smut Level: This is an extremely clean read. It’s a minister for crying out loud! Don’t tell me you were expecting any kink! All they do is exchange a kiss or two.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 201 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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Seize the Flame by Lynda J. Cox

Alright, I’m gonna try my best to stay reserved with this review, and keep my emotions in check. I loved it, I loved it, I LOVED IT!!! Wow. Didn’t really succeed in that attempt, did I?

What’s it About?

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Jessica Depre’s life is in tatters. She’s on the run, thanks to her abusive husband Robert, who needs to silence her about his criminal escapades and the part he forced her to play in them. When bounty hunter Drake Adams walks into the boarding house where she works, Jessica slips away into the night. Her only hope of surviving and protecting those she loves from her husband’s rage is to vanish forever.

Unable to accept that the only woman he ever loved left him standing at the altar and married another, Drake Adams has given up a good law practice in the Wyoming Territory. If he’s not hunting down bounties, he’s pursuing the bottom of a bottle of bourbon. When Drake learns his former fiancée, Jessica Majors-Depre, has a price on her head, he decides he will collect the reward.

Can the bounty hunter and the bank robber ignite a future from the ashes of their past when they are trapped by a blizzard in a mountain shack or will playing with fire burn them both?

First Impressions

In case you didn’t catch on earlier, I absolutely loved this book. From start to finish, prologue to epilogue, the entire book comes full circle and holds your interest throughout. It 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. Well hello sexual temptation, so nice to see you again!

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A Connection Through History

Good God the connection between these two characters is phenomenal. They have a history together, one that met with an unfortunate end due to a devastating misunderstanding. When Drake discovers that Jessie is wanted for murder, he is determined to bring in the woman who ran away from him on their wedding day. But when he hears her own telling of events, he realizes that things might not be as simple as they seem, and that the two of them have some unfinished business to attend to. And clothing to remove.

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A Hateful Villain

Another great aspect of this novel is that it contains a villain you’ll hate with every fiber of your being. Jessica’s husband is a disgusting piece of work who is just pure evil. The author does an amazing job at creating such a despicable character with absolutely zero redeeming qualities. We know it’s just a matter of time before this scum bucket catches up with our lead characters, and when he does the novel is thrust into a whole new level of intensity! You just don’t know who will come out of it alive.

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

Series: Nope

Should you read it? If you’re looking for an engaging historical romance with a great blend of intrigue and sexiness, then you should definitely pick it up.

Smut Level: A fire isn’t the only thing keeping these two warm during a Wyoming snow storm.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 182 Pages.

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