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Mar
2

Review: Saved by Darkness by Katie Reus

Review: Saved by Darkness by Katie Reus Saved by Darkness Author: Katie Reus Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Saved by Darkness is the sixth title in Ms. Reus’ entertaining paranormal romance Darkness series. This traditional PNR features a wide variety of shifters, vampires, demigods, and demons, each with a happily ever after. While each book is a standalone romance, the characters and mythology have been developed over the course of the series, making it a richly detailed world, one which is best experienced from the start. This time around the story focuses on half-demon, half-dragon shifter Ian, whom we met a couple books ago. He fell in love with dragon shifter Fiona over fifty years ago, but she walked away from him and mated another in order to protect him from her family. Yet it’s been discovered that she’s been running a preternatural shelter for abused paranormals at the edge of Finn Stavros’s territory, a place Ian has come to live in recent months. Now that Finn is reaching out to Fiona, can Ian give her up a second time? Right from the start, I found myself fully submersed in Fiona and Ian’s story. First, I enjoyed the flashbacks to the couple’s initial meetings and early connections. Even though the reader knows the outcome of their past, it’s lovely to see how they fell in love, while running parallel to their reunion. Second, I adore how heroic and strong Fiona and Ian are, both in their mutual pasts and in current day. They each have a formidable moral compass, coupled with the need to protect those they love. Yes, a bit of maiming and killing of enemies is sometimes necessary and definitely a-okay! Fiona and Ian’s attraction and love runs deep. Demonstrated through the flashbacks to their initial meeting, we learn that they have a love-at-first sight relationship that developed quickly. This makes their reunion so much sweeter, knowing that they have experienced an unfulfilled love for over fifty years. The author does right by the pair by allowing them to express their feelings for one another early on in their reunion, rather than drag things out or keeping up pretenses. The impact is that I cheered even harder for the pair to make it through the trials they faced. Even though the love story is the most prominent part of Saved by Darkness, the couple, along with Finn’s werewolf pack, must deal with a new threat uncovered while making connections with Fiona....
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Mar
1

Review: How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days by Kerrelyn Sparks

Review: How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days by Kerrelyn Sparks How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days Author: Kerrelyn Sparks Reviewer: Una Rating: A What I’m Talking About: After enjoying several of Ms. Sparks vampire series, I thought I would check out her new paranormal/fantasy series.  The Embraced series is off to a great start with How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days. This world is intriguing: though it is fantastical in nature, it has a bit of a historical feel.  I enjoyed the mythology of the embraced moons.  In this world, a child born is born with special abilities if born on the night of the embraced moons (when the two moons eclipse).  These special children are called the embraced.  One would think that they would be revered when in fact they are reviled.  If the nobility discover them, they are typically killed.  Many who are unable to kill their children have secretly exiled them.  The world is composed of a series of patriarchal continental kingdoms, which worship the sun god, and one island kingdom that is matriarchal and worships the moon goddess.  It is there on the island that such embraced orphan children are hidden away. Luciana is one of these orphaned children.  Raised with several other young embraced girls, they consider themselves family.  Each girl has a special ability but all seem to have a touch of foresight to some degree.  Luciana’s ability is to commune with the dead.  She is able to converse with spirits, which comes in quite handy when her father comes to have her fulfill the king’s decree that she marry his nephew, The Beast of Benwick (Leo).  She must hide the fact that she is not only embraced, but is actually a twin of the intended sister.  Twin embraced children are even more feared by the patriarchal society.  Her father comes for her only because her twin sister has died and he must have his daughter marry Leo or lose all his holdings to the king. Leo is also an embraced child, but due to his ability to absorb and harness the power of lightning, he has been allowed to mature.  The king has used him since he was a young teenager as his warlord and pawn.  Leo has yearned for a woman of his own but due to his abilities he is unable to touch another without killing them.  He is loyal to his people and diligent in his duties.  Watching as Leo met his match in Luciana...
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Feb
28

