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    SERIES REVIEW: Vigilance Books 3 & 4 by Silvia Violet

    Vigilance is an erotic romance spinoff of The Marchesi Family featuring a group of vigilantes headed by a mysterious individual simply known as X. The first book, Giorgio is a bodyguard romance involving X’s son, Lane. The followup, Niall, is an enemies to lovers story with the titular character butting heads with pawnshop owner, Marcus.

    Leo is the third book. Leo is a tattoo artist who found himself falling for his new employee, Ezra. The last book, Xavier, finally shed light on the their leader who thought himself straight until he met the young hacker, Emilio.

    The first three books follow their overarching mission to bring down a human trafficking ring. For the series finale, X had to protect Emilio from another hacker who threatened to expose their identities.

    This is a review of Books 3 and 4, Leo and Xavier.


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    Vigilance: Leo – Silvia Violet

    I used to be CIA. Now I’m a tattoo artist and a vigilante.

    When a new hire at my shop gets too curious about my less-than-legal activities, he needs all the protection I can give him.

    He wants a lot more. More than I should be willing to give. And yet, the longer I keep him close for his own safety… the more I want him in my bed.


    This is the series going slow-burn with Leo trying to resist the cute waiter turned receptionist, Ezra, at his tattoo shop. Then he caught the younger man eavesdropping on a Vigilance meeting. Ezra found himself caught up in their mission and a target of the evil villain, Swain.

    Swain was aggressively making his move, even making threats to X at his own fundraising party. Vigilance had to act and they had to act fast.

    The story wraps up the human trafficking thread. It gave a pretty satisfying resolution and I really liked that the Marchesis were there to assist. However, I don’t really care about the romance since I wasn’t drawn to either Leo or Ezra.

    Rating:
    3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it

    Soundtrack: Tied Down
    Artist: Jaymes Young
    Album: Feel Something


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    Vigilance: Xavier – Silvia Violet

    I thought I was straight.
    I thought protecting my identity mattered more than anything besides family.
    Then Emilio came to me for protection.
    It’s my fault he’s in danger, and no one is going to touch him.
    No one besides me. 


    This is the book I’m most looking forward to. I was super curious about X. My enthusiasm petered out because this book fell into the same pattern as the other stories.

    There’s a threat to a young submissive man and a Vigilance member feels insta-lust and the overwhelming need to protect him. They hole up in a some isolated place, in this case X’s private island, had lots of sex, fall in love within a day or two, then a rushed action/suspense ending. There’s bisexual awakening thrown in the mix for variety but overall, it’s too similar to Giorgio and Lane’s story. Maybe, the author was going for parallels but I couldn’t help wishing that things went differently.

    Rating:
    2.5 Stars – far from hate but not quite a like

    Soundtrack: First Time
    Artist: Josef Salvat
    Album: The Close / The Reveil


    I liked the Vigilance boys better when they’re interacting with each other. That’s when you could see more of their personalities. I enjoyed their banter and their camaraderie. With their love interests, they tend to fall into the same mold, which is why I wasn’t keen about the romance.

    All the books were into BDSM. Even if it’s not my thing, I’m ok with it. However, most of the couples here were a dominant, controlling alpha paired with a very pliant younger, smaller man. The only exception was Niall and Marcus. That’s why they’re my favorite.

    I wasn’t wowed by the series overall. As I mentioned in my review of the first two books, I am aware it would be steamy but I was hoping for a more balanced presentation. It is unfortunate that the action scenes were relegated to the endings and were over almost as soon as they started. I wanted a bit more focus on the mission.

    This is a ME problem because other people have thoroughly enjoyed the books. They are best read with the mindset that they are primarily BDSM romance with some action on the side. If this is your thing, there’s a good chance you’ll find the books a lot of fun.

    And I have to say, there was something about Vigilance that made me finish the entire thing. I guess I liked the idea of a vigilante group plus the Marchesi cameos are always an incentive. Then there goes Lancelot Theriot and his pet monkey and so here I am, excited for another spinoff series, The Theriot Family.

    P.S.

    Vigilance should be read in order. Find out how grumpy ex-military sniper Giorgio unknowingly hooked up with his very off-limits boss’s son, the sparkly and fabulous Lane, in Book 1. Also, check out Niall and Marcus’ business with the blue speedo in Book 2. Reviews here.

    While you’re at it, meet the notorious bunch who love cannoli as much as they love causing trouble, The Marchesi Family. Series review here.


    If you like my content, please consider using my Amazon affiliate links below to buy your copy of Vigilance. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases at no additional cost to you.

    US: GIORGIO | NIALL | LEO | XAVIER
    UK: GIORGIO | NIALL | LEO | XAVIER

    You can also use my Bookshop affiliate links to buy paperbacks and MP3 CD audiobooks and help support independent bookstores.

    GIORGIO | NIALL | LEO

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    SERIES REVIEW: Vigilance Books 1 & 2 by Silvia Violet

    Vigilance is the spin-off series of The Marchesi Family. It’s about a group of men who take on crime in order to right the wrongs the usual law enforcement authorities couldn’t or wouldn’t handle. I was excited to read this series when I met some of the members who were backing up the Marchesis in rescuing Devil’s boyfriend, Joe.

    Vigilance members might not be related by blood but they had a great found family thing going on and undying loyalty to each other much like the Marchesi’s. The series as a whole had a similar feel to the original series. It started with me not feeling the first book that much but stayed on because I was super intrigued by their group’s cause and their leader.

    The relationships in each book showcase different BDSM-type dynamics. The romances are insta-lust turned insta-love. I’m more of a slowburn person so I’m not particularly enthusiastic about the them. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.

    My usual complaint with the Silvia Violet stories I encountered is that she always had this nice overarching plot as well as interesting characters but tends to focus too much on the sex. I know this is her thing but I think it’s a wasted opportunity to create a nicely balanced action/suspense romance instead of an erotic romance that happens to have some action/suspense.

    I’m saying this because the taking down human traffickers plot was a great overarching thread, especially when they had to go against a high-ranking politician who was so damn hard to catch. However, it was unfortunate that this side of the story was minimized in favor of the romance. The books had such rushed endings. They could have had great action scenes right there.

    This is my review of the first two books, Giorgio and Niall.


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    Vigilance: Giorgio – Silvia Violet

    I’m a sniper. A trained operator. A bodyguard. A member of the elite private security force known as Vigilance.

    When my boss’s son acquires a stalker, of course I’m the one he calls to keep the guy safe. Mr. X’s one rule? Keep my hands to myself.

    Not a problem.

    At least, not until I meet Lane Porter.

    He’s gorgeous. Flamboyant. Fascinating. He makes me want things I can’t have. He stretches my self-control to the limit… and then breaks it.

    As the threat to Lane intensifies, we’re forced to hide out in a remote, one-bedroom cabin with danger stalking us from all sides, but suddenly keeping the boss’s son safe isn’t enough.

    My new mission is to make Lane mine.


    Giorgio was one of the guys who helped the Marchesis thus earning him their friendship and loyalty. He was tasked to guard the son of X, the Vigilance boss. He was explicitly told to keep his hands off the young man. Said young man was also the guy he hooked up with the night before.

    I didn’t care much for the two MCs. Giorgio’s character was supposedly a grumpy, protective, alpha male but he’s so domineering he became one-dimensional. I didn’t like the way he treated Lane. Lane, fabulous and sparkly, did his best to shine. He would have but his appeal was dimmed by his instant capitulations and Giorgio’s looming presence.

    There’s not much going on here and most of it was Giorgio and Lane having sex too much too soon without protection. Also, I’m not a fan of the dom/sub kink so I was meh on the romance.

    However, this book set things in motion and introduced the various mainstays of Vigilance who each have their own books. I pushed on because I was invested in the rest of the vigilantes.

    Rating:
    2.5 Stars – far from hate but not quite a like

    Soundtrack: You Can Dominate Me
    Artist: Andy Samford
    Album: You Can Embrace Eternity’s Cosmic Truth


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    Vigilance: Niall – Silvia Violet

    I’m a former FBI agent. Now I’m on the opposite side of the law as part of an underground vigilante organization. When the fight to stop a crime ring pairs me with a pawn shop owner, it’s hate at first sight. Fun fact: Hate and desire aren’t mutually exclusive. To further the investigation, Marcus and I must pretend to be boyfriends. Too much time spent in close proximity has me wondering if Marcus might have the power to thaw my icy heart.


    Niall was also another member who was involved in helping the Marchesis. That’s where he met Marcus, the pawnshop owner who was assisting as well. They hated each other, hooked up once upon a time ago and now had to be fake boyfriends in order to infiltrate the human trafficking ring in an exclusive island estate.

    I liked this one much better. Niall and Marcus had more personalities. Niall tends to be more uptight and wears fancy suits that instantly pegged him as a fed. Marcus is more laid back, snarky and likes being control.

    Their relationship felt more like that of equals. They had a fun thing going with their antagonistic interactions. And Marcus was all protective dominant alpha male without trampling all over Niall

    This book was also better balanced in terms of various elements. Unlike Giorgio and Lane, Niall and Marcus were actually doing their jobs instead of boinking all the time. Also, Giorgio was more likable here now that he’s out and about.

    We are introduced to some bad guys and some whose motives are not yet clear. Their undercover investigation really moved a lot of things forward. And they were so close too. But the evil villain is one slippery mofo.

    Rating:
    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    Soundtrack: Surrender Your Heart
    Artist: Missing Persons
    Album: Rhyme & Reason


    Vigilance might not have the strongest openings but once you get past that, it’s easy to get hooked. It a fun, escapist series that’s light on drama and heavy on the action. Recommended for those looking for steamy BDSM-flavored romance with a side of crime-fighting.

    I also recommend reading The Marchesi Family to get the most out of the experience. Characters from that series appear here as well. Vigilance is best read in order. Leo’s and X’s stories are next. X is the one I’m most looking forward to. He’s so mysterious we don’t even have his real name yet.

    Check out my series review of The Marchesi Family here.


    If you like my content, please consider using my Amazon affiliate links below to buy your copy of Vigilance. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases at no additional cost to you.

    You can also use my Bookshop affiliate links to buy paperbacks and MP3 CD audiobooks and help support independent bookstores.

    GIORGIO | NIALL | LEO

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    SERIES REVIEW: Hot Shots Books 2 & 3 by Annabeth Albert

    I was very eager to delve into these two book of the Hotshots series mostly because of the elite firefighter theme. I have not read many of those yet and this was my first introduction to smoke jumpers.

    The first installment Burn Zone was an enjoyable series opener. The next two books feature other smoke jumpers working in the same base as Linc and Jacob. The books can be read as standalones.


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    Hotshots: High Heat – Annabeth Albert

    Annabeth Albert’s Hotshots series continues—the emotions and intensity of Chicago Fire with the raw, natural elements of Man vs. Wild .

    Smoke jumping is Garrick Nelson’s life. Nothing, not severe injuries nor the brutal physical therapy that follows, is going to stop him from getting back with his crew. But when a lost dog shows up on his front porch, he can’t turn her away, and he can’t take care of her on his own. Thankfully, help comes in the form of his new sexy, dog-loving neighbor. As they work together, trying to re-home their little princess, Garrick can’t resist his growing attraction for the other man, even though he knows this guy isn’t the staying type.

    Rain Fisher doesn’t take anything too seriously. He dances through life, one adventure at a time, never settling in one place for too long. When his hot, conveniently buff, neighbor shows up on his doorstep, dog in tow, Rain’s determined to not just save the adorable puppy, but her reluctant owner as well. He never expects their flirtation might tempt him into stay put once and for all…

    Danger lurks everywhere for Central Oregon’s fire crews, but the biggest risk of all might be losing their hearts. Don’t miss the Hotshots series from Annabeth Albert: Burn Zone, High Heat, and Feel the Fire.


    High Heat is Garrick and Rain’s story. Garrick is an injured smoke jumper undergoing physical therapy. He met the carefree, twenty-something Rain when he was asking his neighbor’s help in dealing with a wounded lost dog who strayed in his yard.

    This is an opposites attract, age-gap story about healing. Garrick was not only injured physically, he also had issues getting it up. Garrick found himself drawn to his younger neighbor. Rain gradually became an indispensable part of Garrick’s life along with the dog, now named Cookie. He helped him with Cookie, as well as with Garrick’s sexual healing.

    Thing is, I know their connection was there. Just that, I wasn’t connecting with the characters. I don’t feel invested in what happened to them.

    I was more interested in the job aspect. Here specifically, because Garrick was being offered a position as dispatcher while he was recovering. I liked that we will see firefighting from a different point of view but it’s taking too long to get to those parts. There’s just not enough of the smoke jumping to keep me glued.

    Sadly, DNF’ed.

    Rating:
    2 Stars – it’s a struggle to finish the damn book

    Soundtrack: (Love Is Like A) Heat Wave
    Artist: The Who
    Album: My Generation


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    Hotshots: Feel The Fire – Annabeth Albert

    The third installment of Annabeth Albert’s Hotshots series—the emotions and intensity of Chicago Fire with the raw, natural elements of Man vs. Wild .

    When their career paths bring two high school sweethearts together again, the forest isn’t the only thing ablaze…

    Fire behavior specialist Luis Riviera goes where his job takes him. But when he’s assigned to an arson investigation in Central Oregon—the place he left his broken heart twenty years ago—he’s afraid of being burned all over again.

    Tucker Ryland had planned to join his first love, Luis, in LA after high school graduation, but life got in the way. Now a fire management expert and a divorced father of teen twins, Tucker’s thrown for a loop when he finds himself working side by side with his Luis, now all grown up and more intriguing than ever.

    Though consumed by a grueling fire season and family responsibilities, the two men discover their bond has never truly broken. Tentative kisses turn to passionate nights. But smoking sheets aside, old hurts and new truths stand in the way of this time being the start of forever.

    Danger lurks everywhere for Central Oregon’s fire crews, but the biggest risk of all might be losing their hearts. Don’t miss the Hotshots series from Annabeth Albert: High Heat, Burn Zone and Feel the Fire. (less)


    Thought I would feel better with High Heat. This one’s a childhood friends-to-lovers, second chance romance, something I always enjoyed.

    Tucker and Luis were best friends from their grade school days up until high school when they started discovering they both like boys. Specifically, each other. Luis wanted to come out but Tucker had more conservative parents who he knew would not take it well. Luis’s family moved to California when they were seventeen. The two boys exchanged promises that Tucker would follow later on. That was the last they saw each other.

    Their reunion decades later was all sorts of awkward. There were the whys that needed to be hashed out, sparks of attraction that threatened to ignite once again. Not to mention, how to explain to Tucker’s family.

    There’s great chemistry between Luis and Tucker. Their shared history lent their current attraction extra weight both in the bad and good sense. There’s the baggage to deal with but there’s also a deep connection they can only find with each other. This is especially important because Tucker is demisexual.

    There are a lot of promising things here. Also, a gray/ace character is right up my alley. They weren’t enough to keep me hanging though. As the story progressed, I found myself less and less engaged with the story. The going felt slow. For a book about fires, the delivery wasn’t generating enough sparks with me until it got to the point where it left me cold.

    Comforting myself with the thought that Tucker and Luis get their HEA, eventually. Too bad I have no patience to stick around and see it happened.

    Rating:
    2.5 Stars – far from hate but not quite a like

    Soundtrack: Fire And The Thud
    Artist: Arctic Monkeys
    Album: Humbug

    P.S.

    I’m sorry that not feeling things is the theme of today’s reviews. Doubly sad because I had such high hopes for these two blazing books. I’m not writing off Annabeth Albert yet. I heard good things about her other books so I’m definitely giving those a shot.

    On to better things now.

    3.5 -star review of Burn Zone here.

  • book,  Uncategorized

    SERIES REVIEW: Marital Bliss Books 2-2.5 by D.J. Jamison

    Marital Bliss is a contemporary romance series by D.J. Jamison centering around a group of friends and how they found their other halfs. It started with the squee-tastic Surprise Groom, a fake boyfriends story full of authentic feels and delicious USTs up the wazoo. This was set in Bliss Island, a wedding resort venue owned by Caleb and his husband Julien.

    The next two stories take us to the Triple J Ranch owned by Wyatt Jones who inherited it from his grandfather. The ranch is struggling and Wyatt is doing his best to keep it afloat by turning part of it into a wedding venue.


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    Marital Bliss: Wrangling A Groom – D.J. Jamison

    Can two men keep a childhood promise for marital bliss?

    Wyatt is overwhelmed after his grandfather dies, leaving him to take over the cattle ranch. The Triple J is floundering, vandals are targeting him, and his first and only love is finally within reach–and still holding a grudge. Wyatt has wanted to marry Diego since they made a childhood pact, but Diego isn’t back for their second chance.

    When a funeral calls Diego back to Texas, he comes face-to-face with the cowboy who broke his heart. Resentment has burned inside him for years, but his anger wavers as he realizes just how much Wyatt is struggling to keep his head above water. The man he once loved is lonely and burdened, and Diego feels compelled to help him rediscover the strong, capable rancher he knows him to be.

    Hostility gives way to passion, then friendship as they fall into a rhythm of work and sex. Wyatt has renewed hope he might wrangle the man he wants to be his groom. But Diego has a life waiting for him one thousand miles away, and love may not be enough to prevent history from repeating itself.

    Wrangling a Groom is Book 2 of the Marital Bliss series, but can be read as a standalone.


    Wrangling a Groom starts with the death of Wyatt’s grandfather. Wyatt’s childhood friend and son of his ranch foreman, Diego arrived for the funeral. The two had a pretty tumultuous history.

    At the age of 6, they made a pact to marry each other when they turned 25. Wyatt and Diego were very close and even became boyfriends. They were unfortunately caught kissing by Wyatt’s grandpa who didn’t approve of homosexuals.

    Wyatt was made to choose between the ranch and Diego. He chose his heritage and Diego promptly took off without saying goodbye. He ended up in Miami as a bartender.

    After 6 years of radio silence, the sparks between the two men were still there. But Diego was still angry and Wyatt was still sorry.

    A bulk of the story focused on the men working to get the ranch going as well as Wyatt’s determined efforts to renovate some buildings for the wedding venue. These parts were slow for me. I wasn’t particularly interested in ranch chores so I actually put the book on hold for a while.

    But then I’m glad I decided to go at it once in a while because the story did pick up the pace a after bit. What eventually won me over was Wyatt’s endearing earnestness and willingness to put his whole heart on the line. I loved how he never held anything back.

    On Diego’s first day at the ranch, he reminded him of their pact. He was eager to fulfill his promise. Diego outright said no. Then he offered his heart on a platter again despite Diego rejecting him once again. Diego was clearly still not over his anger.

    But spending time together in the ranch as Diego helped out because of the lack of manpower did plenty to bridge the gap between them. They rediscovered their friendship and some good memories. They even made new ones. It was easy to see what the two men could have been had they never separated.

    As far as friends-to-lovers went, this went on a circuitous route. It may take patience but the journey was worth taking. Once you get past the middle part, the charm of the story becomes more apparent.

    I liked how everything connected back to Bliss Island. Wyatt met Diego’s friends, Caleb and Julien. They helped him with his new business venture. And then they helped Diego and him in their other new venture as Diego finally realized where he belonged all along.

    Rating:
    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    Soundtrack: A Pact of Blood
    Artist: Rome
    Album: Die Æsthetik der Herrschaftsfreiheit: Aufruhr / A Cross of Fire


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    Marital Bliss: Nobody’s Groom – D.J. Jamison

    Can two enemies find love after a rocky start?

    TJ hoped the Triple J Ranch would be a fresh start under a new name, with his tarnished family reputation behind him. He didn’t count on the young, spirited Colby provoking him at every turn. But when tempers boil over, TJ discovers that Colby’s disgust with him is more like lust, and that he’d do just about anything to tangle with the confused kitten.

    Colby likes everyone, but something about the new, unfriendly cowboy on the crew gets under his skin. He doesn’t understand just how worked up TJ has him until his body reacts, shocking them both. Colby’s never been with a man, but he can’t fight the desire TJ’s rough hands have awakened in him. 

    It’s just physical, an opportunity to indulge Colby’s secret desires. But the young ranch hand’s innocence softens something inside TJ, and he can’t deny he wants more. He’s nobody’s groom, but could he be Colby’s love — or will his lies come between them?

    Nobody’s Groom is a Marital Bliss novella. It can stand alone, but is best read after Wrangling a Groom due to overlapping events that may contain spoilers.


    I was excited for this series’ take on the enemies-to-lovers trope. TJ and Colby were introduced as the ranch hands at the Triple J.

    For some reason, TJ rubbed the normally affable Colby the wrong way. Colby blamed TJ when something goes wrong in the ranch. TJ being the new guy, he was the easy target.

    The two were also opposites. TJ was big, gruff and silent while Colby was slender and talkative. TJ was out but quietly gay while Colby was straight but curious. It didn’t take long for things to ignite between the two because Colby was drawn to TJ like moth to a flame.

    This story has good bones in it. There were some family drama in the mix but whatever plot it had was overwhelmed by too much sex scenes. Meh.

    This novella’s timeline takes place alongside Wyatt and Diego’s. Many events were referenced so this is not a standalone.

    Rating:
    2.5 Stars – far from hate but not quite a like

    Soundtrack: Habits of My Heart
    Artist: Jaymes Young
    Album: Habits of My Heart


    A lot of contemporary romance fall flat for me but despite some complaints, Marital Bliss was able to draw me in and keep me engaged. It helps that that it is full of characters you can root for, well-loved tropes that feel fresh, writing that’s easy to go through, some angst, some drama, some laughs and definitely a lot of heart.

    I’m looking forward to the next groom!


    If you like my content, please consider using my Amazon affiliate links below to get your copy of Marital Bliss. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases at no additional cost to you.

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    SERIES REVIEW: The Marchesi Family by Silvia Violet

    I wrote off Silvia Violet because of His True Nature, a novella that had the personality of an oatmeal. That was way back 2017. Since then, I never bothered with her works.

    Then Angelo caught my attention. I was in the mood for some dark mafia-themed romance and the blurb intrigued me. So heck, why not.

    The thing with this series is that, for the most part, I really didn’t care for the romance. BDSM is not my thing.

    But the Marchesi family charmed me with their unconditional love for each other and willingness to die for their loved ones. No one could question their loyalty to each other.

    They are portrayed as a typical close-knit Italian family who always have good food at their table. They take breakfast seriously. I almost wish I am a morning person so I could eat the smorgasbord of delights their housekeeper always prepare every morning.

    The books are classified as erotica and there are a lot of sex scenes. You can just skip those if you want (makes the reading go faster too). The plot is substantial enough. There are probably some nuances to the couple dynamics I might have missed but I don’t really care.

    There’s also the mafia politics, something I always loved reading about. This part worked well with romance especially how it brought the couples together. I liked how the various plotlines were integrated.

    Each book features a different member of the notorious Marchesi family and the men they brought into their world of crime and cannoli.

    The overarching arc is the threat to overthrow the Marchesi family by rival mafia families. The Marchesi have their allies, among which, Vinnie, who was a son of another mob boss and who was featured in a short story.

    We’ll start with Lucien…


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    The Marchesi Family: Lucien – Silvia Violet

    I never imagined the protector I longed for would be a mob boss who demanded complete control.
    I shouldn’t have gone to Lucien’s office.
    Once I looked into his eyes, I couldn’t leave.
    He commanded me to kneel.
    Beg.
    Obey.
    I couldn’t help myself.
    One taste, and I craved more.
    Lucien vowed to protect me from his enemies…
    But who’s going to protect my heart from him
    ?


    Lucien is the illustrious head of the family. He’s bossy and scary AF. He’s always perfectly put together. He has a sweet tooth. He can drink until he passes out but wakes up the next morning sparkly and fresh. He is, according to Peter, ‘magical‘.

    Peter is a sweet young man struggling to find a job. He was tricked by his cousin to fill in a position as a receptionist at some posh company. Little did he know, the company was own by the Marchesi.

    So at Peter’s first day of work, in walks Lucien, saw the angelic new receptionist and decided, then and there, he was his. It was that insta.

    Stripped of the BDSM elements, this is a whirlwind romantic fairy tale of sorts where the damsel was swept away by the prince to his castle. But instead of the prince, you get a crime lord.

    Lucien is Lucien but Peter was a little to submissive for my liking. Still, you couldn’t really hate on somebody pure like him. He’s not entirely helpless and has quick wits about him. He even helped save Lucien. He was exactly what the mob boss needed in his life.

    Rating:
    3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it

    Soundtrack: You Belong To me
    Artist: The Boxer Rebellion
    Album: Promises


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    The Marchesi Family: Mob Boss – Silvia Violet

    I let Vinnie seduce me.
    I was an easy mark.
    I would have granted him anything, but I didn’t know who he was. I didn’t know I was setting a man up for death.
    But even now I still want him, and he has no intention of letting me go.


    This is pretty much a condensed version of Lucien and Peter’s story. The difference is that Tom witnessed a crime and Vinnie had to protect him. This is 40 pages of alternate sex scenes and whatever plot there is so there’s really not much of an exploration of their characters and relationship.

    This would have been better as a novella than a short story. All in all, it was kinda okay.

    Rating:
    2.5 Stars – far from hate but not quite a like

    Soundtrack: Safe & Sound
    Artist: Tonight Alive
    Album: What Are You So Scared Of?


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    The Marchesi Family: Angelo – Silvia Violet

    Cameron didn’t realize how much he loved his grandparents’ bakery until Angelo Marchesi, a man he’s hated since high school, threatened to take it away.
    But Cameron owes Angelo a debt.
    A debt he can’t pay…
    Unless he accepts Angelo’s indecent proposal and risks finding out how thin the line between love and hate really is.


    Angelo is more similar to his cousin, Devil than his autocratic brother, Lucien. The cousins are Lucien’s enforcers.

    Angelo and Devil were inseparable since they were toddlers. They were both reckless and bisexual. They cover for each other, especially when one or the other is in trouble with Lucien or the police.

    Angelo and Cameron had mutual crushes on each other from high school but with Angelo’s reputation being what it is, he scared Cameron away.

    Cam came back to his hometown after burning himself out in the corporate world. He inherited his family’s bakery and was determined to make it work. His deadbeat dad had almost run it to the ground. Then he learned the bastard owed the Marchesis money. One day, Angelo came to collect.

    Angelo and Cam’s interactions were antagonistic from the start. Angelo thinks Cam looks down on him for having the kind of family he has. Cam wants nothing to do with the mafia but he was secretly envious the kind of loving family Angelo had.

    I’m not a fan of the dubcon scenes but unlike Peter who was 100% submissive, Cameron has more fire in him. It also took him longer to accept the mafia part of Angelo’s life but when he finally did, he fit right in.

    Rating:
    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    Soundtrack: Thinking Of You
    Artist: A Perfect Circle
    Album: Mer De Noms


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    The Marchesi Family: Devil – Silvia Violet

    Devil is a mobster with a dangerous secret…
    There’s a cop who hates him.
    A cop he caught and released.
    A cop he can’t get out of his mind after the one forbidden night they shared.


    This is my favorite book and Devil is my favorite character in the series. Whereas Angelo was a health buff, Devil relishes a good cigar. Devil goes above and beyond to protect his family but he’s not above keeping his affair with a cop secret.

    I liked the cop/criminal dynamic between Joe and Devil. Joe is actually a forgettable character in any other book, but being paired with somebody as unpredictable as Devil added another dimension to his personality. Plus, the fact that he was attracted to a dangerous man shows he’s not exactly vanilla. He also brought out Devil’s endearing mother-henning side which was fun to see.

    I also liked that both men were dominant so the power dynamics were balanced. It made the tension between the two so much enticing because you’ll never know who’ll come out on top.

    This book wraps the series up. The threat to the family was put to an end for good. Characters for a new series weres introduced. They piqued my interest so I’m looking forward to that.

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Me and The Devil
    Artist: Soap & Skin
    Album: Sugarbread


    I guess I was too hasty with this author. She made me care about the Marchesis so much that I read all the books in quick succession. The series is dark but has a lot of heart. Certainly no oatmeals this time.

    If the new spin-off series is as good as this, I’ll probably end up binge reading it too. Moral of the story: Don’t judge an author by one bad story. Sometimes, they could surprise you.

    P.S.

    These Marchesis are a tight bunch so while the books could be read as standalones, it’s best read in sequence.

  • book,  Uncategorized

    AUDIO REVIEW: Just Like Heaven by T.L. Bradford

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    The Young Americans: Just Like Heaven – T.L. Bradford

    Noah Sinclair
    Noah Sinclair is best described as an egotistical, pompous, anal retentive, asshat. And those are his better qualities. Lately, Noah has lost touch with his playboy character “Jace” on the show Americana and can’t quite put his finger on why. The studio decides it is time to shake up his character by making him an offer he can’t refuse, literally. They will introduce a new love interest for his character “Jace.” Only this time, there’s a twist.

    Josh Hill
    Josh Hill is up a creek and sinking fast. He’s got no job, no money, no credit and is about to be kicked out of his apartment. Opportunity comes in the form of a job offer from the show Americana. Everything should be perfect; only there is one hitch. He will be the new love interest for Noah Sinclair’s character on the beloved show.

    So, opposites are supposed to attract, right? Not so fast. No one said life was that easy. Both actors find themselves in untested waters. Will they be able to play a same-sex couple with no prior experience authentically? Well, they say practice makes perfect.

    Carefree, fun-loving Josh and uptight, overbearing Noah, realize they need to make the best of their bad situation and are forced to find common ground. Over time, their roles in each other’s lives become blurred. Is their attraction fake, or is it real? To top it off, Noah has a dark skeleton in his closet that can prevent them from ever moving forward.

    Can they get on the same page and save both of their careers and their relationship?

    Or will they end up yesterday’s tabloid fodder?

    (Just Like Heaven is a full-length, slow-burn love story. It can be read as a standalone. It contains a cast of fully-developed characters that encounter romance, heartache, laughter, and life lessons. The book has darker themes that may act as triggers to some readers. It contains adult language, mature themes, and is best enjoyed by those over the age of 18.)


    Just Like Heaven is a case of life imitating soap. It’s just as long, just as melodramatic.

    I think the author was trying to cram every popular trope possible. Noah and Josh started out as enemies, then friends then lovers. There was a slow-burn gay for you thrown in with both claiming to be straight. Then coming out issues with Noah refusing to even admit to himself he was gay because he was so traumatized by his abusive father.

    Sometime later, we get Josh admitting he had a crush on his football teammate back in high school and revealing he was bisexual. There’s even the big breakup and a second chance romance of sorts.

    All of these would have been one hell of an epic saga. However the book had an unfortunate tendency to tell rather than show. There were chunks and chunk of paragraphs of just telling.

    The book could benefit from taking out some passages. For instance, there was Noah looking back to the time he was caught kissing a boy. The same scenario was later described in dialogue by the actor to Josh in almost the same way.

    I wasn’t particularly drawn to the two MCs. Noah was as difficult as advertised. Josh was the more likable one, the type who’s friends with a person within 5 minutes of meeting them.

    Their honeymoon phase was indeed sweet but on the whole they weren’t exactly the healthiest couple out there. There were petty jealousies and possessiveness. They don’t talk properly. They had better relationships with the other people they hooked up with. So their relationship wasn’t something I could root for.

    On the upside, the other cast members were great supporting characters. I could see how their real life chemistry would translate well on screen. They were like the millennial version of the Brat Pack.

    The Hill family Christmas was the most fun part of the book. Everyone had a blast at their Christmas Olympics. This was where Noah and Josh synced perfectly together. We get a glimpse of what they could be if they were simply regular guys named Noah Sinclair and Joshua Hill instead of Primetime Emmys’ Best Couple.

    It wouldn’t be your favorite daytime soap without scandals and messy breakups. The big fight was ugly, the separation painful. But it wasn’t long before they started hooking up with other castmates. At this point, my interest petered out.

    Narrator Corey H. Bennson was a major reason why I stuck around for as long as I could. He’s one of those narrators who acts rather than just reads. I really enjoyed his style.

    I wish Noah and Josh well. I know they would eventually find their way back to each other. And stay there, hopefully.

    P.S.

    Sorry, this was supposed to be posted yesterday but my blog’s I.P. address had some technical issues.

    Thank you to Gay Romance Reviews and Audible UK for giving me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

    Rating:
    2.5 Stars – far from hate but not quite a like

    Soundtrack: The Magic Position
    Artist: Patrick Wolf
    Album: The Magic Position

  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: The Bodyguard Book 1 by X. Aratare

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    The Artifact: The Bodyguard Book 1 – X. Aratare

    Dane Gareis is a wealthy, reclusive young man with a traumatic past, but a spine of steel. When his father is killed in a mysterious plane crash, Dane carries on the family business and continues his passion for the very antiquity that got his father murdered — a golden sarcophagus belonging to an ancient cult known as the Ydrath.

    Soon, the Ydrath threaten him as well, and Dane seeks to hire a bodyguard he can trust. Someone who can protect him, and someone who will respect his boundaries. While he gets the first two, the third requirement falls apart when he hires Sean Harding.

    Sean Harding is an ex-detective with a sixth sense for danger. After his entire unit was murdered in a drug bust gone very wrong, he is a broken man who thinks only of revenge until he takes the job protecting the Gareis CEO.

    Sean’s attraction to the vulnerable Dane gives him new purpose, but his past is not escaped so easily, and his sixth sense tells him that there is more to the Ydrath than even Dane knows.


    This was 95% fluff, 5% everything else.

    By fluff, I both mean things that were designed to make people squee and unsubstantial fillers designed to make a book longer.

    I normally enjoyed the author’s brand of fluff. When deployed properly, it could work to spectacular results. Witness: The Vampire’s Club. But here, it overwhelmed the story, leaving little room for an interesting backstory to work its magic.

    Book 1 took pains to establish the connection between Dane and Sean but I felt it was too forced. I think the two would have come together more naturally had the book been a longer novel instead of three installments. Giving more page time to the Ydrath and the mysterious ongoings would have made this a stronger start to the serial.

    I don’t know yet where this is heading. I’m not sure if there’s enough hook to make me go for the next installment. But this is X. Aratare we’re talking about here so maybe, just maybe I’ll keep at it.

    P.S.

    X. Aratare books here.

    Rating:
    2.5 Stars – far from hate but not quite a like

    Soundtrack: Will You Touch Me?
    Artist: Yoko Ono
    Album: Fly

  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Prophesy by A.E. Via

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    King & Alpha: Prophesy – A.E. Via

    An Enemies to Lovers
    Shifter, Vampire True Mates story.

    Justice Volkov is the youngest Alpha Zenith to ever lead the wolf shifters. Following in his father’s large paw prints was a responsibility he met head on. Now at age thirty-three, he is alpha of the alphas. As a direct descendant of the original Siberian pack, his wolf is bigger and stronger than Justice, himself is sometimes able to control.

    His wolf howled long and hard but Justice kept it inside. It felt like a bass drum beating against his rib cage. The harsh breaths, angry snarls and the determined pacing inside him was overtaking him.

    Justice takes his role of leadership and his legacy very seriously. He has little time for romance, not to mention a true mate. His packs are his priority. With a human government trying to regulate them, an uprising of rogue shifters, and a violent team of scientists trying to experiment on them, Justice has his hands way too full.

    Chadwick ‘Wick’ Bentley is not enthusiastic when the captain of his escort tells him he has to leave his comfortable London home and go back to the States. As the Vampire King, he has no choice but to get his species back in line before they cause anymore chaos. At over one-hundred years old, Wick is no one to trifle with, but his smooth, charismatic manner makes him quite unique, despite the negative reputation vampires have. Wick has had nothing but time up to this point. He doesn’t feel the need to make issues pressing. Nothing is urgent in his life. Until he meets Justice. His beloved.

    “Natural enemies can’t be mates.” Or so Justice thought. He knows his skepticism and rejection is hurting his mate, so while he fights their connection, Wick gets help from a source very close to Justice to help him win his beloved’s heart. Wick is a force all on his own, but when he’s blessed with a special gift from the Mother herself, not even Justice’s powerful wolf can prevent the prophesy from being fulfilled.

    This story DOES NOT contain/mention MPREG.
    No multiple pairings. No cliffhangers. It ends with a very HFN.

    Warning: This book is MM paranormal: If you DO NOT like hot, alpha men shifting into large wolves, or vampires feeding from their mates, this may not be your read.


    Tsk! This could have been epic. This could have been the vampire/shifter series of my dreams.

    Instead, it was so focused on Mating 101, it lost sight of the much bigger picture. That of the prophesy and IMHO, the more interesting vampire/shifter politics. I was mentally urging Justice and Wick to hurry up, sate their mate lust and focus on their duties at hand. As the Alpha Zenith and the King, they have jobs to do, for fuck’s sake.

    Don’t get me wrong, I signed up because I wanted to see a vampire mate with a wolf. I was all hyped up for those hate-filled USTs. Their first meeting, holy hell, that was something! But after they got along and started resolving their tensions, I got bored. And that was practically what 90% of the book was about. It felt like nothing was happening.

    It also felt like going through a checklist of shifter mating rituals. The sniffing, the mating, the marking, the possessiveness, the challenging and so on. This is fine. I get it. I could appreciate it. But can they please do something else too? Like deal with the threats to their world?

    The ‘things that were happening’ were unfortunately crammed in the last 10% of the book. There were humans who were experimenting on shifters and vampires and rebel packs working with them. It irked me that these were barely talked about at all, practically almost an afterthought. They were dealt mostly off-page. Meh.

    And that titular prophecy. It should have been a big deal but the impact was minimized due to the aforemention non-events. Again, meh.

    Rant, I did but I will read the rest of the series. This is me hoping things will get better as it progressed. And like I said, I do get a kick out of a vampire+shifter couple. I love enemies-to-lovers stories. Add paranormal elements and I am all heart-eyes.

    So yeah *sigh*, I wanted to like this so much.

    Rating:
    2.5 Stars – far from hate but not quite a like

    Soundtrack: I Found
    Artist: Amber Run
    Album: 5AM

  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Gotta Catch Her by Kelly Haworth

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    Gotta Catch Her – Kelly Haworth

    Who says phone games are only for kids? Sometimes they give just the respite you need from a hectic life. At least, that’s the way Ann feels about Ani-min Move, an AR mobile game full of cartoon animals caught with nets. Legendary raids have just launched, and Ann arrives at a nearby park to find it full of people of all ages playing the game, including Rachael, a kind, attractive single mom. And sweet! Rachael is more than willing to teach Ann the proper way to spin her nets to snag the raid boss.

    Back in reality, Ann has a lot on her plate: a full workload as a project manager, finding the energy to walk her dog, Franny, and now trying to figure out if Rachael is queer. And how does Ann converse with Rachael about her six-year-old son when she doesn’t know a thing about parenting?

    Ann is lost as to how to proceed until Rachael takes the guesswork out of the equation by proclaiming she’s bi—right when Ann gets a massive work assignment that consumes way too much of her time. Life/work balance was never Ann’s forte, but between caring for her sweetheart dog and figuring out how to navigate a relationship with a single parent, Ann’s determined to make it work, especially before Rachael gets cold feet and leaves Ann playing by herself.

    So, collect those ultra-nets, Ann. Can you catch her?

    Remember Pokemon Go? Fun times!

    I loved the anime but my ultra paranoid ass don’t want no GPS tracking my locations so I didn’t jump on the bandwagon. I settled for riding the secondhand high from people who lived for the game. Pathetic, I know.

    Gotta Catch Her is a meet cute novella centered around Ani-min, a PokeGo-like game. The set-up is a dream! Two avid female gamers bonding over said game, one, an introverted accountant with an adorable dog and the other, a sweet, beautiful single mom. This would have been all quirky and fluffy and funny except that it felt flat.

    I echo other reviewers who mentioned the lack of personality between the MCs. I couldn’t connect with either Ann or Rachel. The conversations lacked spark. Add to this Ann’s office woes which were dull and I ended up skimming.

    However, I liked the way the game was incorporated in the story and how it shows you can be a responsible functioning adult while still indulging in hobbies other people consider immature. I also liked how dedicated Ann and Rachel were to the game. Who else but a fellow gamer can understand the itch to catch a few Ani-minis while on a date? Relationship goals right there!

    All in All, I wanted to like this more so I’m kinda bummed Gotta Catch Her’s awesome premise didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

    P.S.

    Thank you to IndiGo for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

    Rating:
    2.5 Stars – far from hate but not quite a like

    Soundtrack: Closer
    Artist: Tegan and Sara
    Album: Heartthrob

  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Witchbane by Morgan Brice

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    Witchbane – Morgan Brice

    Seth Tanner and his brother Jesse’s fun evening debunking local urban legends ends with Jesse’s gruesome murder. Seth vows revenge on Jesse’s killer – too bad the murderer has been dead for a hundred years. Seth uncovers a cycle of ritual killings that feed the power of a dark warlock’s immortal witch-disciples, and he’s hell bent on stopping Jackson Malone from becoming the next victim. He’s used to risking his neck. He never intended to risk his heart.

    I had high hopes for this. Sadly, it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be.

    Witchbane would have been more effective if it spent more time establishing the occult elements instead of trying too hard to be steamy. It was annoying how Seth and Evan’s almost every other thought drifted to boning each other instead of putting more effort at finding that witch which kills the momentum of whatever chilling suspense Morgan Brice was setting up. I also found the writing repetitive at some points.

    I wasn’t convinced Seth and Evan should be using the L-word already given that they hardly trust each other and have known each other barely a week. Also, Evan was TSTL which is ironic for somebody who ran away from home and should have honed his stranger danger radar already. I was amazed at how easily he trusted a stranger simply because that person was a cop. ‘Round these parts, we never trust cops. I know it’s a cultural difference thing but still, after what he had seen, why is he still doubting Seth?

    I liked Seth and I could see he was really trying hard to do his job. He has no compunction about lying or hacking or breaking the law which at first glance makes him suspect but monsters don’t follow human laws and the necessities of monster hunting calls for creativity and an open mind. I want to see Seth becoming a sort of MacGyver because heck, I haven’t seen a MacGyver type of character in MM so far.

    This is another series where the world is more interesting than the execution of the plot. The Witchbane world is interconnected with the Badlands worlds and I really liked Badlands. I’m hoping for cameos in both series although, TBH, I would probably stick with Badlands at this point.

    P.S.

    review of Badlands here

    I received a copy of Witchbane from Dark Wind Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

    Rating:
    2.5 Stars – far from hate but not quite a like

    Soundtrack: Small Town Witch
    Artist: Sneaker Pimps
    Album: Bloodsport