Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Review: Opening Up

Opening Up (Ink & Chrome #1)

by Lauren Dane


New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lauren Dane delivers Book#1 in her Ink &; Chrome erotic romance series.
The men of the Twisted Steel custom motorcycle shop are great with their hands... and they're not afraid to get dirty.
PJ is exactly the kind of woman Twisted Steel owner Asa Barrons doesn't need. The last thing he wants to do is mix business with pleasure, and PJ has some of the best custom detailing he's ever seen. But the chemistry between them won't be denied, and soon he's introducing her to a whole new world in the bedroom, pushing her far beyond anything she's ever experienced. PJ finds she can't get enough, but how far is too far before he consumes her completely?

Themes: contemporary
Rating: 4.75 stars
Heat Rating:  
Dane strikes gold again with her new Ink and Chrome series revolving around the sexy and raw men that find comfort in tattoos, piercings, cars, and bikes… really all the interests that make a good badass! I was reluctant to start a new series, especially one that is said to be another simple contemporary romance, mainly since Dane’s work is usually so erotic I thought she might have headed in a more mainstream direction for this series, which might have left me missing some of her magic.  Boy how wrong was I!?! It’s obvious that some of the more interesting parts of erotic romance are becoming more popular and mainstream making it easier for the naughty stuff to be marketed.  Opening Up was definitely not your normal cut and dried contemporary romance, instead working in some seriously kinky, but still romantic moments, some VERY intriguing body art and jewelry.  I enjoyed every second of it and cannot wait to read more along this line.  The characters were interesting, the setting and overall plot was packed with emotion and drama and the secondary characters gave the story that extra bit of life really needed to make a series fabulous.  Dane has met my every desire as usual, even if the story is not marketed to its full greatness.  Definitely a series that is right up my alley!
PJ has given up on ever pleasing her father and boss, at least consciously, but she is determined to make a name for herself in the car industry that she loves.  She is willing to give up just about anything, but when she meets Asa she is just as determined that they explore their mutual chemistry and their obvious connection.  But Asa has his own preconceptions about PJ and while he lusts for her, he knows she’s not the right girl for him.  When a night of explosive passion shows Asa just how much he could come to care for PJ he decides that the risk to his heart and his steady lifestyle is not worth it.  PJ really wants to have Asa in her life and bed, but she is done letting the men in her life tell her what’s good for her and how she should be living her life, so she will just move on with her life without him.  As PJ’s professional life changes drastically, Asa begins to see that he definitely underestimated her and he wants another chance, but it’ll take some serious groveling and change on his part to allow PJ to risk her heart again.  And with the heartbreak coming from every angle can PJ find a way to let Asa have her heart and trust him enough to cherish that gift?
PJ was a woman that has never had the emotional support and stability many of us gets from our families, but despite that she has found her own way in life and made herself into a successful and amazing woman.  When she decides to go after something or someone she wants, there is no way she won’t reach her goals, even if it causes her pain both emotional and physical.  She has always been the odd woman out, the rebel of the family and so the family has overlooked her for long enough.  I loved seeing her stand up for what she wanted and going after her goals, especially when her own family neglected to recognize her abilities.   Asa is obviously who she wants to be hers, but when he dismisses her and shows her that he cannot really appreciate her awesomeness, she is quick to move on and show him just what his stupidity is costing him.  She is able to use her wit and intelligence as well as her sweetness and sensuality to show Asa that she is the woman for him, and when he does embrace their relationship, she is a big enough woman that she doesn’t lord his idiocy over his head—much. PJ is just the type of woman I strive to be and maybe I will use her for my inspiration for MY next ink. :)
Asa was such an Ass through the first part of this story that I wanted to kick him right in the nuts… no joke.   He obviously has some issues from his past, but he let that color his interactions with PJ entirely too much for my liking.  I can understand that he was wary of her in the beginning, thinking she was too young and na├»ve for him, but after their months of flirting and getting to know one another, long before they made it to “dating”, he really should have known better.  Once he gets himself back in order and throws out his misconceptions I began to really, really love him. He was sweet as all get out, but maintained his rough and sexually charged personality, making him the perfect match for the sassy and loving PJ.  He so obviously cares deeply for those he lets into his circle and when he confronts PJ’s family on her behalf we see the warrior side of him and it makes me wish I could find one just like him living around here so I could kidnap him and make him mine.  (Insert maniacal laughter!)  Overall Asa was the type of hero I like to read even though he frustrates me;  a man with a darker side, both in bed and out, Asa had issues to overcome, but once he did he showed how truly great he was as a man, lover, mate, and friend to PJ. 
Opening Up really was an apt title for this story about two people that are very different on the surface but deep down are so alike and obviously made to be the perfect match for one another. Asa and PJ both opened to so many possibilities and changes in this story that neither of them were the same person in the end, making this story one truly about human transformation and the power of our minds and heart to adapt and expand as things come our way.  PJ was a woman that knew her own mind, regardless what others thought, and she refused to give up her dreams no matter who tore her down and how often they did it.  When the truth of her relationship with her father comes out I felt more connected to her character than ever since I have experienced a similar situation, and seeing Asa support her through that and give her all the love she needed gave me hope of finding my own supportive mate.  Asa was a man that needed his head to get pushed to the back  so his heart could tell him what was really good for him.  Once he stops thinking himself out of his connection and emotional need for PJ he becomes a better man and I fell in love with him.  Overall the story was heart-wrenching at moments, sensually heated at others and sweetly loving the remainder of the story.  Dane has a way with her characters that brings them to life making you feel like you are truly invested in their lives and happiness, a skill which so many new writers overlook in their desire to produce, produce, produce.  Sometimes a true masterpiece takes time and a little piece of the author’s heart.  I am dying to know who will be the match for Duke and am hoping for Mick to get a story as well.  Thanks for the new adventures to come Lauren, can’t wait to meet more Ink and Chrome guys. 

