Thursday, December 31, 2015

Mini-Review: Caged Magic (Wing Slayer Hunters #5)


Risa Faden is a witch whose ultra-powerful shield magic is slowly breaking her mind. But when her beloved goddaughter is snatched by a demon, she’ll risk anything to rescue the baby—including lying to the handsome, intriguing stranger who has the power to help her keep her sanity, save the child…and steal her heart.
Linc Dillinger is a Wing Slayer Hunter whose sexy, rich, bad-boy charm hides a treacherous betrayal that left him emotionally scarred. As a result he risks his life to protect innocents, but is incapable of love—until he meets a beautiful witch who can save his cursed soul. Risa’s fierce courage and loyalty reaches past his barriers and he begins to believe she has the magic to free his caged heart.
But Risa’s lie explodes into dark danger that forces Linc into a hellish high-stakes gamble: He must either win the witch he loves and her godchild…or endure a loss that will destroy them all.
Themes: Witches, Demons, Paranormal
Rating: 4.75 stars
Heat Rating: 
 This book has been a LOOOONNNGGG time coming but I was thrilled to see that the Wing Slayers were coming back.  I found this series by chance a few years ago and have enjoyed learning about this new and interesting group of individuals.  Lyon has an interesting take on the relationships between witches, demons, and other paranormal entities, one that is unique and I have not found repeated elsewhere.  If you are coming into the series starting with Linc’s story I will tell you there is a lot of detail to this group you will be confused on, but there’s enough info to keep the story from feeling boring or distanced from the whole series.  I liked Linc even though he is definitely a bad boy, because under all his craziness is a heart that expands to let the best of people into it.  He has dedicated himself to a lot of great causes and is determined not to let his past drag him back into the darkness he finally escaped.  Meeting Risa throws him for a loop, but when they join forces to battle the demon that has kidnapped her goddaughter there is nothing that will stop them.  I admired Risa’s willingness to do just about anything, even lie to her new friends, so that she could save the baby, but I wish she had gotten the chance to clear the air before tragedy strikes.  The passion between Linc and Risa is undeniable and the sweetness that we get to see between them makes their love even more believable.  I’m thrilled the series has picked up again and am looking forward to more and to sharing this great continuing series with my friends.  Keep the magic alive, Jennifer. 

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

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Review: Unwrapped (Hunk for the Holidays #3)


Good things come in sexy packages...
Jacqueline Maguire has a problem tying the knot. After fleeing the altar (again), the runaway bride drives off with no particular destination in mind. Which is how Jac finds herself stranded in a snowstorm with a hot, hard-bodied stranger who treats her to the naughtiest night of her life... but come morning, he's long gone.
Contractor Patrick McPherson is deeply committed to his bachelor lifestyle. No strings, no rings. As the Christmas season approaches, however, Patrick still can't quite forget his curvalicious one-night stand. Then Jac shows up unexpectedly, and all holiday hell breaks loose. Because this year, Patrick is getting the biggest Christmas surprise of his life...
Themes: holiday, contemporary
Rating: 4.5 stars
Heat Rating: 
 Patrick has finally met his match!  I stumbled across this series a few holiday seasons ago when the first, Hunk for the Holidays, was released and it looked too good to resist.  Then I was thrilled to find out that there would be more stories about this family of super sexy and successful people in one of my favorite parts of the country.  The best part is the setting almost always works out with the holidays because I get to imagine myself there with them in the snow, because it’s Colorado!  That being said, this story had some real issues to overcome for me, mainly the way both characters looked at the other as shallow and useless.  It was obvious to the readers that neither character really saw the other at first, and their first meeting was definitely strange.   Set around a woman’s quest to meet her aunt’s requirements for marriage to receive her inheritance and one man’s refusal to ever settle down you knew right away there would be fireworks.  Lane always manages to rip my heart out and then fill it right back up with the drama and obstacles she throws at these couples.  Since this series always revolves around the holidays there is inherently that craziness with families and strangers around this time of year, but Katie handles everything with such levity and true goodness that you know the characters will truly find their HEA, even once the trees are down and the midnight kisses have been given. 
Patrick has escaped his crazy family to hide out at his cabin in the woods when he finds himself confronted with a woman that seems just the other side of sane, but that pulls at his hormones and emotions like no other woman ever has.  Jac feels like she has just escaped a true disaster when she finds herself alone the morning after running into Patrick’s cabin, and when the cops come to take her to safety she tries to forget the man that no one else seems to think really existed.  But soon it becomes imperative she find him, and when she comes back into his life with a bang and crash, Patrick will have to deal with his feelings for her and find a way to really build a relationship. 
This story was one of those that you could never believe happening in real life, because really no one could be this nuts at her age, but Jac’s antics make the story lively and interesting in the extreme, even though most of her crazy actions drive Patrick to insanity.  Patrick is obviously a good guy, but set in his ways and refuses to change the way he views people and their motivations.  It took him entirely too long to accept that his feelings for Jac went beyond like and friendship, almost to the point of losing her.  But thankfully there is a certain jolly elf that seems to be looking out for him and Jac.  Jac on the other hand had me shaking my head, laughing, and crying with equal intensity.  She seems a bit like a shallow airhead but then has some seriously deep moments that make you wonder why she puts on such a dumb-blonde-girl front.  Seeing her grow up and come to appreciate just how important Patrick—and the family he brings along with him—is to Jac and her happiness, really showed the readers that even the most vapid seeming individuals could simply be hiding unimaginable depths of pain and fear.  The heat between Patrick and Jac was hot enough to melt the Colorado winter snow, but it came with moments of laughter, sweetness, and playfulness that keep the passion from seeming contrived.  I am wondering if this will be the last in the series, but I would love to see Jac’s sister Bailey fall in love and of course getting to see more of the McPherson’s as Christmases pass will be wonderful.  Happy holidays and many thanks, Katie!

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

ARC Review: The Striker (Highland Guard #10)


 Six years ago, Eoin "Striker” MacLean endured the greatest betrayal of his life, a disaster that led Robert the Bruce to a crushing defeat and left Eoin without the spirited woman who ruled his heart. Eoin knew that falling in love with his sworn enemy’s daughter was risky, dividing him between a possessive desire for beautiful Margaret MacDowell and an undying loyalty to his king. He promised Bruce that he would keep his fiery bride in the dark about the elite Highland Guard, but he could not predict the dire consequences his secret would have on his young marriage. Nor could he foresee how surrendering to temptation could cripple Bruce’s cause, forcing Eoin to blame his wife—and himself for trusting her.
Now, as Bruce prepares to challenge the resistance’s remaining strongholds, Eoin finally has his chance for revenge against the woman he once loved so fiercely and her entire clan. But when ferociously independent Margaret reveals a surprise that unites her with Eoin, neither of them will let their love go down without a fight.
Themes: historical, Scotland
Rating: 4.25 stars
Heat Rating: 
Finally we get another great story in the Highland Guard series.  I have been waiting it seems like forever for this next book and it definitely lives up to all the time I have spent waiting.  Monica has a way of dragging her readers into this world she has built that makes you feel like you are right there beside her characters, living their challenges and seeing their pain and heartbreak.  I have yet to read anything by Monica that I didn’t love and Striker’s story is no exception.  This story, like a previous one in the series, actually takes place in two different time periods with roughly a decade between, but the best part is that we get to watch Eoin and Margaret fall in love not just once, but twice.  Bringing together two enemies, a couple destined for disaster and seeing how they deal with their differences, once and for all, and tell the world they will be together despite those differences is beyond heartwarming.  If you haven’t read previous stories in this series you might miss a bit of the subtext here and there, but Monica’s skill is in making each story independent by providing the details you need and enticing you to go back and read the rest of the series.  I am sad to hear this series is ending after 2 more books, but it has been a great ride and I know whatever she comes up with next will also be a hit. 
Eoin and Maggie’s story is one that began almost a decade ago when two impetuous and unprepared young people fell into passion and young love.  They came together inexplicably in a time of war, even though their families were enemies and their political loyalties were split.  When the war really amps up, the true gap between them grows and Maggie is faced with ridicule and hate, as well as fear, in Eoin’s world.  Unwilling to face such adversity without support, she returns to her family and awaits her husband’s return, but when mistaken trust leads to tragedy their lives are forever torn apart.  Almost a decade later, Eoin returns to Maggie’s life and finds himself faced with a surprise of epic proportions as well as the heated desire that stills burns between them.  But can they forgive the betrayals and find a way to bridge the gap in order to have a future together or will their differences force them apart once and for all?
Margaret—Maggie to her friends—has had to find a way to be happy even though her heart still yearns for the husband she lost, even knowing that her betrayal was the reason he’s gone from her.  When she first gave into her desire for Eoin she thought she’d found her prince, the love of her life, and the man that would live at her side for all time.  But those youthful dreams are soon crushed under the weight of speculation, distrust, and hatred when she meets his family and clan.  Left alone in the midst of her enemies with no one on her side, Maggie tries her best to be a good wife, but the differences in her life become unbearable.  The way Maggie deals with her difficulties shows that she was an independent woman, well before her time, and IMO the real reason Eoin feel in love with her.  That fire and spunk serves her well when Eoin reappears and she is faced with the changes in the man she never stopped loving.  Working beside him on their mission we can see that she is no pushover, but when it comes to Eoin and her love for him she will push any boundary to get her HEA.  Definitely one of my favorite female characters in a while and one that shows that all you need to succeed and get your happy ending is the strength and bravery to go through, over, under or around whatever obstacles are thrown in your path. 
Eoin on the other hand is an arrogant ass through most of the story.  He’s so sure of his place in the world and demanding his recognition that he doesn’t see the damage he causes to those around him.  He is unable or unwilling to resist the pull to Maggie, though he does the right thing in a bad situation, making Maggie his wife to keep her from being overtly ostracized after their night of youthful passion.  Too bad that once he does that, he thinks that his responsibilities have been fulfilled.  It is obvious that he was NOT ready to be a husband, disregarding his wife’s wishes or fears for the most part, and leaving her to fend for herself with his family and clan.  Not to mention that he is flat our lying to her when he disappears on missions and into battle.  I appreciate the fact that he has his orders and cannot tell her the entire truth, but leaving her alone and surrounded by danger and derision is not a way for a husband to act.  The decade older Eoin wasn’t really much better, being a totally asshat when he uses Maggie to further his mission with a complete disregard for her feelings, even if he thought she had betrayed him so long ago.  Only after Eoin begins to come to terms with the mistakes he’s made in their relationship does the reader begin to see the promising side of Eoin showing that he really is a good man.  Thankfully in the end Eoin finds a way to accept that the past is over and move forward, forgiving both Maggie and himself for their mistakes and starting over with a clean slate. 
Overall, I have to say that I loved Striker’s story and it was a welcome addition to the series.  There were a LOT of tears in this story and the anguish was heartbreaking even just reading their sad story, but the love they have for one another keeps the sadness from overwhelming the characters and the readers in the end.  Eoin was a man that really needed to be brought down a peg or to, his arrogance leading to too many mistakes, but once he accepts that he’s just a man and needs the woman he loves by his side despite their differences, Eoin become the kind of man I would love to find for myself.  Maggie too is a bit brash in the beginning, coming from a family of males that has always spoiled her, but she quickly realizes that and tries to improve on her failings.  She learns that a single choice, even the simple mistake of speaking out of turn, can change worlds and cost lives, and that realization brings out the core of goodness and strength in her so she can develop into a truly great woman from the reckless girl she was.  The heat and intensity between these two is off the charts from the very beginning, even when they are simply looking at one another across the room they throw off enough heat for others to notice.   I thoroughly enjoyed seeing them find their way together and then back together as they fell in love with each other, first as youths and again as adults hardened by life.  Monica has struck gold once again and I cannot wait for the rest of the series. 

