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    REVIEW: His Guilty Pleasure by Leighton Greene

    West Coast Mobster: His Guilty Pleasure – Leighton Greene

    When Redwood Manor’s butler Darian is accused of murder during a high-stakes Mafia parley, he has to rely on the infuriatingly attractive Raffi DeLuca to prove his innocence—before one of the mobsters decides to take justice into their own hands.

    Darian Thornfield-Hayes has always been content to fade into the background while he conducts his work with precision and perfection. But when murder threatens the fragile peace between rival Mafia factions staying at the Manor, he finds himself in the spotlight in the worst possible way.

    Raffi DeLuca, acting head of security—and the flirtatious thorn in Darian’s side—jumps in to give him an alibi, claiming they spent the night together. But in doing so, Raffi finds himself compromising his honor and his vows to the Don.

    When Darian and Raffi are forced to share a room to keep up the charade, the attraction simmering between them flares to life. Raffi sees past Darian’s defenses to the real man underneath, awakening desires the untouched Darian never dared admit to before.

    But Darian hasn’t been telling the whole truth…

    Torn between his heart and his duty, Raffi must decide how far he’s willing to go to protect Darian.

    Will their guilty pleasure be the key to solving the murders, or will secrets tear them apart?

    ***

    His Guilty Pleasure is the fifth book in the West Coast Mobsters series. Follow the men of the Los Angeles underworld in this page-turning romantic suspense series as they find love, danger and mystery in the most unexpected places.

    Each book in West Coast Mobsters tells the love story of a different couple who find their happy ending, as well as a resolution to the mystery they’re investigating, but there are cliffhangers to the wider suspense plot for the series.


    From the super-loyal Alfred Pennyworth to the devilish Sebastian Michaelis, butlers are fascinating, pivotal figures who perform miracles while being as unobtrusive as possible. However, the personal lives of butlers are a subject that doesn’t get talked about often, so when I learned about this book, I had to grab it.

    His Guilty Pleasure is the 5th book of West Coast Mobsters and the very reason why I started this series. Darian Thornfield-Hayes, Redwood Manor’s new butler, and Raffi DeLuca, acting head of security while Max Predetti is away, are in charge of making sure the parley between opposing Bernardi factions goes smoothly.

    Somebody threw a wrench into the works by murdering the mediator of the parley, a retired mobster last seen arguing with Darian. As the number one suspect, the young butler has to prove his innocence not only to the Castellanis but to the rest of the people involved in the parley.

    Darian’s and Raffi’s views from ‘below stairs’ gives us well-rounded look at the power players of the West Coast after seeing it through the Castellani leadership’s POVs from the previous books. The ‘dynamic duo’ juggled regular work, investigation of the murder, and their passionate, if complicated, romance while putting out fires and trying to keep everyone alive in a house full of killers.

    As subordinate members of the Castellani Family, Darian and Raffi felt very much like secondary characters in their own book despite it told in their dual 1st person POVs. It is fitting in a way because they are working in the background, supporting the Castellani bosses, performing minor miracles to satisfy the difficult and deadly guests of the Manor.

    As a peek into the private life of Darian, it almost didn’t feel like he had one because, no surprise, the butler has little personal time. How he seemed to be present everywhere at the same time is a mystery, but the man is a consummate in the art of hospitality.

    The most personal he got was finally acting on his attraction to white knight Raffi after a nudge or two by the matchmaking Julian. It was a hot/cold romance I’m neutral about because I am more invested in the murder mystery and the disaster of a parley.

    It is obvious from the get go that this is Julian Castellani’s show. He was hellbent on hiring Darian, even going so far as using Raffi when Darian first turned him down, knowing Darian would have a reaction to the security specialist. From then on, his “favorite butler boy” was guaranteed his protection because, it turned out, our lovable Castellani psycho collects and protects his toys, a.k.a. people he’s fond of. And never lets them go.

    Julian is also a genius schemer, a shadow ninja, and a creative killer who lends a helping hand to key players when needed, lays clues here and there, and makes bold moves lesser men won’t dare make. All for the Family and revenge.

    My favorite part, however, is Alessandro. The man is now a stronger, wiser Don Castellani. So wise, in fact, that he mastered the art of plausible deniability and weaponized it. It was a damn clever move and so low-key, yet it made the Castellanis more powerful than before!

    The only thing missing is Teddy. Our boy only has a cameo so I need another Sandro/Teddy book, pleeeease!

    His Guilty Pleasure satisfied my curiosity about butlers and while the romance was lukewarm, the mafia politics was a powder keg about to explode. It’s one heck of a gripping twisty-turn-y story, stealthy in its attack, gleeful in its revenge, and pleasurable in its unfolding.

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

    Soundtrack: Pleasure
    Artist: Feist
    Album: Pleasure

    West Coast Mobsters has an ongoing suspense plot that runs through the all the installments so they should be read in order.

    Johnny Jacopo lost a hat and gained a boyfriend in His Lethal Desire.

    Alessandro Castellani looked for justice and found a teddy bear in His Brutal Heart .

    Julian Castellani went on the prowl and tamed a lion in His Fatal Love.

    Max Predretti uncovered a traitor and discovered a mafia prince in His Sinful Need.


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    SERIES REVIEW: Enlightenment Books 2 & 3 by Joanna Chambers

    Enlightenment: Beguiled – Joanna Chambers

    A fleeting pleasure is the sweetest seduction…

    David Lauriston couldn’t be less interested in King George IV’s first visit to Edinburgh. But with Faculty of Advocates members required to put on a minimal show of patriotism, David makes an appointment with his tailor for a new set of clothes-only to run into a man he hasn’t seen for two long years.

    Lord Murdo Balfour.

    Much has changed since their bitter parting, except their stormy attraction. And when Murdo suggests they enjoy each other’s company during his stay, David finds himself agreeing. After all, it’s only a temporary tryst.

    Amidst the pomp and ceremony of the King’s visit, Murdo’s seduction is more powerful than David ever imagined possible. But when other figures from David’s past show up, he is drawn into a chain of events beyond his control. Where his determination to help a friend will break his body, threaten his career, and put at risk the fragile tenderness he’s found in Murdo’s arms.

    Warning: Contains a lowborn Scottish lawyer with no love for the aristocracy, but more than enough passion for this highborn lord. Political intrigue, kilts, explicit m/m trysts, and men who epitomize “knight in shining armor.”


    Rating:
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: Show Me The Wonder
    Artist: Manic Street Preachers
    Album: Rewind the Film


    Enlightenment: Enlightened – Joanna Chambers

    The cruelest duel may not spill a drop of blood…but it could break their hearts.

    Five months ago, David Lauriston was badly hurt helping his friend Elizabeth escape her violent husband. Since then, David has been living with his lover, Lord Murdo Balfour, while he recuperates.

    Despite the pain of his injuries, David’s time with Murdo has been the happiest of his life. The only things that trouble him are Murdo’s occasional bouts of preoccupation, and the fact that one day soon, David will have to return to his legal practice in Edinburgh.

    That day comes too soon when David’s friend and mentor takes to his deathbed, and David finds himself agreeing to take on a private mission in London. Murdo is at his side in the journey, but a shocking revelation by Murdo’s ruthless father leaves David questioning everything they’ve shared.

    As tensions mount and the stakes grow higher, David and Murdo are forced to ask themselves how far they’re prepared to go—and how much they’re prepared to give up—to stay together. And whether there’s any chance of lasting happiness for men like them.

    Warning: Men in love, men with secrets, and men armed with dueling pistols.


    Rating:
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: Light
    Artist: Kinder
    Album: Light


    I don’t know what the heck I read in 2017, but I remember not being too impressed with Provoked, Book 1 of Enlightenment. The series was a huge fan-favorite, so what was I missing? 

    The story is from the POV of young lawyer David Lauriston. He’s a man with strong opinions about right or wrong. He will go through extreme lengths to protect his friends, especially Elizabeth, who married a rich but abusive aristocrat. David is stubborn, but I liked that he’s loyal and kind to a fault.

    My main gripe was Lord Murdo Balfour.

    Murdo is a villain name. Also, he was supposed to be this mysterious rakish figure who seduced the then-virgin David Lauriston, only to leave him high and dry. Apparently, there’s a thing as too enigmatic because he came across as a faceless, featureless, one-dimensional entity.

    Cue Books 2 and 3, Beguiled and Enlightened, and I was spectacularly flabbergasted to discover the very same Lord Murdo Balfour, not just a living, breathing entity, but a swoony, generous, considerate, and attentive love interest so obviously smitten with our boy David. How the hell did I not see that before?!

    And Murdo, chafing at the bit to free himself from his father’s evil grasp, and single-mindedly defiant of the Earl’s machinations to have him marry a woman to further their family’s political power. Also, him doing everything to protect David and his friends at the cost of his reputation, family, and wealth. This man, OMG!!! My jaw dropped to the floor!

    My, ahem, enlightenment in this aptly named series gave me a high while reading the 2nd and 3rd books. I had better appreciation of what turned out to be an very-well thought out plot running through the first three books, with nuanced characters navigating tricky political and social rules and a high stakes forbidden romance culminating a daring all or nothing bid for an HEA.

    I also complained before about the POV being solely from David’s as too one-sided. It didn’t matter anymore. The storytelling felt more balanced now that I have a better grasp of Murdo’s character. Also, the rest of the supporting cast, David’s mentor Chalmers, Elizabeth, Euan who is David’s friend and Lizzie’s lover, the Earl, and Lizzie’s abusive husband, now stood out individually and playing their parts effectively.

    I have never been more glad to give a series another chance. The fans were right!

    From the eye-opening characters, the compelling threads of kindness, trust, and care in a world of power and abuse, to the clever, clever way it sliced through the Gordian knots that bind Murdo and the hard-won happiness for him and David, Enlightenment is a brilliant historical romance. 

    A true classic!

    P.S.

    Enlightenment should be read in order. Decide if Murdo was indeed cardboard or I was too blind to see his true nature in Book1, Provoked.


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    REVIEW: The Assassin’s Dragon by W.M. Fawkes & Sam Burns

    Fire and Valor: The Assassin’s Dragon – W.M. Fawkes & Sam Burns

    In Atheldinas, everyone’s secrets have been uncovered. Tristram is a half-dragon, Nicholas is a villain scheming to take the throne from his cousin Roland, and eternally sharp Bet is nothing less than a hero.

    The cost has been high, and now Tristram is forced to amass the armies of Llangard to save his king from Jarl Vidar, the mysterious figure who’s hellbent on tearing Llangard in two. To get his king back and defeat the impending Tornish invasion, Tris will need the help of not only all his Llangardian allies, but the dragons of the Mawrcraig Mountains. If he cannot bring his two peoples together, no other stands a chance.

    But one last secret remains hidden in the harsh north, and uncovering it might be the undoing of all that Tristram and his allies have fought to protect.


    It’s unfair to compare every high fantasy to LOTR, just like it’s unfair to associate every magical academy plot to Harry Potter. However, I couldn’t help imagining the scenes from Return of the King when reading the war scenes of The Assassin’s Dragon.

    The 3rd book of Fire and Valor pulled out all the stops in this series finale. Last we know, King Roland was captive of Jarl Vidar, and Bet and Tristram are setting out for a rescue mission.

    Meanwhile, Princess Gillian is at the helm and trying her best to work with the dragons. Sidone and Rhiannon, with child mages-in-training in tow, arrive at Atheldinas to warn them of feral beasts about to attack the city.

    The story continues to cycle through several POVs, and by this time, everything flowed seamlessly.

