Tag Archive | sex

The Break, Marian Keyes. The Crossroads Duet, Rachel Blaufeld

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The Break, Marian Keyes

The Break by [Keyes, Marian]

Genre: Women’s Fiction, romance.

Its years since I read a Marion Keyes novel. Looking back on my reading history for me it seems to go through cycles, and its been a while since I was attracted to this type of novel.

Something about it called to me though and I am so glad, its an incredible, moving, thoughtful novel, not all doom and gloom and sad broken relationships but sharp, witty humour, a wry look at the realities of modern day family life, a look at how our pasts can affect the now and how even the most content seeming people can crack.

I’m blaming Marion for the fact that today I’m feeling – as my dad would have said “like a wet weekend”. I’d just finished the fabulous Clara Coulson novella Dream Snatcher at about 8.30 last night and decided to start this.

I knew it was long, I love long novels so planned on reading to maybe half way, but time ticked on, midnight came and went and finally about 2 am I finished….

I just couldn’t stop, I had to know what would happen next, how Neeve’s vlog was doing, what Sofia was planning, how Keira was coping, Hugh leaving affected so many people.

Amy’s work partners, they’re supportive and yet there’s a job to be done, and who can really understand what’s happening on someone else life.

Amy’s friends all have different views, coloured by their own experiences, and then there’s her extended family, sisters and brothers, children, partners, and her parents, dad with dementia who scares off all but the most hardy of carers, and mum, well, she was a terrific lady, finally seemed to have found life after years of ill health that left her children to really bring up themsleves. I loved her in Neeve’s vlog, her way of saying what she wanted, what wasn’t really quite acceptable but with a charm and sparkle that negated any possible offence.

Then there’s Hugh and Amy. Amy had been through a husband leaving her already, divorced at 22 with a young child her husband had never helped since, despite his fame as a footballer, and all his money. She was determined to never rely on a man again, and she’d picked herself up, finagled the balance of work, home, childcare somehow, all the while helping her extended family.

Then Hugh came along….he’s a charmer, wears her down and is just truly adorable. He treats Neeve as his own, adores Kiera when she comes along just months into their dating, and when Amy’s irresponsible brother and his weird partner finally – well, dump I guess – their daughter Sofia on her Hugh just accepts her as part of the brood, and life expands to fit in yet another member.

They really seem to have a perfect marriage, money’s tight, but then so it is for most people, and finally they have a tiny nest egg after Hugh’s father dies and leaves them some money.

His death affects Hugh badly though, and a close friend dying soon after tips him into, not really depression but a sort of discontent with his life.  Amy thinks later Could she have seen this coming? I don’t think so, its easy to use hindsight but at the time we’re immersed in the eternal struggle of home, kids, family, work and sometimes it takes away moments when we could have spotted an issue. Or not. who knows?

When Hugh drops his bombshell, he’s done the figures, he’s spending some of the nest egg on six months away, backpacking in Asia. He’s not leaving her he says, he just won’t be married for that time.

Wham, poor Amy, she’s gutted and who wouldn’t be? Lets be clear, he’s planning to act as a single guy, tells Amy she has the same freedon and that he’ll be back to pick up things in six months.

I was so angry and yet like Amy so confused. How on earth did he think they could just pick up the reins again after that?

She tries all sorts of arguments, she reasons, offers other suggestions, cries, tries persuasion, guilt, everything she has. She loves him, he’s been her other half, her help-meet for so long and she can’t imagine life without him.

She could have ranted, run him down to freinds and family and yet, he’s still her Hugh, still the man she loves. That doesn’t sit well with everyone, and no-one really knows what to say or do.

The final day comes though, Hugh is off and the family have to learn to live without him. I was thinking “what happens now? What if he meets someone, what if Amy meets someone, and if they don’t, how can they pick up life without resentment?”

I really wanted to hate him, call him all sorts of names, and yet I couldn’t because I knew he wasn’t a selfish man, he’d just reached the point of no return, knew if he didn’t do something drastic he’d crack and they’d all fall. This way, well – if he’s very, very lucky maybe, just maybe they can get their lives back.

I don’t think he’d really though beyond that “must get away” issue he had, in theory it all worked because he wanted it to work but life isn’t that easy. Its a huge gamble, and I just had to see how it played out, hence the 2 am finish….

It could be a novel full of doom and gloom, bitterness, sadness, fractured families, but its not. We see just how families can pull together while also being a huge source of friction, see how we do cope when we think all is lost, life does go on, work has to be done, food has to be bought, bills to be paid. That drudgery, that slog provides the reason to keep going. And the humour. Surprisingly there’s a lot of really sharp, funny humour, moments and phrases that had me sniggering. I’m a bit of a face-book addict, have to have a sneak each morning to see what friends have been doing, have posted, and this gem really rang a chord

“Instagram is the worst for that inspirational crap. Nothing is too banal or too obvious that it can’t be posted”

Oh yes, I’ve seen so so many of those!!

I’ll stop now, I’ve rambled far too much but it really is a fantastic read, sharp and observant, full of pathos, sadness and yet hope, looking at families, at modern issues, at falling in love, and very importantly, staying in love, and just how far a marriage can stretch before it fractures.

It made me think “what would I do” and to be truthful, I don’t know, any more than Amy did.

Stars: Five, terrific read, hard to put down, so just leave yourself time so you’re not reading into early hours as I did!

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

 

 

Redemption Lane, Rachel Blaufeld
Genre:  Literature/Fiction, Contemporary Romance.
The Crossroads Duet by [Blaufeld, Rachel]

It’s on KU, and currently only 99p for the duo even if you don’t have KU. 

 

Genre:  Literature/Fiction, Contemporary Romance.

