Review: Destroyed With You (Start Security #5) by J Kenner

Title: Destroyed with You
Author:  J Kenner
Publisher/Year:  Martini & Olive 12/15/20
Length:  334 Pages
Series: Stark Security #5

Overview

Former sheriff Winston Starr doesn’t think about the past. That dark day when he lost the sweet, innocent woman he’d loved, dead because of his mistake in a mission that had gone horribly wrong.

Now an operative with Stark Security, he’s left Texas behind, focusing only on his work and closing his heart to love even as his soul screams for revenge against the scum that killed his Linda. When old friends reveal new evidence, Winston learns that not only is Linda alive, she faked her death in the ultimate betrayal.

But things are not as Winston believes, and he soon finds himself on the run with the woman who ripped his heart out. Now, the only thing stronger than his rage is his desire for the woman who destroyed him.

My Thoughts

We loved Winston for all that he did for Emma in the past when they knew each other and we now that his past is haunted. There are things that he’ll share and parts of himself that he’ll keep closed off because he’s lost too much in his life – as is the case it seems with everyone who’s in the SSA world. We know that he went under cover for SOC to take down the Consortium and in doing that he lost his wife. Linda was killed in a car bomb and that broke him more than he could have ever fathomed.

So fast forward a few years when Winston gets a call from his old boss at SOC with some interesting information. Linda isn’t dead – and she’s actually an assassin. This means that everything that Winston though he knew about life and her was a lie, and while he didn’t reveal who he truly was to her, he eels that her lies betray even more.

This story takes us on the journey that Winston takes to not only find the truth but to give himself some sort of resolution and closure to what he considers to be one of his biggest mistakes ever.

What they both come to find is that nothing is what it seems. They both believe that they are working assignments for the good guy but quickly learn that perhaps no one is good -everyone is dirty and can be bought for the right price. They go on the run to find answers, knowing that it means they’l have to spend time together and hopefully reveal the truth of what their pasts truly was and figure out what that means for their future.

They played each other in the past and they play each other now still. There’s a huge question of who’s going to get hurt in the crossfire and who’s going to come and save them. Because the first part of the assignment takes them to Texas, we see Noah come back into the mix a bit. The tech whiz who haw more tricks up his sleeve than any one else out there. We also know that Emma will play a role here again as well since she was close with Winston over the years and even knew Linda.

They go from Texas to LA, and are forced to kill, lie, cheat and break into a vault all in the hopes of getting answers. We all know where this is going to end up, but what we get in the meantime Is a story of fact finding and finding a path back. I think that it’s really sweet how they slowly let their walls down but still have so much fear of what the other can do to hurt them again. There’s a chemistry that’s undeniable between them and while it’s just for this assignment that they agree to let things play out, it at least come out in a hot and steamy manner.

And in true J Kenner form, we have an intro to our new leading couple for the next book – Reny a new agent for SSA and Abby who’s Nikki’s partner for her tech firm. So all that in hand, i’m excited for the next installment of this series. Enjoy!

Review: Wrecked With You (Stark Security #4) by J Kenner

Title: Wrecked with You
Author:  J Kenner
Publisher/Year:  Martini & Olive 5/26/20
Length:  338 Pages
Series: Stark Security #4

Overview

He never wanted a partner. And then she came along.

After more than a decade chasing shadows, Antonio Santos finally has a lead on the hiding place of The Serpent, the elusive villain who kidnapped him as a child and murdered his mother and uncle. But in order for Tony to get close, he’ll need access to an exclusive private island-where he can only enter with a woman on his arm.

Antonio goes to Stark Security to call in a debt … then walks out with Emma Tucker on his arm. A loner, Antonio isn’t interested in having a partner. He just needs a female. But the striking redhead’s skills soon impress him. More than that, her lush body and beguiling self-assurance tease his senses in unanticipated ways. 

A longtime operative with deadly skills, Emma resents being arm candy for someone else’s agenda. But the more she works with Antonio, the more she admires his razor sharp intelligence and formidable prowess. And when the island’s games push them over a sensual cliff, she can’t deny his talents in the bedroom, too.

As passion rises on this island playground full of lust and danger, they both fight the growing attraction between them. But with danger racing toward them from both on and off the island, they soon realize that more than their hearts are at stake. Because unless they can trust and rely on each other, they also risk losing their lives.

My Thoughts

I’ll be honest when I say that i’ve spent too much time away from this series to really remember the guys that we get to focus on. As I eased myself back into this one though I quickly remembered a few things and it reminded me the value of this spin off series. We have yet another story that’s got a dark side in it’s past – on the parts of both of our main characters.

