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Jan
17

Review: Trick Roller by Cordelia Kingsbridge

Review: Trick Roller by Cordelia Kingsbridge Trick Roller Author: Cordelia Kingsbridge Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Three months after the Seven of Spades went to ground, Levi Abrams and Dominic Russo have made a lot of progress—professionally as well as personally. Dominic is training to be a private investigator, while Levi has his own apartment and is ready to put his last long-term relationship behind him for good. Best of all, though it’s still early, both men have begun thinking about a future together. But, with shadows from the past starting to gather, and a serial killer biding their time, Dominic and Levi discover that the real test is just beginning. After having enjoyed Kill Game, the first novel in the Seven of Spades series, as much as I did, I was really excited to jump into the second so soon. While there are some significant differences between the two stories, I found Trick Roller to be just as intriguing. This time, the Seven of Spades is a dormant factor for a good bit of the narrative—although we’re reminded throughout that they’re still out there waiting to pull the strings again—allowing us to get to know Levi and Dominic more comprehensively, including their triggers and tipping points, as well as some of the things that haunt them. Dominic and Levi’s journey from “enemies to lovers” has evolved into something much deeper by this point, as well. Though the heat between the two was evident before, it was tempered by their respective situations and a mutual agreement to “take things slow” in the wake of the abrupt demise of Levi’s last relationship. In Trick Roller, they not only dive headlong into the sexual attraction that’s been tempting them, but each has begun turning to the other for help and comfort above anyone else. I especially liked that they know which tells to look for before things go really wrong and are willing to intercede—even physically, if necessary—to keep one another from self-destructing. Compatibility between the two main characters aside, Trick Roller still has lots of suspense and crime-solving to maintain the story’s balance. Between a truly loathsome murder victim, blackmail, infidelity, robberies, false accusations, etc. there’s plenty of badness to keep Levi and Dominic busy at their day jobs. Add in the “independent investigation” they’re both doing on the Seven of Spades, and the plot advances at a pace that kept me reading well past when I’d planned to stop for a break....
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Jan
16

Review: Seduction on the Slopes by Tamsen Parker

Review: Seduction on the Slopes by Tamsen Parker Seduction on the Slopes Author: Tamsen Parker Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Miles is veteran skier on the U.S. downhill team. In the sport longer than some of his competitors have been alive, it’s his last year participating in the prestigious Snow and Ice Games (SIGs), and he plans on taking home two more gold medals. However, after that, Miles isn’t really sure where his life will lead. Crash is the up-and-coming newest downhill sensation, and after Miles mentions to the U.S. coach the potential he sees in Crash, coach gets Crash on the SIG team and assigns Miles with mentoring duties. Crash loves to ski, but doesn’t love the endless press events and media time required at the SIGs. When his childhood idol, and long-time crush, Miles takes the time to help Crash, he will do whatever Miles says. Seduction on the Slopes is the standalone sophomore title from Ms. Parker’s Snow and Ice Game series. This time around, romance blossoms between two men on the U.S. downhill team, and wow! is it hot. I like that both Miles and Crash are secure and confirmed gay men – albeit not entirely out of the closet. There is no confusion over preference, allowing for other conflicts to cause hesitation. The primary being that the pair are teammates and competitors. Yet, when Miles discovers why Crash struggles with the media, he genuinely wants to help him, even if that means helping him off in a sexual way. As the pair spend time together, the mentor/mentee line blurs and a true bond of friendship develops. Their similarities and ability to relate so easily go a long way in closing any age gap that may make things awkward. And while Crash may be younger, he can be wiser at times. The two are competitors first, but because they are both truly good people, they can coexist as friends and lovers. The romance moves quickly and the story comes with an HEA. I love how they come together and love the simplicity of the title. Sexy athletes falling in love? Sign me up for more! My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: Welcome to the Snow and Ice Games where competition is not the only thing that is heating up! The second book in bestselling Tamsen Parker’s romance series continues with two competitive teammates. Miles Palmer has dominated the downhill slalom in every Snow and Ice Games...
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Jan
10

