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.