May 22, 2018

RELEASE DAY REVIEW: Fighting for Everything (Warrior Fight Club #1)

Fighting for Everything (Warrior Fight Club #1), by Laura Kaye
Publish Date:
May 22, 2018
Publisher: self-published
Format: e-ARC, provided by the author
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4.5 STARS

(Synopsis) Loving her is the biggest fight of his life…

Home from the Marines, Noah Cortez has a secret he doesn’t want his oldest friend, Kristina Moore, to know. It kills him to push her away, especially when he’s noticing just how sexy and confident she’s become in his absence. But, angry and full of fight, he’s not the same man anymore either. Which is why Warrior Fight Club sounds so good.

Kristina loves teaching, but she wants more out of life. She wants Noah—the boy she’s crushed on and waited for. Except Noah is all man now—in ways both oh so good and troubling, too. Still, she wants who he’s become—every war-hardened inch. And when they finally stop fighting their attraction, it’s everything Kristina never dared hope for.

But Noah is secretly spiraling, and when he lashes out, it threatens what he and Kristina have found. The brotherhood of the fight club helps him confront his demons, but only Noah can convince the woman he loves that he’s finally ready to fight for everything.

What an outstanding start to a new series by one of my favorite authors...

Noah is a veteran who has come home not quite whole. His time served has left him with a loss of hearing, sight and equilibrium, along with a boat load of PTSD. Noah is approaching rock bottom, and rock bottom is a dark and dangerous place for him to be.

His only light is his best friend Kristina. They've been friends since they were kids, but since Noah has come home, he doesn't want to taint her with his darkness, so he's trying to shut her out and protect her from what he's become. But, Kris is not a fair weather friend, and she's determined to help him in any way she can.

Like most friends-to-lovers stories, once things turn physical between Noah and Kris, there's a lot of stop and start between them as they try and decide whether continuing their relationship in that way would damage the solid foundation on which their friendship is built. In this case, the struggle is particularly difficult for Noah because, in addition to worrying about hurting the best relationship with a girl he's ever had, he also doesn't see himself as worthy of Kris' love and attention.

Out of all the books I've read by Laura Kaye (and there's a lot of them), Fighting for Everything was, by far, the most emotional. Noah's demons are very real and incredibly heartbreaking. He's a hero who sees himself as a failure. He's worthy of so much love from so many people, and the fact that he doesn't see that made me want to yell at him and hug the crap out of him all at the same time. I was reduced to tears more than once while reading this book.

I expected more of this book to be about the Warrior Fight Club, but in actuality, the Club was only introduced around 60% in to the book. Initially, I found that to be strange, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Fighting for Everything was a book that set the backstory for the rest of the series. Noah gave us a perfect example of someone who desperately needed the kind of therapy offered by the WFC. I would imagine that the other people in the Club would have similar reasons for being there. And, despite our limited time spent in the Club, we did get to meet other members and see the kernels of their stories taking seed.

Laura Kaye is doing all the right things with Fighting for Everything. She brings attention and sensitivity to a very real problem concerning our veterans, but still manages to weave in her stellar storytelling and super hot sexy scenes. I'm really excited to get the stories of the other members of the WFC and to spend more time there now that the setting has been established. This is going to be a great series.

May 8, 2018

RELEASE DAY REVIEW: Passion Rising (Original Sin #4)

Passion Rising (Original Sin #4), by J.A. Huss and Johnathan McClain
Publish Date:
May 8, 2018
Publisher: self-published
Format: e-ARC, provided by the authors
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4 STARS

(Synopsis) Old demons are back.

Maddie’s dealing with the fallout of her choices. Safety and happiness are relative, elusive things she’s desperate to have. But they will forever remain out of reach until the demons of her past are laid to rest.

Tyler’s mistakes resurface to haunt him and he’s just beginning to understand that money can’t fix a broken relationship. He must open his heart and search for answers he’d rather not find.

She wants peace in a world made of chaos.

He wants to rid himself of a lifetime of guilt.

They’re soul mates, but that’s no guarantee.

They’ll need to rely on each other to find their happily ever after.

Because the fight never ends—it just gets easier with someone at your side.

Passion Rising punctuated the fact that, as a whole, the Original Sin series is really more of an experience than just a series of books for you to read. These four books are not just a story of a boy getting a second chance with a girl and, after some drama and some bad stuff happening, living happily ever after. It's not nearly as cut-and-dry and "tropey" as all that.

Once again, I have to be super cagey, because so much of what happens in Passion Rising is a culmination of things that have been happening and building throughout the first three books in this series. I CAN say that this final book is about self-reflection on both Tyler and Maddie's parts. After everything that has happened to them, they are both left saying, "Okay, so now what?" Them being a couple isn't in question - of COURSE they are a couple. But, the health of their coupledom depends largely on how they now see themselves.

If you'll recall, in my review for Sin With Me (Original Sin #1), I said, "Truthfully, these two are some of the saddest and most despondent people I've ever read about." And it was true. The circumstances of Maddie's and Tyler's lives up to this point had lead them to their own versions of hell on earth. They were treading water with no forward movement and no hope.

You would think that with all the crazy stuff that happened to them over the three books prior to Passion Rising, that we would now see a woman and a man broken beyond repair. But, instead, we see the opposite. The events leading up to book 4 forced them to work together, to wade through their past hurts, to face their current fears and to lean on each other.

I love the way these two love each other. They would give their lives for each other and are looking forward to what comes next in their lives. Their banter is adorable, their sex is hot and their love is lasting. It's everything you could want in a romance book. Plus, you get angels, devils (figurative, not literal), action, closure and a really good death scene.

I think JA Huss considers her first collaborative writing effort a success. I know I do. And I'm already looking ahead to what's next from my new favorite writing duo.

April 17, 2018

RELEASE DAY REVIEW: Flesh Into Fire (Original Sin #3)

Flesh Into Fire (Original Sin #3), by J.A. Huss and Johnathan McClain
Publish Date:
April 17, 2018
Publisher: self-published
Format: e-ARC, provided by the authors
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4 STARS

(Synopsis) Payback is owed.

And Maddie Clayton is going to collect. This time Carlos and Logan have gone too far. People are dead, lives have been changed, and she’s had enough. Plus, she’s got the Devil on her side, so when an enemy turns into a friend with an idea of how to take Carlos down, she’s in.

Tyler Morgan has been fighting back his whole adult life. He’s ready for anything when it comes to payback. But endangering Maddie can’t be part of the deal. Unfortunately for him, once Maddie gets an idea in her head, there’s no stopping her.

Her debt has been paid in blood and she wants revenge.

His fight is still there, but now he’s got more at stake than himself.

The end is coming.

But even if they win against Carlos, they can still lose each other.

Only these two - only Maddie and Tyler - could find themselves up to their ears in this much crazy. 

Things have come to a head with Mexican drug lord Carlos and his menace of a nephew Logan, and Maddie is finished hiding away from the problem, working herself and her soul to the bone for what she knows is a futile effort. Her happiness is going to be hard fought and hard won, and it's going to happen with Tyler by her side. 

For the first time in the Original Sin series, the main thrust of the story is not Tyler and Maddie figuring out their relationship. They're there. Maddie has given up the fight and recognized what Tyler knew all along - that they were made to be together. And that no matter what, he's never leaving her again. 

Unfortunately, that makes Maddie's desire to go undercover in Carlos' compound not Tyler's favorite plan.

Both Tyler and Maddie are trying desperately to hold on to the slice of happiness that they've found in each other. Both of them were without that kind of happy for so very long. They were both at the bottom of the barrel, and now they've clawed to the top, found a partner, and are ready to take a break from the bad. 

It's weird to be on such equal ground with someone. Someone's... partner, I guess. But it's completely awesome at the same time.

But, their methods of finding that new life together are very different. While Tyler is the brawler who has never backed down from a fight, he is the one who would be perfectly content to fly to a deserted island somewhere and never come home. Maddie, on the other hand, wants to be able to look at herself in the mirror every day. She wants to actively fight for the life she wants, and if that means she might die in the process, well then, at least she went down fighting the good fight. 

Seeing this dynamic shift between them was really interesting, and I thought it showed an enormous amount of growth in their relationship. They haven't even been together for very long (although, they knew each other for years growing up), and while they spent the first few weeks fighting their attraction - at least Maddie did - now that they know in their souls that this is it, it's like everything has changed for them. And I love that. 

Some people search their whole life looking for that one place they belong. For that one person who gets them. Who brings them into their world, lets them fall easily into the pull of their gravity, and lets them just... be. Just exist. Quietly. Naturally. Freely. This is Tyler for me. The center of my universe. The man around whom I now orbit.

I mentioned craziness - there's plenty of that in Flesh on Fire too. Maddie's in a ton of danger nearly from the very beginning of the book as she enters Carlos' compound under false pretenses. There are fights and explosions and near misses and - once again - fires. And, although this book does come to more of a definite close than the first two books in this series, there's some pretty big loose ends left flapping around that I'm sure will lead us into the final book in the series. 

I can't wait to see what insane thing Maddie and Tyler will do to punctuate this fun, sexy and exciting series. 

RELEASE DAY REVIEW: Fallen Ink (Montgomery Ink: Colorado Springs #1)

Fallen Ink (Montgomery Ink: Colorado Springs #1), by Carrie Ann Ryan
Publish Date:
April 17, 2018
Publisher: self-published
Format: e-ARC, provided by the author
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4.5 STARS

(Synopsis) The Montgomery Ink series continues with a spin-off in Colorado Springs, where a familiar Montgomery finds her place in a new tattoo shop, and in the arms of her best friend.

Adrienne Montgomery is finally living her dreams. She’s opened a tattoo shop with her brother, Shep, and two of her cousins from Denver and she’s ready to take the city by storm with her art—as long as she can handle the pressure. When her new neighbors decide her shop isn’t a great fit for the community, however, she’ll have to lean on the one person she didn’t expect to fall for along the way… her best friend.

Mace Knight takes pride in two things: his art and his daughter. He knows he’s taking a risk by starting over in a new shop with the Montgomerys, but the stakes are even higher when he finds himself wanting Adrienne more than he thought possible.

The two fall fast and hard but they know the rules; they can’t risk their friendship, no matter how hot it is between the sheets and how many people try to stand in their way.

The Montgomery cousins are open for business at Montgomery Ink Too, which is nothing but awesome for we readers, since that means that the well of stories based around this amazingly close-knit family hasn't even come close to running dry. 

The first book in the Montgomery Ink: Colorado Springs spin-off series, Fallen Ink, centers around Adrienne Montgomery, one of the two new owners of the satellite tattoo shop (she owns it with her older brother Shep). Adrienne and Shep only have a small staff right now which includes tattoo artists Ryan and Mace. Mace happens to be Adrienne's best friend, and after some opening day stress and a rainy night, things between these two escalate to seriously hot heights. 

It seemed as if Mace and Adrienne were poised to take that next step, even if both of them were in total denial about it. No one was surprised when it finally happened. It reminded me so much of Maya Montgomery and Jake Gallagher's relationship (Ink Enduring). It is a good thing they have that strong basis as friends, because stress is coming at them from all sides, and it makes starting a new relationship with your best friend all that more challenging. 

First, the new shop is targeted relentlessly by someone who doesn't appreciate people with tattoos in their otherwise idyllic white bread neighborhood. The vandals become increasingly violent and hateful, and it's difficult to find out who's behind it all. 

On top of that, Mace suddenly has to care for his daughter on a more permanent basis, so he has to balance work hours, quality time with his daughter and personal time with Adrienne - who also happens to technically be his boss. It's crazy and dangerous and the whole time I was reading I kept thinking that, if anyone can make it, a Montgomery can. 

The one hold-over from the original Montgomery Ink series is the presence and importance of family - both by blood and by heart. It's my favorite part of this series. I love how close the Montgomery siblings are and how they're always there to watch each other's backs and to meddle when necessary. 

Fallen Ink is a well-thought out spin-off of a beloved series and is rife with tons of plot bunnies just waiting to take off and make the Colorado Springs series just as amazing as the original. 

April 16, 2018

REVIEW: Pecker Briefs (Legal Affairs #7)

Pecker Briefs (Legal Affairs #7), by Sawyer Bennett
Publish Date:
April 17, 2018
Publisher: self-published
Format: e-ARC, provided by the author
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 5 STARS

(Synopsis) I never thought a pecker would get me in so much trouble.

I mean, sure… if you’re talking about a certain anatomical feature of mine that the ladies just love. Given my bachelor status and appreciation for all things curvy and feminine, I could absolutely see that. But a different pecker is making my life much harder than it needs to be.

My name is Ford Daniels, partner at the law firm of Knight & Payne, and my latest case has me wading through the finer points of peckers—woodpeckers that is. Specifically, the red-cockaded woodpecker. I swear, I can’t make this stuff up but that’s what the sexy-as-hell blonde chained to a tree told me this morning.

Her name is Viveka Jones and she is so much more than a pretty face. She’s got wit, charm, and razor-sharp smarts. Turns out my client is looking to bulldoze the red-cockaded woodpecker’s natural habitat in favor of a multimillion-dollar subdivision and the sexy attorney with legs for days (and days), just happens to be counsel for an animal rights group looking to put a halt to construction.

My client’s pissed, but all I can think about is getting Viveka across the table from me. And then on the table underneath me. Perhaps up against the wall. And then—

Well, let’s just say when it’s all said and done, I’m hoping the red-cockaded woodpecker isn’t the only pecker that gets some attention from Miss Viveka Jones.

Sawyer Bennett has finally brought us back to the law firm of Knight & Payne with Pecker Briefs. Sawyer's legal romances are some of the absolute best out there because they're so... legal. You can tell that she used to be a lawyer, because her expertise in this field shines brightly and lends a sense of realism to the story that other books set in law firms just don't have. 

We were introduced to Knight & Payne two-and-a-half years ago when we met Leary Michaels and Reeve Holloway and watched them fall in love as they stood on opposite sides in a heated court case. Pecker Briefs is similar in that Viveka Jones and Ford Daniels are arguing opposite sides of an animal rights case about woodpeckers. We met Ford in Friction as he was Leary's on-again off-again friend with benefits. Nowadays, since Leary and Reeve are married and expecting a baby, Ford is just the BFF - no benefits. 

But, the moment he meets Viv, he feels the instant connection and knows her presence in his case is going to be problematic. Viveka too feels what's between them, and although she tries to fight it for the good of her case, she knows that giving in is inevitable. 

You would think that Viv and Ford's relationship would be the big drama point of the story, but it's really not. And I kinda loved that about this book. There were no games, no push and pull, no dramatic misunderstandings - none of the usual plot devices designed to rip budding couples apart. And what a marvelous thing that was. No - the real drama came from the increasing danger Viv finds herself in due to a disgruntled opponent and how she's supposed to stay safe and do her job at the same time. 

Ford and Viv are a great couple with a ton of chemistry. Viv, especially, really impressed me. She's a great example of a strong female character. She's intelligent, brave and confident, yet she's not afraid to ask for help or to be upset when the situation warrants it. 

The set-up of The Pecker Briefs might somewhat mimic Friction, but it's definitely got a lighter feel to it. A lot of that has to do with the subject matter. Viv is defending the red-cockaded woodpecker, so you can imagine all the word puns that came into play. Viv and Ford are electric between the sheets and incredibly sweet and adorable when in public. 

As expected, I loved The Pecker Briefs. I certainly hope that this is not the last story we see come out of Knight & Payne. 

April 11, 2018

RELEASE WEEK REVIEW: Close Cover (Masters and Mercenaries #16)

Close Cover (Masters and Mercenaries #16), by Lexi Blake
Publish Date:
April 10, 2018
Publisher: Evil Eye Concepts
Format: e-ARC, provided by the author
Genre: adult suspense/contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon

Rating: 5 STARS

(Synopsis) Remy Guidry doesn’t do relationships. He tried the marriage thing once, back in Louisiana, and learned the hard way that all he really needs in life is a cold beer, some good friends, and the occasional hookup. His job as a bodyguard with McKay-Taggart gives him purpose and lovely perks, like access to Sanctum. The last thing he needs in his life is a woman with stars in her eyes and babies in her future. 

Lisa Daley’s life is finally going in the right direction. She has finally graduated from college after years of putting herself through school. She’s got a new job at an accounting firm and she’s finished her Sanctum training. Finally on her own and having fun, her life seems pretty perfect. Except she’s lonely and the one man she wants won’t give her a second look.

There is one other little glitch. Apparently, her new firm is really a front for the mob and now they want her dead. Assassins can really ruin a fun girls’ night out. Suddenly strapped to the very same six-foot-five-inch hunk of a bodyguard who makes her heart pound, Lisa can’t decide if this situation is a blessing or a curse.

As the mob closes in, Remy takes his tempting new charge back to the safest place he knows—his home in the bayou. Surrounded by his past, he can’t help wondering if Lisa is his future. To answer that question, he just has to keep her alive.

A few books ago in the Masters and Mercenaries series, McKay Taggert set up a bodyguard - a.k.a. close cover - division and staffed it with several talented, sexy men. We've met all these men, peripherally at least, in previous books and novellas in the series. This was all a well-planned set-up for Lexi's Masters and Mercenaries crossover collection that she worked on with Larissa Ione, Corinne Michaels, J. Kenner, Carly Phillips and Susan Stoker. Each author took a guy (and a McKay Taggert admin) and wrote an awesome book about them. Close Cover is Lexi's contribution and follows team leader Remy Guidry.

Remy is hired by the Daley siblings (whom we've met in several different novellas) to protect their youngest sister Lisa from a mob boss whose crimes she discovered while working as an accountant for his company. Lisa and Remy have a history - she propositioned him at Sanctum and he flat out turned her down. Remy's attraction to Lisa is off the charts, which is why he rebuffed her - he's not planning on staying in Dallas, and he knew she might make him want to.

Close Cover is an awesome second chance story. While Lisa is, at first, not happy that Remy is her new neighbor, he quickly convinces her that they can use their proximity to burn off this chemistry between them before he leaves in a month.

When will these boys learn? I know girls get together and talk about all the details in their relationships, but honestly - the men could do with some of the same. Because, if they did, perhaps Remy would've known that lying to Lisa about the reason he is suddenly front and center in her life again - especially after sleeping together - was absolutely not the correct course of action. As many of his counterparts have discovered in the past. 

Close Cover features all the delicious danger and espionage that we have come to expect from a M & M book. When it's clear that Lisa is in grave danger, Remy's cover is blown and he's forced to take her with him to his hometown in the Louisiana bayou. The tension between Lisa and Remy - both sexual and anger-fueled - that carries on for quite awhile added the perfect amount of angst to the story. I also loved the change in scenery for part of the book. Remy's hometown is full of colorful and interesting characters, and watching Remy and Lisa settle in there was fun.

The prologue and the epilogue prove that the other stories in this crossover collection have been happening simultaneously, which means there's no real order in which to read them. I think you'll be able to appreciate each one individually and together as a group. While Close Cover is the only one in the collection that I've read so far, it's most definitely not going to stay that way. 

April 10, 2018

REVIEW, EXCERPT & GIVEAWAY: The World's Worst Boyfriend (Bad Boyfriend #1)

Erika Kelly kicks off a brand new series about four brothers who are rich, talented, athletic and total idiots when it comes to love. Check out my review and an excerpt from THE WORLD'S WORST BOYFRIEND.

The World's Worst Boyfriend (Bad Boyfriend #1), by Erika Kelly
Publish Date:
April 3, 2018
Publisher: self-published
Format: e-ARC, provided by the author and Inkslinger PR
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4.5 STARS

(Synopsis) Six years ago Fin Bowie made a decision that cost him the love of his life. Now his ex is coming back to town for her brother’s wedding, and he can finally make things right. Except, right before the event, a text he sent goes viral. Overnight, he becomes an international meme. And it’s hard to win your woman back when the whole world’s calling you The World’s Worst Boyfriend.

The last thing on Calliope Bell’s mind is getting back with Fin. Not when her life’s just gone sideways, forcing her to spend the summer in her hometown. She can’t be away from the New York art world this long, so she comes up with the idea to turn the hottest pop culture event of the moment into a museum exhibition.

The two have every intention of avoiding each other—until the county judge sentences Fin to community service…helping her exploit the meme he's trying to make go away.

Quite awhile ago, Erika teased me on Twitter, telling me that she was working on a new series about four brothers who would knock my socks off. 

She was right.

The World's Worst Boyfriend kicks off her new Bad Boyfriend series, and it does, indeed, provide a good introduction to the Bowie brothers, each of whom are beautiful, athletic, and totally stupid when it comes to women and priorities. But, it's not their fault. They were raised by their loving father who doted on them and provided for their every need and want with his billions of dollars. He taught them the importance of family. Apparently, youngest brother Fin took that lesson a bit too far. 

Because many years earlier, he proved to the love of his young life that she would never come first. His priority has always been and will always be to his brothers. And, she couldn't live with that (rightfully so). So, Callie left him - and not only him. To escape the devastating hurt she felt, she left her town, her family, her friends - everything that was tied to him - behind as she pursued her own dreams. 

Now, Callie is back in town for her brother's wedding and forced to see Fin for the first time in more than six years. But, before Fin arrives, a text to a friend goes viral, the meaning is interpreted all wrong, and Fin becomes a living breathing embodiment of douchebag exes everywhere. 

Both Callie and Fin have to learn how to embrace things you can't change and move on from them in healthy ways. That's something they haven't been able to do. In her effort to escape her heartbreak, she cut herself off from everyone who loved her. She transformed herself into someone she's not. It took her longer than it should have for her to realize how much she cost herself by doing that. But, she did eventually figure it out and set out to make amends. I loved the growth I saw in her and appreciated how difficult it must've been. 

Fin can't change how the meme snowballed or how it might affect his career. He also can't change the bad choices he made. But, he is determined from the very beginning to do better now. Especially since he never stopped loving Callie. But this man is clueless. He might say and feel totally devoted to Callie this time around, but it's impossible to change 25 years of conditioning overnight. His first instinct is to be with his brothers, and Fin has to learn the hard way that he can't do that and be with Callie the way she needs at the same time. It's about balance, and that's something Fin has always struggled with. And, as a result, as much as I loved Fin, I struggled with my desire to yell at him to stop being a dumbass. 

None of the remaining Bowie brothers seems to be much better at organizing priorities correctly - particularly in regards to the bomb that's dropped at the end of this book, which will undoubtedly lead us into the next book and the next brother's story. Can't wait to see what's in store for these boys next.

“Guess what, Callie? Love isn’t safe. It’s messed up and crazy and it hurts like hell. But why would you want anything less than what we had? Jesus, what we had—it was more than love. It was…Dammit. Why do I have to explain this to you? I’m empty without you, and no other woman, no friend or brother—no one can take your place. You’re part of me. And I’m sorry but I’m not buying that you’ve moved on. We screwed up, and we got lost, but I will be damned if I accept that you’d rather have some boring, bland relationship than me.” He reached for her, pulling her hard against him, gaze focused on her mouth.

Slowly, he leaned in, overwhelming her with his masculine scent. He pressed a soft, gentle kiss that sent an alarming rush of desire through her body. A lick of his tongue across her lips had her mouth opening to him, welcoming him, and then it happened.

Fin kissed her. Kissed her the way he always had—hungry, desperate, a barely contained expression of carnal need.

He kept his hands to himself, their mouths the only point of connection. His kiss tasted sweet like love, hot like passion, like everything beautiful in the world grew out of this, the tender intimacy of two souls finally, finally rejoining.

The moment she reached for him, restless for the press of his hard body against hers, he tore his mouth away. “You wanna settle for less than that?”

Award-winning author Erika Kelly has been spinning romantic tales all her life--she just didn't know it. Raised on the classics, she didn't discover romantic fiction until later in life. From that moment on, she's been devouring the genre and has found her true voice as an author. Over three decades she's written poems, screenplays, plays, short stories, and all kinds of women's fiction novels. Married to the love of her life and raising four children, she's lived in two countries and seven states, but give her pen and paper, a stack of good books, and a steaming mug of vanilla chai latte and she can make her home anywhere.

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March 29, 2018

REVIEW: Angels Fall (Original Sin #2)

Angels Fall (Original Sin #2), by JA Huss and Johnathan McClain
Publish Date:
March 27, 2018
Publisher: self-published
Format: e-ARC, provided by the authors
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4.5 STARS

(Synopsis) Sometimes angels fall. 

Maddie doesn’t really owe drug lord, Carlos Castillo, money. So she hadn’t taken his threats seriously. Until now. He wants it, whether she owes it or not. And if she doesn’t have it in six weeks he’s gonna take her as payment instead.

Tyler would save the world if he could. That’s a fight that lasts forever. And if there’s one thing he’s good at, it’s fighting. So if Maddie thinks she’s gonna deal with an insane drug lord on her own, she’s crazier than he is.

She’s got a debt she can’t pay. He’s got more money than he needs.She’s not gonna fall for his charm. He’s gonna make sure that happens.

They’re destined to be together. Even if Maddie doesn’t know it yet.

Sometimes your soul mate isn’t who you’d choose, it’s who you need.

Good thing you don’t get to choose.

Two books in to the Original Sin series, I'm totally on board with this brand new writing duo. I've been a big fan of Julie Huss' for years now, but this series is her first foray into co-authoring, so I didn't know how it would go. You know? I think I can safely say at this point that I love the work that she's putting out in partnership with actor and audiobook narrator Johnathan McClain. It feels like a JA Huss book, but yet it has a slightly different flavor and voice, which, I think, really is enhancing this reading experience. 

Since this is the second book in a four-book series, and a lot of the events in book two are a continuation of things that started in book one, I can't go into a lot of detail about what happened. However, here's what I CAN say...

In the beginning of Angels Fall, Maddie and Tyler had an insurmountable gulf to overcome if they were to have any sort of relationship. They were also in two very different places as to their future goals - Tyler was all in. He was going after Maddie full boar and was not going to take no for an answer. Maddie, however, wanted nothing to do with Tyler and was sure she could never get over her anger and disappointment in him. However, Tyler's persistence and Maddie's acceptance of things that can't be changed made huge strides, and toward the end of this book, we saw them finally moving in the right direction, which made my heart so freaking happy.

Angry Sex (... and Make-up Sex... and Kinky Sex... and Tunnel Sex... and...)
Maddie hating Tyler for a period of time during this book didn't put any damper on their sex. Like, AT ALL. I was cool with that, because it proved that, even though they were not in a good place, there was still all this passion between them, and that's a start. Even the super angry sex signified hope to me, because if Maddie truly didn't want anything to do with Tyler, I have every confidence, she would've put him in his place and moved on. Instead, they took out their frustrations and their sadness and their love and their anger on each other, and it made for some incredibly awesome reading.

Revisiting the Past
The big focal point of Angels Fall is rehashing what happened to Scotty and how it affected Maddie and Tyler, both individually, and now as a couple. We heard Tyler's account of the events in book 1, and in book 2, we get Maddie's perspective. We get to see the healing affect it has on both of them. Even before Maddie talks to Tyler about it all, we see her taking steps to get past the tragedy - steps she should've taken a long time ago. But, it's in these actions that we can see that, even though she's still incredibly mad at Tyler, his influence in her life now is a positive one. The character growth that the authors have injected into Maddie and Tyler is incredibly satisfying and very well done.

Hope in the Face of Tragedy
Despite Maddie and Tyler getting to a hesitantly good place together by the end of Angels Fall, there's no doubt that there's still plenty of bad stuff swirling around them - particularly Maddie. Drug lord Carlos Castillo still wants his money, and his henchman Logan is wanting a little extra punishment on the side. Both Maddie and Tyler have been so despondent in their lives lately, to the point of each of them contemplating suicide. But, the reconnecting that Maddie starts and the healing that Tyler starts gives them the desire to finally start fighting back. There are some events at the end of Angels Fall that dramatically affect them, and now there is a fire lit beneath them that will carry into book 3. Carlos and Logan better watch out...

March 20, 2018

RELEASE DAY REVIEW: Tempting Little Tease (Forbidden Desires #4)

Tempting Little Tease (Forbidden Desires #4), by Kendall Ryan
Publish Date:
March 20, 2018
Publisher: self-published
Format: e-ARC, provided by the author
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4 STARS

(Synopsis) She's the tutor I hired to teach me Italian.

She's way too young for me, but she's also gorgeous, bright and filled with a curiosity about life that I find incredibly refreshing.

It's fucking adorable.

I’m old enough to know better, but this pretty young thing tempts me beyond belief. And for the first time in my life, I can see myself falling.

Is this what it's like to be pursued by an older man? The complete confidence, the lack of expectations, the sincerity?

My God, it's exhilarating.

Quinn Kinglsey is totally unexpected. I'm moving to Italy in three weeks to teach English, and while I never expected something so real to develop between us so quickly, our chemistry is explosive.

There's something so sexy about this back and forth he and I share. Flirting with this man is like playing with fire, and I'm bound to get burned.

Io sono attratto da te I'm attracted to you, he tells me.

But is our attraction enough to get us through the complications of a massive age gap and an international love affair? Only one way to find out…

Tempting Little Tease spells the end of the Forbidden Desires series... or is it? Each of the books has followed one of the three Kingsley brothers (books 1 and 2 were both about middle brother Gavin), but Kendall Ryan threw us a delightful twist in this book that opens the door just a bit for at least one more book in this sexy series. I'm TOTALLY down for that. 

While the first three books in the series were angsty and emotional and very much a roller coaster ride of highs and lows, Tempting Little Tease was much more steady and sure. It's really only right that it's like that, since oldest brother Quinn has always been the calm in the Kingsley storm. He's been Switzerland while Gavin and Cooper went through their problems with each other, never picking sides, and always trying to play the peacemaker. 

Quinn has stood by and watched Gavin and Cooper find the loves of their lives. He's seen them settled and his business taken into a good place after a bit of scandal. It's now his time to find love, and it just so happens to be with a woman who is quite a bit younger than him. I wouldn't exactly classify this relationship as a true May/December, but there's definitely enough of a gap to give both Quinn and Alessandra pause. 

To be fair, they didn't pause long. They knew immediately when she walked into his office to help continue his Italian lessons that there was a big connection there. I was so glad they didn't make their ages a big deal. Quinn is 38 and Alessandra is 22 - both are completely legal and able to decide who they want. 

The biggest roadblock to them being together is the fact that Alessandra has a one-way ticket to Rome that leaves in three weeks. She intends to move there permanently to live and teach in a new country. Again - there wasn't a ton of over-amplified drama around her impending move, which I also appreciated. There was more of a quiet determination on Quinn's part to squeeze as much substance out of their time together as possible, and maybe she will fall so hard for him, she'll decide to stay. It's a solid plan - much better than any games or hyped up angst that you see in some books. 

The only thing I felt was missing from Tempting Little Tease was Forbidden Desires. While Gavin and Cooper's romances developed at work, and as such, we saw a lot of the inner workings of the company, Quinn and Alessandra fell in love outside of work. I missed the workplace banter between the brothers and I missed some of the drama a business like theirs comes with.

Although there is a door that was opened to a possible fifth book in this series, but even if there isn't one, the ending of Tempting Little Tease - and the Forbidden Desires series - was completely satisfying. I really loved Quinn and Alessandra as a couple, and I loved the catch-ups with Gavin and Emma and Cooper and Corinne. It was a sexy, sweet romance from the amazing Kendall Ryan.

March 19, 2018

RELEASE WEEK REVIEW: The Prophecy (Titans #4)

The Prophecy (Titans #4), by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publish Date:
March 20, 2018
Publisher: self-published
Format: e-ARC, provided by the author
Genre: new adult paranormal romance
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 5 STARS

(Synopsis) History is on repeat…

Seth never thought he’d have a future. But now he’s on the brink of having it all with Josie: A tomorrow. A family. A forever. And all that's standing between him and that forever is the Titans. If he helps Josie entomb them -- without killing them, a nearly impossible task for him -- everything he could ever want will be in reach. But he soon realizes that as a god, every little choice he makes can reshape the world for the better… or worse. And in meddling with the Titans, Seth may have just set into motion catastrophic consequences that will force the Olympians to enter the mortal realm and reshape the delicate balance of power that keeps the world from total collapse.

A price must be paid…

Entombing the Titans is Josie’s top priority. After all, it was what she was born to do. But the plans her father put into play to help her are no longer an option, and the odds she and Seth face in forging their own path are grim. The escalating violence between halfs and pures only increases the danger closing in on them and their friends. Josie knows their chances of succeeding in their task are slim at best -- and if they fail, they might lose everything. But she also knows she's not fighting just for herself -- she's fighting for the man she loves, for their future, for the world. Together with the Army of Awesome, Josie and Seth will face the unthinkable. And to win this war, the ultimate sacrifice must be made.

For the end is here and the Prophecy will be fulfilled….

The end of this series - and these characters - has been a long time coming. Nearly seven years ago, Jennifer Armentrout introduced us all to The Covenant world, which is full of the best heroes, the worst villains, and the most shocking events. And now, nine full-length books and a hand full of novellas later, we have to say goodbye. But, Jen Armentrout has given us the perfect send-off to these beloved characters in The Prophecy. 

I can't tell you a lot about what happens in The Prophecy without giving away major spoilers from the first three books in The Titans series. I can tell you that revelations at the end of the third book have definitely changed Josie's frame of mind. She's a different person in The Prophecy - more confident, more determined and definitely more careful and calculating. She still wants to help save the world, but she isn't going to be going in guns blazing anymore. 

"I could never give up on you. Not just because I love you, but because you're worth fighting for, Seth. You're worth loving, and if it takes a hundred years to prove that to you, I will."

Seth, too, is different, although not in the same way. He's still headstrong and foul-tempered most of the time. But, he's also now looking ahead to the future, and learning that his actions have consequences. He's trying to protect the woman he loves and save the world alongside her, without too many irreparable repercussions. That shows a ton of maturity in this character that has never been known for being a grown-up. 

Truth was, I still wasn't worthy of her, but I was working on it.

If you like a lot of emotion in your books, then this one is definitely going to rank high on your list. I expected some feels - it IS the end of a series, after all. The heroes need to work and suffer a bit for their HEA. But, peoples... I needed SEVEN TISSUES to get me through the end of this five-star book. There's a lot of angst leading up to the events at the end of the book, and most of it centers around Josie's intense need for her dad. Things look so hopeless for her future, that, at one point, she cries out desperately for her father to come to her and help her. Or maybe just talk to her and give her his shoulder to cry on. She needs a father figure so badly, and yet, he continues to hide himself from her. My heart broke over and over for Josie in that regard. 

Since this is the end of the series, we see all of our favorite characters from the original Covenant series, as well as our new favorites from The Titans. Alex, Aiden, Luke, Deacon, Alexander, Laadan, Marcus, Erin and Colin all make appearances. I am amazed at Jen Armentrout's ability to bring things full circle. Events from The Covenant series came into play in remarkable ways in The Prophecy, and the result was a perfect feeling of satisfaction and closure at the end. 

"What I feel for you increases every waking moment and sometimes that scares the hell out of me, but I love you. Yesterday. Today. A thousand tomorrows from now, I will be in love with you."

Over the years, I've read about so many epic romances, but none equal the two from this world. First Jen gave us Aiden and Alex and then she gave us Seth and Josie. She created flawed, but brave men of integrity and passion. She wrote about badass women who love fiercely, fight courageously and screw up... well, quite a bit, actually. They might be fictional characters with crazy powers that can't possibly exist in our world, but they have never seemed more real. I appreciate that so much. I'll miss this amazing world, but The Prophecy has ensured that I will most definitely remember it fondly. 

March 6, 2018

RELEASE DAY REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Sin With Me (Original Sin #1)

SIN WITH ME is a crazy awesome start to a series I can't wait to continue. Check out my review and enter the giveaway...

Sin With Me (Original Sin #1), by J.A. Huss and Johnathan McClain
Publish Date:
March 6, 2018
Publisher: Science Future Press
Format: e-ARC, provided by the authors
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4.5 STARS

(Synopsis) Two broken people in a city fueled by sin.

Maddie isn’t looking to be saved. She knows the only person you can count on is yourself. Her moral compass might not point true North these days—but at least she’s still standing.

The Military taught Tyler about loyalty. Being there for your brothers is the only thing that matters—but when it mattered most, he wasn’t.

She’s got a ticket straight to Hell. He’s already been there and back.

She needs to win. He just needs to stop fighting.

Some sins scar your soul so deeply, you'll never be the same.

But this Devil in disguise might just be the angel he needs to forgive himself.

One of my favorite authors, Julie Huss, has teamed up with audiobook narrator and actor Johnathan McClain to write a series of romance books. Between a best-selling romance author and a romance audiobook narrator, I'd say they have the credentials to give us something good. 

And, based on book 1 in their Original Sin series, it's not just going to be good - it's going to be great. 

Maddie's and Tyler's lives have taken two different paths to the same place - rock bottom. When Sin With Me begins, that's where both of them are, even though rock bottom looks slightly different for each of them. 

Maddie is more than broke. After a string of failed business ventures, she's not only in debt, but she owes a very bad man a big sum of money. With a college degree and yet no professional prospects on the horizon, Maddie is forced to strip to pay her bills, and every time she does it, it sucks a little more of her soul away.

" eighteen, bad things, one after another, just kept delivering themselves to me, and now, seven years later, here we both sit. It makes me want to cry. Or scream, or run away. Or all three. But I can't. It's not who I am. I can't quit, I can't lose it and give in to weakness. I have to just knuckle down and keep going. Sometimes... sometimes I wish I was a quitter. It would be easier."

Tyler has more money than he can spend, but he hates how it came into his possession. His time as an explosives expert in the military is over, and now that he's home in Las Vegas, he doesn't know what to do next. His experiences while deployed and the fates that have befallen his friends are haunting him, and no amount of women or booze is helping him to move on. 

Both Maddie and Tyler need something to live for, because neither of them have that now. At various times in the book, both of them contemplate ending things for good. Truthfully, these two are some of the saddest and most despondent people I've ever read about. And yet...

When they are together, despite them both being total and complete hot messes, I actually have some hope that they could be okay eventually. It's this underlying hope that keeps the book from being utterly depressing. They are good for each other, even though I don't think they know that yet. They certainly are hot together, and they both definitely know that, even though Maddie continues to fight it every step of the way.

I just... want to listen to him. Hear his voice and see his smile. I want to feel his bare chest under my fingertips and know that we're in this night together. Whatever pain we have. Whatever regrets and bullshit are haunting us. We're in this night together.

There's something that ties Tyler and Maddie together, and while the reader is clued into this thing pretty early on, our main characters don't find out until the very end. And, that big reveal provides the backdrop for a jaw dropping ending. 

There's a lot of stuff for Maddie and Tyler to work out over the next three books. Maddie's still being chased by very bad, murderous men. Tyler is also in a bit of hot water by the very end. And they are definitely not at a good place in their relationship. I promise, you're going to want to read the next book in the series right away - I know I do. But, most of all, I just can't wait for Maddie and Tyler to find some freaking happiness. I have faith in Julie and Johnathan that eventually they'll get there. But, the journey looks like it's going to be quite a bit bumpy. 

Two accomplished writers come together to create unforgettable sexy romance. JA Huss is the New York Times bestselling author of 321 and has been on the USA Today bestsellers list eighteen times. Johnathan McClain is a veteran actor and writer whose work, either performed or written, is probably airing on at least one of the channels on your television right now. You can contact them on their website or find them at their social links below.




Enter below to win one of five $50 Amazon gift cards or one of 25 copies of Sin With Me signed by both authors (INTL).

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February 28, 2018

REVIEW: Baby Daddy

Baby Daddy, by Kendall Ryan
Publish Date:
February 27, 2018
Publisher: self-published
Format: e-ARC, provided by the author and Inkslinger PR
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4 STARS

(Synopsis) We met in a trapped elevator.

Emmett was on his way to work, sophisticated and handsome in his tailored suit and tie.

I was on my way to the sperm bank. Awkward, right?

At thirty-five, my life hadn’t taken the path I thought it would and I was tired of waiting—I wanted a baby. And I was ready to take matters into my own hands to make it happen.

After our ill-fated elevator encounter, Emmett insisted on taking me to dinner—he also insisted on something else—that I ditch my plan involving a turkey baster and let him do the job. He would be my baby daddy. He was a wealthy and powerful CEO with little interest in diapers or playdates. And since he didn’t want kids, I’d be on my own once his bun was in my oven, free to go my own way.

But once his baby was inside me, it was like a switch had been flipped, and I got a whole lot more than I ever bargained for.

*dreamy sigh*

Could Kendall Ryan make a more perfect man than Emmett Baxter? No. No, she could not. I mean, this guy is a sweet alpha male - a unicorn! He's rich, commanding, gorgeous, sexy humanitarian - he's willing to endure the pain and suffering of having tons of sex with a fascinating woman who desperately wants a baby. He's willing to give up all rights to the child and give her what she wants while getting what he wants - a hell of a good time. What a giving man. You know what they say about the best laid plans...

While I instantly fell in love with Emmett's charm, Jenna Porter was a character that I took a bit more time to warm up to. She's a business woman who has learned the hard way that men will disappoint you. Every. Time. She's 35 and wants a baby, so she's going to do it all by herself at the sperm bank. But, when the elevator malfunctions with her and Emmett in it, those plans are blown to pieces. Although she accepts his offer to put a bun in her oven, she acts very cold toward him for a very long time. She tries so hard to keep this situation strictly a business transaction, and in the face of Emmett's sweetness, that was frustrating.

Emmett's transformation over the course of the book was my favorite part. He starts out as this island of a man - one who doesn't really do close relationships, especially with women. He always treats them with respect, but he never, ever gets close. This brilliant man thinks he can make a woman pregnant and not get close to her. As he learns, that's completely impossible. And through his interactions with Jenna - both in bed and out of it - and the possibility of a future he never even thought of, he changes his priorities and his own dreams.

Jenna took a little longer to follow in his footsteps. And as a reader knowing that these two had an additional, professional connection that was bound to blow up in their faces, and not knowing precisely when that would happen, you knew that things weren't going to go smoothly for these two for awhile. And that was okay. Because watching them fall in love and prepare for a new baby while trying to remain "friends" was a ton of fun.

Baby Daddy was a fantastic read with a dreamy hero that you won't soon forget.

February 22, 2018

PRE-ORDER INCENTIVE & CHAPTER REVEAL: Moonlight Seduction (de Vincents #2)

Recently, I raved about how much I loved MOONLIGHT SINS, the first in Jennifer L. Armentrout's new de Vincent series. Book 2 in the series - MOONLIGHT SEDUCTION - is on its way, but you'll have to wait until June to get it. I know! I hate the wait too.

But, here are two things to help ease the blow.

First, I have the first chapter for you to sink your teeth into. And then, since I know you'll love it so much that you won't want to forget to own it the day it comes out, I have an awesome Moonlight Seduction pre-order campaign for you!

Read on for the deets...

Moonlight Seduction (de Vincent #2), by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publish Date:
June 26, 2018
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

(Synopsis) Nicolette Bresson never thought she’d return to the de Vincents’ bayou compound. It’s where her parents work, where Nikki grew up... and where she got her heart broken by Gabriel de Vincent himself. Yet here she is, filling in for her sick mother. Avoiding Gabe should be easy, especially when so much of Nikki’s time is spent trying not to be stabbed in the back by the malicious hangers-on who frequent the mansion. But escaping memories of Gabe, much less his smoking-hot presence, is harder than expected—especially since he seems determined to be in Nikki’s space as much as possible.

Gabriel spent years beating himself up over his last encounter with Nikki. He’d wanted her then, but for reasons that were bad for both of them. Things have now changed. Gabe sees more than a girl he’s known forever; he sees a smart, talented, and heartbreakingly beautiful woman... one who’s being stalked from the shadows. Now, Gabe will do anything to keep Nikki safe—and to stop the de Vincent curse from striking again.

Six years later . . .

It took every ounce of self-control for Gabriel de Vincent to stand back and do nothing. Just stand there and watch him being led away, but that’s what he had to do, because that’s what he’d promised and Gabe tried to be a man of his word.

Sometimes he failed at that. Failed at that in ways that haunted him late at night, but he wouldn’t go back on this.

He’d promised them three uninterrupted months. That’s what he was going to give them. His jaw ached from how hard he was clenching it as the Rothchilds walked back into the restaurant. He didn’t take his eyes off them, not until he couldn’t see them anymore. Only then did he look at the slip of paper.

Looking down at the drawing of puppy on a piece of blue construction paper, he felt the worst mix of emotions. Sadness. Pride. Helplessness. Hope. Fury that he’d never tasted before. He had no idea how one person could feel all of that at once, but he did.

A wry smile tugged at his lips. There was definitely talent in the drawing. Real skill. The de Vincent knack for the arts was still kicking around it seemed.

His gaze flickered over what was written in a blockish handwriting. He’d already read in three times, but couldn’t bear to read it a fourth time. Not right now. He didn’t want to fold the paper and created creases in it, so he was careful as he carried it back to where he was parked.

“Gabriel de Vincent.”

Frowning at the vaguely familiar voice, he turned around. A man stepped out from behind a truck. Dark, square sunglasses shielded half the man’s face, but Gabe recognized him.

He sighed. “Ross Haid. To what do I owe the honor of seeing you in Baton Rouge?”

The reporter for the Advocate gave one of what Gabe assumed was a trademark half grin; the kind that probably got him into a places and events he sure as hell didn’t belong in. “Headquarters are here. You know that.”

“Yeah, but you work out of the New Orleans office, Ross.”

He shrugged a shoulder as he neared Gabe. “I had to come up to headquarters. Heard through the grapevine that a de Vincent was in town.”

“Uh-huh.” Not for one second did Gabe believe that. “And you just happen to hear that I was at this restaurant?”

The smile kicked up a notch as he ran a hand over his blond hair. “Nah. Seeing you here was just luck.”

Bullshit. Ross had been sniffing after his family for about two months now, trying to get to one of them when they were out at dinner or at an event, showing up at nearly every damn function one of them was attending. But back home, in New Orleans, Ross had trouble getting near them. Well, he had troubled getting to the one he really wanted to talk to which was Gabe’s older brother.

Didn’t require any leap of logic to figure out what was going on. Somehow Ross had heard that Gabe was here, and that’s why Ross conveniently ended up here. Normally he could tolerate Ross’ incessant questioning. Hell, he sort of liked the guy, appreciated his determination, but not when Ross was here and something he didn’t want a reporter finding out mere feet away.

Lowering his sunglasses, Ross eyed Gabe’s ride. “Nice car. Is it one of the new Porsche 911s?”

Gabe raised his brows.

“Family business must be going well. Then again, the family business is always going strong, isn’t it? The de Vincents are old money. The one percent of the one percent.” Gabe’s family was one of the oldest, linked all the way back to the days the great state of Louisiana was being created. Now they owned the most profitable oil refineries in the Gulf, coveted real estate all around the world, tech firms, and once his older brother married, they’d be in control of the one of the largest shipping industries in the world. So, yeah, the de Vincents were wealthy, but the car and nearly everything Gabe owned, he bought it with the money he worked for. Not the money he was born with.

“Some say that your family has so much money, that the de Vincents are above the law.” Ross straightened his sunglasses. “Seems that way.”

Gabe really didn’t have time for this. “Whatever you want to say, can you stop beating around the damn bush and get to it? I’m planning to head home sometime in the next year.”

The reporter’s smile faded. “Since you’re here and I’m here, and it’s damn hard to talk to you all any other time. I want to chat about your father’s death.”

“I’m sure you do.”

“I don’t believe it was a suicide,” Ross continued. “And I find it also convenient that Chief Cobbs, who openly and publicly wanted your father’s death investigated as a homicide ended up dead in a freak car accident.”

“Is that right?”

Frustration hummed off Ross about as loud as the damn locusts. “Is that all you got to say to me about this?”

“Pretty much.” Gabe grinned then. “That and you have an overactive imagination, but I’m sure you’ve heard that before.”

“I don’t think my imagination is nearly vast enough to compete with all the things the de Vincents have had their hands in.”

Probably not.

“Okay, I won’t ask you about your father or the chief.” Ross shifted his weight as Gabe opened his driver’s door. “Also heard some interesting rumors about some of the staff at the de Vincent compound.”

“I’m started to feel like you might be stalking us.” Gabe placed the drawing facedown on the passenger’s seat. “If you want to talk about staffing, then you need to have a chat with Dev.”

“Devlin won’t make time to talk to me.” “That doesn’t sound like my problem.” “It seems like it is now.” Gabe laughed, but the sound was without humor as he reached inside, grabbing his sunglasses off the visor. “Trust me, Ross, this isn’t my problem.”

“You may not think so now, but that’ll change.” A muscle twitched along the man’s jaw. “I plan to blow the roof of every single damn secret the de Vincents have been keeping for years. I’m going to do a story that not even your family can pay to keep quiet.”

Shaking his head, Gabe slipped his sunglasses on. “I like you, Ross. You know I’ve never had a problem with you. So, I just want to get that out of the way. But you have got to come up with some better material, because that was clichĂ© as shit.” He rested his hand on the frame of the car door. “You’ve got to know you’re not the first reporter to come around thinking they’re somehow going to dig some skeletons out of our closets and expose us for whatever the hell you think we are. You’re not going to be the last to fail.”

“I don’t fail,” Ross said. “Not ever.” “Everyone fails.” Gabe climbed in behind the wheel. “Except the de Vincents?” “You said it, not me.” Gabe looked up at the reporter. “Some unasked for advice? I’d find another story to investigate.” “Is there where you’re going to tell me to be careful?” He sounded oddly gleeful by the prospect. “Warn me off? Because people who mess with the de Vincents end up missing or worse?”

Gabe smirked as he hit the ignition key. “Doesn’t sound like I need to tell you that. Seems like you already know what happens.”

Nikki stood in the center of the quiet and sterile kitchen of the de Vincent mansion, telling herself that she was not the same little idiot that almost drowned herself out in the pool six years ago.

She sure as hell wasn’t the same idiot who had spent years making an utter fool out of herself, chasing after a grown man. An act, which resulted in one of the worst ideas she’d ever had in the history of bad ideas.

And Nikki had a remarkable history of making not the brightest of all decisions. Her dad said she had a bit of wild streak in her, taking after Pappy, but Nikki liked to blame the de Vincents for the recklessness. They had this really bizarre talent of making everyone around them stick one toe into Recklessville.

Her mother claimed that most of Nikki’s bad decisions came from having a good heart.

Nikki had the habit of picking up strays—stray cats, dogs, a lizard here and there, even a snake, and humans, too. She was a bleeding heart, hating to see anyone she cared about in pain and she was oftentimes a bit overly affected by the troubles of strangers.

It was why she avoided the TV around the holidays, because they always played those heart-wrenching videos of freezing animals or children left to starve in war-torn countries. She hated everything about New Year’s Eve because of that and spent the week between Christmas and the first of January moping around.

There was a lot of Nikki that was the same as she was the last time she walked through this house. She still got emotionally invested in animals that didn’t belong to her—that was why she volunteered at the local animal shelter. She still couldn’t turn away from someone who needed help, and she still found herself in weird situations but reckless? Wild?

Not anymore.

Not since the last time she’d been in the house, right before she left for college. That had been four years ago and now she was back, and nothing and everything had changed.

“You okay, hon?” her father asked.

Turning to find her father standing just inside the large kitchen, she pulled herself out of her thoughts and smiled widely for him. Goodness, her dad was starting to look his age, and that scared her—truly terrified her. Her parents had her late in life, but she was only twenty-two, and she wanted another fifty years or so with them.

Nikki knew that wasn’t going to happen. Especially now. She forced those thoughts from her head. “Yes. I’m just . . . it’s weird being in here after being gone so long. The kitchen is different.” “It was remodeled a few years back,” he replied. The mansion was constantly being remodeled it seemed. After all, how many times had this place caught fire since it was built? Nikki had lost count. Her father drew in a deep breath, and the lines around his mouth became more pronounced. He looked so tired. “I don’t know if I’ve said this to you or not, but thank you.”

She waved him off. “You don’t need to thank me, Dad.”

“Yeah, I do.” He walked over to where she stood. “You went away to college to do something better than this—better than cooking dinners and running a household. To become something better.”

Offended on his behalf, she crossed her arms and met his weary gaze. “There’s nothing wrong with cooking dinners and running a household. It’s good, honest work. Wok that put me through college. Right, Dad?”

“We take great pride in our job. Don’t get me wrong, but what your mother and I did all these years was so you could do something else.” He sighed. “So, it means a lot that you would come home to help us out, Nicolette.”

Only her dad and mom called her by her full name. Everyone else called her Nikki. Everyone except a certain de Vincent who shall remained nameless. He and only he called her Nic.

Her parents had worked for the de Vincents, one of the wealthiest families in the States and possibly the world, since long before she was born. It was weird growing up in this house, being privy to a lot of strange stuff—things the public has no idea about and would probably pay a large sum of money to learn. And personally? It was like she had a foot in two different worlds, one absurdly wealthy and the other middle working class.

Her father was basically a butler, except she always had a small suspicion that her father had . . . taken care of things for the de Vincents that no normal butler did. Her mother ran the day-to-day functions of the house and prepared the dinners. Both her parents loved working for the family and she knew both had planned to continue to the day they died, but her mom . . . .

Nikki’s chest squeezed painfully. Her mom was not well and it had happened so fast, coming out of nowhere. The dreaded C word.

“Honestly, this is perfect. I got my degree and this will give me time to figure things out.” In other words, figure out what the hell she wanted to really do with her life. Get to work or go for her master’s? She wasn’t sure yet. “And I want to be here while Mom is going through everything.”

“I know.” His smile wobbled a little as he brushed a strand of blondish-brown hair out of her face.

“We could’ve hired someone else to step in while your mother—”

“No, you couldn’t have.” She laughed at the mere thought of that. “I know how weird the de Vincents are. I know how protective you two are of them. I know how to keep my mouth shut and not see what I’m not supposed to. And you two don’t have to worry about someone new not keeping their mouth shut and not seeing what they’re not supposed to.”
Her dad arched a brow. “A lot of things have changed, honey.”

She snorted as she took in the white marble countertops with gray veining. Mom had filled her in on some of those changes during one of her chemo treatments. After all, what else did they have to talk about while she was being pumped full of poison that would hopefully kill only the cancer cells building in her lung?

Things in the de Vincent mansion that had changed.

For starters, the patriarch of the family, one Lawrence de Vincent, had hung himself a few months back. An act that had shocked her because she figured that man would’ve outlived a nuclear bomb. And Lucian de Vincent apparently had a live-in girlfriend and they were about to move into their own place. That was even more insane, the idea of Lucian settling down.

The Lucian she remembered put the play in player. He’d been an incorrigible flirt, leaving a string of broken hearts across the state of Louisiana and beyond.

She hadn’t met his girlfriend yet since they were away on some kind of trip; the rich rarely seemed to have much of a schedule. She just hoped whoever his girlfriend was, she was nice and nothing like Devlin’s fiancĂ©.

Nikki might not have been around the de Vincents in four years, but she remembered Sabrina Harrington and her brother Parker.

Sabrina had just begun seeing Devlin the year before Nikki had left for college and that had been a year’s worth of snide comments and rather impressive disdainful looks. Nikki could deal with Sabrina though. If she was the same woman as she was before, she could be as mean as a cornered rattlesnake, but Nikki normally didn’t even register on her scale of people to pay attention to.

Parker though?

Nikki suppressed a shudder, not wanting to worry her father who was watching her like a hawk.

Parker had often stared at her the way she’d wanted Gabe to look at her, especially when she had grown brave enough to move from a one-piece bathing suit to a two-piece.

And Parker . . . he had done more than look.

She drew in a deep breath. She wasn’t going to think about Parker. He wasn’t worth a single thought.

What happened to Lawrence, and Lucian’s new romance weren’t the only things her mom had told her. She filled Nikki in on the whole sister reappearing and then disappearing again thing. Something that she knew the general public had no idea had even happened. She didn’t know the details around it, but Nikki knew that in typical de Vincent fashion, it had to the most drama-llama-est thing possible.

And she also knew better than to ask questions about it. Her father stepped back. “The boys are all out.” Thank God and baby Jesus. “Devlin should be back this evening for dinner. He likes dinner to be ready at six. I believe Ms. Harrington will be joining him.” Well, thanking God and baby Jesus lasted all of five seconds. She resisted the urge to roll her eyes and make a gagging sound. “Okay.” “Gabriel is still in Baton Rouge, or at least, that’s the last I heard,” her father continued, ticking off the brothers’ schedules while she wondered what Gabe was doing in Baton Rouge. Not that she cared. She totally didn’t care whatsoever, but she wondered if it had anything to do with his woodworking business.

The man was talented with his hands. Really talented. Her cheeks flushed as an unwanted memory of how his calloused palms felt pierced her straight through the chest. Nope. Not going there. Absolutely not. There were examples of Gabe’s skill all around the house—the furniture, chair rails, and trim, even in the kitchen. All of the woodwork was designed and created by Gabe. As a little girl, she’d been fascinated with the idea of picking up a piece of wood and turning it into something that was truly a work of art. That fascination had turned into quite the hobby for Nikki.

It had started one long, fall afternoon when she was ten and she’d found Gabe outside, whittling away on a piece of wood. Out of boredom, she’d asked him to show her how he did it. Instead of shooing her off, Gabe had given her small scrapes of wood and showed her how to use a chisel.

She’d gotten pretty good at it, but she hadn’t picked up a chisel in over four years. Nikki refocused on what her dad was telling her. “We’re a little understaffed right now,” her dad continued. “So there’s a lot of dusting in your near future. Devlin is very much like his father.”


That was not a compliment in her book. “Is it the ghosts?” She half joked. “Scaring off the staff?” Her father shot her a look, but she knew damn well that her parents believed this

house was haunted. Hell, they wouldn’t even come here at night unless it was a dire emergency. None of the staff would and everyone in town knew the legends about the land the de Vincent mansion sat on. And who hadn’t heard about the de Vincent curse more than a time or two?

Being in this house as much as she had been in the past, she had seen some weird things and heard some stuff that couldn’t be explained. Plus she grew up within minutes of New Orleans. She was a believer, but unlike her friend Rosie, whom she met in college, she wasn’t obsessed with all things paranormal. Nikki operated on the whole if- you-don’t-acknowledge-ghosts-they-can’t-bother-you theory and so far it had worked so far wonderfully.

Then again, Nikki had only come here at night once in her life, and that had not turned out well at all. So maybe ignoring ghosts didn’t work, because she liked to think

she was possessed by one of ghosts that supposedly wandered the halls, and that was what provoked her to do what she’d done that night.

Nikki was well aware of how the house was run because she’d spent most of her summer vacations in the house watching her mom, so she got to work pretty quickly once her father left her.

First thing first was tracking down what staff they did have at the house. Understaffed her butt! The only staff they had left was her dad; the landscaper who was constantly mowing grass it seemed or re-mulching; the de Vincent driver; and Mrs. Kneely, an older woman who’d done the laundry services since Nikki was a little girl.

Beverly Kneely actually owed her own laundry business and only came to the house three times a week to take care of the linens and clothing.

According to Bev, whom she found in the large mudroom at the back of the house, packing up clothing that needed to be dry-cleaned, over the last couple of months, nearly everyone had quit.

“So, let me get this straight.” Nikki smoothed back a few strands that had escaped the knot she’d pulled her hair up in. “The waiters are gone, as are the maids?”

Bev’s buxom chest heaved as she nodded. “It’s just been your parents for the last three months. I think all that work was wearing poor Livie down.”

Anger flashed through Nikki. Hadn’t the de Vincents noticed how thin and tired her mom had been getting? How quickly she got out of breath? “Why didn’t the de Vincents hire someone to help?”

“Your father tried, but no one around here wants to come close to this place, not after what happened.”

She frowned. “You’re talking about Lawrence? What he did?”

Bev tied up the bags. “Not like that wasn’t bad enough, but that wasn’t the straw the broke the camel’s back around here.”

Nikki had no idea what she was talking about. “I’m sorry. I don’t think I’ve been updated on all the crazy. What else happened?”

Looking around the room, Bev arched her brows as she headed toward the side door. “Walls got ears. You know that. You want to know what’s been going on here, you ask your father or one of the boys.”

Her lips pursed. She was so not asking the boys.

Bev stopped at the door and looked back. “I don’t think Devlin is going to be happy when he sees what you’re wearing.”

“What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?” It was jeans and a black tee shirt. No way was she going to dress like her mom or her dad. Her willingness to help her parents did not extend to wearing uniforms.

She looked down at herself and saw the hole just below the knee. Nikki sighed. Devlin was probably going to have a problem with the hole, but what Nikki wanted to

know was what the hell had happened in this house to drive almost all the staff away? It had to be something. Not just because the de Vincents paid extraordinarily well, but also because her father hadn’t told her. And that meant it was something really bad.




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# 1 New York Times and # 1 International Bestselling author Jennifer lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. All the rumors you’ve heard about her state aren’t true. When she’s not hard at work writing. she spends her time reading, watching really bad zombie movies, pretending to write, hanging out with her husband and her Jack Russell Loki. In early 2015, Jennifer was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a group of rare genetic disorders that involve a breakdown and death of cells in the retina, eventually resulting in loss of vision, among other complications. Due to this diagnosis, educating people on the varying degrees of blindness has become of passion of hers, right alongside writing, which she plans to do as long as she can.

Her dreams of becoming an author started in algebra class, where she spent most of her time writing short stories….which explains her dismal grades in math. Jennifer writes young adult paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary romance.

She is published with Spencer Hill Press, Entangled Teen and Brazen, Disney/Hyperion and Harlequin Teen. Her Wicked Series has been optioned by PassionFlix. Jennifer has won numerous awards, including the 2013 Reviewers Choice Award for Wait for You, the 2015 Editor’s Pick for Fall With Me, and the 2014/2015 Moerser-Jugendbuch- Jury award for Obsidian. Her young adult romantic suspense novel DON’T LOOK BACK was a 2014 nominated Best in Young Adult Fiction by YALSA. Her adult romantic suspense novel TILL DEATH was a Amazon Editor’s Pick and iBook Book of the Month. Her young adult contemporary THE PROBLEM WITH FOREVER is a 2017 RITA Award Winner in Young Adult Fiction. She also writes Adult and New Adult contemporary and paranormal romance under the name J. Lynn. She is published by Entangled Brazen and HarperCollins.

She is the owner of ApollyCon and The Origin Event, the successful annual events that features over a hundred bestselling authors in Young Adult, New Adult, and Adult Fiction, panels, parties, and more. She is also the creator and sole financier of the annual Write Your Way To RT Book Convention, a contest that gives aspiring authors a chance to win a fully paid trip to RT Book Reviews.