*eBook provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Mini-Review: Darling Beast

Darling Beast (Maiden Lane #7)

by Elizabeth Hoyt


Falsely accused of murder and mute from a near-fatal beating, Apollo Greaves,
Viscount Kilbourne has escaped from Bedlam. With the Crown's soldiers at his heels, he finds refuge in the ruins of a pleasure garden, toiling as a simple gardener. But when a vivacious young woman moves in, he's quickly driven to distraction . . .
London's premier actress, Lily Stump, is down on her luck when she's forced to move into a scorched theatre with her maid and small son. But she and her tiny family aren't the only inhabitants—a silent, hulking beast of a man also calls the charred ruins home. Yet when she catches him reading her plays, Lily realizes there's more to this man than meets the eye.
Though scorching passion draws them together, Apollo knows that Lily is keeping secrets. When his past catches up with him, he's forced to make a choice: his love for Lily . . . or the explosive truth that will set him free.
Themes: historical
Rating: 4.5 stars
Heat Rating: 
Ok so I have to be honest, going in to this story I really didn’t think I would much enjoy it.  The hero is in hiding so he can’t show off his true greatness, he’s mute from a severe injury making it difficult for communication with the heroine, and I already felt pity for him from the last story.  Those all added up with a heroine that I hadn’t developed an attachment to and I figured it would be an ok read, but nothing special.  And I can definitely say I was proven wrong… totally wrong!  Once again Hoyt manages to bring me right to the brink of insanity with her beautiful stories and makes me wish I was living in regency England so I can watch all these crazy people fumble their way through their lives and into each other’s arms.  Apollo turned out to be a real character to read about, despite all my initial misgivings and became a shining example of an alpha male from any time period.  Lily was certainly intriguing in many ways, especially as we learned truths about her that she’d shared with very few.  If you have missed the previous novels in this series I feel bad for you, but you will only miss a bit of the subtle nuances and understanding of the web of characters relationships, but I recommend reading them in order to appreciate the true greatness of Hoyt’s story development. I am very much looking forward to the next story in the series and cannot wait to see Phoebe pitted against her overprotective bodyguard.  I really don’t know how you manage it Elizabeth, but I wish I was anywhere as good as you. 
When Apollo escaped from bedlam there was nothing he wanted more than peace and a simple life, but what he got instead was a determined woman and her crazy charges and the dangerous desire to be the man he once was.  Apollo was a great guy, refusing to let his injury or the danger of his discovery keep him from living his life to the fullest.  His gentleness with Lily and her son, her intelligence and ability to bring his art to life, all make him a man that would be welcome in my life any time and place.  Lily, being a simple actress, underestimates her worth in every other way, but her obvious intelligence, compassion, and sweetness appeal to Apollo’s broken heart.   She brings a light into his life that has been sadly lacking and when push comes to shove they both know that the only way to they can find a chance of happiness is to clear Apollo’s name once and for all.  When danger threatens them, Lily and Apollo’s trust is the key to their safety and it was great to know they had developed that.  When the truth comes out and Apollo’s is exonerated I was thrilled and it wasn’t as predictable as it was leading up to be when the villain is uncovered.  Hoyt takes us on an amazing journey of healing and justice, with sensuality and laughter; she truly brings these characters to life and takes you right to their world.  The future of the Maiden Lane series is looking bright and intriguing and I will be jumping on the next book ASAP.  Another magical foray into the past, Elizabeth, and one I thank you for sharing.
*eBook provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mini-Review: Fatal Pursuit