We start off with Antonio the leading man who was a part of Deliverence and now is in between gigs while he follows his quest to get revenge for the man that ruined everything that he had going for him in his life. The man who murdered his mother, his uncle, who kidnapped him and who put him on the wrong path. He’s being recruited by SSA and Stark wants him to be a part of the tea, but he won’t do it until he’s able to get his past resolved. lucky for him though, Stark owes him a favor and with that comes resources and a partner.

Enter Emma – the older sister of Eliza whom we met in the previous installment with Quincy and we get to see more and more why she’s so tough and protective. We know that her backstory with her sister isn’t a good one – they had to do just about anything possible to survive once they got away from their abusive father, and what’s interesting here is that there’s a link to Tony’s story that we don’t learn until the last third of this story.

Emma is being recruited by SSA as well, and we get to see how she’s afraid to lose her freedom from the jobs that she works now. She was part of an off the grid government agency that basically did the same work as SSA and she’s got skills that people need.

They’re teamed together to help Tony find The Serpent – the man who ruined his family and who needs to be taken care of. This quest to find him takes our two leading characters to a resort island that’s all about sex and debauchery and while it’s no surprise that’s the environment that they find themselves in, it’s the entertainment there that keeps this story flowing.

Tony’s only reason to be there is because of someone he met on the dark web who said she has information on The Serpent. so we spend the first bits of time at the resort watching our duo try to track down this woman with information. They get into several interesting situations where they think they’re on the track to the right person and end up with just a good time with nothing to show for it. The hitch to all this though is that we see them develop a deeper attraction towards one another which is inevitable and of course that also means that we have to see if they’re willing to be honest and open up about their pasts for this to become something more.

They quickly find themselves in dicey situations where they are led astray, into a trap, into another trap, multiple people die and then they are back at square one with little insight into what’s what. While they’ve failed their direct mission, we also watch them fail at trust. When intel is shared that makes Tony question everything about Emma, we see that they definitely are too fragile to survive and that means that they go their separate ways. It’s only SSA that brings them around again although the path to discover what is an entirely different story.

True to J kenner form, we get anxiety and fear, vendettas and blood lust, the need for freedom and a desire for control. Add to that some insane chemistry and heat, some great toys to play with at the resort, and a means to open oneself up both figuratively and literally – and well we have an amazing book 4. I can’t wait to get into book 5 and see what’s next for this crew that keeps expanding. Enjoy!

Review: The Duke and I (Bridgerton #1) by Julia Quinn

Title: The Duke and I
Author:  Julia Quinn
Publisher/Year:  Harper Collins 4/28/15
Length:  464 Pages
Series: Bridgerton #1

Overview

From New York Times bestselling author Julia Quinn comes the first novel in the beloved Regency-set world of her charming, powerful Bridgerton family, now a series created by Shonda Rhimes for Netflix.

In the ballrooms and drawing rooms of Regency London, rules abound. From their earliest days, children of aristocrats learn how to address an earl and curtsey before a prince—while other dictates of the ton are unspoken yet universally understood. A proper duke should be imperious and aloof. A young, marriageable lady should be amiable…but not too amiable.

Daphne Bridgerton has always failed at the latter. The fourth of eight siblings in her close-knit family, she has formed friendships with the most eligible young men in London. Everyone likes Daphne for her kindness and wit. But no one truly desires her. She is simply too deuced honestfor that, too unwilling to play the romantic games that captivate gentlemen.

Amiability is not a characteristic shared by Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings. Recently returned to England from abroad, he intends to shun both marriage and society—just as his callous father shunned Simon throughout his painful childhood. Yet an encounter with his best friend’s sister offers another option. If Daphne agrees to a fake courtship, Simon can deter the mamas who parade their daughters before him. Daphne, meanwhile, will see her prospects and her reputation soar.

The plan works like a charm—at first. But amid the glittering, gossipy, cut-throat world of London’s elite, there is only one certainty: love ignores every rule…

My Thoughts

I have to admit that the reason that I dove into this series is because I watched the season on Netflix and the show has me HOOKED. Not only are the characters amazing, the actors beyond attractive, but the hints of what’s happened and what’s to come is intense. We have a cross between Pretty Little Liars meets Gossip Girls all thrown into England in 1812. It’s a must read!