Review: Blood Fury by J.R. Ward

Review: Blood Fury by J.R. Ward Blood Fury Author: J.R. Ward Reviewer: Una Rating: A What I’m Talking About: The latest offering in the Black Dagger Legacy series, Blood Fury is, suffice to say, awesome.  The twin love stories combined with the on-going background original story lines is gripping, especially as the romantic journey of the couples is the stronger focal point. Originally the Black Dagger Brotherhood was one of my most favorite dark urban fantasy romance series.  However, as the series has progressed, the romance portion/drive has diminished.  Thankfully J.R. Ward has given us the Black Dagger Legacy series that truly is a spin-off that is back to the “old school.”  This series works as a way to revisit the original characters as well as introducing new characters to the series.  Though it is called a spin-off, this series is truly a companion to the main series.  I cannot see reading either series as a solely… they do need to be read together as characters and plots overlap between them.  Case in point, in Blood Fury, we are finally given Saxton’s happily-ever-after. What I loved about this book is the fact that Saxton, Blay’s ex-lover finally finds his happiness.  Though the book blurb focuses on Petyon and Novo…the novel gives equal page time to both Saxton and Ruhn’s romance as it does to Petyon and Novo’s.  I really enjoyed each of their journeys as well as seeing previous characters make cameos.  Each couple has their own romantic challenges to overcome.  This focus is what makes this series feel more akin to what I loved when the original Black Dagger Brotherhood series started. Though Peyton had quite of bit of maturing to do, he truly ends the story on the road to responsibility.  This was greatly lacking in his character in the previous novels.  However, just as Peyton was lost, Novo was equally lost.  She had found her solace in fighting and training while Peyton found his in recreational drug and alcohol consumption.  But through each of their own soul searching (and facing of their growing attraction and attachment) they help each other heal and find a new path. Similarly, Saxton and Ruhr have their own growth and soul searching to do.  Saxton, the King’s lawyer and advisor, begins the novel as an empty shell.  Since Blay, his former lover, chose to be with Qhuinn, Saxton has not been able to move on with his life.  It is slowly suffocating him.  He seems stuck in...
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Jan
9

Review: Down by Contact by Santino Hassell

Review: Down by Contact by Santino Hassell Down By Contact Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Down by Contact has been on my personal “long-awaited” list since it was first announced that it would be Simeon’s book. Flirty and charming, with a huge personality, Simeon was an instant favorite in Illegal Contact, the introductory story in The Barons series, and I had high expectations for the outcome this title. While this story had a significantly different feel to it than its predecessor—which I viewed as a strength—I believe it holds its own just fine. Simeon’s situation seemed to be improving by the end of Illegal Contact, with both he and Gavin Brawley coming out on their own terms in order to thwart an imminent blackmailing and involuntary outing. There’s much more to what he’s going through, however, and, although it’s not easy or “fun” to see, I appreciated the significance of the more painful reality that he was still living everyday. I started Down by Contact firmly on Simeon’s side, and that feeling was reinforced over and over as the story progressed. New to The Barons series is Simeon’s arch enemy, and former friend on rival team, the Predators, Adrián Bravo. While I didn’t love him as much as I did Simeon, he had an extremely powerful effect on the story in other ways. At the beginning, Adrián has no idea that he’s even closeted, just that he’s never been able to forgive Simeon for joining the Barons. That denial costs them both quite a lot as they strive to work together, falling hard for one another in the process. One thing I discovered about Down by Contact is that there’s so much to pay attention to, I couldn’t distill it to a few easy-to-dismiss notions in a review. This story has a lot of important themes, such as, trust is both dangerous and necessary. Or, until you live through something, you can’t really know what it’s like. Pretending a truth doesn’t exist isn’t the same as real acceptance. And, wanting someone to experience the same hurts you have so they’ll understand won’t work if you care about them so deeply you’d do anything to keep them from feeling that pain at all. Another consistency in nearly every one of Santino Hassell’s stories I’ve read has been his ability to create stunning secondary characters. Down by Contact is no exception, with the return of Jasmine and Marcus, Gavin and Noah, agent...
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Jan
8

