Double Review: Wicked Bond (Book #5: The Wicked Horse Series) and Max (Book #6: Cold Fury Hockey Series) by Sawyer Bennett

wicked-bond

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Bridger Payne is an enigma that no one can figure out. Wise beyond his years, eerily intuitive and sexy as hell, every woman in The Silo wants him.  None can have him.  Not the real man, anyway.  He might wield the lash for you if you ask prettily, but he’ll get no gratification from it. He’ll definitely make you scream, but he won’t think twice about you when he walks away.  Bridger carries the darkest of secrets. He’s filled with too much pain.  He’s utterly untouchable.  Until she came along.

Source: Purchase

My Rating: 5/5 stars

My Review:

Since the beginning of this series, Bridger Payne has been a staple.  He’s always been the strong, silent type whose sex life is generally on full display inside The Silo, the sex club he is now the sole owner of.  He’s down for anything, steady and strong, and loyal to a fault to his small circle of friends.  That same small circle of friends know Bridger will be there for them, but none of them expect him to open up, chat them up, or show much in the way of emotion.  That’s just not in Bridger’s wheelhouse. 

When Maggie shows up on Bridger’s front porch, she is unconscious, beat all to hell and back, and, apparently in a crap load of trouble.  All Bridger is told by the man who drops her in his arms is that he needs to have her checked out, medically speaking and he needs to keep her hidden.  The local, and very, very dangerous motorcycle gang has a claim on Maggie and Bridger will be damned before he lets them get their hands on her again.  Or her daughter.  Wait?  What?  There’s a daughter he has to protect as well?  Where the hell is she?

Once the drug-induced and much-needed sleep finally wears off, Maggie finds herself in the care of the most stunningly beautiful man she has ever seen.  Bridger is rough and sexy, he is a man of few words, and actions that speak to the point of yelling.  He knows who Maggie is hiding from and is willing to sacrifice his own personal safety to see to her protection.  What Maggie doesn’t know, but strongly suspects, is that Bridger is attracted to her and likes her, but isn’t quite sure what to do with all those feelings.  Maggie’s situation is bound to get worse before it gets better and though she is certainly attracted to Bridger, she isn’t sure a physical relationship would be good for either of them. 

Turns out, some things are just too hard to resist and Bridger is one of those things.  The physical aspect of Maggie and Bridger’s relationship is simply spectacular, but Maggie knows there is a darkness to Bridger that is related to his sexual history.  Getting into that darkness is, at best, uncomfortable, and, at worst, a deal breaker.  Maggie is willing to make the effort and help Bridger in any way she can, but Bridger has been hardened by his past and when the feelings become all too real, he has no choice but to run leaving Maggie and her daughter in his wake.

The Bottom Line:  Bridger is the character we have all been waiting for and I am so pleased to see he got the book he deserves.  There are couple of things about this read I particularly enjoyed: 1) the mess Maggie is in doesn’t drag on for the length of the book and, 2) the surprising place and person Bridger runs to when he has no choice but to get away.  I like that I can still be surprised by plot twists and I like it even more when a series gets deep yet remains fresh and exciting.  Maggie and her daughter are not who you see Bridger ending up with, but they sure are perfect for him.  This is a sort of “it takes a village” read with many of the characters (primarily the women) from the past installments of The Wicked Horse series coming together to help Maggie and Bridger find their HEA.  If this is where the series is meant to end, Bridger and Maggie’s story is a fitting end.

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max

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The ice is a cold mistress. As the league’s most eligible goalie, Max Fournier has access to his fair share of willing puck bunnies, but right now he’s more interested in bringing home another championship than a one-night stand. A romantic at heart, Max believes in love; he’s just not great at relationships. So when he finally meets a nice girl who’s not blinded by his celebrity, he’s feeling the heat—and the pressure to save her from herself.

Between working two jobs and raising her sister’s kids, Julianne Bradley doesn’t have time for sports—or men. All she knows about Max is that he’s the sexiest customer to ever grace her gas-station counter. And he sees past her tired eyes and makes Jules yearn for things she can’t have: a glamorous fling, a passionate lover, and the time to enjoy both. Max makes her feel like Cinderella, even though Jules has enough baggage to crush a glass slipper. Luckily, he’s no prince—only a fierce competitor determined to win her heart.

Source: Purchase

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Review:

Max Fournier is completely healthy, injury free, and in the best shape of his life.  He’s got his eye on the prize and that prize is goalie of the Cold Fury and defending their Stanley Cup.  To achieve his goals, Max must stay focused and work harder than he has ever worked in his life.  Max is more than willing to work hard and that means remaining distraction-free . . . . . and then there’s Fate and her wicked sense of humor.

Max is by far one of the sexiest member of the Cold Fury and doesn’t lack for female attention.  What most of those women don’t understand is that Max did his time as a man whore and didn’t particularly enjoy the ride.  For the most part, Max is unaffected by all the attention he gets because most of those women are more interested in his celebrity than in Max.  To top it all off, Max tends to be a one woman, committed relationship kind of man and that kind of effort would distract from his current goalie goals.  Did I mention Fate and her wicked sense of humor??

Julianne Bradley gained and lost everything in a single day.  When her beloved sister died of cancer, Julianne lost her best-friend and confidant, and gained custody of her two nephews and niece.  In one horrible moment, Julianne became a full-time mom to three small kids and her single, care-free life was over.  Though she wouldn’t give up her charges for the world, Julianne sure would love a break from time to time.  It’s exhausting raising three kids and working two jobs so there certainly isn’t any free time for frivolous things like hot goalies and dating.  But, Max is rather persistent . . . . .

Max is persistent and while he thought dividing his focus between hockey and Julianne would hurt his game, Max finds he is playing better than ever.  Having someone to celebrate his victories and mourn his losses is better than Max could have ever imagined.  The only real obstacle to their relationship is the amount of free time Julianne has to offer Max.  Max wants more, but knows that will be virtually impossible unless something significant changes in Julianne’s life.  Max has the money to make significant happen and the feelings for Julianne to want to make significant happen.  He just has to get through her tough exterior and convince Julianne his offers of help aren’t because he sees her as a charity case, but because he truly wants to see she and her kids in a better situation.  What Max isn’t prepared for is just how thick that exterior is, how sensitive Julianne is to catty gossip, and how sacred she is to give herself to someone and risk hurting her kids. 

The Bottom Line:  Max may be the sweetest read to date in the Cold Fury Hockey series.  Sure, there is a girl in this story, but for me, the read was all about Max.  Max is a good man through and through with honest intentions and true affection for Julianne and her kids.  Once he sets his sights on Julianne, Max is determined to have her and he goes to great lengths to prove himself to Julianne and her kids.  With all that being said, Max doesn’t quite have the same heat as the previous installments of the series and I sort of missed that.  Make no mistake, there are naughty bits and there is some drama, but it isn’t quite what I’ve come to expect from this series and that left me mildly disappointed.  Only mildly J  Overall, I’m still very much enjoying this series and have now left Max behind with the knowledge that every really good series always has that one book that doesn’t quite meet the standards of all the others in the series.

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About the author and where to find her:

author - SawyerBennettNew York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author, Sawyer Bennett is a snarky southern woman and reformed trial lawyer who decided to finally start putting on paper all of the stories that were floating in her head. Her husband works for a Fortune 100 company which lets him fly all over the world while she stays at home with their daughter and three big, furry dogs who hog the bed. Sawyer would like to report she doesn’t have many weaknesses but can be bribed with a nominal amount of milk chocolate.  Sawyer is the author of several contemporary romances including the popular Off Series, Cold Fury Series, the Legal Affairs Series and the Last Call Series.

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Triple Review: The Club Series by Jenna Elliot

Ethan (Book #1): Her name was Mia. Rich girl, law school drop-out, smart, crazy sexy, and in over her head with me from the moment I rescued her on the side of a South Florida road.  She’s going to require some delicate handling on my part. Maybe that’s what challenges me about her. Her innocence.  She’ll play my games. They all do. I train them, and they love what I give back. I need them, too, but only the sex; it keeps the nightmares away. I’m addicted to the game, to the action, to the control.  I’m good at what I do. I own a piece of Command Performance, one of South Beach’s hottest sex clubs.  But no one owns a piece of me.   Not even Mia. Not yet.   Jenna Elliot has been writing since she was a baby gator at the University of Florida. What started as sweet romances soon turned into steamy new adult novels. When she’s not writing—or researching (wink!)—Jenna enjoys spending time with her adopted Basset Hound and cat, Sherlock and Watson, cooking new recipes from Pinterest, and binge watching Netflix. Her life goals include being a contestant on a game show, writing a book (check!), and conquering her resting bitch face. Jenna is a lover, not a fighter. 

Source: Netgalley

My Rating: 3/5 stars

My Review:

Hhhmmmmm . . . . I’m not entirely sure how to review this particular read as I have completely mixed emotions about it and contradictory thoughts.  I guess the most logical approach would be a list of likes and dislikes so, here goes . . . .

Likes:

Mia: Mia describes herself as completely independent of her past – her parents, her ex-fiancé, law school – and she’d like to keep it that way.  Even independent girls sometimes need help and that happens when Mia finds herself and her beloved Jeep in a ditch at 4 a.m.  Luckily, there is help available in the form of a completely sexy control freak who apparently knows his way away her body as well as he knows his way around her Jeep. 

In the coming days and weeks, Mia gets in deep with Ethan and it scares the Hell out of her.  He plays her body like a violin but outside the club and the bedroom he is hard to read and even harder to understand.  Mia both loves how Ethan makes her body feel and is frightened by her reactions to the things he asks her to do.  To be with Ethan means accepting a part of herself she is only just discovering and not all certain she likes.  

Ethan:  There is no other way to describe Ethan other than seriously damaged.  He has horrific nightmares that he uses sex to deal with.  Ethan’s brand of sex involves total control and total acquiescence to his demands.  Oh, he’s no deviant but he is demanding and all his pets know, if they break the rules, they’re gone.  Ethan has lived this way for so long he doesn’t really know any other way until he meets Mia on the side of the road. 

Like Mia, Ethan gets in deep and rather than dealing with his new feelings and emotions, he lashes out and causes far more pain and confusion than is necessary.  In fact, Ethan acts like a total d*ck rather than an adult and damn-near loses the one woman who can calm his demons.

Plot: Overall, I like the plot with the newly independent young woman crossing paths with a darkly dangerous man.  The sexual awakening and discovery aspect is always fun especially when the teacher is hot as hell.  There’s also a story mixed in among the sex which includes some backstory on Ethan and an eventual HEA for he and Mia.  An HEA and no cliffhanger are always plot bonuses!

Dislikes:

Mia: Yeah, then there’s the other side of Mia that doesn’t quite sit well with me.  Mia proclaims to herself and her best-friend (who is adorable!) that she is making a break from her past, becoming a totally independent woman, and forging her own  her parent’s and her trust fund.  Yeah, you’re not at all independent when you’re not even paying your own rent.  To top it all off, her response to eventually being cut off by her parents is utterly ridiculous and irresponsible.  In many ways, this turn of events really changed my generally positive feelings toward Mia to less than favorable feelings.

Ethan:  Before the big reveal of his past and the cause of his nightmares, Ethan is a real d*ck.  He refers to his sexual partners as pets and cares very little for the feelings of his partners.  Make no mistake, he isn’t abusive and physically, he does care for his partners but he is admittedly using them to deal with his own darkness and demons. 

Plot: There is a lot of sex in this book as well as a little bit of story to go along with the sex.  I don’t mind a load of sex in my reads but I do mind when it comes out the way it does in this book.  Nearly the entire first half of the book, and I do mean first HALF is given over to sex with the actual story finally showing up near the end.  It is only after Ethan has been forced to tell Mia a small portion of his story and Mia has made a rash and incredibly irresponsible decision that things get going on something more than a sexual level.  The backstory should have been spread out over the course of the read thus making the eventual HEA a bit more understandable and/or reasonable.  As it stands, the HEA is based on a whole lot of sex and just a little bit of actual conversation. 

The Bottom Line: See?  I told you I have totally mixed feelings about this read.  Added to this mixed-up feeling business is the fact I couldn’t put this book down.  I read it in one stretch even though my feelings about the characters changed dramatically as I read.  I wanted to choke the life out of both characters multiple times all while hoping they would work their crap out.  In all, I think my mixed emotions may have been more clear if the plotting issues I have with the read had been handled differently.  If the actual story had played out over the course of the read rather than far too quickly at the end, I may have been able to overcome some of the other issues.  With all that being said, I have one more contradiction for you.  I bought the other two books in the series and am going to work my through them over the next few days.  Yeah, this one is all kinds of crazy 🙂

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Ace (Book #2:): Her name was Emme. Girl next door, thrill-seeker, open and eager for everything she could learn from my club, Command Performance. Everything she could learn from me. Sensations she could only imagine in her wildest fantasies. Acts of submission that would change her forever. But she’s playing me. A level one candidate is playing me. A neophyte.  I might laugh except I’m intrigued. It’s been so long since anyone’s caught my attention.  Emme submits. Obeys.  Yet challenges me at the same time. Her brightness calls to something dark in my soul, shines light into a past best left unexplored.  But how is that even possible?  No one gets that close. My past is my past. Dark. Lethal. Hellish. I am what I am. I warned her. The rest is up to her.

Source: Purchase

My Rating: 3/5 stars

My Review:

Yet again, I find myself on the fence with this series.  Round two of Jenna Elliot’s The Club series features Ace and Emme, one tragically broken man and a woman who brings light to every single corner of his world. 

When he’s at the club, Ace is the life of the party.  He commands an audience each and every time he walks onto the floor of the club’s second level.  He trains new initiates in the ways and rules of the club’s second level and without exception, he doesn’t get close to any of the people who adore him.  In fact, Ace is well known for for both his sexual prowess and his ability to remain completely detached.  Men and women alike want him, but those same men and women know they’ll only have Ace for a brief amount of time and then he will move on to his next lay.

Emme is the perfect sub and from the very moment Ace realizes this, he knows she is different than any woman he has ever encountered.  Training Emme is pure pleasure and having sex with her is beyond anything Ace has every experienced.  Given his career and lifestyle, that’s certainly saying something.  Emme should have been just another trainee, but Ace can’t seem to get her out of his head and before he knows it, she is becoming involved in his life outside of the club.  Ace can’t quite figure out how it’s happened, but he quite likes having Emme around and isn’t at all looking forward to the time when he must let her go.  But, let her go he must because historically, anyone who has gotten close to Ace has met a tragic end.  Yeah, Ace has a unquestionably awful past.

While she’s at the club, Emme can let go of all the fears, worries, and frustrations that populate her day to day life.  She knows the club is temporary, a place she can sow some wild oats before implementing her “real” life plan.  The “real” life plan includes not having to worry about money constantly, a husband who loves and adores her (and won’t cheat on her!), and an incredibly large number of children.  Nowhere in her “real” life plan does it say, “Fall for a dom at a sex club who is without doubt unattainable and the best sex I’ve ever had in my entire life.”   The “real” life plan has also left out “Be stalked and terrorized by a crazy person to the point I have to leave town without a trace.”  While she tries to keep her real life and her club life separate, Emme finds the two overlapping with great regularity.  She doesn’t want to drag Ace into her drama, but he doesn’t seem to want to go away either.  That is, until the moment Emme drops the one bombshell that send him running for the hills and paying her off to disappear from his life for good. 

The Bottom Line:  I think I enjoyed this read.  How’s that for certainty??  Without doubt, I liked Emme and I liked the naughty bits.  Ace is the one character that has me on the fence.  Emme really is light and fun, but her life is sort of a mess.  She’s got an a%^hole of an ex, an apparent stalker, and feelings for a man she intellectually understands isn’t a long-term prospect.  Until the moment she just can’t, Emme tries to make the best of her situation and go with the flow.  It’s the moment Ace breaks her that is the most heartbreaking in this read.  Ace isn’t all that complicated, he’s just stubborn and an absolute d*$k when he feels the need to retreat and protect himself.  Most of the time I liked Ace, but there are few instances in which his behavior made me hate him with a fiery passion.  To be sure, he redeems himself in the end, but his bad moments are incredibly bad and designed to hurt Emme, the one character I thoroughly enjoyed.  Now you see my dilemma. J  As with the first book, the naughty bits are steamy and exciting and the ending comes so quickly that one is reminded of a virgin’s first time.  In all, I remain on the fence about this book and series, but there is nothing so significant to keep me from reading the third and final book, Jax.

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Jax (Book #3): Her name was Audrey. Tough as nails, gorgeous, but she didn’t get to the highest level in my South Beach sex club by being eager to please. She’s also a troublemaker, a hot-as-hell, world-class domme-in-the-making. She could be one of Command Performance’s stars. But not until she truly submits to me, first. Right now, she still wants to make me angry, make me care, but I shut down that painful part of me a long time ago.  She won’t give up, and I won’t give in. I own her beautiful body, but I need a way to slip inside her head, find out what made her so defensive. Unlock her secrets. I need to rock her world, right down to her caged spirit, and set her free.  I need to do whatever it takes to turn her into that world-class domme. She’s an asset to the club. That’s the lie I tell myself.  

Source: Purchase

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Review:

Finally!!  It only took me until book three in the series to get myself off the fence and know exactly how I feel about a read 🙂

The (current) final book in Jenna Elliot’s The Club series features, Jax, the über-wealthy owner of an exclusive sex club who has spent his adult life carefully creating a world for himself that doesn’t include attachments.  As far as the outside world is concerned, Jax is off limits.  He oversees the smooth and successful running of his club, he trains dommes and doms for their successful entry into the BDSM world, and he enjoys the occasional challenge.  Audrey is a challenge of the highest order.

Audrey rivals Jax in her ability to create a world for herself that includes no attachments.  She runs a very successful business with a single partner, takes a lover when the mood strikes, and is a domme in training in her free time.  Trouble is, her business partner wants to take things to the next level sexually and her temperament toward training has gotten her booted from Ace’s training program and into Jax’s care.  Audrey knows she has what it takes to be a world-class domme, but her attitude has thus far kept her from completing the training successfully.  Jax is her last chance and if she can’t learn to submit to him and truly understand both sides of the domme equation, she’s going to be out of luck and likely kicked out of the club.  Submitting is something Audrey just can’t wrap her brain around because it involves a level of trust she hasn’t been capable of in years.  With Jax though . . .

Audrey shakes up everything in Jax’s world and isn’t at all pleased about the situation.  She’s gorgeous, smart, headstrong, and seemingly capable of doing without him.  Though Jax tells Audrey she is to be with no one else, sexually, during their training, he knows she is seeing another man, and doesn’t at all care for the feelings that dredges up.  For the first time in a very, very long time, Jax feels jealousy and doesn’t quite know how to handle that emotion.  His solution to the problem is to whisk Audrey away to his private island (yes, the man owns an island!) where she is at his mercy and hopefully, will fall into line as her training demands.  What Jax doesn’t anticipate is how attached he becomes to Audrey, how mind-blowing the sex is, and how painful her eventual betrayal is going to be.

The Bottom Line:  I liked this read!  Audrey and Jax are just perfect for one another and their struggle toward their eventual HEA sure is fun!  Audrey doesn’t need a man, but she does enjoy having Jax around.  He understands her desires and proclivities better than anyone else, and is willing, on occasion to let her take the lead.  There’s a very interesting dynamic between Audrey and Jax that kept me interested throughout the read.  They are both intelligent, both wealthy, both stubborn, and both in need of the other though they are loathe to admit such a thing.  As with the other two books, there is an element of drama and danger beyond the naughty bits which adds to the tension of the story.  Audrey’s drama and danger become Jax’s drama and danger (in a not so surprising way) which brings the two closer together, splits them apart, and, ultimately brings them back together.  The ending to this one very much follows the model set by the first two reads and wraps up way too quickly, but, it didn’t keep me from absolutely liking the read this time around.  Jax and Audrey are a strong enough set of characters to finally pull me off the fence 🙂

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About the author and where to find her:

Jenna Elliot has been writing since she was a baby gator at the University of Florida. What started as sweet romances soon turned into steamy new adult novels. When she’s not writing—or researching —Jenna enjoys spending time with her adopted Basset Hound and cat, Sherlock and Watson, cooking new recipes from Pinterest, and binge watching Netflix. Her life goals include being a contestant on a game show, writing a book (check!), and conquering her resting bitch face. Jenna is a lover, not a fighter.

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Double Review: The Reluctant Cowboy and The Maverick Cowboy (Books #1 and #2: Morgan Ranch Series) by Kate Pearce

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Chase Morgan high-tailed it away from ranching life as soon as possible. But running a successful technology company can’t erase the memories, or secrets, of his youth. Coming home to help his Grandma Ruth may finally put some ghosts to rest—if he can just get a certain smart, beautiful houseguest out of his business. But getting her out of his head is proving even more difficult…

Determined to save the Morgan ranch, historian January Mitchell has pinned her hopes on the surprisingly rugged, surprisingly likable, and exasperatingly stubborn Chase. Surely his love of this breathtaking, mysterious land runs deep enough that he’ll once again embrace his inner cowboy. Or maybe, despite both of their skittish hearts, she’ll have to find a way to get him back in the saddle…any which way she can.

Source: Netgalley

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Review:

Lately, I have been loving the whole cowboy thing and Kate Pearce certainly fed into my current reading obsession with the first book in her Morgan Ranch series, The Reluctant Cowboy.

Chase Morgan’s memories of home are very rarely pleasant.  His mother and baby sister mysteriously disappeared when Chase was just a kid, his father drank himself into a stupor over the disappearance and when he was just sober enough to do so, left Chase and his three younger brothers without a look back.  If it weren’t for Chase’s grandmother, Ruth Morgan, there would never be a need to return to Morgan Ranch.  But, Ruth Morgan is a tiny little force to be reckoned with and when she wants Chase home, she knows how to make it happen.

With nothing more than a cryptic message about needing Chase to come home, Ruth hatches her plot to get Chase back where he belongs.  Her secret weapon?  January Mitchell, a young grad student looking to complete her graduate work while helping Ruth revive Morgan Ranch and reinvent it as a working ranch tourist stop.  As an outsider looking in, January can see the appeal of Morgan Ranch and is fascinated by the site’s history.  Her intentions are good and true, but convincing the uptight Chase Morgan of the validity of her plan is going to be one long and arduous uphill battle.  Good thing she’s smart, persuasive, and attractive 🙂

January’s goals align perfectly with Ruth’s, revitalize the Morgan Ranch and expand on all it has to offer.  Chase’s goals, at least in the beginning are markedly different from the two women currently in his life.  Chase’s life is now in Silicon Valley where he is a wildly successful businessman.  Chase knows what it takes to run a successful business and he has no interest in running a successful ranch.  The long hours, the back-breaking work, and a place that evokes mostly painful memories aren’t what Chase sees in his future.  What he does see is getting Ruth all squared away, ensuring she is cared for, and trying not to think about January naked and spread beneath him.  Thoughts like that only suck him deeper into Ruth’s plan and Chase just isn’t sure he has any cowboy left in him.

To be sure, Chase’s only problem isn’t just a scheming granny and a hot newcomer.  There’s also the issue of the reappearance of one of his younger brother, Blue, issues related to his missing father, mother, and baby sister, and the nagging feeling that his business partners are trying to push him out.  Chase has more than a plateful of problems and the only person he finds who can soothe all his worries is his quasi-enemy, January.  Staying away from January is the right thing to do as she comes with her own set of problems and issues, but Chase just can’t seem to make himself avoid her. 

The Bottom Line: This is probably the most sexually tame book by Kate Pearce I have ever read, and you know what?  It’s still a really good book!  There’s a lot of meat to this story with January and her past, Chase and his entire family’s past, the current and future situation with the Morgan Ranch, and Chase’s future.  There is so much struggle in this read and the very real need for several of the characters to let go of the past and focus on what could be, a very happy future.  That struggle plays out across the read while alluding to the future of the series.  The naughty bits are steamy, but as I mentioned above, not quite as steamy as what I’ve read from Kate Pearce in the past.  What’s important to know is that naughty bits are appropriate to this read and to the characters and enhance the read rather than taking it over.  This one is all about the characters with a solid and interesting plot, and enough secondary characters to continue the series for some time to come.  YAY!!!  More hot cowboys!!!!

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maverick-cowboy

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Blue Morgan never thought he’d crave long days on horseback, working the cattle ranch where he grew up. But after a decade of getting shouted and shot at in the Marines, fresh air and hard work are just what he needs to settle his restless energy. Except no matter how hard he tries to focus, his mind wanders to the pretty, prickly new veterinarian instead.

There’s no denying the spark between Jenna McDonald and Blue. But with her job at risk and her own family’s expectations to wrangle, Jenna isn’t looking for another sparring partner. Blue needs her expertise on horses. And if she can help solve his mother’s disappearance, she’s willing to pitch in. But she’ll leave his ideas about how love should be scheduled to him. Jenna is tired of being told what she can’t have—and ready to reach for what she wants . . .

Source: Netgalley

My Rating: 4½/5 stars

My Review:

Blue Morgan is a man hardened by life and time.  Since he was a child, he has blamed his older brother, Chase for many of his family’s problems.  After a lifetime in the Marines, Blue has found many ways to temper his anger and he is finally ready to return home for good.

When Blue returns to the Morgan Ranch, he finds it undergoing a serious revitalization thanks to his brother, his soon-to-be sister-in-law, and his spitfire grandmother, Ruth.  Since he was a child, Blue has loved the ranch and wants to see it become great again.  One of his responsibilities, among many others, is to oversee the buying and care of the ranch’s horses which means he’s in close contact with the local vet, Jenna McDonald.  The one local vet, of three, who really doesn’t like him.

Jenna McDonald has spent her life fighting.  In the beginning, it was fighting against her feelings about being adopted, and as she’s grown up, it’s been fighting against her family’s wishes for her life and career choice, and currently, her fight is against the old-school locals who seem to think she can’t perform her job well as a veterinarian because she’s a woman.  All she needs to make her life harder is the hot as hell Blue Morgan, who apparently falls on the side of the old-school locals.  At least, that was her first impression, and sometimes, those impressions can be wrong. 

In the weeks that follow that first impression, Jenna sees a whole new side of Blue Morgan, and damn it all if she doesn’t really like what she sees.  Blue is strong, headstrong, sexy, loyal, and every time she needs him, he’s by her side.  Blue also understands, if Jenna is to be the local vet, she must prove herself to all the good old boys and she can only do that by doing her job and doing it well.  From Blue’s perspective, Jenna isn’t just good at her job, she’s excellent, but there are one or two rancher’s that seem to have it out for her and Blue quickly sees it as his duty to protect her.  With the protection comes a closeness, admiration, and attraction that neither can deny.  Before the two can get to an HEA, they’re going to have to survive Jenna’s family, secrets and surprises from Blue’s past, and one bat-sh*t crazy rancher who just doesn’t know when to stop.

The Bottom Line:  The Morgan Ranch series got a lot more interesting with Blue’s story.  With the ground work laid out in book one, The Reluctant Cowboy, Blue’s story hits the ground running and evolves.  The Morgan family mystery of the missing mother and baby sister takes some fun twists and turns, Blue’s own past quite literally knocks on his front door, and Jenna’s own background comes in to play and threatens both she and Blue’s happiness together.  There really is a great deal going on in this read and though it doesn’t exactly end in a cliffhanger, it is clear there is still much, much more to come in the Morgan Ranch series.  After all, there are the twins who have yet to come home and take their place beside Chase, Blue, Ruth, Jenna, and January.  Ooooh, I can’t wait to see what Kate Pearce does with twins 🙂

Pre-Order now for the January 31, 2017 release:  Amazon | B&N | Kobo

About the author and where to find her:

author - Kate PearceKate Pearce was born into a large family of girls in England, and spent much of her childhood living very happily in a dream world. Despite being told that she really needed to ‘get with the program’, she graduated from the University College of Wales with an honors degree in history.  A move to the USA finally allowed her to fulfill her dreams and sit down and write that novel. Along with being a voracious reader, Kate loves trail riding with her family, ‘western style’ in the regional parks of Northern California.  Kate is a member of RWA and is published byNAL Signet Eclipse, Kensington Aphrodisia, Ellora’s Cave, Cleis Press and Virgin Black Lace/Cheek.

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Review: A Reluctant Betrothal (Book #3: The Grantham Girls) by Amanda Weaver

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When Grace Godwyn is introduced to her soon-to-be fiancé’s closest friend, she can hardly keep from fainting. The man whose angry gaze confronts her is none other than the handsome stranger who came to her aid in a dark French alleyway. The stranger with whom she’d shared a moment of reckless passion. And now, with a single word, he could destroy her one chance for security.

Julian St. John, Lord Knighton, owes his friend too much to allow him to fall into the clutches of a craven fortune hunter. He knows all he needs to know of Grace Godwyn: that she’s the orphaned and penniless daughter of a disgraced viscount; that her lips taste incomparably sweet. There is no way he is going to allow this marriage to take place.

Yet the more time Julian and Grace are forced to spend in each other’s company, the more irresistible their desire grows—and the more devastating the potential consequences.

Source: Netgalley

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Review:

Grace Godwyn has no interest in being a burden to anyone, least of all her finishing school friends.  Trouble is, Grace is a finished lady with no family and no money to recommend her in marriage to most of the eligible bachelors in London society.  With few prospects, Grace finds herself facing the very real possibility of having to go into service, a position that would lower her already low reputation even more and further separate her from her friends.  It is with a bleak future in mind that Grace turns to her finishing school mistress, Lady Grantham.  If anyone can find Grace a husband, it’s the formidable Genevieve Grantham.

Julian St. John has very firm and seemingly unwavering opinions about marriage.  After watching his own father totally and completely humiliate his mother, Julian has no interest in marrying a woman who is not his equal both financially and socially.  Those beliefs are put to the test each and every time Julian encounters Grace Godwyn.  She excites all his senses, makes him absolutely crazy and somewhat reckless, and reminds him he is still very much a man capable of incredible passion despite his self-imposed rules.  Julian doesn’t want to respond to Grace the way he does for several reasons: 1) she isn’t his social or financial equal, 2) she is currently being courted by his best friend and, 3) Julian is expected to marry his lifelong friend, Lady Honor.  Yeah, the whole situation is all kinds of screwy and it’s going to get so much worse before it has any hope of getting better.

Over the days and weeks that pass, Julian tries everything imaginable, including running away to America, to erase his feelings for Grace.  He doesn’t want to become the social and moral disgrace his father was, he doesn’t want to betray his best friend, and he certainly doesn’t want to disappoint everyone who is expecting he and Honor to marry.  For Grace’s part, she fully appreciates her feelings for Julian, but knows how strongly he believes in avoiding an unequal marriage.  Her place in society is already on the edge of total destruction and so, she must content herself with a future in which she is financially secure but in no way in love with her husband.  Such is the plight of the penniless. 

The Bottom Line: I believe this may be the end of the Grantham Girls series, and A Reluctant Betrothal is a fine and satisfying ending.  As with the two previous reads in the series, Grace and Julian’s story is filled with struggle, emotional turmoil, sexual tension, and a few somewhat surprising twists and turns.  There is no easy road to the HEA for Grace and Julian which keeps the read interesting and engaging.  Both characters are incredibly stubborn and proud which means, they need some help getting to their inevitable union.  One of the things I liked most about this read is how and where that help comes from.  In all, the Grantham Girls trilogy has been a worthwhile set of books that will most certainly appeal to lovers of period pieces, strong women, and beautiful men who just need a little work before they become the perfect partner for their women.

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Review: Pressed to Death (Book #2: A Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum Mystery) by Kirsten Weiss

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Paranormal museum owner Maddie Kosloski thinks she has the perfect paranormal exhibit for the harvest festival—a haunted grape press. But before she can open the exhibit, she’s accused of stealing the antique press. And when her accuser is found murdered, all eyes turn to Maddie.

Paranormal museum owner Maddie Kosloski thinks she has the perfect paranormal exhibit for the harvest festival—a haunted grape press. But before she can open the exhibit, she’s accused of stealing the antique press. And when her accuser is found murdered, all eyes turn to Maddie.

In this light, cozy mystery, haunted houses, runaway wine barrels, and murder combine in a perfect storm of chaos. Facing down danger and her own over-active imagination, Maddie must unearth the killer before she becomes the next ghost to haunt her museum.

Source: Netgalley

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Review:

Maddie Kosloski has only recently solved a murder mystery, has only recently acquired a lovely and very handsome boyfriend, and her paranormal museum is doing quite well thanks to some remodeling and new exhibits.  One would think, given the decidedly good track her life is on, Maddie Kosloski would stay out of trouble.  Unfortunately, trouble seems to find Maddie.

In an effort to further promote her paranormal museum, Maddie has agreed to participate in the local harvest festival, one of the city’s biggest events of the year.  With the new acquisition of a haunted grape press, Maddie’s exhibit will fit right in among all the vineyard exhibits.  However, before the festival even opens, Maddie finds a dead body and is roped into solving yet another mystery.  Though Maddie had absolutely no intention of becoming involved in yet another mystery, her mother insists she investigate, but won’t elaborate as to why.  As if the universe is on her mother’s side, Maddie quickly becomes invested in the solving of the murder when it comes to light she was accused of stealing the haunted grape press from the recently deceased man.  Good thing she has a process for solving mysteries now 🙂

In the coming days, Maddie’s only recently good, calm, and happy life gets turned upside down.  Her nemesis on the police force won’t let Maddie go as a suspect, to Maddie’s horror, she finds a second body, her boyfriend is acting both secretive and weird, there is apparently a betting pool on Maddie’s solving or not solving the case, and the Ladies Aid society, who has a vested interest in the solving of the crimes has gone completely off the rails.  Oh, and there’s the issue of the lemon bars . . .

The Bottom Line:  I’m a bit confused by the overall rating for this book on Goodreads.  Some the issues I had with the first book in this series have been ironed out in the read, the characters are just as quirky and fun, and the plot is just perfectly cozy.  I think I like this series so much because it is, predominately about a group of really weird people who all live in a perfectly weird little town.  Things that would seem totally off the wall in most towns and cities are downright normal in Maddie’s world and that makes this read all the more appealing.  This is an easy read chock full of characters who are interesting and varied, a plot that is more developed than in the first book, and an ending that is both surprising and satisfying.  In all, I am pleased with the improved quality of this read over the first book and am looking forward to more adventures with Maddie Kosloski!

Pre-Order now for the March 8, 2017 release:

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Release Day Review: Royal Scandal (Book #1: Royals in Exile) by Marquita Valentine

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Forced to flee to the United States with his siblings after their parents’ assassination, Crown Prince Colin Sinclair takes it upon himself to become the caretaker of his family while hiding out near Charlotte, North Carolina. But after a decade in hiding, the secret’s out and Parliament demands that Colin wed a princess of their choosing. Unwilling to play their game, Colin decides to marry an American instead, and he has the perfect candidate in mind.

As a home-service professional, Della Hughes doesn’t believe in storybook endings. But when her best friend and secret crush reveals that he’s a flesh-and-blood prince, she doesn’t know what to think. Still, she’ll do anything for Colin, including becoming his wife—in name only, of course. But when their plans to stay purely platonic go by the wayside, their fake honeymoon turns all too real. After a week of white-hot nights, Della can no longer deny her feelings—not with a happily ever after so tantalizingly close. 

Source: Netgalley and Purchase

My Rating: 5/5 stars

My Review:

Colin Sinclair knows his life if full of lies and secrets, and for a decade, he has lived with that knowledge quite uncomfortably.  He, his siblings, and his boys are quite literally royalty in exile living in the United States.  The only thing that has made Colin’s exile marginally better is his best friend, Della Hughes. 

Della Hughes loves Disney and understands only princesses get fairytale endings.  Della is no princess (her job as a maid helps keep her grounded in that reality!) and has no illusions that her life is ever going to turn out like the ladies of Disney.  The closest she’ll ever get to being a princess is hanging out with her super-rich best-friend, Colin Sinclair and his family.  For ten years, Della has been a part of Colin’s life.  She’s seen how the wealthy live and she’s impressed with how little the wealth has gone to her friend’s head.  Colin carries himself well, looks and sounds wealthy, but that doesn’t stop him from being a stern yet loving dad to his two boys.  His boys are well-mannered, sweet, and far from spoiled.  Like Colin, Della loves the boys and has spent the last decade helping her friend raise them.  Unfortunately, Della has also spent the last ten years falling hopelessly in love with Colin.

Turns out, Colin has spent the last ten years doing the same thing.  Neither is willing to risk their friendship for what may be an ill-fated romance until Colin is forced into a situation that demands he take a wife.  If Colin is going to be saddled with a wife, he prefers it be someone he already knows and care for which makes Della the perfect choice.  With a contract drawn up and a proposal on his lips, Colin enlists Della in his plan to save his family and preserve the line of succession his family has been a part of for generations.  The whole line of succession bit is one of many secrets Colin has never divulged to Della and one he has to come clean about quickly since her marriage to him makes her, officially a princess.  Huh?  Maybe she can have a fairytale ending after all. 

As their marriage becomes a reality and media sensation, Colin and Della try to navigate being a married couple after ten years of friendship and hidden love.  Both are nervous about wrecking their tremendously strong friendship, but those worries go out the window following their first smokin’ hot kiss.  With that matter settled, it’s time to face all the other challenges including the revelations related to Colin’s parents’ death, one whopper of a secret from Della’s past, and the decisions that must be made regarding Colin and his siblings return to their home country.  Turns out, there are more secrets in the Sinclair family than anyone knew and when the various truths are revealed, everything is going to change. 

The Bottom Line: As I totally expected, Marquita Valentine has sucked me into another series with just one book!!  With the exception of Della’s name (which is dumb so I called her Andy in my head) I absolutely loved everything about this read.  There are so many secrets and betrayals in the Sinclair family, there are some yummy naughty bits, there are two main characters who are both likeable and well-developed, there is scandal, and there is a host of secondary characters who are absolutely interesting and just waiting in the wings for their story to be told.  This is a smooth, easy read with both and HEA and promise of more to come from the not so exiled Sinclair family!!

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About the author and where to find her:

author - Marquita ValentineNew York Times Bestselling Author, Marquita Valentine, writes sexy heroes that make you swoon and sassy heroines that make you laugh. She’s the author of the bestselling contemporary romance series, Holland Springs, and the new adult romance series, Boys of the South.  Marquita met her husband aka Hot Builder at Sonic when they were in high school. She suggests this location to all of her single friends in search of a good man—and if that doesn’t work, they can console themselves with cheesy tatertots. She lives in North Carolina in a very, very small town with Hot Builder and their two children.

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Review: Legend of Love (Book #2: The Muse Chronicles) by Lisa Kessler

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The Prophecy – “Every generation the nine daughters of Zeus are reborn, and with their rebirth are also nine Guardians. They will be marked by the gods, and given gifts to protect his treasure. Their abilities will only be unlocked when they find their muse.”

Callie O’Connor’s life has never been the same since the Muse of Epic Poetry came alive inside of her. Now she’s on the other side of the country, working as civilian psychologist for the Navy, and leading her Muse sisters in their quest to reopen the Theater of the Muses.

But nothing could have prepared her for Hunter Armstrong. He’s a Navy Seal, driven, confident, and dangerous. And he plans to do more than just protect her.

The gods couldn’t have picked a better Guardian. But as Hunter soon discovers, Callie has some skeletons of her own in the closet, and loving her could lead to his destruction.  

Source: Netgalley and Purchase

My Rating: 4½/5 stars

My Review:

Among the Muses, Callie O’Connor is the one most determined to stick to the “no men” pact she and her sisters struck.  The last time Callie got involved with a man, her muse took over and the entanglement ended beyond badly.  In fact, it ended so badly, Callie hasn’t even seen her own family in several years.  Thankfully, she has the other Muses and their theater.

Hunter Armstrong is a lost man.  Since returning from his last deployment, Hunter has struggled with settling back into his life.  Through no fault of his own, Hunter is home while one of his fellow SEALs is lost overseas, he hasn’t seen his mother and sister in so long he’s nearly forgotten what they look like, and he doesn’t even have a proper place to live.  It’s Hunter’s hope, the shrink he’s been ordered to see will just rubber stamp his paperwork so he can get on with the finding of his lost friend.

Callie is no one’s puppet and if the super-sexy SEAL across from her thinks she’s just going to sign off on his mental health, he’s a damn fool.  Hunter may think he’s convincing, but his game is a bit off once he meets Callie.  What’s more, following his stilted meeting with her, his birthmark begins to burn and he can apparently fear voices in his head.  Yeah, maybe he does need a shrink and maybe a dermatologist to check out that birthmark. 

Meanwhile, in the seat of evil (aka Belkin Oil) . . . . .

The followers of Kronos haven’t given up on their mission to kill off all the muses and they’ve singled out Callie as their next target.  Before Hunter walked into her life, Callie may have been a far easier target, but Hunter’s abilities, both learned and innate make Callie a far more difficult target.  Once she and Hunter take the time to really talk and Hunter understands his new role, it’s just a short step to the two falling for one another.  When Hunter and Callie unite, they are force to be reckoned with and even the Kronos group is going to have a hard time getting through either of them.

The Bottom Line: With book two, The Muse Chronicles are really rolling and Hunter and Callie’s story brings them even deeper into the Kronos plot.  The Muses were meant to be together and as each Muse collects her guardian, their strength and numbers increase.  This only adds to the intensity and sexiness of each read.  Really, how can you go wrong with more and more hot men protecting the women Fate brought to them?  My only fear for this series is that it may become formulaic and stale: Muse meets hot man, Muse blows man’s mind with the story of guardianship, Kronos group tries to kill Muse, men and Muses thwart the plan, HEA.  While this has been fine for the first two books, there is going to need to be threats and plot lines more expansive than this to keep readers interested and coming back for more.

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