I haven’t yet read the second book, read the first ages ago and yesterday re-read that ready for reading book two. Today hopefully, maybe tomorrow. (edit 10 Sept – read it now – review at end)
Wow, what a read…its so packed with emotion, sadness, and really tugged at my sensibilities. I veered from hope to despair, from happiness to the depths of sorrow. It contains some really dark vibes at times – and of course that’s right up my street.
Its not all despair and melancholy though – there are breakthroughs when you feel this time they really will come through, and then dammit, something else happens and poor Bess or Lane is sent back to their demons.
I loved Bess, she’s really struggled to get back after hitting the bottom, nearly dying and ending in rehab. She was determined to put her past behind her – sadly though it wasn’t to be left behind but crept up, sneaking in by way of Lane.
Until then though she’s working hard, filling every hour she can with her job, attending meetings for addicts and with looking after the wonderful Brooks Bailey, her rescue dog. Its quiet up in the mountains where she lives but it suits her. She’s a small group of connections, they can’t really be called friends – more acquaintances really, from work or the addiction group. Somehow she’s getting by in life, its not fun but hard work but its all she knows now.
Lane, he’s got his own troubles and is always pulling his twin Jake out of situations. Then That night happens, when Bess collapses at Lane’s feet and somehow in the muddle of getting help for her he doesn’t follow up what happened, just leaves Jake and runs.
He’s now a rich and  successful CEO, and then on a working visit to a hotel he runs into Bess. Of course she doesn’t remember him, after all she was hardly in a position to notice anyone, and he just can’t stay away from her, there’s an attraction he can’t shut down. He’s never short of ladies, they flock to him being the magic duo of rich and good-looking, but it’s Bess he wants. Slowly he persuades her and they begin a relationship. Its fraught though from their demons of the past, from so many things that I began to think they’d never come through together. It was so tense at times, so edge of seat wondering what would happen, and then some beautiful moments when all was going well.
Of course secrets always come out in the end, and Lane’s knowledge of her collapse comes out just when things are going really well for them. Its not only that secret that comes out though, there’s the connections from the twins past, the secret that plagues Lane, gives him terrible nightmares, but he refuses to admit it or talk about it when Bess questions him. She loves him and wants to help, but each time he runs, just shuts her out and goes. It’s what he’s always done to cope but this time, if he wants Bess he needs to face up to his past.
It’s a complete novel, and wraps up beautifully with a quick glimpse into the future. Its a wonderful novel, more than just a simple romance, a feeling that this story could be real, and has some great secondary characters; Jake, Shirley, AJ, James – they all play a special part in making this book come alive for me.

Stars: Five, a great read, a romance but so much more than Just a romance…
ARC of book one provided by Netgalley and publishers.

Book two was so much luck book one, a very different story but with the same amazing characters, ones you love, ones you don’t…I so felt for Jake, his view of himself was so awful, he felt he didn’t deserve to be happy. I could understand his grudge against Shirley, what she said, what she did has left him with self loathing, with lifelong issues and he’s a broken man inside. Yet he’s such a generous person too, has good freinds, works hard, treats people really well. He’s turned his life around and yet still struggling to find his place in the world and then…he meets Allyson.
He’s besotted with her, in the same way Lane was with Bess. Its that Something – not really Love but some kind of powerful Pull – that made them both change their lives, made them decide That person simply must be part of it. Jake’s facing an uphill battle though. Like Bess, Allyson also has secrets, difficulties, things she hides from everyone. Slowly he wears her down – and what a man, he knows what he wants and goes all out. his past though isn’t all behind him, Allyson’s present brings her into real danger and at some point the two collide.
An amazing, emotional read, with real depth, not a light and fluffy romance but a very real feeling one, with some heart stopping moments.
another full five stars.
ARC provided by author and publishers

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Catching a Witch: Heidi Eljarbo, Touch of Night, Carin Rafferty

 

Catching a Witch: A Novel of Loyalty, Deception, and Superstition, Heidi Eljarbo

Catching a Witch: A Novel of Loyalty, Deception, and Superstition by [Eljarbo, Heidi]

Genre: Historical

I take a dip into historical novels every now and then and this one, covering the period when Witch-hunters were very active caught my eye. I’m very intrigued by the way the mass hysteria took hold so easily. seems weird to us now but I guess superstition abounded then when people had so little control over their lives, when animals sickened and died, crops failed, people were dogged by what seems like bad luck – and of course they wanted someone to blame. It was a way too of seeking vengeance for imagines or petty insults. Throw in the misogynistic men and its a recipe for disaster.
Disaster is just what happens when a student of the famed Matther Hopkin arrives in the sleepy little village where Clara lives. We see at first hand just how easy it is to whip up hatred, for innocent gestures to take on insidious meanings, for those who used herbs to heal others to be accuses of using witchcraft. Over it all is the witch-hunter and his self important acolytes in the village men. Not all of them, some stay fast but of course no-one dare speak out for fear of being the next accused. All except Clara, who does her best to stop the awful “trials” where in reality ladies stood no chance, once accused it was like a death sentence.
Its a scary thought but I could see people acting in a very similar way if this were to take place now. some people seem so full of bitterness, jealousy, a need to blame everyone but themselves and I’ve no doubt they would happily convince themsleves they were doing the right thing. we see so much hatred every day to anyone the slightest bit different from their peers and that would easily translate into a story like this today. 😦
I felt the historical aspect of the novel was well done, it was very realistic and genuine. I did feel the pacing was very slow for me though. some books need that but with this one I found it dragged in parts. I expected Clara’s friend to be accused sooner, but its almost halfway through before that happens. I didn’t feel “in” the story much of the time, but an observer, and found myself losing interest in sections. Overall I enjoyed it but it’s not a story I’d re-read.
Stars: three and a half. I enjoyed parts of it a lot, but other sections seemed very slow paced.

Touch of Night, The Sanctuary Series Book 1, Carin Rafferty

Touch of Night (The Sanctuary Series Book 1) by [Rafferty, Carin]

Genre: sci-fi and fantasy, Romance

Well, the description sounded interesting, but sadly this wasn’t one for me.

Lucien isn’t anyone to aspire to IMO, he cares about the coven, even though he’s been cast out, but his attitudes to mortals…well, he’s pretty scathing and rude.
Ariel wants to find her twin, the police won’t help and Lucien at first won’t either. Then he will…and that sets the tone for the book.

Both characters constantly change their minds, decide one thing and do another, don’t talk, focus on irrelevant issues, and disrespect the other. The same things are explained over and over, in case the reader just can’t quite grasp it.

I think the biggest issue for me though was the sex.
No matter what the problem sex in some form was the answer, even though Ariel says she doesn’t like Lucien, doesn’t trust him, just wants to find her brother. Lucien would never take a mortal for a mate, doesn’t like her, doesn’t find her attractive yet wants/has to have sex with her all the while. Reading minds, yep he needs to read her mind but they have to connect with sex, connecting with Armand, more sex, finding out who the strange warlock is, yep sex again….you’ve got it, sex is the answer to everything.

I like sex in a story, but it needs to fit, the story and reasons need to be strong enough and for me this just didn’t feel right.
Even the end I still felt they didn’t like each other and suddenly – bam- everything is perfect.

I won’t be continuing with the series, but as ever this is just my opinion, you may feel very differently. Others have 5 star loved it, so you chose.

Stars: Two, a miss for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Blackmail, Anna James Watson

Blackmail, Anna James Watson

Blackmail (Skeleton Key Book 1) by [Watson, Anna James]

Genre: erotica

A dip outside my norm, but I was pointed in this direction, and the book is free for KU subscribers. I love KU!
I do like erotica when it has a solid story attached. This was fun and certainly very steamy and sensual! I was a bit surprised to find it continues in further books, though look forward to reading more from the three main characters. Its labelled skeleton Key part 1 but there’s also a series called Skeleton Key, where different authors have written stories that are unconnected except for the title, so I mistakenly thought it was part of that, and not part 1 of a series by this author. My bad…but just in case you have that thought too 😉

I liked – and disliked in the case of Tristan – the characters here. They’re all in their 20’s and studying at school/uni?
As a UK reader sometimes the terminology can be confusing, and I found a few words here that even kindle look up couldn’t help, but context gives me a rough idea. One big issue for me was this Tap thing, its a big part of the story, involving people being selected for secret(ish) groups, and TBH I hadn’t a clue exactly what it was at first, but it became clear as the story went on.
American colleges/schools/universities seem to have a great emphasis on these lifelong clubs, which are often difficult to join. We don’t really do that so much in UK. Same with frat/sorority houses etc.

Anyway, Mia gets caught out, and caught up in some hot and sexy times with Tristan and Julian. The background connecting the trio, the story and the sex scenes is the clubs, and what happens and who can join.
There’s day to day stuff that makes the story feel real, and gives a sense of grounding to the characters, its not just a sex fest but a sexy story and I was disappointed when I came to the end and found…it wasn’t the end ;-0. I’d been watching the % bar waiting for some crisis as usually happens at about 70-80%  and thinking “what’s going on?” and then  realised around that, yep, there’s more to come.
I’m kind of sad as I want to know now whats going to come next, and pleased because it means the story gets longer to evolve, and that way we can really get to know the characters well.
Already I can see that Tristan is so much more than the jerk I first thought, but don’t yet know why he acts that way. I like Julian, he’s very self assured and composed, and Mia is learning a lot about herself. I think this has got the potential to develop into quite a complex series ( I hope), something that’s not often found in erotica, a genre that’s dominated IMO by the short’n’hot reads, where the story come last in priority. Its fun to get an erotic series with a solid and interesting, something I’ve not found very often so far, and something I’m looking forward to continuing. M.Q. Barber’s Neighbourly Affection series is one I really enjoy, though thats very BDSM orientated in comparison to this. Who knows how this one will develop though 😉 .
I did feel the story was a little overtaken by the sex, and that’s why its a four for me not a five, but as always sex is what many readers want, and they’re happy for story to come second. Its a very personal thing.

Stars: four, a good intro to a sensual and steamy series.

Pounding Skin, L.A. Witt. The Red, An Erotic Fantasy, Tiffany Reisz

The Red, An Erotic Fantasy, Tiffany Reisz

The Red: An Erotic Fantasy by [Reisz, Tiffany]

Genre:  Romance,Erotica

I love Tiffany Reisz’ stories, so well written, so full of interesting twists and turns and I have read and reread all the Original Sinners novels. So was really excited to get this, a novel “written” by Nora Sutherlin. I think its the book she’s writing in the very first of the series…I could be wrong on that.
Sadly, it Just Wasn’t One for Me, surprised me, shocked me that I really didn’t like it, I just didn’t expect that. I was looking forward to a typical sensual on the edge Tiffany read and what I got was something that made me seriuosly uncomfortable reading,  it’s fantasy possibly, but its presented as real, Mona thinks its real, we don’t really know when it happens what’s real, whether she’s dreaming, drugged, or having a genuine experience.

There were parts I enjoyed, the art links to the sex scenes, they were cleverly done and interesting, fitted the art gallery link, I loved the way the story winds round full circle and ties up so neatly.
Set against that though I found some of the sex scenes too disturbing – even gave me bad dreams…I’m very prone to them so avoid anything likely to set those off, my mind takes an idea and runs with it. This story though takes a direction I didn’t expect, not the spicy, sensual and edgy OS scenes I’m used to but ones with a supernatural edge that I feel uncomfortable with.

So, my BDSM knowledge comes purely from books, especially Original Sinners ones, so SSC and RACK are terms I agree with.
However the sex here takes a twist so that really Mona isn’t consenting, isn’t aware of risks she’s taking and the big bugbear – she has no safe-word. She signs a blank cheque for anything Malcolm wants to do to here almost. Is that consent? Is that Safe and Sane? Risk Aware? I don’t think so, and I’m uncomfortable with scenes where she isn’t consenting, even if she does enjoy what happens.
If someone orgasms does that make it not rape for example? That defence wouldn’t and shouldn’t work in real life or books IMO.
Throw in the Satyrs and the Minotaur and it was a step too far for me, a little too animalistic. I love fantsy and paranormal so I’m used to werewolves having sex, but they don’t do it in their werewolf or part werewolf form – well, not in the books I like.
There’s a thin line between art and porn whether its sculptures, paintings or writings and this for me is reaching the wrong end of the scale. I can see others love it, and that’s great but for me its a step too far.
I enjoyed the story, thought it had a clever twist – a few clever twists, but I didn’t like the execution of some of the sex scenes.
I’ve loved all the OS ones, but this book just isn’t right for me.

Stars: Two, a clever and intriguing story but the turn the sex scenes took was not right for me. Others love it, only you know what’s right for you.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Pounding Skin, L.A. Witt

Pounding Skin (Skin Deep Inc.) by [Witt, L.A.]

Genre: LGBTQIA, Romance

I love LA Witt’s books usually, but the first in this series just didn’t do it for me. I didn’t know if that was a one off, or if maybe its just this series.
Well, having read book two I think maybe its time for me to have a break from LA’s novels.

I did enjoy this, but found I was putting it aside and picking up later, something that I don’t do with a book I really like.
I didn’t dislike the story, there were parts I liked a lot, but I also found there were swathes I just felt were either predictable, or felt too much like a previous story-line brought into this novel.
I need to be surprised, to wonder what can, will happen and how but somehow here I felt I knew that before I read it.

If you’re new to LA’s books you’ll probably love this, she’s a great writing style and its a classic LA story, great characters, some angst and lots of hot steamy sex tied in to a real feeling setting with issues that people really do face.
Of course all authors have fans who love everything they write, but I think I just need a break. I still love LA’s writing style, love the way she can conjure up such realistic people but feel maybe I need to step away for a while. If I can resist the lure of the next book 😉

Stars: Three, a typical LA Witt well written, steamy read, but I just felt it was all too familiar, nothing new to hold my interest..

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Devoted, JC Harroway

Devoted, JC Harroway

Devoted by [Harroway, JC]

Genre:  Romance,

I loved JC’s Recovery, pushed my film star/Hollywood romance buttons and really enjoyed Entwined, the follow up, so when i saw this up for review I was excited to see it was back to film star trope.
It proved a fun and entertaining read but didn’t quite have the magic of Recovery for me.

I expected Tyler to be older, it’s kind of hard to feel someone can be “jaded” at just 28….I’d expected mid thirties or thereabouts. He does act as if he’s around that age so its just technicalities in a way, but his age kept coming back to me.
Its kind of hard to think heavyweight Hollywood director at 28, but then I know nothing of the realities of that life, only the fiction side!

Likewise Mallory and Bobbie at just 20 and 22. Bobbie was a child star but given her rep, and the fact she’s already spent time in addiction clinic, and has now been clean 3 years I’d have placed her a bit olderl. Mallory, could she really step into her father’s shoes and manage Bobbie’s career so well? Dunno?
Just questions that made the story feel a bit unreal to me.

I loved Mallory, she’s so sweet, caring, an innocent in a tiger world, but shows her teeth when it comes to protecting Bobbie.
I really didn’t like Bobbie though, she’s so selfish, doesn’t seem to care that her actions impact heavily on Mallory’s life, and I can see the sister bond in them, though Mallory doesn’t resent Bobbie at all.
I just wanted to get so cross with Bobbie, tell her to respect her sister, to look at what her life was doing to her, to look at what she’d given up so Bobbie could have the life she chose.
That’s a mark of good writing IMO, that it made me feel the characters were real, that their actions gave me real emotions.

I liked Tyler too and the chemistry between him and Mallory was there from the start. Some serious steam gets generated by them and it fits the story perfectly.
Regular readers of my reviews will know I Hate when sex overtakes the story, even though I love spice and sensuality in a book. Here its a perfect balance and that makes for a much better read IMO.

Its a fun read, with some serious back issues for the characters. It seems its hard to stay away from addictions when fame comes knocking – its something we see reported in the media all the while, and it creates tensions in families, leads to heartbreak too often and surviving members struggle to get past events.
When Mallory is looking at Bobbie’s behaviour and wondering, is she using? – well, after what the past gave her I could understand.
I think addicts have to accept however much they feel they’re past the problems others will always wonder.
It comes from love in Mallory’s case, she wants to help Bobbie, but at times it seemed Bobbie really resented it. Trouble is surrounding herself with people like Jez doesn’t help either of them.

I really enjoyed the story, the romance worked well, the backstory felt very genuine, and the plots flowed one into another perfectly.
There were hints given about events that I kind of picked up but not all, and what transpired came out a bit differently to what I expected. That’s good, I like being surprised.
I did feel the final events played out rather too quickly, that the Tyler/Mallory issues felt a bit overdone, storm in a teacup style but that’s a small criticism.
Overall its another fun read, solid romance with a good backing story.

Stars: Four, a romance to sit back and relax with.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Spun!, A Shamwell Tales novel, JL Merrow. Fast Forward, An Alt Er Love Novella, Xio Axelrod

Spun!, A Shamwell Tales novel, JL Merrow

Spun! (Shamwell Tales Book 4) by [Merrow, JL]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I love this series, its got gentle romance, with everyday characters, you know, the ones that could live in your road, be at your workplace, and to top it off some Fabulous humour.

I said in my review of the last novel how much I loved David ( and Gregory of course), and was hoping to see a bit more of Barry and the Spartans and I got my wish. Only cameo parts from the Spartans, but Barry is quite prominent. His Lady, she must be a special person, very patient!

