January 29, 2016

REVIEW: Dare to Run (The Sons of Steel Row #1)

Dare to Run (The Sons of Steel Row #1), by Jen McLaughlin
Publish Date:
February 2, 2016
Publisher: Signet Eclipse
Format: ARC, provided by the publisher
Genre: adult suspense romance
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4 STARS

(Synopsis) Lucas Donahue is not ashamed of his criminal past, but after a brief stint in prison, he’s ready to go legit and live a normal life. The problem is, no one leaves the gang without permission—even if he is one of the boss’s top men. Plus someone’s placed a hit on him. And then there’s that feisty little bartender who’s going to cause him even more trouble.

Heidi Greene knows to keep her distance from a ladies’ man like Lucas—even if she can’t keep her eyes off him. When he rescues her from an attack in the alley outside her bar, she’s forced to stay by his side for safety. But the longer she spends time with him, the greater her chances are for getting hurt in more ways than one.

Dare to Run is the first in a new, gritty series by Jen McLaughlin about the mean streets of Boston and the gangs who run them. 

Lucas Donahue is a bad boy. No really - he's a bad. Boy. After working his way up the ranks of Boston's Sons of Steel Row gang, he ended up in jail for two years. Now he's back to his old ways - running guns and meting out violence when the need calls for it. 

Like when he has to save the pretty lady who runs his favorite bar's bacon. 

Independent and fierce Heidi Greene is my favorite kind of heroine. She's bold and brave and doesn't need anyone. She's learned to fight for what she wants and to stand up for what she believes in. I love strong women. I love women who could live by themselves and be happy that way, but when the right man comes along, they're woman enough to admit that they're better when they're with him. Heidi is like that. 

Lucas isn't the guy she would've picked for herself. He's in a gang, and he's domineering and controlling. But, he is also keeping her alive after saving her from rival gang members, and she can admit that she needs him. And hey - if they give into the carnal pleasures they both are feeling while waiting for the heat to die down, all the better, right? Lucas might be overbearing, but he's still super hot. 

I really loved Dare to Run. It was dark and dangerous and sexy. I didn't see any way for Lucas and Heidi to end up together, which really kept me guessing. There was the question of how they could possibly work out all the roadblocks so that they could have their HEA, and then there was also the question of who was trying to kill Lucas and why. And what role Heidi played in it. It kept me guessing for the entire book. At the end, it was one crazy revelation after another, and there was no way I was putting it down for anything. 

I can't wait for the next book in this series. I think Dare to Run was an incredible start, and if the rest of the books planned are anything like this one, I'm all in. 

January 27, 2016


FINALLY! After reading Free Me and Find Me, I was dying for Hudson's brother Chandler's story. He definitely needs his HEA like Hudson and JC. And now it's coming! But first - the cover. And, helloooooo Chandler.

Chandler, by Laurelin Paige
Publish Date:
September 20, 2016
Publisher: Everafter Platinum
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon | iBooks

(Synopsis) I dominate the boardroom. I’m a Pierce—it’s what we do. But I never had a reason to bring that persona into the bedroom.

Until Genevive Fasbender.

She’s brash and bold and stubborn as hell, and she doesn’t believe it’s possible to satisfy her. But I’ve discovered her secret, one she hasn’t even figured out herself—she wants what I want.

And not only does she want it—I'll make her need it.

No matter what.

With over 1 million books sold, Laurelin Paige is the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling Author of the Fixed Trilogy. She's a sucker for a good romance and gets giddy anytime there's kissing, much to the embarrassment of her three daughters. Her husband doesn't seem to complain, however. When she isn't reading or writing sexy stories, she's probably singing, watching Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead, or dreaming of Michael Fassbender. She's also a proud member of Mensa International though she doesn't do anything with the organization except use it as material for her bio.

You can connect with Laurelin on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LaurelinPaige or on twitter @laurelinpaige. You can also visit her website, www.laurelinpaige.com, to sign up for emails about new releases.

Connect With Laurelin
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January 26, 2016

REVIEW, EXCERPT & GIVEAWAY: Hard Ever After (Hard Ink #4.5)

The Hard Ink series could be one of my most favorite series of all time. And HARD EVER AFTER is the cherry on top. Read on for my review and an excerpt, then enter the giveaway. And if you haven't started this series yet, please. For the love of doughnuts. Start it now.

Hard Ever After (Hard Ink #4.5), by Laura Kaye
Publish Date:
February 2, 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins
Format: e-ARC, provided by Inkslinger PR
Genre: adult suspense romance
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 5 STARS

(Synopsis) Justice served. Honor restored. Team reunited. 

After a long battle to discover the truth, the men and women of Hard Ink have a lot to celebrate, especially the wedding of two of their own—Nick Rixey and Becca Merritt, whose hard-fought love deserves a happy ending.

As Nick and the team shift from crisis mode to building their new security consulting firm, Becca heads back to work at the ER. But amid the everyday chaos of demanding jobs and their upcoming nuptials, an old menace they thought long gone reemerges, threatening the peace they’ve only just found.

Now, for one last time, Nick and Becca must fight for their always and forever, because they know that when true love overcomes all the odds it lasts hard ever after.

You guys. For serious. This series is one I just can't get enough of. I was so bummed when it came to an end, even though the end was amazing and perfect. So, when I learned that there would be one final exclamation point in the form of a wedding, it was like my birthday all over again. 

Nick and Becca are the original couple from the Hard Ink series. They started it all. So, it seems poignant that they finish it. But, of course, despite a perfect proposal and being surrounded by their family and friends, things don't run smoothly. There's someone taunting Becca and putting her in danger. And it's messing with her wedding plans. So, once again, the team is back in play trying to figure out who it is and how to neutralize him or her so that Nick and Becca can get started on their happily ever after. 

Even though this is just a novella, there is plenty of story packed in there. Just like with Easy and Jenna's story and Jeremy and Charlie's story (which were both also Hard Ink novellas), Hard Ever After felt like a full-length novel. There was a mystery to be solved, action, and lots of hot lovin'. Of course - this IS Laura Kaye, after all.

Nick is as amazing as always. The way he loves Becca and the way she loves him back is of the absolute best romance stories. The way he calls her "Sunshine" and protects and cherishes her above all others - it is beautiful. And sexy.

"The best way to fight back the darkness is with love and light. The best way to cheat death is to live life with no regrets, holding nothing back, just throwing yourself into the messy, vibrant, unexpected beauty of it. That's what I want. I don't care about what happened. I refuse to let that win. I don't want to wait to be your always and forever. And for you to be mine."

What I loved the most was how the team took center stage. Yes, this was Becca and Nick's story. It's impossible to forget that. But, all the couples we've come to love are featured in different ways. And, when things get hairy, the team does what it does best. It pulls together and rallies around Nick and Becca when they need him most. They each have their areas of expertise and they use them to figure out who is tormenting Becca. 

The ending came too quickly for me. And now it's over, and I'm sad. But, what a story. 

“I think we’re all pretty guaranteed to get laid at Becca’s wedding,” Kat said with a mischievous grin.

They all burst into laughter. “When do you not get laid, Kat?” Emilie asked with an arched eyebrow.

“Aw, don’t even talk to me, Miss Garza, because you and Marz are loud as hell. Not that I mind, because, dude, does he have a mouth on him,” Kat said with a big grin.

“Oh, my God,” Sara said, her cheeks turning bright pink but her smile saying she was enjoying the teasing.

“He really does.” Grinning, Emilie shrugged. “The hazards of sharing an unfinished apartment. Can’t be helped.” Kat and Beckett had been staying in the room Nick and Jeremy reserved for her in their apartment until one particularly loud session of lovemaking had apparently caught Jer’s ear. His teasing had been relentless. Finally, Kat and Beckett relocated to an empty room upstairs. As much as they all enjoyed each other’s company, everyone was going to be thrilled when the new building was done, that was for sure.

Becca could only laugh as the good-natured ribbing went on. “Well, I know I’m getting laid. The rest of you are on your own.” By the time they’d all been fitted and had paid for their gowns, Becca was pretty sure they were on the verge of getting thrown out of the store.

They spilled out onto the street, laughing and hungry for lunch. Becca fell behind while she fished for her cell phone in her purse and paused to shoot off a quick text to Nick.
All done dress shopping! I’m gonna knock your socks off! ;)

Nick responded immediately. Sunshine, you already do.

Grinning, she glanced down the block—and nearly gasped out loud. Tyrell Woodson, the man who’d attempted to abduct her months ago, stood at the corner, glaring at her.

“Hey, Becca, come on,” Kat called.

Becca blinked and the man was gone. Vanished. A figment of her imagination. Not that her body seemed to know the difference. Heart racing, she caught up with the group as they made their way to an Italian place they’d agreed on earlier.

“You okay?” Kat asked.

“Yeah. Great.” Her voice sounded flat to her own ears. She glanced back over her shoulder. Woodson wasn’t there. Of course he wasn’t. She let out a long breath. Clearly, her subconscious wasn’t done worrying about Woodson, though, however unnecessary—and unfounded—that worrying was.

Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over twenty books in contemporary and paranormal romance and romantic suspense, including the Hard Ink and upcoming Raven Riders series. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. She lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.

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January 25, 2016


You ready for something new and different from the author of Ten Tiny Breaths and Burying Water? This is K.A. Tucker like we've never seen her before. Check out my review and the excerpt below, and don't forget to enter the giveaway!

He Will Be My Ruin, by K.A. Tucker
Publish Date:
February 2, 2016
Publisher: Atria Books
Format: ARC, provided by Inkslinger PR
Genre: adult mystery suspense
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4 STARS

(Synopsis) A woman who almost had it all . . .

On the surface, Celine Gonzalez had everything a twenty-eight-year-old woman could want: a one-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a job that (mostly) paid the bills, and an acceptance letter to the prestigious Hollingsworth Institute of Art, where she would finally live out her dream of becoming an antiques appraiser for a major auction house. All she had worked so hard to achieve was finally within her reach. So why would she kill herself?

A man who was supposed to be her salvation . . .

Maggie Sparkes arrives in New York City to pack up what’s left of her best friend’s belongings after a suicide that has left everyone stunned. The police have deemed the evidence conclusive: Celine got into bed, downed a lethal cocktail of pills and vodka, and never woke up. But when Maggie discovers a scandalous photograph in a lock box hidden in Celine’s apartment, she begins asking questions. Questions about the man Celine fell in love with. The man she never told anyone about, not even Maggie. The man Celine believed would change her life.

Until he became her ruin.

On the hunt for evidence that will force the police to reopen the case, Maggie uncovers more than she bargained for about Celine’s private life—and inadvertently puts herself on the radar of a killer. A killer who will stop at nothing to keep his crimes undiscovered.

This is going to be a hard review to write. I feel like I'm walking in a spoiler mine field. The rabbit hole is deep with this one, and one leap in leads to more and more revelations that make you go hmmmm?

It all starts when Maggie comes to NYC to clean out her BFF"s apartment after her suicide. Maggie just doesn't believe it's possible, though. The Celine she knew was high on life, an artsy antiques dealer who loved her mom and Maggie and would never, EVER have killed herself. As Maggie finds things and talks to people that bolster her opinion, she becomes determined to get to the bottom of things, even if the police - and her own sense of survival - don't agree. 

Even though this story is nothing like I've seen from K.A. Tucker before, it's clear that it's hers. We got a taste of her awesome suspense and mystery storytelling in her Burying Water series, but it was only just testing the waters compared to this. 

The biggest difference is, where Burying Water was high on romance and lighter on the suspense, He Will Be My Ruin is completely the opposite. The romance takes a backseat to Maggie's search for what really happened to Celine. 

As Maggie gets closer to the truth, the story splits between the present day (Maggie's POV) and several months earlier (Celine's POV). Celine's POV was unexpected at first, but became a welcome addition, as it helped move the story along. While Maggie is working all the angles from her end and theorizing, we're seeing how the events unfolded for real through Celine's eyes. 

And that's about all I can say. I mean, sure - lots of stuff happens. Like - LOTS. Maggie meets people - the man Celine had a naked picture of in her apartment, her antique-loving gay friend from school, her weird hoarder of an old lady neighbor, the surprisingly insightful building super, and Celine's catty co-workers. All of them had motive and opportunity to kill Celine. I have to tell you - I was kept guessing every single minute. 

I promise you - as soon as the whole picture becomes clear, you will be shocked. I know I was. There's WAY more going on than what either Maggie or the reader initially thinks. And, that's the beauty of this book. The layers are plentiful and that rabbit hole is deep. 

Look, I’m just…” I stare at my reflection in the mirror, my eyes lined with bags, my skin sallow, my hair matted. I look like someone who sat in bed for twenty-four hours, eating cold pizza from the box I had delivered last night and polishing off a bottle of vodka, all while reading the deepest and darkest thoughts from the last fifteen years of Celine Gonzalez’s life. Discovering things that I could have happily gone the rest of my life without knowing.

Which is exactly what I’ve done.

I can barely keep my eyes open and yet I know that sleep will not grant me a reprieve. “I’m dealing with a few private matters.”

“Well, I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to fit you in when you decide that you’re ready.”

“You will, because your boss wants my money.” I hang up before I hear her snippy answer and stare at the journal in my hands.

I was torn between starting from the latest diary first and easing myself in with the oldest one, afraid that I wasn’t ready for what might lie within those last pages. That I wasn’t ready to witness just how Celine had lost herself.

And then I picked up a pink book with butterflies on it—the earliest dated journal—and read a thirteen-year-old Celine recount her major crush on my boyfriend at the time: a tall, gangly guy named Jordan who kissed her behind our house one day while I was changing into my bathing suit upstairs. She felt so guilty, she couldn’t sleep for a week. Through tears, I laughed—because I hadn’t even given that guy a moment’s thought in years—and I knew then that starting at the beginning of Celine’s story was the only way to do this.

And so I did, living the past fifteen years through Celine’s eyes, since the days she and Rosa still lived with me. It wasn’t hard to follow along. She dated every single entry. Some days she didn’t have a lot to say. Other days she’d fill an entire page, even writing along the margin. She seemed to follow a simple rule as the years progressed: one page per day, no more.

So many days.

So many confessions.

So many things that made my heart swell.

And so many that made my heart bleed with pain.

Born in small-town Ontario, K.A. Tucker published her first book at the age of six with the help of her elementary school librarian and a box of crayons. She currently resides in a quaint town outside of Toronto with her husband, two beautiful girls, and an exhausting brood of four-legged creatures.

Links:  Website ** Twitter ** Facebook ** Novel Goodreads ** Author Goodreads ** YouTube ** Pinterest ** Instagram

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January 22, 2016

EXCERPT REVEAL: Boiling Point (Crossing the Line #3)

Boiling Point (Crossing the Line #3), by Tessa Bailey
Publish Date:
January 26, 2016
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

(Synopsis) Con artist Austin Shaw's been in disguise so long he's not sure where his fake identities end and he begins. Now that he's been strong-armed into working for a specialized undercover unit working with the Chicago police—criminals with unique “skills”—the last thing he needs is to risk his iron control. Especially when it comes to a certain stunningly sexy hacker who tempts him with every look of disdain.

Polly Banks will never, ever trust a con man. On the trail of a ruthless crook who destroyed the only family she's ever known, Polly is unnerved by the shadow who follows her every move. The one who makes her pulse pound and breath short with lust. Austin. He's infuriating, enigmatic, and pure sex appeal, and she's determined to resist him.

But an untrustworthy man of disguise can become anyone he wants...including a man that Polly must trust if she's to escape their dangerous game alive.

“All yours. You’ve been its cruel keeper for months.” He tilted his hips, presenting himself to her in a way that should have been crude, but on Austin, it was all animal grace. “At any time at all, you could have demanded me. Sent me to my knees to lick you off with one word. Grabbed my cock through my pants in front of everyone and told them who it belonged to.” His eyelids drooped as if the scenario was an aphrodisiac. “Please yourself with me, Polly. My body. My cock. Own it all.”

“I will,” she whispered, shaken by his speech. Emboldened by it. Holding his gaze she lifted the belt to his arousal and looped the leather around its ruddy base. A broken curse fell from his mouth, the muscles of his abdomen jerking. His big hands flew up, as if to grip her shoulders for balance, but they fisted and dropped back to his sides, where she told him with her inaction they must remain. Careful to keep the buckle from touching him, Polly tugged the leather to her right, watching the belt slither around his erection in a circular caress.

“Oh, fuck. Fuck. Fuck.” He swayed on his knees. “More. More.”

Polly leaned close and ran her tongue along the seam of his lips, pulling away when he tried to capture her mouth in a kiss. “Only if it pleases me.”

“Yes.” His nod was disjointed, breathing uneven. “Only if it pleases you.”

“It does.” Faster than the first time, Polly pulled the belt left, whimpering at the sight of his aching flesh being squeezed between the leather strip, the precum that beaded at his tip. She repeated the action twice more, faster and with more surrounding pressure on his length each time. “How does it feel?

“Like nothing else,” Austin groaned, neck muscles straining. “There’s nothing else.”

His declaration made her want to prove him wrong. Or maybe she needed a distraction to avoid feeling humbled. With the decision to stop thinking and experience, Polly grasped Austin’s hand and dragged it up her skirt, between her thighs where his palm conformed to her shape without hesitation, ripping a moan from her throat. “Th-there is something else.”

Austin’s gaze turned intent, fixated on her face. “You need to fuck now, sweet?” There was nothing casual about his perusal of her body. It was predatory filth and it set Polly ablaze. His middle finger pushed at her entrance, through the barrier of her underwear. “Ah God, just set me loose with a yes. I will split the fucking headboard down the middle from bucking into this pussy.”

Tessa Bailey is originally from Carlsbad, California. The day after high school graduation, she packed her yearbook, ripped jeans and laptop, driving cross-country to New York City in under four days.

Her most valuable life experiences were learned thereafter while waitressing at K-Dees, a Manhattan pub owned by her uncle. Inside those four walls, she met her husband, best friend and discovered the magic of classic rock, managing to put herself through Kingsborough Community College and the English program at Pace University at the same time. Several stunted attempts to enter the work force as a journalist followed, but romance writing continued to demand her attention.

She now lives in Long Island, New York with her husband of eight years and four-year-old daughter. Although she is severely sleep-deprived, she is incredibly happy to be living her dream of writing about people falling in love.

Author Media Links:

Website: http://www.tessabailey.com
Twitter: @mstessabailey
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tessa-Bailey/107783312730783
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January 21, 2016

I Went to ALAMW16!

After attending BEA in New York for the past three years in a row, I will be unable to attend in 2016 since it's in Chicago, and that's a much further distance for me to travel. So, I needed a convention to attend in its place that was within driving distance.

Hello, ALAMW16.

Boston was a 7 hour drive for me, which made for a long, but doable, day. It helped knowing what waited for me on the other side - books and fellow Tribe member, Valerie from Stuck in Books. So, all good things.

After checking in to our hotel, the Boston Park Plaza, we had a good laugh at the microscopic bathroom. It was literally the smallest bathroom I've ever seen. The only bonus - there was two of them. :)

After checking in, we took the shuttle over to the Boston Convention Center to check in and get our badges. We were legit!

So, we spent the next two days trolling the convention floor, chatting it up with publishers and grabbing books. 

I had wondered before going to ALA if it was really all that different from BEA. People kept telling me it was. That it was calmer. Less frenzied. More blogger-friendly. So, here's what I found out. 

Is ALA really more laid back than BEA?
A thousand times YES. At BEA, people start lining up to get in three hours early. Ten minutes before the doors open, hundreds of people surge toward the door in an effort to be one of the first on the show floor. It's madness! At ALA, ten minutes before the doors open, there was maybe 30 people milling around waiting to get it. It was... weird. 

Publishers, too, are more laid back. They were constantly putting out stacks of books for us to take. If we missed one or if we wondered if they had an already finished copy, we just asked for it. There was no waiting in lines for ARCs to be put out. It was all quite nice to not always feel so rushed. 

Do you still get books at ALA?
Uh, YEAH. Most of the titles at the mid-winter meeting are due to come out this spring. And there were lots of them. It does seem like ALA is geared more toward the younger reading audience. There were tons of children's and middle grade ARCs for the taking. Way more than at BEA. There was also quite a few YA books available. But, if adult fiction, new adult or romance books are your thing, don't get your hopes up. You won't find much of those at ALA. I came home with quite a pretty stack, including a bunch of books for my 9-year-old daughter. 

Is ALA better than BEA?
What's your definition of "better?" The one thing I found severely lacking at ALA was author participation. There were almost no authors present. None to talk to or to sign books or to have lunch with. None to fangirl over. That is my second favorite part of BEA - meeting these people who make stories come to life for me. I did meet one author. I was super excited when I learned that Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, was going to be there signing Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School. His line was the longest one I waited in - 40 minutes. 

ALA is also definitely smaller than BEA. On many levels. There aren't nearly as many booths, the publisher booths that are there are smaller than at BEA, and since there's nearly no authors, there's also no autograph area. There are also very few publisher parties, breakfasts, luncheons and get-togethers. And, there are also far fewer bloggers there. I did see a few that I knew, but nowhere near BEA. 

But, as I mentioned - there are BOOKS. Lots of them. So, if your main goal is books, ALA is definitely better. If getting up at the butt crack of dawn to wait in long lines isn't your cup of tea, ALA is better. 

But, if you like meeting your favorite authors, stick with BEA. Also, if the social aspect of BEA is what you go for, you might want to skip ALA. 

All in all, I'm glad I went. It was a fun trip. It was especially fun getting to hang out with Val again. Living thousands of miles apart isn't fun. I brought home lots of good books and I filled my daughter's bookshelf, which is never a bad thing. And I spent significantly less money at ALA too. Would I go again? Maybe. If it was within driving distance. But, if I had to choose, I'd probably still choose to go to BEA. I missed the authors and my fellow bloggers. 

Me and my girl Val from Stuck in Books

January 20, 2016

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Beneath This Mask (Beneath #1)

Beneath This Mask (Beneath #1), by Meghan March
Publish Date:
September 29, 2014
Publisher: self-published
Format: audiobook, purchased
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4 STARS

(Synopsis) He loves me, and he doesn’t even know my real name. 

The limelight that follows him could expose everything I’m hiding. But even knowing the risks, I can’t force myself to stay away.

I’m going to break his heart, but mine will shatter right along with it.

Will we lose it all when I reveal what’s beneath this mask?

I blew through Beneath This Mask in just a few days. To be fair, I spent 14 hours in my car traveling to and home from ALAMW16 in Boston, so it was plenty of time to start and finish this audiobook. When I originally purchased it, I chose it because I just got done reading Meghan March's Dirty Billionaire series, and really loved it. I was looking for more books by her and discovered that Beneath This Mask could be purchased for Kindle and audio for only $7 total. SOLD.

Charlie Stone was raised in a life of privilege. But, after her father went to jail and their family was ruined, she runs to escape the stigma and possible indictment herself. A year later, she's in New Orleans and has completely changed her appearance. She was supposed to go relatively unnoticed and fly under the radar - until she met Simon. He's the son of a former politician and considering running for office himself. He's always in the public eye, so he exactly what Charlie should avoid. Easier said than done. 

In the wake of the Bernie Madoff ponzi scandal that came to light in late 2008 and which bilked thousands of hardworking Americans of billions of dollars, it was interesting seeing this sort of thing as the foundation for a book. We've all felt the pity for the victims of the scheme who lost their life savings, but I never thought to think about Madoff's family and how they fared. 

Charlotte - or, Charlie as she has remade herself - is the only child of a man convicted of this type of crime. Although she's had a silver spoon in her mouth her whole life, she's a tough chick. She did a brilliant job of hiding - paying for things with cash, getting lots of tattoos, dying her hair. But, I really felt for her. She seemed so alone. She was never close to her family even when they were together. And, now she purposely keeps herself apart from others so she isn't found out. It's a lonely life, and that shows. 

Simon is immediately drawn to her, and despite her seeming to want to be with him, he can't understand why she continually pulls away. I get it - Charlie threw off serious mixed signals. Honestly, for a short while there, the constant push and pull got tiresome. I wanted Charlie to make up her mind, and that didn't happen quite fast enough for me. 

Despite some pacing issues in the middle and the instalove on Simon's part, I still really enjoyed this book. I liked the side characters - Con, especially. I can't wait to get his story. 

While the middle felt a bit sluggish, the ending moved at lightning speed. So much was going on to our MCs, it made up a bit for the slower pacing earlier. 

About the Audio Version
Beneath This Mask is told in dual POV, so for the audio version, there are two narrators - Andi Arndt and Holter Graham. Both of them were new to me, and I found I really enjoyed their performances. And Arndt particularly did a great job voicing both Charlie and Simon during her chapters. And, they both conveyed the heavy emotions that were felt at times during this book. I see that Holter Graham narrates a lot of Patricia Briggs books - me thinks I'm going to have to get one of those. 

January 19, 2016

RELEASE DAY REVIEW: Outside the Lines (On the Run #1)

Outside the Lines (On the Run #1), by Lisa Desrochers
Publish Date:
January 19, 2016
Publisher: InterMix
Format: e-ARC, provided by the publisher
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4 STARS

(Synopsis) As the oldest son of a Chicago crime lord, Robert Delgado always knew how dangerous life could be. With his mother dead and his father in prison, he’s taking charge of his family’s safety—putting himself and his siblings in witness protection to hide out in a backwater Florida town.

Fourth grade teacher Adri Wilson is worried about the new boy in her class. Sherm is quiet and evasive, especially when he’s around his even cagier older brother. Adri can’t help her attraction to Rob, or the urge to help them both in whatever way she can.

But the Delgados have enemies on two sides of the mob—their father’s former crew and the rival family he helped take down. It’s only a matter of time before someone finds them. And if Rob isn’t careful, Adri could end up in the crossfire...

The Chicago mafia has come to podunk Florida, and it's in the form of hottie Rob Delgado and his siblings. 

After things went sideways with their enemies and Rob's father got carted off to prison, he and his siblings were forced into witness protection and sent to a tiny town in Florida to lay low until they can resurface. It's clear that each of the kids is suffering in different ways. But the youngest, Sherm, has been traumatized the most, and only his 4th grade teacher, Adri Wilson, seems to have the ability to help him. 

Rob spent the book being extremely conflicted - about everything. He doesn't know what to do to help Sherm, and he so desperately wants to. He doesn't know how to fight the attraction to Sherm's teacher. He doesn't know how to make his siblings happy and not hate him anymore. And, he doesn't know how to live any way other than how his father taught him. 

It seemed an impossible situation, you know? Rob is supposed to be hidden and laying low. And yet, if he wants Sherm to get better and come out of his shell, he can't do that. On top of that, how do you change everything you've been raised to be and believe in? Rob was raised the son of a mafia crime lord. He was raised and groomed to follow in his father's footsteps. For 25 years, that was his destiny. So, what does he do now? How does he just turn it off? And, if he can't would Adri still like him? 

For her part, Adri has lived a fairly sheltered life. Living in a tiny town, shielded by her best friend and her chief of police father, she has never really lived, and until she met Rob, it never occurred to her that there was anything wrong with that. But, Rob and Sherm make her question everything. Finally. 

Sherm broke my heart. I felt badly for all the Delgado children - well, except for maybe Grant. He was a total jerk most of the time. But, Sherm's story is the saddest. He witnessed horrible things and just can't bring himself to talk about them. I can't imagine how sad and frustrating that is for all the Delgado siblings. 

In the end, Rob has to make a choice - his old life or his new one. Each has its pros and cons, and for sure, it's a hard decision to make. 

Outside the Lines is told in dual POV. There are times when it is a bit slow. In the middle, after the fleshing out of the backstory and the exciting ending there was a lot of taking Sherm to and home from school - a lot of "will they or won't they" when it came to Rob and Adri. It was a little tiresome at times. 

I'm guessing that the other books in this series will be about the three other siblings - 23-year-old Lee and 21-year-old twins Grant and Ulie. Lee's story was hinted at in Outside the Lines, and I think hers will be a doozy. I hope there's more of Rob and Adri in it. There were still a lot of questions left at the end of Outside the Lines, and I look forward to getting more answers.