Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Review: Dark Heat

Dark Heat (Dark Kings 0.1-0.3)

by Donna Grant 

Blurb:

The Dark Kings are sworn to defend an ancient legacy of dragon magic. But their fiercest challenge lies in the modern world, where a woman’s love conquers all. These are their stories.
Dark Craving
Fueled by ancient magic—and enflamed by human desire—the Dragon King known as Hal can transform himself at will into one of the legendary winged creatures he is sworn to protect. But one thing he can never do is fall in love...with a mortal woman.
Night’s Awakening
The dark immortal warriors were never meant to experience human desire. But when Guy, a member of an ancient order of shape-shifting warriors, meets Elena—a mere mortal whose beauty and blind ambition shakes him to his core—all bets are off...
Dawn’s Desire
For centuries, the Dragon Kings have hidden their shapeshifting powers from the world. But when a mortal enemy threatens to expose them, the warrior Banan must leave his secret lair in the Highlands to risk his life for the dragons within—and resist the temptations of human love.
Passion’s Claim
Banan has been waiting for centuries for someone like Jane. Guy knew it was love at first sight with Elena. Can two Dragon Kings commit to two immortal women for eternity? Or does fate have something else in store?
Themes: shifters, dragons, magick, paranormal
Rating: 4.25 stars
Heat Rating:
      
Review:
 Dark Craving
Hal and Cassie’s story is one that happened REALLY fast, but I could see the instant connection between them and had no problem believing the love that developed between them, even at so fast a speed.  Cassie stumbles into Hal’s life, moving into the cottage down the road from the Dragon Kings’ home and finding that Murphy’s Law is in all its glory when it comes to her life.  Hal stumbles on her in need of rescuing and before he even learns who she is, he is pulled to her and the desire that flares through him is unexpectedly strong.  Never imagining that she could accept him, Hal is still determined be her hero, but she discovers his secret and loves him anyway there’s no turning back for them.
Hal is a sexy beast (pun intended) and sweet to the core, a true gentleman and one that maintains his spirit and sweetness despite the length of his life and the loneliness that is beginning to flow into him.  Jane is just the woman to pull him back from the edge and the two of them make a perfect match.  The passion between them is hot as dragon-fire and there is no denying that their HEA is destined and at no time will they ever separate.  This story was a great beginning to the series and introduction to the real lives of the Dragon Kings.  If you have read the Warriors series most of these characters will be familiar to you, but getting to learn more about the Dragon Kings was a serious thrill. I can say for sure though that when Con finally falls in love with a woman the world will change forever.
Night’s Awakening
Elena and Guy on the other hand have quite a bit of angst and danger in their story.  Elena has come to the highlands with her boss on a caving adventure, never imagining her life will soon be in the hands of a very sexy, alpha, but deadly male and his distrustful friends. When she is rescued from the dark cave by Guy she feels a connection to him, but her fears of the men keep her pushing him away, but when they give her their trust and ask for her help with uncovering a new enemy she can’t say no to them and especially not to the undeniable desire she has for Guy. Thankfully they are able to overcome the dangers surrounding Elena and find their HEA… or are they?
Elena doesn’t start off as my favorite type of character.  She’s a bit meek, letting her boss lead her into dangerous situations and then when she is left to her own devices it takes her a little too long in my opinion to step up and defend herself.  When she finally finds her spine I found myself liking her much more.  And seeing her heal and love Guy, we see the sensual and sweet sides of her as well. Guy is the ultimate bad boy; a broody, sexy, and suspicious Dragon, Guy resists the pull to Elena because they cannot trust her motives for being in their mountain, there are just too many coincidences for her not to have been there to try to expose the Dragon Kings…right? But when she earns their trust and he is able to have his wicked way with her, his feeling are unquestionable and there is no chance he’ll ever let her leave him.  Seeing the Kings in action to keep Elena safe was fabulous and I cannot wait to get another chance to read more about Elena and Guy in their part of Passion’s Claim. Con is becoming a bit of a character that I love to hate, one that I cannot wait to see get his butt kicked by love, but I have a feeling we’ll be waiting a while to see this happen.
Dawn’s Desire
Jane just can’t seem to catch a break.  Just when she starts to find her niche at her job, she overhears her boss talking about something she just couldn’t have heard.  When she contacts Elena, attempting to spill the beans, Jane finds herself pulled into a world of danger, deceit and Dragons.  Never imagining that she can be of any help to them, Jane is surprised when she is recruited to help Elena and the Kings to find out more about their new enemy and his plans for them. But meeting Banan changes everything for her. Can she keep her new friends safe, guard their secret, and perhaps find love with one sexy, sweet Dragon shifter?
Jane is a woman I find myself relating to easily.  Though she stumbles into a conspiracy that she should never have encountered, she immediately takes steps to do the right thing, not giving too much thought to the consequences that might develop for her. When her passion for Banan begins to develop into something much deeper there is no way for her to escape Banan and certainly nowhere for her to run from him or her own feelings.  Banan is a sweet and considerate guy, one that puts his woman above any consequences, even the chance of exposing the Kings to the humans, if that’s what it takes to keep her safe.  When he decides she is his, there is no turning back, he commits wholeheartedly, no matter his fears, concerns, or worries about the future.  He trusts that their love will overcome anything… and he’s not wrong.  And all I can say about Con is: karma is a bitch and when he falls for a woman finally, like more and more of the kings have, there is no way in hell I’m gonna miss reading about it!.
Passion’s Claim
This story is more of a two-part epilogue to two of the previous stories than its own story, but it adds just that extra touch of greatness to the stories and the overall series.  Part one revolves around Jane and Banan and the changes coming to their relationship and their lives.  They have been together a little while now and have settled into their love, but neither of them have had the courage to broach the next big step—the binding ceremony that will mark her as his mate for life.  After a set of sweet circumstances, Banan and Jane finally take that step and their love is enriched and proven beyond any doubt.  Part two is about Guy and Elena and their story is a bit more complicated, heart-wrenching and sad, mostly because Guy is just too much the silent type to talk issues out and that leads to a huge misconception on bother their parts that stands the chance of tearing them apart and breaking their hearts for all time.
I loved both of these stories for different reasons.  Jane and Banan’s was sweet and loving, with only a bit of nerves and angst that quickly went out the door, reminding us how great a couple they are.  Jane and Banan are still both great characters and their love is obvious.  Elena and Guy’s story was more challenging to read with lots of tears and sadness before Elena finally turns everything around and gets her man.  I found myself liking Elena even more, knowing that she was able to get past her hang-ups to make sure that they don’t throw away their chance at true happiness.  When she finally came to her senses and started fighting for them, I knew there was no way she could fail and she would get her man and keep him forever.  Two great shorties that wrap up the Kings stories beautifully. 
I seriously CANNOT wait for the next full length novel in the series and any future stories.  I have loved all these stories and the Dragon Kings’ cameos in the Warriors books as well.  If you haven’t read that series you will maybe miss some of the subtle mentions of that series (and of course the greatness of that series cannot be forgotten), but you will still enjoy this series. I am looking forward to the future plotlines and finding out where the Dragon Kings are headed and what women will earn their hearts.
*ebook provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 


Sunday, April 13, 2014

ARC Mini-Review: To Love a Highlander


To Love A Highlander (Scandalous Scots #1)

by 

Blurb:

A TEMPTING PROPOSITION
As one of the bastards born to the Stirling court, Sorley the Hawk has never known his mother or father. It's a burning quest he has devoted himself to uncovering at any cost. But as a roguish warrior who serves at the pleasure of the King, his prowess-both on the battlefield and in his bedchamber-is legendary. So when a flame-haired Highland lass sneaks into his quarters with a tantalizing proposition, he can't resist taking her up on her offer . . .
AN UNQUENCHABLE DESIRE
Lady Mirabelle MacLaren will do anything to keep from marrying her odious suitor, even sully her own good name. And who better to despoil her than his sworn enemy, the one they call "Hawk?" As they set about the enjoyable task of ruining her reputation, Hawk and Mirabelle soon learn that rebellion never tasted so sweet.
Themes: historical, Scotland, highlanders
Rating: 3.25 stars
Heat Rating: 
Review:
Well, I liked this book a lot, though not as much as the prequel to be honest and I can’t say I loved it.  The story was well written, interesting, with just enough passion and intrigue to keep the book going.   If you missed the prequel you’re missing out on a great story, but you will not in any way be lost reading this story.  The characters were well written, the plot was inventive and the setting was fascinating and beautiful.
Mirabelle is a brave woman, one that has taken her destiny into her own hands, determined to have a chance to be able to be with the only man she has ever loved and to also keep herself from being stuck with a devil of a man instead.  Having once fallen head over heels at first sight, neither Mirabelle and Sorley ever really recovered from their first meeting and when they come together again things get complicated quickly. When his past comes back to haunt him and their passion becomes too much to handle, neither of them are willing to give up on their love for anything.
Mirabelle is a great character and I loved her a lot.  She is modern beyond her times, unwilling to lose her man again and sweet to boot. Watching her blossom under Sorley’s attentions while she brings out the sweet and loving side of him made everything worthwhile.  Even though her plan is to gain Sorley’s help in tarnishing her reputation, it is obvious to reader that her ulterior motive is just to have a chance to be with the man she loves.  Sorley, one of those guys with a strange code of honor, attempts to refuse Mirabelle at every turn, trying to keep from feeling anything for her again, while still protecting her from the villain after her and determined to release her in the end to a future match with someone he feels more deserving of her.  Somewhere during all his planning, Sorley fails to take into account the fact that a woman like her knows her mind and when she decides just what she wants there is no resisting her or his love for her.
Overall, while I liked the story there was a sense there was a little something missing for me; there was a point that the story took a sudden turn for both characters and suddenly they went from making plans to never be together to suddenly declaring their undying love and deciding to marry and live HEA.  I liked Mirabelle and Sorley a great deal and the love that they both shared in the end was passionate, lasting, and sweet.  Seeing Sorley on missions and in action saving his woman was eye-opening since we mostly see him as a lady killer instead of a serious warrior. Mirabelle’s plan was a good one, something I could see any modern woman doing to try to get her man, and her bravery and heart kept her safe in some scary situations. I just wish that there had been a more subtle change of heart for the couple, one that showed the gradual change from determined to split to deciding to be together forever. I loved the connection with Archie McNab and am looking forward to the development of that story line in future books, since I have a hunch just where this is going.  Meeting Sorley’s three other friends was great too and I believe they will be the heroes in the rest of the books in the series; I do know Roag is next and I’m looking forward to it greatly. 
*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 


Friday, April 11, 2014

Review: Shadowed (mild spoliers)


Shadowed (Dark Protectors #6)

by Rebecca Zanetti 

Blurb:

Jase Kayrs was the fun brother. The warm, charming, easy-going brother of the vampire leaders. Until he was taken and tortured by demons with their evil mind tricks for nearly five years. Upon his return, he’s dark, violent, and not the man they all thought they knew. Not the man he once was. He’s haunted that the only reason the demons would have let him live was to use him as a weapon against his family—but he can’t figure out when or how he’ll explode. Plus, once again the demons are after Jase with a vengeance…or rather, a female demon he rejected is out to destroy him.
Then the king asks Jase for a favor…a big one. To mate with one of their allies in order to save her. She’s everything that’s good and light in the world…while he’s at home with darkness. Yet he agrees…knowing mating may be the only chance to save them both.
Themes: vampires, witches, shifters, paranormal
Rating: 4.5 stars
Heat Rating: 
Review:
Honestly, I just don’t know where to begin with this review.  I have been looking forward to reading Jase's story for so long, wondering and anticipating who his mate might be, and never expecting this turn of events.  I was thrilled when I finally got the chance to read this story and thought I’m sad it is over, I can say I LOVED this story every second my nose was stuffed in the pages. The series, to this point, has taken a long time; I think the overall storyline is a twenty or so year gap from book one to this one, but the time has been filled with war, chaos, alliances, betrayals, and the love that conquers it all.  Jase being the last of the Kayrs brothers to get his story signals to me a coming end to the series and though that makes me a little sad, knowing that this fabulous family will have peace again soon gives me a happy feeling in my brain and heart. While Jase’s story is on the heavy side with a lot of issues being dealt with for both Jase and Brenna, the love they find in each other and the healing that comes from that love gives the story a heartwarming angle that was unexpected, what with all the war, death, and psychosis being dealt with. If you haven’t read the previous stories you will definitely be lost, but Zanetti writes with enough flair and skill that you will find yourself engrossed regardless.
After being held captive for five years, Jase is not the same man anyone remembers, least of all his family, or the woman who once had a crush on him.  But when Jase comes to Brenna with a chance to regain her strength and perhaps find a measure of happiness as his mate, what’s a girl to do other than reluctantly accept his offer.  Though Jase has his own motives for offering to mate with Brenna, there is no denying the heat that she kindles in his body or the emotions that she brings to the surface.  She is a light to his darkness, even when he knows that darkness has consumed him.  Working together to try to find a way to keep Brenna safe, and possibly save the world from imploding on her birthday, Brenna and Jase quickly develop a deeper connection, one that could keep them both safe or could destroy them both in the end. 
Brenna is a character that has always intrigued me a bit, one that we have met in the past, but never really gotten to know as more than the miraculously born eighth daughter of a seventh daughter—something that is unheard of in the history of Witches—and Moira’s little sister.  Her strength has been waning for years since she was poisoned with the only substance known to be able to sicken witches.  She has been battling it with every method, both scientific and magical, but she is losing the battle and only by regaining her strength before her birthday can she have any chance of averting a disaster prophesied to be caused by a combination of extraordinary events culminating on her birthday. Thought she has never believed the prophecies, others do, and the factions both for and against her have placed her in danger more times than she can count and mating with Jase might be the best way to get her life back and have a future.  She has had a crush on him for years, but never imagined she’d have a chance with him.  Even knowing the practical nature of their mating, she quickly begins to fall for the dark and scary vampire and protecting her heart becomes her new life goal.  But most importantly she has to save him from the darkness he has descended into so he has a chance to recover his loving and light nature.
Oh what to say about Jase.  He was once such a light and joyful guy, even as he was a trained killer and soldier, finding happiness in the smallest of experiences and the love of his family and friends. But all that changed when he was kidnapped and tortured by the demons.  Though he was rescued by his family he has not really recovered and doesn’t really want to heal.  He lives only for duty and vengeance now, for the chance to take his revenge against the sick demons that tortured and twisted him and ruined his family.  Even mating with Brenna is just another weapon for his quest for vengeance, believing that by mating with her he can regain his gifts and even earn some of hers so he can wreak havoc on the world. He never imagined that he would feel anything again, much less the love he begins to feel for the sweet, slightly na├»ve, and loving Brenna.  Brenna gives him the chance to change, to become a man worthy of her and though she is way too good for him, Jase begins to work toward becoming that man.   When the chance for ultimate revenge comes along, his only thought changes to keeping his mate safe and finding a way to heal for her.  Finding his true nature and becoming again the man he was becomes possible in the light Brenna shines on his life.
Having said all that, I can say for sure this book is full of some serious drama; kidnappings, betrayals, battles, escalations of the war, changes in the entire world of the Realm and even the chance for peace in the near future.  The war is definitely winding down and we get hints that soon the end will come one way or another and it will come down to the three kids we have been watching grow through the entire series: Janie, Kalin, and Zane.  Jase and Brenna’s story gives us hope for change, even as the war continues to wage, but their mating certainly has quite the impact on the world.  I loved seeing Jase face his demons (no pun intended) and finally find the healing he has needed, as well as finding the love he buried deep for his family and being able to give that love to Brenna.  Seeing Brenna come into her own was amazing as well, because though she has been declining in health for several years, she never stopped hoping for a cure and a chance to regain her powers, and boy howdy does she get her power boost at just the most important time. Brenna and Jase’s passion burns up the pages whenever they are together, even if they are just sniping at each other or challenging one another’s dominance, but my favorite parts are when Brenna pulls the sweet side of Jase out to play.  The love that they discover for one another is one that will lead to many happy years for them and will give them both the confidence to tackle any challenges or defeat any enemies. I am seriously looking forward to whatever comes next in this series, but most notably I am looking forward to finding out what happens in the ultimate battle to win the war.  I have never found a Zanetti book or series I didn’t enjoy, but Jase’s book pulled on every emotion and reminded me why I became such an avid reader almost a decade ago. 
*ebook provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Review: Hot Package


Hot Package (Hostile Operations Team #3)

By Lynn Raye Harris 

Blurb:

When public relations expert Olivia Reese stumbles onto evidence of a dangerous conspiracy right before Christmas, there’s only one man she can call for help. Billy “The Kid” Blake is a member of an elite military unit—the Hostile Operations Team—and he’s Olivia’s former lover.
Billy never forgot the sexy woman who rocked his world—and his bed—before she walked out on him. Now that she needs his help, he’ll do anything he can to keep her safe. But as time runs out and the snow piles up, can Billy and Olivia work together to thwart a lethal plot against the Pentagon without getting involved again?
Themes: military, contemporary, holiday
Rating: 3.5 stars
Heat Rating: 
Review:
Hot Package is a novella set in the interesting, testosterone fueled world of the HOT team, a group of exceptional men that lead extraordinary lives, and often find themselves falling in love in the strangest of circumstances.  Billy’s story has a fun holiday twist, along with sad truths being faced by both the H/h and the return of love thought lost.  I have enjoyed this series from the beginning and am looking forward to more, but I can honestly say, though I enjoy these novellas, the full length novels are much my preference.  While Harris uses every word she writes to pull you into her world, the longer novels give you more time to develop deeper feelings for the characters and more time for the plot to unravel and of course more time for the love to develop between the couples.  I am very much looking forward to the next full length novel.
Billy and Olivia’s story starts with Olivia getting pulled into a plot by her company to endanger lives all in the name of capitalism.  Determined to keep her company from ruining of those they are bound to protect she takes the evidence she has to the only man she knows who might be able to help: her former lover and member of the HOT team, Billy “the Kid” Blake.  When she walked out of his life a year earlier she had her reasons, and though she never stopped loving him, she never planned to go back either.  Her past has shaped how she interacts with men and she is unable to trust in her heart or any chance of true love or happiness, even though Billy means the world to her.  When Billy finds her walking through his woods late one evening through a snowstorm he's more than surprised, he is staggered by the emotion she still pulls from him and terrified that the danger she has stumbled into will put her life in jeopardy, but he is not willing to forgive her for walking away from them.  Working with his team, Billy and Olivia find their investigation taking them even deeper than expected into the conspiracy her company is wrapped up in and it places them both into mortal danger.  Will the love and trust they had, but both gave up on, be rediscovered in time to keep them both alive?
Olivia and Billy were both characters that were heavily influenced by their pasts, most notably their parental examples of love and relationships.  Billy has never been able to forgive his mother and when Olivia repeats his mother’s mistakes, Billy is unable to forgive her either, but he sure as hell can’t forget her.  Billy was a sweet guy under all his alpha bad-ass-ness, but he was definitely broken in a lot of ways.  Never having faced his past he can’t seem to find a way to let go and have a future.  Watching him interact with the guys of HOT was fabulous though because he is seriously a smart guy.  When he finally accepts that sometimes you have to just let the past go in order to have a chance for a happy future, I find myself wishing I had a Billy of my own.  Olivia has her own hang-ups though.  Her mother’s love life was really a revolving door of men and she was obviously too concerned about herself to worry about the impact she was having on her daughter.  Consequently, Olivia just can’t seem to accept love when it comes her way.  Thought she knows she loved him, she can’t seem to give in and accept that she and Billy might just get their HEA if they are willing to stick it out and work for it.  Seeing her finally come to the same conclusion was awesome and I found myself truly liking her once she decided to stop letting her mom’s dysfunction rule her life.
I enjoyed the novella very much, disregarding the fact it was too short for my liking.  The overall plot was interesting, with a bit of action, conspiracy, espionage, and betrayal.  Seeing the HOT team and getting to read more about past couples was a big plus, and of course I am even more intrigued to read future books about other HOT members.  Olivia was a decent character and it was intriguing to see her working through her issues so she could be with Billy.  Billy was the best kind of guy, one that has his issues but is willing to work past them.  The love between them was obvious even as they both fought the passion that still flared a year after their breakup.  There was a bit of pain, a lot of passion, plenty of sweet love, and the overall sense that these two will be a couple for a long time to come.  Even if you haven’t read other books in this series I can honestly say this is a great stand-alone read, though of course the other books are just as good so reading them would not be a bad idea. I am dying to read Dangerously Hot, Lucky and Kevin’s book, and seeing what mischief they find themselves wrapped up in.
*ebook provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 


Monday, March 31, 2014

ARC Review: The Day He Kissed Her

The Day He Kissed Her (Bad Boys of Crystal Lake #3)

by Juliana Stone 


Blurb:

He can’t wait to leave…
Mac Draper finally has everything he’s always wanted: An amazing career. A New York City apartment. He’s this close to being free of his past forever. But a mind-blowing encounter with the sexy yet tough-as-nails Lily St. Clare has him delaying his plans to put Crystal Lake in his rearview mirror for good.
She’s finally found a place to stay…
For Lily St. Clare the charming small town of Crystal Lake is her haven – a place she can hide from her famous, back-stabbing family. It’s as close to happy as she’s ever been. Until an unforgettable night with tall, dark and tortured Mac Draper gives her a glimpse of what true happiness feels like.
Lily can’t help but melt a little under the sizzling heat of Mac’s touch. But Mac’s scars run deep, and Lily’s afraid she may be falling for the one man who can never return her feelings...
Themes: contemporary
Rating: 3.75 stars
Heat Rating: 
Review:
Wow what an emotion packed ending to a pretty great trilogy. Two of the three Bad Boys have met their matches and settled down in love, but the holdout, Mac, never imagined he would be able to, much less actually want to, give in to love and family.  I loved the previous two stories in this series, and enjoyed this story quite a bit too.  If you have read the others, you will recognize that there are some heavy emotions going on for both the H/H and their families.  While I enjoy a lighthearted romance as much as the next girl, this series is more like reality and that’s one of the reasons I love it so much.  Picking up right where we left off in the last book, the finale to the Bad Boys of Crystal Lake takes you on a  journey through the courtship of two deeply wounded and distrustful individuals, both fighting their feelings for one another, but each one changing for the better before all is said and done.  Though I am sad to see the series end, it was worth it to get to see Lily and Mac get their HEA.
Lily has been avoiding any situation that might bring her into contact with Bad Boy, Mac Draper, the man she turned to months ago in a need for human connection, one that she never planned to see again.  But sometimes fate has other ideas and she is no longer able to hide from him.  Confronted with the seductive Mac, Lily puts every obstacle she can think of in his path, but that just seems to tempt him more and when he decides to stay for the summer to stage a full scale campaign to get her back into his arms, Lily is no longer able to resist the pull between them.  Mac has never felt such a pull to a woman and the intrigue and desire to be with her is too much to deny.  Though he has no intention of ever settling down, being with Lily brings too much joy to his life to keep away from her.  But the past and his own fears cause grief that seems impossible to overcome. In the end only true forgiveness and the connection of two people deeply in love and determined to make changes in their lives, can allow them to get past the pain they have caused each other and find a chance to be happy together. 
Lily is an odd duck to me.  She comes from a family of people that are famous just for being famous, and not in any way that would be considered honorable.  She didn’t handle the death of her beloved brother well at all, but finally settling in Crystal Lake and cutting herself off from the negativity of her family is her shot at having a normal life.  She certainly has her fair share of insecurities and fears about having a  relationship with Mac, but when he becomes too persistent to resist, she focuses on enjoying their time together, never realizing she is falling deeper and deeper for him,  until it is too late.  The love she feels for him leads her to make some decisions that leave her hurting, digging to find her inner core of steel and determined to not let him break her heart.  But once again fate is not fair to her and she is left with a broken heart, hurt pride, and the anger of an ultimate rejection.  I found myself crying right along with Lily several times and came to really relate to her as a woman and a great character.
Mac on the other hand is an asshole about 90% of the time.  Though I know he certainly has his reasons, his past and relationship with his family being key, I felt like he wallowed in that too much instead of embracing the man he truly could be standing on his own.  To this point the only healthy relationships he has had are with his youngest sister and his two (once three) best friends.  With a mother that chose her abusive husband over her children, a drunk bastard of a father, and the pain of losing himself in his fears, Mac has a lot to overcome to be a man that is deserving of Lily.  I wanted so many times to reach into the book and slap him for being a selfish dick, but thankfully he gets his shit together in the end and is able to step up and be the man that he was always meant to be, a man that needs and deserves the love of his life.  There was a moment in the story that was like that slap in the face to him, finally waking him up from the nightmare of his past and allowing him a chance to see the possibilities of a future with the woman he loves.
I  was a bit surprised at times by the direction the story was taking, but eventually I found  myself so hooked that I couldn’t put it down and had to find out what was coming next.  The challenges thrown at Mac and Lily both internal and external were numerous, and I honestly thought Mac would never wake up and find the courage to reach for the future he wanted.  Lily was a woman I can see myself liking and I admired her ability to put her own needs aside to try to help Mac at every turn, but when it came down to it she stood up for herself and demanded all of his heart or nothing.  Mac finally comes to see that he is worth the love Lily is offering him, that he is nothing like his father and never will be, and that settling down with a woman that he loves and respects will never lead to anything like his parents’ relationship.  I was thrilled to see them finally overcome their frailties and come together in love with a promise of a chance at a life together.  I wish there had been a better ending for Mac and his mother, but in the end he couldn’t change her and finally accepting that gave him a measure of peace at least.  Getting to see the changing lives of the other two Bad Boys was awesome and I hope to one day see them again. In the meantime, this trilogy was a deep, sometimes dark, realistic and wonderful series about the loses that can lead to changes in a life and the ability of love to build bridges, close gaps, and overcome even the most difficult of pasts.  If you haven’t read the other books in this series, you will not be lost, but you are certainly missing out because the entire series is great and Mac and Lily’s story rounds everything out and ends the series with a bang.
*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 


Friday, March 28, 2014

ARC Mini-review: Sweetest Surrender

  

Sweetest Surrender (The Serafina: Sin City #3)

by Katie Reus

Blurb:

A woman on the run…
Angel has been on her own for two years, moving from place to place to outrun her past. With no family and few friends to lean on, she’s managed to keep her secrets and stay safe. But when her past suddenly catches up to her, she has a choice to make. Run or stay and claim her life once more.
He’ll stop at nothing to protect her…
Vadim has never let anyone close to him—until Angel. From the first time he met her, everything changed. As a private consultant for Wyatt Christiansen, he’s good with computers and he’s got connections to unearth people’s deepest, darkest secrets. When Angel’s life is threatened Vadim steps in and uses all his resources to end the threat once and for all. As the danger closes in, he lies to her in an effort to protect her, not realizing that even once the threat is eliminated, he might lose her anyway.
Themes: contemporary
Rating: 3.75 stars
Heat Rating: 
Review:
A love story between a socially awkward but incredibly sexy ex-marine turned computer geek and the sweet but secretive woman that has captured his interest and heart… what could be better? Not much in my opinion.  I have been looking forward to learning more about and getting to know Vadim since we met him in previous stories in this series.  The story of a past catching up with one of the main characters is one that we have seen a bit, more than once even from Katie, but she always gives each person their own unique spin on the theme and allows them to not ever become exactly the same.   I was happy to see Vadim come out of his comfort zone and ultimately let his emotions and desires lead him into Angel’s arms.  Even if you haven’t read any of the other stories in the series, I can say with a level of surety you will enjoy this story. 
Vadim has finally decided it’s time to take a chance and ask Angel out, being prodded by his friends, and just as he tries to make that leap Angel’s life becomes infinitely more complicated.  Thankfully Vadim is good at keeping people safe and solving problems.  With only a small amount of persuasion and manipulation he is able to get Angel right where he wants her, but when the truth of her circumstances come to light, Vadim immediately sets out to protect the woman he is coming to care for.  Angel has had enough with controlling men though and is determined to stand on her own two feet, even if her ugly past has finally caught up with her.  Deciding to embrace the relationship with Vadim, she gives herself the chance to find happiness with a man, even though he is infuriating at times and impossible to get a read on at other times. Ultimately there is no fighting their need for one another and getting past the small misunderstandings makes their happiness that much more deserved.  When the ultimate test of trust comes, Vadim and Angel overcome beautifully and are able to finally have the life they both desired, together.
Angel is a bit of a sad character, having fate working against her in the past, but ultimately I think it led her to Vadim, right where she needed to be. Though she is emotionally scarred by her past, she is willing to get past her insecurities for a chance to have Vadim all for herself, though she never imagines he will actually want her as much as she has always wanted him.  Obviously they are both clueless since all their friends and coworkers could see their feelings for each other while they couldn’t see it for themselves. When Angel finally decides to stand up for herself and work with Vadim to change her life, I liked her even more than when she was running from her past.  Seeing that backbone come out, seeing her demand her due from Vadim, and finally seeing her get her justice makes me even more happy that I got to meet Angel.  Vadim on the other hand is a strong silent guy, one with some serious kickass skills hidden under his placid exterior.  His ability to blank his emotions from his face leaves Angel a bit lost at time, but thankfully he lets his guard fall in the end so she can see the love he feels for her.  His protective streak is one that is wider and more deadly than the river Styx to those that threaten his loved ones, especially his woman. Though he is socially awkward, when he makes friends or develops relationship they are deep and lasting, as evidenced by his friends and the depth of love that Angel feels for him.  I loved Vadim on a couple of levels, but one that should not be forgotten is his obvious soft spot for his German Sheppard Charlie, because as much of a scary dude as he is to others, he is a squishy teddy bear around Charlie, showing us the true man that lurks inside him.
This story certainly lives up to its name.  In the end angel has to let go of her fears and surrender to Vadim and the love that develops between them, a bit unexpectedly, but it really is the Sweetest Surrender and the most rewarding move she has ever made in her life.  Vadim is a sexy, alpha, protective, and dedicated man who will go above and beyond every time to make Angel’s life safer, better and filled with love. Angel is a bit stubborn, but when she finally gives in to him and lets their love bloom, the result is wonderfully fulfilling for them both.  The plot of her past catching up with her, while a common enough theme, certainly came with its own plot twist that I never saw coming.  I have enjoyed this series and the original it spawned from (Red Stone Security) from the very beginning and Vadim’s story was right up there with my favorites.  I am looking forward to more in the series, but I must continue to reiterate I would love for them to be even the tiniest bit longer. Keep up the great work Katie.
*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 


Monday, March 24, 2014

ARC Review: Bite Me


Bite Me (Pride #9)

by Shelly Laurenston

Blurb:

Livy Kowalski has no time for idiots. When you shapeshift into a honey badger, getting through life’s irritants is a finely honed skill. Until she gets stuck housing her nutso cousin and dealing with her dad’s untimely and unexplained demise.
That’s where Vic Barinov comes in—or his house does. Vic can’t step outside without coming back to find Livy devouring his honey stash and getting the TV remote sticky. It gets his animal instincts all riled up. But he’ll have to woo her at high speed: all hell is breaking loose, and Livy is leading the charge…
Themes: shifters, paranormal
Rating: 4.5 stars
Heat Rating: 
Review:
For those of you out there that have not been following along with the Pride series from the very beginning, my review might seem a bit strange, but for the rest of us Pride and Laurenston lovers you’ll get exactly where I’m coming from when I say: “holy shit, these honey badgers are scary!” Laurenston has thrilled readers with all the different intermingled breeds of shifters in her world, and more recently the hybrids that are coming out of the woodwork with their freakish differences to make life even more amazing. From the very first book of Laurenston’s I read, I have been in love with all her writing, with the hilarity of her characters and the shit they find themselves in, and ultimately with the world she creates that sucks readers right into her imagination.  In this newest installment we get to see a whole new faction coming into the forefront, one that is terrifying and side-splittingly funny all at the same time.  I loved Livy and Vic individually and together and would love to see just what their cubs will be one day!
Livy’s life is in a tailspin that she can’t seem to recover from, but meeting Vic and trying to understand the new dynamic in her life is just too much for her.  As Vic tries more and more to be nice to Livy, she becomes stranger and stranger, only intriguing him more, creating a bit of a vicious and comical cycle.  Honestly there were moments in this story that I thought I would wet myself because I was laughing so hard. Livy, being a honey badger, but one that is even strange to her fellow honey badgers, is one woman that I would love to meet, briefly and only if I was on her good side on a good day….bearing several jars of honey.  She seems to genuinely care about her friends and family, though at times she certainly doesn’t understand their actions.  When she needs them, though, they are all there to rally around her.  I can honestly say that Livy scared me a bit, she was such a terrifying character, the ultimate predator: sweet and unassuming looking, with a hair-trigger temper and the ability to pretty much rip your face off without breaking a sweat.  Thankfully Vic is a steadying influence on her. 
Vic is a strange guy in his own right.  While I would say he has his moments of temper, strange behavior, and violent overreaction, overall he was pretty stable and a good guy to those around him.  Being a hybrid tiger/bear he has a certain tendency toward laziness, but once riled is a dangerous creature to be in the line of fire.  Defending shifters in general, his friends in particular and protecting Livy with his every breath, Vic is a man that uses all his considerable skills and advantages as a hybrid to get shit done when the need arises.  And just wait til you read all about his hybrid form! Vic obviously has feelings for Livy, though they confuse him as much as her, but the more time her spends with her it becomes obvious that the desire and passion are there, even if he is afraid of losing control and having her reject him.  But once she fully accepts him in all his hybrid freakish glory, there is no keeping Livy from his arms, bed, or heart. 
Bite Me was an wonderful continuation of a series that has gone in so many directions over the years, getting to meet new shifters, see old faces, and wrap up old story arcs all while having two unique and wonderful shifters come together in love.  Though there were a few lulls here and there in the story and sometimes the weirdness got even a bit much for me, in the end I can say I really enjoyed Livy and Vic’s story.  Seeing two creatures that have previously been reviled by others of their kind for their differences find love together was a wonderful reminder of the power of love to overcome all obstacles. While I would certainly have loved a bit more relationship time between Livy and Vic, I think the story was well written, progressed smoothly, and the love in the end was there for all to see.  It was great getting to share in the antics of the HB clans and seeing them taking care of business, as well as seeing some of the other badasses that have fallen in love during this series. If you haven’t read any of the series, you might find yourself asking WTF a lot, but otherwise I think you will love this amusing and entertaining look into the world of predators and the world they keep hidden from us.  I am dying to know whose story will be next and getting to read more.  I’m hoping for one of the Reed boys, but I guess we’ll see.
*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided.