Friday, February 27, 2015

Review: Soulbound

Soulbound (Darkest London #6)

by Kristen Callihan


Once two souls are joined...
When Adam's soul mate rejected him, there was more at stake than his heart. After seven hundred years of searching, his true match would have ended the curse that keeps his spirit in chains. But beautiful, stubborn Eliza May fled—and now Adam is doomed to an eternity of anguish, his only hope for salvation gone...
Their hearts will beat together forever...
No matter how devilishly irresistible Adam was, Eliza couldn't stand the thought of relinquishing her freedom forever. So she escaped. But she soon discovers she is being hunted—by someone far more dangerous. The only man who can help is the one man she vowed never to see again. Now Adam's kindness is an unexpected refuge, and Eliza finds that some vows are made to be broken...
Themes:  paranormal, historical
Rating: 4.25 stars
Heat Rating: 
It’s finally here! The long-awaited full story of Adam and his Eliza. We have speculated about Adam for several stories now, including wondering what he really is and where he comes from, not to mention why he takes Eliza and chains her to him when he normally requires nothing of the sort from him GIMs.  I personally have been dying to find out the whole story and see if Adam can pull off an HEA for himself and his lady.  Callihan is one of those authors whose imagination is truly a wonder, her ability to take something most of us would see as mundane, like 19th century London, and turn it into a wonderland of paranormal creations, scientifically terrifying wonders, and horrifying plots to take over the world.  I was very skeptical about this series in the beginning but after the very first book knew I would be a longtime fan and as each new book opens the world of Darkest London to me, I am more and more drawn into these characters lives and dramas.  This story picks up shortly after the last one, but does give us a nice reminder (in the form of a prologue) of the beginnings of Eliza and Adam’s “relationship”, before jumping right into the new life Eliza is living with her long lost relatives.  In true Callihan fashion this story is full of darkness and redemption, growth and understanding and ultimately a love to change the world and I can promise you won’t regret reading it—though I do recommend reading the previous stories in the series first so you understand the many layers of this world. 
Adam and Eliza’s story is definitely one of heartbreak in so many ways, including seeing a once invulnerable and larger than life Adam brought low by torture and starvation, but in the end Eliza sees below his surface arrogance to the truly great man he is and finds a way to open her heart to him.   Their interactions were an outlet for Callihan’s sarcasm and facetiousness certainly, but under their sniping they slowly learn about each other and find an understanding of their motives and a way to work together to save themselves from the Fae that are determined to destroy them.  As the story progresses, we see just how important Adam is to the underworld that exists in London alongside the mundanes that don’t even realize they are not alone.  There was honestly so much going on in this story I will leave you to read and find out all of it, but I will say that you will not be able to put the book down and should make sure you have your reader's survival kit of snacks, drinks, and tissues nearby as you read. 
I loved Adam’s character almost as often as I hated him, just simply not understanding how he was determined to make Eliza think the worst of him just to save his pride.  When he finally accepted that only by sharing himself with her does he have a chance to win her, I fell in love with him myself and wished I could have had one of him for my very own.  His past is murky, but it’s obvious that he tries to do good in his life and find a way to make a difference while fulfilling his mission.  His strength and sweetness (when he allows it to shine through) comes with an edge, but that edge keeps him from becoming a forgettable character.  His back-story when we learn the whole truth really is remarkable and ingenious, something I could never have imagined but that Callihan presents so beautifully you just believe ever word.  Eliza on the other hand took a while for me to warm up to.  She seemed so often like a spoiled brat, refusing to accept her own choices in life and the consequences of those choices, but I think that was the author’s intentions.  She obviously has issues to work through and as she does work through them I start to like her a lot more.  But her one saving grace from start to finish is her inability to walk away from suffering, even her enemies, when she knows it is unjust and uncalled for.  When she cares for Adam at his lowest, even as she throws insults and sarcasm at him, her gentleness and care for him show that she is very much a good woman and a redeemable character.  Overall these characters were the best kind in any story—flawed, damaged, and in need of redemption. 
Soulbound was a story that grabbed my attention, pulled me in, and spit me out in the end with a new appreciation of the traumas a person can live through and still find love.  The overall plot, the Fae and their machinations, and the relationship between Adam and Eliza feed off one another, each unique but intertwined and there is no denying the storytelling genius of the author.   Adam was a broken man, split in half but determined to find a way to be whole again and find peace in his life, though unsure exactly how to do it.  Even though he has existed for centuries, he is unable to truly understand the one thing he needs to so he can find that peace, the woman who is the other half of his soul.  Eliza has had a rough life, but when she is forced to make choices, sometimes without enough time to think them fully through, she is often unwilling to deal fully with the consequences of her choices, which is anathema to me but gives her the perfect foil for growth as she begins to understand those consequences.  Thankfully Eliza begins to evolve and find acceptance of her new circumstances and in doing so is able to being to accept Adam and the sparks that have flown between them since the beginning of their acquaintance.  That passion for life and freedom carries over into their love and makes the heat between them a conflagration that could burn the world if they allow it to, if they focus on that love to the exclusion of all other responsibilities.  This was a story that was beyond awesome in some many ways, not the least of which was getting to see a lot of the other couples from the series and how they all interact and work together.  In the end I find myself dying to find out what happens next and suspect that St. John’s story will be next and can only hope I’m right.  Another great glimpse into the dark London Underworld and one that will keep you snorting at the wit and sarcasm, crying at the heartbreak and traumas, and falling in love with the H/h and hoping against all odds that they find their HEA.   Great work Kristen.
*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: Heartbreak Cove

Heartbreak Cove (Sanctuary Island #3)

by Lily Everett


Welcome to a place where love is in the air, fate is in the stars, and home is just a heartbeat away…
Sheriff Andie Shepard may be new to Sanctuary Island, but, like everyone else who comes here, she’s already fallen under its healing spell. Andie is determined to leave her mistakes behind her and make this scenic haven her home. But she just might have to change her plans—as well as open her heart—when an unexpected visitor shows up on her doorstep…
Caitlin is the ten-year-old niece Andie never knew she had. Silent, wary, and shy as can be, Caitlin only responds to the horses that run wild across the island. Andie has no idea how to deal with Caitlin—until Sam Brennan enters the picture. A tall, handsome loner who rehabilitates abused horses, Sam is able to help Caitlin break out of her shell. But that’s not all: He finds a way to touch something deep in Andie’s heart, opening her up to the healing power of love. Together, these three lost souls must face the darkness in their past to build a brighter future. Because here, on Sanctuary Island, anything is possible…
Themes: contemporary
Rating: 3.5 stars
Heat Rating: 
I just love the underlying message in these new stories coming out, all about caring for abused and mistreated animals, and how those traits relate to human relationships Sanctuary Island is a place I would love to be able to visit in real life, an island full of rebels and misfits and home to a band of wild horses that each person on the island feels responsible for. The overall sense of community and togetherness is something you just don’t find much in the regular world anymore and it makes me want to pack my bags and head there myself.  Lily Everett, and her alter ego Louisa Edwards, are both favorite authors and I always run out and grab them up as soon as I can.  The stories may not be erotically charged, leaning more toward the sweet and emotional side of relationships, but they are so well written and have such interesting characters and plots that I know I will always enjoy their stories.  I am looking forward to the other characters we will meet on the Island and seeing more of the horses of course, but I will tell you now you will need tissues for this and any novel in the series at least once.  With beautiful stories or strength, forgiveness, and love, Sanctuary Island is a series to remember and embrace with a whole heart. 
Andie and Sam having been dancing around each other for a while, when he returns to the island with a wild and obviously damaged horse, Andie finds herself even more draw to this man who is so gruff with her but so gentle with horses.  She decides that she might be able to work with him on a new volunteer opportunity with the local horse teams, when her life becomes infinitely more complicated with the sudden responsibility of a young niece she never even knew about.  Together with Sam, Andie has to find a way to bring Caitlin into her life and show her that she is loved.  But when danger comes at them from all sides, only trust and love can keep them safe and together, if they can find it in them. 
I loved Andie even if she seemed a bit like a stick in the mud when we first met her, and it is obvious that she has deep layers that cause her to put on that front for the world. The men in her life have damaged her heart and trust almost irreparably, but maybe Sam is just the man to heal her and give her that much needed second chance.  When Caitlin arrives, we begin to see the softer side of the sheriff and I immediately liked her more, even though it is obvious she still has strong beliefs on certain subjects.  I knew going in that her past and present colliding would show us the true measure of the woman she is and I loved how that all turned out.  When she gives her heart she gives it fully and will never let the person she gives it to down.  Sam is on the wrong side of the law, if the right side of ethical behavior.  He believes that sometimes doing the wrong thing for the right reasons is enough to keep him on the side of the angels, but that often puts him on Sheriff Andie's bad side.  But when he comes back and really beings to get to know her, there is no way he can resist the sweet and sensual woman that is wrapping him around her little finger.  Seeing Sam and Andie fall in love was a great way to spend a cold evening and I loved seeing them form their own little family.  All in all the series is shaping up to be a truly heartwarming and enriching group of books about a place that embraces its wildness and will always be home to the misfits in the world and will protect their own to the very end.  The ending was the best part of course, but I won’t spoil it except to say that I went through several tissues in the last 30 pages alone.  Full of love, laughter, sweetness, silliness, and several different relationships making changes, Heartbreak Cove is a story that will nestle into your heart and make a permanent home for itself.  Even small side stories have a happy ending in this story that made me cry harder than the main story.   Hopefully this wasn’t the end of the series because I will need my fix again soon.
*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Review: Dare to Touch

Dare to Touch (Dare to Love #5)

by Carly Phillips


Olivia Dare, executive director of the Miami Thunder and team travel director Dylan Rhodes share more than just a passion for football. Their chemistry is explosive--their feelings for each other intense. Yet Olivia has ended things for reasons he still can’t fathom and she won’t explain.
Unwilling to let something special go so easily, Dylan has been pursuing Olivia ever since. When the Pro-Bowl takes them to the tropical paradise of Hawaii, Dylan is determined to make sure their time together isn’t all business. What happens in paradise is life altering but once Olivia admits her deepest secret and fear, will Dylan still want the forever he’s been pushing for?
Themes: erotica
Rating: 4 stars
Heat Rating: 
Ok let’s face facts, there just not that many authors that can bridge over from light and often funny romance novels to the darker and more erotic stories that are becoming more popular these days.  However, I can say with all honesty that Carly Phillips is one of the ones that have managed the feat with great aplomb.  I was very surprised when I learned one of my favorite contemporary authors was trying her hand at this genre and was skeptical right up until release day, but I was thrilled to find out that this is just one more aspect of Phillips’s writing that I love.  The Dare to Love series revolves around a rather prolific and intriguing clan of individuals, both immediate and extended, that all have darkness in their pasts and are working to overcome trauma and emotional issues.  As each of these stories unfolds, with another Dare sibling (or cousin) falling in love I find myself more and more intrigued with the family dynamics, and am rooting for them all to find a way to overcome the screwed-up relationships they’ve witnessed with their parents and find a healthy and loving relationship.  Phillips writes so beautifully that even when you are tearing up for the problem the characters are facing you know that she will find a way for them to overcome all odds and bring the couples together. 
Olivia has endured more than many women ever imagine and she is still able to be a strong cornerstone for her family, even if she hides from the truth and her personal pain.  She has been running from men for so long that when Dylan finally decides he will do whatever necessary to catch her she has little to no defenses.  I loved seeing Olivia as she grew into the strong woman that she always presented as a façade to others, finally finding that core of steel that she hid under insecurities for too long.  I hurt for her a lot during the story but seeing Dylan right there at her side I knew she would be able to overcome even her traumatic past.   Dylan has his own issues he has to work through, but his true strength is his willingness to support and lift Olivia in everything that happens between them.  The softer side to his very dominant personality is what makes him into such a great mate for Olivia.  There was a lot of sweetness, emotional upheaval, and ultimately a personal growth between these two that carried the story. 
Dare to Touch is about more than just Olivia daring to open her body to a man, it’s about her opening her heart and daring to allow someone to touch her soul.  She has been hurt so much in the past, but Dylan is the man that will finally hold her heart with care and really give her all the love she needs.  It was great to see these two characters, splintered but not shattered, find a way to shore each other up and become stronger for being together.  Forgive the terrible analogy, but it was like two trees twining , stronger together than they could ever be standing on their own.  It was great to see all the couples from previous stories and of course, to get a glimpse of stories that might be coming for the other siblings in the future and I am dying to see what happens with Avery and Scott, not to mention the other Dare siblings.  What a great way for Phillips to show us that sometimes even the most heartbreaking of betrayals can be overcome if we embrace the love that is offered to us and find a way to heal. 
*ebook provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Review: Rescue Me

Rescue Me (Second Chance Ranch #2)

by Catherine Mann


Detective AJ Parker left undercover work in Atlanta to join a small-town Tennessee police force, hoping for an easier workload and the solitude of his cabin. But the scars left by AJ’s previous work are more difficult to escape than he thought…
Mary Hannah Gallo works with the Second Chance Ranch Animal Rescue to train therapy dogs for traumatized patients. It isn’t easy, but her life is under control—until she meets the broodingly sensual AJ, who rattles her composure all the way to her toes.
After an assignment confiscating dogs from a backyard breeder reveals a dangerous drug operation, AJ must work with sexy perfectionist Mary Hannah to train an abused rescue dog—a dog now named Holly. While Holly proves to these two very different people that opposites can, in fact, attract, she also knows more than a few explosive secrets that could heal—or divide—the entire town.
Themes: contemporary
Rating: 4.25 stars
Heat Rating: 
For any great animal lover the ultimate romance is the story of love that includes the love of an animal or the love that can develop between two people through the connection of an animal and Catherine Mann captures that theme beautifully with her Second Chance Ranch series.  I was a bit skeptical when first I read this series, mainly because I didn’t think it would really be focused on the relationship of the people and their relationships with the animals without anyone being under-represented, but I was glad to be proved wrong.  The solid love story, the twists and turns in the plot and the emotional turbulence that Mann manages to work through is enough to make any romance and animal lover believe every word and emotion of the characters.  From the lighthearted snippets from the POV of the animals to the heavy emotional baggage of two people that have lost all faith in humanity, Mann takes us on a true journey of healing and teaches that love can overcome anything and there truly are all kinds of love in this world.  If you’ve ever looked into the eyes of a rescue animal and seen the hope and love that they can share you will love this series guaranteed.  I cannot wait to see whose story is next though I am certainly counting the pages until Lacey gets her HEA.
Rescue Me begins with a Christmas Eve rescue of a group of abused animals and the conflicts between one time (pun intended) lovers who are doing the rescuing.  AJ and Mary Hannah have been dancing around their previous single “date” where Mary Hannah hid her identity for one night of wild passion that AJ was more than happy to give her.  When she finds out that he is her new neighbor and now partner in recuse operations, she is appalled and has no idea how to handle her feelings except to push him away whenever they are near each other.  But their family and friends keep throwing them together and they ultimately decide that being friends is easier than resisting being near each other; too bad “just friends” doesn’t seem to be something they can accomplish.  When their time together becomes more and more intimate and heated, there might be no resisting the passion that draws them.  But the truth of one of their most trusted friends is revealed and could drive a wedge between them once and for all, if they let it. 
Mary Hannah and AJ were perfectly matched through the majority of this tale and even during their previous interactions.  AJ is obviously a bit broken and dealing with the career that has brought darkness into his soul, but his attraction to Mary Hannah is a bright spot in his daily life and he is determined to find a way to keep it.  Seeing him work through his emotional drama, while making friends with the traumatized dog he has taken into his home—and his heart—showed just how sweet he is under the macho exterior he presents to the world.  His gentleness and stubbornness in dealing with both Mary Hannah and Holly showed that while he is a man who likes to have his way, he can be soft when needed and to me that makes the best hero.  I was thrilled when he found a way to convince Mary Hannah to give them a chance and I knew that he would find a way to heal all three of them, but when his world began to crumble with a betrayal of his most trusted ally, I knew that as long as he trusted and turned to Mary Hannah to get through it everything would turn out well. 
Mary Hannah on the other hand was frustrating at times, her determination to go it alone in all things and punish herself for a past mistake was sad. Her backstory was definitely sad and worth every minute of her drama, but she kept denying that she still needed healing, which for a counselor was surprising.  She accepted her responsibility for past mistakes, but I don’t feel like she ever really forgave herself until she hooked up with AJ and he forced her to expose that raw nerve and really allow herself to heal.  I loved seeing her interactions with her patients and it was obvious that she was invested in every one and she would help them heal come hell or high water, even though at times it hurt her to do so. When she finally allows herself to deal with the trauma of her past her truly passionate nature and the loving side she has hidden from men, including AJ, for so long is able to push forward and it is not surprising she falls in love with AJ quickly and easily. 
Rescue Me was truly the perfect name for this novel, with all three of the main characters, Mary Hannah, AJ, and Holly, healing one another and finding love and trust again together.  The entire premise of this series tugs at my heart, mainly because my family and I have always been the rescue house in our area, getting the broken and hurt animals to heal and rehabilitate, so I appreciate the trouble and heart it takes to do this.   AJ is determined not to get attached to Holly, to just put in his required time to train her and move on, but truly, who could resist the sweetness in those dark and sweet eyes? And Holly is just as determined to help her new master find love with his perfect mate, Mary Hannah, even if she has to keep pushing them together.  Once AJ wizens up and finds a way to convince Mary Hannah to give him a shot, the love blooms quickly and brighter than they ever thought. Mary Hannah has been broken for so long she never imagined all it would take to put her back together and heal her is the love of one sexy cop and the sweet dog he has taken on.  The passion that brought them together so many months ago for that one night stand, simmers through the whole story and when they finally give in explodes to a fast boil.  Seeing the side stories with Mary Hannah’s friends Lacey and Sierra was heart wrenching more often than not, but they all came out well on the other side and I am dying to see what next come for this little family.  The unique inclusion of passages from the POV of Holly (and Trooper in the first book) make this author’s point in ways that just human POV never could and often heightens the suspense as dogs can so often see things coming long before we humans.  I loved every second of this story and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a story full of laughs, healing, and love with just a touch of danger and passion to keep things exciting.  Catherine Mann remains a favorite author and Rescue Me will be one of my favorites for a while to come.
As my own personal blog is a good place to jump on the soapbox, I want to encourage everyone who reads this review and the story above to make a small donation, be it time or money, to your local animal shelter or rescue organization.  If you need help finding a local shelter try any of the below links to donate. 

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

Monday, February 16, 2015

Mini-Review: Just in Time for a Highlander

Just in Time for a Highlander (Sirens of the Scottish Borderlands #1)

by Gwyn Cready


It's tough being a woman in a man's profession, especially for Abby Kerr, the unexpected chieftess of Clan Kerr. Loathe to marry but in need of a strong arm, Abby wishes for a Scots warrior and gets . . . Duncan, the historical reenactment hobbyist.
Wall Street Impresario Duncan MacHarg isn't bad with a fencing foil, but he's no Highlander. When a misdirected spell plucks him from the 21st century, he lands in 1705 Scotland at the feet of the fiercest woman he's ever laid eyes on...
Themes: historical, paranormal, time travel
Rating:  3 stars
Heat Rating: 
Well now that was an interesting twist on historical romance, and highlander romance, pulling in the bit of time travel and paranormal to give this couple even more hurdles than the typical to find a way to be together.  I have never read anything by this author until I came across this story in the review gallery and was immediately drawn to it by the title and cover and the story seemed one that I might find interesting, even though I usually have a hard time with any type of time travel romance, because it takes a truly good author to make it believable to me.  And while I can say I enjoyed this story I don’t know that I’ll be running out to get future stories, mainly because I couldn’t really enjoy either the story or the characters until almost the last quarter of the book, but I’ll try to be open-minded if I come across a sequel.   The story was interesting in several ways with historical facts thrown in, and even the awesomeness of a chieftess of a clan, but other than that I wasn’t much a fan of the characters themselves or how they interact with one another, it just seemed slightly choppy and awkward an many points and lacked the desired flow for me.
Duncan is thrown back in time by a spell cast, not intentionally but by accident and then he finds himself in serious hot water as he tries to fit in with the new clan he has been brought into and find a way to serve his time (so to speak) so he can make it home.  Abby doesn’t want help from any man, much less a weak man from centuries in the future, but when he lands in the middle of a war, she just has to deal with him.  I found that I lacked interest in the fact that he was brought by accident and was written as being a character that could be ridiculed by Abby as well as her clansmen.  Honestly, couldn’t he have been a bit more physically imposing, along with the strength of his mind?  Regardless I also wasn’t a fan of Abby’s approach to dealing with this man that has landed in her world, even if she brought him there accidentally, there just lacks a certain compassion and sensitivity, even in private, that I would like to see from any leader, male or female.  A person cannot lead by physical strength alone; there must be a balance to me in a truly great leader.  The characters both waffle back and forth between decisions and plans, until finally, the world around them forces a confrontation, and finally when things come to a head they have to make a true decision.  This was when I started to enjoy the characters and the story, but sadly, it ended quickly after that.  I did love the bit with Duncan’s grandfather, though it seemed rather random thrown in at the end of the story, and it was good that they were able to find an HEA, but it just lacked that special something needed to make me really enjoy the story.  Ultimately, while I enjoyed the overall story, there were too many inconsistencies and issues I personally had for me to say I loved it, but I’m willing to give future stories a try because there were several side characters that I liked and I would enjoy their stories I think.  Sadly, there is just something about time-travel romances that never seem to hit the mark for me, but if you’re a fan of them, this book should be right up your alley.
*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Review: Jaguar Pride

Jaguar Pride (Heart of the Jaguar #4)



JAG Special Forces operatives like Golden Claw agent Melissa Overton and her partner, Huntley Anderson, are trained for the most dangerous missions in the harshest environments. These hardened jaguar shifters can handle any variable, even . . . babies?
When Huntley and Melissa find two jaguar shifter cubs snoozing in their jungle hut while on assignment, they have to keep the cubs and each other safe from ruthless poachers, bringing these partners closer in ways they never expected...
Themes: shifter, paranormal
Rating: 3.75 stars
Heat Rating: 
Returning to the jungles and rainforests of the world, places that many of us will never see in this life personally, Spear allows us to experience the beauty and untamed fantasy of Jaguar shifters as they work to prevent poaching of other shifters and their animal cousins. This series has kept my attention from the beginning, not merely because of my intense love for all shifters, but because Terry Spear has such a way with her characters, bringing their humanity and their emotions into the story in such depth that there can be no doubt that the shifters are more humane than their human counterparts.  This story came with the added twist of seeing two characters that have been physically attracted to one another coming to terms with their changes in their personal and professional lives while have to deal with the ultimate battle… raising cubs—even just for the time it takes to save the twins parents.  I immensely enjoyed seeing Melissa and Huntley find inventive and hilarious ways to keep the kids safe and entertained, not to mention just keeping them alive and fed, and cannot help but hope that they have cubs of their own we can meet in the near future.  Though I have not yet become quite as emotionally invested in this series as Terry’s Heart of the Wolf series, I love each story more and more and I can see myself hooked for many books to come, but if you haven’t read the others in the series I can promise you will still love each book as it comes out.
Melissa and Huntley’s story begins the way any good romance story should, with both of them leaving the relationships that have been keeping them a  safe distance apart as they’ve partnered on cases, and finally being able to explore the explosive and sensual chemistry they have been denying for one another. Returning for the jungle after an intense case, Melissa finds herself temporarily homeless and Huntley offers her a place to stay in his recently re-bachelorized home. They soon find themselves back in the jungle, now with a new chance to be lovers as well as partners, but things become complicated when they become temporary guardians to twin shifter cubs, completely dependent on two people that really have zero experience with children—let the antics ensue!  As their case progress, it becomes clear that they have to risk it all to have a way for them to be together and complete their mission, rescuing the cubs’ parents and reuniting the family in safety.  In the end, their trust in one another is the only thing they can count on to save them all.
Oh, what can I say about Huntley except that he’s hot as hell, sweet, and hilarious all rolled up in a package that could bring down the world to keep his woman safe.  While I generally might throw around a term like alpha, Huntley doesn’t fit into that mold, mainly because while he is certainly take-charge, he treats Melissa as an equal in their personal and professional interactions and truly seems to appreciate her and really understand her needs.  That being said he still has all the desirable qualities of a good alpha male: sexy, strong, willful, intelligent, witty, and arrogant, but he thankfully lacks the nasty side effects of the alpha gene, mainly a stubbornness and assuredness that he is always right and a woman should follow his direction.  This makes him the perfect mate for Melissa who on her own could be described as alpha, and she even has a bit of that stubbornness that makes you mad, but hers has more to do with her doubts leading her to make incorrect assessments of personal situations. I loved seeing her take Huntley in hand and work alongside him, while still being able to appreciate his sweeter side.  The obvious balance, even with a bit of push and pull here and there, is what makes Huntley and Melissa’s relationship completely believable and obviously one that will last for a long time. 
Jaguar Pride is one of those stories that touch on so many different themes within a good romance, from action and drama to love and family, and even then, to the dangers of being caught unaware in any environment no matter how familiar it is to you.  It was great to see Melissa and Huntley work together and even better to see them finally have a chance to enjoy the heat between them, even as they worked to keep two little girls safe and rescue their parents.  The obvious dedication Melissa and Huntley show to their work shows the true natures of two people that have spent many of their adult years pushing away family and responsibility in favor of serving their kind as officers and saviors.  Melissa was a true warrior and seeing her kicking butt right alongside the men reminds that some strong female characters are appreciated for their skills. I also loved that she was just as clueless as Huntley when it came to children/cubs, because let’s face it some women just don’t have that instinct  contrary to popular mythology.  Huntley on the other hand seems to be a natural with the cubs, once he gets some tips from his mom (which I laughed about heartily), but his true skills obviously lie in his work—and the bedroom of course.  The passion these two shares is evident even in the very beginning when they are both taken, but once those barriers fall the fire burns brightly and strongly, but it’s obvious the fires will burn for a long time.  In the end, this book was actually my favorite since the first and I am looking forward to more in the series possibly even Huntley’s brother getting one, but whatever comes next I can’t wait to read more about these sexy cats and the trouble they always seem to manage to get into in the most interesting locales. 
*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Mini-Review: Lethal Consequences

Lethal Consequences (Aegis #2)



Three months after rescuing Olivia Wolfe from danger, Aegis Security operative Landon Miller still can’t stop thinking about her, even though she’s off-limits in every way possible. Knowing he’s leaving Aegis and returning to the DIA soon, Landon decides it’s time for their flirty online relationship to end. But Olivia can’t stop thinking about Landon, either. On a whim, she takes a leave of absence from her teaching job to surprise him in Barcelona—and arrives to find a sexy redhead in his hotel room.
Things aren’t always what they seem, though. Landon’s would-be one-night stand is really a member of the Red Brotherhood, a terrorist group targeting Landon for information on a lethal bioweapon. And now Olivia is unwittingly ensnared in their deadly plot, too. Forget escaping emotionally unscathed; Olivia just wants to make it home alive. Yet to survive, she’ll have to put her trust in the very man who not only broke her heart, but whose lies now threaten both their lives.
Themes: romantic suspense, contemporary 
Rating: 4 stars
Heat Rating: 
Talk about serious consequences to spontaneous decisions! This story made me second-guess any thought I ever had of being spontaneous in the future. When I heard that Olivia and Landon were going to get a chance at their very own HEA, I was thrilled, especially after all the drama and danger that circled Olivia because of her sister in the last story.   Naughton is a wonderful author, able to capture all the angst and courage of her heroines, while maintaining the strength and yet subtle sweetness of her heroes, creating the perfect combination of characters for an obviously lasting love.  This series intrigued me mainly because I have so many similar series that I read that I wanted to see how they would differ and I have been pleasantly surprised to find that the writing and characters are enough to keep this series unique and keep my interest.  I am very much looking forward to future stories in the series and hope to see more of the Wolfe sisters and their men as well.  If you are looking for a light and fluffy contemporary romance this won’t fulfill your need, but if you love dark and dangerous men and the secrecy of the shadowy world of intelligence operatives you will find all you could want with Landon and Olivia’s story, including a great plot twist you never see coming in the end.
I liked Lethal Consequences a lot, mainly because it was great to see Olivia gaining some courage and coming into her own as well. But I definitely had several moments of wanting to kill Landon for his careless handling of her heart and for the asshole-ish things that popped out of his mouth at some points. That being said, in the end Landon accepted that having a woman to turn to in the darkness isn’t such a bad thing and the only woman that can give him everything he needs is Olivia.  Even though he has to work through a lot of personal baggage before he can accept her heart and offer her his heart in return, Landon is a man that grabs you attention and makes you want to see him overcome his emotional hang-ups and find happiness.  I also enjoyed seeing how Olivia kept calling him on his shit and made him accept his feelings for her, without having to resort to being a whining brat (too much) or a bitch-on-wheels (moderation again).  Combined with the awesomeness of the characters you have a great plot line with kidnappings, plot twists, crazy terrorists, and beautiful settings, all rounding out this story and making you feel like you are living the beauty and danger right alongside the H/h. Naughton’s true skill lies in her ability to take two characters that just don’t make sense on paper (pun intended) and in the end bring them together into an unbreakable bond of love and trust.  I am dying to find out if the head of the company will get a story, though I think I know who his lady will be if he does, and cannot wait for the next story in the series.  Another great romantic suspense masterpiece, Elisabeth, keep up the great and imaginative work.
*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Review: Hungry Like the Wolf

Hungry Like the Wolf (SWAT #1)

by Paige Tyler


They're tight
They're on target
They're as alpha as men can get.

The Dallas SWAT team is hiding one helluva secret . . . they're a pack of wolf shifters.
The team of elite sharpshooters is ultra-secretive—and also the darlings of Dallas. This doesn't sit well with investigative journalist Mackenzie Stone. They must be hiding something . . . and she's determined to find out what.
Keeping Mac at a distance proves impossible for SWAT team commander Gage Dixon. She's smart, sexy, and makes him feel alive for the first time in years. But she's getting dangerously close to the truth—and perilously close to his heart...
Themes: werewolves
Rating: 3.25 stars
Heat Rating: 
An interesting premise with a great romance, but the paranormal aspect of the story was a bit shallow for me.  Being an avid reader of paranormal romance, as well as a student of mythology in general, I have always found that the best paranormal fiction includes some in-depth explanations of how, why, and what, when it comes to the “monsters”.  While I enjoyed this story very much that was a big letdown for me, mostly because we never really learned how the men became werewolves, how the trait is passed on, or even what exactly it makes them.  Most of the details were heavily glossed over, with only some general mentions of their fangs, claws, and fur.  The only good thing is that I rather expected this as I am now familiar with Ms. Tyler’s writing style and this is a common issue I have had with many of her novels. That being said… an entire SWAT team of alpha wolves, living and working together… who could have ever thought of that?  I found that portion of the story and all the action inherent to a badass SWAT team to be the most important part of the story, the action driving the rest of the story and setting up a chance for the H/h to meet and come together and fall in love.  The characters were well written, the plot good, if a little predictable, and the HEA pulled out in the end, so I am looking forward to any future stories and seeing where the series goes.
Gage and Mac’s story kicks off with secrets and the smell of a juicy story, leading mac to investigate rumors about the infamously perfect Dallas SWAT team.  While she is unsure exactly what she will find when she begins investigating, she is determined to uncover the story that she can feel pulling her like a magnet.  When Gage offers her a full look into the elusive crew and their heavily guarded compound, there was no way she could have ever anticipated just how much her life would change.  Not only is Gage the sexiest guy she has ever met, but his strength, courage, and honesty makes her doubt her instincts.  Gage is falling hard for Mac, which he definitely didn’t plan when he started his scheme to keep her from uncovering the truth of the pack, but the best-laid plans are often the most disastrous. As he spends more time in her presence he becomes more attracted and comes to trust her more, but he still isn’t positive he could ever share the pack’s secret with her—until her life is in danger and the only way to save her is to unleash his inner beast.  But can Mac, the intrepid reporter, who has always believed that full disclosure is the only way to live life, keep the greatest secret of her life to herself if it means keeping these amazing men safe and Gage in her life and heart forever?
Gage is a true alpha leader, led by instinct but smart enough to know when you need to think with your human brain as well.  He has gathered the best men…err wolves… together to form an elite SWAT team to counter the dangers of the crazy city of Dallas, determined to keep people safe and make sure that his team is the best in the world.  But that greatness has capture the attention of the media and when Mac shows how determined she is to get her story, he knows the only way to get her to give up is show her just how boring the guys really are.  And his plan is a good one, until he actually comes face to face with her the first time.  Now reeling from the desire she inspires in him and the deep connection that is blossoming as they spend time together, Gage is unsure if he can walk away from Mac and he knows that the only way to keep her will be to tell her the full truth.  I found myself liking Gage pretty much the entire time I was reading about him.  His obvious strength—physically, emotionally, and mentally—and his willingness to do just about anything to keep those he loves safe make him the perfect guy in my eyes,  and let’s not forget the guy can bench press a small car.  The best parts of the story in my opinion is when Gage is sharing his passions with Mac and showing her the man under all the gruffness needed to keep his men in  line and get the job done. 
Mac on the other hand struck me as the kind of heroine that is too inexperienced, slightly naïve, and stubborn in her beliefs to be a truly great character, until she finally gets a clue about two chapters before the ending.  While I can easily applaud a tenacious woman, her belief that the truth should always be pulled out into the open, no matter that it might destroy the reputations and lives of good people, is really angering to me.  I never could imagine writing an expose that destroys good people just because “the public has a right to know”… which yeah I totally don’t agree with.  But once she pulled her head out of her butt and realized that sometimes the public needs to have their illusions, I was able to like her a bit more.  Her emotional distance to Gage was disappointing at first as well, because what woman in her right mind would push him away, especially for a story, but I did appreciate her ability to embrace the passion that flares between them and find a way to overlook her story in the end to keep her new family safe. 
While I have my peeves with this author and her writing style, I definitely look forward to the rest of this series and am anxious to see how the rest of the SWAT team handles meeting their mates.  Gage is an awesome character with all the strengths and weaknesses that make a truly great alpha leader, while still maintaining his intelligence, wit and sarcasm.  He really is the whole package and I wish I had a man just like him for myself.  While Mac hit me wrong a few times throughout the story, in the end I could see that her love for Gage was genuine and she would make a good mate for him.  There was plenty of action, drama, and passion to keep the story moving as well as some laughs, sarcasm, and wit to keep me feeling like I was right there with the characters most of the time.  I certainly wish Mac had wizened up earlier, or at least not lapsed into her former journalistic persona, but in the end love wins out and that is what makes for a truly great story for me.  I enjoy Paige’s plots, dialogue, and characters for the most part, but I’m really going to need her to start giving some more detail to the overall myths she is hitting on.  How did he become a werewolf? What special extras come with the change?  What makes her twist on the paranormal unique?  Just little things like that being fleshed out and the story might have been a 5 for me.  Looking forward to the rest of the crew getting a story, but in the meantime I will just keep an eye out for her other series as well. 

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

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Mini-Review: Desired

Desired (Club Sin #3)

by Stacey Kennedy


Kyler Morgan, Master at the legendary Club Sin in Las Vegas, knows how to give women what they want—too well. He hasn’t had a real challenge in a long time. Then Ella Snow enters his life. Beautiful, inhibited, and innocent in the ways of submission and domination, Ella is the new blood he’s been lusting after. Soon, the thrill of training her to embrace his world brings forth desires Kyler cannot control.

After ending an abusive relationship, Ella makes a promise to herself to start living life to the fullest. It’s one of the reasons she seeks out Club Sin. Here, Kyler’s every touch is a lesson in liberation, stirring passions that have no bounds. But as she falls under Kyler’s command, Ella discovers that some secrets are so dark they must come to light. Submission alone may not be enough to save her, leaving her Master with only one question: How can he help Ella heal while unlocking the deep pleasures she craves?
Themes: erotica, BDSM
Rating: 3.75 stars
Heat Rating: 
Returning to the land of wicked and sensual excitement, Stacey Kennedy brings us back into the elite world of Club Sin, a BDSM club like no other, located in a beautiful mansion in Las Vegas and run by the sexiest Masters that can be found.  I have enjoyed the previous stories in this series for different reasons, but Desired was the first story that has really grabbed and kept me emotionally invested from beginning to end, as well as making me reach for the ice to cool me down.  Kyler and Ella are a perfect match for one another and the traumas that shaped Ella into the perfect submissive are the reasons that Kyler cannot give up on the beautiful relationship he can see for them in the future, if only she will commit to truly overcoming her past. I have read many stories along these lines and have found various reasons that I enjoyed them, but the most important thing to remember is that each novel is going to be shaded by the authors beliefs and experiences and won’t necessarily be a perfect example of what makes this lifestyle so important to so many.  With the mainstream attention on BDSM and those that practice it lately, one should never discount the emotional impact of these experiences and the true reasons that so many live the lifestyle, and for me the sex is only a small part of what makes it great, instead the emotions and connection between the D/s and the way they are expressed is why I love these stories so much.  I am dying to get to read the next book in the series, which I hope will be about Porter and Kenzie and I can see will be fiery and intense. 
Kyler and Ella are both fascinating characters, though I found myself often confused by Ella’s unwillingness to really deal with the issues that were upsetting her, especially when she began to develop deeper feelings for Kyler and he pretty much demanded she do so. Kyler is a true dominant in every sense of the word, determined to give his submissive everything she needs to find her inner strength and her happiness, even as she resist him.  The gentleness he shows her and the way he is determined to protect her show me that he is really a good man and knows Ella better than she does herself.  I was right there with him in his frustration with her, even as he fell in love with her submissive side and her strength.  When she finally faces her past and gives in to the emotional damage she has been hiding, the level of intensity and heat spikes to supernova levels.  I also loved seeing the dynamics between Kyler and the others of Club Sin and seeing him introduce Ella to them and having her experience the lifestyle for the first time.  Very rarely does someone so suited for the lifestyle not find their own way, but having a proper teacher and someone to guide you through makes all the difference.  In the end, I will say that I loved this story even more than previous books in the series and am dying for more.  I haven’t read any other works by the author, but if they are anything like the Cub Sin series, I am willing to give her a spin.  Keep the Sin and satisfaction coming, Stacey!

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

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Review: Revenant

Revenant (Lords of Deliverance #6)

by Larissa Ione


For five thousand years, Revenant believed he was alone in the world, a fallen angel beyond any redemption. Now he finds he has a twin brother who had all the light and love Revenant was denied. Caught in a tug of war between Heaven and Hell, he must weigh his thirst for revenge against his desire for a mysterious female named Blaspheme—a female whose very origins could deliver him into salvation . . . or destruction.
Blaspheme has a deadly secret: she's the forbidden offspring of an angel and a fallen angel. Hunted by both heavenly and satanic forces, she has survived only by laying low and trusting no one. When Revenant claims he can save them both, how can she possibly believe him? But the powerful angel is persistence incarnate and for Blaspheme, there's no place she can hide in Heaven or Hell where he won't find her.
Themes:  Demons, angels, paranormal
Rating: 5 stars
Heat Rating: 
The end you’ll never see coming and the beginning to another adventure for two deserving individuals that you’ll never want to put down.   Revenant is the story that you never realized was being written the entire time you read this longstanding series,  put together so beautifully that all the little things that seemed completely insignificant in previous stories come together in the ultimate battle between good and evil and everything somewhere in between.  Ione has yet to write a single story that didn’t grab my by the soul and reel me in to the tale of these amazing and deadly characters, but I never could have imagined just how invested I would become in the story of a character that I just only met in the last novel.  When the end arrives, bringing with it world changes, deadly compromises and the true love of two characters that should never have worked, you will find yourself wiping the tears from your face as you put down the book and wondering what book could possibly come next to fill the hole left by the devastation this story caused.  Ok so maybe it seems I’m waxing a bit poetic about this story but really that’s the only way I can explain how much I loved Rev and Blas’s story of betrayal, forgivingness, and self-realization, not to mention one of the best—and most unorthodox—love stories I’ve read in a long time.
With so much going on in this story and so many plot twists I don’t want to spoil, I’m going to have to skip my normal recap of the story and just jump right in about what I loved.  First you have to understand that when Ione writes a story, no matter the expected darkness of her characters, they are never just black or white, good or evil, but live in the world of shades of gray and all the spaces between evil and good.  Revenant is one of the darkness characters that have been found, even in this series or demons and “other”, having lived his entire life as a fallen angel, serving Satan himself, only to discover that he’s never been Fallen and finds himself ascended to the illustrious label of Shadow Angel, the equal and opposite to the most power angel ever, the Radiant, who happens to be his twin brother, Reaver.  Blas on the other hand has lived her life, hidden amongst and away from those that would kill her simply for the circumstances of her birth, but has always refused to give into the true darkness that resides in us all, instead caring for others, no matter how dark they are or what they may have done in their pasts.  A man that values no life but his own meets a woman that cares for all life, even to the detriment of her own… what could go wrong when two such as that begin a relationship?
If you have read any of the stories in this series you will enjoy getting to see the whole team come together in the end to win the final battle and bring peace to the world, but like me you will never have imagined that the others in the series were written just so that Rev had all he needed to defeat the forces of evil.  All the little details that might have been overlooked in past stories come together into a ultimate combination of circumstances that were needed for Rev to meet his destiny, though no one—character or reader alike—could every have seen the truth of that headed our way.  Revenant was a dark, broody, sexy and dangerous man, but when he comes to care for Blas it becomes obvious that all he’s ever needed to make him into the angel he was always meant to be is a reciprocated love for a good woman.   I was surprised by all the revelations in Rev’s past, but with each new tragedy that was revealed and each new test of his mettle I found myself falling deeper into love with him and wishing that I had a man just like him for myself.  Rev truly is the perfect blending of light and dark, with a lot of sexy, spicy passion thrown in to make him the hottest commodity on the block.  Blas was an intriguing woman herself, with dark and dangerous secrets and an unending ability to care for those in need and sacrifice herself for others, a true angelic presence that was sorely needed in Rev’s life.  
If you haven’t read the other stories in this series you will find yourself having to take in a lot of detail so that you can follow along, but I guarantee as soon as you get to the end you will have to go back to number one and live the stories for yourself.  The passion between Rev and Blas is amazing to witness, though sometimes it leads to the darker side when they are arguing zealously, giving you a moment’s hesitation about whether Blas will remain safe from Rev, but in the end the true greatness of Rev is his ability to forgive and embrace those that have wrong him in the past and find a way to bring them into his inner circle.  I will never understand just how Larissa is able to keep all of this straight in her brain and then let it flow so magically across the page, but even not being able to understand it I can thankfully experience and appreciate through her stories and the sometimes convoluted connections that flow through the whole series.  A dark and sensual masterpiece that I know will be added to my rereading list.   
*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided.