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    REVIEW: The Illuminati Circle by Robert J. Ristino

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    Illuminati Cycle: The Illuminati Circle by Robert J. Ristino

    Two sicarii, the Illuminati’s deadly assassins, make their way from the Arab Emirates to the French Alps leaving a trail of bodies as they search for one of their own. They are cleaning up loose ends caused by the FBI’s disruption of the Illuminati’s child sex trafficking network. On their trail are SSA Bing Ingram and his FBI CARD team assigned to an Interpol task force charged with destroying the network uncovered in the United States. The sicarii and the task force find themselves in a cross-continental race to locate the one man who could cause the ultimate destruction of the network – a high-ranking member of the Illuminati Circle. With the lives of countless children hanging in the balance, the task force must find the cunning Circle member before the sicarii do. The race from Abu Dhabi to Torun is as thrilling as the Grand Prix … but far more deadly.

    The Illuminati Circle has a Hollywood feel to it, like something directed by Ron Howard. We get fast-paced action, gorgeous French scenery, beautiful women and gun-fights. We can cast Clive Owen as SSA Bing Ingram, Brie Larson as Trish and Amber Heard as Haseena.

    The Illuminati, unlike the occult Illuminati we typically know of, are a group of criminals with an MBA-like criminal network specializing in child trafficking. What I know of child trafficking is that they usually get their victims from poorer countries like Cambodia or the Philippines. It’s an eye-opener that they also abduct children from developed countries. The Illuminati caters to extremely rich clients by providing them what they specifically requested via the dark web. This is a very sickening crime and the book did a good job showing the extent of these criminal activities and the experiences of the children without getting too explicit or too graphic.

    Plot-wise, you can’t go wrong with a really interesting one like this and it was a breeze to read as well. However, I wasn’t feeling the characters. There is a good attempt to give them their quirks, personalities and sexual tension but they still come across as flat. LeFrenniere, who was an amoral, professional criminal (and played by Vincent Cassel), came the closest to being the most interesting but he didn’t quite get there. I would have wanted him to be more nuanced or at least be intimidating. Meh, he caved in too easily to Bing’s bluff. The female characters were the type you would call ‘strong’. They know how to fight and take charge but again, I wish there were some backstories. It would also give the book an extra layer and make the most of the omniscient POV if the relationship between Haseena and Enrika Venclava (played by Eva Green) was fully fleshed out. It would make Enrika’s motives in the next book much more convincing.

    All in all, I want to witness CARD destroy the Illuminati and rescue the children but hopefully we get that much needed depth to the characters.


    Thank you to the author, Robert J. Ristino for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review. 

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

    Soundtrack: The Blackest Crow
    Artist: Kiernan Towers & Charlotte Carrivick

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    REVIEW: Noble Hops by Layla Reyne

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    Trouble Brewing: Noble Hops – Layla Reyne

    Everything Dominic Price has worked hard to uphold is about to come crashing down on everything he holds dear.

    So much for the quiet life. Just as assistant US attorney and brewery owner Dominic Price is settling into a comfy new chapter with his partner, FBI agent Cameron Byrne, the sudden death of Nic’s father puts their happily-ever-after in jeopardy. Nic immediately suspects foul play, his prime suspect a notorious gangster his father was indebted to—only now the loan shark is out for blood.

    Cam has been longing for Nic to finally let him in on this very personal case. But when Nic’s belief that he’s the sole Price heir is upended, the line between personal and professional starts to blur, leaving Cam unsure of where he stands.

    Nic is depending on Cam’s kidnap and rescue expertise to save his recently discovered family member before it’s too late. But with a dangerous threat closing in, the ghosts from Nic’s past cast long shadows. Any relationship could crack under the pressure, but for Nic, finding his family might mean losing the love of his life.

    I want some of that Fighting Boston Irish Stout!

    Noble Hops wraps the Trouble Brewing series with a lot of suspense, action and that much awaited HEA. This third installment is focused on Nic. We get some answers to burning questions, such as why Vaugh was so hell-bent on hassling Nic when he had already cut ties with his father and who is this GS tattooed on Nic’s back.

    Cam and Nic is rock-solid and nothing could come between them, not even Nic’s first love, though Cam had his insecurities. I love how in sync they were with each other and nothing underscores their deep connection than when Nic wholeheartedly said Cam would find him. He always does.

    Like any MM reader, I love a good love story but Noble Hops is my kind of MM book in which there’s a whole lot of plot going on and the romance is on the side. An important person was kidnapped and Cam was in charge of the rescue operation. The search and rescue and the case against Vaugh took up most of the book. Vaughn was one tough bastard to nail. Waiting for him and Bowers to get their comeuppance kept me turning the pages. Nic’s family secrets were exposed but on the upside, his family expanded. Also, I have been waiting for it!, Nic doing his AUSA magic in the courtroom. Go get that bastard, Counselor!

    I highly recommend Trouble Brewing. It’s an addicting romantic suspense series with well-written story arcs, lovable cast of characters, exciting romance, also, great beer.


    And please, do we get a wedding novella? A spin-off for Eddie and G?

    I received a copy of Noble Hops from Carina Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Falling In Love Is A Suicide Mission
    Artist: Our Krypton Son
    Album: Fleas & Diamonds

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    REVIEW: Craft Brew by Layla Reyne

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    Trouble Brewing: Craft Brew – Layla Reyne

    Assistant US attorney Dominic Price is staring down the barrel of his father’s debts. The bull’s-eye on his back makes him a threat to everyone he cares about, so when his lover wants to go public with their relationship, he bolts. Not because he isn’t in love—he can’t stomach the thought of putting Cam in danger.

    Kidnap and rescue expert Cameron Byrne is determined to figure out what trouble Nic is running from, but devastating news from home brings him back to Boston and to the cold case that has haunted his family for two decades. Shoving aside his pride, he calls Nic for help.

    Together they search for answers, navigating the minefield of Cam’s past. But when they get too close to the truth, Cam must use every skill in his arsenal to save the man he loves…before it’s too late.

    Cam and Nic start my 2019 with Craft Brew, the second book of Trouble Brewing. This is a Cam-centric book. Cam, together with his bestfriend Jamie, goes back to Boston after his mom had a heart attack. We delve into his past when his 12 year old sister, Erin, went missing 20 years ago and his mom requested he give them all closure by finding out what happened to her. This is quite a painful experience for Cam and his family as once again, they open old wounds that never truly healed. Nic flew in to help and he meets the Byrne family but Cam hasn’t come out as bisexual to them so they keep their relationship low key.

    I liked how Nic fit right in the Byrne family even though at first, they had to keep their relationship secret. When the case wrapped up and the dust settled, I gave a little cheer when they finally decided “no more hiding” and they both came out to Cam’s family and to the public.

    My favorite part was at the end when Cam was so exhausted he fell asleep in the car. Nic didn’t have the heart to wake him up so he carried Cam up to their hotel room, causing complete strangers to almost swoon and declare them as “relationship goals.” Squee~ (∩˃o˂∩)♡

    Agents Irish and Whiskey and Trouble Brewing are big on family. Aidan and Cam both had huge Irish families, Jamie and Cam were brothers in everything but blood. And then there’s Nic, slowly admitting to himself that these guys, who always had his back, were his family.

    Another thread in the series is the case of Vaughn and Curtis Price, Nic’s dad. Aidan and Lauren were on hand to help with the investigation, along with Mel. I love the entire gang! Only Danny was missing. Majority of the characters who appear on both series felt very real to me and I think one of the strengths of the series is the great chemistry among these characters.

    As I have mentioned in my review of the first book Imperial Stout, I liked Cam and Nic’s series better than Aidan and Jamie’s (sorry ヾ(_ _*)) and this second installment cements that status. There is just the right balance of police procedural action and romance with both aspects executed really well. The climax was full of suspense and the peace and relief at the end was very palpable. This is a solid second book that puts the past behind and moved a lot of things forward.

    Recommended for those who love FBI action with a whole lot of drama and romance.


    Craft Brew is not a standalone. This is best read after book 1, Imperial Stout. To get a better picture of the group dynamics, also read Agents Irish and Whiskey first.

    Review of Imperial Stout here.
    Review of Agents Irish and Whiskey here.

    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Orange Sky
    Artist: Alexi Murdoch
    Album: Time Without Consequences