This first book of the series introduces us to the world of the Bridgertons, a family that’s well to do in society in England, and one that has a lot of children that need to be minded once they come of age. This first book focuses on Daphne, the eldest sister of the brood now that she’s of age to be married and her quest to find a husband. Daphne has been in society now for a year and has not secured a husband, partially because she’s got older brothers who want only the best for her and partially because most men for some reason only see her as a friend and not as a lover. She’s beautiful and she’s quick witted and intelligent – all things a man should want, but that’s not the norm back in those days.

Enter Duke of Hastings – Simon. A close friend of Anthony, Daphne’s oldest brother and a man who’s got a reputation that preceeds him. He’s only returned to London now that his father has passed away and he needs to settle loose ends. The challenge though is that Simon has made a vow to his father that he will never marry, that he will never have kids so that the family line dies with him because his father treated him so horribly when he was young.

Daphne’s quest for the perfect love match and Simon’s quest to stay out of the clutches of all society mammas and their daughters who need to be married off gives us the perfect scheme that has been developed. Simon and Daphne will pretend that they are in love, which in turn will make Daphne seem more attractive now that she’s got the attention of the most eligible man alive, and Simon will be free to live his life how he wants.

We all know that this will explode and not in a good or expected way. The way that this always plays out is that they will develop a great friendship and they will start to care for one another. They will become attracted to each other in a way that’s going to cause problems in their polite society. Someone’s heart will get broken, someone’s reputation will get destroyed and their future will be a roller coaster of misery and despair.

What’s nice about this story is that our author Julia Quinn has managed to lead us down all the right paths to see how this will play out from scene to scene, and at the same time be surprised by the new bit of information that we learn at every turn. There are so many dark secrets from Simon’s past that cloud how he sees every situation today that it’s no surprised that he’s damaged. AT the same time, we have come to know that Daphne is a woman who can handle her own, yet there are soooo sooo many things that are so naive and innocent about her that we also watch how that really hampers any chance of her finding a happiness that’s possible in this day and age.

We get a nice bit of closure to this story – not one that was expected but one that works for this series. There are stories that follow for the other siblings in the Bridgerton family, so it was nice to see how it was set up a bit in this first book although it does spoil things a bit for when the next season comes around on Netlix.

ARC Review: Complex by AD Enderly

Title: Complex
Author:  A.D. Enderly
Publisher/Year:  Luminary Media 12/01/2020
Length:  594 Pages

Overview

The sky rains red, the poor are forgotten, governments have failed, and corporations have grown into mini nation-states called Complexes, where people flock to receive the security, shelter, and purpose the outside world can’t provide. The only payment required, buried somewhere in the twenty-thousand-page Terms of Service, is their freedom.

Now just sign on the dotted line…

Orphaned after her father’s death, 18-year-old Val’s focus is to protect her younger sister Kat and heed her father’s final wishes: Never, ever join a Complex. Stay away from them, at all costs, he demands.

But staying away becomes impossible when Kat is abducted, sparking a hunt through a violent megacity primed for revolution, where Val eventually discovers her sister’s disappearance is just a smokescreen. Beneath it lies a motive darker than death and broader in scope than a few lives.

As Val and her allies uncover the truth, they’re confronted with a terrible choice – save Kat, or save humanity?

My Thoughts

It took me a little while to start reading this one and then it took me even longer to finish it but I think there’s some interesting stuff happening in this story. First off I’d like to thank the folks at NetGalley for getting me a copy early even though I didn’t quite get to read it as early as I’d have liked.

We’re thrown into a world of the future, where the construct of society is that people are living in levels and tiers, based on either a social score, or the decision to sign their lives away in a contract to a Complex or Medical organization called Novagenica. No one really understands what the end result of any decision will be but they know that the struggle of life is real and there’s only a hope of what can make things better.

This story is written in books, although I don’t know that the books really make any sense or difference. Instead though we also get chapters that are each through the eyes of a different character, one who has a unique circumstance or role in society and we watch how it all slowly converges as we get to the end of this one.

We know that there’s a group of people who want complete control.

we know that there’s a virus that’s being developed to limit the population or potentially restructure the population in a way that will create a better more thriving society.

There’s also an aspect of AI that we see come to a head in a way that we all fear, even in current day.

There are groups of people who’s stories are more intertwined throughout this book. We see Val and Kat who are sisters who don’t have the same view on life and that just smells like disaster coming. Kat’s kidnapped and it makes everyone realize what’s important. The quest to find Kat leads Val to Trevor who becomes not only an integral part of the story but a love interest.