Review: Elizabeth’s Wolf by Lora Leigh

Review: Elizabeth’s Wolf by Lora Leigh Elizabeth’s Wolf Author: Lora Leigh Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: If you’ve followed by reviews for any length of time, you know I have a love-hate relationship with the Breeds series by Lora Leigh. It’s my crack – not always providing substance, but hard to quit. I started the series with Megan’s Mark (book #7), so I missed out on a few of the early, world-building titles. Berkley Publishing and the author are re-releasing Elizabeth’s Wolf, in preparation of this fall’s release of Cassie’s book (Cross Breed). Hear the cheer from fans around the world! Dash, posing as a human solider, was injured in the line of duty, losing his men at the same time. Feeling hopeless, his world turns around when he starts receiving letters from a little girl named Cassie. He knows instantly that Cassie, and her mom Elizabeth, are his to claim, but he needs to find and save them from the bad men first. Elizabeth escaped her good-for-nothing ex, but has been on the run for two years from the sadistic man who killed her ex in front of her daughter, Cassie. Cassie, with the aid of her invisible fairy friend, reaches out to Dash and is convinced he’ll help rescue them from the evil haunting her mother and her. Going back in time (for me) to near the beginning, it was a fun look to see how things have progressed and changed in the Breeds series over the course of several years. I like how simple this early story is. Dash knows who/what he is, but doesn’t know about the mating issues for Breeds. He knows Elizabeth is his mate. She’s strong, and he respects that – recognizing she would need to match him and be his equal in order to fight along side of him. He is alpha, but not as much of an asshole as many of the Breeds are later in the series. I love how tough the young Elizabeth is. She’s very weary of Dash, but knows that he’s their only hope, right now. She will do what it takes to keep her daughter alive. As the pair spend time together, they don’t fight their growing attraction and fall head-over-heels for one another. Their journey to HEA is relatively smooth, and I like that they don’t fight the mutual pull. In the end, I enjoyed going back to the beginning. I didn’t read the original version (although...
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Jan
3

Review: Pressure Head by JL Merrow

Review: Pressure Head by JL Merrow Pressure Head Author: JL Merrow Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: I was immediately curious about Pressure Head based on the premise alone: a plumber who has an affinity for water, uses his “gift” that causes him to be drawn to “hidden things” to find clues—and dead people. Tom won me over quickly, his funny (and often snarky) observations combining with his inability to keep himself out of trouble to make him a generally lovable character. As the sole narrator, his perspective did a lot to counter the more significant issues that I had with the other MC, Phil, and trusting Tom with his own choices made the romantic aspects of the story easier to accept as the narrative progressed. Despite such an intriguing framework and Tom’s winning personality, I never felt the same for Phil. While it is absolutely true that people change, and that Phil was right to apologize for his role in the worst parts of Tom’s past, his “second chance” got off to a bad start for me, some of those negative traits seeming to have stuck with him into adulthood. He is at once dismissive and controlling, and engages in some victim blaming that didn’t endear him to me. I understand the likely intent, though—we have to do better collectively to accept others as they are. I did like Phil more by the midway point, however, and it’s hinted that we’ll learn more about him in the future, which I’d like to see. Something that I enjoyed tremendously about Pressure Head was the cast of secondary characters, Tom’s best friend Gary and his new boyfriend Darren, most especially. These two are among my favorite characters ever, I think, and I was delighted each time they made an appearance—particularly during their post-service discussion outside a local church. Others, including Edith and Pip, also threatened to steal every scene they’re in, and allow Tom to shine even more as an incorrigibly charming flirt. And although theirs isn’t a comedic presence, Merry the vicar and Graham Carter are differently powerful entities that left a strong impression in their own right. Of course, the cats—Arthur and Merlin—have to be given their due, as well. What Pressure Head lacked in romance it made up for in the whodunit itself. It’s a mystery, after all, and Merrow serves up a good one here. Not overly complex, it doesn’t try too hard while being highly entertaining at the same...
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Jan
2