So David takes top place here along with Rory, who was married to Evie and has two young kids, divorced when she left him for Lewis, and was then with Jenni, Patrick’s mum. Patrick from the last book who’se now with David’s old colleague/new boss Mark..Confused yet? It’ll all make sense I promise. Fen’s here too in a smaller role than before but its good to see her and how things working out for her.

I adore David, in one way he’s a stereotype Gay and he kind of plays up to that image with his careful airs, his appearance, his eloquent use of language and manners, and of course Gregory. Yet he’s also a very unique individual, isn’t some Gay Queen type – David would never be a Queen, somehow I think he’d see himself as an Empress or something. Same VIP but fulfill the role differently.

Under that casual, almost shallow debonair front is actually a deep thinking, very genuine and caring man. I think he’s sadly misjudged, and part of that is the way he presents himself, but we learn more about his history here and perhaps get an idea of why he does that. Whatev’s as Fen would say.. I love him, he deserves to be happy.

 

Rory, Barry’s best mate, is a postie, loves his job, loves his life, except he wishes he could see his kids more. They adore him, and are two great children, very different but lovely individuals. They soon take to David – well, who wouldn’t? When David moves in as a lodger it sets the village gossip line alight, and there’s lots of questions of what exactly their status is.

Rory has always though of himself as straight and yet…the closer he gets to David the more his feelings turn from friendly to something more. They’re total opposites, have a love of films and books in common but otherwise Rory is often baffled by David’s comments, unsure of exactly what he’s saying.

He’s been told before by his exes that he needs things to be spelled out for him, that so much just goes over his head, and its so clear to see, but he’s such a great guy, very honest, genuine, easily pleased. A happy man usually.

I loved them both, loved that they got together but wasn’t really convinced of how it happened. It didn’t really feel right, didn’t feel like a natural progression as the other Shamwell stories did.

Still, its more than just a romance, once more there’s some fabulous humour that had me sniggering again and I loved it.

The reason its down from five stars to four is just that for me the romance felt a little forced.

Stars: four, a great read, very subtle humour that had me smiling but I felt the romance needed a little more time, a bit more work.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

 

Fast Forward, An Alt Er Love Novella, Xio Axelrod

Fast Forward: An Alt Er Love Novella by [Axelrod, Xio]

Genre: LGBTQIA

This is a short read at just 123 pages, and I usually avoid anything novella style. They rarely hold enough emotion for me, but it sounded very promising from the synopsis so I went for it 😉 and loved it.

Ian is 26 now and yet still feels like a teen. I often wonder about child prodigies like him, we hot house them, push them into academic positions they aren’t mentally or emotionally ready for, and on top of all that poor Ian had a pretty crappy family background.
No wonder he’s kind of naive, a little insecure, feels so alone, apart from the crowd. He is. And that’s so sad. How can anyone manage to breach that gap we created in the interests of “education”
Gah, education comes from more than just books, and bright kids will always find their way, they don’t need to be pushed in with those far older than them….and that’s my soapbox rant for the day!!

Ian’s so lovely, a loner, but has a couple of good friends who seem to look out for him, such as Siv, giver of the party where he meets Jessen again.
Arrghh, I could feel just how that hurt him, disturbed him on a visceral level, how angry and upset he was.
Right then we didn’t know much more than they’d had a relationship and Jessen left. Suddenly. Without explanation. Just was there one moment, gone the next.

Poor Ian, already fragile, this just about fractured him and he’s struggled to trust anyone since. What should he do now? Why is Jessen here? Does he even remember him or was he just a rock-stars hiccup, a quick hookup for that town and now he’s off to the next. Were all the words and plans were just promises to draw him in?

I loved Ian so much I was angry at Jessen and couldn’t bring myself to like him for at least the first half of the book, but his honesty, his openness and transparency about his mistakes, and what he wants now drew me in. He was so gentle with Ian, so careful not to hurt him, knowing this was a one shot chance that I couldn’t help loving him too.

Its rare for me to feel so emotionally drawn into a short novel but this one did it, had me hooked, feeling Ian and Jessen were so real, and wanting things to work out for them, for true happiness for both.
There’s not a HEA, there’s not really time, but the way it ends I was pretty sure they would get there and it worked for me.

Stars: five, a novella that managed the almost impossible for me, a great story and characters and some very real emotion.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Stone Warriors: Kato, Book 2, Stone Warriors Series, D.B. Reynolds. Warrior of Fire, Shona Husk.

The Stone Warriors: Kato, Book Two of the Stone Warriors Series, D.B. Reynolds

The Stone Warriors: Kato by [Reynolds, D. B.]

Genre:  Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy

Well, Wow. I think now I understand the overall plot and world building I really need to go back to book one, as I’m sure I’d rate it higher than I did on first read.
Some series are like that, it takes another book or two before the overall theme falls in to place for me, and this clearly is one such.
I think part of it too was over-expectation, I so love ViA, and was hooked from book one and expected this to be the same.

Its is the same great writing though, full of people who feel real, who I have strong mental images of, ladies who aren’t simpering kittens waiting for a big strong man to save them 😉
Grace is anything but one of those, though our and Kato’s first impressions could be forgiven for thinking that, because that’s the image she tries to project. she’s more than that though and a perfect lady for Kato.

He’s the second stone warrior, and I kept thinking how awful, to be trapped like that for thousands of years, seeing and hearing everything but unable to interact.
Sometimes books have things happening and I think “ how very convenient that he/she does that riiigght at this point”, and you could feel that about Kato coming out of imprisonment just in time to save grace from the Demon. D.B has the answer though, she’s made it so there’s a very real explanation why things are happening just now, and weaves every small thing into part of the larger overall plot that threads though the series.

Its another great read, a race against time to stop demons from being unleashed and creating mayhem. Another, well..brush with danger feels too subtle, its more than that, another solid drama where the characters face a horrible death over and over, but manage to scrape through, and without using any of that New Skills Gained Just at the Optimum Moment that I so hate. You know the sort, he or she has just learned of their place in the supernatural world, takes it in their stride, and by  the fourth page or so they’re killing the bad guys the others have been fighting and losing against for centuries, using some new skill that showed up just as the Demon or whatever is about to kill them! Gah, that really annoys me.
D.B doesn’t ever do that, and though here Grace saves the day a few times, it works because she’s the skills needed already, the training to keep calm and deal comes from her background. She gained her gun skills as a child, and as an adult she’s been involved in some dangerous and scary dramas. Add in how clever and analytical her mind is and she’s perfect for Kato.

I loved catching up with Damian and Cass, and yep, now want to re-read their story.
Two more warriors to go yet, and of course there’s also Nick, Nico, Nicademus…what a guy he is. When we first met him back in the early, the first book I think of the ViA series he was almost a throwaway guy, Cyn’s friend with benefits hot guy, but he grew in importance in later books, and then we learned he’s a powerful sorcerer.
I love how these two series interact, how we get snippets of other characters, even if only in conversation or thoughts.
I can’t help but wonder if there’s someone special in Nico’s life planned? The mysterious talented Lili maybe – or perhaps someone from the Via series? Loads of possibilities to pick from, and I look forward to D.B.s next book(s) of either series.

Stars: Five, a cracking, riveting, engrossing read and a great addition to D.B’s series.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

Warrior of Fire, Shona Husk

Warrior of Fire (Blood & Silver) by [Husk, Shona]

Genre:  Sci-fi and Fantasy

I really enjoyed Lady of Silver, the intro book to this series. that featured Saba, an Albah lady and Dale a human cop.
This book is about Liera. Saba’s sister, who we met in book one as a secondary character, and Julian who’s a son of cop Quinn, who is also the Albah’s “King”. Its a title that’s really name only, they don’t meet or live closely as its too dangerous.

There’s a faction called Guardians, who are out to kill Albah, though supposedly there’s been a truce for the last 200 years. Strange though how so many Albah die in accidents. That’s what happened to Julian’s mum, she died in a car crash when he and his younger brother were in the car. Its affected them both, as traumatic events do to young children, and they’re not a close family. In fact Julian has been away for the last 12 years and only returned six months ago.

He’s been working at a local hospital, somewhere he can put his healing skills to use without creating attention.
See that’s the thing the Guardians won’t recognize, that most Albah just want to be responsible, to do good and work in fields where their talents are best use to humankind. As far as Guardians are concerned the only good Albah is a dead one.
Its that potential to turn into an immortal blood sucking murdering Alabanex that worries them so they think killing all Albah means humans are safe. Shame they don’t focus on how humans can become murdering vicious killers too, or even look at their own behaviour, murdering parents, children, wiping out whole families proudly and bringing up their kids to believe in the same.
Hate rhetoric is so pervasive when instilled from a young age and that’s what’s happened here.

Julian has been having a “casual” relationship with a woman for the last few months. He doesn’t know much about her, that’s what he likes, physical only stuff, no need for pleasantries and socialsing, not knowing she’s a Guardian and a killer.
She’s come to do a job, make her first kill and become a real Guardian, a role she’s trained hard for, encouraged by her Guardian mother and family.
She’s finding it hard though, she’s become attracted to Julian even though both agreed upfront this was simply a casual fling, and now she’s becoming clingy Julian is thinking the time has come to part ways. she won’t like that!

Liera has always known she’s meet the love of her life on a train, she and Saba are very good at seeing into the future, though its not fixed but depends on paths taken by individuals.
She doesn’t know who her future is with though, and so is astonished when she feels a visceral reaction to Julian at a meeting of the local Albah. It’s where they connect via the internet with others to discuss recent events. Julian feels the attraction too but its a kind of muted pull for them both, not a huge insta-lust kind of thing. Jut that feeling of rightness when they connect with each other.
Liera is puzzled. What about the future she and Saba had seen?
Julian isn’t sure he’s ready yet either, he’s always felt he would marry an Albah. His people need the males that come from only Alabah pairings, but he thought that was way in the future, loads of time yet. Until now he’s been content with simple casual relationships, like the current one with Emily. This has thrown him though,made him question that, and he decides Emily’s been getting clingy lately, not what they agreed and its time to let go.

She is Not Happy though. Pressure from home about why she hasn’t killed him yet and the excuse she’s given, he could lead her to more is wearing thin. Now he’s dumped her, and as she’s been spying on him she sees him meet Leira and just knows it’s all down to her. the knives come out, Liera is in the way, time to move her. She knows now Leira is an Albah so has no worries about killing her, she’s been brought up to beleive thats the right thing to do.

It all leads to a cracking story, brings danger to the Albah, not just here but across the globe, makes them think about the future of the race, brings the Guardians into the series in a big way and is a hugely entertaining read. One that flows easily, has that element of suspense I love, the wondering what if, and how will they…?
The romance too, I enjoyed that, the doubts both had, it makes a change from the one-look-and-they-are-in-love scenario we see so often. Instead they both talk, tread carefully, think about how they feel inside.

There’s no simply quick fix solution for the future of the Albah. It needs some decision if they aren’t to die out, and the way they’ve lived for the past few hundred years needs to change. Using the internet they can conference, avoiding the dangers when large groups get together, and hhopefully make changes to their lifestyles the majority agree to while keeping safe.
Maybe the time for Quinn as king has become the era for change, for the role to become more than the lip-service one its been. He’s certainly a decisive enough character to generate momentum for change.

I really enjoyed this installment, loved meeting Dale and Saba again, was intrigued as to how things were going to work between Julian and Liera, whether the change of place of their first meeting meant their future had changes in a big way, and of course the drama with Emily was pretty solid and full on.

I found it easy to believe in Emily, that she’d been brought up and trained to kill Albah, but in her greed to kill more by finding Julian’s family she actually came to like him, to see the good he did. Somewhere deep in her psyche she had to rationalise why she hadn’t killed him yet, rather than admit she was falling for him. She was a twisted individual but also a product of a very dark upbringing, brainwashed that Albah were all bad, potential killers.

Its an easy read, well paced, solid writing. Its not as in depth as many fantasy reads, but a fun story that made me look at the characters as individual, see them as real people, and wonder just where the story is going next.
I’m really hoping Quinn gets some happy, right now he gets all the flak and doesn’t really seem to have anyone close to support him when it goes bad.

Stars: five, a great story, building on the first one and expanding the world.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Strong Enough, Melanie Harlow.

Strong Enough, Melanie Harlow.

Strong Enough by [Harlow, Melanie, Romanov, David]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I’ve enjoyed some of Melanie’s past novels and was delighted to get this for review – I do so like a good M?M romance, somehow there’s so often the tenderness, the real romance side that’s often lacking in hetero novels. And this book had bags of that, along with some very sensual heat.

I loved Maxim, he’s just such a true gentleman, loves his mum and little sister, opens doors for ladies, always polite, that sort of guy.
He wants more than the life waiting for him in Russia, with its anti-gay stance, and has taken a 6 month visa to the US to follow his script-writing dreams. Sadly though, like so many he’s unprepared for the vicious, cruel world waiting to take advantage of an innocent.
The guy who’s meeting him and showing him to his new home doesn’t show up, then having a drink in a bar wondering what to do next his luggage gets nicked, and he’s homeless, jobless, cashless all in one fell swoop.
Luckily Derek’s sister has a penchant for strays, for helping people and animals and when she hears whats happened she invited Max to stay with Derek, then rings Derek and tells him 😉

Derek’s kind of  a neat freak, a place for everything and everything in its place. His friends take the mickey but its how he is, along with his long held dream of wife and family. Times passing though, he’s approaching forty and hasn’t got there yet despite trying hard.
Of course when we see him with Max its clear why, he’s really not that into women, maybe he’s bi, but its clear he wants Max. He’s had an upbringing though that’s taught him Gay Is Bad.

What a disservice parents do when they inflict their bias and views on their kids, and how hard it is to come out and go against parental dictates.
Its not good parenting doing that, but sadly for so many people its what they get. I get the feeling its not so much homophobia, as not really understanding it and fear that drives his parents.
Never the less Derek is not going to act on his attraction, it makes him angry with himself and Max, just knowing its there. And then it all gets too much and he snatches Max into one searingly sensual, erotic, life changing kiss that shocks them both.

Gah, Derek made me so angry with his hot/cold, not-my-fault attitude, and poor Max was totally confused.
I did understand and sympathise with Derek though, he’s repressed these feelings for so long, won’t even acknowledge them to himself, so he’s had his world turned upside down when he cant do that with Max.
Max isn’t going to be anyones dirty little secret though, had to hide himself in Russia, isn’t doing that again…

So can they make it through, can they find a HEA or is their romance doomed?
Its heartbreaking at times wanting them to be together and yet seeing Derek’s barriers fall down tight again.
I really enjoyed their story, the emotions, the sweetness, and of course the angst.

Stars: five, a really emotional read, with a sweet and yet steamy romance.

ARC supplied for review purposes by author

CHASING WICKED, KATHYRN L. JAMES. The Lie of the Land, Amanda Craig

CHASING WICKED, THE MITCHELL BROTHERS,- WICKED SERIES BOOK 1, KATHYRN L. JAMES

Chasing Wicked (The Mitchell Brothers - Wicked Series Book 1) by [James, Kathryn L]

Genre:  Romance, erotica

Well, a good start to a new series if you like a hot and steamy read. I enjoyed it but I didn’t love it.
For me I felt the story was a little weak, a wonderful story-line but in practice I felt Stone and Avery had little in common after all those years, and needed to focus a bit more on their lives rather than the hot sex.
Still, its erotica as well as romance, and for many readers heat and sensuality is what they want. Its what I love too but I need to feel the story, the characters are real.

I felt for Avery, what an awful thing to happen and understood her actions.
Stone, when he found out what happened after, is back in her life and they’ve both had a huge life change to take in. Not the best time then to leap into sex…but that doesn’t stop them.
I did feel she was a bit of a doormat for Stone, letting him dictate terms, when she knew that kind of relationship wasn’t for her and would break her eventually. As she keeps saying, she’s got Savannah to think of.
Stone had been through a lot too, and I wondered how he’d ended up owning all those hotels, 54, given what had happened to him in the intervening 6 years.
That’s a heck of a business to grow, when its not the family one he was born into. Even if they funded it initially, it takes time to build sucess like that.
He was so adamant about a sex only relationship, a friends with benefits was all he could offer and then – well, I found his about turn very hard to take. That quick, after all that stone walling (oops, unintended pun there..) earlier, all those proclamations about what he couldn’t do?
There’s some drama at the end and maybe that kind of fright would have felt right for me to change his mind, but it wasn’t that which did it.

Some of the story lines felt a little unfinished to me, there was a good ending, but it wasn’t really clear about reasons and the how and why’s of what happened. Maybe that doesn’t bother others but it left me thinking “how did that, why did he/she, what about…?”

Stars: Three, a hot, sensual and steamy read if you want just that but for me the story lines felt a little thin.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Lie of the Land, Amanda Craig

The Lie of the Land by [Craig, Amanda]

Genre: General Fiction

Usually novels I read have romance somewhere, but I like to read stories that stretch me a bit, make me think “what if” and some of them, as this one does, come under a General Fiction heading. What if Quentin hadn’t had affairs, what if there hadn’t been a recession, what if Xan had got into his chosen uni? As for down in Devon, there’s any number of What Ifs that would change things hugely.

I really, really didn’t like Quentin for at least the first half of the book. He’s like a big kid – its always someone else’ fault, he’s a man, can’t be expected to be faithful, he can’t help his straying ways etc. etc..
Ugh, I hate hearing that,  and it made me wonder what Lottie ever saw in him. Xan seems to hate him now, calls him Dud, which made me snigger. Yet from what we read he idolised him until recently, much his two younger hald sisters still do.

Poor Lottie, they can’t even afford a divorce. Quentin is moaning all the while but it seems she’s the one making sacrifices, getting things to work, dealing with day to day issues, the kids, the house, the lack of money, while he keeps swanning back to London in pursuit of another job, another story, another woman.
He’s acting like one of those awful men who still imagine they’re single and what they’re doing won’t hurt anyone….
When we look deeper into their backstories though its not quite so cut and dried. He still makes me angry, I still think he’s appalling as a husband and father, but do understand him and his actions a little better.

There’s a subtle danger in the so called peace of their retreat though, and they find out the countryside has claws, and its not all rural idyll, bohemian joy and rhapsody, but dreary, damp, dark and dangerous…and that danger comes knocking very, very close to home.
Some of it I’d guessed from the story but not all, there’s a really tangled web to unravel.

There are some great characters here, ones that felt so real, as if I could know them.
The descriptions of country life are spot on at times too, work in factories as grim as Humbles does abound, minimum wage, long hours, zero hours contracts, no regard for safety and no job security.
There are few other jobs in the countryside though. Work is mind numblingly boring, life is hard to cope with, and we see just how so many different families are doing that, most people simply struggling day to day, and a select few are thriving. It’s not just Lottie and Quentin that are having issues, both work and personal, but others that hide their struggles carefully behind a public face. The old UK Putting a Brave Face on, Stiff Upper Lip and all that.

Its not a story I’d reread, very uncomfortable at times, but one which I enjoyed as a one off, one that made me really think about the characters and situations.
What would I have done if I was Lottie? Not let him back home is my first thought, but then he’s a good dad to the girls, was good to Xan when they first got together, and of course she’s the memory of that man and the hope he’ll come back to her.
Will he though, or are the changes too much?

Stars: four, a fascinating read into what can happen to those affected by financial issues, marital issues, jealousy, unplanned pregnancies, lack of quality/well paid work…

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Royal Treatment, Parker Swift, Train Wreck, Elise Faber

Royal Treatment, Parker Swift

Royal Treatment (Royal Scandal Book 3) by [Swift, Parker]

Genre:  Romance,

I loved the first two parts of this trilogy, a story with a domineering – but not in a bullying OTT way – British Duke and an American girl. She’s focused on her career, bright, intelligent and it’s so refreshing to read a heroine that’s not afraid to stand up for herself. Not that she needs to with Dylan, as he’s very proud of her work ethic, very supportive of her ambitions.
They’ve both got demons in their backgrounds though and this book lets the effects of them on them both run free.

I enjoyed the story, but felt after the dramas in the last two novels this was a little low key.
It does a very good wrapping up of past events, finishing off odd little loose ends. I hate when a book finishes and I’m thinking – but hey, what about ….?
I wasn’t convinced by the MI6 story-line, I just cant be persuaded that a top intelligence agency would let a civilian get involved to that degree. Then for all that’s it brought up through the book when it does happen it kind of is underwhelming…but that’s my only minor gripe about this book.

I love seeing things from alternating POV, lets me really get an insight into how the characters are feeling, what they really think.
I loved Dylan’s sister, and That was a surprise at the end 😉 Next book maybe?
His mum, I liked her opposition to Lydia, it felt very real, and given how some of these Lineages continue for hundreds of years back that importance parents stress of having the “right” person to marry is genuine, and I’m sure still goes in in many circles. That said I didn’t like that way things ended up between her and Lydia, just didn’t feel to me as if that would have happened.

This book takes the couple out of England to the US for part of the time and that worked really well, let Dylan see Lydia in her home setting. I loved meeting her dad’s old freinds, they felt like Lydia’s family.
A huge, massive thank you too, for Parker for releasing these books close enough together that the story remains fresh in the readers mind.
So often there’s a year or more between parts and I’ve simply forgotten exactly what happened. we readers who love books consume huge amounts of them and when trilogies have a similar story-line – and many romance ones do – then its easy to muddle them, forget exactly which one(s) belong to which books. Having to keep checking back to earlier ones t see what happened takes away a lot of the magic.
TBH my favourite way to read trilogies – and series – is to wait until all parts are released and have a total immersion, reading them back to back. That way I get the most from the story, feel the action and emotion as it happens.
Stars: four, a terrific, fresh trilogy with some great characters and plots but that MI6 storyline brings it down a bit for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Train Wreck, Elise Faber

Train Wreck (Life Sucks Book 1) by [Faber, Elise]

Genre:  Romance,women’s fiction

I’ve enjoyed some of Elise other books, especially the paranormal ones and was keen to read this. It didn’t really work for me though ;-( It was well written but I just didn’t engage with the characters, or really get into the story.

I found Pepper’s constant klutziness very OTT. I’m a klutz, can fall upstairs, leave cooker on, disasters happen here regularly. the most spectacular being when I broke my hip after a fall….out of my wheelchair.
I know how Pepper feels getting blamed when its just not her fault but the disasters happened so often and over such unlikely incidences that it didn’t feel real.
I hated her family, but liked her. I liked her neighbour too, and her sweet daughter, with a useless dad/husband. Just proves deadbeat dads aren’t all unemployed alcoholics!

Then there’s Derek, and somehow he wasn’t convincing, he’s a nice guy but focused on his future and I found it hard he was now all about Pepper when he’d ignored her in the past, and I didn’t really feel he’d give up years of trying to make his way for someone he knew from the past, but has only known as an adult a few weeks.

It wasn’t one for me but others love it – that’s how reading is, one man’s meat is another man’s poison and all that! This wasn’t poison for me, but maybe just gave me a little indigestion 😉

Stars: 2.5/3 – not a bad read, just not a great one for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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