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

Friday, December 11, 2015

Review: Dead by Midnight: An I-Team Christmas (I-Team #7.5)

Dead by Midnight: An I-Team Christmas (I-Team #7.5)

by Pamela Clare 


Marc and Sophie Hunter, Gabe and Kat Rossiter, Holly Andris and the rest of the I-Team gang find themselves in the same historic Denver hotel celebrating the approach of Christmas at different holiday parties. What starts out as a fun winter evening with friends soon becomes a brutal fight to survive when the hotel is taken over by a group of ruthless narco-terrorists who will stop at nothing to get what they want.
On the outside, Julian Darcangelo, Zach McBride, Nick Andris and others join together with the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team to free their friends, knowing that if they fail, the people they love will be…
Dead by Midnight.

Themes: Holiday, Contemporary, End of Series
Rating: 4.75  stars
Heat Rating: 
 When I heard Pamela announce that she would be doing a holiday novella to serve as the official end to the I-Team series my emotions was frankly mixed.  While I enjoy novellas as much as the next girl I just didn’t think she would accomplish her true greatness in so short a story, and of course I cried for a while learning that the series was ending. But I was also thrilled that we would get to see the couples that have come together again as lead characters.  I will warn that this is more of a recap and continuation, not a novella where a new couple comes together, and there are a lot of tears and fears coming in this short story.  I can honestly say I have not cried this hard, both happy and sad tears, in a good long while, the story was that emotional.  The beginning of the story leads the readers to think we are just going to get to see the couples, intimately, enjoying their love and then coming together to celebrate the holidays.  Then all hell breaks loose and Pamela gives her characters the ultimate test of love again and again.  The couples have to battle their way free of terrorists, find a way to keep each other and their friends alive, and still serve the greater good in their typical self-sacrificing way.  I am sorry to see this series end, but Pamela writes with such aplomb that you find yourself sending the characters off in hopes they are safe and happy for all time, as if they are good friends you are leaving behind as you move forward.  Thankfully we can always go back to visit and renew friendships with rereading and reliving their love stories.  You have been an inspiration to us all Pamela and there is no way that anything you write in the future won’t be an instant hit with your fans.  Keep up the awesome writing and I can personally guarantee a life-long fan in me.

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

Monday, December 7, 2015

Review: Wild Heat (Northern Fire #1)

Wild Heat (Northern Fire #1)

by Lucy Monroe 

Sometimes old flames are the hottest of all . . .

In the quaint little town of Cailkirn, Alaska, it's impossible to keep a secret, especially one as juicy as the unexpected return of Kitty Grant. Tack MacKinnon remembers her wild red curls and even wilder spirit—and still feels the sting from when she shattered his heart in college. But there's a pain in Kitty's gorgeous eyes that guts him to the core, and Tack is determined to do whatever it takes to see the woman he still loves smile again—even if it means taking on her demons as his own.
After fleeing an abusive ex-husband, Kitty decides that the best way to heal her broken heart is to come back home. But she gets a whole new shock when she sees how undeniably sexy Tack has become. More handsome, more muscular, more charming—more everything—he's impossible to resist. Before she knows it, they're reigniting sparks that could set the whole state of Alaska on fire. Yet trust doesn't come easy to Kitty anymore, and as things heat up between her and Tack, she can't help but wonder if one of them is going to get burned . . .
Themes: contemporary
Rating: 3.5 stars
Heat Rating: 
 An all new series by one of my favorite authors has arrived.  I love the premise of this series mainly because it is set in one of my all-time favorite places to read about and one that I am determined to visit someday, Alaska.  The series begins with a story of rekindled love between two former best friends.  The almost decade they have been apart has changed them both in some pretty drastic ways, but at the heart they are still made for one another if they can find a way to get past their hurts and fears.  I am a huge fan of Lucy Monroe and went into the story with really high expectations, which might have been the problem.  While I really enjoyed the story, there was little of the greatness I have always experienced with her writing.  I liked the characters well enough, but there just seemed to be an emotional disconnect for me and a little bit too much choppiness to the story to make their tale truly believable.  I am looking forward to the next in the story and hope to have a return to the expected level of loving it, but for long time Lucy fans, I warn you to not expect too much or you might end up disappointed.  That being said the story was complicated in a lot of emotionally dramatic ways so maybe the problem was that everything was just too intense. 
Caitlin “Kitty” Grant is returning to her small home town to lick her wounds and find herself again after an abusive relationship and battle with illness almost cost her life.  She knows there are lots of fences to mend, but seeing Tack MacKinnon her childhood best friend and the one person she most betrayed with bad choices in the past, rekindles a desire that she thought surely dead for good.  Tack never imagined Kitty would be returning to their small town, and never imagined she would be as wounded as she is.  When she kicked him to the curb 8 years earlier he put as much space between them as possible in hopes of protecting his heart from her, but seeing her again, battered but not broken, is heartbreaking and terrifyingly wonderful at the same time. When they can no longer resist the chemistry between them, falling into a sensual and wonderful affair, neither of them are really able to protect their hearts anymore.  But can they overcome the past that once tore them apart and find a way to survive the wild heat of their hearts?
What to say about Kitty… Kitty was an idiot. Ok maybe that’s too harsh, being that she was a young woman with serious issues, but pushing her best friend away for some controlling man left her with no one to fall back on when the world crashed.  She made some really bad decisions, but thankfully knew when to finally get the hell out of the relationship that almost killed her.  When she comes home she is determined to help herself and find a way back to normal, but her mistake again is in not sharing her fears and issues with those she loves.  Dealing with Tack and finding herself craving him at every turn gives her a sense that she is finally finding herself again as a woman, but it quickly becomes more than her fragile heart can handle.  As she returns to her old self, her spunky nature and determination bring her to face the fact that being Tack’s dirty little secret is just not enough for her.  I loved seeing her exploring her sensuality and standing up for what she wants, growth leading her to some pretty startling discoveries.  I wish the story had been a little longer, giving Lucy more time to share the baby steps of change, but the jump into love is sometimes unexplainably fast I guess. In the end I liked her more for embracing her vulnerabilities and fears enough to demand what she wants and deserves from her man.
Tack was an ass. I get that he had his heartbroken as a young man when the girl he loved pushed him away for another man, but running away with his tail between his legs and never bothering to check back on the girl he claimed to love was not cool.  Learning about the hardships of her life, Tack is understandably upset that Kitty was so abused, but it takes him way too long to come to terms with the simple fact that he could have helped, even as a friend, if he hadn’t been throwing a tantrum and burying his love for almost a decade.  It is obvious from both actions and words that Tack still cares about her, but he denies it at every turn, even using sex as an excuse for protecting Kitty from her own vulnerabilities.  But he isn’t able to take that final needed step of forgiveness until it is almost too late.  Sexy alpha males are a dime a dozen, but it is obvious to me that Tack is a really loving guy once he lets go of his hang-ups.  He does everything in his power to look out for those he cares about, even standing up to his own mother in an effort to comfort Kitty, but he withholds the most important part of him, his heart, out of fear, almost causing him to lose the girl he loves again to his own stubbornness.  But in the end he finds a way to love again and give her his all, maybe a little too quickly as things move from casual to committed in a heartbeat, which was odd to me.
Wild Heat is one of those stories where I love parts of it and the promise of the great story it could have been, but something just doesn’t click right as I read it.  Tack and Kitty were obviously made for one another, but the way they go about changing their relationship—which is already complicated by their past—was just too abrupt and seemed heartless to me.  I enjoyed seeing them embrace a physical relationship and don’t get me wrong those portions of the book were hot, but the emotion was missing for me a lot.   Tack seems heartless a good bit of the time, very closed off and unwilling to share himself, but overall seems to be a good guy.  He cares for those around him and is a good man in general, but when faced with any emotional turmoil he seems to shut down and use physical attraction and chemistry to put a distance between himself and Kitty.  Kitty too has a lot of issues which she needs to work through and I don’t think she worked through them enough in my opinion, instead compensating for them or pretending the issues weren’t there.  She does finally get some perspective and help, allowing the healing to continue which leads her emotions to be invested in her relationship with Tack, but it all happened too abruptly for me.  In the end, I think had the story been a little bit longer, with more emotional growth before the HEA it would have struck a deeper more emotional connection for me.  I am looking forward to the next story, hoping the connection and fire returns for me, and wondering if we will see more of Kitty and Tack.   Lucy remains one of my favorite authors, but this book was not one of my favorites of hers.

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

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Mini-review: Pia Does Hollywood (Elder Races #8.6)

Pia Does Hollywood (Elder Races #8.6)

by Thea Harrison 

After making a diplomatic pact with humankind and the other leaders of the Elder Races, Pia Cuelebre, mate to Dragos Cuelebre, Lord of the Wyr, reluctantly heads to Hollywood to spend a week with the Light Fae Queen, Tatiana, before the busy Masque season hits New York in December.
Dragos has never let the lack of an invitation stop him from doing anything he wanted. Unwilling to let his mate make the trip without him, he travels to southern California in secret to be with her.
But when an ancient enemy launches a shattering assault against the Light Fae, Dragos and Pia must intercede. The destruction threatens to spread and strike a mortal blow against all of the magically gifted, both human and Elder Race alike.
Working with the Light Fae to neutralize the danger, Dragos and Pia find their deepest vulnerabilities challenged and their most closely held secrets threatened with exposure.
Themes: dragons, shifter, magick, paranormal
Rating: 3.25 stars
Heat Rating:
 The second story in this trilogy of shorts is one that will have you groaning or thrilled depending on your stance on certain creatures that have become popular in recent years in the media.  Being not a fan, this story was one that had me groaning a lot, but overall I enjoyed it just the same. With reluctance, Pia Cuelebre is headed to Hollywood to visit with the head of the Light Fae in a diplomatic exchange, but no way in hell is Dragos letting his mate—his pregnant mate—out of his site for that long, so together, but apart, they travel to California.  When they arrive, things immediately begin to go awry and only their strength and love for one another will keep Dragos from becoming a monster and possibly decimating the entire world.  I loved seeing Pia stand by her man, even while others threatened to tear them apart.  She showed once again that as unconventional as their mating was they are definitely made for one another.  Dragos just wants to keep his mate safe and traveling with her seems the best way, but he never imagined he’d find himself in the middle of a takeover by zombie-like light Fae and the sorcerer converting them.  Watching him fighting for his life and sanity, while still protecting his wife and unborn child shows us just how deep his love and protectiveness goes, but the truly great thing is the way Pia’s optimism and determination to help others has slowly rubbed off on him.  This story was a great continuation though very short and I am looking forward to book three in the short series as well as the next full length novel. Another hit Thea.

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