Fatal Pursuit (Aegis #3)

by Elisabeth Naughton


Five years ago, Aegis Security op manager Marley Addison’s lover died in a South American raid gone horribly wrong…or so she thought. When she receives a phone call telling her that he is still very much alive and in danger, she vows to bring him home safely, even if Aegis CEO and former Navy SEAL Jake Ryder has kept her out of the field for the last few years. Then Jake shows up in Colombia to help her, leaving Marley annoyed…and more than a little distracted by her alarmingly handsome boss.
As things between Marley and Jake heat up in the wilderness, they discover their rescue mission is filled with treachery. Now the domineering Jake has to rely on Marley for survival. But can she depend on him when their mission takes a shocking and deadly turn?
Themes: contemporary, paramilitary
Rating: 4.75 stars
Heat Rating: 
 We finally got the story we were all clamoring for! Jake and Marley burst off the page, taking over our minds and hearts and showing that even the most closed off of individuals sometimes just need a push in the right direction to realize how much they need love and laughter in their lives.  For new readers to this series, you might not appreciate the subtle and sweet teasing and the witty sarcasm of Marley and Jake’s relationship, but loyal Naughton fans have been waiting for this since the beginning of the series when we first watched Marley handling Jake. Marley is determined to set right a wrong when she goes to Colombia determined to rescue her ex, who has apparently been missing over 5 years and was presumed dead, but she never thought that Jake would follow her and become her lifeline in a situation destined to tear her life apart.  I am looking forward to seeing whose story will be next and getting to know more of the Aegis team even better.  And of course getting to see more of Jake and Marley as they continue to navigate the new waters of their relationship. 
Marley is tired of the way the men in her life are always underestimating her skills and abilities in dangerous situations, so when she decides to go to South America on an urgent call from her ex, whom she believed dead, she never thought to ask for help from Jake.  He’s been her boss for several years, but more and more her feelings are getting jumbled where he is concerned and his obvious disregard for her has hit the breaking point.  Jake is pissed when he discovers Marley has run off on some ridiculous solo mission that will get her killed and immediately follows her, just to keep her safe, so she can come back to work of course.  But the true depth of their feelings becomes obvious when they are forced into dangerous and unexpected situations and when a night of passion brings their connection out into the open they are no longer able to deny their feelings for one another.  But of course Jake is an idiot man who knows what’s best for everyone and he ultimately screws up their chance at a happy future together.  Can Jake accept the truth of his need for Marley in time to keep her for himself? Or to even keep her alive?
I enjoyed this story very much, with its fast pace, witty characters and Naughton’s skill with a villain is nothing short of magic.  You just know that the bad guy is a bad guy, but when the full extent of his treachery comes to life you’re jaw will drop and make you wonder how a human being could be so dark inside and everyone around him not see it.  Jake was a very flawed hero, with his troubled past, idiotic ideas about relationships, and determination to always do what he thinks is right—regardless of what others say—makes him the type of man to always be in charge of his life, even when someone else could definitely do a better job of running it.  His reluctance to admit his feelings for Marley, right up until the end, made me CRAZY, and his unwillingness to admit defeat and embrace the changes in his life were a bit disappointing, but when he finally pulls his head from his butt I loved him.  Marley is a kickass heroine and I can honestly say I loved seeing her butting heads with Jake, though she had her moments of defeat when he breaks her heart again and again (note my above irritation with the man), her inner strength carries her through.  Marley is obviously made for Jake and will be the only one able to pull him out of the dark spiral that has become his life.  I enjoyed getting to see the previous couples interacting with their friends and coworkers and it is obvious those matches worked out well.  Can’t wait for whoever is up next, but whichever sexy man it is will be getting my full attention, because really no one does dark, twisted, flawed, and ultimately AWESOME heroes better than Elisabeth!
*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Mini-review: Heat of the Moment

Heat of the Moment (Sisters of the Craft #2)

