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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Review: Rough & Tumble by Rhenna Morgan

“I think you’ve already got a clear picture in your head.”
“I’ve got an outline. I want you to color it in for me.”

Jace is the ultimate alpha male. Someone who’s protective; someone who would do anything for those he loves. Abrupt and honest, but able to stand back and allow his heroine to find her own strength and glory in it.

My heart’s still wrenching from the feels in this one.

roughtumbleVivienne spends her weekends saving her sister from one disastrous party to the next. It’s why she hides her own inner wild child, locking that part in one room of the staid townhome she can barely afford. It’s safer that way. That changes the night Callie’s SOS leads Viv to The Den where she faces an adversary who sees beneath her uppity suits and no-nonsense hairstyle. She shoves down the attraction. She’s never going to see him again anyway. Only an event planning opportunity comes up and Jace is behind it, offering her a lot more than business.

Jace takes one look at Viv and knows underneath there is something hot, aggressive, and his. It’s why when Viv agrees to plan some events for him and his brotherhood, Jace makes a bid for her. He prods here and pushes there until he insinuates himself into her life only to find he’s as hooked as she is.

If only Callie’s bad decisions and the enemy out for Jace’s blood didn’t threaten Vivienne’s safety. He’ll do anything to keep Viv, and when he brings her into the fold of Haven, the last thing Vivienne wants to do is leave.

She seriously needed to get a grip on her taste in men. Suits and education were a much safer choice. Manners and meaningful conversation. Not bloody T-shirts, smoky bars and panty-melting grins.

I adored Viv. She’s a smart, strong heroine and with Jace being so bold, she needed to be. The first time they meet, she’s entranced by the big, scowling hunk with the wicked tattoo. But he’s caring too. He handles Viv’s drunk sister and watches over Viv herself. These two were well-matched!

I also like how Viv’s insecurity doesn’t drag the pace of the story down. Viv knows her failings and owns up to them. Years of forcing herself into a mold only makes falling for Jace that much sweeter.

Jace has his own problems in the beginning. He owns other establishments besides the bar, but the bad PR (drug deals and fights) means his name stays out of the others. It made me so angry on his behalf and increased the tension on all sides.

Then there’s his pursuit of Viv. The only way he’ll get his chance with her is if he forces the proximity and boy, does he ever! Jace is honest to a fault, and while he accepts Viv’s distance, he’s always waiting in the wings, urging her to fly.

And then Jace says things like this that batter down Viv’s walls:

I’m not afraid to mix pleasure with my business, but I want to make sure you’re grounded in how much value you bring to the table before I show you how it’s done.

Hot. Dawg. (That’s written in my notes.) I’ve heard my share of lines before, but these are genuine and heartfelt and just so Jace. From the very beginning, he makes sure Vivienne knows the score. How refreshing is this? An alpha male that doesn’t go anywhere near the alphahole category. It sets the tone for the sweet and the smexy with a side bit of kink.

The secondary cast of Haven is to die for as well, and I can’t wait to see these men in action!

So, if you’re looking for a hot, badass alpha with a heart of gold who listens and challenges and just gets the smart and sassy heroine – you know, mixing a bit of his business with a whole lot of pleasure (ha! See what I did there?) – I’d get that one click finger ready for Rough & Tumble.

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*This was reviewed by Michaelene for the Alpha Book Club, and you can find the cross-post here.*

Review: The Shadow Mark by Mason Thomas

4 stars!

I loved this one! In fact, I didn’t take my first full breath until 20% of the way through this book. After that, maybe only in spurts and gasps. What a ride!

513oa0zdculAuraq Gravestone is journeying to the city, hiding from his fate and past sins, when Kane and his companion, Old Tan, stumble upon him. They agree to travel together when they are attacked. Auraq barely escapes with his and Kane’s life, and he promises Old Tan he’ll deliver Kane safely to the city. If only it could be that easy. The mark on Kane’s forearm is of the Shadow realm, and Auraq must keep Kane safe at any cost. Even when Auraq’s own secrets come to light.

But the enemy is an order of assassins and foes lurk around every corner. Who can they trust? And as Kane’s health deteriorates, will they be too late?

“Friend, I know you not, but the strangest thing, I can see your soul now…It’s a glorious thing to see.”

Auraq is the only narrator in this story. I wanted more of Kane’s insight – his story – but after reading the last page, I understood the importance of making this Auraq’s story.  He’s bound by a sense of duty and loyalty. He takes his vow seriously, and little by little, we get to dissect his character as he fights off one foe for another. I adore his strength. How could Kane not fall for him?

Kane doesn’t have the military training or self-defense skills that Auraq has, but he’s far from a weak character. He’s quite adept at pestering Auraq until he’s let in.

“So, I’m to put my life in your hands without question, but I’m not allowed to know anything about you. That sounds reasonable.”

I simply could not put this book down. Auraq’s personal issues are just as exciting as the mystery of the enemy. When Kane’s health suffers as the mark spreads, the intrigue grows tenfold. It catapults from a cannon and doesn’t slow down until the very end.

Then there are epic descriptions peppered throughout the story:

“He felt empty inside, like a wineskin wrung dry.”

Now, the romance. For the most part, it is non-existent until halfway through. Auraq is outright oblivious to his own appeal, and he almost comes across as an asexual character.  When Kane makes a move, the romance connection finally ignites even though it’s not front and center by any means. I still ended the book with a huge smile on my face.

The Shadow Mark is a fantasy novel that kept me riveted to the page (and that cover! Gah!). If you can overlook that the romance is relegated to the background, I’d give this one a read. Auraq is a hero for the books.

*Originally posted on the Alpha Book Club and cross-post can be found here.*

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