Review: Paper Stars by Devon Monk

Review: Paper Stars by Devon Monk Paper Stars Author: Devon Monk Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: A- What We’re Talking About: We absolutely love the world of the Ordinary Magic series.  Gods, monsters, and legends all exist and vacation in Ordinary, Oregon. In this novella, we catch up with Delaney and her boyfriend Ryder. Although we have not been fans of Ryder, in this story he truly redeems himself. In the first three books in the series, we thought that Ryder lost the right to call Delaney his. She repeatedly forgave him and gave him chance after chance.  He wouldn’t heed her advice and he didn’t appreciate her.  By the end of the third book, Gods and Ends, we accepted their relationship, but still thought that Delaney could do a bit better.  Ryder finally proved to us in this novella how much Delaney means to him and that he does love and value her. Although the plots of the missing penguin, demon deals, and an unusual gift are woven into the story, it’s the plight of Ryder lost in the storm that is the focus. We loved the humor that is characteristic of this series and will never forget the oinking dragon.  If you are intrigued, you should read the series. All in all, this was a delightful slice of life from the world of Ordinary Magic.  We are happily satisfied with Delaney and Ryder’s story and eagerly look forward to the next novel in this witty and compelling world. Our Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: One magical holiday. Some assembly required…  Police Chief Delaney Reed loves the holidays in Ordinary, Oregon, the beach town where gods vacation and monsters reside. But this year, she has a lot on her plate. It isn’t just the creature who follows her home, or the terrible storm barreling toward town. It isn’t that Mrs. Yates’s penguin has been stolen. Again.  It’s that her boyfriend, Ryder Bailey, has been gone for two months and is growing more distant. She’s beginning to think she knows why.  But when a demon, a dragon, and a god bearing unusual gifts get thrown on top of her to-do list, Delaney decides to roll up her sleeves and make this holiday unforgettable. One disaster at a time. Release Date: December 3, 2017 Publisher: self-published Series: Ordinary Magic #3.6 Genre: Urban Fantasy Format(s): e-book Book Source: Purchased with our own funds Purchase Info: Amazon Reviews in the Series: Death and Relaxation by...
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Jan
2

Review + Excerpt: Fake Wife by Stacey Lynn

Review + Excerpt: Fake Wife by Stacey Lynn Fake Wife Author: Stacey Lynn Reviewer: Jen Rating: A What I’m Talking About: NOTE: I found out after my review was posted that the name of the hero was changed from Sterling to Corbin after the ARCs went out for review. Sorry for any confusion. For seven years, Teagan has followed her boyfriend around the country while he finished medical school and worked on his internship. She gave up college and her own dreams to follow their dreams. Except… she was the only one all in. After losing her job due to budget cuts, she comes home to find her boyfriend in the middle of sexing up another woman. Knowing things were over well before this moment, Teagan doesn’t even want apologizes or excuses and just leaves. Sterling comes from money and has been named Most Eligible Bachelor three years running. He just laid to rest his grandmother Eleanor, the one family member he loved and trusted. However, at the reading of her will, Sterling finds out his grandmother set him up – placing a significant condition on inheriting the land and home he loves (and subsequently saving it from his father who will tear it down in the name of progress). He must fall in love and get married within six months… and stay married for two years. Fake Wife is a wonderful story about two lonely souls finding a perfect match. I absolutely love the fake-relationship genre. There is just something about playing love that always leads to finding true happiness, warming my heart in the process. Sterling needs a wife and while he isn’t looking for a someone to share his life with, he knows he can’t rely on the women in his social circle who will want more from him than two years wearing his last name. Meanwhile, Teagan is at the lowest point in her life, having nowhere to go and no one to help her. Fate truly does bring them together, and Sterling recognizes the win-win situation. I like how Teagan is weary, but also just this side of desperate to listen to Sterling’s proposal to marry him for two years, providing for her and giving her $250,000. But she also recognizes right away that it’s going to be very hard to put her life on hold for two more years to stay in a love-less, sex-less relationship. And what’s not to adore about Sterling? He’s hot and cold, but he’s a kind...
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Dec
28

Review: The Christmas Cowboy Hero by Donna Grant

Review: The Christmas Cowboy Hero by Donna Grant The Christmas Cowboy Hero Author: Donna Grant Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Yes, please! A new series from Donna Grant! Combining military with cowboys? Yummy! The Heart of Texas series is going to be my new military/cowboy go-to. In The Christmas Cowboy Hero, Clayton is our tortured hero. You’d think that having been a Navy SEAL would harden him against all the touchy-feely stuff. Totally not so, and poor Clayton has more to deal with than the average SEAL. I really liked Clayton’s characterization because it seemed like there were real issues he was taking care of and he buried some things from his past super deep so he could move on with his life. Funny how that doesn’t work out, huh? With all the things going on at the family ranch, seems like Clayton needs someone by his side. Enter Abby Harper. I’m pretty sure that Abby should be named Ms. Selfless Heroine 2017. When her brother gets in over his head, Abby is there for him—which brings us to how Abby and Clayton meet. As an overprotective mom, I had to suspend belief for a few beats until I got back into the story when Abby made some of her choices. But, honestly? It wasn’t a big deal. I’m the mom who has daily contact with her college junior. LOL. Watching the relationship between Abby and Clayton develop was wonderful—the slow-burn between them drew me in and kept me reading as their characters grew and blossomed. The changes between the characters at the end compared to the beginning? Absolutely lovely. As secondary characters, Abby’s brothers as well as Clayton’s parents and a particular ranch hand were prominent. Even with a larger cast of characters, Ms. Grant made each unique and fully developed—which I appreciate. I almost thought we were going to get a surprise pregnancy, but I’m happy with the outcome—I think the characters wouldn’t have handled the alternative. I’m excited to read the next installment of the Heart of Texas series! My Rating: A, Loved It About the Book: ’Tis the season for ex-Navy SEAL Clayton East to come home for the holidays―even if the mood at home is anything but festive. His father is ill. The East Ranch is in financial trouble. And now it’s on Clayton, the prodigal son, to make sure his family doesn’t lose everything. Headstrong Abby Harper is like a mother to her younger brothers, who she’s helped...
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Dec
27

Review: Amid the Winter Snow Anthology

Review: Amid the Winter Snow Anthology Amid the Winter Snow Anthology Authors: Grace Draven, Thea Harrison, Jeffe Kennedy, Elizabeth Hunter Reviewer: Una Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Amid the Winter Snow is a deliciously enthralling anthology set in fantasy worlds near and far.  I loved all four offerings.  For ease of writing this review, I’ve given my thoughts in the order they are written as well as individual ratings. In the Darkest Midnight by Grace Draven was absolutely stunning and enchanting.  I loved Jahna and Radimar’s story set in a somewhat historical/fantasy setting.  It was utterly compelling with the elements woven together; Jahna’s birthmark, Radimar’s status, and their undeniable connection.  The poetic justice experienced first for Radimar and then later Jahna, was heartbreakingly freeing.  Though their journey took time and patience, the reward was all the sweeter for it.  A+ The Chosen by Thea Harrison takes place in a fascinating fantasy world.  Lily and Wulf’s meeting, their seemingly opposing factions and yet the overwhelming strength of attraction was well woven together against the backdrop of war.  Wulf’s honor and strength of his devotion was as humbling as Lily’s love and loyalty to him.  I enjoyed not only their commitment to their people but also to what is just.  Their journey was utterly gripping.  A The Storm by Elizabeth Hunter was an interesting play with half angel and fallen descendants.  Though the mythology was fascinating, I felt a bit at a loss for being my first introduction to the Irin Chronicles.  It was a bit confusing as the timeline jumps a bit, but Max and Renata’s journey was heartbreaking.  So much pain and anguish to overcome – long denied grief that had become poisonous.  Though it was compelling to watch and wait as Max slowly wears down Renata, proving there is more to them than just her fears.  I did enjoy their passionate and heart wrenching journey.  A- The Snows of Windroven by Jeffe Kennedy was absolutely stunning.  As a fan of her Twelve Kingdoms series, I was thrilling to be revisiting Ami and Ash (especially catching up on the little ones; Asher and Stella).  Though their end of their novel gave them a happily ever after – it was implied that it was certainly not a forever.  Ms. Kennedy gifted us with their sealed in platinum and covered in concrete HEA!  Though it was more their declining relationship that was the focal point, I enjoyed the ramifications in the mythology that conveyed hints for...
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