Review: Darkness by Kate Sherwood

Review: Darkness by Kate Sherwood Darkness Author: Kate Sherwood Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Several months into his “vacation” working as under-sheriff for his high school friend and lover, Kayla, Jericho Crewe has re-adapted to things far better than he’s willing to admit. Unlike his job as an officer among the anonymous multitudes of LA, however, Mosely, Montana lays every consequence of his actions bare and unavoidable. Much like his feelings for his other former lover, and ongoing complication, Wade Granger. The first in this series, Long Shadows, was a compelling introduction to Jericho’s story, and hooked me from the start. The second, Embers, drew me in, but I still felt like more of an outsider, possibly because of Jericho’s own fight with his own convictions. Darkness, however, was an entirely different experience for me as a reader. Jericho isn’t surrendering so much as he’s accepting the truths about himself that he couldn’t outrun. Jericho is correct when he refers to Kayla and Wade as the angel and the devil (respectively) on his shoulders. But, after three books worth of Jericho waging his own internal battle, I was delighted to see him realize they were sort of telling him the same thing: sometimes, the law can’t dictate what’s right and wrong. Sometimes, that distinction can only be found in the intentions of the actors—in the heart. While I’ve consistently found Wade to be an extremely compelling character, I was especially happy with the dynamic between he and Jericho in Darkness. For the first time, Jericho seems to understand that he has the power to truly hurt Wade with his assumptions and distrust of Wade’s intentions. Wade’s protectiveness and boundaries when it comes to his own sense of right and wrong echo Jericho’s realization that sometimes the law just isn’t good enough. The epiphany that finally allows Jericho to see what Wade really means to him, and the intimate and reflective moments that followed were some of my favorite parts of the series so far. All in all, Darkness is an excellent addition to an already strong series. My appreciation of Jericho increased substantially over the course of the novel, and my affection for Wade did much the same. These characters have definitely grown on me as I’ve gotten to know them better, and I highly recommend reading this series from the beginning. With only one story left, I can’t help but be both excited and worried to see what happens next,...
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Feb
28

Review: What it Takes by Shannon Stacey

Review: What it Takes by Shannon Stacey What it Takes Author: Shannon Stacey Reviewer: Jen Rating: B- What I’m Talking About: If you haven’t read any of Shannon Stacey’s Kowalski Family series, stop right now and go pick up the first book, Exclusively Yours, pronto. Any format will suffice, but just grab it and start it soon! I recommend the Kowalski Family series to first-time and veteran romance readers more than any other series, and for good reasons – it is a wonderfully written, joyful, small-town romance series that gives all the feels. So with that said, if you haven’t read the series, I really don’t recommend starting with What it Takes for a couple of reasons. First, this is a “reunion” book, bringing back all of the couples and characters from the previous nine titles. Their stories will be lost on someone who’s not read the series. Second, I feel this story is the weakest of the ten books, and therefore, not a great example of how wonderful this series truly is. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, on to my review… What it Takes is a combination between the love story of Laney Caswell and Ben Rivers and reunion tour of the Kowalski family and friends from the first nine books in the series. Unfortunately, the book tries too hard to cover both storylines, leaving me not quite satisfied with either. I did enjoy my time back in Whitford, ME; however, I felt I had to work too hard to follow along all the going-ons, and frankly, I would have preferred a stronger romantic storyline instead of the reunion. The book opens and closes strong, following the budding romance between Ben and Laney. Ben grew up in Whitford, and is friends with the gang. Now that Northern Star Lodge has become so popular with the 4-wheelers, Josh got the town to offer his friend a job as a paramedic helping on the trails when riders get injured. Laney recently finalized a drawn-out divorce. Now she’s starting over in a camper at the Northern Star Lodge where she’s spending the summer helping out the growing business. Once the pair meets, there are sparks flying right from the start. I adore the couple’s awkwardness, especially their initial meeting when Laney takes care of Ben’s cuts. The humor is spot on and exactly what I have come to expect from Ms. Stacey. Just as the couple show signs of a romance, the Northern Star...
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Feb
22

Review: Just Once by Addison Fox

Review: Just Once by Addison Fox Just Once Author: Addison Fox Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Just Once is a slightly darker, definitely more serious book than the first one in the Brooklyn Brotherhood series. I liked that it was different because main character Landon McGee is very different from his professional football star turned bar owner brother Nick. Landon is quiet, a bit of a loner, and lives mostly inside his own head. Sharing anything with anyone is tough.  He’s learned to trust his adopted mother Lusia Mills and his adopted brothers, but Daphne Rossi, is going to have to work hard to earn the level of trust she wants.  Landon is going to have to learn to trust if he’s going to keep her or any woman. There was a rush to date and sex, the two becoming romantically involved shortly after a break-in at his business. No matter how self-aware she were, I think a determined police officer like Daphne would have waited longer to act on any feelings she had for Landon during an open case.  That part felt a little contrived, although it did allow for the support of being in a relationship while these two excised their demons and tried to solve the crime committed against Landon.  It wasn’t a huge mental stretch to figure out the key players, but it wasn’t an open and shut case either.  This allowed the focus to be on Daphne and Landon rather than what happened to Landon. Unfortunately, the case which brought the two lovers together didn’t get enough attention, in my opinion. I wanted a more dramatic conclusion, but it was handled as an after-thought in the epilogue. I thought Fox could have even dragged it into the next book with an even more explosive result.  Instead she kept the focus on her lovers.  I can’t fault her for that, it was a choice, but I feel that there was space to do both by making the manuscript a little longer.  Coming in at under 300 pages, I don’t think some additional length would have put anyone off reading the book—especially because Fox is a solid writer. I’m looking forward to the third installment, presumably Fender’s book since we met the target of his affection in Just Once.  That should be an interesting book with key players from completely opposite backgrounds. My Rating: A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Landon McGee has a past he’d rather stayed buried...
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Feb
21

Review: Daily Grind by Anna Zabo

Review: Daily Grind by Anna Zabo Daily Grind Author: Anna Zabo Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Running an independent, neighborhood coffee shop has been slowly breaking Brian Keppler for years. After a key employee is hired away by the consulting firm upstairs, he’s been taking on more and more of the work himself, spending less time on the other important parts of his life—and exorcising his frustrations on his remaining employees and anyone who tries to love him. Being bisexual and closeted isn’t helping things, either. “Miserable” sums Brian up pretty tidily these days, and having his world turned upside down by the arrival of the sexy CEO of a successful robotics company wasn’t at all on his to-do list. So, why does the idea of losing him seem like too high a price to pay? Robert Ancroft fought long and hard to make his company a success. And nearly lost himself in the process. Fortunately, he was able to find a balance that didn’t drain him to the marrow day in and day out. Watching the man who has started to mean so much to him sink into the same, endless exhaustion is heartbreaking, but Robert is trying his best to help Brian see what life could be like for them if he were willing to devote even a small part of himself to the relationship they could have. Still, everyone has their limits, and this fight may be one he just can’t win. Written in the third-person from both Brian and Rob’s perspectives, Daily Grind was a highly enjoyable read that I think definitely has a place on my “keeper” list. Both main characters are complex and I appreciated that they were able to get a chance to pursue an authentic kind of happiness after the age of thirty-five. Although the trials Robert and Brian face are the primary force driving the narrative, there are many wonderful scenes written against the backdrop of Pittsburgh (and the surrounding area) that have me itching to visit there myself. Some of my favorites are seen through the lens of Robert’s camera, and I thought it was especially sweet that their connection deepened most profoundly during these moments. Their relationship is an intensely sexual one, but the added depth provided by the other parts of the story, particularly Robert’s own complicated history and his introduction to Brian’s family, made Daily Grind all the more enjoyable for me. While Daily Grind works well as a...
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Feb
20