Trevor leads them to an organization that has a connection to tech and a desire for more power and that in turns leads them to their doom.

Dramatic yes, but I think that’s what this story is setting us up for. The thought that when you’re power hungry, bad things happen. When you are selfish bad things happen, and when you allow tech to gain too much strength, bad things will happen.

What’s interesting about this story though is the way that it ends. There’s a scene and a conversation that one of the main characters has with a ‘pastor’ of sorts, someone who’s proposition in life is that the idea of tech leads only to bad things, well, in that convo, there’s something interesting that happens. There’s a shift, a change in reality, and then the last note in the story is the notion that there’s more to come – and that someone like this pastor is the one who can help enact the change……driven by AI.

So…I left a lot out because frankly, there’s so much going on in parallel paths in this story that i’m not sure which story line is the most important. I’m also not sure what the real plot or point of this story is either – there’s just a lot of paths that merge and separate, bringing things to a head and then blowing them up. All in all, i’d have to say that this wasn’t My favorite book, but I know that there are folks out there who will love it for the ideas of what the future can look like if we don’t take precautions now. Enjoy!

Review: The Camp (The Chateau #2) by Penelope Sky

Title: The Camp
Author:  Penelope Sky
Publisher/Year:  Hartwick Publishing 1/5/21
Length:  329 Pages
Series: The Chateau #2

Overview

She betrayed me. 

After everything I did for her. 

Now I’ll have to suffer the consequences of that mistake. 

But then I’ll get the revenge that I deserve. 

My Thoughts

We have the continuation of Magnus and Raven’s story and we know that it’s going to be insane. When we left them in the end of The Chateau, everything was blown up in their faces. Literally.

We saw a really tender and sweet relationship develop between these two in the first book and only had the best things to hope of their future. Magnus protected her from everyone in the camp, managed to help her escape and even managed to get her free from the camp forever. Raven though, had more on her agenda now than ever. The strong willed woman that she is, we knew that she’d never settle for just her freedom which resulted in her return to the camp to liberate all the women, to set it on fire and get everyone out. What happens though is almost the unthinkable.

She loses her freedom and is recaptured. Her sister Melanie has to go back to Fender (which may or may not be a bad thing). Magnus gets crushed under a burning building and Raven saves him. But life has once again returned to the misery of the Camp and Raven’s life has now gotten so much harder. Magnus hates her. Wants her to suffer now that he’s lost the respect of the guards, and his brother is beyond angry and what’s transpired.

This second book as a huge theme of redemption in my mind. Mangus has to find a way to get back into better standing with his brother. We learn more and more about their past and how they came to their current empire, and we learn that as he reveals more and more to Raven.

Which of course mans that Raven’s managed to get back into his heart again. Like there was ever a question right? She takes a knife in the stomach for him when one of the guards comes after him and that endears him a bit more to her and we watch from there as he realizes that she’s not acted with malice in any of this but instead doing what she felt was necessary. That in itself gives her a bit of redemption in his eyes and we get to see what that can evolve to.

Magnus claims Raven as his and as such, she’s got protection in the camp. He takes her with him when he goes back to Paris each month and we see how their lives turn into something more. Something with a different tone and purpose. He slowly realizes that she’s only there for him. She’s got no other motive and not other intentions and that’s what slowly builds trust. But with trust comes and ultimatum, one that really proves to be impossible for Magnus to uphold.

In this story, we see so much transpire. Magnus comes to terms with what they’ve done, and pushes his brother to change his ways. Fender is driven by greed and a need to always have more that he makes decisions that Magnus tries to sway him away from. Decisions that have catastrophic impact and the world they know will be changed forever.

There’s marriage, love, death, despair and maybe a glimmer of hope in this story and it’s really sweet. We also get this story entirely from Magnus’ perspective whereas the first book was from Raven’s. I think that’s a really good way to extend the story a bit more – a way to see how things are far from black and white. At the end of this story, we see that there’s a third book coming out, I believe now from Melanie’s eyes. That’ll be a nice change since her experience was intensely different from that of Raven and Magnus. I can’t wait for that one to come out. Enjoy! I

Review: When He’s Bad (Walker Security: Adrian’s Trilogy #2) by Lisa Renee Jones

Title: When He’s Bad
Author:  Lisa Renee Jones
Publisher/Year:  Julie Patra Publishing 12/15/20
Length:  197 Pages
Series: Walker Security: Adrian’s Trilogy #2

Overview

He was dirty. That’s how Priscilla met him. She was all about just how dirty he was and, in fact, had to be. Now, he’s just plain bad. When you cross a man like Adrian Mack, you find out just how bad he can be. Priscilla started out as an enemy, became a lover, and now, she is his obsession. 

Lies. Secrets. Enemies that appear they are friends. The passion and danger just won’t stop coming. 

My Thoughts

No one is safe, and anything that was a secret before isn’t one now. Where Adrian thought he could be safe for a few moments turns out to be right on the radar of the assassins and now an FBI agent has been murdered in front of them, and they’re fighting for their lives. Deleon found them and that doesn’t bode well.

We start this second book off on such a roller coaster. Adrian and Pri are running for their lives again, literally. Now running to a secret cave that Adrian had as a backup safe house in case something compromised the safe house cabin that his father had set up all those years before. Adrian believes that his brother Alex, the dirty agent also in the Devils was the one who shared the cabin’s location but that means nothing especially since Alex is dead.

Walker comes to the rescue in a sense and we’re back at another safe house with Blake, Savage and Lucifer. They’re trying to come up with a plan that keeps Adrian safe and alive, while also protecting Pri and her entire staff. At the same time, they’re watching every move by Pri’s family since there’s a connection to Waters that’s unbelievable. Pri doesn’t want to believe that her family is involved, but it’s become clear that Logan, her ex-fiance is the one that brought her family into the fold and the one that that’s going to be the ruin of them.

Throughout this story we watch the relationship between Adrian and Pri grow stronger. They clearly have feelings for one another that outshines anything that they’ve felt before, and that’s also a problem since it makes them both a target. Pri’s afraid that it’ll compromise the case and that means another delay if they take her off the case or if there’s a conflict. Adrian’s worried that she won’t be alive to follow the case through and the Walker team have endless more concerns.

What we find throughout this story is that anyone that we thought was good likely isn’t. We’re forced to question everyone in Pri’s office and everyone who’s put themselves into that world since they all seem to be a bit suspect and a bit dirty. I”m excited to see how it plays out.

Along with all that angst and fear though, we get the expected chemistry and heat that I’ve come to know and love from our author Lisa Renee Jones. There’s a chemistry that’s almost desperate between them and it makes for some intense steamy scenes since they’re always afraid that the moment is their last. I really hope that something good will come out of the situation, but we all know that more people will end up dead before that happens.

Also, true to LRJ form, we now know that Lucifer will get a story and she’s introduced Mason, another Walker guy who will no doubt get his own story too. I’m excited to see how things evolve since this is one of my favorite string of series. Enjoy!

ARC Review: The Poet by Lisa Renee Jones

Title: The Poet
Author:  Lisa Renee Jones
Publisher/Year:  Entangled Publishing 3/9/21
Length:  368 Pages

Overview

“The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth.” -Jean Cocteau 

Some call him friend or boss. 
Some call him husband or dad. 
Some call him son, even a favorite son. 

But the only title that matters to him is the one the media has given him: The Poet. 

A name he earned from the written words he leaves behind after he kills that are as dark and mysterious as the reason he chooses his victims. 

One word, two, three, a story in a poem, a secret that only Detective Samantha Jazz can solve. Because he’s writing this story for her. 

She just doesn’t know it yet.

My Thoughts

First off, I need to thank Netgalley for getting me a copy of this book soo soo early. I’m going to start off by saying that I had no idea that one of my favorite ‘Romance’ writers also wrote in other genres. Perhaps I should have dug into her more, but Lisa Renee Jones has managed to keep me so entertained over the years that I felt no need until I ran out of series to follow.

Anyhow, we have a thriller on our hands here, The Poet is a murder / serial killer mystery that takes so many different twists and turns. We start off years in the past at what likely is the beginning of it all, when we’re in a classroom watching a student struggle to read a poem, which them turns into a bullying situation after class and interestingly a dead body being found the next morning.

We fast forward into the future where our main character is a Detective who’s one of the best at solving murder cases. Detective Samantha Jazz is the daughter of the Police Captain who was just murdered 3 months prior, and the goddaughter of the Police Chief, so she’s connected but she’s gotten to where she is on her own merit. When she’s back from leave from her father’s death, she’s quickly back into things where she’s called to sub in on a case where the killer left a poem in the victim’s mouth, an no one knows what it means. Sam is a Poet Master of sorts, ran a poetry club in college etc, and now she’s putting all that good learning to use.

