ARC Review: Midnight Target by Elle Kennedy

Midnight Target is the eighth installment in Elle Kennedy’s Killer Instincts series. It’s the best one yet!

And yes, seeing all that turmoil broke her heart, but at the same time, someone needed to be here to capture this. To show the rest of the world what was going on right under their noses.

30407549Cate is tired of being excluded from her father’s group of mercenaries and she’s tired of being coddled. She takes off to a war-torn country to photograph the turmoil. When she gets a picture of a cartel leader who’s supposed to be dead, she gets more than she bargained for.

Ash spends much of his time warding off Cate’s advances while seeking her father, Jim Morgan’s approval. When Ash learns Cate is in trouble, he’s worried and it’s all hands on deck. If only she would listen to him and her father and stay out of trouble. When things go south, the whole team is called in and old acquaintances in Liam and Sully reconnect. Is it too late to change their fates?

Doing was how she felt alive.

This entire series has action and suspense woven so seamlessly with the romance. There’s not one but two romance plot lines, and it never felt too complex or like there’s too much going on. I’m in awe of Kennedy’s talent in this arena. Lots of strategy and pulse-pounding action, but equal time devoted to the emotional experience and adventure.

My heart broke so many times while reading this one. Sully and Liam still have so much to work through and talk through, and the attraction simmers beneath the surface until it too boils over. Ash and Cate have been walking around each other for years as well, and we see both the past and present in their story line.

All the characters from the previous books show up, and the camaraderie and friendship is deep, making the story all the more touching. There’s a hint of the forbidden, wanting someone you shouldn’t have. There’s age difference and best friends to more. But a common thread in this one is fear–how to overcome it, accept it, and move on from it. How to own it. Their personal growth make all of these plot and storylines fit together so remarkably well.

If you haven’t you really need to read all the previous books to fully enjoy this one. The epic push-pull is here, the internal and external conflict up and rocking, and the tension alive and kicking. Midnight Target is not to be missed!

*I received an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest and fair review*

ARC Review: The Thing About Love by Julie James

Sometimes, you need a book that makes you laugh. A joyful read that keeps you turning the pages, one you finish in one sitting. The Thing About Love by Julie James is a wonderfully crafted masterpiece of a romance and has me wanting more!

27246123Jessica Harlow transfers back to her hometown of Chicago after her marriage goes sour. She has her first assignment in public corruption–a mayor taking bribes. All she needs is to meet her partner.

John Shepard comes home from a months long, deep undercover assignment to find his girlfriend doing the dirty with his best friend. In his own bed! It has him signing up for admittance in the Hostage Rescue Team. In the meantime, he’s assigned to a white-collar investigation. What he doesn’t expect is for his partner to be none other than his FBI Academy training rival, Jessica.

They were at each others throats from the beginning, and both of these characters are strong and upfront and in your face. I appreciate this so much. Jessica is in top form with negotiation and keeping her cool, while John is the physical guru. Opposites, but they were hellbent on showing each other up. Let’s just say things didn’t go so well for either one.

“Hey, look at me, watch me fly through his obstacle course with one hand and two feet tied behind my back. This is child’s play to what we did in the Rangers, bitches!”

This he said/she said story structure just works. For me, backstory usually holds the plot from moving forward, but in this case and with this story, it is needed. It gives us a glimpse of each character. My notes were filled with laughing emojis and “just hilarious!” comments.

The FBI aspects were well-researched too. James herself has a law degree, so I have come to expect smart and savvy characters and scenes. The juggling of personal and professional lives propels the story forward. Them having to travel alone on assignment leads to awesome tension and the first intimate scene is super spicy and unexpected.

“And then there was the thing with the pen.
He couldn’t even with the pen.”

I am so happy John–despite being the alpha male and trying out for the Hostage Rescue Team–has so many layers. He’s caring to his brother and so loyal. Same with Jessica. There are some great secondary characters I also hope they get a book themselves.

The Thing About Love is pure fun! I giggled and sighed and laughed. I plan to reread this over and over again.

*I received an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review*

ARC Review: A Ballroom Temptation by Kimberly Bell

A Ballroom Temptation is book three in Kimberly Bell’s Countess Scandals series. This is the first book I’ve read by this author, and I enjoyed this one tremendously.

cover88888-mediumThe wit! This book is chalk full of wit, and I giggled and guffawed and any other verb that fits. Jane Bailey’s family has been exiled from London ever since her father lost the family’s fortune. Their lucks changes when her brother’s investments pay off tenfold. He bustles Jane and her Aunt Mathilda to London for a season, but it’s the last place Jane wants to be. Her ex-fiancée will be in town. But she doesn’t expect to run into a handsome stranger or be quite so caught up in his arms.

It was practically obscene, with all the exposed forearms and flexing muscles.

Oh, how delightful Jane was. She has such a soft heart and an underlying edge of humor to her—an ability to laugh at herself—too, which just made me fall in love with her character. Though her fighting spirit is locked under a shell, there’s an inner strength to her that reels the hero in. Which leads to Adam.

Adam Clairborne is tired of his father controlling his fate. After all, it’s how he finds himself back in London. His plan? Make enough money to return to the colonies of America. Within his first few steps back in London however, he’s coming upon Jane. His initial impression of her isn’t the best. He thinks her another high-brow and privileged high-society woman, though it couldn’t be further from the truth.

You remind me of a force of nature. Something only a deity could have wrought.

I love how Adam’s preconceived notions crumble one-by-one. He’s caught off guard by Jane who doesn’t have a malicious or privileged bone in her body. It makes a big impression on Adam who works hard and doesn’t take anything for granted. He can’t afford to. But he’s also more than willing to help Jane. Adam sees something beneath the surface and he wants to help Jane out of the shell that surrounds her. And boy, does he have some sexy ideas! Jane and Adam burn up the pages. It’s a slow burn, but steady too.

The ending was a bit abrupt and I would have liked an epilogue, but I was immensely satisfied with this read. The humor was laugh-out-loud, the wit unbearably clever and on point, and the side characters brilliantly multi-dimensional. I need Lord Quincy and Lord Brandon’s stories ASAP!

While A Ballroom Temptation was the first book I’ve read by Kimberly Bell, it’s definitely not going to be the last. 4 stars!

*I received an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review*

Review: Hellion by Emmy Joel

Hellion is the first book in Emmy Joel’s Billion-Dollar Bastards series. It features ex-cons running a construction company, a mystery surrounding murder and jewels with enough laughs to keep you coming back for more.

cover106758-mediumRolling ladders, an old fireplace, and general clutter both new and old accented the room. She may have had a low-grade orgasm.

Cate Lois is an archeologist. She loves history, but she’s not out for notoriety in the field. Not like her parents, at least. But it leads her to a house deep in Texas. Before she knows it, she’s not just out to hunt a precious family heirloom. She’s embroiled in mayhem that leads her straight into the arms of the co-owner of Pharaoh Construction.

Malcolm Bradshaw is renovating a historic home that he got roped into by his two associates. It doesn’t take long for hell to break loose. A skeleton has been found beneath the rubble and with a company run by ex-convicts, Malcolm doesn’t want the added headaches. Whose skeleton is it? And what happened to the missing family jewel? Seems he’ll have help along the way in a form of a nosy woman–one determined to uncover the mansion’s secrets.

Right from the beginning, I laughed at Cate’s antics. She wants a vacation; she’s earned it. But Cate gets roped into everyone else’s agenda. She handles it all with such humor! Even when she meets the grumpy, tattooed ex-convict, Malcolm. What you see is what you get with Cate. When a mystery deeper than the family jewel is uncovered, Cate is intrigued. She’s so tenacious in her search, and she has no problems setting up shop in the mansion’s library.

There were so many twists and turns in the plot. I would think I had it figured out before I was thrown for another loop. It’s mystery shrouded in dusty books and old photographs, and it’s such fun watching Cate’s mind work. Malcolm is her bold counterpart. While he wants his business cleared of all wrongdoing, he’s more than happy to let Cate do her thing.

Alongside a few distractions, of course.

His voice rained down on her and she tingled, because possibly she had a kink for grumpy tattoo-covered billionaire ex-convicts.

Some of the scenes did feel a little short. I would have liked to see more insight into each character and have the intimate relationship develop further. That being said, Hellion reminded me of an episode of The Librarians. Each new development leads them closer and closer to the culprit and finding the truth. It does end on a mild cliffhanger which will continue in book two.

I highly recommend this series for those looking for light drama with a sarcastic heroine, an alpha hero, and all the mystery and laughter you could hope for.

*I received an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Review: Blackburn Castle by R.C. Matthews

Blackburn Castle is book two in the Tortured Souls series by R.C. Matthews. It’s a sweeping story with gothic elements and touches of the paranormal and magic. I enjoyed this one!

cover109654-mediumVictor Blackburn has a family curse which will cause him to die horrifically on his 27th birthday. The only way to save himself is to find Mercy Limmerick, a witch who can reverse the curse. The problem? Victor was forced to kill her mother.

Mercy waits anxiously for the day Victor will die and with him, the last of the Blackburns. She doesn’t expect to fall for the man, however, or become embroiled in the history of the curse. Will she save him? Or will their past threaten the chance for a future?

I was really looking forward to the gothic atmosphere in this one. And it delivered! Victor’s family home is mysterious and dark, and it was a game of Clue trying to figure out the workings of the curse. They have to find amber stones to set Victor free, but other twists and turns come about. The second half of this book was exciting and always kept me guessing.

Victor is a former pirate and his past is so sad! He’s determined to break the curse, and he has such a formidable will that he ends up stealing Mercy away. With the help of love potions and serums, his fate becomes complicated as his morals are tested. Mercy has such a good head on her shoulders as well. She’s intelligent and crafty, but slowly, she gets to know the man beneath the curse.

Anyone looking for a good paranormal tale should definitely give this one a try.

3.5 stars!

 

*I received an arc via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest and fair review*

Review: Within a Captain’s Power by Lisa A. Olech

I really enjoyed this one! It has a female pirate captain, a swoony romance, and hilarious side characters!

“No, he is not my betrothed. He is more my jailer.”
Captain Steele laughed again. “Isn’t that somewhat the same thing?”
“Spoken like a man who is either terminally single or unhappily betrothed.”

cover107472-mediumSamantha Christian hasn’t had it easy. She has a suitor in the United States, and she travels from England to marry him. That man, however, has no intention of marriage. She’s kept as an abused servant, and her only hope for escape is on a passing pirate ship. I love how we’re propelled straight into the plot. This girl has heart! I wanted to shout, “Brava!” so many times throughout this book.

Her strength is shown in such an understated way. She’s so gentle and caring and despite threats hanging over her head–both on board the ship and on land–Samantha’s determined to make a better life for herself. So what if that means being disguised as a cabin boy and sneaking under the eyes of dangerous men?

You go, girl!

But what are the chances she escapes one unpromising fate only to fall full-speed for another?

Her counterpart in this swashbuckling tale is Captain James Steele. Samantha intrigues James with her sweet and saucy nature at a ball. But it’s that night that Samantha plans her escape, and she uses James as a distraction, kissing him. James notices something off in how Samantha moves and interacts, but he doesn’t get a chance to get to know her better. He figures they’ll never meet again and even should he run across her, he’s betrothed to another.

Next to loyalty and duty in the dictionary, I’m sure you’ll find a picture of Captain James himself. I just adored him. He’s tasked to bring pirates to justice, and one of his first captures is the legendary pirate ship holding Samantha on board. The plot unfolds as we learn James’s past, and he’s all twisted up inside. From here, we’re catapulted on board, hanging onto the mast, and swept into constant tides of action and intrigue and romance.

Though I did think the romance develops a little too quickly, it’s such a sweet and fragile thing, a sweeping feeling that takes them by surprise. With the circumstances, I was okay with this aspect. And the pirates! All of these characters have no problem giving James hell as does James’s friend, Ducky. I really hope Ducky’s story is next! It’s so much fun to take on the high seas with this colorful crew!

Within a Captain’s Power is perfect for readers who like a gentle romance with uproarious characters and a dashing adventure aboard ship. A sweeping saga you don’t want to miss!

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ARC: Restrained Under His Duty by Stacey Kennedy

Restrained Under His Duty is a pulse-pounding romantic suspense tale with some kinky times on the side. I read through this one fast!

31295309Ryder has been the chief of security for California’s senator for many years, and when the tabloids start to link Ryder and the senator’s daughter, Hadley, he’s on a quest to find out the culprit of the gossip. But with hackers and political maneuvering, he’s pulled tight. The last thing he needs is his relationship with Hadley to become more than gossip in the rags. But he’s helpless to resist her.

Hadley becomes the victim of blackmail, and the only guy she relies on is Ryder. It brings them close together and soon, their making the gossip a reality. Hadley won’t have it any other way. The man finally sees her. But when enemies strike, it’s all-hands-on-deck. Can they be more with Ryder’s loyalty stretched? Or will it be too much for them both?

The suspense and nail-biting action in this story is ridiculously on point. One thing after another after another, and I was riveted to the action. The first scene has the conflict in full-gear. Ryder confronts Hadley about a picture he received—one where she’s wrapped in bondage—and Hadley is the one on the prowl for Ryder. Hadley’s been dropping hints, but Ryder has such a loyalty to his character. He’s looked after and protected the senator for many years, and he doesn’t want to complicate anything. Hadley weasels into his view, and I always love seeing a confident alpha break a few of his rules.

But I was also surprised by how playful Ryder is. From the blurb, I got that there was going to be some BDSM in it, and Ryder was part of a group of dominants. I’m used to seeing Doms cast as alpha and protective to the core—which Ryder is, no doubt—but he’s also so down-to-earth and funny, a hint of mischief too. It’s a heady combo for Hadley. But don’t expect a lot of this element because there wasn’t. Besides one scene, BDSM doesn’t really play a huge part.

I also enjoyed Hadley who takes everything in stride. She’s been through a lot, and emotionally, she doesn’t let herself feel. She needs Ryder to help make this happen. It wove into the external plot really well and kept me on the edge of my seat. A lot happens in this book. There’s so much intrigue as they try to find out whose behind numerous plot elements. The surprise at the end sent me reeling, and I am dying for the next book in this series.

I highly recommend this one for those who enjoy high action driven romances. I had a darn good time trying to figure out who has these two in his or her cross-hairs. 4.5 stars!

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Blog Tour+Review+Giveaway: The Captain’s Rebel by C.B. Halverson

The Captain’s Rebel

by C.B. Halverson
Publication Date: April 3, 2017
Genres: Adult, Entangled: Scorched, Erotic, Historical Romance

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SYNOPSIS:

Land. Power. Influence. Mary O’Malley knows these are the only things that matter in her war-torn country. Determined to win back her ancestral home, she must embark on a journey across the Atlantic disguised as a cabin boy. But her ruse brings her under the control of a dangerous sea captain who demands from her the one thing she will never give—complete and total submission.

Captain Richard Grant runs a tight ship, and he didn’t claw his way up through the ranks of the Royal Navy to be undone by a headstrong Irish girl hell-bent on jeopardizing his mission and his crew. If she insists on dressing like a man, then she can take his punishments. He demands obedience, but his insatiable need for her leads to a complex game of sex, desire, and dominance not even he can control.

Awakened by the passion Grant stirs in her, Mary finds herself falling for the stern captain. But when her false identity leads to rumors of her spying for the French, she must choose between her love for Ireland and the man who commands her body—and her heart.

——

Review:

I was completely caught off guard by the heat level in this book. It was total catnip for me, and I can’t wait for more from this author.

He challenged me, made me want to break him, too.

Mary O’Malley has big dreams. After the Irish Rebellion in 1798, the English rule Ireland with an iron fist. The land and its people are suffering. Mary wants to change this. She plans to marry the lord of their corner—Johnny Brighton—and use her new status to bring food and shelter to the people of Ireland. She must. But Johnny soon enlists in the Navy and with Mary in a tight spot, she takes off after him. She finds herself aboard the Elizabeth, dressed as a cabin boy and serving the commanding Captain Richard Grant.

This blurb reeled me in. I am a huge sucker for pirate romances, and when I learned there was a cross-dressing heroine topped (ha!) with a sexual submissive plotline, I was sold! Absolute catnip. Oh, what a pickle our Mary gets into right off the bat. She is very determined and intelligent, but she also has a very sharp tongue which gets her into trouble—both the kind she should avoid and the kind she desires. She has gumption and courage out to the wazoo, and I admired her for it. Mary is unbelievably devoted to her cause—the vision of her homeland back to its former glory without British rule. This vision truly defines her.

Freed of my petticoats and pretty manners…the desire to prove myself as equal, as good and strong as any man, sent sparks of anticipation through me.

She also never acts with outright foolishness. I think that is one of the things I was concerned about, but that’s not the case for Mary. She does the best she can with what she’s been given. There were moments I laughed, others I gasped, and some I outright fist-pumped at Mary’s audacity.

The action scenes are also real and gritty. I felt the story did a good job of not shying away from the dirtier aspects. It shows murder and gore and the treachery that surrounded seafaring life.

Onto the captain! I really liked him! When Mary masquerades as a cabin boy upon his ship, Grant sees through her disguise. He offers to keep her secret and stay safe aboard his ship, but there’s punishments in store if she steps out of line. Let’s just say, Mary steps out of line a lot—intentionally and unintentionally. There are a lot of submissive scenes. LOTS. It ties in well, and it helps that the captain is such a good man. He truly cares for her. They have a lot in common, neither one having an easy go of it, and these brief snippets and moments together enforce their connection. The story is told in first person from Mary’s POV, however, and I would have liked to see into Grant’s head some.

Also, fair warning: there are BDSM elements as well as F/F action. The scenes are detailed and often. I imagine lovers of historical romance who like an edge of heat edged with even more blazing heat will love this one.

A rabblerousing 4.5 stars!

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ABOUT C.B. HALVERSON

As a child, Colleen Halverson used to play in the woods imagining worlds and telling stories to herself. Growing up on military bases, she found solace in her local library and later decided to make a living sharing the wonders of literature to poor, unsuspecting college freshmen. After backpacking through Ireland and singing in a traditional Irish music band, she earned a PhD in English with a specialization in Irish literature. When she’s not making up stories or teaching, she can be found hiking the rolling hills of the Driftless area of Wisconsin with her husband and two children. She also writes as C.B. Halverson.

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Review: The Highland Duke by Amy Jarecki

“Do you think you’ll swoon again?”
He scowled over his shoulder. “Men do not swoon.”

The Highland Duke was a hoot to read! It’s nonstop action across the roaming hills of the highlands with lots of quick-witted banter and charm. Add in a dollop of romance and a touch of brogue? The start to this series was a home run.

30842455Akira Ayres is a gypsy healer. She lives in Scotland on English controlled soil, and she’s tasked with healing wounded Jacobite rebels before they are shipped off. It’s when she’s looking for any stragglers that she hears a masculine groan in the woods. Before she knows it, Akira’s agreed to help one a brawny and mysterious highlander with a musket ball in his leg. Now she’s an accomplice to the man’s escape with a regiment of dragoons on her tail. As if that wasn’t bad enough? She has a heavy and thoroughly unconscious Geordie against her back.

Geordie, the Duke of Gordon, is part of a Highland uprising against English soldiers. He’s shot and left behind, and with the English closing in, he knows he won’t survive long without Akira’s help. Akira agrees, but Geordie doesn’t expect to remain unconscious for most of their journey nor does he count on the tenacity of English soldiers. That’s before he falls hard for a sweet woman who doesn’t even know he’s a duke.

I adored both of these characters so much. Geordie is such an adorable grump! Granted, he gets shot in the leg, so who wouldn’t be? But Geordie is determined to take care of himself only to find he cannot. He needs Akira. It doesn’t sit well for him, but he doesn’t have much choice. It’s breakneck speed for much of the book. From complications with Geordie’s injury to the myriad escapes and maneuvers in eluding the enemy. Add in the attraction and lust dogging their steps, and it made for a quick read.

Akira has to be the sweetest heroine I’ve read in a long time. She’s gentle and soft-spoken and kind-hearted. She gets roped into helping Geordie because of this inherent nature. But in Akira fashion, she takes it like a trooper. This girl overcomes a lot of her fears and has many more still to face. However, sweet does not equal meek! Geordie growls at her so much in the beginning (again, he’s an adorable grump), before Akira just explodes. Ooooh boy, is Geordie not going to make that mistake again! I loved it!

Despite all of their obstacles, this story was just so romantic. Geordie doesn’t realize how tired of being a duke he is until he meets Akira. She speaks and looks at him like a man, and he can’t help but be charmed by her guilelessness. And Akira isn’t used to being looked upon with anything less than suspicion or scorn because of her gypsy heritage. Geordie only sees the selfless healer before him.

Akira was dear and beautiful and made sunshine radiate in his chest when she smiled.

Gah, this one was so swoony. Lots of tension and buildup, some scorching scenes that were just perfect, and a steady wooing that brought the sugar to Akira’s sweet. I’m highly anticipating the rest in Amy Jarecki’s Lords of the Highlands series. Just the read I was looking for!

*This will be cross-posted on Alpha Book Club. You can find it here.*

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ARC Review: An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

She was no simpering miss. She was Ellen Burns, and she was going to help destroy the confederacy.

We need this book in today’s world. An Extraordinary Union is majestic in its character, it’s blunt in the face of anger and injustice and pain, it’s brutal in its truths. It’s not just a must read, it’s a need to read.

30237404Ellen Burns works as a spy for the Union. She poses as enslaved in the Confederate senator’s household, hoping to uncover information to end the Confederacy and hopefully, in her lifetime, see the end of slavery. It’s her sole mission until she meets the “package” in the form of a white, Confederate soldier who works his way into Elle’s thoughts. Only, he’s on her side. Is there a future for them together?

Malcolm McCall uses his charm and cunning to uncover secrets. As a top operative with Pinkerton, he’s good at his job, and it’s one of the reasons Elle initially mistrusts him. Is he playing a role with her too? But when their missions coincide, their connection builds and suddenly, they’re wondering if it’s possible for an African-American woman and a white man to thrive–to be together– in a world that wants to keep them apart.

In politics and intrigue, however, love has no bounds.

I love how Alyssa Cole tackles the Civil War Era in this novel. It doesn’t shy away from the despair of the period, but it also delivers an overarching feeling of perseverance and hope, highlighting strength and overcoming adversity, not just surviving. It challenges readers to face this hard past.

“Don’t you see?” she asked. “This is our homeland too. We shouldn’t have to wreak havoc on the land to be seen as citizens! We shouldn’t have to.”

This heroine blew me away. Elle takes so many risks fighting for what should be, for her people and for a better, united America. She’s cunning and daring, stealthy yet bold. And she never backs down. She also has a eidetic memory, and I love how her counterpart, Malcolm McCall, admires and cherishes this about her. At one moment, he tells her how amazing she is, and she’s simply all, “Oh, I know.” Love her!

Oh, and Malcom McCall. At first, Elle thinks he’s a confederate soldier but he’s really an undercover agent. He has such a disarming presence and makes bold advances, but he meets Elle in the middle, shaking up her world as he slowly begins to understand what they are truly fighting for.

McCall won my heart as much as he did Elle’s–little by little. Even though he’s fighting for the Union, he admits he doesn’t fully understand what’s happening with Elle and others on a personal level. His acquaintance and friendship and relationship with Elle really strikes a chord with him, and he was so romantic and genuine. It hit me over the head: Malcolm is worthy of our Elle.

I know I’m not entitled to anything. Everything in the world conspires against anything being possible between us, but the world can go screw.

I adored this novel, and by the end, I was bawling. I can’t wait to see where Ms. Cole takes the readers next. I know it’ll be a journey that sticks in the soul.

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