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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: Criminal Delights Books 6, 11 & 14

    On to my quest to partake everything the Criminal Delights series has to offer.

    This is is a review of three books from the series, By Way of Pain by J.M. Dabney, Beloved Possession by Leona Windwalker and To Have and To Hold by Abigail Kade.

    All three books have a BDSM theme wherein a captive was taken against his will, subjected to training, develops feeling for captor, gets taken again by worse elements and rescued by original captor turned love interest. With several variations on the Stockholm Syndrome, some pulled it off spectacularly, others a paler version of themselves.


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    Criminal Delights: Assassins: By Way of Pain – J.M. Dabney

    Double lives were just the way it was for a man like me. By day I was a man with a reputation above reproach. Even assassins needed backup plans. For fifteen years, life was going without a hitch until I had to take out a witness. When it was time to kill him, beautiful eyes filled with fear urged me to do something else. Yet, in order to do that, I had to break him, and by way of pain, my captive would experience pleasure he’d never dreamed.

    This book is part of CRIMINAL DELIGHTS. Each novel can be read as a standalone and contains a dark M/M romance.
    Warning: These books are for adult readers who enjoy stories where lines between right and wrong get blurry. High heat, twisted and tantalizing, these are not for the fainthearted.


    I read somewhere that assassins are really just serial killers for hire. That is basically Cowen.

    By day, he’s a successful defense attorney. At night, he takes jobs. And he doesn’t do it purely for the money. He’s a misanthrope who likes making people suffer. He has been killing people since he was a child. He said it himself that he doesn’t feel things the way normal people do. He doesn’t enjoy sex or even feel aroused . I was getting my hopes up that finally, we are going to get an asexual dom, but no. They had to have sex because that’s the way this series rolls.

    Cowen’s personal assistant is Harrison. Harrison has a bad crush on his enigmatic boss. He’s too shy to do anything about it.

    On day, while in the parking lot, Harrison witness a guy being attacked and then the attacker turned on him. The next thing he knew, he was held captive by a man wearing a mask. And forced to do humiliating and painful things.

    This book stands out for having MCs with diverse body types. Harrison is a plus size bear while Cowen was described as gaunt. Interestingly, it was Harrison who submits to Cowen’s dominance. Cowen could really be dominating. So dominating that you’d forget he’s really a skinny guy who had to wear lifts in his shoes to appear taller.

    By Way of Pain is high on the darkness spectrum. It was kept from becoming pitch black by the tender connection that blossomed between Cowen and Harrison. Harrison is oh so slowly, making Cowen feel things. And given the kind of person Cowen is, “I have no desire to kill you” is probably the only way he will say I love you.

    Cute!

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

    Soundtrack: Pain and Pleasure
    Artist: Divinyls
    Album: What A Life!


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    Criminal Delights: Organized Crime: Beloved Possession – Leona Windwalker

    Ishmael Lux.
    A name synonymous with wealth. The elite come to him- to stay in his hotels and to play in his club, both for business and for pleasure. He has a secret, though. It’s rather an open one, though believed by most to be rumour and speculation.

    Kristoffer Jones.
    A new hire of Triborr Property Management International, one of Lux’s many legitimate fronts. He was thrilled to be in London, straight on the heels of being informed he was being moved onto the management track. Some rumours are best left unconfirmed, as he discovers when he finds himself in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

    Ishmael saw it as an opportunity..
    As with all opportunities that will pay off handsomely, he takes it. Then, he locks Kris away. Kristoffer is his and he is never going to let him go.

    The kicker?
    Kris is rapidly becoming unsure if he wants to be free.

    *This book is written in UK English.


    Beloved Possession had, unfortunately, the most unconvincing transition from possession to beloved.

    It’s compounded by the fact the the lead characters were forgettable. I appreciated that Ishmael has successfully built a billion-dollar company and has a close circle of men that was very, very loyal to him. But he lacked the charm of other doms.

    Kris was so bland, I don’t see why Ishmael was so enamored with him other than he’s pretty and malleable. The only interesting point about Kris is that he’s half-Filipino. This is rare in MM especially as a lead character.

    I forced myself to slog through this story in the hopes that it would get better. I ended up skimming.

    I say pass on this.

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

    Soundtrack: My Possession
    Artist: Ministry
    Album: Twitch


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    Criminal Delights: Taken: To Have and To Hold – Abigail Kade

    My name is Worthington Winters, and I have a confession before I die. I know he’s a killer. I know one day he’ll even kill me, but I don’t care. Because I feel more free with my captor than I ever did with my husband.

    My husband courted me, seduced me, ensnared me, then subjugated me in my own home. He pushed and I would bend. Until, one day he pushed too far, and I pushed back. I escaped and thought I was free, but I was so wrong.

    Now, my Captor has me in his grasp. He’s supposed to squeeze me until I give him the information I took from my husband. I’ll never do it, so I know I’m destined to die. But, he’s beginning to see beyond my scars, my shriveled heart, and he’s forcing me to look, too.

    As he makes me look into the darkest depths of my soul, I finally find my truth, who I truly am and want to be. As strange as it may be, through the sweetest pain and most exquisite torture he inflicts, I’ll finally feel free.

    The truth may give me a new life I never existed. If I can survive.

    This book is part of CRIMINAL DELIGHTS. Each novel can be read as a standalone and contains a dark M/M romance.
    Warning: These books are for adult readers who enjoy stories where lines between right and wrong get blurry. High heat, twisted and tantalizing, these are not for the fainthearted.


    To Have and To Hold is a terrific combination of dark and cute.

    Worthy suffered abuse from his evil husband who frequently humiliated his desires as a masochist while hurting him without his consent. The husband also stole his money and his family’s company. Worthy was able to get his properties back and he ran away. The bastard then set an assassin on his tracks.

    Crow is an ethical assassin. By that, he only kills the guilty. He caught Worthy and had every intent to make him suffer. Until he learned the truth.

    That’s when things turn sweet and fluffy with the way Crow was taking care of Worthy. It’s pretty fucked up that a person who has been abuse likes pain and Worthy’s evil husband used that against him. Crow showed Worthy the way to pleasure and pain without the humiliation.

    I love Worthy! He crawled his way out of a hellish marriage and decided to wear things that only makes him happy. He has the best fashion sense. I would gladly wear one of his kawaii statement shirts with adorable animal prints.

    Crow was a teddy bear. The fierce, morally grey part of him had no qualms about killing or torture. But he was also willing to break a contract if the target was proven innocent. Even feeding and clothing said target when the man looked liked he needed some TLC. He dropped everything and rescued his boy when Worthy was taken the second time. Also bought him more kawaii clothes.

    Crow belongs to a group of ethical assassins, what I liked to call the Bird Boys because they use birds as code names. I’m not sure if there are other books about these boys but I would love to read all about them. Especially Os a.k.a. Osprey a.k.a Obediah who had some very questionable exes.

    This is my favorite out of the three.

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

    Soundtrack: Submission
    Artist: The Irrepressibles
    Album: Superheroes


    Two wins out of three is not so bad. I still have a few ways to go before I finished the entire series. Even with the mixed reviews, I think this series is worth the time.

    Wondering which Criminal Delights books to read and which ones to pass up? Check out the reviews here.

  • book,  Uncategorized

    AUDIO REVIEW: The Edge Of The World

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    The Edge Of The World – Garrett Leigh

    Shay Maloney is living his dream—on tour with his pirate/folk-rock band. But you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’re from, and that’s where moody filmmaker and researcher Ollie Pietruska comes in.

    The band’s management persuades Shay to let a television company film a documentary about his roots beyond his adoptive Irish family, and Ollie comes into his life knowing more about Shay than Shay’s ever known about himself.

    But while Ollie holds the key to Shay’s past, he’s also hiding deep scars. Even as the hardships of the tour bring them closer, Ollie’s demons threaten the blossoming romance. They might both reach the breaking point before Ollie realises he’s been standing on the edge of the world for too long, and it’s Shay who holds the key to his future.

    A friends-to-lovers, rock star, road-tripping romance, with a guaranteed happily-ever-after


    Given my obsession with music, I thought I would be all over this. Sadly, The Edge of the World was not engaging my attention as I would like it to. I tried to hang on for as long as I could but there’s no hook to keep me going.

    A book about an indie pirate-folk band should be riveting stuff. And I am curious about life on the road for musicians. Turns out the everyday life on tour was tedium and boredom.

    I suppose MCs Shay and Ollie were your typical troubled but likable Garrett Leigh leads but I wasn’t drawn to them. I didn’t dislike them or anything, it’s just that they’re forgettable. In addition, none of the other personalities stood out.

    I also didn’t feel the connection between Shay and Ollie. They weren’t communicating properly. Both were mostly pining and speculating about the other. Ollie was too closed-mouth for his own good. There were also cryptic hints of his issues being dropped here and there, but I wasn’t intrigued enough to care.

    One reason I stuck for as long as I could was narrator Dan Calley. I really like the way he voiced the conversations. His reading style matched the author’s prose perfectly. I think that’s why he narrates most of her books.

    I feel bad about DNFing a book that’s right up my alley but when it’s becoming a chore, I think it’s time to throw in the towel. This could be very well be a Me problem. Many readers enjoyed this and I think it’s best to find out for yourself. Especially if you’re into angsty tales of genius musicians and ninja filmmakers.

    P.S.

    Thank you to Signal Boost Promotions and Audible UK for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

    Garrett Leigh books here.

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

    Soundtrack: Song From The Edge Of The World
    Artist: Siouxsie & The Banshees
    Album: Tinderbox

  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Promises: The Next Generation by A.E. Via

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    The Bounty Hunters: Promises: The Next Generation – A.E. Via

    Duke Webb has run the most successful bail recovery agency in Atlanta for over twenty years. That’s because he has a team of trained, competent hunters backing him up to keep his name feared on the streets. But Duke knows that nothing can go on forever. His hunters are in committed relationships and ready to settle down, and so is he. That’s what leads him to start his new training program.

    “That’s the new vision for Dukes. Veterans operating and tracking behind the scenes with a new powerhouse apprehension team on the streets.”

    Brian and Quick are the first to offer up two new recruits.

    Kellam Knight has studied martial arts under his sensei, Quick, since he was eight years old. A tossed-out reject from high-society, Kell has a problem fighting on the right side of the law. If he sees an injustice, he has to correct it. He doesn’t have to run and cower from his enemies anymore, he’s a fighter who can protect himself and others. When Quick offers Kell the opportunity to join Duke’s training program, he’s all in. Except he’s not prepared for the straight, over-confident, extremely disciplined, sexy man Brian has recruited to be his partner.

    Tyrell Jenkins’ world was flipped upside down when his father never returned home from his last deployment. He’d been Ty’s teacher, mentor, his guide to living a righteous life as a good man. His father didn’t raise him to be like every other young, stereotypical male in Atlanta. Instead, he’s been taught to be respectful, to speak the language of real men. When Brian King – his father’s most trusted comrade – finally comes to him with the truth, he doesn’t come alone. He comes with trained men hidden in the shadows… and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join a brotherhood unlike any other.

    This installment is a part of a series and contains previously mentioned characters, but CAN standalone. Each book centers around a new couple.

    This book ends in a HEA. NO cliffhanger.


    I dropped everything for this book. Tyrell Jenkins nearly made me drop it all together.

    At first, I thought, maybe it’s just me. Maybe I was not getting it. Then when I read the other reviews, I knew I wasn’t alone. It was indeed Tyrell who ruined the whole thing. This review echos many of the observations pointed out by other reviewers on Goodreads.

    First, the the whole thing read like a YA book. All along I thought Kell and Ty were in their early twenties. Turned out they were pushing thirties. This is okay. I think Ms. Via was going for that pure, virginal vibe that was one of the major themes of the story.

    Unfortunately, the book also read like MF. I remember when I first started out with MM, I was wary that the stories were just gendered-switched MF stories. Well, the fifth installment of Promises did exactly that. I couldn’t believe Kell went from a fiery, hot-tempered martial arts master to what other reviewers say “50s housewife/hijabi woman” complete with his own version of a burka.

    I thought it was such a waste of character. I liked Kell a lot. The author built him up as a modern day mo fo badass ninja and I actually liked his outfit. Heck, I would like to wear a hood+beanie+scarf combo that hides half the face myself. It’s what the cool characters wear in anime. Unfortunately, there was this whole schtick about wanting to hide the hair because it oh so fabulous that people won’t take him seriously. I understand this is a nod to the Muslim side of Ty’s family but it was further cementing Kell’s status as a woman-substitute.

    Now to Tyrell. The man was raised by a Muslim father who instilled in him moral lessons that were quite frankly double standard. Ty is in search of a woman that would pass his stringent criteria to become his Queen. Criteria that backward, chauvinistic males like to impose on women. Like being a virgin in one’s wedding day, exposing oneself only to one’s husband and so on. He expects his woman to keep herself covered while he struts around in designer clothes.

    Tyrell likes to slut-shame many of the women he comes across in his daily life. He is also very critical of the poor people in his neighborhood. He goes on and on how he is better than everyone else which was funny because he had no real job apart from delivering packages with suspicious contents. He justifies that he doesn’t know what’s inside so his conscience is clear. He also goes on and on about respect but disrespects his boss and co-workers when he became part of Duke’s bounty hunters.

    I appreciate arrogant, uber-confident alphas but Tyrell had none of their charm. I wished Kell had a different love interest.

    On the plus side, all the other bounty hunters were there. They were the reason I hung on. Yay for Brian’s many appearances! Too bad Sway didn’t make it on page.

    I’m not giving up on this series. I love these bounty hunters too much. I’m hoping this is a fluke and the next one’s better.

    P.S.

    The Bounty Hunters: Promises books here.
    A.E. Via books here.

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

    Soundtrack: This Magic Stuff
    Artist: Nina Hynes
    Album: Creation

  • book,  Uncategorized

    SERIES REVIEW: The Rowan Harbor Cycle Books 2-4 by Sam Burns

    I read Blackbird in the Reeds, the first book of The Rowan Harbor Cycle, solely on the strength of its book cover. I was sadly left feeling meh so I wrote this series off. That was on 2018.

    Couple of years later, I picked up book two, Wolf and the Holly, on a whim. I was pleasantly surprised that this time, everything clicked!

    The series features three couples with three interconnected story arcs. The POVs for each book alternate between Devon, Jesse and Fletcher. Devon’s POV was the one I least enjoyed. This is why the first book didn’t work for me. Meeting the rest of the characters, Jesse, Fletcher and their friends made the books 100% more enjoyable.

    Rowan Harbor is a town with a secret, one that everyone works hard to protect. Once in a while, threats from the outside put the town in danger. It’s up to the Town Council to keep their home safe. Devon and Jesse are members of the Council. Fletcher is a deputy. His partner is Wade, Devon’s boyfriend and Jesse’s brother. We also meet the other town folks, all special one way or the other. Most of them not human.

    This is a review of books 2-4. Review of book 1, Blackbird in the Reeds here.


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    2. Wolf and the Holly – Sam Burns

    Five years ago, Jesse dropped out of college and came home to Rowan Harbor to find safety with his pack. A broken man, he’s been living as though the world is ending—allergic to responsibility and spending most of his nights at the local bar.

    But he can’t avoid growing up forever. On the night of his thirtieth birthday party, he finds his childhood friend Isla unconscious, attacked in the middle of their peaceful hometown. The wolf inside him wants to protect its people from the slick-haired, smooth-talking vampire who’s brought trouble to town, and Jesse can’t run from his instincts any longer.


    Now that his inner wolf is out of its cage, it’s picked the most inconvenient moment to find its mate. Sean Anderson—recently back from college and much changed from the skinny preteen Jesse once knew—is just what he never knew he needed. 


    This book was a complete game-changer. I enjoyed Jesse’s story so much! I now understood why people loved this series.

    The first parts of the story meandered the way Jesse meandered his way through town and through life. He was a thirty year old college drop-out eking a living through bookkeeping for small businesses. He was feeling worthless. I was kinda feeling Jesse’s pain. I’m not a college drop out but I’m know that aimless feeling all too well.

    What made this book so enjoyable was how things that were so blah in the first book suddenly seemed so vivid here. The characters stood out when before they were so forgettable. The humor popped out. I had a new appreciation for Devon’s brand of deadpan snark. And for a book about a character feeling so lost, it made me eager to see where the story was headed.

    The romantic element wasn’t introduced until about halfway through. It was insta the way fated mates are insta. I totally didn’t mind that fact because I liked the way it was executed. It left a lot of room for developments. I would love to know more about Sean. Jesse and Sean’s story will be picked up on book 5, Stag and the Ash.

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

    Soundtrack: Aimless Upward
    Artist: Court Yard Hounds
    Album: Sunshine


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    3. Fox and Birch – Sam Burns

    Fletcher Lane wants to protect people. It was why he became a deputy. A month ago, it was why he killed a vampire who kidnapped one of his friends. Now, that death has started a cascade effect that’s tearing his life apart, leaving him possessed by magic that whispers to him in ancient Gothic.

    While he’s already fighting for control of his own mind, he has to hold it together when strangers come into town looking for the dead vampire. They say they’re bounty hunters, but Fletcher knows that’s a lie. They’re the same kind of murderers who killed Fletcher’s mother. When one of them puts up a kind front, Fletcher knows that people who hunt the supernatural can’t be trusted. However nice Conner Mason seems, the worst thing Fletcher could do is fall for his act.


    OMG, these two dorks! It’s like they’re trying to out awkward each other. I love them!!!

    Probably the most adorable installment so far because Fletcher and Connor!

    This is another variation of the theme of finding oneself but the author was able to make it different from the other characters’ stories. This featured a more mundane threat to the town compared to the more nebulous a.k.a magical threats of the previous books.

    Fletcher flees when faced with the unknown. It’s a gut reaction that developed from a past trauma that resulted in his mother’s death and him and his father being on the run until they found Rowan Harbor. Now Fletcher is dedicated to keeping their sanctuary safe as the town’s deputy.

    Connor came with two other bounty hunters who were out looking for a vampire. From the get go, Connor stood out because he was the one who seemed genuinely concerned about Fletcher’s discomfort at seeing the man who killed his mother. Then he proceeded to make the most awkward attempt at hitting on a guy. Fletcher returned the favor by making the most awkward attempt at coming out as a shifter. Score: 1-1.

    Their story continues in book 6, Adder and Willow. Who will be the dorkiest one yet?

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

    Soundtrack: Run2me
    Artist: Smashing Pumkins
    Album: Monuments to an Elegy


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    4. Hawk in the Rowan – Sam Burns

    Devon Murphy has been back in Rowan Harbor for three months. He’s taken on a host of new responsibilities, and is in a serious relationship for the first time in his life. He loves the town and its inhabitants, but it’s starting to feel like too much for the former drifter.

    Now there’s a storm on the horizon, and it doesn’t seem like things are going to slow down and let him catch his breath. A blizzard is brewing, and three people have gone missing in the woods south of town. Devon needs to find them before time runs out.

    This book is the fourth of nine in The Rowan Harbor Cycle, not a standalone. Devon and Wade will return in book seven for their HEA


    I put this book on hold because as early as the first chapters, I already know this book will be so damn hard to finish. I just couldn’t connect with Devon. I liked him better when seen from another person’s perspective. I was even warming up to him in Jesse’ book. But once again, with him telling the story, I was bored, bored, bored. I really don’t give two shits about his personal issues. I’m only finishing this for the sake of continuity.

    More of Devon and Wade on book 7, Eagle in the Hawthorn.

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

    Soundtrack: Two Weeks
    A
    rtist: Grizzly Bear
    Album: Veckatimest


    The Devon debacle aside, this series has many highlights that makes it worth committing to. Don’t take my word about Devon’s books because many fans liked him so it’s probably a me issue. I recommend exploring the quirky charms of Rowan Harbor and see for yourself why people come and stay.

  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Promises Part 2 by A.E. Via

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    The Bounty Hunters: Promises Part 2 by A.E. Via

    Roman “Quick” Webb is one badass bounty hunter on the crime-filled streets of Atlanta. He’s fearless when it comes to carrying out his dangerous job alongside his longtime best friend and business partner, Duke. However, there is one thing that has begun to cause Quick concern and it’s the dreadful thought of living out the rest of his life alone. Seeing his best friend and his son fall in love and sharing the special connection that only true soulmates can, has made him all the more aware of what’s lacking in his life.

    Love.

    Dr. Cayson Chauncey has been wildly attracted to the big, tattooed hunter for almost a year, ever since he performed the surgery that saved Quick’s best friend’s life. Cayson must’ve mistaken Quick’s gratitude for something more, because the one time he tried to make his desires known, he was harshly rebuffed and left on the man’s doorstep feeling stupid for hitting on an obviously very straight man.

    Cayson never dated a man who was willing to come out of hiding and be with him. Now at almost forty, Cayson is intent on no longer being anyone’s dirty secret. Having experienced countless disappointments, and having taken a stand not to fall for any more tricks, Cayson is more than a little skeptical when Quick comes around asking for a second chance to prove himself. The gorgeous man had already made it clear that he was not interested in Cayson… or so he’d thought.

    Dr. Chauncey stirred up Quick’s suppressed, most carnal desires from a place deep down inside of him. He’d reacted so badly the first time that now his sexy surgeon wanted nothing to do with him. It was going to take a fair amount of patience and a whole lot of wooing involved as Quick sets out to convince Cayson that he’s worth another chance and that he is the brave lover who Cayson has been looking for.

    With a scorned ex and a very dangerous job thrown into the mix, Cayson’s happiness and all of Quick’s promises may not be as easy to keep as they’d hoped.


    Let’s make this quick.

    Like many A.E. Via characters, I loved her bounty hunters, Duke, Bradford, Brian, Dana and of course, Quick. Dr. Chauncey was a sweet man who badly needed some love Quick was now willing to give.

    However, I wasn’t very impressed with Quick’s neanderthal caveman attitude when it comes to dealing with Dr. Joe, Cayson’s psycho ex-friend-with-benefits. It was less protective alpha more juvenile, IMHO. Quick and Cayson’s courtship could have been enjoyable but it was overshadowed that bit.

    A major highlight were the appearances from the notorious duo God and Day (Nothing Special). My favorite part here was the King brothers. I ended up slogging through this installment just to get to Brian’s book. I can’t wait to find out why he had PTSD so bad he couldn’t speak.

    All in all, this didn’t really hold up. Skip if you can.

    P.S.

    Promises Part 1 review here
    A.E. Via books here

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

    Soundtrack: Doctor! Doctor!
    Artist: Thompson Twins
    Album: Into The Gap

  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Deadly Dorian by Jocelynn Drake & Rinda Elliott

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    Someone is trying to kill Marc Foster.

    Attempted poisoning was bad enough, but when the would-be killer messes with the brakes on Marc’s precious Porsche, the art dealer admits he needs help. He just wasn’t expecting help to be quite so dark and sexy.

    Royce Karras loves his job at Ward Security. He’s making up for a lifetime of bad decisions and a bloody past he’d rather forget. But Marc isn’t the spoiled rich boy he thought he’d be protecting. Sticking close to Marc as his “boyfriend” gives Royce insight into his toxic family, but it also reveals a brilliant, compassionate man who completely disarms Royce. Against his better judgment, Royce finds himself falling.

    But can they find a way to make it work when Royce’s past threatens to tear their lives apart? Their futures hinges on a lost Renaissance painting, six Bichon Frises, and a pornographic Robin Hood.

    No worries, right? 


    Ward Security is the spin-off series of Unbreakable Bonds. This features Ward Security employees from the bodyguards like Royce to the tech specialists like Quinn. Ward Security is like a family to many of them

    Hmm…

    Okay so I really like Royce. I really liked Marc. They were great together but finishing their book was a struggle. Seemed like the story let them down somehow.

    There were two major threads running. First was somebody was trying to kill Marc, possibly someone from his own family. This led to him hiring Royce as a bodyguard and pretending to be a couple to avoid letting his siblings know he was suspecting them. This in turn led to their fake boyfriend deal turning into the real thing.

    I loved this part. Sure there was too much ‘desperate need‘ for my liking and also a little too insta but Royce and Marc had undeniable chemistry. Even Marc’s homophobic siblings could see that. So I’m all in for their romance. The mystery of who was trying to get Marc out of the picture had a neat little twist to it that I didn’t see coming. All in all the mystery side of the story was well done.

    The second plot point was Royce’s family woes. Royce was the nephew of a Greek mob boss. Royce mother took him away from the family business when he was young and the uncle never forgave her for that. Royce still ended up working as an enforcer. Somewhere along the way, he met a gentle writer named Michael with whom he had a serious relationship. After some dirty deals gone sour and a tragic incident occurred, Royce resolved to leave the past behind and live a new life. However, the past caught up to him and now his mother was in danger.

    This one could have been great. I loved that we finally learn more about Royce’s past and why he is so damn angry and closed off all the time. However some things here were a bit too OTT even if I did my usual suspension of disbelief trick. The part of him and Marc pulling off a heist in order to get a valuable painting had me scratching my head for a bit. Angelo the thief was kind of unnecessary. Royce could have handled things more smartly than this while still staying true to his Dark Lord persona. The rescue could have been done much sooner.

    Also Royce was being an idiot with his ‘for your own good’ reasoning when he very stupidly pushed Marc away because he was scared he might put Marc, with his heart condition, in danger. Like if his uncle’s goons jumped his boyfriend and have a heart attack. Eh, should have have let him grovel more, Marc.

    But of course, this series is all about the characters. It’s great that Garrett finally had more page time. He should get his own book. Quinn was adorkable as always (where the hell is Shane) and yay for Sven and Geoffrey. Rowe and Noah nearly stole the show simply by being their usual crazy selves.

    Overall, it was a mixed bag of highs and lows.

    Ward Security might not be as strong a series as Unbreakable Bonds but even if I’m not so impressed with Deadly Dorian, I’m not throwing in the towel just yet. I love these boys too much.

    P.S.

    Dom is next. I’m not so sure about the age-gap thing but we’ll see how his story works out.

    Ward Security is best read in order. WS books here
    Unbreakable Bonds books here

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

    Soundtrack: Fear and Loathing
    Artist: Marina and the Diamonds
    Album: Electra Heart

  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: There’s Always Something Collection by Schuyler L’Roux

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    There’s Always Something Collection – Schuyler L’Roux

    There’s Something about a Kilt

    It’s a hellaciously hot day in Minneapolis and all Thom wants to do is enjoy his ice cream and forget about the stacks of essays waiting for him back in his stifling apartment. Until he meets Gerry, a kilted, tattooed Welshman. The conversation is smooth and the attraction immediate, but Gerry is only in town for the night and isn’t down for anything quick and forgettable. When they meet again, hours later, Gerry knows there’s something in the air and all bets are off. Including his kilt.

    There’s Something about Pain

    Still devastated that Gerry never called him back after an epic night of passionate connection, Thom has been taken to Los Angeles by his best friends for a weekend of debauchery and forgetting. Yet when a drunken decision leads them to Gerry, Thom has a choice to make. Does he take Gerry’s invitation to reenter the world of BDSM, with a proper guide this time, and reclaim power he lost years ago? Or does Thom take his revenge?

    There’s Something about Flying

    After walking away from Gerry, Thom is back home in Minnesota living his best life. He’s flying through the air, embracing the sexual power he reclaimed in a lonely dungeon with Gerry. Yet when Gerry arrives unannounced and full of inexplicable hope, Thom has another choice to make. Does he let Gerry go and finally close the book on their tryst? Or does Thom open up his heart to the reality of their past and the potential of their future? The third and final chapter of the There’s Always Something trilogy stays true to form: there’s always an ending.

    After the initial meet cute magic over ice-cream and kilts, wherein Gerry and Thom acknowledge that it might be destiny or some such act of fate and I was all but ready to cheer them wholeheartedly, Gerry vanished into the night, never to be heard from again and the story’s charm faded away along with his disappearance.

    We are left with Thom moping and pining, which one day brought him and his friends to a bar in L.A in an effort to cheer him up. The bartender, who said he knew Gerry, led them to another bar where Gerry moonlights as a dancer. Gerry meets him in the bathroom, says sorry, mentions some excuses, then gives him a blowjob. Promises to meet again. At this point, I stopped caring. Thom was too easily swayed and Gerry was all cock and blather.

    The best part for me were Thom’s friends, Abram, Carlos, Teddy and James, who were loyal, ready to protect his virtue and find him happiness. They knew Thom had it bad for Gerry and were (probably) also dazzled by the guy’s good looks so they tried to help the romance along.

    Meanwhile, I am that one friend who’s not convinced with Gerry’s lame excuses for not calling. How hard is it to google an American-Italian writer with the name THOM? The man simply didn’t make an effort. Also, I failed to see the chemistry. Their conversations felt flat and Thom wasn’t that interesting too. Overall, I just wasn’t feeling the story and I’m not connecting with the MCs.

    If you are looking for steam, There’s Always Something Collection packs a lot of heat but if you’re looking for something more solid, believable and genuinely charming, it’s best to look elsewhere.

    P.S.

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

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

    Soundtrack: Call Me Back
    Artist: The Strokes
    Album: Angles

  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Sweating Lies by Emma Jaye

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    Criminal Delights: Taken: Sweating Lies

    “Gladiator or toy?” Kaspar asks, as if it’s the easiest choice in the world.

    It might be an easy answer for someone branded, brainwashed, and who remembers no other life. But that’s not me, not yet anyway. I’m a cop—or at least I was until my cover got blown. 

    Now, I’m one of the trafficked people I vowed to save.

    Kaspar’s a toy —a pleasure slave— content to warm our sadistic owner’s bed; he laps up the abuse he’s conditioned to associate with affection.

    He’s my only way out. To gain our freedom, I must play the hardest undercover role of my career and be everything his fractured mind needs: a more controlling bastard than the man who turns people into grateful slaves for a living.

    Officer Jiao Sweatt thinks I’m a victim. 
    He has a lot to learn. 
    And it’ll hurt.

    This book is part of CRIMINAL DELIGHTS. Each novel can be read as a standalone and contains a dark M/M romance. 
    Warning: These books are for adult readers who enjoy stories where lines between right and wrong get blurry. High heat, twisted and tantalizing, these are not for the fainthearted.

    Hmm…I don’t know why this has such a high rating because quite frankly, I was bored.

    But if dark is what you want, this is as dark as it can get. Human trafficking, brainwashing, slavery, cattle prods up the ass and that damn parrilla made me shudder. It was sickening so if you want your limits pushed, this is it.

    However, the book lost me when it dumped a boatload of information on the workings of the orta, a secret criminal organization specializing in bespoke slaves. I needed the backgrounder but it was just too much info for one scene and the way it was delivered by Kaspar, I think it was unnatural that he would suddenly give a lecture on the orta’s business model just because a captive asked him.

    I couldn’t care less about Jiao and Kaspar. I didn’t feel the chemistry. I liked the story better when Jiao was still undercover with Maksim’s gang and I was definitely more interested in Maksim and James. But after Jiao was tasered and handed over to the orta, it became boring despite all the disturbing implications. The pace was slow going. It took a while to get to anything interesting and I have no motivation to stick around and wait for things to perk up.

    So Sweating Lies wasn’t working out like I wanted it to but definitely YMMV because many people liked it.

    P.S.

    review of other Criminal Delights books here

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

    Soundtrack: Happiness In Slavery
    Artist: Nine Inch Nails
    Album: Broken

  • book,  Uncategorized

    SERIES REVIEW: Bad Valentine Series by Jesi Lea Ryan, Jordan Castillo Price, Claire London & Dev Bentham

    My better late than never Valentine special.

    The BAD VALENTINE series are lighthearted Valentine’s Day shorts by four different authors, each story written with the same opening line: “Nothing good ever came of a Valentine.” 

    Love Magic – Jesi Lea Ryan

    “The day I met Derrick while playing my violin in the park was magical. Unfortunately, magic and love together don’t always mix.” 

    Oliver met Derrick while busking in the park, and they hit it off from the start. At first, Derrick’s “mysterious magician” vibe was intriguing, but after two botched dates, Oliver was ready to call it quits. 

    Fearing he lost his chance with Oliver, Derrick makes a last-ditch effort to win Oliver’s heart with a romantic Valentine’s date. But when love and magic collide, things tend to go awry. Will these two guys make it through the date unscathed?

    This one’s cute!

    I liked the idea of a musician and magician couple and they met in such a delightful way. However, Oliver, the musician, has just about enough of the botched dates but he knew deep down there’s something about Derrick. Derrick, the magician, was endearingly shy and I felt sorry for him, the poor guy is really trying.

    While the disasters were not as cringe-inducing and funny as in Hidden Hearts, Love Magic is still charming and sweet. The magical element is a plus and I liked how it was worked into the story.

    Overall, a fun, lighthearted rom-com with a touch of paranormal.

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

    Quill Me Now – Jordan Castillo Price

    What if the words you wrote came true? 

    Spellcraft isn’t exactly a respectable business, but it does pay the bills. At least, it should. Unfortunately, Dixon Penn failed his Spellcraft initiation. Instead of working in his family’s shop, he’s stuck delivering takeout orders in his uncle’s beat-up Buick.

    Winning a Valentine’s Day contest at the largest greeting card company in the tri-state area would be just the thing to get his life back on track—but something at Precious Greetings just doesn’t add up. And despite numerous warnings to quit pestering them about his contest entry, he just can’t stop himself from coming back again and again.

    It doesn’t hurt that the head of security is such a hottie. If Dixon had any common sense, he’d be scared of the big, mysterious, tattooed Russian.

    To be fair, no one ever accused him of being too smart….

    I have sung praises to Jordan Castillo Price‘s worldbuilding before and Quill Me Now is one of her best ones yet. I was heavily immersed in the world of Scriveners and Seers and I really liked this novel magic system where magic work in two parts.

    Quill Me Now follows Dixon’s persistent but very foolish attempt at getting a job at Precious Greetings despite all the red flags and a very explicit warning from Yuri to STAY AWAY. Never in my wildest imagination had it occur to me that a greeting card company could be so sinister. Extra props to JCP for making me see Hallmark in a different light. The story was nicely resolved but of course it left me wanting more. So I was pretty happy to know that this is going to be a series. YES! We haven’t seen the last of Dixon and Yuri yet.

    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Hidden Hearts – Clare London

    Accident-prone Ethan has a dating history that reads like a disaster movie script. Strong and silent Kel can’t seem to master the necessary small-talk on a proper date. When they both get signed up anonymously for a Valentines’s night event—”for those with an adventurous spirit but an open diary”—they never imagined they’d be matched. They never imagined the romantic sparks would fly. To be honest, they never imagined they’d survive the week. 

    A catalogue of disasters dogs the footsteps of their blossoming romance, including a coffee date with food allergies as an added extra, an intimate dinner that strays too close for comfort to chopped chillies, and a sensual massage with hot wax candles that threatens to alert the local fire brigade. 

    But if they can hold tight to their sweet, surprising, yet single-minded attraction – they might just survive this Valentine’s Day with something very special to look forward to. 

    I usually complain about things happening too fast, but here is the perfect example of insta-attraction done right. Clare London deftly laid out the development of Ethan and Kel’s relationship in the course of a couple of days in a very believable and hilarious way. It helps that the MCs were both adorable individually and as a couple.

    Ethan is a complete klutz and his dates with Kel were one awkward disaster after another but you know that a guy is really into you when you set his shlong on fire and he still calls you back. I love how Kel is so patient with Ethan despite everything. They really are the perfect match.

    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Temporary Dad – Dev Bentham

    Nick Compton owns a small but mighty fashion magazine. He already has enough on his plate, between work and, well, work. There’s no room for a kid in his life but when his sister drops her seven-year-old daughter for an extended stay, he has to figure it out. Just before his niece arrives, Nick meets a blazing hot firefighter. They get on like a house a fire and the sex—scorching. Too bad the he disappeared in the morning. Like smoke. Now Nick’s stuck with a kid he doesn’t know how to manage and without the man he’d love to get his hands on again. 

    Dylan Gil wishes like hell he hadn’t taken his roommates advice and lied about who he was. He’s finally met someone he really likes and can’t stop thinking about. But now he’s too embarrassed to confess that he’s just a second-grade teacher, not a manly firefighter. Good thing that work gets distracting, particularly when one of his brightest students goes to stay with her uncle and all hell breaks loose. Some people shouldn’t be allowed to have kids. 

    If the term “dad pants” means anything it’s that taking care of children and fashion aren’t compatible. Does that mean these two doomed? Or is this the beginning of forever? 

    This was the weakest of the bunch. I actually DNF’ed this because I don’t have the patience to deal with Ruby plus I didn’t warm up to Nick and Dylan.

    This is more of a ME problem mainly because parenting stories are not interesting to me. For those into gay couples with children, this might work better for you.

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

    Soundtrack: You Are The Right One
    Artist: Sports
    Album: Sports