The journey in this book is a complex one. We see the road that Sam has to go down to heal from her father’s death, and on top of that, she learned that her father wasn’t the cleanest of cops so there’s the stigma that comes along with that. She’s also trying to find her footing when she’s not exactly sure where she fits in anymore. She’s recently in limbo in a relationship and she’s not sure who she can trust.

The research that our author clearly did to make this story come to life was intense. We watch the process of examining a case from all angles, from the cops to the ME to the DA etc. We also watch how they form their hypothesis of who’s the suspect and how to track them down. We’re drawn down path after path on certain characters, never quite knowing if they are the culprit or not. On top of this though, there’s the fact that the detective who was assigned to the case previously is now missing and no one knows where he’s gone and if he’s alive.

Characters that we want to believe on our side are set up to seem as though they could be dirty or suspect. There’s a detective named Jackson that Sam wants to bring into the team but she gets an off feeling and he’s always where he’s not supposed to be, and at the same place as the presumed suspect. making him suspect.

While they’re trying to solve this murder mystery, there’s also a bit of romance to keep things on the same tone as what we get from LRJ, although not nearly as ‘erotic’ for lack of a better word. Sam’s ‘ex’ of sorts, Wade, comes back to help both professionally and personally since he’s FBI. We see that relationship take on a new form and want to have hope for the future.

What I will say about this story is that the path to the killer uncovers quite a bit of interesting ‘stuff’. No one is innocent and yet there’s a surprise twist nonetheless. I think you guys should definitely try to find this book when it’s out in March because I could NOT put it down. Enjoy!

Review: The Chateau (The Chateau #1) by Penelope Sky

Title: The Chateau
Author:  Penelope Sky
Publisher/Year:  Hartwick Publishing 10/27/20
Length:  299 Pages
Series: The Chateau #1

Overview

There’s a fine line between right and wrong.

And Magnus is on both sides of it.

I don’t know much about him, but he’s the only reason I’m still alive. I’ve been taken by a group of heartless men and forced into a labor camp, and even though there’s no way out, I still have hope.

I have hope because of him.

He’s the only reason I’ll escape this place.

Even though he’s the villain who works in this camp, he’s my hero.

And I know he’ll be the hero to everyone else too.

Because that’s the price to be with me–and he’ll pay any price to be with me.

My Thoughts

I’m a huge huge huge fan of Penelope Sky and just about every series that i’ve read and this one continues on that same path. We’re in a completely different world unrelated at all to the Italy stories that it’s a welcome change. In the end of this story – our author tells us about how she’s poured so much of herself into this series in a way that’s new from the others, and it’s really clear to me as I read it.

We start off a moment in the past where a boy goes home after a night out with friends only to discover that someone’s in his house, murdering his family. He’s not able to save his mom or 2 of his siblings, but he’s able to get his brother out of the house only to see that the killer is his father. they run, and that’s all we learn about them.

Then we find ourselves in Paris, with our leading lady Raven who’s American and is studying in France. She’s always been responsible for her younger sister so going to Paris was a chance to get away, and yet we find ourselves with her sister visiting. When one day Raven notices a man watching her apartment and watching her sister, she gets on edge, and at a night out she sees the same man talking to Melanie. She’s not comfortable with this and all for good reason because her sister decides that she needs to go with him and his friends, and she of course has to follow. They end up drugged and kidnapped and that’s how our story evolves.

They’re not trafficked but instead brought to a camp in the Alps where there’s a cocaine operation that kidnaps women to pack and process the drug for distribution all across Europe. Raven is confident that she’ll find a way to escape with her sister, but quickly learns that it’s all but impossible. They are so remote that there’s no real chance of getting to a village. It’s the dead of winter so they won’t survive the weather, and the guards there will hunt them down faster than even imaginable. Raven tries anyway, and fails.

The only reason she’s still alive is Magnus. The guard that’s been assigned to her. He’s frightening of course and powerful, but he clearly has a different sort of power and authority in the camp because he has freedoms and access that the others don’t have. We never quite get it but we know that there’s something interesting there. Magnus protects her as much as he can, brings her things to make her time there more comfortable and we see an odd sort of friendship develop between them. Every time Raven is almost hung, or beaten, or accused of doing something that she’s likely done, he gets in the middle in order to save her.

One day ‘the boss’ shows up and takes interest in Melanie – which is no surprise to Raven given that she’s beautiful and has always gotten attention. Raven’s scared for her safety since we all know what’s likely to happen to her, and that’s even more motivation for Raven to find a way out.

A few failed attempts later, Magnus realizes that staying in the camp means death for Raven and he offers all the help he can to get her out. He tells her how to escape gives her resources an a map and a location to go to so that she can wait for him to come and get her, and we realize that their relationship could mean something more. There are emotions and chemistry between them and it’s intense given that they are both in incredibly unconventional phases of their lives.

From that point on in the story, Raven’s eyes are opened up. She realizes that there’s more to Magnus than she realized, specifically in money and power. She also learns something interesting about the boss and what that relationship is. What she doesn’t learn though is how to keep her feelings in check and not give too much of herself to Magnus since that’s a relationship that’s going to be 1000000% impossible.

She’s free now, as is her sister, but that’s not enough. She insists on freeing all the other women in the camp so she sets out to do that. The problem though is that when she goes there, she’s destroys everything that could have been good and when Magnus sees her, he wants to kill her. So, we’re left on a cliff and sadly I have to wait until the end of January to see who falls and who’s still alive. I have such high hopes for where this story will go and to see how the past brings itself to the present.

We have complex and engaging characters. We have romance and chemistry that sizzles. We have a story that’s unique and all that together makes for an amazing book 1. Enjoy!

Review: Last Kiss (First and Last #2) by Laurelin Paige

Title: Last Kiss
Author:  Laurelin Paige
Publisher/Year:  Paige Press 2/27/18
Length:  384 Pages
Series: First and Last #2

Overview

SHE KNOWS SHE’S IN TOO DEEP.

WHO CAN SHE TURN TO WHEN THERE’S NOWERE LEFT TO RUN?

Emily Wayborn does not fully trust the dangerously handsome Reeve Sallis. But Emily knows that he is the one person who can give her what she needs—even if it comes with a cost. Reeve is the only thing keeping her grounded as the rest of her life falls apart. But the hotelier is a master at keeping secrets—and as she continues her quest for answers, someone is making sure she doesn’t find them. . .

Now, as an unknown enemy closes in, Emily is second-guessing everything she thought she knew about Reeve—and herself. Is Emily’s irresistible attraction to Reeve worth risking her own life for? Meanwhile, time is running out. . .

My Thoughts

I REALLY love this duet – not only is it steamier than much of what i’ve read by our amazing author lately, it’s also got more twists and unexpected turns than we could have imagined. We left off from the first book learning that Amber was actually alive – and that means that the great moment that we saw between Reeve and Emily is likely to crumble fast. He loved Amber and knowing that she’s alive should change things.

What we learn quickly from there on though is that every thing that Emily thought that she knew was wrong. Reeve actually knew who she was from the moment they first met. Amber had talked about her on and on and praised her and Reeve had known her name and her image long before Emily caused their paths to cross. This of course means that he feels betrayed and we have to spend much of the book watching Emily convince him otherwise.

At the same time, there’s the question on how Amber is alive and what needs to be done to keep everyone safe since we know that Micha is still after her, and then we wonder if Emily needs to be kept safe as well. Thankfully Joe is there to watch out for her but that raises flags as well.

If that weren’t enough, we keep flashing back to memories from Emily and Amber’s years together which helps us better understand the motivation behind who they each became. We also watch the implosion of Chris Blakely, the man who crushes on Emily to this day and makes Reeve jealous but also the man who was really close to Missy, Reeve’s ex who died at his property. That makes us wonder even more who’s behind everything and what’s going to happen.

They’ve forced into hiding at one of Reeve’s islands, and as a result of being there, we also see Amber push Emily further and further away from both herself and Reeve since she’s threatened and wants him for herself. The problem though is that Reeve continues to profess his love for Emily – a love that’s deeper than anything he’s experienced before, but Emily won’t do that to her friend, so she tries to walk away. That ends up with another death / murder and we’re left with everyone going their separate ways because that’s how they have to deal with their pain.

Joe becomes something even more important to Emily’s life now that everything’s transpired and frankly I think that I like him even more now …..maybe even for her. We’re left at a point of massive heartbreak and depression and there’s really no time in this book to resolve it all. So…you can imagine why I loved it so much – since every time our unrequitted lovers came together, it exploded with the sort of naughtiness and kink that we love, but yet we see that they’re never quite happy and content with their place in life. I’m sad that we only had this second book to close their story, but at least we got it all done here. Enjoy!

Review: First Touch (First and Last #1) by Laurelin Paige

Title: First Touch
Author:  Laurelin Paige
Publisher/Year:  Paige Press 12/29/15
Length:  304 Pages
Series: First and Last #1

Overview

DESPERATE FOR THE TRUTH. OBSESSED BY DESIRE…

Emily Wayborn is finally her own woman.