    Bet Kyston – still shadowy and surly and working overtime to keep the Lord Regent, his beloved Tristram, safe from yet another assassination attempt. Bet’s relationship with King Roland is one of my favorite parts in the entire series. Since the 1st Book, The King’s Dragon, the half-elf has been kind to the neglected boy, and he fought to protect the young king to the very end.

    Tristram Radcliffe – Tris is now more settled and more comfortable with his dragon self. Loving the dynamics between him and his newly discovered dragon brother and father. Like Bet, Tris was fond of Roland since the beginning, and they are the two people the young king fully trusts.

    Sidone – the fierce protector and honorable knight, along with her lady dragon, Rhiannon, is helping the city prepare for war. If I knew how to draw, I’d make a fanart of her astride her dragon. Most anime/game female knights are horribly, impractically dressed, so I’m loving the image of Sir Sidone in full proper armor with her lovely copper hair in braids. So cool!

    Rhiannon – She is back in fighting form! Also, standing side by side with her brother Maddox against Jarl Vidar’s army. Rhiannon plays city defender and mediator between the rather difficult Queen Halwen, her dragons, and Atheldinas.

    Maddox – this dragon prince took me a while to warm up to, but Maddox eventually won me over after he got along with Tristram. His mom, Queen Halwen, was a tough nut to crack, but Maddox was stubborn enough to break through her walls and strong enough to lead the dragons to war. It’s time for a dragon king!

    Princess Gillian – Girl gave me the high-level spells I’ve been dying to see! She not only saved the city, she saved the entire country! She could have been Queen of Llandgard. She’d rather be the Mother of Dragons.

    Bowen – the grizzled warrior continues his life mission to protect the young and the weak. Bowen is the definition of competence and strength. He is a close confidant of the dragon Queen Dorteia, who saw the warrior could use some spark of joy in his life. She helped him finally come to terms with his feelings for the young dragon, Hafgan.

    Hafgan – this twink has an old dragon wrapped around his little finger. Hafgan is protective of the dragon eggs they retrieved from the Jarl, having lost his entire clan previously. In Book 2, The Prince’s Dragon , he was forced to leave his brother, Dragon, behind. The much-awaited reunion between the two did not disappoint.

    Rhys – dragon daddy is the first to admit he’s not a warrior, but the mage scholar still fought fiercely in the final battle. Took Rhys a couple of decades, but I’m glad he finally has his entire family together.

    Roland – this king is only nine-years old but has seen things that would turn most adults’ stomach. Super amused with how this young boy could run circles around a centuries-old enemy. His POV, along with Dragon’s, is my favorite. I loved how it was written as a child’s perspective but with wisdom well beyond his age.

    Dragon – Dragon’s POV is my most anticipated of all! The most cinnamon roll of cinnamon rolls, this poor child has been held captive for years and purposefully underfed to keep him under control. Roland befriended him while the king was also a prisoner of the Jarl. Their scenes were the most moving, especially that feather quill, that thing hurt my chest!

    There were some parts, especially in the first chapters, where my attention waned. Past that hiccup, the story flowed smoothly and swiftly. It was also more action-packed. The multi-specie horde, with the feral dragon beasts, is why LOTR comes to mind.

    The battle scenes were short and to the point. I loved that it spared me the tedious details, but they were almost too short for me to savor the badassery of the characters. The fight scenes were over before I knew it. Still, it was a spectacular finale.

    The Assassin’s Dragon unites former enemies to fight against the real enemy of Llandgard. This heart-stopping conclusion to an epic series has the kind of thrilling scenes that would make every high fantasy geek swoon!

    Here be dragons, knights, assassins, mages, royals, and one clever boy king holding the fate of Llandgard in their hands!

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

    Soundtrack: Freedom
    Artist: Ado
    Album: Kyougen

    Fire and Valor should be read in order.

    There’s something sinister brewing in Atheldinas in The King’s Dragon.

    Secrets are not so much as coming out, but more like, hurtled into the open in The Prince’s Dragon 


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    REVIEW: His Sinful Need by Leighton Greene

    West Coast Mobsters: His Sinful Need by Leighton Greene

    Two men. Two Families. Too many secrets.When Castellani security specialist Max Pedretti is reluctantly loaned out to the Esposito Family, he’s thrust into close quarters with their youngest Capo, Bricker Soldano. The magnetic pull between them is undeniable, but Bricker is strictly off-limits, for multiple reasons.

    For one thing, he’s an Esposito.

    For another, he’s half Max’s age.

    But most of all, because Max shares a hidden criminal history with Bricker’s father—a secret that could shatter the tentative trust building between them.

    So Max vows to focus on the job instead, and finds his old skills as a bank robber are put to the test as he works with Bricker and his crew on a heist that could change the power dynamics in Los Angeles.

    But when a tragedy reveals a mole in their midst, Max and Bricker must investigate together to uncover the truth, blurring the lines of loyalty and desire.

    Can Max and Bricker uncover the traitor and find their way to love, or will past sins cost them everything?

    ***

    Each book in this series tells the love story of a different couple who find their happy ending, as well as a resolution to the mystery they’re investigating, but there are cliffhangers to the wider suspense plot for the series.


    Massimo Pedretti is a man who smells like aftershave and gunpowder. A good smell for a security specialist, according to the sharp-nosed Julian Castellani in Book 3, His Fatal Love. Next to his underboss, Jack Jacopo (His Lethal Desire), and his brother Julian, Max is the other person Don Alessandro Castellani (His Brutal Heart) depends on the most.

    His Sinful Need is Book 4 of West Coast Mobsters. Each  book features a West Coast Family, from the Castellanis, Bernardis, and now, the Espositos. This Family is unique in that they accept women in their ranks, and they rarely interact with other Families. 

    The head of the Espositos is the formidable Maestra Anna-Vittoria Esposito. She specifically requested Max to work with them, cashing in the favor Alessandro owed her. He is to join the team headed by Bricker Soldano, a young capo almost half his age.

    Half of Bricker’s team is experienced, and the other half green-as-grass rookies who can barely shoot. They are preparing for a bank heist, but most of their practice runs end in disasters, so Bricker was forced to admit there is a mole in their ranks. And whether he admit or not, he could use the help of a veteran in the field like Max. But can the Castellani be trusted?

    I’m not sure whether it is because I skipped the sex scenes since I am not a fan of age gap romance, but Max and Bricker’s book felt different than the rest of the books. Not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just there are less sex-related thoughts than the rest.

    Max’s internal dialogues are more about the missions and the angst over secrets from the past that might come back to bite him in the ass. There’s some worrying over his attraction, the age gap and Bricker’s connection to a ghost from the past.

    I loved Max! He oozes calm, confidence and dependability that jump off the page. This is also why his book feels less hectic and less violent than the rest. It’s like you know things will be okay because Max.

    With twenty-odd years in Castellani service, he is fiercely loyal and well-liked in the Family. It may have been a surprise that he was chosen, but still fitting because no one else would be a better envoy to the Esposito Family than Max.

    Bricker’s lusting after the older man, but it’s mixed with suspicions and worry over who to trust. As the youngest Esposito capo, he’s eager to prove himself and his team.

    I’m neutral about Bricker. There’s a lot of hot/cold treatment from him, but he’s a good leader who cares for his team like a family. I loved that he doesn’t do shortcuts when preparing his team for their missions, ensuring not just success but everyone’s safety as well.

    The plot weaves an age gap romance, trust issues, mafia politics, action, and several major and minor mysteries, some nothing more than a casual mention that you know will be pick up again in the future. The mole was easy to guess, and the romance wasn’t doing it for me, but I still loved this book.

    My favorite is the revelations regarding the Espositos, proving that the enigmatic Anna-Vittoria has a heart underneath the iron will. I loved how the WCM and Morelli Family world expanded, satisfying my curiosity that was piqued since mentions of how aloof, unique and mysterious the Espositos are from the previous books.

    Every Castellani cameo gave me life. Our boy Jack, always gregarious but deadly. Julian was particularly significant as the man is the dreaded bogeyman of the West Coast. I enjoyed seeing Sandro as the mighty Don Castellani from another person’s POV. I need another Sandro and Teddy book!!!

    HIs Sinful Need didn’t have the sizzling chemistry like the other WCM books, but it’s still a solid installment. The thrill is in the revelations of family dynamics, the twisty turn-y mafia politics, and the interactions of well-loved characters who rule the West Coast. All in all, steadily gripping, wholly likable, not that sinful, totally necessary.

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

    Soundtrack: Trust
    Artist: Half-Alive
    Album: Now, Not Yet

    P.S.

    West Coast Mobsters should be read in order. Last time, I realized the WCM books are retellings.

    His Lethal Desire is Cinderfella falling in love with a hitman. His Brutal Heart is Beauty and the Beast with a cyber twist. And His Fatal Love is Romeo and Julian, BDSM style.

    I can’t still figure out which retelling His Sinful Need is. Let me know if you know.


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    REVIEW: His Fatal Love by Leighton Greene

    West Coast Mobsters: His Fatal Love – Leighton Greene

    Easily bored, completely manipulative, and utterly deadly…and that’s just in bed.

    As an assassin for the Castellani Family, I live for the thrill of the job.
    I’m devoted to my Family and my Don, because they keep me safe.

    To Leo Bernardi, I’m a monster.
    A killing machine.
    And a puppet that his Family can use for their own ends.

    To me, Leo is just a pawn in a game that I’m playing.
    A means to an end.
    And if I have a little fun with him along the way, who cares?

    Leo thinks he can seduce me. Tame me. Use me.
    In this game of cat and mouse, the Bernardi Lion is about to get a big surprise.

    But the more entangled we become, the more I start to feel…

    Things I didn’t think I was capable of feeling.

    Things I’ve never wanted to feel.

    In my line of work, love is a fatal flaw. But the more time we spend together, the harder I fall.

    Leo Bernardi is my greatest enemy…
    Could he also be my greatest love?

    **

    Dive into a forbidden romance between a psychopath assassin and a Mob Enforcer. Get ready for seductions and betrayals, scorching love scenes, and an unforgettable romance as a cold case comes back to haunt two Families sworn to destroy each other.


    If you have read the Morelli Family series, Julian Castellani most likely made himself memorable with his specially made intimate jewelry, attempting to seduce a well-placed Morelli. Unlike Alessandro, who prefers a low-key profile, this Castellani brother embraces the limelight and his notoriety.

    His Fatal Love is Julian investigating the murder of his beloved mother he witnessed when he was five years old. A lil mystery that I didn’t realize until the big twist was revealed was why Julian was questioning the identity of the killer despite seeing the crime happening right before his eyes.

    Julian has been called many names, psychopath being one. To which he is quick to reply, “undiagnosed“. An expert assassin on par with Jack, Julian is practically a ninja the way he can go in and out any tightly guarded place. He either feels nothing or feels too much, no in-betweens.

    Two complicated relationships are with Alessandro and Jack.

    Alessandro and Julian have always been antagonistic. There were even moments I felt Julian was going to kill his brother. Book 2, His Brutal Heart, put that to rest, and happily, Alessandro and Julian have somehow come to a truce, and along with Jack coming back to the fold, it makes for a stronger Castellani Family.

    I think Julian has a teeny-tiny bit of brother complex. Alessandro has a thing for blonds, and light-haired Julian always tries to provoke his brother by mentioning this in his on-going game of notice me, onii-chan.

    Also, the way he describes Alessandro by smell that was somewhat too intimate for brothers, even half-brothers. Turns out, he catalogues everyone’s smell. There’s a reason for this and I loved the stealthy way the story connected it to everything that’s happening.

    Trust is one of the major themes, and Julian is known to be spectacularly untrustworthy. Jack, the top Castellani assassin from His Lethal Desire, wouldn’t let his boyfriend, Miller, anywhere near the younger Castellani.

    When Jack tried to explain what trust is and why he doesn’t trust him, Julian struggled to understand the concept. This psychopath assassin is somebody who will kiss you passionately then, quick as a snap, give you a Sparta kick down an oubliette. 

    As Leo Bernardi discovered.

    Leo is the second son of Don Bernardi and works as the Enforcer. He struggling to gain his father’s respect, which was doubly hard since his father is homophobic. The connection between the Bernardi Lion and Julian is a convoluted scheme cooked up by the don that makes use of the fact that Leo is gay and has to seduce the younger Castellani to the Bernardi side.

    The plot was a thrilling game of seduction, secret identities, double agents, hard bargains and rough sex. It was gripping and twisty turn-y, weaving Julian’s investigation and mafia politics with his character development, relationship with Alessandro, growing feelings between him and Leo, and a surprising secret vulnerability that explains many quirks.

    Leo might be less flashier than Julian, but the Bernardi Lion has a dominant presence, similar ruthlessness, and indomitable will to finish a mission. Used to being the brawn, he’s a lot smarter than he gives himself credit for.

    Leo is loyal to a fault but has no qualms withdrawing that loyalty when a person is no longer worthy of such gift. So when his loyalties shifted to Julian who earned it the hard way, it stayed with him for good.

    I couldn’t imagine before who Leighton Greene would pair Julian with. But now that I’ve meet him, Leo Bernardi is the perfect match. He softens Julian’s rougher edges without stifling the feral wildness that makes Julian who he is.

    We may have come from different worlds, but we fit together perfectly. We have our own secret language—a language of revenge, of love, of passion and violence.

    My favorite parts were the scenes where Julian was confused why his chest feels tight or almost painful. He was so endearingly bewildered, not realizing he was feeling emotions he never felt before. Feelings like concern, fear, happiness, and love. All because of Leo.

    His Fatal Love is a fascinating tale of vendetta, blood ties and Family vows. It is one man’s heart-opening journey and a second son coming into his own. All in all, intensely feral, wildly passionate and fatally emotional!

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

    Soundtrack: Love and War
    Artist: Fleurie
    Album: Love and War

    P.S.

    West Coast Mobsters should be read in order. They’re delicious mafia romances with a fairy tale flavor.

    Witness a Cinderfella hitman style in His Lethal Desire and a darker take on Beauty and the Beast in His Brutal Heart.


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    REVIEW: Peacemaker by Morgan Brice

    Sharps and Springfield: Peacemaker – Morgan Brice

    Secret agents, forbidden love, danger, and magic!

    Supernatural Secret Service agents Owen Sharps and Calvin Springfield meet on the train to their new assignment in St. Louis, and sparks fly between them. But it’s 1897, and they need to be very careful—falling in love can be dangerous for men like them.

    It’s their first case together, investigating mysterious disappearances—including the two agents who preceded them. Grim evidence leads them to look for a darker purpose. Old ghosts haunt the railroad line, zombie rise, signs point to ritual sacrifice, and they suspect someone is trying to open the gates of hell.

    Can Calvin and Owen stop the mayhem, thwart the vampires, and find true love, or will everything go up in smoke?

    Peacemaker is a high-stakes steampunk MM romance thrill ride filled with found family, paranormal Pinkertons, intrepid reporters, mysterious disappearances, nefarious land brokers, hellhounds, zombies, vengeful spirits, dark spells, absinthe magic, a ruthless vampire railroad baron and a love that won’t be denied.

    Before Colt and Winchester, there was Sharps & Springfield!

    Peacemaker is the first book in the new Sharps & Springfield series


    Finally, gay Pinkertons!

    I learned about Pinkertons from Whyborne & Griffin, the latter being a former Pinkerton detective. I haven’t encountered many MM stories about these detectives, so I was super excited for Morgan Brice‘s latest steampunk series, Sharps and Springfield.

    Peacemaker is Book 1, and while there are no cosmic apocalyptic threats here, there are plenty of things that go bump in the night. The story opens with SSS Agent Owen Sharps’s anonymous meeting with his soon-to-be partner, Agent Calvin Springfield. The two somewhat hit it off, parted ways, met again, and were surprised to learn about each other’s identities.

    The new partners were tasked to take over a case from two missing agents. It involved a massive railroad construction by sketchy billionaires headed by an even sketchier vampire. Later, there were encounters with hellhounds, zombies, witches and gates of hell.

    As a means to lay the groundwork for future books, this opener built a fascinating world of magical secret agents, supernatural allies, badass non-magical humans, and enigmatic villains. As for the steampunk, it was sadly missing.

    A highlight was the Pullman, a historical equivalent of the trailers rockstars use on tour. This one, though, was incredulous. The way it was described, it has three bedrooms with full-sized beds for people over six feet. There’s a kitchen, a shower, and an honest-to-goodness fully stocked library, armament room, AND research laboratory.

    The exact size wasn’t mention, but the damned thing sounds like it’s bigger than my house. And it’s pulled by horses. HOW?!

    I’m on the fence with the storytelling. On one hand, it was consistently engaging, and I had fun. On the other, the investigation involved many interviews with contacts and witnesses. This is realistic, but then most of the key events were told rather than shown.

    Owen and Calvin danced around each other, trying to suss out each other’s gay vibes, but held back from openly pursuing their mutual interest. They practically just met, and with some homophobic folks publicly stirring trouble, they can never be too careful.

    Majority of the time, they spent it apart, individually pursuing certain leads. So it was a stretch when the two suddenly declared they were in love. I would have preferred that they took at least the second book to actually get to know each other before throwing around ILYs.

    Owen is a medium. It amuses me that he’s fan of Dracula the book. He has a Southern drawl and the charm, too. Calvin is a psychometric. He’s a bit more serious, but he loves comics. He used to run with a gang before being a Pinkerton.

    I like Owen, Calvin, AND Winston, the witch butler and the most important character, because the boys are lost without him. I would also love more appearances by the rest of the cast. There’s a wonderful found family forming here, and I’m all for it.

    Overall, Peacemaker has a great premise, the writing worked well for me, the characters are intriguing, and I loved this paranormal world the author created. I’m still wondering where this series fit in her multi-series universe.

    It might be a mix bag, but if there’s one thing I love about Morgan Brice, it’s that her series gets better and better with each new installment. Witchbane is an excellent example. I can’t wait when Sharps and Springfield finally hit its stride. 

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

    Soundtrack: Peacemaker
    Artist: Animal Collective
    Album: The Painters


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    REVIEW: His Brutal Heart by Leighton Greene

    West Coast Mobsters: His Brutal Heart – Leighton Greene

    The ultimate forbidden love: a Mafia Boss and his captive.

    I’m a man without mercy. A Mafia heir.
    Brutality was all that ever made sense to me…
    Until I saw him.

    Unfortunately, he happens to be the sole witness to my latest crime.
    That should mean one thing.
    Elimination.

    But one look into those pleading blue eyes, and I lost myself.

    I let a beauty live…
    But – beast that I am – I’ve locked him away.

    Little by little, he charms his way out of his cell and into my bed, until I begin to wonder which of us is the real prisoner.

    After all, I’m the one trapped by my own brutal heart.

    And that oh-so-innocent beauty I took and kept?

    He has secrets of his own.

    Secrets that could destroy me.

    ***

    His Brutal Heart is the second book in the West Coast Mobsters series. Follow the men of the Los Angeles underworld in this page-turning romantic suspense series as they find love, danger and mystery in the most unexpected places.

    Each book in this series tells the love story of a different couple who find their happy ending, as well as a resolution to the mystery they’re investigating, but there are cliffhangers to the wider suspense plot for the series.

    Content advisory notes are available to view on the Copyright page via Look Inside or by downloading the sample.


    There’s a Teddy inside all of us.

    Why else would there be an entire sub-genre of romance dedicated to the mafia, bratva, heck, even the damn cartel? Strictly fictional, of course.

    Leighton Greene continues to blew me away with the second book of her spectacular romantic suspense series, West Coast Mobsters. I was tickled pink to learn His Brutal Heart is about Alessandro Castellani and Teddy MacCallum. I knew it would be good, but holyyy hell, I didn’t know it would FUCKING SLAY!!!!

    At its core, the story is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, where the scarred Alessandro considers himself too ugly to be lovable and the adorkably-oblivious-that-he-is-gorgeous Teddy MacCallum was initially held prisoner in Redwood Manor against his will.

    The two were forced to work together when Teddy proved he could be useful in solving the murder of the old Don Castellani. By this time, our boy Teddy practically begged to stay in the manor.

    Teddy owns Cute Crims, a website dedicated to stanning and/or fapping over made men. As Site God, Teddy runs a tight ship, the rules for posting a pic being a.) should be cute, b.) should be crim, and c.) should be Family. He oversees multi-forums worth of information, mostly wild speculations, some surprisingly accurate.

    And if there’s one mafioso Teddy is obsessed with, that is the notorious but elusive Alessandro Castellani. Theirs was a fucked up version of a celebrity meet cute where the Sandro fan boy meets his crush over double crossing gangs and gunfire. Because how else?

    In Book 1, His Lethal Desire, Jack was the main driving force. Here, both Alessandro and Teddy fascinated me. The dynamics is pure delight! There’s a delicate play of power that swings deliciously back and forth between Alessandro and Teddy.

    Alessandro, now the new Don Castellani, finds himself with no trusted allies within their ranks. The murder of the old don demands that it should be solved first and the killer punished before vows to the new don could be made. If they will be made at all.

    Alessandro ruthlessly dominates but questions his value as the new Don and a person worthy of affection. He’s angry, bitter, and lonely. Teddy is inexperienced but completely obsessed and single-minded in his pursuit and adoration of the scarred Alessandro. An angelic marshmallow, Teddy has a surprising amount of steel and resourcefulness. In no time, he has Sandro wrapped around his little finger.

    That our boy Teddy was gutsy enough to pit his wits against a cunning devil like Julian, spoke volumes of Teddy’s intellect and devotion to Alessandro. With his sweet, giving nature, it’s easy to forget he has serious tech skills and smarts.

    Sandro would be the big bad Don Castellani, making hard decisions, being a mean motherfucker, and pushing Teddy away. Teddy only has to say “Alessandro” in a certain way, and BAM, Alessandro melting be like, “I can’t refuse you when you say my name like that.” SWOON!!

    It’s the way he says my name, worshipful, shy, his voice trembling, that destroys the last of my self-control.

    The way Alessandro’s character grew, the way he let Teddy inside his walls, and the way his cold, dead heart started beating again, it’s why hurt comfort holds my heart in a vise and then be DEVASTATINGLY GOOD!

    And it’s not just the romance that was brilliant, the mystery and the rest of the plot were equally riveting.

    I guessed the murderer early on, but such is the author’s storytelling abilities that I enjoyed watching the characters put it all together. The murder mystery is the thread that propelled the plot, leading Alessandro and Teddy to interact with various characters, hash out old grudges, and eventually clear the air.

    Alessandro’s complicated relationship with former-best-friend-now-frenemy Jack kept me hooked. Their friendship was broken by betrayal, bloody and violent. But Alessandro needs Jack because there’s almost no one else to trust, and our boy Jack, honorable man that he is, dutifully watched his boss’s back despite mixed feelings.

    Another complicated relationship is with Julian, Alessandro’s half-brother. Wily, with genius-level scheming skills, and downright crazy, the man spent most of the story behind bars in the manor dungeons but still managed to make quite a presence!

    The resolutions for both of these and the murder conclude the story in a satisfying way while leaving an opening for Julian’s book.

    Leighton Greene excels at creating memorable and compelling characters. Alessandro and Teddy are just two of the many she conceived that were memorable. It’s a huge deal because this series and the Morelli Family, are interconnected, and every time one character makes a cameo, I could still recall scenes from their book. Not many interconnected series can do that.

    His Brutal Heart is a story of finding self-worth and fighting for family and blood. As Alessandro quickly learns, it’s lonely at the top. It’s even lonelier to have your heart’s desire within reach but you’re too afraid to grab it. Overall, intensely passionate, incredibly squee-tastic, brutally romantic!

    Rating:
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: Scar
    Artist: Joe Henry
    Album: Scar

    P.S.

    West Coast Mobsters should be read in order. The endings are left as openings for the succeeding book. And these mafiosos are worth the shot.

    Witness a hitman dodge bullets, only to be hit by a bullseye straight to the heart in His Lethal Desire.


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    REVIEW: His Lethal Desire by Leighton Greene

    West Coast Mobsters: His Lethal Desire – Leighton Greene

    There’s nothing more lethal than a hitman in love.

    Johnny “Jack” Jacopo was once the Castellani Family’s top hitman, but one terrible mistake saw him kicked back down the ladder. So when the Boss orders him to look into the disappearance of a Hollywood starlet, Jack sees an opportunity to rise back up the Family ranks.

    His first move is to question the missing actress’s twin brother. Miller Beaumont is charming, gorgeous, flirty…and he’s the same guy who was hitting on Jack in a bar the night before.

    Jack tries to keep things strictly business, but Miller has access to inside information that Jack needs to solve the case. And it’s just too tempting when Miller proposes that they team up to find his sister.

    As their search leads them into danger, Jack finds he has more to lose than he ever expected. Someone is coming after Miller, and Jack finds himself torn between duty to his Family and his own foolish heart.

    Because despite himself, Jack is making one more mistake, the biggest of them all, the one dumb thing he swore he’d never do.

    He’s falling in love.

    ***

    His Lethal Desire is the first book in the West Coast Mobsters series. Follow the men of the Los Angeles underworld in this page-turning romantic suspense series as they find love, danger and mystery in the most unexpected places.

    Each book in West Coast Mobsters tells the love story of a different couple who find their happy ending, as well as a resolution to the mystery they’re investigating, but there are cliffhangers to the wider suspense plot for the series.


    I picked this up only because I was intrigued by the 5th Book’s premise about a virgin butler framed for murder. And since I always have the compulsion to read a series in order, I have to start here.

    His Lethal Desire, Book 1 of West Coast Mobsters, quickly made me realize it’s more than just a necessary hurdle. It has everything I love about mafia romance!

    The thrill of flirting with danger, the possessive smoldering passion, the intriguing mix of dark and good wrapped in a gorgeous bad boy persona. And if we’re lucky, there’d be a lot of bi-lingual sweet nothings and cusses, too.

    The story also has a bonus twist that caught my attention immediately. Johnny ‘Jack’ Jacopo, formerly top hitman for the Castellanis, was demoted to foot soldier and bar security. It’s rare for me to encounter a demoted mafioso, usually they don’t even get second chances when they fuck up.

    The WCM series is a spin-off of the Morelli Family, and in the last book, a Vegas mob boss put a hit on Jack. Don Ciro Castellani offered protection, so Jack is stuck in LA.

    Jack is in the unique position of being very good at what he used to do to just be thrown away. Also, he saved the Don’s son, Sandro’s life in a way that forced him to do something Sandro considers betrayal. The two used to be close friends, but Sandro has reserved the rights to kill Jack. He’s only alive because of the Don.

    Now, the Don is giving him a chance for a re-promotion. He’s tasked to find a missing actress, Anais Beaumont, and he’s given a lead, the actress’s twin, Miller. The same person Jack’s been eyeing across the bar for weeks. The person who shamelessly flirted and kissed him the night before.

    I’m not too familiar with the technicalities of a story, so I my reviews are just me squee-ing at stuff. But sometimes, I hear people say it’s a character-driven story. Not sure if this book is like that, but I could definitely say Jack is the main driving force for me here.

    He’s your typical mafioso, a bit jaded and too used to violence. But he’s internal dialogues are compelling, showing his vulnerable side, his fears, and sometimes, when he dare hope, his plans to get away from LA.

    And my favorite part about Jack is his loyalty. Even Ciro Castellani recognizes that Jack’s brand of loyalty is not something that could ever be bought by money. That’s why he wants him to guard Sandro, but sure as hell, the two will end up killing each other.

    The best part is when that loyalty shifted to Miller.

    We Jacopos only ever got one shot at love, my father had once told me. You won’t give a damn about anyone until suddenly you do, and that’ll be it. Forever. Even if they leave, even if they die. You’ll still love them, and you can try with someone else, even make it work for a while, but it won’t be the same.

    One shot at love, Johnny. It’s just the way things are for us Jacopos.

    Miller and his sister were child actors. But unlike his twin, who still a star, Miller is mostly forgotten, and he spends his time partying hard to fill the emptiness. He doesn’t do substance abuse, thankfully. Secretly, he’s a talented painter, but years of being belittled did a number on his confidence.

    I didn’t warm up to Miller immediately, but the more I knew about him, the more I learn that he has a big heart. He puts the people he loves first, and it is unfortunate that those people are narcissists. Miller doesn’t deserved how his family treated him.

    From their meet-cute at the bar to the very last page, Jack and Miller’s chemistry is DELICIOUS! Their romance developed organically, not too insta and not too slow-burn. And it’s just FANTASTIC all the way through! Jack’s world is Miller, and our boy Miller, with his selfless heart, deserves all the love in the world.

    Aside from the romance, the rest of the book was a solid read. The mystery was fascinating. There were a lot of clues and personalities involved, and I didn’t put it together until the part Miller saw the USB.

    The action and suspense were engaging, and I loved how the resolution left room for more Jack and Miller in the succeeding book. The only thing I didn’t like was how the thing with Annie was left open.

    There were plenty of secondary characters whom I’m super excited to read about, like Sandro and Teddy, Sandro’s half-brother and resident psycho Julian, as well as Miller’s friend Nate and Jack’s friend Freddy.

    And I really appreciated Leighton Greene‘s writing style. Aside from her well-executed storytelling, she writes in short paragraphs. I hope other writers would keep this in mind because most people read ebooks nowadays. Short paragraphs are easy on weak eyes if you’re reading from a screen.

    His Lethal Desire is a story of dysfunctional families, shifting loyalties and plans gone awry, where a demoted hitman falls in love with a washed up Hollywood star, and the powers that be lay claim to their bodies, their souls, and their lives.

    Overall, squee-tastic like butterflies in the stomach, lethal like arrow straight to the heart.

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

    Soundtrack: Arrow
    Artist: Teagan and Sara
    Album: Sainthood

    P.S.

    I wanted this so badly in audiobook. This deserves a Michael Ferraiuolo performance!


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    REVIEW: The Prince’s Dragon by W.M. Fawkes & Sam Burns

    Fire and Valor: The Prince’s Dragon – W.M. Fawkes & Sam Burns

    The last place Lord Tristram Radcliffe ever expected to find himself was right hand to the Llangardian throne. His parentage should have seen him banished, but he managed to keep his draconic secret. Now, King Reynold is dead. Long live King Roland.

    The boy ascends to rule a kingdom in chaos, and Tristram must undo the damage of the last king’s reign to save his people from lean winter and wolves in the palace itself. Reynold’s former shadow, Bet Kyston, is determined to root out King Roland’s enemies, but his version of help may cause as much harm as good.

    There remains a traitor near to the throne, and when the king falls mysteriously ill, Tristram’s strongest ally is forced to leave court. As his enemies move closer, the strength of Tristram’s regency is more precarious than ever. Abandoned and friendless, Tristram must sacrifice everything to protect his homeland or risk not only Roland’s life, but his own.


    The Prince’s Dragon is the second book of Fire and Valor, an engrossing high fantasy series by writer duo W.M. Fawkes and Sam Burns. The books are not standalone since they end in cliffhangers.

    The story picks up immediately after the events of The King’s Dragon. The new king, Roland, was poisoned and now lies in his sick bed. The Regent, Lord Tristram Radcliff, with help from his lover, Bet Kyston, does his best to balance court duties and going toe to toe with traitorous Cavendish relatives hungry for power.

    Meanwhile dragons are attacking dragons and holding captives. Among those captured was the young dragon Hafgan. The summer clan suffered severe losses, and are moving south to somewhere near the court. (I have no idea how to spell the names of places since I’m audiobooking this so I will not attempt)

    The book is still in multiple POVs, with new ones introduced. Now that I am familiar with the Fire and Valor world, the shift in POVs didn’t hinder anymore. I was able to focus more on the narrative and enjoy the tale as it unfolds.

    This time, the different POVs worked better at giving us the bigger picture and a more detailed look at the world, especially outside the court, connecting different faraway characters.

    Lord Regent Tristam Radcliff – not interested in the throne, never will be now that he knows first hand what a headache it is to run a kingdom. But as the only person King Roland trusts to be his proxy, Tris takes his duties to heart and will defend king and Llandgard, and a certain half-elf, to death. His big scene in the ending was BAM!

    Bet Kyston – ninja elf, a.k.a. assassin, a.k.a. king’s shadow, became my favorite character here. I felt sorry for how he was abandoned by his mother. I loved how his character grew. Bet has no problems sticking a knife to whoever hurt the boy king, legalities be damned. That he loves sticking things in the lord regent, is an ongoing bet in knightly circles.

    Rhiannon – currently healing in the special pool in the monastery. The fierce dragon is surprisingly shy, or is it vain, to show herself to Sidone while she’s recuperating. Struck a bargain with Princess Gillian while there. I’d love to see Rhiannon in battle once more.

    Sir Sidone – this knight stuck with her lady through thick and thin. Not much going on with her in this installment, but I’d love to see her in action in the future astride her dragon because that would be so cool!

    Bowen – a grizzled old stone dragon forced to sell his fellow dragons to slavery. That his hoard is pretty delicate flowers might be a sign that his tough exterior hides a marshmallow heart.

    Hafgan – our sweet sunshine dragon who might just win the heart of an old warrior like Bowen.

    Lady Elinor – Tris’s beloved mom is in for a surprise reunion with a long lost love, who is a mild-mannered bookworm, or should I say, bookdragon.

    Princess Gillian – learned more magic and found romance outside the castle walls. I’m counting on her for spectacular displays of magic. It’s unfortunate that the plot is about lost magic so there’s barely any spells here. Gillian on the tower protecting the city is the most we got.

    Maddox – was pretty surly at first, but this summer dragon turned out to be a great love interest for the princess. His internal thoughts, a.k.a. grudges with Tristram, whom he has yet to meet, were amusing. Turns out they got along splendidly.

    Dragon – a cinnamon roll dragon in captivity. Rescue this sweet little soul now!

    This series gets better with each installment. The pace here is faster, the tension is tighter, and overall, more dynamic as new secrets are revealed and various groups are in motion, either as enemies, fugitives or rescuers.

    Woven through the already potent mix of court politics and dragon action are the romantic threads that give us more things to get hooked on. And there’s something for everyone. The main couple are Tristram and Bet, and their romance is giving me LIFE! Rhiannon and Sidone took theirs to another level. Gillian and Maddox are fantastic together after their initial antagonistic encounter.

    Overall, Fire and Valor hit its stride with The Prince’s Dragon. It had me in its grip from beginning to end. The intrigue, the romance, the adventure, this is more than just slow burn magic. This is a thrilling dragon ride!

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

    Soundtrack: Hadaka no Yuusha
    Artist: Vaundy
    Album: Replica

    P.S.

    Fire and Valor should be read in order. Witness royals come and go, and dragons in and out of scales in The King’s Dragon.


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