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May
3

Review: Too Hard to Forget by Tessa Bailey

Review: Too Hard to Forget by Tessa Bailey Too Hard to Forget Author: Tessa Bailey Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I may have devoured Peggy’s story in one sitting. I may have actually re-read parts, too. When reading the Romancing the Clarksons series by Tessa Bailey, I’m entranced by the familial connection, the depth of the characters, and the build up to the next book, Too Beautiful to Break—Belmont & Sage’s book. While we’re three-deep in the series already, if one were to jump in right here, there’s some lost backstory and outcomes for two other siblings—and the buildup to the final title in the series—but it could be read on its own. Readers will most likely devour not only this title—Too Hard to Forget—about the little sister, Peggy, and her football coach paramour, Elliott. Who doesn’t like a well-crafted second chance story? I know I **really** like them, and Peggy & Elliott’s story was no exception. Seems like I’m running across more and more titles that push my boundaries as a reader—which is cool. It’s no secret I’m a teacher, and I have some personal rules, if you will, about my reading. I am very careful about teacher/student titles because there’s a squick factor for me that I can’t get around. Just the way I’m wired. Now, while Elliott is NOT one of Peggy’s college professors, he is employed by the university she attends and that’s grey zone for me. But, Tessa Bailey? I’ll forge on. You know, in the interest of dirty-talking, super sexy damaged dudes. In the two previous titles of the Romancing the Clarksons series, Too Hot to Handle (Rita & Jasper) and Too Wild to Tame (Aaron & Grace), we see little snippets of Peggy—who she is, and how she handles watching intimacy. It was obvious for me that she had commitment issues, and in Too Hard to Forget we learn why. Thank the gods. Peggy’s backstory was killing me. I needed it, like, immediately after reading the first book in the series. For those that haven’t read the previous two titles in the series, the Clarksons siblings’ mother died. She kept a diary, and during each leg of this journey they’re taking across the country to do a polar bear dip in the Atlantic Ocean—at her behest—a different sibling learns what their mother thought about them. What she saw beneath the layers. For some reason, Peggy intrigued me from the beginning. And I think that what really drew...
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May
3

Review: Borrowed Souls by Chelsea Mueller

Review: Borrowed Souls by Chelsea Mueller Borrowed Souls Author: Chelsea Mueller Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: Callie’s brother Josh is in trouble and the only way to get him back alive is to do the bidding of drug lord Ford. For her task, Callie must borrow a soul from the Soul Charmer and commit a crime. But it’s not that easy. The Charmer insists Callie work for him for two weeks in exchange for the soul saying she doesn’t have enough cash to outright loan it. The Charmer is intrigued by Callie’s soul, and Callie may be getting way more than she bargained for. In Ms. Mueller’s fascinating new Soul Charmer series, souls are pawned for cash or other favors. The Soul Charmer is able to wield “soul magic,” allowing him to take souls from and place souls in bodies. One can trade their for a short time to get cash, or borrow another to sin without repercussions on your own soul. The mythology is completely unique and unlike anything I’ve read before, which is one of the reasons I was drawn to Borrowed Souls. As the first book in a new series, there is a lot of world-building, but it’s not heavy-handed or shared via info-dumping. The author leaves clues about the world in dialogue and descriptive scenes. The reader learns about soul magic as Callie is exposed to this dangerous trade. Callie is rather naive at times, even though she comes from a rough childhood and her mom is a bit of a con artist. I like that Callie has to work for her badass UF heroine status; she’s not born with powers or have innate fighting abilities. Try as she might, Callie just can’t be mean, which gives her a soft edge. Callie makes mistakes, sometimes costly ones, but she seems to learn from her situation and move forward. Callie works as part of a soul repo team for two weeks to earn a day use of a soul. The Soul Charmer pairs Callie with Derek, the muscle to shake up those who are delinquent on returning borrowed souls. Derek is the strong, silent type, but Callie forms a bond with the big guy fairly quickly. She also has difficulty hiding her attraction to Derek, and soon the pair find themselves a couple. I LOVE Derek. He’s kind and good, giving someone for Callie to trust. She’s got so little good in her life, and Derek fills all...
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May
2

Review: Cold Reign by Faith Hunter

Review: Cold Reign by Faith Hunter Cold Reign Author: Faith Hunter Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: All of the familiar players are back in the eleventh story in the Jane Yellowrock series: Jane and Beast, the Youngers, Bruiser, Leo, Edmund, Derek, Grégoire, the Robere twins, Gee, Brute, Ricky, etc. Leo, of course, is so insufferably arrogant (yet necessary) that I kind of wished Jane would just kick him, but Jane’s family, Clan Yellowrock, becomes more endearing and fascinating by the minute. This growing assemblage of personalities is my favorite part of Cold Reign, and Jane is infinitely better for their presence in her life. In Cold Reign, Jane is once again trying to stop an attack aimed at Leo Pellessier, the Mithran Master of the city of New Orleans. Despite Leo’s secrecy and manipulations, Jane is now fully aware of what might be lost if Leo falls, and knows that turning her back on it all would be far too costly for everyone, including her. To say that it’s a complex situation is a gross understatement, but Jane’s learned a thing or two since her arrival and uses it to her advantage without a flinch. As to Jane, she’s become one of my favorite characters ever, and I truly feel invested in the life she’s been building for herself. She’s got scars. Lots of them. But, she’s earned every one, and has managed to find some happiness, too. No longer the obstinate, wounded loner, she’s a richer character all-around, and in Cold Reign, it seemed more evident than in any of the previous novels. Jane’s evolution is reflected in the narrative as a whole, and Cold Reign benefits from the effect it has on the other elements of the story. There are some really funny moments sprinkled throughout, made even more so because of their irreverence and borderline impropriety, thanks to Jane’s “quirkiness”—which seems to be catching. Likewise, there’s serious romance going on here that Jane absolutely deserves, even if she’s disgusted with herself just a little. I thought it was completely wonderful. Eleven books in, and the Jane Yellowrock series keeps getting better and better. And unlike many other long-running series, it has remained consistently strong and downright riveting more often than not. Jane still stumbles occasionally, but rarely now, and her determination to learn whenever she does makes me love her even more. While Jane’s understanding of the world she’s become embroiled in continues to grow, it is her own...
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Apr
27

Review: The Chosen by J.R. Ward

Review: The Chosen by J.R. Ward The Chosen Author: J.R. Ward Reviewer: Una Rating: B What I’m Talking About: The Chosen is a novel that I have both wanted and dreaded.  This fifteenth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series was to be a make or break book for me.  Suffice to say, the WARDen found and worked that special magic.  Though there are some highs and lows, overall I liked it – my crack is back! ****Needless to say, this is the 15th book in the series…if you haven’t read the series, there will be spoilers.  If you haven’t read through The Beast, there will be spoilers.  There are a few elements to the plot I will hint at since I can’t review the novel without it.  You have been warned.**** From the beginning I have never been a fan of the pairing of Layla and Xcor.  Romeo and Juliet had a more promising future than these two.  At the beginning of the series, Layla was endearing.  Quirky and sickeningly sweet, she was the poster girl for a Chosen.  Once liberated by the Primale, Layla floundered.  However, she still seemed to have the best interests of the species at heart. Once she was duped by Xcor, however, and all but threw herself into his machinations, I was irritated.  Layla went from being selfless to selfish.  I kept waiting for her liaisons with Xcor to be discovered, her betrayal of her “family” brought to light, the train she fought so hard to get on was going to wreck, it was just a question or when and the amount of collateral damage.  It does early in the novel and it is HUGE.  I found myself torn from feeling sorry for Layla and being angry. Xcor rubbed me the wrong way from the first moment we met him.  I did not believe that I could understand him nor root for him.  As the novel begins, we experience Xcor’s parents at the dawn of his birth.  I never thought Xcor’s life would have been easy, I expected it to be tragic – I wasn’t prepared for how awful it was.  Xcor is a male of worth from birth, but the environments he was raised in, honed him into the male he became.  I feel that it was not his meeting Layla that transformed him, contrary to his belief.  It was the revelation in Payne’s book that he is not the son of the Bloodletter that is the catalyst...
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Apr
26

Review: To Me I Wed by K.M. Jackson

Review: To Me I Wed by K.M. Jackson To Me I Wed Author: K.M. Jackson Reviewer: Jen Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: Two peas in a pod are Lily Perry and Vincent Caro. Both struggling small-business owners who are happy with their relationship-free lifestyles. Lily is a successful event planner who has pulled off amazing parties for her several sisters, living up to the “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” lifestyle. Vin recently opened his own restaurant in memory of his mother who always shared her joy of cooking with him. The pair hooked up a while back, and even though it was an intense evening, neither called for a second chance. However, when Lily sees Vin at her sister’s wedding, sparks ignite and neither can rest until they see the attraction through. To Me I Wed is the second story in Ms. Jackson’s Unconventional Bride series, and unconventional is the best word to describe Lily’s plans. Doing research, Lily comes across an article how a woman, ready to show the world she’s good just as she is, married herself. At first Lily sees this as a potential business opportunity – which I can appreciate. But then she internalizes it, seeing herself in this woman. She gets swept up in the idea, immediately calling her assistant, Tori, and getting Vin’s restaurant to host it! I have to say, I struggled with Lily. I understood her desire to show the world she’s all good as is. But I had a lot of trouble getting behind the concept of marrying herself. I had hoped it would have been a funny/silly storyline, but Lily was kind of obsessive about her life and the wedding. It was an “I’m gonna show them” kind of thing. She was so serious, not having fun with it at all, which actually made her come off as desperate – not for a man – but for people to believe she’s “okay” as she is. Similarly, we got a lot of how “okay” Vin is, yet he’s clearly still dealing with his mother’s death and his own father-issues. I loved that he genuinely cares for Lily and pushed her until she gave into her desire. But then their relationship coasts… and when one got too close to the other, they would blow up and push apart. As much as they were falling into one another, they both had serious walls. And we didn’t really see them ever open up to one another. They danced around...
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Apr
26

Review: Back Piece by L.A. Witt

Review: Back Piece by L.A. Witt Back Piece Author: L.A. Witt Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: To say that Colin Spencer—gorgeous, fit, and with a body full of tats—has lived an interesting life so far is an understatement. Most would never guess the truths that exist behind the sturdy exterior he presents to the rest of the world. Colin has demons he can’t escape, and enough heartbreak to cure him of ever wanting to lose his heart to someone again. But, everyone has secrets beneath their skin, and the young sailor who’s given Colin a glimpse of his own fears and dreams might be more temptation than he can resist. Daniel Moore is twenty-six years old, semi-closeted, and really wants a tattoo. Good thing he’s just met the perfect guy for the job: the striking civilian tattoo artist who left him tongue-tied and wanting after their first chance meeting. Soon, he can’t think of anything else. But, Daniel is terrified of his own truths, and hiding from the very people who should know him best. What would a man like Colin possibly see in someone like him? Although there is plenty to think about in Back Piece, I believe some of its strongest moments are when Colin and Daniel’s beliefs and opinions—both about themselves and others—are challenged. The author makes quite a few significant points, not the least of which is that very little is as easy or as clear cut as it seems. Colin has a wonderfully supportive, accepting family, but still has serious issues that he’ll have to work through for the rest of his life. Daniel’s, on the other hand, is the exact opposite, yet Colin recognizes that, in some ways, they’re good as a unit. This is just one example, but I appreciated that there was so much to consider here. Another plus is the honesty that exists between Colin and Daniel almost from the beginning. There are a couple of wobbles early on in their relationship, but neither is willing to let the secrets that might be exposed in a given situation linger long enough to become huge problems. This sense of integrity opens the way to mutual acceptance that felt as right as it was sweet, and saved the entire story from the often-overused burden of lies. As much as I liked the attention the author gave to the rest of the narrative, I couldn’t help but be somewhat conflicted in one particular area at the...
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Apr
25

Review: Midnight Target by Elle Kennedy

Review: Midnight Target by Elle Kennedy Midnight Target Author: Elle Kennedy Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: **blinks** Um. What just happened here? Readers of the Killer Instincts series are well aware of the bromance between Boston and Sully, and the super crappy stuff that happened to Sully. If you haven’t read the entire series, you really need to start from the beginning to appreciate all the careful planning that went into the series arc, the character development—and breaking down of characters—that went into writing every single book in the series. But, hey. This book is mainly about Cate and Ash, right? NOPE. Just get that notion right out of your head. This very minute. Midnight Target is so much more than military romance/romantic suspense—whatever label you want to give it. Jim’s mercenaries and Noelle’s chameleons—with a few others—have managed to create a family. And really, the overarching theme in this book is family. Whether the onus of the discussion is on Cate’s relationship with Jim or Ash’s with his family… or Boston’s relationship with his devout Irish-Catholic family or Sully’s lack of family—we always come back to that one, singular, important theme. The road to happily-ever-after isn’t paved with rose petals; often, it’s a bed of hot coals we need to walk across until we reach the other side. Cate and Ash had their trials over the course of their relationship—we get to see them in flashbacks and memories—as did Sully and Boston. With both couples, we see the give-and-take, the personal growth and acceptance that must take place before either party is ready to become part of a whole. And being part of that whole makes them part of something larger than themselves. A family can be defined by many parameters—but in the case of the operatives in the Killer Instincts series, it’s definitely defined by a group of people who have chosen to be together. And those are the best families. While Midnight Target is pretty long (464 pages), the pacing was excellent, and I pretty much devoured the book. There were times I wanted more Sully & Boston, and then I’d want more Ash & Cate as I read—but it just propelled me through the book. As did the action. Talk about edge-of-my-seat reading! Not only was there this whole drug cartel-slash-revenge plot to make the drug lord pay for Jim getting shot during the mission to extract Cate from a completely screwed up situation, but the movement between...
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Apr
25

Review: Wanted and Wired by Vivien Jackson

Review: Wanted and Wired by Vivien Jackson Wanted and Wired Author: Vivien Jackson Reviewer: Una Rating: B  What I’m Talking About: Wanted and Wired is the first in a new sci-fi romance series, Tether. Though it had a bit of a clunky slow start, I liked this new world and what seems to be a fascinating new series. The Tether world is fascinating; futuristic with a bit of a wild-west/ post-apocalyptic vibe.  I enjoyed the racial issue of organic human versus altered (cyborg/enhanced) human.  Those that feel people who have enhanced their bodies are somehow less human. Though the technology of the nanos are not fully explained, the technological advances were fascinating, especially the artificial intelligence. I am eager to learn more about this intriguing world. The journey of Heron and Mari started off… confusing. As a sci-fi novel, I was surprised how dominant the sexual thoughts were – Heron and Mari’s hormones were in overdrive.  In the midst of a mission and then as they are started to be hunted, it seemed… odd, that they would have sex being a major though process.  It started to be a bit old as the balance between their plight (the action) and the romance (sexual thoughts/tension) was off. However, by the halfway point, I felt there was a better balance. Some of the tripping points for me could be settled in the typical first novel in a series issue – world-building, character building, not to mention the different story arcs.  However, they did smooth out, and I found the last half to be an enthralling read. Mari’s botched mission and subsequent running was a gripping tale. I enjoyed how the history between Mari and Heron helped to not only give credence to their trust but their romance.  As Heron’s past comes to light, I found the mythology of the world shine.  As they closed in on who was behind the nefarious plot, I was truly surprised at who was it was.  I look forward to seeing how this may be part of an over-arching plot. Wanted and Wired may have stumbled a bit at the beginning with some first novel issues, by the end the story was captivating and smooth.  I liked Heron and Mari’s overall journey and hope to see them in the next novel.  The world is what I found truly fascinating and I cannot wait to learn more about it.  If you enjoy a bit of a science-fiction twist in your romance, you may just...
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Apr
24

Review: Hard-Hearted Highlander by Julia London

Review: Hard-Hearted Highlander by Julia London Hard-Hearted Highlander Author: Julia London Reviewer: Jen Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: Rabbie Mackenzie longs for the days before the Scots and English were at war, a time before his beloved was murdered and worse. Nearly suicidal: he doesn’t want to live, but doesn’t have the courage to die. Set to fulfill a family obligation by marrying a very young English bride, he finds little joy except when in the company of Bernadette Holly. Miss Bernadette Holly has her own secrets and cross to bare. She works for Lord Kent, serving his daughter, Avaline as her maid and confidant. Torn between saving Avaline from a horrible marriage to Laird Mackenzie and her own haunted past, Bernadette finds solace on her long walks and surprisingly, in conversation with Rabbie. Hard-Hearted Highlander starts a couple years after the conclusion of the previous title in the Highland Grooms series. We discover that life as a Highlander has become rough and even dangerous, as the war with England is not going well. The Mackenzies are struggling and many of their neighbors have fled to safer lands. In order to protect their interests, they strike a marriage bargain with Lord Kent. However, his younger daughter (17, to Rabbie’s 35) is a selfish child and Lord Kent is a monster, and this causes a lot of difficult and awkward interactions. Both Rabbie and Bernadette are jaded survivors. Their backstories are similar, both losing much. Yet when Rabbie turned inward and contemplated death, Bernadette dove into her work and pushed the past away. Both live each day with holes in their souls, and it isn’t until they see past the surface into one another that they finally begin to heal. While Rabbie and Bernadette are perfect for one another, I struggled with the story and romance between the pair. The first quarter of the book was slow moving and confusing as it was full of political maneuvering. Additionally, it took at least that long before the pair even had a civil conversation. However, the largest hurdle that I struggled with was the simple fact that Rabbie is engaged to Bernadette’s charge and friend, regardless that it is an arranged marriage and neither party wants to go through with it. Bernadette experiences tremendous guilt over her feelings and actions, which really dampened any of the butterflies she feels from her attraction to Rabbie. Once the wedding was finally called off, the book was nearly over. Yet...
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Apr
19

Review: Home Fires by Kate Sherwood

Review: Home Fires by Kate Sherwood Home Fires Author: Kate Sherwood Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I’ve had the pleasure of following the Common Law series from the beginning, and I believe Home Fires to be the best yet. While I had a couple of random issues early in the series, this story brought everything together far better than I had anticipated it might. And though my fondness for Wade hasn’t lessened one bit, I’ve now fallen for Jericho, too, and feel that both men got an ending to the story that suits them very well. While the more suspenseful elements have consistently been my favorite moments of the series, Home Fires has a few that I think excel over the others. In what is arguably one of the better confrontations in the Common Law stories, whatever uncertainty still existed in Jericho’s mind is thoroughly destroyed, and I enjoyed reading it tremendously. It’s certainly among the best showdowns I’ve read in a long while. Despite the inherent battles Jericho and Wade fight within the shades of gray that surround them, the affection and wanting that simmers and flares between them is undeniable. Often teasing, but hardly ever explicit, their relationship is born of scars and memory and is as restless as the characters themselves. They’ve earned their resolution and I was glad to see them have it at last. Besides, there were plenty of other things to fight in Home Fires, so why bother? Still more to like about Home Fires is that there’s plenty of humor, albeit as dry and sarcastic as ever, if not more so. The citizens of Mosely really are Jericho’s people, and the comfort he finds in accepting it is both evident and welcome. No longer the prodigal, he’s his best self now, especially with Wade at his side. Or watching his back. Or blowing up the evidence room at the police station. Whatever they’ve figured out between them works—not just for them, but the whole town, as well. After four books, I’ve become attached to this series, and I’m very sorry for it to end. The author set a nice pace throughout, making the culmination of steps Wade and Jericho have taken seem justifiably rewarding—for the readers as well as the characters. Each story is both manageable and engaging, and I absolutely recommend reading all the books, rather than any of them as standalones. Home Fires made for a perfect ending, and I think starting the...
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