by Lori Handeland


A spell that tore three sisters apart is broken four hundred years later, when the magic
in their blood reunites them. Now, one of them will discover her gift—and reignite a love long thought lost…
Flame-haired Becca Carstairs was born to be a veterinarian. Since childhood, her affinity for animals has been special, and her healing touch nothing short of magic. But only Becca knows the truth—that she alone can hear the creatures’ voices. She’s always trusted her sixth sense… until a string of missing pets, an attempted murder, and a face from her past converge into one explosive mystery, with her at its center.
Is haunted Owen McAllister, the boy who broke her heart ten years ago, related to the sinister crimes that have peaceful Three Harbors, Wisconsin, on its guard? Or is his reappearance part of the answer to questions that have troubled her all her life? As Becca delves into her strange heritage, she’ll have to fight for her life… and the man she will always love.
Themes:  Magick, paranormal
Rating: 3.5  stars
Heat Rating: 
The saga that has been hundreds of years in the making continues with the story of the triplets that are necessary to protecting the world form a rising evil that could affect us all. The second book in the trilogy kicks off with the story of Becca, the red headed triplet, and the return of her former lover just in time for them to work together to keep her alive.  I have read many if not all of Handeland's previous novels but I have found that this new trilogy is going in some new and strange directions.  There were already two strikes against this novel when I first picked it up, I'm not a huge fan of first person stories and not a big fan of stories where exes are getting together again, but all in all this was a pretty good read despite my biases.  Becca's life is seriously hitting an upheaval in this story with her life being on the line again and again, her lover coming back and wriggling into her heart, and the truth of her past and powers finally coming to light.  I enjoyed getting to know Becca and Owen  and seeing them find love again, even as they worked together to discover who was trying to kill Becca along with other witches in town  Owen's story was heartbreaking, but seeing him as he heals and finds his way in his new life was amazing.  We also get to experience the shock of Becca coming face to face with her birth sister, Raye, as Raye comes to town to protect Becca.  There's even some favorite characters from other series that have made a cameo as well.  The plot was well written, leaving us wondering who the villain was until almost the same moment that he was uncovered by Becca.  Suspenseful, magical, sexy and sweet, Heat of the Moment really reminds readers that anything is possible in life if you keep an open mind and embrace the changes in your life as they arrive.  I am looking forward to meeting the third sister and seeing how the series ends.  Another great series by Handeland, ever as it departs from her typical writing.   
*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

ARC Review: Burned by Darkness

Burned by Darkness (Dragons of Eternity #1) 

by Alexandra Ivy


The Dragons of Eternity were once creatures of myth and legend. Now they’ve returned to the world, prepared to claim what’s rightfully theirs…
Tayla is desperate for a place to call home. After years on the run, the young imp impulsively buys a teahouse and is determined to build a new life. Unfortunately, she’s barely opened the doors when she’s tracked down by the dragon who purchased her from troll slave-traders. He demands she pay off her debts…in his harem.
Baine has devoted a quarter of a century to tracking down his beautiful concubine. And now that he has her in his grasp, he’s not about to let her go. But it’s soon apparent that he isn’t the only demon hunting her. He must uncover her secrets or risk losing her forever.
Themes: Dragons, Fae, paranormal
Rating: 3.5 stars
Heat Rating:
An all new world has opened to fans of Alexandra Ivy, a world with some of our favorite characters carried over to make the books feel like returning home, but seeing an all new view of the characters and world we love.  The new Dragons of Eternity series kicks off with the imp friend of everyone’s favorite KISA (knight in Shining Armor) Levet! I have read everything ever written by Ms. Ivy and am very excited about this new series, because I haven’t ever met a dragon shifter I didn’t love.  That being said, if you haven’t read any of the Guardians of Eternity series you will still enjoy this story, even though you might now understand a lot of Levet’s charm and sweetness.  Baine and Tayla are obviously a match, even though Tayla resist the attraction and runs from him.  I am wondering whose story will be next ad anticipating this series getting bigger and better as it moves forward. 
Bane and Tayla were both every interesting characters, each of them fighting their true connection and trying to find a way to put the other into a certain mold.  Tayla has run from Baine for so long that she has built him into a true villain even though the brief encounter they had so long ago was mostly harmless.  Likewise Baine has decided that any feelings he may have felt for her were momentary and only stemmed from his desire to own her as his slave.  When they finally have to come to terms with the truth of their destiny and find a way to come together and defeat the enemies after them the bond that develops between them is sweet and lasting.  There were moments when I was sure they would push each other too far and it would get emotionally bloody, but thankfully they find a way and are able to find their hearts.  I love Baine, though in many ways he was just a bit too arrogant and unbending.  He was obviously hooked on Tayla and when he finally finds her again he doesn’t hesitate to make her his woman.  Tayla has a lot of fear because of the rumors and reputations of the dragons, but when she finally gives Baine a chance she sees the truly great man he is under the blustery anger and fiery passion. 
Burned by Darkness is one of those stories that pack so much into it short length you never realize just how short it is and how fast you have read through to the end.  I read this entire story so quickly because I wasn’t able to put it down and I just may have to revisit soon to enjoy the awesome characters, interesting settings, and twisty plots soon.  Baine was a fiery and passionate dragon that is truly a man who has overcome the nature and nurture of his upbringing to become a truly honorable male.  Tayla had lived in fear so long that when she finally comes face to face with her worst fear there is no way for her to give up fighting, but as she spends time with Baine she begins to see that there is more to him than his reputation.  Whether they are battling for supremacy in their arguments or they are bringing one another to ecstasy, the heart of each of them begins to understand that their mating is inevitable.  I also enjoyed the overall plot and the secret of Tayla’s true abilities and heritage, which was a fun nod to the original series.  I cannot wait to see where Alexandra will be taking this series and what sexy dragons we will meet in the future.  I highly recommend reading the original series, but this spin off will definitely give you a fun and sensual read to fill a quiet evening. 
*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Mini-review: Retribution


by Katie Reus 

She sees brief glimpses of the future…
Nika and Alena Brennan will do anything to kill a vicious Russian crime boss and they’re using his only son to get to him. Yet when the time comes to execute their plan, psychic Nika hesitates due to an unexpected entanglement with sexy security expert Declan Gallagher. When her sister is kidnapped and all their carefully laid plans go awry, Nika must depend on Declan and her mortal enemy’s son to get her sister back.
He invades her dreams and teases her with sensual pleasures…
As a dream walker, Declan is capable of seeing anyone’s innermost thoughts as they sleep. With Nika, however, he finds himself playing a deadly, seductive game. He knows she’s not who she says she is and he’s determined to find out the real reason she’s in Miami before she gets herself or someone else killed.
Time is running out…
Nika’s window of opportunity is closing to save her sister and find a way to protect their secrets without landing them both in jail. With innocent lives at stake, Nika must decide if the retribution she’s waited a lifetime for is worth losing the man who has won her heart.
Themes:  Psychics, paranormal
Rating: 3.75 stars
Heat Rating:
Reus once again finds a new way to introduce the magical and fantastical into the everyday lives of readers, surprising us with the hidden skills that can be found in even the most normal of individuals.  I was really surprised when I read this story that there were so many interesting characters with stories I would love to read, especially since the story is marketed as a stand alone. it makes me sad that we wont get to meet more of Declan's family and see his borthers in action.  I enjoyed this story a lot, even though there was way too much keeping of secrets between two people that were obviously meant to be together.  Nika and her sister were in way over their heads and using the skills gifted to Nika to do something I considered abhorrent, but I can sympathize with their need for vengence.  Declan should have given up his knowledg of the girls way sooner, allowing for him to and Nika to really form a bond and find a way to have a lasting realtionship based on trust.  Being a relatively quick read for me, there were a lot of interesting twists and turns, betrayals, secrets, and the added cool factor of a dreamwalker and a psychic.  I'll keep hoping that we get a sequel sometimes, but in the meantime I liked this story enough that I remain a faithful fan of Ms. Reus and look forward to more stories in the future.  

*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

ARC Mini-Review: Hot SEAL

Hot SEAL (Hostile Operations Team #9)

by Lynn Raye Harris 


 Sex with the ex… It shouldn’t be this good the second time around.

Navy SEAL Dane “Viking” Erikson has sworn off women—or at least he’s sworn off one woman: DEA Agent Ivy McGill. His ex-wife.

But when they’re forced to work together on a critical military mission, Dane can’t help but notice how the one woman he shouldn’t want is the only one he can’t stop thinking about.

Ivy knows what it’s like to fall for a SEAL’s hard muscles and killer smile—and she knows what it’s like when everything falls apart. So why is she naked against a wall and begging Dane for more?

Originally included in the SEALs of Summer 2: A Military Romance Superbundle box set, Hot SEAL will be available as a standalone novella by autumn 2015.

Themes:  Military, contemporary
Rating:  4.25 stars
Heat Rating:  
I was thrilled to be given the chance to review the short novella that Harris had released, introducing an all new group of sexy special operators to the HOT team and bringing two lost lovers back together.  Now my understanding about the order of this story is that it actually falls after the next full length novel to be released, HOT and Bothered, but it stands so much alone that I doubt even readers of the HOT series will notice.  Harris introduces a second team, this time SEALs, to the HOT teams, beginning with the introduction of their leader, Dane and his story of love and redemption.  I had my doubts about this love story, because it takes a special hand to bring two former lovers, especially divorced couples, back to love and HEA, but Harris does it beautifully.  While on the trail of drug runners and terrorists Dane and Ivy manage to come to terms with the mistakes they made in their pasts, the truth of their feelings, and the fears for their future.  I am looking forward to HOT and Bothered,  and even more to meeting the rest of Dane's team and seeing them too find their matches. 

Dane and Ivy's story is one that begins with both lovers carrying immense chips on their shoulders, each unwilling to let the past lie and each of them blaming the other for their breakup. Dane is the definitive badass, SEAL leader, and all around sexy ass dude, but when he is facing his feelings for Ivy he is just as terrified as any other man.  Ivy has some serious trust issues and I felt like she always had one foot out the door, believing that Dane was going to walk out so doing so herself first was the preferable option.  while both of them had issues with their families that greatly colored their previous relationship, it becomes obvious that they have grown and matured and might finally be ready to have a relationship if they can face their feelings and find a way to compromise with one another's jobs and dreams.  Even when they are fighting and smarting off to one another, the passion and heat between Dane and Icy is undeniable and when they are caught in its web the sexual tension snaps between them with fireworks big enough for an entire nation to celebrate.  Cannot wait for what comes next and the future novels that I hope to get to enjoy.  Another hit, Harris, and definitely the beginning of an all new group of sexy guys for us to enjoy.

