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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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Apr
18

Review: Snared by Jennifer Estep

Review: Snared by Jennifer Estep Snared Author: Jennifer Estep Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: With clues left by her late mentor, Fletcher, Gin and Silvio have started identifying the members of the devious Circle. They discover the “easiest” mark is Damian Rivera, a trust fund prince with a huge drinking problem, and Gin starts surveillance on the man, looking for any clues as to the identity of the mysterious head of the Circle. Meanwhile, Gin’s friend Jade comes to her asking for help locating her missing sister. As Gin digs deeper into both situations, she uncovers a serial killer is loose in Ashland. Once again, Ms. Estep had me glued to my Kindle as I took a ride with my favorite assassin. The Elemental Assassin books are always full of high-octane action, and Snared is no exception with its race against time – serial killer plot. While parts were fairly predictable, I found the energy surrounding Gin and her situation strong, and it pulled me in right from the start. I enjoyed learning more about the Circle and Gin’s own past. With that said, there are a few things that bugged me this time, more than usual. I genuinely enjoyed Snared, so I don’t want you to think otherwise as I list these issues, but I feel like it needs to be said. These are character flaws and/or plot devices that have started becoming repetitious, making the books predicable. First: Gin is an extremely intelligent woman; one of the smartest heroines out there. She also relies heavily on her gut instincts. So when she “hears” something or feels an ominous presence and then just walks away, saying it’s nothing… it frustrates me. We ALL know it is something, so why doesn’t Gin go with her gut instincts?! And she always seems to have facial recognition amnesia. That whole “something is off but I can’t figure out what” thing happens too often. Second: The dreams. I know the dreams are Gin’s “thing,” guiding her as if Fletcher was still around. But at this point, I find them disappointing. Too often, after recalling nothing about a significant memory from her youth, things that Gin *should* have remembered or never forgotten, she suddenly remembers something HUGE from her childhood that is just too coincidental in solving her current case. It’s just frustrating to see it over and over again, uncovering these secrets that Gin didn’t know she knew all along. Even with my frustrations...
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Apr
17

Review: The Thing About Love by Julie James

Review: The Thing About Love by Julie James The Thing About Love Author: Julie James Reviewer: Nima Rating: B What I’m Talking About: FBI agent Jessica Harlow likes her job and wants to be the best. From the early days of her training, she’s been trying to overcompensate for her diminutive size and any perceptions of weakness because she’s a woman. Agent John Shepherd came through her same class at Quantico. Always at odds for top marks, they became bitter rivals. Years later, they end up in the same field office and get assigned to the same case.  They will have to work to put aside their competitive natures if they are to collaborate successfully.  With the focus on the operation, the story has a substance in what would otherwise just be a fluffy romance of rekindled passions.  James gives us a lot of context for their history and relationship which added a depth that improved it. The banter and wit James is known for, like, “She who nearly climbeth the man like a tree must owneth it” rounds out the corners and makes this a strong addition to her FBI/US Attorney series. I wish we had had the chance to see John in action. He’s basically a superhero without the cape. James doesn’t take advantage of the character she’s created to show off his mad skills.  I also took issue with the ending.  She wrapped it up with a tidy bow, but before getting there, her own character, Jessica offers up an alternative ending.  Frankly, I liked that one better. As usual, the families James creates around her characters are wonderful and I enjoyed their intrusions into the storylines.  They make these overachievers relatable to the rest of us ordinary humans.  Even though there are things I would change, I can definitely say I liked this book. My Rating: B, Liked It About the Book: FBI agents Jessica Harlow and John Shepherd have a past. The former lawyer and cocky Army Ranger clashed during their training at Quantico and gladly went their separate ways after graduating from the Academy. Six years later, the last thing either of them expects is to be assigned to work as partners in a high-profile undercover sting. For both of them, being paired with an old rival couldn’t come at a worse time. Recently divorced from a Hollywood producer and looking for a fresh start, Jessica is eager to prove herself at her new field office. And John is just one...
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Apr
17

Review + Blog Tour: Razr by Larissa Ione

Review + Blog Tour: Razr by Larissa Ione Razr Author: Larissa Ione Reviewer: Jen Rating: B/B- What I’m Talking About: Razr is a battle angel who hasn’t quite fallen, yet is banished from Heaven because of a costly mistake made by his team a century ago. He and his teammates lost three of Heaven’s most valuable weapons, the Gems of Enoch, and got their human custodians killed. Now he serves Azagoth (the Grim Reaper) and must be brutally punished until he can right the wrongs of his past. Jedda is a world-renowned gem expert who is really a gem elf who can sense minerals’ energy, enabling her to locate precious jewels. Unknown to her clients, and any outside the elven realm, she needs this energy to live, doing what she must to survive. However, when she is forced by a Fallen to locate the Gems of Enoch, she realizes she may be in over her head. Razr is the fourth Demonica novella that focuses on the beings who live in and rule over the Underworld. While the first two novellas had close ties to the overall Demonica storylines, the more recent titles are very much independent, with Razr opening up and expanding the universe’s mythology to include elves and their realms. This new world gives the series the potential to start entirely new story arcs, leaving Demonica entirely. Razr and Jedda seem to be made for one another as the story progresses and we learn the nature of both the gem elf and the Gems of Enoch. Their sexual chemistry is off the charts right from the start, and their predestined feel allows the characters to reach “I love you” in only a few short days. I like that both are pretty open and honest, risking themselves for the other. And while the outcome is somewhat predictable, I still enjoyed how the author makes everything work by the end. Razr is another fun story in the Demonica series. However, I’m finding that the novellas lack the depth and complexity of the full-length stories. While the novellas are entertaining and I enjoy them, I miss the series novels. The quick to I love you and crazy escapades in such a short timeframe are getting a bit repetitive and over the top for my continued consumption, and I really hope Ms. Ione opts to bring readers a full-length story soon. My Rating: B/B- About the Book: A fallen angel with a secret. An otherworldly elf with an insatiable hunger...
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Apr
12

Review: Midnight Rescue by Elle Kennedy

Review: Midnight Rescue by Elle Kennedy Midnight Rescue Author: Elle Kennedy Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: So. I missed reading the first book in the series. You guys ever do that? Know what’s cool, though? I didn’t miss not reading the first book, mostly—because Ms. Kennedy slips in these little reminders about what happened when it’s important. I really like this because sometimes I forget the important details because I don’t think they’ll BE important, which makes Kennedy a fabulous storyteller. I just finished reading the last book in the Killer Instincts series and Jen brought up that I hadn’t read/reviewed the first one, so here we are! There was one thing that bothered me as I was reading—Abby was injured at the beginning of the story, and the elapsed time didn’t give her time to heal a broken bone. While it was periodically mentioned, I would’ve thought the injury would’ve figured more prominently. That’s really my only hmmmm thing. But, it didn’t bother me enough to stop reading, nor did it detract from the story except for making me occasionally wonder how she was able to do something without aggravating the injury. I’d always wondered about Kane & Abby’s story. We do see them in subsequent titles in the series, and we would get hints here and there about them. Reading.Their.Story.Was.Worth.It. Every single word made me giggle and grin about things that would happen in future installments of the series—things that were set into motion IN THIS BOOK. I really loved the character growth of both Kane and Abby in Midnight Rescue. While both characters come to the story with some serious baggage, I was amazed at the change they both endured by the end of the book. Abby, one of Noelle’s chameleons, has lived her life by the motto: I can do it myself—better, stronger, faster. She’s kind of like the Six Million Dollar Man that way (oops…I may have just dated myself…). She’s only really been able to rely on herself, and she’s grown into a highly self-reliant woman. Which makes her the perfect option for a deep-cover assassin, right? Yeah. Until she meets her match in Kane. Now, Kane really isn’t all that screwed up. He’s had some crap luck in the romance department that’s made him clam up when it comes to women—nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? That all changes when he meets Abby, though. As far as the plot went—I loved it. It seemed like Abby...
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Apr
11

B Review + Blog Tour: For a Good Time, Call by Anne Tenino and EJ Russell

B Review + Blog Tour: For a Good Time, Call by Anne Tenino and EJ Russell For A Good Time, Call… Author: Anne Tenino, E.J. Russell Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Having grown up under the weight of his famous great-great-grandfather’s legacy, Seth Larson has learned to content himself with waiting tables and helping his beloved Grandma out at the family’s estate. In a small town like Bluewater Bay, with its communal history making everyone around him far too familiar, hooking up whenever he was in the mood for sex had always worked for him just fine. Finding someone who really mattered was never a consideration, at least until he’s knocked off balance by a stranger who makes him want more than a random encounter could ever hope to deliver. With two failed relationships in a row and a nearly-hostile connection with his famous mother still casting a shadow over much of his life, Nate Albano doesn’t have a lot of hope of being truly loved—not when his sexuality seems to inevitably drive everyone he’s ever fallen for away. Being grace is especially difficult when the heart that he can’t help but put first has already been bruised one time too many. Giving up on the idea is surely his best option. But, who would have guessed that his own expectations would be turned upside down by Bluewater Bay’s most infamous party guy? We first met several of the characters in For a Good Time, Call… in Wedding Favors, the seventh in the Bluewater Bay series. Seth played an important role in that novel, and turned out to be my favorite of the two main characters here. Seth’s main cause of stress is his relationship with most of his family, rather than a lack of romance in his life. In fact, something that endeared Seth to me from the beginning is that he experiences a good bit of slut-shaming, both active and passive, in this story, which he handles extremely well by shrugging it off, for the most part. It simply is what it is. Additionally, I thought his determination to understand and respect Nate’s specific, non-generic, sexuality was notable. Nate is grace/gray asexual, and I was happy to see the representation. The story deals with Nate’s sexuality in a matter-of-fact way, using his growing connection to Seth to answer a lot of potential questions about what it means, in this context, to be grace. In fact, it is Nate’s other relationship issues that cause a problem between he and Seth (as...
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