Review: Sinful Scottish Laird by Julia London

Review: Sinful Scottish Laird by Julia London Sinful Scottish Laird Author: Julia London Reviewer: Jen Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: The widowed Lady Chatwick, Daisy, while more than capable of taking care of herself and son, lives in a time where men rule. Upon his deathbed, her late husband, Clive stipulated that she must find a suitable man and remarry within three years of his death, or she forfeits her son’s inheritance, because he felt Daisy (a woman) would be unable to raise their son alone. With less than a year left to remarry and a long line of greedy suitors, Daisy finds hope in a letter from her childhood love that he will be returning to London soon and wishes to marry her. In an effort to stave off the Bishop and his match-making, Daisy heads to the Scottish Highlands to her late husband’s neglected hunting lodge. As a member of London’s society, Daisy is looked down upon by the Highlanders, although once they hear of her fortune, she finds more suitors at her doorstep. Everyone seems interested in Daisy, except her handsome neighbor, Cairlean, the Laird of Auchenard. Sinful Scottish Laird is a delightful historical romance that hits all the right notes for me. I love Daisy: a strong, well-educated woman who demands life be lived on her terms. Even though she is still tied to her late-husband’s commands, she takes her time to find a man that will be a good match for both her son and her. I love that she takes life by the reigns and isn’t afraid to play games or speak her mind. She’s not ignorant, but will play the part if it gets her what she wants. Coy and beautiful, she lives life to its fullest during the time she has. She’s not afraid to take risks to be happy. On the other hand, Cailean has been burned by life and is afraid to take chances. He doesn’t trust outsiders and won’t play Daisy’s games. At first, he seems to be the wrong match for Daisy. Yet the enigma that is Daisy draws in Cailean until he cannot withstand the force of their mutual desire. He begins to see and appreciate Daisy for who she truly is, even if she drives him mad. Yet, he won’t risk his heart, or Daisy’s standing, so he allows himself to continually walk away. It’s heartbreaking, yet makes each “reunion” so passionate. Although I know very little of the Scottish/English history,...
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Feb
16

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Vacation Hell by Eve Langlais

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Vacation Hell by Eve Langlais Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Princess of Hell Series Book: Vacation Hell Author: Eve Langlais Narrator: Rebecca Estrella Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Princess of Hell #4 Genre: Paranormal Erotic Romance / Urban Fantasy Source: Tantor Audio Vacation Hell Vacation Hell opens with Muriel and her family settling into their new lives as parents and lovers. Although everyone is extremely happy, Muriel is being called to the beach, someplace she does NOT like to visit, indicating larger forces at play. Yet with her precocious, meddlesome daughter, Lucinda, driving Muriel to emotional and mental exhaustion, the gang decides a family vacation to the beach is in order. Vacation Hell is the fourth addition to Ms. Langlais’s wild Princess of Hell series. Although the story is mostly standalone, I wouldn’t recommend starting with this one – too much of the world is developed over the course of the previous books. With the nature of Muriel’s sexually charged magic, jumping in here may be confusing, and not as emotionally satisfying. The story contained within Vacation Hell is light and short. Keeping in concert with the previous stories, Muriel must take on a new lover to feed a different aspect of her magic. This time she is practically shoved at Tristan, a merman and son of King Neptune, by someone in her own family. I like that Muriel is learning to be more at ease with her needs and the part other sexual partners play in her life. However, I am not happy with the fact that she was placed in the situation via manipulation. I also enjoyed that different than the past, Tristan is not ready to jump into the orgy as easily as her previous lovers. The author has made each male unique, with their own sexual needs, which keeps the stories fresh. After eliminating the “big bad” from the prior books in Hell’s Revenge, the author creates a new story arc that will clearly span into the next book, as there is a huge aspect of this story that remains unfinished by the end of Vacation Hell. Since the ending isn’t a true cliff-hanger, I don’t mind that the story arc continues forward; however, the book is very short, and I felt the plot line was weak. So I would have preferred the author continue the story, creating a longer, more fulfilling book. Ms. Estrella’s familiar performance creates a bit of comfort in this, the fourth title....
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Feb
15

