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Review: Willing Victim by Cara McKenna

Saturday, August 27

My rating:


For the past couple years Laurel’s been coasting, hiding in the backseat while her life drifts off course. Then one summer afternoon a tall, built bruiser named Flynn strides in and steers her straight into an infatuation she never saw coming.

Flynn introduces Laurel to things she’s never imagined—to the violent but exciting realm of the underground boxing circuit, to rough sex and even rougher role-playing, and to an attraction she craves even as it intimidates her. As Flynn invites her deeper into his world and his life, Laurel has to make a choice—let fear keep her holed up where it’s safe, or take a chance and fight for the man who makes her feel more alive than she’d dreamed possible.

Reader Advisory: This book contains consensual but intense rape role-playing scenes that some may find upsetting.

**** 

Oh, yes. One of this guy, please.

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This & a bunch of Jaci Burton novels were what got me into romance & erotica back in 2010. I loved everything about this book.

What I loved:

- Cara McKenna writes smart, funny, borderline-not-ok characters. Flynn was my first ever book crush. I wanted one of those so bad!
- Laurel was a subtly cool character - she wasn't a caricature of a shy house mouse, or an OTT raging bitch, or a wilted flower... she was just her.
- I'll be honest with you, I didn't read this for the characters because I knew it was short before I started. I did it all for the dirty. Even so, I still enjoyed the little bit of storyline we got with the dirty.
- The sex was smokin' hot. Between Cara McKenna & Jaci Burton, I thought I'd found my genre for life!

What I didn’t love:

- In what universe does a random woman invite another woman to watch her have sex with some guy, 2 minutes into a conversation? And what woman accepts to follow random woman and guy she doesn't know down a dark alley?? Gummon.

Overall…

This was a smutty, sexy story that dragged me all in, and having read it again the other day I can still see why Cara McKenna is one of my fave writers. There's a reason this has cult status.

Review: The Bride (Lairds' Fiancées #1) by Julie Garwood

Thursday, August 25
My rating:
5 Stars…

What I loved:  

By the king's edict, Alec Kincaid, mightiest of the Scottish lairds, must take an English bride. And Jamie the youngest daughter of Baron Jamison, is his choice. From his first glimpse of the proud and beautiful English lady, Alec felt a burning hunger stir within him. This was a woman worthy of his fearless warrior's spirit. And he aches to touch her, tame her, possess her...forever.
But with the wedding vows, Jamie pledges her own secret oath: She will never surrender her love to this Highland barbarian. He was everything her heart warned her against -- an arrogant, brooding scoundrel whose rough good looks and seductive embrace fire her blood. But when strange accidents begin to threaten Jamie's life and an old rumor that Alec killed his first wife spreads anew, something far more dangerous than desire threatens to conquer her senses.


****

I'm pretty sure I look insane with how big I'm smiling over this story.

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What I loved:
- Jamie is hysterical. The scene where she takes Kincaid's club off the wall and goes off to handle her business. Aagh. Loved it so much. And every time she got lost. And when she dumps the water on the guards outside her window! And the strife she brings on herself when Kincaid finally confesses his love. Ha!
- Alec Kincaid is the total delicious alpha package. (Yes, I said package.) He's brave, and hard, and strong, and ginormous, and sexy, and mischievous, and I love how he keeps pushing Jamie's buttons.
- The complexity of all Julie Garwood's characters. Beak! Her stepfather's stable master - what a wonderful man for doing what he did for Jamie.
Quote…"I've been storing this up for a long while, Beak, and I won't be rushed."
"Well?" Beak demanded in a near shout.
"I love you. I've never told you before, but I love you with all my heart. You've been a good father to me, Beak."
- Jamie

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- There was just enough mystery and intrigue to keep a background story ticking along, without taking away from the main focus. That being all the glorious, not-altogether-romantic banter between Jamie & Alec. The banter and tension were probably my favourite things about The Bride.
- And Jamie has so many things going for her! I love that in my characters. She had skills, talents, hobbies, she was smart, witty, loving. Yeah, no... she was probably my favourite thing about The Bride.
- Actually no, Kincaid was probably my favourite thing. Or how Jamie saves Angus. Or the McPherson's baby. Or her argument with McPherson.
I don't know. It was all just really, really good.

What I didn’t love:

****THIS IS A SPOILER****
- So, in the end, I didn't really get Annie's deal. Was she mentally impaired? Was it a ploy? Was the glimpse we got into her PoV a diary entry, or thoughts, or what? Because, the PoV was pretty grown up if it was train of thought, so I'm guessing she didn't have what everyone said was the mental acuity of a child. I just *shrugs* I didn't get it.

Overall…
Excellent story telling, fantastic & complex characters, a funny as shit heroine, lots of sexual tension and heat, a glorious alpha, and just a generally awesome, awesome book.

Quote…It was a united show of loyalty, Alec knew, but it wasn't for Angus that the soldiers knelt. No, Angus was their equal. They wouldn't kneel before him. The soldiers were now giving Lady Kincaid their loyalty, their complete trust.
And his wife slept through their silent pledge.

Review: The Ugly Duchess (Fairy Tales #4) by Eloisa James

My rating:
5 Stars… 

What I loved:

How can she dare to imagine he loves her... when all London calls her The Ugly Duchess?

Theodora Saxby is the last woman anyone expects the gorgeous James Ryburn, heir to the Duchy of Ashbrook, to marry. But after a romantic proposal before the prince himself, even practical Theo finds herself convinced of her soon-to-be duke's passion.

Still, the tabloids give the marriage six months.

Theo would have given it a lifetime... until she discovers that James desired not her heart, and certainly not her countenance, but her dowry. Society was shocked by their wedding; it's scandalized by their separation.

Now James faces the battle of his lifetime, convincing Theo that he loved the duckling who blossomed into the swan.

And Theo will quickly find that for a man with the soul of a pirate, All's Fair in Love — or War.

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This might be spoiler-y, but I'm too excited to stop it!

What I loved:

I cannot count all the ways I loved this book. I mean - I'm going to try because this is a book review, but I don't think I could do it justice.
- Theo & James had such a beautiful friendship - I so believed in it. They were funny, honest, playful, teasing, and just plain old glorious. Like after their wedding night, talking about a guy who's nickname is Periwinkle...
Quote…She hesitated. "Is that a reference to the size of his male organ?"
"I'm afraid so."
"I should think small would be a benefit. I'm certain most women would prefer it. They should boast about those nicknames."
A little laugh exploded from his mouth. "Am I to take it that you're sore from last night?"
"Yes," Theo admitted. "I wish you had a periwinkle."

- EJ writes smoking hot, 10 star sexy times!
- Theo's vengeance is swift and brutal, and I am still convinced that James deserved it. I have never seen a hero so punished by a heroine.
- I've read heroines that don't realise how beautiful they are - but really we find out they are actually supermodels. Theo isn't that heroine. Her beauty comes from something much better than a perfectly delicate face and being built like a pixie pinup doll. She is dazzling, entertaining, smart, vivacious. If Scarlett O'Hara manipulated people into not realising she was plain, Theo dazzled them into not caring. She won me over, just like she won over Paris, London, and James.
- A pirate! I've never met a pirate hero before. James was imperfectly wonderful, and deep down I stand by the opinion that he had a beautiful heart. Having said that, he deserved to have his ass kicked. But more on that later.
- Theo & her mum had such a wonderful relationship. I was absolutely invested in her opinion, her thoughts, her feelings. Mrs. Saxby was fantastic, took no shit, and loved her daughter.
- The 'baddies' in this story were not caricatures. They were human beings who had flaws. They made mistakes. James' father was a c*nt - like, I hated him and was happy when he died - and then after he died I started to mourn right along with James. I am so happy that EJ can manipulate my emotions that way!
- Did I mention that I loved the way Theo handed James his ass when he betrayed her?

What I didn’t love:

- I was so crushed at how James' betrayal squished the passion and joy out of Theo's life. I know she achieved amazing things, and that the way the story plays out is good for feeding James' guilt... but how wonderful it would have been if she also had a bad mamajama of a lover. Or two! I didn't want her to lose her sexuality.
- James was a liar, not including the main lie he tells to cause his split from Theo. Case in point:
Quote…He ran his hands through her hair and then said, quietly, "You were the second, Daisy. And the last."

Oh, ho ho ho - no she fucking was not the last.
- Seven years apart. Really? Even though I hated how James betrayed Theo, by about year 2 I was thinking uhmmm... can he go home now. And then a thing happens and I think Aha! Now he'll go home and start fixing what he broke. He didn't. He makes it worse. And then a sad thing happens and he still doesn't go home! It was the perfect opportunity. So what if she was super clear about never wanting to see your face again - go after what you want, damn you!!

Overall…

This is my second book of Eloisa James' Fairy Tales series and I think I love it even more than When Beauty Tamed the Beast. Maybe. I cried, and cheered, and cursed, and swooned. I adored the underlying message. Wonderful!

Quote…He glanced down at Theo. Her eyes were painted with an exotic tilt at the corners. Her cheekbones were regal and her bottom lip was colored a perfect red that made it more kissable than it already was. Small but lush breasts, skin the color of clear moonlight, rose above a waist the size of a man’s hand.

But none of that mattered compared to the innate kindness in her eyes, the joyful turn of her lip, the wild intelligence with which she greeted every day.
That was beautiful.

Review: Kincaid (Cerberus MC #1) by Marie James

My rating:
3 Stars…

I am Emmalyn Mikaelson.

My husband, in a rage, hit me in front of the wrong person. Diego, or Kincaid to most, beat the hell out of him for it. I left with Diego anyway. Even though he could turn on me just like my husband did, I knew I had a better chance of survival with Diego. That was until I realized Kincaid could hurt me so much worse than my husband ever could. Physical pain pales in comparison to troubles of the heart.

I am Diego “Kincaid” Anderson.

She was a waitress at a bar in a bad situation. I brought her to my clubhouse because I knew her husband would kill her if I didn’t. Now she has my protection and that of the Cerberus MC. I never expected her to become something more to me. I was in more trouble than I’ve ever been in before, and that’s saying a lot considering I served eight years in the Marine Corp with Special Forces.
 
What I loved:
- Kincaid was a really good guy, the whole way through. He was the kind of hero you'd actually want riding into your life as an actual human being.
- Military men. Yes, thanks.
- This was a quick, easy read, and the MC wasn't the criminal kind. That was a welcome break from my usual, and I enjoyed what the guys did for a living.

What I didn’t love:
- I didn't think Emmalyn brought anything to the story. Apart from being the most beautiful woman in the world and people falling instantly in love with her, what did she have going for her? She wasn't engaging, funny, or smart. She didn't seem to have passions or dreams or skills. She was just a pretty face. I find that boring in any character.
- The drama in the story was driven by Emmalyn's failure to communicate with Kincaid, and her misunderstanding of everything. Emmalyn is Romance Heroine 101: constantly falling for the most blatant ploys, doing nothing but looking pretty, and walking into every character trap.
- Kincaid was constantly apologising, and as far as I could see - he'd done nothing wrong. Like... ever.

Overall…
There was nothing wrong with the book as such. But nothing about the heroine stood out, so she was boring. A boring heroine and a standout hero still equal no more than an average read, for me.

Review: Neighbor Dearest by Penelope Ward

Wednesday, August 24
My rating: 
5 Stars…

What I loved: 

After getting dumped, the last thing I needed was to move next door to someone who reminded me of my ex-boyfriend, Elec.

Damien was a hotter version of my ex.

The neighbor I’d dubbed “Angry Artist” also had two massive dogs that kept me up with their barking.

He wanted nothing to do with me. Or so I thought until one night I heard laughter coming through an apparent hole in my bedroom wall.

Damien had been listening to all of my phone sessions with my therapist.

The sexy artist next door now knew all of my deepest secrets and insecurities.

We got to talking.

He set me straight with tips to get over my breakup.

He became a good friend, but Damien made it clear that he couldn’t be anything more.

Problem was, I was falling hard for him anyway. And as much as he pushed me away, I knew he felt the same…because his heartbeat didn’t lie.

I thought my heart had been broken by Elec, but it was alive and beating harder than ever for Damien.

I just hoped he wouldn’t shatter it for good.  

****
Quote…"... I need you to believe that as long as I'm walking this earth, I'm going to love you."
- Damien

What I loved:
- The notes and food Damien has delivered at the hospital.
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- Damien & Elec's email convo.
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- It has dogs!
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- The characters were smart! They had opinions, and skills, and passions, and quirks. They were perfectly created. I love a story where families are loyal, characters are honest, and people aren't perfect. This book had all that.
- The storyline was really good. Just when I thought it was going to become a cliche, PW changed the story :) And - even better - the plot was driven by stuff that actually mattered - no misunderstandings!
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- Chelsea recovering from her breakup was so real. It was painful, it took time, and Penelope Ward took the time to work through that recovery. PW made me really want good things for both Chelsea & Damien. How perfect then that they get each other! And Chelsea was relateable.
- I loved that this was a slow burn, enemies to friends to lovers story that seemed to flow naturally. No insta-love here, and not a whole lot of charming going on for a long time.
Quote…"There's a hole in the wall. I can't help but hear your hot mess phone conversations when I'm working."
- Damien

- It takes real skill to turn me against Elec - I loved him in Stepbrother Dearest, but all through this book I scoffed and snort-laughed every time Damien made fun of Elec being with his stepsister. A major turning point for me was when Damien watched the home movie Elec & Chelsea made. No wonder she had such a hard time moving on. That rat bastard.

What I didn’t love:
- I had to mentally strip Damien of his beanie every time one was mentioned. I'm not a fan - all I see is hipsters and bums. Having said that, I had to mentally strip Damien of pretty much everything else he was wearing too, because yum.

Overall…
Yep, loved it!

Top 3: Lone Wolf Heroes


My three favourite Lone Wolf Heroes are all men who are broken in ways you think would make them irreparable, isolated (even amongst friends and family) and all wonderfully, horrifically violent. All these stories are easily 5 star reads for me, by authors I love, and with a storyline that keeps me going back for more.

When it comes to your heroes, if you are of the ethos: The Badder, The Better, I cannot think of any alphas you could love more.

Ladies & Gentlemen, I give you my beautiful beasts...

Wolf
Wolf (The Henchmen MC #3) by Jessica Gadziala
How broken? Wolf talks in mostly single syllables, has seen terrible abuse at the hands of his father, and gets sent in to do the worst of the dirty work for what is already a pretty dirty MC.
How violent? When your MC consists of killers and hitmen, and even they want you locked down in a shed... you may have anger-management issues. To fully appreciate all the vicious goodness that is Wolf, I recommend reading Reign & Cash first.


Flame
Souls Unfractured (Hades Hangmen #3) by Tillie Cole
How broken? Haunted by a hideous past, a father that sucked so bad I almost couldn't read those parts, and still torturing himself (literally and physically) decades later. And he's a cutter.
How violent? As violent as you could probably get without superpowers. To see him in all his monstrous glory, read It Ain't Me, Babe and Heart Recaptured first.


Zsadist
Lover Awakened (Black Dagger Brotherhood #3) by J.R. Ward
How broken? Centuries of torture & abuse. Reading about what he went through was just shockingly sad.
How violent? If Flame was as violent as you could get without superpowers, Zsadist is Flame on superpower-crack. For the full paranormally disturbing effect, read Dark Lover and Lover Eternal first.

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