Never Coming Home: Evonne Wareham

Never Coming HomeAuthor: Evonne Wareham
Book Name: Never Coming Home
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Suspense
Rating:  Really Good


Blurb:  All she has left is hope

When Kaz Elmore is told her five-year-old daughter Jamie has died in a car crash, she struggles to accept that she’ll never see her little girl again. Then a stranger comes into her life offering the most dangerous substance in the world: hope.

Devlin, security consultant and witness to the terrible accident scene, inadvertently reveals that Kaz’s daughter might not have been the girl in the car after all.

What if Jamie is still alive? With no evidence, the police aren’t interested, so Devlin and Kaz have little choice but to investigate themselves.

Devlin never gets involved with a client. Never. But the more time he spends with Kaz, the more he desires her – and the more his carefully constructed ice-man persona starts to unravel.

The desperate search for Jamie leads down dangerous paths – to a murderous acquaintance from Devlin’s dark past, and all across Europe, to Italy, where deadly secrets await. But as long as Kaz has hope, she can’t stop looking…

Review:  I really struggled with where to rate this book because I really liked it, but there were a couple of things that kept me from putting this into the excellent category.

The personal connections and how coincidental a seemingly random event manages to tie some of those connections together was hard for me to buy.  Combine this with the apparent lack of fact checking that seems to have occurred at the accident scene that begins this whole story, it makes it just a little hard to swallow how the rest of the story manages to unfold since it all hinges on that first event.

That said, this book is really well written.  It is rare for me to not get utterly tripped up by issues that are on the unbelievable side, but with the quality of writing and how well the rest of the story flows, those things really didn’t detract too much and I was able to get beyond that and get immersed into the story.

I really enjoyed Kaz’s character, but Devlin was a bit harder to connect to as he came across as a little cold.  I did warm up to him eventually.

Absolutely loved the fact that this wasn’t a Scooby Doo ending where the bad guy is confronted and then spews the confession with all the details all over the place.  By the time you get to that point in the story, Kaz and Devlin have 99% of it figured out and only that 1% is left to be clarified, though I’m pretty sure the reader is already way ahead of them by that point.  The characters get to that point by hard work, research and smarts rather than dumb luck and the bad guy just giving it up.  So, awesome change of pace on that aspect of the story.


The Last Breath: Kimberly Belle

The Last BreathAuthor: Kimberly Belle
Book Name: The Last Breath
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/Suspense
Rating:  Excellent


Blurb:  Humanitarian aid worker Gia Andrews chases disasters around the globe for a living. It’s the perfect lifestyle to keep her far away from her own personal ground zero. Sixteen years ago, Gia’s father was imprisoned for brutally killing her stepmother. Now he’s come home to die of cancer, and she’s responsible for his care–and coming to terms with his guilt.

Gia reluctantly resumes the role of daughter to the town’s most infamous murderer, a part complete with protesters on the lawn and death threats that are turning tragedy into front-page news. Returning to life in small-town Tennessee involves rebuilding relationships that distance and turmoil have strained, though finding an emotional anchor in the attractive hometown bartender is certainly helping Gia cope.

As the past unravels before her, Gia will find herself torn between the stories that her family, their friends and neighbors, and even her long-departed stepmother have believed to be real all these years. But in the end, the truth–and all the lies that came before–may have deadlier consequences than she could have ever anticipated….

Review: Truly well written and emotionally gripping, you cannot help but get emotionally involved in this book.

Every single one of these characters were compelling.  Some you loved from the beginning to the end, like Gia.  Others, you liked then hated then liked again or the other way around.  There were so many layers to each one it was easy to connect to them.

The plot had so many variables that you just didn’t know for sure which way it was going to resolve.  Sure, some potentials were stronger than others, but there was just enough doubt to not be absolutely certain how it was going to end keeping the door open on several possibilities.  At the same time, there wasn’t so much that it was bloated or overwhelming.  It was a perfect balance.  For this type of book, that is extremely rare.

Not only is there a wide range within the plot, but also within the emotional responses this book generates.  It may be intense, but it has its lighter funny moments that have you laughing at the characters as well as the softer sweet parts that give you warm fuzzies.

I seriously loved this book all the way around.


Targeted: Deadly Ops, Book 1

TargetedAuthor: Katie Reus
Book Name: Targeted
Series: Deadly Ops
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Good


Blurb:  Hidden in plain sight…

Former Marine sniper and current NSA agent Jack Stone has a new face to go with his new identity. But he still has the same tortured memories – which include the woman he let get away years ago, when they were teenagers. Now his new assignment in Miami will put him so close to the woman he’s never been able to forget, he could reach out and touch her – if only she weren’t under suspicion.

When Sophie Moreno uncovers evidence linking the medical supply company she works for with arms smuggling – and worse – she doesn’t know who to turn to. After a shocking betrayal, she realizes the only person she can trust is a mysterious new person in the company – a man with hauntingly familiar eyes.

As Sophie questions her intense attraction to this man and Jack struggles not to blow his cover, the two of them must race against the clock to stop terrorists from killing scores of people – starting with them.

Review:  This just didn’t wow me all that much.  It was definitely good, but not really good or great.

I did enjoy the characters as they were solid and well written with one major exception. It just kind of bugged me that a good 90% of the thoughts between the two revolved around absolutely nothing but sex.  Don’t get  me wrong, I love sex as much as the next gal, but it made both of these characters seem like hormonal teenagers.  Especially in several of the situations they were in.  Writing “Even though it was totally inappropriate in that moment, I still couldn’t help thinking…” doesn’t absolve your characters of being ridiculous in those thoughts.  When your mature, adult characters come across that way, it kind of negates whatever other positive characteristics they may have.

There were also a couple of hiccups in the plot line that, while minor in one case, still kind of stood out like a neon sign.  One point it talked about Sophie grabbing her purse out of the car.  This is after a big deal was made about the fact that the purse got left in a car that sank to the bottom of the bay.  The other, bigger one was when her boss found out that Sophie had been in the hanger and had taken pictures.  This was actually written at two totally different points in the story.  Either it happened early or it happened later, you cannot have it happen twice.

So, yeah.  This was decent but not great.

When We Fall: Emily Liebert

When We FallAuthor: Emily Liebert
Book Name: When We Fall
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Didn’t Like


Blurb:  Ready for a fresh start, Allison Parker moves back to her hometown in the suburbs of New York. While she’d once savored the dynamic pace of city life, sadly, it lost its allure after her husband’s untimely death. Now, ready to focus on her art career accompanied by her ten-year-old son, Logan, Allison doesn’t anticipate that her past will resurface. When the wife of her husband’s best friend from summer camp takes her under her wing, things begin to spin out of control.

At one time, Charlotte Crane thought she had it all—a devoted husband, a beautiful little girl, and enough financial security to never have to worry. But behind her “perfect” facade lie a strained marriage and a fractured relationship with her sister. When “new girl” Allison arrives in Wincourt, Charlotte welcomes the chance to build a friendship. Before long, Charlotte begins to see her life through Allison’s eyes, and the cracks in her seemingly flawless existence become impossible to ignore.

As Allison heals from the loss of her husband—even wondering if she might be ready to date again—Charlotte feels more distant from her loved ones than ever before. The emerging friendship between the two women appears to be just the antidote both of them so desperately need…until everything falls apart.

Review:  This isn’t a romance.  Not in the terms that most people would classify that genre in any case.  It is a story about bored, wealthy, materialistic, greedy, snotty, self-centered, entitled idiots that underneath it all are really miserable little people with zero self esteem.

I honestly didn’t find anything redeeming in a single one of the characters in this book.  For the majority of the story, I thought that Allison was the only decent person in the whole mess.  Turns out, she is just this paragon of virtue that can forgive any offense, no matter how horrid and awful, which actually makes her a door mat.

With some of the stuff that happened in this book, there should have been some claws unsheathed and some serious ass kicking, but no.  It was, I was just utterly shredded so I’m going to go cry in a corner until I get an apology and then everything is back to rainbows and bunny farts perfect.

I cannot stand the personality types that are everywhere in this book in real life.  I can tolerate them even less in the book world.  Spiteful, catty, social climbing, elitists.  You get pretty much every bit of this here.  It is not entertaining.

You have Allison, the doormat.  Charlie, the asshole husband that thinks the wife that doesn’t have a job outside the home doesn’t actually do real work and that it is totally okay to not do squat at home to help out but that it is totally okay to go help some other woman with all her stuff.  Charlotte, the wife with zero self esteem, suspects everyone of hiding ulterior motives, is maybe a size 6 and cannot get over how fat she is and practically has dollar signs running through her head with regards to everything in her life.  Elizabeth, the sister that can’t be bothered to do a thing for herself and has no problem mooching off her sister and letting her sister do everything that needs to be done for their parents.

I seriously disliked this on so many levels.  The fact that you read through all of these truly awful people and think there is no way that this is going to be a pretty end, but it is.  From all sides and seriously, forgiveness and acceptance of awful people and the things they do is only believable to a point.  The fact that this ended with everyone perfectly okay with each other and are still friends or their marriage is now all fixed and perfect is just not even remotely realistic.  So, yeah.  Not a romance.  Fantasy?  Yeah, not even in that genre does it work.

His Road Home: Anna Richland

His Road HomeAuthor: Anna Richland
Book Name: His Road Home
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Really Good


Blurb:  Special Forces medic Rey Cruz needs to find a fiancée, fast, or he’ll end up in a marriage orchestrated by an Afghan warlord. Finding a picture online of a girl he barely knew back home, he fakes an engagement photo, thinking no one else will see it. But when Rey loses both legs and the ability to speak while rescuing a local boy, the image goes viral.

Seattle marine biologist Grace Kim is shocked to find out she’s engaged. When she’s offered a plane ticket to visit her “fiancé,” she takes it, looking for the answer to one question: Why did he lie? Touched by Rey’s funny texts and the determination she sees in him, Grace offers her friendship—a big step for someone who prefers whales to most company.

And when Rey is finally sent home, Grace agrees to help him drive his classic car cross-country over Thanksgiving—a once-in-a-lifetime road trip that leads to what feels like real love. In front of his friends and family, she plays the caring fiancée, but what place will Grace have in Rey’s new life once he’s ready to be on his own again?

Review: Sweetly endearing and heartwarming.  This is a beautiful little story.

Both main characters were vibrant and solid, strong characters that were genuinely fun to read about.  Often romances go towards the wishy washy, drama intense self doubting characters that constantly question if they are good enough for each other which leads to huge back and forth issues between characters.  In this story, Rey and Grace are just generally well adjusted, self aware good people.  They do what feels right to them, which means not being loaded with teenage angsty drama.  They are mature adults with mature attitudes and a desire to be good to and for each other.  It was a refreshing change to see characters that felt enough about themselves and their personal ideas of right and wrong to just be there for each other and solid throughout the entire story.

Dealing with Rey’s loss could have made this story turn towards the really dark and ugly, but this stayed on the brighter side for these characters.  It wasn’t all rainbows and perfection.  We did get tiny bits and views into what other people were potentially struggling with that was on that ugly side, but it wasn’t the focus of this story.

Again, a completely refreshing and beautiful story.  I just can’t emphasize that enough.


Unravel: Fairfax, Book 1

UnravelAuthor: Calia Read
Book Name: Unravel
Series: Fairfax
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/Suspense
Rating:  Excellent


Blurb:  One kiss can change everything.

One month ago I was admitted to a psych ward. Yesterday, Lachlan told me I’m losing my mind. But I know what I saw. Will you believe me?

Behind the walls of a mental hospital, Naomi Carradine feels her world breaking to pieces. She’s starting to believe all the voices questioning her sanity. Only visitors from the outside world keep her tethered to reality. But deep in her thoughts, Naomi is haunted by memories of a golden summer that twisted into a waking nightmare of obsessive love and fractured truths.

Just home from college, Naomi moves in with her best friend, Lana, the daughter of a Virginia senator. At a lavish party thrown by Lana’s father, Naomi meets a sexy stockbroker named Max and finds herself unable to resist his charms. One fiery kiss and she’s going back for more, beginning a terrifying descent. After Naomi witnesses the unspeakable, she has only one hope of escape: unraveling the devastating secrets of her past.

Review: Wow.  Just… wow.  This was intense, crazy, twisted, dark and ugly.  Not typically the style of book I enjoy as it is really dark, but this was just incredibly written.  The story is one of those that once you pick it up, you aren’t going to want to put it down because you are going to want to know how it resolves.

At the point where we get the first critical information reveal, I was beginning to form an idea of where this might go.  The farther into the book I got, the more I though it was possible.  It took me until the very end to realize that I was wrong and that I couldn’t have predicted what was going to happen.

This is just an excellently written book.  I will say that this book may not be a good choice for people that have potential trigger issues.

Rush: Phoenix Rising, Book 3

RushAuthor: Joan Swan
Book Name: Rush
Series: Phoenix Rising
Order: #3
Genre: Romance/SciFi
Rating:  Excellent


Blurb:  Jessica Fury, Washington lobbyist, has money, connections, and her own firm. But five years ago she had something better: happiness. Her firefighter husband, Quaid, was handsome, courageous, and crazy about her. Then one day he walked into a chemical inferno–and never walked out. Jessica has been through hell to get back on her feet. And then a rumor surfaces that could bring a miracle or shatter her world–again.

Q has been a prisoner forever. He’s honed his mind and body into weapons. He’s developed abilities no one else understands. But he’s still at the mercy of a cabal of ruthless men, who blank his memory, test him like a lab rat, and tell him lies. Although his past has been erased and his future looks grim, instinct tells him he has a woman to live for. What his mind can’t remember, his body can’t forget. . .

Review:  Much better than the last one!  I really loved this one.  The concept of having this really deep connection to another person, then to believe that person died only to find out years later that they are actually alive, but they have no memory of what created that bond is powerful.  It is heart wrenching.

The dynamic between Jessica and Quaid is so genuine feeling.  There are so many places where that dynamic could have devolved into areas that make a reader seriously dislike the characters because they come across as whiny or weak willed, but that isn’t the case here.  It is handled in such a way that they come across as struggling, but still determined and strong.  They were so much easier to connect to.

I really kind of thought for a while that we’d see a huge resolution to the overall series and not just this story, but we end up really kind of hanging a bit at the end of this one.  I think this one is probably my favorite of the series so far.

Hard to Let Go: Hard Ink, Book 4

Hard to Let GoAuthor: Laura Kaye
Book Name: Hard to Let Go
Series: Hard Ink
Order: #4
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Really Good


Blurb:  Beckett Murda hates to dwell on the past. But his investigation into the ambush that killed half his Special Forces team and ended his Army career gives him little choice. Just when his team learns how powerful their enemies are, hard-ass Beckett encounters his biggest complication yet—a seductive, feisty Katherine Rixey.

A tough, stubborn prosecutor, Kat visits her brothers’ Hard Ink Tattoo shop following a bad break-up—and finds herself staring down the barrel of a stranger’s gun. Beckett is hard-bodied and sexy as hell, but he’s also the most infuriating man ever. Worse, Kat’s brothers are at war with the criminals her office is investigating. When Kat joins the fight, she lands straight in Beckett’s sights . . . and in his arms. Not to mention their enemies’ crosshairs. Now Beckett and Kat must set aside their differences to work together, because the only thing sweeter than justice is finding love and never letting go.

Review:  This is the last full book in this series before we get a cross over book into a new series.  As the last book, we finally get full resolution to all of the events left open in the rest of the books.

While I did really like this book, it was probably one of my least favorite of the series.  The characters were as well.  I just didn’t seem to connect with them quite as well as I did in other books.  I also think that how quickly so many things happened not just in this book, but in the series kind of caught up with me.  It all ended with a rather perfect, shiny bow tying all those lose ends together.

The stalker angle also really bugged me because it seemed so unnecessary and just added one more level of tension building drama in a story that is already beyond packed full of it.  It was just a bit much.

Again, I still really liked the story, but those things kept me from just out and out loving it.


Axel: Corps Security, Book 1

AxelAuthor: Harper Sloan
Book Name: Axel
Series: Corps Security
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Really Good

Blurb:  Fate hasn’t always been friends with Isabelle West. In fact, fate has been a downright bitch.

Isabelle has learned the hard way how hard life can be when fate isn’t by your side. It can hand you dreams on silver platters, but it can snatch them right back and hand you nightmares. One thing Isabelle knew for sure fate was consistent with was taking away everything she ever loved.

For the last two years Isabelle has been slowly clearing the clouds of her past. Happiness is finally on the horizon. She has a thriving business, great friends, and her life back. All she has to do is jump over the last hurdle…her ex-husband.

When problems start causing her to fear her new life, and memories that are better left forgotten start rushing to the surface the last thing she needs is a ghost from her past to come knocking on her door.

Axel never thought he would look into the eyes of Isabelle West again, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to now. He’s carried his anger for so long he isn’t sure he can just turn it off, but when he is faced with protecting her and an unexpected desire to have her again, life gets a little more complicated.

How will Axel and Isabelle deal when all their cards are put on the table and everything they thought was true blows up in their faces?

Review:  More times than not, when an author attempts to have a character that  overcomes some seriously ugly history, that character ends up being annoying because they end up coming across as whiny and pathetic.  That is so not the case here. Isabelle is absolutely messed up.  Acknowledges that she is messed up and needs help, but she is doing what she can to work through it.

Throw in a seriously badass ex military and you almost expect Cinderella syndrome to crop up.  Again, not the case here.  While Axel is a total alpha male, pushy and protective, he isn’t that perfect guy that can do no wrong.  He is struggling with dealing with their messed up past just as much as she is.

Starting out, you’d think that this whole book was going to hang out on the darker, uglier side, but it isn’t.  It is about overcoming the ugly to find the beautiful.  The way the author handles her characters is beautifully done.

It isn’t all smooth sailing and rainbows.  There are still threats from the past.  You absolutely know something is coming.  It is impossible not to, but you don’t know for sure when it is coming or how often.  I was honestly reading along and it was kind of like watching a scary moving waiting for that moment when you know you are going to jump.  Every time there was a possibility of something happening, I’m tensing, wondering if it is going to happen in the next paragraph or not.  I have to say, that was really kind of cool how the suspense and tension was hanging there without it being too over the top.

This was a new author for me and after this book, I’m really looking forward to reading more.  Her guys are up there in the same ballpark as Kristen Ashley’s guys are, which is pretty awesome in my opinion.

Memories of the Heart: Memories of the Heart, Book 1

Memories of the HeartAuthor: Felice Stevens
Book Name: Memories of the Heart
Series: Memories of the Heart
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Didn’t Like


Blurb:  Ruthless, Controlling, A Loner. All words used to describe Dr. Micah Steinberg by the hospital staff for their next head of surgery. When a letter arrives from his grandmother’s friend at the assisted living facility, his orderly world tilts dangerously out of control.

Josh Rosen had everything until it was revealed much of his world was a lie. Forced to re-evaluate his life, Josh gives up his career and returns home to New York City to care for his beloved grandmother. What Josh didn’t figure on was an attraction to a man who on the surface, appears to be exactly like the life Josh chose to leave behind.

As Micah struggles with the reality of his grandmother’s illness, the bond these two share deepens, as Josh helps Micah heal, then open his heart. Micah discovers there is more to life than work, control and success. Josh is in deep but has yet to tell Micah who he really is.

When the fight for the hospital’s head of surgery turns ugly, Josh’s past and present collide. Micah must let go of the past and accept who he is, if his life is going to move forward.

Life is full of surprises, and as both Micah and Josh learn, love can happen whether you plan for it or not.

Review:  I really didn’t like this one.  For a few reasons.  The biggest being that the characters just weren’t all that believable or likable.  Enough so that I’ve got to break my normal rule of trying to not out and out bash a book.

Micah is just an ass.  There is no way around that.  It doesn’t matter that he was this unwanted and unloved child.  That doesn’t make me like him.  If anything, it makes me think that he is an even bigger ass if he thinks that because of his history it is okay to treat other people like shit.  When the history does come out, he comes across as being whiny and pathetic.  That is so not appealing, endearing or attractive.  He comes across as this hormonal, temperamental teenager rather than a mature, successful adult.  His lack of apparent understanding of standard practice in the hospital makes the supposed high level surgeon seem like an ignorant fool.  As a character, he just doesn’t work on any level for me.

Josh falls into the opposite end of the spectrum in that he has such a big, open heart he is more of a doormat and willing to take whatever abuse is sent his way as long as he gets a scrap of attention in between.  Again, not appealing or endearing.  He comes across as almost desperate, especially when he supposedly was swearing off of relationships.  He just suddenly, not only changes his mind, but is willing to risk a relationship again with someone who is as big of a jackass as Micah?  Yeah, that just doesn’t work for me.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love, broken and struggling characters, but these just seem shallow and whiny and it is impossible to connect with characters like that.

Beyond the characters, we also have a kind of disjointed story line that has several easy way out points that were annoying.  Skipping a huge chunk of time, not as the epilogue that allows readers to see a glimpse of the future, but just as a way of getting out of having to make your characters work out their issues is a cop out in my book.  Also, having the epitome of the stereotypical bigoted homophobes thrown in to create an added level of strife and drama was serious overkill and totally unnecessary.

It is hard to enjoy a book when you cannot in any way connect with the characters or the story.  This was just one of those for me.

Memory House: Honey Ridge, Book 1

The Memory HouseAuthor: Linda Goodnight
Book Name: The Memory House
Series: Honey Ridge
Order: #1
Genre: Contemporary/Historical/Romance
Rating:  Good


Blurb: Memories of motherhood and marriage are fresh for Julia Presley–though tragedy took away both years ago. Finding comfort in the routine of running the Peach Orchard Inn, she lets the historic, mysterious place fill the voids of love and family. No more pleasure of a man’s gentle kiss. No more joy in hearing a child call her Mommy. Life is calm, unchanging…until a stranger with a young boy and soul-deep secrets shows up in her Tennessee town and disrupts the loneliness of her world.

Julia suspects there’s more to Eli Donovan’s past than his motherless son, Alex. There’s a reason he’s chasing redemption and bent on earning it with a new beginning in Honey Ridge. Offering the guarded man work renovating the inn, she glimpses someone who–like her–has a heart in need of restoration. But with the chance discovery of a dusty stack of love letters buried within the lining of an old trunk, the long-dead ghosts of a Civil War romance envelop Julia and Eli, connecting them to the inn’s violent history and challenging them both to risk facing yesterday’s darkness for a future bright with hope and healing.

Review:  A story of heartbreak, redemption, healing and learning to love again.  This is a low intensity, gently paced book that, while it may have some darker subjects, still focuses on turning all of that towards a positive direction.

Both Eli and Julia are scarred by life and tragedy, but neither character comes across as dependent or hopeless.  They may feel beaten down, but they still try to be something better than just broken and needing someone else to fix them.  Their relationship is about helping each other rather than needing someone else to take care of it all for them.

It does have a time split between now and events long past.  Not often my favorite, but this was done well.  We see some parallels between the characters from both time frames so we understand the purpose behind having that in the story beyond just a plot device.

In all a solidly good, sweet story.

Deceptions: Cainsville, Book 3

DeceptionsAuthor: Kelley Armstrong
Book Name: Deceptions
Series: Cainsville
Order: #3
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal/Romance
Rating:  Favorite


Blurb:  Olivia Taylor Jones’s life has exploded. She’s discovered she is not only adopted, but her real parents are convicted serial killers. Fleeing the media frenzy, she took refuge in the oddly secluded town of Cainsville. She has since solved the town’s mysteries and finds herself not only the target of its secretive elders but also her stalker ex-fiancé.

Visions continue to haunt her: particularly a little blond girl in a green sundress who insists she has an important message for Olivia, one that may help her balance the light and darkness within herself. Death stalks both Olivia and the two men most important to her, as she desperately searches to understand whether ancient scripts are dictating the triangle that connects them. Will darkness prevail, or does Olivia have the power to prevent a tragic fate?

Review:  Authors like Kelley Armstrong are why I like to read.  This is the third book in the Cainsville series and is yet another really wonderful, detailed addition.

This book proves some suspicions from the other books true.  We see a very solid conflict arise between Olivia, Gideon and Ricky.  While we got hints of it in the previous books, it has never caused any real issues.  This time, it starts to shake the comfortable balance between the three of them and their friendships.  It also isn’t what I’d consider a classic love triangle either because it is so heavily weighted in actual friendship.  There is absolutely romantic layers to it, but I’m not sure at this point that it is the romantic parts that are what is truly important.

We get more of what we’ve learned to expect with this series in the unexpected twists, and there are quite a few.  This book is more heavily weighted on the fae aspects of the story than we’ve seen previously and we get to learn so much more about how that is important.  There are also more resolutions to many of the side plots in this book than we’ve seen in the other two, enough to leave me wondering where the series is going to go or focus next.  There are still a lot of questions that need answers and we are definitely going to need to see a resolution to the Olivia, Gideon, Ricky situation, but some of the bigger unfinished pieces seemed to have been revealed in this one.

This is one of those books that I almost hated to pick up because I knew that meant that I’d also have to finish it and I so wasn’t ready to be done when I hit the last page.

Cainsville Series Overview

Kelley Armstrong‘s latest book in the Cainsville series, Deceptions, was released earlier this week.  I again wanted to make sure I had a refresher read to make sure I didn’t end up missing anything in the new book, so I took the time to read the previous two books.  So glad I did, because I’d kind of forgotten how complex this story line actually is.

These books are all intricately connected and cannot be read as stand alone.  They absolutely have to be read in order or you are going to be seriously lost.  The general, larger story line, focuses on the main female character Olivia (Eden) and that she is the daughter of serial killers who was adopted after her parents arrest when she was two.  She didn’t find that fact out out until the point where the book starts (when she is 25).  Once she finds out, she spends her time dealing with the fallout when that becomes public knowledge, delving into her history and digging into the facts surrounding her birth parents crimes with the help of Gideon, an ethically questionable lawyer.

This series is packed full of side plots, dramas, details, intrigue and conspiracy throughout this series that makes this the kind of read where you really need to be aware and paying attention or you may end up missing something.  The first book gives quite a few hints as to what direction the series is going to go with hints of fae and celtic mythology showing up in Olivia’s background.  That takes a minor role starting out, but you know it is going to become a larger one later on down the line.  Everything is always tied back to the very unusual and isolated small town, Cainsville.

The unique approach to the paranormal in this book is probably one of the things that lands this series solidly on my favorites list.  It is contemporary, but with the aspects that put this into that paranormal genre beautifully worked in.  With the first book, you get those hints but then it twists off into a totally unexpected direction.  Each book seems to delve deeper into the paranormal side as more bits and pieces of Olivia’s history and origins are uncovered.

If you are a fan of Ms. Armstrong’s Otherworld series, this has a very different feel to it than those stories.  Since there is so much to these and they are so tightly woven together with lots of the side plots left open by the end of the books (without any ugly cliffhangers), the focus stays on the main characters instead of different characters and their stories being the focus of individual books.  I love how we get a smattering of reading from the different characters’ perspectives (and not just the main characters, but some of the side characters as well), but we aren’t constantly flip flopping.

Both the character development and world building in this series is beautifully done.  The characters are richly expressed and easily connected with.  The world is subtle, but that makes it so much easier to believe in it without stretching the imagination too far.

I highly recommend this series to anyone who hasn’t picked it up yet.

Ten Tiny Breaths: Ten Tiny Breaths, Book 1

Ten Tiny BreathsAuthor: K.A. Tucker
Book Name: Ten Tiny Breaths
Series: Ten Tiny Breaths
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Really Good


Blurb:  Just breathe, Kacey. Ten tiny breaths. Seize them. Feel them. Love them.

Four years ago Kacey Cleary’s life imploded when her car was hit by a drunk driver, killing her parents, boyfriend, and best friend. Still haunted by memories of being trapped inside, holding her boyfriend’s lifeless hand and listening to her mother take her last breath, Kacey wants to leave her past behind. Armed with two bus tickets, twenty-year-old Kacey and her fifteen-year-old sister, Livie, escape Grand Rapids, Michigan, to start over in Miami. Struggling to make ends meet, Kacey needs to figure out how to get by. But Kacey’s not worried. She can handle anything–anything but her mysterious neighbor in apartment 1D.

Trent Emerson has smoldering blue eyes, deep dimples, and he perfectly skates that irresistible line between nice guy and bad boy. Hardened by her tragic past, Kacey is determined to keep everyone at a distance, but their mutual attraction is undeniable and Trent is determined to find a way into Kacey’s guarded heart–even if it means that an explosive secret could shatter both their worlds.

Review:  I had a hard time trying to figure out how to rate this one.  It is a pretty emotional read and not all good ones, so that made it difficult.

This really is an incredibly well written story.  You cannot help but empathize and feel for the characters, even the ones on the periphery.  The author does an amazing job of pulling those emotions out of the reader.

I got a good idea of where this story might head when I wasn’t quite half way through.  At that point, I was thinking, “Wow, that would be one hell of a plot twist” but didn’t get much farther than that until a little later.  Then, I realize how twisted that little twist actually is when you stop and think about all of the reasons why it is twisted in the first place.  That is when I started to struggle and I couldn’t decide if I liked it or hated it, because it really is kind of messed up.

It is incredibly hard to write in a way that is vague enough not to give it away (and this is totally worth not knowing ahead of time if you are going to read this book).  I kind of struggled with the last 1/3 of the book and how everything ended up working out in the end.  There is just so much there, it is hard to believe that there could end up being any kind of relationship, let alone an emotionally healthy romantic one when it is all said and done, so you are wondering all the way to the very end how it is going to play out.  I get the point that the author is trying to make here, but I’m not sure it works for me.

I did like this.  It was really good, but it was also pretty darn different.  I want to read the next one in the series to see if my opinion of this entire situation changes any.


In the Middle of Somewhere: In the Middle of Somewhere, Book 1

In the Middle of SomewhereAuthor: Roan Parrish
Book Name: In the Middle of Somewhere
Series: In the Middle of Somewhere
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Really Good


Blurb:  Daniel Mulligan is tough, snarky, and tattooed, hiding his self-consciousness behind sarcasm. Daniel has never fit in—not at home in Philadelphia with his auto mechanic father and brothers, and not at school where his Ivy League classmates looked down on him. Now, Daniel’s relieved to have a job at a small college in Holiday, Northern Michigan, but he’s a city boy through and through, and it’s clear that this small town is one more place he won’t fit in.

Rex Vale clings to routine to keep loneliness at bay: honing his muscular body, perfecting his recipes, and making custom furniture. Rex has lived in Holiday for years, but his shyness and imposing size have kept him from connecting with people.

When the two men meet, their chemistry is explosive, but Rex fears Daniel will be another in a long line of people to leave him, and Daniel has learned that letting anyone in can be a fatal weakness. Just as they begin to break down the walls keeping them apart, Daniel is called home to Philadelphia, where he discovers a secret that changes the way he understands everything.

Review:  This is a sweet, beautifully written story.  It isn’t high energy or intense, but warm and comfortable all the way through.

I love both Rex and Daniel, but think I like Rex best because even though he has his issues, he isn’t so broken he can’t function or work towards getting what he wants.  That and he is so damn sweet and cute you can’t help but love him.  His character hovers closely to the line of being too sweet, but stays perfectly on the right side so as not to fall over that line.

This is the first in a series and it looks as though we may get to see more of both of these guys in another book, but we aren’t totally left hanging and the end of this.  I’m hoping the next one doesn’t take too long to come out because I really loved this one.

Bengal’s Quest: Breeds, Book 30

Bengal's QuestAuthor: Lora Leigh
Book Name: Bengal’s Quest
Series: Breeds
Order: #30
Genre: Romance/Erotic/SciFi
Rating:  Didn’t Like


Blurb:  He was a shadow, ever shifting and insinuating, able to blend in everywhere and anywhere. The elusive ideal conceived and created by the Genetics Council, he went by just as many names as he had identities—the last one being Gideon.

Now calling himself Graeme, he hides in plain sight, terrifyingly close to his goal. A rogue Bengal Breed, he has loyalties to no one but himself. And he has a need for vengeance that surges hot and swift through his veins.

Graeme plans to exact an extreme and ruthless vendetta against those who wronged him—Breed and human alike. All will suffer his wrath: those who created him, those who pretended to love him, and those who betrayed him.

That includes the one at the center of it all: a seductive, enigmatic woman helpless against the man whose desire is just as desperate as his need to destroy.

And he’s on her scent…

Review:  It is kind of hard to review this book without some heavy commentary on the series as a whole.  Originally, I had liked the concept and the world that this series exists in, but there have always been bits that I haven’t been all that thrilled with.  As I’ve continued to read the series, those things continue to be issues and other, new things keep popping up.

It is hard to follow along from story to story, even reading in order, because sometimes there are huge time gaps on the story arch between stories, sometimes you end up in an entirely different group of characters with new connections and histories that the reader has never been introduced to, so it feels like you’ve missed a lot, especially when the last book left you hanging on something and it never gets addressed.  Sometimes there are just some random things that get tossed in there and it all ends up being confusing because the purpose isn’t defined or explained.  I guess you just have to assume that it is something of the world the story is set in, but it is hard to understand because of the lack of definition.

One of my biggest problems with this series, and this book is no exception, is that almost 100% of the time, the relationships start out on a rather antagonistical foot.  In some cases, they start out from a point of out and out hate.  Because of that, almost every single one of them end up with the initial sexual encounters coming across as forced, not consensual, with a whole lot more continuing throughout the majority of the book, not just the first time.

A series aspect in this world is this mating hormone thing, which is supposed to go a long way to explaining some of the issues with the forced concept, but honestly?  It is just a date rape drug as far as I’m concerned.  That is not sexy.  Taking a person’s will away from them by any means is not sexy.  I don’t really care if it is a “biological imperative” and something that is created naturally, it still takes away a persons will and ability to decide for them self what they do or do not want.  This bothers me on so many levels, but I sort of skimmed past some of that because I still liked the story beyond that part.

This story in particular just kind of pissed me off (and isn’t the only one that has done so).  I don’t think it is remotely attractive to have a romance story where one character out and out hates the other in the beginning, yet later in the story it is all “Oh, but deep down I really love them” later on.  Especially when you start throwing a sexual relationship in there.  It just does not work for me in any way.

The last thing that really drove me nuts with this book is that there were some pretty glaring editing problems that kept tripping me up, forcing me to reread parts to try and figure out what certain sentences or paragraphs were actually meant to say.  Along with the editing (have no clue who’s job it is to push an author for variety), and this is also a series peeve for me, is the constant and repetitive use of certain words and phrases in specific scenarios.  If I had to read the words flesh or pleasure-pain in one more sex scene, I’d have burned the damn thing.

I came very close several times to just putting this down and not reading.  I had already passed it up on my list several times before I decided I just wanted to get it over with (should have known I really wasn’t all that jazzed to read it in the first place at that point).  Between issues I’ve had with the series in the past and issues with this book in particular (which was actually pretty boring in comparison to some of the others), I think I’m done with this series.  I know I missed several books throughout the series up until this one, but I just do not have the desire to suffer through one more.  Besides, by the time you get to book 30 in a series (really?), you are at or beyond the cookie cutter stage and there just isn’t much new you can offer unless you are seriously damn good at what you do and are a creative genius and that is not the case here.

Backstage Pass: Sinners on Tour, Book 1

Backstage PassAuthor: Olivia Cunning
Book Name: Backstage Pass
Series: Sinners on Tour
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/Erotic
Rating:  Really Good


Blurb: It’s been months since Brian Sinclair, lead guitarist for the famous rock band, Sinners, composed anything. Unable to write the music that once flowed so naturally, Brian is lost without his musical mojo. But when sexy psychology professor Myrna Evans comes on tour to study groupie mentality, Brian may have found the spark he needs to reignite his musical genius. When lust turns to love, will Brian be able to convince Myrna that what they have is more than just a fling, and that now that he’s found his heart’s muse, he doesn’t want to live without her?

Review: This is a reread for me, so it was nothing new.  It was refreshing to see that all the things I liked about it the first time around still held up after more than a year of other reading in between.

I still really loved both Brian and Myrna as well as the rest of the band.  Brian does tend to fall a bit on the needy side for what I typically like in my male characters, but it is done in a way that comes across as really cute and I can’t help but love him.  Myrna is a little broken but still sassy and fun.

Also, this book falls into volcano territory on the steam factor.  It is far from lacking in that area, but it is expertly balanced with the actual story line, which is a huge thing for me when it comes to the erotic romance genre.

Even as a second read, I still feel that it is a very well rounded book with great characters, fun story and seriously hot lovin’.

Opening Up: Ink & Chrome, Book 1

Opening UpAuthor: Lauren Dane
Book Name: Opening Up
Series: Ink & Chrome
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Okay


Blurb: The men of Twisted Steel are great with their hands. And they’re not afraid to get dirty.

Asa Barrons is never lonely for long. Co-owner of the Twisted Steel custom motorcycle shop, he works hard and plays harder. But he never allows his after-hours affairs to interfere with business-until he meets racing royalty PJ Coleman. While the blue-eyed blonde is all princess on the outside, on the inside Asa can see that this woman is ready to take a walk on the wild side.

PJ knows trouble when she sees it, and Asa is the complete package: fast bike, killer ink, and a sinfully sexy smile that has her imagining things nice girls never do. She talks her way onto the Twisted Steel team to prove her painting skill, and soon learns that Asa is eager to show off some skills of his own.

With the help of Asa’s expert touch, PJ is initiated into a world of wicked desire. No limits. No inhibitions. No turning back. But as perfect as their passion seems, a new challenge awaits, forcing them to ask just how far they are willing to go . . .

Review:  This started out really good and I got all excited, thinking that it was going to end up being a way better book than the last Lauren Dane that I read.  Then it got… boring.  All the spice and fire that seemed to come across from both main characters in the beginning just kind of fizzled and then the plot kind of died.

At the point when the emotional connection between PJ and Asa started to really heat up, everything kind of quit working for me.  PJ started to come across as unaffected emotionally.  And Asa seemed to lose his cool badass vibe.

I have to say that I think this is due to the lack of emotion that seems to come across with the dialog.  I don’t know what happened between the beginning of the book and the end.  Either the emotional context quit showing in the dialog or I just started to get bored enough to notice.  It is a peeve of mine to have paragraph after paragraph of dialog and zero situational support and this is a problem I seem to be having a lot lately with Ms. Dane’s writing. I hate it because I do love what is trying to come across in her writing, but with the lack of ability to connect with the characters, I just don’t enjoy the stories as much.

So, yeah.  This one was just okay.

Brick by Brick: Cate Ashwood

Brick by BrickAuthor: Cate Ashwood
Book Name: Brick by Brick
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Didn’t Like


Blurb:  They say that time heals all wounds, but losing Parley, his one true love, left Zach with a hole in his heart that no one else can fill. After forty-eight blissful hours alone together as teens in an abandoned house, Parley disappeared. Parley is what he is, and the pray-away-the-gay camp his parents ship him to won’t change that. However, finding the balance between accepting his true nature and not losing his family means tough sacrifices.

Sixteen years later, Zach is thunderstruck when Parley stands on the front doorstep of his house—the house that had been their refuge, which Zach restored. But Parley isn’t alone, and Zach wonders if he’s found Parley only to lose him a second time. If they can overcome the terrors of the past and the situation of the present, maybe they can build a new relationship just as Zach rebuilt the house—brick by brick.

Review:  There was a lot with this book that just didn’t work for me.  The uber crazy religious aspect of Parley’s life and personality clashes with the more carefree no real convictions Zach which makes it hard to believe their chemistry.

I also thought that most of this book was going to be about how they manage to work through 16 years of issues.  Over half of this book was about when they were teens.  Then we are expected to believe that after 16 years, they can be around each other for a few hours over a couple of days and they are not only ready to jump into bed, but move in together and live happily ever after.  Sorry, it just doesn’t work at all for me.  Especially when you take into account what has to be some severe psychological trauma on Parley’s part.

I also never got what the issue was with Parley’s relationship with Veronica.  The story made it seem like it was this huge, weird, big deal.  So what.  They were friends.  Maybe I missed something, but it was just another aspect of the story that didn’t really work for me and I was wondering why it was so heavily emphasized.

While this had some sweet aspects, those were darn near syrupy, rainbows and bunny farts sweet to the point that it wasn’t even believable.

The crazy religious part came across weirdly preachy, which had me coming close a couple of times to just putting this down.  Now, I’m kinda thinking that might have been the better choice.

The Broken: The Apostles, Book 1

The BrokenAuthor: Shelley Coriell
Book Name: The Broken
Series: The Apostles
Order: #
Genre: Romance/Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Good


Blurb:  He took her life, but left her alive.

Three years ago, reporter Kate Johnson was the first victim-and only survivor-of the Broadcast Butcher. Scarred both physically and psychologically by the brutal serial killer, Kate lives life on the run, knowing that one day, he will find her and finish what he started.

In the pursuit of justice, you sometimes have to step outside the law.

Agent Hayden Reed spends his life chasing monsters. The only way to stay sane is to detach, but the second the Broadcast Butcher case crosses his desk, Hayden knows this is the case that might just cost him his soul. To catch this vicious murderer before he strikes again, Hayden must find Kate and earn her trust. For it’s her darkest secrets that hold the key to stopping this madman once and for all . . .

Review:  Overall, really a pretty good book.  It was easy to connect with the characters.  Loved both Smoky Joe and Lottie even though they weren’t the main characters.  They added a lot of dimension and lightheartedness to the story.

I have to say that the biggest disappointment for me, and why I didn’t give it a higher rating, is because it seemed as if the ending, the actual solution to the entire story, was completely disjointed and didn’t at all fit.  I’m all for twists and turns and unexpected outcomes, but I’m not a fan of things that seem to go off on completely random tangents.  Even more so when we are talking a story that is like a puzzle that is working to get solved.  It is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, having a dozen or so pieces left, and realize that those pieces actually go to a different puzzle all together.

This took a huge turn and when the bad guy is revealed, spewing it all in the end (a writing device that I’m really not a fan of and one of the bigger reasons why I quit reading any kind of mysteries for a while), none of the little bits and clues you followed throughout the story really even connected any dots to this guy.  What connections were there, seemed forced and so hugely and ridiculously coincidental making what was up until that point a cleverly wrought story seem extremely contrived.  It lost all its momentum and kind of died for me.

I also struggled with the fact that there were some pretty momentous events that never got explained.  The biggie for me was how in the world Kate managed to get away and survive the second attack.  She has a scar that is bad enough to have needed medical attention, but how she managed to get away and live through it was never addressed.  The attack on Lottie also didn’t seem to work with the apparent mindset of this killer since he had the opportunity to actually kill her when she hit her head and ended up unconscious.  It only would have taken a second or two to finish her off, but he didn’t.  Apparently because of a waitress, but if there was any chance he’d be seen, he never would have taken the chance in the first place.  It just didn’t fit.  It is never explained why the last mirror never got smashed either.  That was apparently a huge deal and a big clue at that crime scene, but it was never dealt with.  At one point it is assumed the stalker was seen and it prevented the killer from finishing, but we later learn that when he saw the old lady he left, that he didn’t see the murder, so he didn’t interrupt it.

There were just enough of those kinds of oddities in the story to make it just okay good rather than really good.  Attention to detail is huge in this kind of a story as far as I’m concerned.  It loses a lot if you can’t pay attention to those kinds of things.

The Power of Persuasion: The Triad Series, Book 2

ThePowerofPersuasionAuthor: Kate Pearce
Book Name: The Power of Persuasion
Series: The Triad Series
Order: #2
Genre: Romance/Erotic/SciFi
Rating:  Good


Blurb:  Ex super-soldier and telepath Captain Ian McNeill isn’t expecting his job as base commander to a bunch of scientists to be exciting, let alone terrifying. But after meeting Neeve, a Pavlovan female and saving her from a bunch of Etruscan extremists, he’s fairly certain his life will never be the same again. 

Neeve can’t believe she’s found a mate from Earth who has no understanding of the concept of a bonded telepathic triad. Can she convince him to return to Pavlovan, meet her exalted but complicated family and finally convince him that adding a third to their bond will be the best decision he’s ever made? 

Book two in the Triad series of erotic science fiction romance.  Warning: contains erotic sexual content involving one woman and two men.

Review:  While this has all the steam a good erotic romance needs, it is a little lacking on the story end of things, which is a bit on the unusual side for a Kate Pearce book.  What story line is there, ends up dropping all kinds of loose ends and leaves it feeling incomplete.

For me, I had a hard time actually linking any of the characters because there just wasn’t enough substance to them to get to know them, which makes the rest just seem a little week. If all you are looking for is the hot, steamy and creamy, then this will suit just fine.  If you want a little more actual story, then, maybe not.