Review: Under Her Skin by Adriana Anders

Review: Under Her Skin by Adriana Anders Under Her Skin Author: Adriana Anders Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Here’s what I know after reading Under Her Skin by Adriana Anders. Gimme. More. Thoughtful, well-developed characters with a wonderfully paced arc drove me through the entire book. I loved Uma. For reasons. Um. And this one needs a trigger warning for domestic abuse—mostly the verbal/emotional kind, but there’s physical too. And that b@stard was twisted. But…she is fierce, feisty, and is going to be a difficult character to forget. I loved Ivan because he’s not the typical alpha male we traditionally see in contemporary romance. As his story unraveled, I was increasingly drawn into the story. I’m leaving this super vague because I think readers need to experience the reveal of each detail about Ivan. Together, Uma and Ivan are hot. Even with their baggage, they’re real. They have real baggage. They have real issues. They have real situations. I definitely want to see more of them—even if it’s a novella or glimpses in other books in the series. The second Blank Canvas title will release April 4, 2017 and is up for preorder. The third is slated for an August 2017 release. My Rating: A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Her Body is His Canvas  A darkly possessive relationship has left Uma alone and on the run. Beneath her drab clothing, she hides a terrible secret—proof of her abuse, tattooed onto her skin in a lurid reminder of everything she’s survived. Caught between a brutal past and an uncertain future, Uma’s reluctant to bare herself to anyone…much less a rough ex-con whose rage drives him in ways she will never understand. But beneath his frightening exterior, Ivan is gentle. Warm. Compassionate. And just as determined to heal Uma’s broken heart as he is to destroy the monster who left his mark scrawled across the delicate tapestry of her skin. Release Date: February 7, 2017 Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca Series: Blank Canvas #1 ISBN: 1492633844 Genre: Contemporary Romance Format(s): paperback (352 pages), e-book Book Source: Publisher/NetGalley Purchase Info:...
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Feb
13

Review: Hard Wired by Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell

Review: Hard Wired by Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell Hard Wired Author: Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: How often are words our greatest enemy? The ones we ought to say, but don’t. The ones we shouldn’t say that come screaming out of us, unfiltered and angry, when silence would be better. And, the ones that might make all the difference in the world, if only we could be brave enough to speak. Jesse Garvy and Ian Larsen, the two main characters in Hard Wired, by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell, seem to run the gamut. As has been the case with the previous titles in the Cyberlove series, I absolutely loved this story. Jesse and Ian have been fixtures from the very beginning as Kai Bannon’s chat mods, “Garvy” and “Cherry,” and seeing them get their own book is a gift. As a fan, I appreciated the overlap between the varying perspectives, which served as a reminder that every “secondary character” in real life is living their own narrative in parallel to my own. While it is another exploration of internet-generated connections, Hard Wired still manages to be unique in both tone and substance. Despite being friends for years, Ian and Jesse are strangers in many ways until they are placed in a position to relearn one another, their relationship bisected when “real life” doesn’t go according to plan. My heart hurt for both of them as things began to unravel, but I enjoyed their journey back to each other very, very much. Another thing I liked about Hard Wired was that the writing, in general, has gotten even better—although there was nothing lacking in the previous stories. Filled with vivid descriptions of colors, scents, tastes, and sensations, this story came to life for me in a way that a lot of others haven’t. There were also more than a few passages that I found to be particularly on point, many involving Ian’s difficulties with personal interactions. The addition of just the right amount of humor and snark makes Hard Wired a new favorite. In the end, I think the entire Cyberlove series is both timely and relevant, and Hard Wired is an especially welcome part of the world these two authors have created. Seeing some of the characters from previous stories was a lot of fun, Kai and Garrett, most notably, and it was good to know that certain other members of Kai’s chat crew are still very much...
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