*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Review: SEAL Wolf Hunting

SEAL Wolf Hunting (Heart of the Wolf #16)

Paul Cunningham is one of the only bachelors left on the SEAL wolf team, and he's less than thrilled to hear he's been volunteered for a local charity bachelor auction.
Lori Greypaw suspected that her grandmother would use the auction as an opportunity to fix her up. So she's not surprised when she "buys" Paul to help Lori renovate her mountain cabin for a week. Lori's had a crush on the sexy SEAL wolf for years, but he proves to be handy with more than a hammer when two fugitives come knocking and he'll do anything to protect the woman he's falling for…
Themes: Wolf-Shifters, Paranormal
Rating: 4 stars
Heat Rating: 4
 Another addition to the world of the wolves that have captured our hearts and minds for many years now.  If you haven’t read any of this series I have to say you are seriously missing out, but until you are able to pick up the entire series for a marathon reading session, SEAL Wolf Hunting is a perfect example of what has made this series a hit with so many.  With interesting characters that have just that little extra to make them even more special, storylines that are as varied and interesting as real life sometimes can be, and the wit and sweetness that characterizes this author, there’s nothing that can beat it.  Returning to the SEAL Wolf team was wonderful after the departures to the Scottish branch of wolves that have been the previous stories in the series, allowing us to see the turnout from previous couples and the changes in the team as a whole.  The story is of course set around a beautiful forest in Montana (I THINK) and the small pack of individuals that have banded together as a family for so many years.  I am really looking forward to reading future stories and hope that one coming soon with be Allan’s. 
Paul and Allan have just returned home after a heartbreaking rescue mission went horribly wrong, not expecting to be thrust right into a different type of trouble, the kind that can only be caused by the female members of their unofficial pack.  The She-wolves have come up with a great way to raise money for an unfortunate member of their community in need of help: a “honey-do” bachelor auction, which of course includes the two sexy wolves. When Paul is won by Emma, the grandmother figure that has always been in his life, he never imagined he would be thrust directly into the path of the she-wolf who has been hiding from him for years.  Lori has avoided being around Paul because she cannot handle watching him leave on missions and worrying he may never come back.  So when her grandmother forces them to work together on her “honey do” list, Lori knows there is a grand plan but she isn’t really willing or able to resist it anymore.  As they spend more time together they both come to realize that the attraction between them is not something either of them are willing to run from any longer and it’s time to give a relationship a chance.  Soon the world around them begins to interfere however, and when a pack friend is in serious danger, Lori has to face the change when Paul is called away again; leaving behind a budding pack and the woman he loves.  If he makes it back can they find a way to overcome the new dangers and the distance that his job puts between them, or are they destined to lose their hearts to one another in a mating that can never work?
Paul is a good guy for sure, a former SEAL, but one that still offers his services as a rescue operative and he takes his missions very seriously, as shown by the trauma of losing a rescue on his last mission.  I enjoyed Paul’s personality and his sweetness even though he was definitely an alpha wolf, a man that will care for those around him at his own expense.  As he began to get to know Lori he showed his tender side and also his funny side, while maintaining his intensity and his command of any situation.  It was awesome to see him come in to his own as a pack leader and find his perfect match in the fiery and sexy she-wolf that has obviously just been waiting for him to find his way back to her.  There were some moments that were touch and go for a while there where I thought he might not be able to find his equilibrium and be the male the women of his little pack needed, but in the end all he really needed was the love and trust of a good woman to bring him to the truth of his destiny. 
Lori is an awesome she-wolf, a woman that knows she could fall in love with Paul easily so she keeps herself away until he is ready to settle down. She has been a part of Paul since he saved her many years before when they were children and their pack was decimated. Since then she has found contentment with her Grandmother and her packmates, even as Paul finds adventure and fullfillment serving as a SEAL in the far reaches of the world.  When they are thrown together on their project Lori finds herself unable to resist Paul's lure and when he expresses that he's ready to give their relationship a try, she gives in to her life long desire to be his.  She is obvioulsy an alpha female, but even though  Lori is strong enough to be Paul's mate she needs his love and reasurrance more than she knows until he finally starts to give his all.  I  loved seeing her really become a leader when Paul is called away for a long time, bringing the pack together and expanding their numbers as well as solving several problems and serving the pack well in Paul's stead. There's no doubt she is a female to be reckoned with and now that she has decided to stop running from him there is no way she will give Paul up. 
This story was a wonderful return to the kinds of stories that first made me fall in love with this series, because while I  have loved the last few books that were set in Scotland, these original characters are the ones that first grabbed my heart.  I  enjoyed learning more about about Paul and his pack, as well as meeting Lori and the other she-wolves.  Paul is an alpha to be reckoned with, protecting his family and packmates from the time he was a child and now that he is even more trained to do it, there is nothing that will harm his pack.  He was alo sweet and  loving when he allows his guard to slip and let Lori into his heart.  Lori was strength and softeness in a perfect mix, the ultimate she-wolf and a woman that I  can see being a great role model.  When Paul and Lori come together the heat could easily cause burns and there is no denying that they were made for each other.  There were also several subplots that kept things interesting and twisting together to provide danger and intrigue during Paul and Lori's romance.  I  am very much looking forward to what's next for this series and know that I  will love whatever comes next. 

*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

ARC Review: Hell or High Water

Hell or High Water (Deep Six #1)

by Julie Ann Walker


 In a world on the brink...
Six men. One sunken Spanish galleon. Millions in gold and silver coins lying on the ocean floor. And a past that refuses to let the guys of Deep Six Salvage forget the Navy SEAL motto: the only easy day was yesterday...
There's more than one kind of treasure...
The nation's security has always been CIA agent Olivia Mortier's top priority. But a mission-gone-wrong has begun to make her wonder if there's more to life than risking hers.
And more than one secret at the bottom of the sea...
Only two things could make Leo Anderson abandon his hunt for the legendary lost ship, La Santa Christina, and return to the world of weapons and warfare he swore to leave behind: a capsule of enriched uranium, lost on the ocean floor, and a plea for assistance from the one woman he can't seem to forget...
Themes: contemporary
Rating:  4,25 stars
Heat Rating: 
 An all new group of badasses has set sail on the high seas for adventure, romance, and the dangers that follow these retired SEALs wherever they go. This series revolves around a group of men that have decided they've paid their dues to their country and it is time to embrace civilian life with as much gusto as they once embraced their lives as Special Ops operators.  The tragic loss of one of their brothers-in-arms led them all to make the promise that they would live life to the fullest, and the best way they know how to do that is to give the life of treasure hunters a shot, but they refuse to break up their family.  The series actually began with a short prequel during the guys’ last mission, where one of their team found the love of his life, so the remaining six bachelors are on their own in the treasure hunt, living the life on their private island off the Florida Keys.  But their leader, Leo Anderson, isn’t enjoying his life as much as he should be, mainly because he cannot forget the woman from his past that haunts him.  Walker takes us on a journey through a crazy twenty-four hours with these folks as they work to stop terrorists, reclaim a stolen chemical weapon, and unearth a traitor in the CIA.  I have read a lot of books, but all the drama, danger, and plot twists that happen during the short time of this book is so packed my head was spinning and I felt seriously bad for the characters.  I cannot wait to see where this story will go now that we have met all the guys and a few female side characters, one that I’m really hoping will find their mates with the Deep Six team. 
This story begins when Leo and the team’s small island is invaded by the least likely visitor—Olivia, the CIA agent that captured Leo’s interest a year earlier—and she isn‘t there for a beach vacation.  Instead she comes with a mission for the team, lucrative but dangerous, to help her and her boss uncover a mole in the agency.  Leo looks at this as an opportunity for him to finally exercise his desire for Olivia from his system, but as the rather long and action packed day passes, both Leo and Olivia begin to understand that there is way more between them than simple lust.  However when a secret Olivia has kept buried for a year comes out, Olivia fears that Leo will never be able to forgive or forget her mistakes.  If they can live through the danger surrounding them can they find a way to be together and share their lives, despite the obstacles between them?
Leo and Olivia are interesting characters and we do get to know them a lot in this book, but really there was just not enough time to touch on all the aspects of what makes a character truly great.  So I will say they were promising characters with interesting backstories and their interactions and discussions more than made up for some of the emotional depth that was lacking for me.   Olivia and Leo became friendly when they worked together the previous year, but when they meet back up they are unable to resist the magnetic pull between them.  Leo is a sensual man, used to being in charge of his world and definitely a leader in every sense of the world, so when Olivia challenges his control of situations again and again, it’s awesome to see him blowing a gasket and then slowly accepting that there is just no gaining control with her.  He is obviously brave and a man of honor, as most SEALs are, but being a team leader leaves him even more determined to lead his men out of danger, even though he knows they are just as determined to meddle in his relationship with Olivia.  As he faces the fear of losing Olivia—again and again—he begins to understand that his attraction to her has become something more very quickly and he must come to terms with that before he can get her to give them a real chance at a future. 
Olivia is a real enigma.  A CIA agent that gets sick when she sees death, a smartass operator that keeps tripping up her own team, and a woman that has kept a secret from the man she loves.  I found myself fluctuating on liking Olivia and wanting to slap some sense in to her.  It is obvious to me she’s not cut out to be a field agent anymore and she should just give up on that ridiculous plan.  Allowing Leo into her heart and finding a place in his for her would make for a much better goal than working for the CIA until she’s either dead or forced into retirement.  She has real moments of clarity and bravery, but for the most part she was too wishy washy for me.  And really why would you ever WANT to push away a former SEAL that has decided to claim you for himself.  In the end she finally accepts how important Leo is to her and that any chance for them to be together is better than no chance.  I think she finally discovered that her true abilities weren’t to be found in her skills as an agent, but in the way she supports Leo and the Team and keeps them grounded. 
Packed full of action ranging from gun battles with terrorists, exploding boats, kidnappings and rescues and even the uncovering of a life-long CIA mole, you will find it hard pressed to remember that all but the last chapter happened in the space of TWENTY-FOUR HOURS! (or less). Honestly I was just exhausted reading all of the danger they dealt with, but the team didn’t seem to blink an eye even when some new catastrophe swept through their lives.  Leo is the best of an alpha male, a great leader, a sweet lover, a deadly protector and the type of guy that forgives if he has the right incentive, the most important of course being love.  Olivia slowly begins to become a more likeable character, seeming less like a mercenary and more like a woman that has found herself in an untenable situation.  It is obvious as she faces the chance she might cause more deaths that she cannot continue to live her life the same way any longer, and Leo is just the man to show her an alternate option.  The passion between Leo and Olivia was undeniable, even when she was trying to, and Leo is obviously a very sensual guy, especially after a 16 month dry spell. ;)  If you enjoy military dramas or spy thrillers, Julie Ann Walker’s new Deep Six series is for you, and did I forget to mention that during the majority of the book the SEAL hotties were usually wearing swim trunks, JUST swim trunks, and were usually wet.  ‘Nuff said I think.  I am really looking forward to this departure from her Black Knights Inc. series which I love as well, but fans of that series should give Deep Six a try for sure, you might even get a couple of BKI surprises.  *wink, wink.  Nudge Nudge* Another hit, Julie Ann, though that surprises me not at all.
*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

mini-review: Force of Attraction

Force of Attraction (K-9 Rescue #2)

by D.D. Ayres


The only thing more powerful than fear is desire…
A seasoned K-9 officer with the police in Maryland, Cole Jamison has left her old life behind her. With a new home and a new partner—a protective canine named Hugo—Cole is ready for fresh challenges. A crucial position on an important drug task force is exactly what she wants…until she discovers her gorgeous, infuriating ex-husband will be the DEA agent in charge.
Agent Scott Lucca may be a pro when it comes to undercover assignments, but this job is daunting even for him. Posing as a happy couple on the dog competition circuit means he and Cole need to get a lot closer than they’ve been in years. Playing a live-in couple should seem like a walk in the park compared to tracking a brutal criminal, but suddenly nothing could be more dangerous than the passionate fire they’ve rekindled…
Themes:  contemporary, police
Rating: 3.75 stars
Heat Rating: 
Police drama meets the world of romance, with a fun spice of canine affection thrown in, makes Force of Attraction a wonderful read with light and heavy moments, but always the progression of a truly loving relationship.  I can honestly say I don’t often care for romances that are about couples that have split coming back together, mainly because so few authors can truly pull off that kind of emotional change and growth.   But Ayres has accomplished it well enough for me to say I truly enjoyed this story of exes taking another chance on one another and finding the truth of their love.  There was also of course the added family drama of Scott dealing with past hurts from his parents, the physical  danger of Scott’s previous undercover work coming back to haunt them both, and the work involved in the undercover operation Cole is assisting with.  I enjoyed both characters, even though I got a bit frustrated with each at different times, they were the perfect examples of individuals in the non-fiction world most of us are sadly relegated to return to—flawed and imperfect, sometimes making bad decisions, but in the end with a little motivation they can find a reason to give their all for love.
There was definitely a lot going on in this story but not so much that you get frustrated by anything and it was so well written than you anticipated every moment and were left wondering what would go wrong next for these two.  I find that I like this series more and more, but I am having trouble really considering it a true series because the only connection I’ve been able to see yet is the k-9 cop angle, when I was hoping that some of the characters would link to one another as well.  All in all a pretty good read with some interesting characters, well  laid-out plots, and an HEA that comes with a price that both Cole and Scott will have to pay to make it possible for them to survive and come together. I am looking forward to coming stories and getting to meet some more amazing k-9 teams, both the animals and the people, but especially the animals.  Izzy and Hugo were definitely THE characters to round out this reforming family, the perfect “children” for two people whose lives are very much in flux, but the dogs ground them and give the story even more heart. 
*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided.