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Friday, March 27, 2015

Review: Starless Nights by Kathryn Andrews


Starless Nights is the second book in the Hale Brothers series, but this book can be read as a standalone. Though it isn't necessary to read these books in order, I would recommend reading the series because both of these books have been really great! I am really looking forward to getting Matt's story next after seeing him with Beau in this book. Beau and Leila's story was proof that you never know when love will find you, and sometimes it takes more than one chance to get it right. 

Beau Hale and Leila Starling were best friends for years. Then suddenly she was gone and they no longer spoke. When she cam back things had changed between them, and they no longer knew who the other was. When Leila left again, Beau was sure that he would never see her again. But now that he has moved to attend college with his brother at Columbia University, they are suddenly in the same town again. When they run into each other at the coffee shop where Leila works, Beau and Leila find themselves right back where they were all those years ago. Though their feelings and connection have never died, they also have a ton of distance between them. When they start hanging out together, they quickly realize that they both have questions about what happened. Once they finally begin talking about their past, the suddenly find that neither of them had the whole story and they were both missing a lot of information. But can they find a way back to one another, or will there have been too much time, distance, and hurt for them to be together? 

I really liked Beau. I had loved him so much in the first book, and I really love his random facts. He always seemed like so much fun, and yet you could tell there was a lot more to his story. I had no idea just how badly things had affected him growing up, and I felt like he had been through so much. His friendship with Leila had always been the one thing that was just his, and it broke my heart for him that he had been left alone. He suffered so much, and it was due in large part to other people. Leila was smart and sweet, and I really liked how determined she was to be successful. She had a lot of pride in what she did and she was a hard worker. She was also no stranger to pain, and I felt just as bad for the horrible things that she had gone through as well. It broke my heart that these two lost each other for so long and that they didn't have each other to lean on when times got tough for them. They always had such a strong connection and bond, and I loved that they had been friends since they were kids. The chemistry between them was easy to see, and I really loved that they had never been able to really be with anyone else. 

I will say that I found these two frustrating at times though, and there were so many times that I wanted to just shake them and tell them to talk to one another. So many things could have been cleared up long before they were, and it was because of their horrible communication. I have no idea why these two refused to talk to one another for so long, and I really didn't understand how they could make so many wrong assumptions. I did love them though, and I thought that they were really great together. I just wish that they wouldn't have wasted so much time and experienced so much hurt because of their misunderstanding and communication issues. I really love Kathryn's writing style though, and this series is so good. I definitely recommend this series to New Adult and Contemporary fans, and I am looking forward to reading more from Kathryn Andrews in the future.

**Review Copy Provided by Enticing Journey Book Promotions**

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ARC Review: Broken by Cynthia Eden



As I began reading this novel, I instantly became chilled down to my very soul. The first chapter alone was disturbing, and I could not help but be driven by a compulsive desire to find out what may happen next. For me, when such feelings arise within the first few pages of a novel, I know I am more than likely in for a treat. Well, Cynthia Eden’s novel did not disappoint. It was gritty, suspenseful, devastating, tricky, and written phenomenally with just enough romance to make me smile.

The novel follows the story of one woman fighting for her memories, and struggling to survive. Eve Gray, our heroine, walks into the facility known as LOST (Last Option Search Team), searching for Gabe Spencer’s help. Initially, one might think the story would be similar to others, but instead of Eve looking for a lost loved one, she is attempting to solve a unique mystery: her own identity. However, this is not a simple case of amnesia, but rather memory loss caused by severe physical and mental trauma.

Eve is strong, willful, beautiful, and a true heroine that proves that strength is found during even the most ominous times. For her, strength comes from the need to find who she is, to learn the truth behind her missing memories that are brutalizing her mentally. When she comes to Gabe, she is lost, confused, and terrified. Though she cannot remember anything, she feels cautious, uncertain, and disturbed by her need to run for safety. Gabe grounds her, and makes her feel not just desire (which she cannot remember ever feeling), but a need for companionship. Where Eve is unsure, Gabe is controlled, professional, and direct. These two had chemistry from the very beginning, and with each personal moment between them, the heat burns into a graceful, yet powerful fire.

I loved Eve for her absolute honesty and daring nature, while I loved Gabe for his honorable and unwavering loyalty. Both characters are beautifully written to the point where I was ecstatic to watch their relationship grow, and learn more about them as individuals. Gabe has an intense reaction to Eve, and he struggles to be detached from his feelings for her, though this proves impossible. What is intriguing is actually the reasoning behind his own belief that he is not as a good a man as Eve believes him to be. Later on in the novel, we learn why he does not see himself as an honorable man, but if anything it just makes him that much more loveable. Gabe is more than just a hero, and more than an ex-Seal. He is the perfect picture of a broken hero who seeks redemption. As the reader, however, you know he is truly a version of what it means to be a man of imperfections, who is actually a dream come true despite his moments of weakness.

The story may begin with Eve going to LOST for help, but as you continue to read, it becomes clear that the plot is much larger than you initially thought. With Eve believing that she is the only survivor of the infamous Lady Killer and his sick, demented need for murder, she is still a target. She is still being hunted like an animal without being truly aware of it, and she is the key to bringing this serial killer to justice. Beginning in Atlanta, Georgia but ending in her hometown of Dauphin Island, Alabama, this story is an amazing mix of twists, turns, and shocking revelations.

Honestly, I was shocked right from the beginning when I was enveloped in the serial killer’s mind, experiencing Eve’s torture. Initially, the slow trickle of information providing us with insight into Eve’s recovery and medical issues left me guessing and undeniably curious. Then, someone innocent and loyal to Eve is murdered, causing havoc to Eve’s sensitive mental state. Once this occurs, Eve and Gabe, as well as the entire LOST team, travel to Eve’s hometown to attempt memory recovery and possibly trap the killer. At this point, as the reader, I already wanted the murdering SOB to be dead twice, and shoved in a hole, as will you I am sure.

As he is still after Eve (who you come to know as Jessica Montgomery, but still Eve), she comes into contact with him a couple of times without even being aware of it. The psychopathic male taunts her, and plays a very twisted game of cat and mouse, so to speak. There are no hints as to who the killer may be throughout probably the first half of the story. Even more amazingly, I would be surprised if anyone figured out the future of the story and its characters prior to the actual moment the killer is revealed. Hell, I thought a few times I had figured it out, or that I had some inkling as to what may come; put simply, I was wrong.

Now, I must take some time to provide some information on the entire team of LOST as I feel it is necessary. These secondary characters are absolutely precious to the story; I loved them all. Sarah who is sharp, smart, and sees clues where others would not, is the psychologist and criminal profiler. As a graduate in Criminal Justice, and lover of all things regarding the psychological deficiencies of those we would call sociopaths and murderers, I fell hard for her character. She is tough and dedicated, and I am hoping we get to delve deep into her past and discover what brought her to the team more thoroughly (and maybe see her find love?). The other female character, Victoria, is just as interesting, but we do not see her as much in the book as I would have liked. She is a forensic anthropologist, utilizing methods regarding the bodies and their evidence, to determine how and why someone is dead. With that said, I also find her professional title unique, and I want to see more of her as well.

As for the two male members of the team, there is Dean and Wade. Dean is a prior FBI agent, and very threatening, as well as quiet. Though he was in the book quite a bit, he was pensive. His nature left me wondering, curious about him as there was not as much of a background story on him, unlike Wade. Wade, on the other hand, burns in my memories. Him, yeah, I really want to get to KNOW him, if you know what I mean (laughs). I imagined personal torture behind his intense demeanor, and I fell for him. Not only is he Gabe’s best friend, but he is so blatantly loyal and true down to his marrow. There were a few moments from his perspective where his soul shined brightly for us to see, and I wanted his company if only to help him heal. Of course, as Gabe’s closest confidant it makes sense that there was more information and interaction with him, which may explain my connecting more with him than Dean. However, as stated earlier, all of the LOST team members are crucial to the success of the story.

From Georgia to Alabama, there is danger, suspense, murder, attraction, and emotionally charged scenes full of desire. The story was well-paced in transference between settings. The second half of the novel shocking me to my core with worry over Eve and Gabe’s safety, and one other member of the LOST team as well. The killer is meticulous in his tracking of Eve, and his implementation of catching other women for torture. Though such disturbing facts about the villain were obvious from the beginning, these truths became shockingly clear on Dauphin Island as the killer grew bolder. He finds other ways to watch Eve. Furthermore, he is a step ahead of the team consistently, has more resources than one would expect, has partnered with an unknown source, attempts to slaughter unexpected characters, and brings a horrific fight rendering death to Eve’s front door (with Gabe in the middle). Yes, I screamed at the book with an expletive; more than once…in a good way though! In the end, all I could say to myself was “damn, this was book was good, no amazing.” I cannot wait for the next!

**ARC provided by Publisher**

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Feature and Giveaway: Broken by Cynthia Eden


The first novel in New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Eden's sizzling LOST series introduces the Last Option Search Team, an elite unit that must protect the only surviving victim of a serial killer.

Ex-SEAL and LOST founder Gabe Spencer is accustomed to the unusual in his job. But when knockout Eve Gray steps into his office, he's rattled. For the mysterious woman is a dead ringer for the heiress thought to be the latest prey of the serial killer who goes by the name Lady Killer.

When Eve awoke in an Atlanta hospital, her past was a blank slate. Then she recognized her own face in the newspaper and vowed to learn the truth. Determined to confront the nightmares hidden in her mind, she never expects to find a partner in Gabe.

As Gabe and Eve work together, their explosive attraction becomes irresistible. Gabe knows that his desire for Eve is growing too strong, bordering on a dangerous obsession, but nothing pulls him away from her. And when another Eve lookalike disappears, Gabe vows to protect Eve at all costs. While Eve may have forgotten the killer in her past, it's clear he hasn't forgotten her.

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ARC Review: Captive Mine by Natasha Knight and Trent Evans


Let me just start by saying that the description of this book does not include one critical warning for potential readers: There are scenes of dubious and non-consensual sex. Readers who are sensitive about that subject matter should proceed with EXTREME caution or consider finding another book.

Captive Mine is the story of Lily and Lake (all that alliteration action there). Lily is supposed to be going into the witness protection program and either Lake is guarding her or Lake is kidnapping her. I still don't really know what was what. The point is Lily and Lake spend the majority of the book in a secluded location where Lake endeavors to teach Lily to obey.....for her own safety (*side eye*) and Lily valiantly fights every attempt to bring her to heal.

The steam level of this book would cause a forest fire in California if it was dropped on the ground in the Point Ranch area. Not only is the erotic content HAWT, it is well written and represents a departure from the usual stuff we see. The language of the scenes as well as the creativity was really some 5 star type ish. I'm not going to lie, I was rapidly turning the pages just to see what freaky scenes lay ahead.

Steam levels aside for a moment, I'm not exaggerating when I say there was almost nothing more to this book. Even though Lily and Lake had a significant physical connection I was confused when they both started to view it as something more. When I say I was confused, I mean I started going backwards in the book trying to figure out if I skimmed over something in my rush to get to the next sex scene. I didn't skip over anything though. There is not one conversation between Lily and Lake where anything significant is revealed about either character. NOT EVEN ONE! The substance of love is one of the mysteries of the universe, nobody really knows what it is or how it begins but damn, give us SOMETHING to work with. When there is as little information about the main characters in a romance as there was in this novel, it starts to feel more like a really long short story. I was baffled by Lily and Lake's "connection" to one another. I don't even know what Lily did for a living or where was her Mom or what was her favorite color or food??? Likewise with Lake even though we get a little bit more information about him, by the end of the book, we really don't know anything about him.

The "plot" of the book felt more like filler created just to put the sex scenes into some sort of context. Similarly the angst that both characters experienced about what they wanted versus what they thought was right seemed a little contrived. The best example I can give you was Lake's insistence that his behavior was motivated by concern for Lily's safety. I have no idea how that was a real thing because it's never really explained. Further, the end of the book is abrupt (and if you know me, you know I hate an abrupt ending). Everything is tied up but I'm not sure the knot makes any logical sense. You have to be able to suspend disbelief and just be grateful for all the creative freakiness.

So my rating for this book was difficult to pin down but I'll explain it: I'm rating this book for readers like me. If you are willing to sacrifice a detailed plot for well written steam in a semi-coherent story line, this is a good book and you will like it. That would also make you a reader like me.If you would rather a really good plot and a well constructed relationship between the main characters, this might not be the book for you. Now don't come back and yell at me, I'm telling you up front, this book is going to give you different things depending on what you come in wanting.

A final Note: On the topic of non-consent I also need to say that I share the concern of some other commentators that the recurring themes in some erotic romance of a woman being aroused by force in an environment to which she did not consent is concerning. The aforementioned concern is that somehow readers will be desensitized to the reality that even physically arousing non-consent is still a crime. All that being said, I appreciate that this book is fiction and represents a fantasy in which many people happily engage. i just felt compelled to say something about the need to keep fantasy and reality in their appropriate domains.

**ARC provided by NetGalley*

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Review: Monsters in the Dark Box Set by Pepper Winters


After reading the first three books in the Debt Inheritance Series by Pepper Winters, I couldn't wait to read more by her. So I jumped at the chance to read her Monsters in the Dark Series. I had heard so many good things about this series, but it was honestly one that I just hadn't gotten around to reading yet. I cannot believe that it took me this long! Seriously this series sucked me right in from the start, and I cannot get enough of Tess and Q! 

 Tears of Tess

Tess has noticed that her sex life has been a bit stale with her boyfriend Brax, so when he surprises her with a vacation to Cancun she thinks it is the perfect time to spice things up a bit. She never expects to be kidnapped and taken to France to the estate of Q Mercer. At first Tess believes that Q will be just as bad as those that took her, but she quickly realizes that things are different with him. Though she knows it's wrong, she can't help but be drawn to him. Tess finds herself changing the more time that she spends in Q's home, and before long she starts to see that Q is not at all like she thought he was. Will Brax find her and take her home, or will Tess be forever changed before she has a chance to return to her home? 

Q and Tess were such complicated characters, and I found myself loving them as soon as they were introduced. Tess wanted more from her life than what she was getting with Brax. While he was sweet and treated her well, she was bored and found herself with desires that he was unable to fulfill. I loved how strong Tess was and I really enjoyed seeing her fight back. She wasn't going to just accept her fate and let others do what they pleased, and I was glad that she was so feisty. That being said, she was also capable of letting go and relinquishing control when she wanted to. Her connection with Q was instant, and these two were the perfect match for one another. They completed each other in a way that no one else did, and I found it so interesting how they just understood one another. Q was such a mystery at first and though he started off looking as bad as they come, I really enjoyed seeing how he really was beneath the facade. With each new layer peeled back we got to see him in a whole new light, and it was easy to see why Tess would be so drawn to him. These two had insane chemistry and were so hot together. They were exactly what they needed and wanted when it came to their physical desires, and I loved the passion between them. 

I could not put this book down, and a lot of that was because of the connection that was forming between Q and Tess. Though these two came together in such horrible circumstances, it was clear that they were meant to find one another. I loved how Pepper Winters showed the reader that sometimes the road is a difficult one, but that we will somehow get to where we need to be. Beyond the darkness there is light, and sometimes we find ourselves in places that we never expected. Pepper Winters is a fantastic writer, and I love that I can never tell what will happen next. She masterfully weaves her stories together in a way that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. Her stories are raw and gritty, and are not for everyone. But I love that they are so unique and different, and I am a huge fan of hers. I cannot wait to get more of Q and Tess, and see what happens next for these two. 

Quintessentially Q

Quintessentially Q is the second book in the Monsters in the Dark series, and this book picks up right after the end of Tears of Tess so make sure you start there first. Tess and Q have found that they belong to each other. The complete each other in ways they never knew before finding one another. Though their path to each other wasn't easy, they knew that they were meant to be together. But now that they have embraced their desires and each other, they must learn how to deal with everything that means. Though their relationship is unconventional, it works for them. But sometimes finding each other is the easy part, it is working through the obstacles that can make or break a relationship.

Tess and Q are some of my absolute favorite characters, but this book was so hard at times for me. The way these two came together should have been the worst thing that they would ever go through, and yet they had even more thrown their way in this book. I loved Q and Tess together, and though most wouldn't agree with how they were with one another it worked for them. Tess and Q couldn't be defined by most people's standards, and I loved that they embraced their desires for one another and accepted each other as is. They both wanted to own one another, and it was clear that they did. We really got to see such different sides of them in this book with everything that they went through, and at times it really broke my heart. I was glad that we got to see a whole new depth to their relationship though, and it was clear that things had progressed so far beyond just the physical for these two. They still had the passion and chemistry, but they also had this undeniable connection that is so rare and hard to find. 

This book was again proof of Pepper Winter's fabulous writing. I couldn't put it down, and though it was hard to get through I devoured it. I had so many emotions while reading this book, and I have to admit I was kind of all over the place. This book really messed with my mind. It was dark and raw, and I honestly didn't know what would happen from one chapter to the next. I hoped that everything would come out for the best with Q and Tess, but there were times that I honestly worried for them and the relationship that they had found with one another. Vengeance is never easy, and the affects it had on these two was profound. I honestly cannot wait to see what happens next in this series though and I really liked where we left off with these two. I am curious to see what else Pepper has in store for these characters. This series is quickly becoming a favorite of mine, just as Pepper Winters has become a new favorite author for me as well. 

Twisted Together 

Twisted Together is the third book in this series, and it picks up after Tess is back home with Q again. Though she is back home and with Q, she is still not the same as she was. Tess no longer craves the pain that her and Q have always found pleasure in, and though she loves Q she doesn't know how to get back to where she was before. Q would do anything for Tess, but he no longer knows how to deal with her nightmares. As Tess tries to pretend that she is fine, she continues to struggle with the aftermath of everything that has happened. Just when it appears that Q is able to break through to her, they are once again thrown into a situation that they hoped to never finds themselves in. But can they face their demons once again and come out on top, or will this be the one that breaks them for good? 

Q and Tess have gone through so much. They have both suffered and in each other they found the means to survive. But this book again finds them starting over and having to face more horrors that they shouldn't have to experience again. The one thing that has never changed throughout this series is the intense connection that Q and Tess share. They have been drawn to each other from the very start, and the bond they share has only grown stronger. But Q and Tess weren't connecting physically as they had before in this book, and that had a huge effect on their relationship. I wanted them to figure things out so badly in this book, as it was clear that their love for one another could never be broken. I knew that these two had to find a way to get everything back and move forward with their lives because they were meant to be together. 

While I did enjoy getting more of Q and Tess, I have to say that this book wasn't what I had been hoping for. It was extremely long, and I felt a lot of it was unnecessary. There were huge portions of the story that seemed to rehash things from the past and I felt like it had a tendency to drag. I found myself wanting to skim parts of their story for the first time in this series, and it made me sad because I absolutely love these characters. I think I just got lost in so many details, and the constant struggles that Tess was going through. I felt like we had already dealt with so many of them, and I thought that she was better after the last book. It seemed like we were back to square one and I didn't want to read the same thing I had before. I also felt like we were constantly getting a rehashing of the past with her constantly falling back inside her head and what she had experienced before. She kept remembering the same things from her captors, and I didn't need to hear it over and over to remember what had happened. Though I did enjoy seeing how things turned out for them, I honestly felt like that could have been done with far less words and a shorter book. I know there is a novella coming as well, and while I want to read it for more Tess and Q I am worried that I will have the same problems as I did here. I am really hoping that it will be something new for them and not be the same thing repeated again with a few changes. While I did struggle to get through this book, I still think that this series is worth reading. Tess and Q's story is one that I have been captivated with from the start, and I have loved how different and unique it is. These two are so different from any other characters I have ever read, and their connection is unlike any I have seen before. 

Overall

Overall, I will definitely be reading more from Pepper Winters in the future. I highly recommend her if you are looking for something different. Her stories are on the dark side, and are always raw and intense. Though some will have some issues with the things that happen, I also love that they are unpredictable and deal with things that are not commonly written about in romance.

**Review Copy Provided by As the Pages Turn**

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