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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