After a string of shameful relationships and reckless partying with her best friend Amber, she’s now a successful voiceover actress, her wild past and everyone in it firmly behind her. Until she receives a cryptic voicemail from her former friend that sends her spiraling into the darkness she thought she had outrun. One thing is clear from the message, Amber is in trouble.

Determined to track down her friend, Emily follows a chain of clues that leads her to Reeve Sallis, a gorgeous and equally dangerous hotelier known for his power games and shady dealings. Now, in order to find Amber, Emily must return to her playgirl ways to uncover his secrets and track down her friend. But as she becomes more entangled with him, she finds she’s drawn to Reeve and his depravity despite her growing conviction that he may be the one responsible for Amber’ s disappearance.

My Thoughts

OH WOW. that’s what i’ve got to say when I start this one. This first installment to this story is intense, hot, confusing, rich, all those great words that go into making an amazing story. I’ve read quite a few books from Ms Laurelin Paige, our amazing author and I think that this may be my favorite so far.

As the summary hints, we are reading the story through Emilyl’s eyes- she’s come a long way from the girl that she was back in high school and even soon after. She’s established herself with a new ish identity, she’s got a job that supports her and gives her access to the nicer things in life, and yet, she’s got her troubles in the form of a mother who’s got dementia and needs full time care. It’s one thanksgiving with her mom that goes better than most days, that she’s told of a message from a blast from the past that was on her voicemail. Amber – the girl that she met back when she was a teen, a girl who was a runaway but who taught her how to manipulate and use men for what she wanted to get in life….Amber was in trouble – as she used their coded safe word in the message.

The journey from there is one that gives Emily nothing of what she expected, but all of what she wanted. She hired Joe to help her locate Amber since the police wouldn’t help and what Joe uncovers isn’t at all what Emily wants to get involved with. She was last with a powerful man named Reeve Sallis, who’s got connections for sure, but who is possibly one of the sexiest men alive. He’s got a unique past being linked to an actress who died but aside from that, it’s the allure of the luxury resorts that he owns and the lifestyle that he lives that we assume drew Amber in. The challenge is that she’s not with him anymore, and Joe can’t seem to find her aside from a few uniquely timed emails that show images of her with a mystery man that we have determined to be the leader of a mob group.

Emily decides that the way to find Amber is to get close to Reeve and while she knew what she’d have to do in order to get close to him, she didn’t know that she would have the potential to fall in love with him and have that reciprocated. He has boundaries and expectations of what his ‘relationships’ are right but Emily approaches him out of his comfort zone and challenges him in ways that no one else has and therefore she’s ‘special’ to him even though he won’t admit it.

Every time Emily thinks that she’s getting a lead, things happen and it all gets questioned. We see Reeve’s controlling side come out time and time again, edging onto the scary and dangerous side, but we also know that things like that turn Emily on more than anyone could imagine. She’s trying to be careful in her approach to learn more about what happened to Amber, but what she should realize is that Reeve is connected to EVERYONE and EVERYTHING so i’m guessing that it’s all going to blow up in her face.

Throughout this time though, we see these two become dependent on one another. Addicted in a sense because they each crave something that only the other can give them. They need each other for peace and to breathe and of course to satiate an undeniable chemistry. They’re into kink – they like it rough, and it’s so hot to see EVERY single time their chemistry explodes since it’s often and super charged.

The last chapter of this first installment takes us on a complicated path. We see them argue, we see the questioning of trust and we wonder if there’s a chance that trust can be gained. Emily takes a chance and goes back to Reeve and he gives her the emotion that she needs from him. She had bared her worst moments to her and accidentally shard Amber’s name as the only person she’s loved and that triggers something in Reeve. He finally reveals the details of how he and Amber split and while that’s put closure on things, it also only answers half of Emily’s questions. Who are the two people that he’s loved. Amber and his parting words….her best friend.

The moment that’s revealed, Reeve’s phone rings and he runs out of their room to the main room of the ranch house where Emily secretly follows. There she sees Joe, and Amber. Who was supposed to be dead. and that’s the cliffhanger that we get. Luckily for me this story was written 5 years ago so I’ve got book 2 and i’m going to read it now. I was up all night doing my best not to write this review so that I could try to go a day without reading a book, but well….that didn’t happen so now i’m off to the next installment to see how their worlds implode. Enjoy!