Blog Tour+Review+Giveaway: The Black Lily by Juliette Cross

The Black Lily

by Juliette Cross
Publication Date: March 27, 2017
Genres: Adult, Entangled: Select Otherworld, Paranormal, Historical, Vampires, Cinderella Retelling

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SYNOPSIS:

Cinderella like you’ve never seen before…

With the threat of the vampire monarchy becoming stronger every day, the Black Lily must take drastic measures. As the leader of the underground resistance, Arabelle concocts the perfect idea to gain the attention of the Glass Tower. Her plan? Attend the vampire prince’s blood ball and kill him. Fortunately for Prince Marius, her assassination goes awry, and Arabelle flees, leaving behind only her dagger.

Marius is desperate to find the woman whose kiss turned into attempted murder, hunting for the mysterious assassin he can’t push out of his mind. But what he uncovers could change the course of his life forever…

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Review

She was a fiery beauty in the cold darkness, a beating heart among the lifeless, mundane world he knew too well.

Wow! This book starts with a BANG, and it doesn’t let up until the last page. I was so sad when it was over. The Black Lily is an exhilarating adventure that I can’t wait to re-explore.

Oh, what a merry chase our Arabelle gives the prince and his army. This girl has gumption out to the wazoo! I was so impressed by her. The story opens with her attempt to assassinate the prince, and she’s so self-assured and shows such badassery. She’s not afraid to use all weapons at her disposal to complete her task. Arabelle escapes by the skin of her teeth that night, and I was so excited to see the firecracker side of her. This girl has got it goin’ on! I laughed at how she keeps Marius (and really, the whole vampire community) on their toes.

And Marius? He completely knocks the wind out from Arabelle’s sails…by just being himself.

As soon as he catches sight of her at his ball, Marius is hooked. Arabelle is the last person he should want. She’s the Black Lily, the leader causing the uprising against the vampires. But when has that ever stopped love? Never, that’s when!

Marius doesn’t expect her complete hatred of his people, and even though Arabelle almost succeeds in killing him, it rejuvenates him almost. It’s a challenge he can’t help but rise to, and it opened him as a character. There’s a lot going on in the kingdom that he is unaware of, and Arabelle doesn’t fear showing him. I was on the edge of my seat every time they had a confrontation, and I couldn’t wait to see who came out on top. There’s an animal magnetism between them, a searching and meeting of wills.

Once in a blue moon, I’ll find a book that captures me heart and soul. This book is it. Arabelle astounded me with her fiery strength, with her vulnerability. Marius was dashing and daring and so sweet, it made my teeth ache. The Black Lily kept me anticipating every new page because it’s flowing with color and charm, with purpose. Overall, it’s a riot to read–Cinderella set in the dark, enticing woods of Maleficent.

I’m eagerly awaiting the next in this series. One of my favorite reads this year by far! 

ABOUT JULIETTE CROSS

Juliette is a multi-published author of paranormal and urban fantasy romance. She calls lush, moss-laden Louisiana home where she lives with her husband, four kids, and black lab named Kona. From the moment she read JANE EYRE as a teenager, she fell in love with the Gothic romance–brooding characters, mysterious settings, persevering heroines, and dark, sexy heroes. Even then, she not only longed to read more books set in Gothic worlds, she wanted to create her own.

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Review: Beauty of the Beast by Rachel Demeter

4.5 stars!

Wow. I am blown away by this remarkably haunting novel. It’s not a simple fairytale retelling. It explores the depths of pain and happiness, darkness and light. A story that will stay with me.

Isabelle makes a deal with the devil in order to keep her father healthy and her stepsisters cared for. But she’s not happy and even her blind father can see this. When her father asks her to take him to the Merchant’s Fair, Isabelle knows this is it. Her chance for them to start a new life. Only her father gets deathly ill and the only house for miles around is a decrepit castle.

34098873Adam lives in solitude. His scars are much more than skin deep, and he’s in no hurry to join the land of the living. Perhaps not at all. That changes one night when Isabelle comes along with her fiery spirit and her enchanting voice and suddenly, Adam’s having erotic fantasies and wanting that light for himself. He makes a bargain with her. If she stays, she stays for good. But things get complicated and sometimes, love works in mysterious ways.

“A strange haze rolled down the dirty pathway, which snaked through the vast forest in milky ribbons. Above head, the sky appeared black, oily, slicker than ink.”

I don’t think I’ve been blown away by the pure, dreamlike quality to a story’s language before. Beauty of the Beast swept me into the story so thoroughly that I didn’t come back until the very last page. While it is a fairytale retelling, it didn’t just rehash the Beauty & the Beast storyline. Instead, it captured its essence. Some things stayed the same which made me grin because I loved them, but others were so different and unique. Such ingenue was interwoven in this story.

Our main heroine is Isabelle. She has such a kind heart and an energy to her, but she’s determined to protect her ill Papa no matter the cost. Isabelle’s on the run from a dastardly suitor when she meets Adam for the first time. This is where her colors truly shine. The man is hiding in his cloak and in the darkness of his castle, and sure, Isabelle does have a healthy dose of fear. Who wouldn’t coming up against the “beast?” But Adam also tries to shut her out though the weather is fierce and her father is sick. She gives him an “I don’t think so,” and from there I was gone for her.

“His was a face of inconsistencies. Complex. Damaged. Predatory. And more than a bit intriguing.”

Then there’s Adam himself, our hero, shrouded in mystery. I was enthralled with his character. He’s badly scarred and has shut himself away because of it. He has the most tragic past, and I cried for him. There’s so much darkness inside him, but when Isabelle comes in with her streaming light, he wants to keep that part for himself. Adam does that in the only way he knows which is to demand it. Little by little, Adam’s lost in emotion for her and he opens up. The glimpse inside this man is spectacular. Music also plays a huge part in this book, making the story even more enchanting. It transcends the fairytale atmosphere and added such a depth to the characterizations. This is also how Adam survives, how he makes it year after year. It brings the true magic to this story—art as a form of love.

This was like an epic, gothic novel from decades past. We are catapulted to a different time where descriptions seized you and true love in all its dramatic glory was revered. I couldn’t believe how invested I was in their story, and I don’t think I can justify it in words.

The images throughout were haunting and beautiful. They’re so well done, and unique, and awe-inspiring. I highlighted half the novel with beautiful imagery. The downside to it were that some of the descriptions were overused, pulling me from the story. It’s why I rated this one 4.5, but I just adored this take on a fairytale. It’s not overdone, and it doesn’t follow the same tried and true trajectory. I loved the ingenious elements she incorporated and the inside peek into a damaged psyche.

“She’d never forgotten those beautiful words, which seemed to have been spun from an unworldy magic. The stories had planted themselves in her heart—and throughout the years, they’d blossomed into a throbbing desire.”

I’m going to reread this one because I feel there’s still so much to discover in it. There’s much more here than one read through can capture. At the end of this retelling, it becomes a story of imperfections and the beauty to be found in them. It’s love conquering all, that childlike dream that morphs into an adult yearning to be accepted and loved for who we are. I can’t wait to see what else this author will cook up.

*This is crossposted on the Alpha Book Club. You can find my reviews here.*

 

ARC Review: Beast: A Hate Story, The Beginning

Oh, how I loved this story! It’s beautifully chilling, and I never knew how to feel between one moment and the next. I originally picked this one up because I’ve been on a beast and mafia romance kick, and this one had both in equal measure. But it’s mind f&ckery at its finest. I’m still in inner turmoil.

28095140Frankie (I just love that name!) promises her life in exchange for her father’s. They owe money to the mob, and Beast—the interim mafia Boss—ends up handling the situation himself. His position, however, isn’t cemented and the last thing Beast needs is to make a mistake. Falling for Frankie instead of selling her as planned is one such mistake. Before he knows it, Beast’s caught up in his own weaved web around the fierce beauty. He spoils his deal with The Institute and somehow wants to keep her for himself. So, what happens when something you shouldn’t want—something you don’t want—becomes something that you do?

This story is never black and white. From the get-go, I was on the fence. Do I like Beast? Do I hate Beast? Does Frankie? Because as Frankie weaves and bobs, stands tall or sinks low, so do the readers. It’s a constant ebb and flow. One minute, I was sure I had one or both of these characters pinned down and in the next, they switch their end games or are so awash in their own internal debates that it sent me reeling once more into the gray. Beast uses fear and other sexual seductions against Frankie, and little by little, Frankie finds herself standing firm while wanting to bend. She builds barriers as quickly as the Beast tears them down. This is a complex story—both have such dark and deep demons—and we only scratch the surface. The outside conflict with Beast’s mafia position intertwines so well with the constant psychological warfare that goes on.

The conflict builds and builds and its maddening and enthralling and frustrating all at once. Constant turmoil and anticipation for something that’s coming just around the corner. But there’s also a strategic chaos at play—tricks of the mind, truths revealed in the body, and conflict that tears apart the soul. This book captured me and didn’t let go.

Beast: a Hate Story is a masterful weaving of dark and even darker desires, and I am eagerly anticipating the second book in this duet. Oh, the evil cliffhanger! 5 WOW stars!

*This is cross-posted on the Alpha Book Club and can be found here.*

ARC Review: Insight by Santino Hassell

A mind-bending romantic thriller, Insight offers a unique concept that tugs at your heart and keeps you guessing the whole way through!

30364791Nathaniel comes from a line of psychics, but for some reason, he only has minor empath abilities. He’s never quite “fit” in anywhere, and his school life is twice as hard when it comes out that he’s gay. With the disappearances of his mother followed by the death of his twin, Nate travels to New York to understand what happened. And when he starts having visions that his brother’s suicide wasn’t one, he’s clotheslined by it.

Trent is heading back to school when he sees Nate hitchhiking along the road. It’s not the first time he’s run into Nate in that small town of Texas, so he thinks it’s fate and allows Nate to ride with him. Trent’s intrigued by the shadows that lurk inside Nate, and their cross-country journey challenges Nate’s barriers at the same time Trent realizes what they have is much more than friendship.

The plot captured my attention right off the bat, and the story starts with a BANG. While this is the first novel I’ve read with Hassell as a solo author – I’m a BIG fan of his and Megan Erickson’s Cyberloveseries – his characters always have a vulnerability that pulls the emotion right out of you. I expect to be invested, and Insight is no different. And it’s a road trip romance for the first half. These were my favorite parts! There’s nothing like learning about someone while trapped in a car and deciding what music to listen to. It was sweet and steamy, and I just loved these two so much!

Then the plot kicks into overdrive with Nate discovering The Community. The group proclaims to want to help psychics acclimate but with the disappearances piling up, Nate doesn’t know who to trust.

One thing that was off for me was the pacing throughout the middle. Information comes so quickly and from so many different sources that I had to stop a few times when a character’s name was mentioned and think about who they were and what their relationship was to Nate.

This was a great first installment to The Community series, and I can’t wait to see where Hassell takes his readers next.

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Review: Edge of Power by Megan Crane

Full Disclosure: I hadn’t read any of the other books in this series. However, when I saw it was a Viking romance set in a futuristic world?  Sign me up! The beginning was rough for me, but by the middle, I was addicted. It was–and wasn’t–what I was expecting.

cover106896-mediumThe world has changed. After a series of storms and floods, the Earth isn’t what it used to be. Only certain parts of the U.S. are still known as habitable. Some parts are blocked away by kings and others by groups of raider Vikings. Wulf is part of the latter. But their worlds collide as Wulf goes on a reconnaissance mission in the middle of the Western Mainland with it’s horrible King Athenian. Get in, get out. That’s it.

Only Wulf doesn’t expect a different type of distraction.

Princess Kathlyn hears talk of the Raider King in their midst, and she decides to take her virginity into her own hands. She’ll deliver it to the Viking and curse her father all at once. She doesn’t expect Wulf’s potent masculinity or his bold fingers and devilish tongue. With time running out, both need to decide if their newfound and unwanted feelings are worth the risk.

The setting caught my attention first. The Earth is in disarray and there are those like King Athenian hoarding light and ruling people with an iron fist, and those like the Vikings who are said to be barbarians, but wish to expand their knowledge of the outside world.  I loved gaining insight into the politics and intrigue.

Wulf, the Raider King, is without a doubt an alpha. Everything he does–from the way he walks into a room or meets someone’s eye–proclaims it. He’s gruff and in-your-face and so cocky. Granted, it’s earned! But that leads me to the filthy-mouthed raider portion of my review. I actually didn’t like Wulf at the beginning. He was overly arrogant, and he has a habit of using curse words as adjectives every other sentence.  It became more gratuitous than anything. It pulled me out of the story.

In the same vein, the sex scenes are scorching hot, hot, hot but dirty, raw and explicit. I like my stories dirty so I was game, but I could see others not liking the language used.

Now, onto Kathlyn. I liked her. She doesn’t have the same experience growing up. As a princess in the King’s Mainland, her job is to get bids on her virginity and save her innocence. Say, what? Yes, her father is a total douchenozzle. Kathlyn, however, is going to change her future in any way she can. That’s how she ends up against a wall in Wulf’s cell realizing the pleasure in something Kathlyn had thought brought only pain.

Kathlyn’s world is separatist. It’s almost like the people are brainwashed into believing in their fates. I just adored how Kathlyn fights against it. Because despite how soft and sweet Kathlyn is, she also has a core of steel. I can’t imagine a better match for Wulf.

These two together were simply dynamite. Kathlyn softens Wulf while he gives her a little of his bravado and badassery. The character development took my breath away, and I was rooting for them something fierce.

Now, the opening starts off pretty slow. There are many internal monologues that I had to slog through, but once the story starts picking up speed, it doesn’t let you go to the very end. I had so many emotions–good and bad–and it made the reading experience so unique and heart-wrenching and satisfying, all at once. I gave this read a solid 4 stars because of it.

Edge of Power is a dark romance and those who read it should be aware of that. But it’s also a very raw and gritty story. It’s crass and bold and beautiful all at once. An epic journey that will stay with you long after the last page.

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

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Review: When Ash Remains by Dena Garson

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He strongly suspected that touching her would be like reaching for lightning.
Even if he didn’t burn up, he would never be the same.

When Ash Remains is a beautiful, sweeping story that takes readers on a journey–one which asks about destiny. If it’s fulfilled and if it’s fulfilled to one’s satisfaction.

34237379Tribal Warrior Kajika is on a mission to find a murderer. One who had slain an entire family in his tribe. He’s on the murderer’s trail when Kajika meets his one and only suspect, Ahyoka. But Ahyoka is no ordinary woman. She can speak with nature and animals. To a logical Warrior like Kajika, he’s skeptical of her spiritual talent. Until he can be sure of her, Kajika takes Ahyoka to his chief only to find out that she may be the only one who can solve the mystery.

Ahyoka is used to being outcasted for her gifts. If she’s not looked upon with suspicion, it’s revulsion. She doesn’t expect Kajika with his quiet, calm confidence who has the heart of a warrior but the kindness of a man she could love. As they discover the culprit behind the killings, their passion ignites, leaving them wondering if perhaps their meeting is more than coincidence–it’s destiny.

What an engrossing novel! From the first page, I was drawn into this world. Ahyoka is a force to be reckoned with. When she first meets Kajika, she’s very calm and surefooted about it all. She sees Kajika before he’s even upon her, the spirits of nature always alerting her to danger. I loved this aspect. It was so well done, and Ahyoka is a true heroine to admire throughout the book.

The spiritual, paranormal element is also how Kajika really develops in his character. Initially, he doesn’t believe in Ahyoka’s ability. Slowly but surely, he’s opened to another world–the one Ahyoka sees–and it brings them together so beautifully. Even without that element, though, Kajika is such a compassionate, patient person. He never rides Ahyoka off, even when everyone in Ahyoka’s tribe does. The slow burn ramps up, and with his acceptance of her, he unlocks the true beauty between them. And the steam 😉

Ms. Garson is a true master storyteller, weaving paranormal and romance and taking the reader on an intimate and personal journey. The gentle way the spiritual world is interjected, the images evoked, make this a novel that shines.

*This was reviewed by Michaelene for the Alpha Book Club. The cross post can be found here.*

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Review: Passion Restored by Carrie Ann Ryan

Passion Restored has all the elements of a great romance with enough plot twists to keep you guessing. Get ready for one heck of a book.

passion-restoredLiz might lose her job as a nurse, so time is strained, money is tight, and sex is nonexistent. The last thing she needs is an attraction to the sexy and adorable, Owen Gallagher. Liz doesn’t expect to see him again let alone find him in her ER room that same evening. All too soon, she’s meeting his family and finding out that she moved next door to the guy! Owen begins a campaign to win her over, and Liz knows her heart might not survive the fall.

Owen is sent for a loop the night he’s hit by a car and ends up in Liz’s ER room. Too bad Liz doesn’t want anything to do with him. Owen has other ideas. He begins a slow battle to wear down her walls and finds that there’s much more to Liz than meets the eye. When lust sidelines Owen, however, he’s more than willing to take the risk. But will Liz?

“You look ready to either cry or start humping the drywall…I don’t know if either one is really workplace appropriate.”

I’ll start by saying that I adored the entire Gallagher family. There are four brothers, and the interactions between them and their wives had me laughing! They all work in the construction business and our hero, Owen, is the guru of post-its and organization. Honestly, he’s a little obsessive-compulsive. I just wanted to cuddle him whenever he went on about making lists and color-coding. And he owns this about himself. There’s also no second-guessing when he makes up his mind to go after Liz. No push and pull. It is what it is.

Liz, quite frankly, works her ass off. Budget cuts mean some of the nurses are going to lose their job, and Liz takes up extra hours so this doesn’t happen. She also tries to stay out of the office gossip. Unfortunately, one of her co-workers has it out for her, and I wanted to take up Liz’s fight! I had so much respect for Liz and when she finally goes off, I had to put my kindle down so I could clap and fist-pump. Luckily, she also has the persistent and attentive Owen to provide some much-needed stress relief.

She’d imagined his mouth on her lips, on her skin before, and yet those dreams had nothing on the real man.

I wasn’t prepared for how dirty the sex was. It caught me completely by surprise, and I am so happy for it! The heat builds and comes to a head so quickly. I’m going to steal one of Liz’s (and Owen’s) words here, but holy hell, was it grand! Dirty talk, anyone? Mix some plot twists in there, and I was on the edge of my seat!

Now, the ending was a little rough. There were some moments that were too abrupt or didn’t seem to fit in with the story. Liz also goes back and forth a lot emotionally. For the most part, though, I simply couldn’t stop reading. The chemistry is spot on, the Gallagher family is to die for, and the one-liners made this book so much fun.

Passion Restored is the second book in Ms. Ryan’s Gallagher Brothers series. If you like it a little rough and rowdy with a close knit and heart-filled group, I highly recommend this one. A thoroughly enjoyable tale!

*Reviewed by Michaelene for the Alpha Book Club. The cross post can be found here.*

Review: If the Duke Demands by Anna Harrington

“Was that how all the Carlisle men saw her? As a silly country gel destined to marry a boring vicar or farmer and spend her life polishing church pews or chasing pigs on a farm?”

Miranda has crushed on her country neighbor, Robert Carlisle, since they were little and he gifted her with a kiss. Her problem? She’s all grown up now, but he’s entranced with another woman. Her solution? Why, dress in a fine and provocative gown, lie on his bed with her masked face, where they’ll make love before she declares herself and her heart. Too bad she ends up in bed with the wrong brother.

30364206Sebastian feels the weight of the dukedom on his shoulders. He’s determined to marry his perfect duchess. That isn’t Miranda with her bold maneuverings and her love of Milton and Shakespeare. No, the part of him that glories in her passion and intelligence doesn’t fit with the Sebastian he is now.

They strike a bargain: Miranda will help him find a suitable wife if he’ll help Miranda ensnare Robert. But damned if Sebastian doesn’t fall for her in the meantime.

This is a solid historical romance with all its humorous barbs and battles and just the right amount of passion. Miranda is a blend of bold, but shy; innocent, yet brave. She flowers under Sebastian’s attention, and she really needs someone to see her. Especially when all her attempts to capture Robert’s attention fail. It’s her wake up call. Does she want the man she’s loved for years or the one she’s just starting to know?

The best part is how Miranda’s passion and exuberance ignites the Sebastian he has tried so hard to subdue. But when they’re one-on-one, shrouded in an opera box or alone in the gardens, the devilish rogue comes out to play. It made for some scorching scenes.

“Does the opera stir your blood?”

He stared at her profile in the shadows, his gut tightening at the raw pull of her, and confessed, “You stir my blood, Miranda.”

But about halfway through, the pacing stalls out. Miranda always seems to be embarrassed, and she would make a decision regarding Sebastian only to flounder at the last minute. It made her seem wishy-washy, and I wanted her to stand up and tell him to sod off or realize he doesn’t want a straight-laced bride. He wants her.

It would have also helped the pacing with Sebastian’s inner turmoil. Sebastian brings up Miranda’s station and upbringing way too often, and while I can sympathize with Sebastian’s past, I didn’t think it was significant enough for him to hold off as long as he did. The back and forth became repetitive and a good editing would have rounded out the story better.

If the Duke Demands is a great start to this series, and I can imagine the books for the other Carlisle brothers will involve plenty more hijinks. This is a quick, fun read that offers lots of laughs and the feel-good moments I expect in a historical romance.

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*I was given an arc via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This review was cross-posted on Alpha Book Club and can be found here.*

Review: Single Malt by Layla Reyne

4 stars!

A thrilling plot with a cast that made my heart squeeze.

Aidan is still recovering from the loss of his husband and FBI partner when he is assigned a new case. And a new partner. Only his new partner is in the cave – the Cyber department – and he’s attractive to boot.

33296928Jameson Walker, aka Whiskey, loves the anonymity of the cyber world after his high-profile basketball career. That changes when he’s assigned to Aidan and thrust out into the field. Not only does he have to be out in public, he is with the irascible Aidan and the unlikely attraction he feels for the broken man.

But Whiskey’s skills with the computer may be just what Aidan needs to discover who killed his partner and husband. As Aidan slowly begins to fall for his new partner, he has to ask himself if he can let go of the guilt or if it’s too much for him to handle.

Aidan touched my soul in this book. I honestly cannot think of another book that has done that – made me cry so easily and being so aware of how hard my heart hurt. Could I swoon any harder? I didn’t think so, but when Aidan opens up when he finally takes a step towards healing with Walker, Aidan proves me wrong. Sincerity is that man’s middle name, and he has a hard time trusting or letting people in because he doesn’t want to get hurt again. Who could blame him? Losing so many people? So, the moment he lets Walker tiptoe past a defense – even for only a moment – it’s so special to see. And the language is downright poetic at times:

“What color is that?” Aidan asked, putting aside the fact Walker had seen through the disguise he’d worn for three decades.

“Autumn,” Walker answered, voice dropping an octave. “Like a pile of fall leaves back home, right after it rains. Dark brown swirled with brick red and flecks of gold.”

Coffee with a dash of Goldschlager, Gabe used to say. But damn if Walker’s description, spoken in that seductive drawl, didn’t send another flare of desire scorching through him.

Then there’s Whiskey. Aidan assumes the man, with little to no training, won’t be the right fit for the field. Boy, is he wrong! Whiskey can hack into anything and dayum, the skills on this one! He’s the sugar to Aidan’s sour, and he had the right amount of charm and cunning to get the task done. The smarts are high in this one. And the humor!

“English, Whiskey. Translate the technobabble.”

Jamie shot out a hand, snatched the pen from Aidan’s grasp, and broke it in half. “Say ‘babble’ one more time, and I’ll break something else.”

I’d also like to mention the nicknames – Whiskey and Irish. Whiskey is a southern boy and his full name, Jameson Walker, is obviously taken from the smooth, slow burn of whiskey. Then there’s Irish. Hallooo there. I need to listen to the audible for this one! Also, Aidan doesn’t realize until a third of the way through the book that Whiskey leans towards men. It’s hilarious and when Whiskey comes out, Aidan’s flabbergasted – and relieved – because holla! Whiskey knows just when to push Aidan for more and when to pull back. The balance is disarming to Aidan, and I love seeing his walls come down one-by-one.

Single Malt is book one of a three book series, so it does end on a cliffhanger. As such, the external conflict dominates while the romance is slower to build. The FBI cases take the forefront with the death of Aidan’s husband and partner always lingering in the background. It was heavy on the plot-building, but I still found the intrigue high-octane, and I was so invested in the cases. It also allowed them to build a connection, revealing one layer at a time, and it made the impact of the romance all the sweeter.

I’m excited to see how the romance develops further in book 2. Fun, jam-packed with action, and a slow burn. A good start to the series.

Preorder Your Copy! Releases 2/27:

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*I was given a review copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

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.*