Review: What if I Never (Necklace Trilogy #1) by Lisa Renee Jones

TitleWhat If I Never
Author: Lisa Renee Jones
Publisher/Year:  Julie Patra Publishing 10/19/21
Length:  200 Pages
Series: Necklace Trilogy #1

Overview

Allison Wright is delivered a package meant for a different Allison—a unique, expensive necklace. Determined to right the confusion, she seeks out the proper recipient, a journey that takes her to the doorstep of Tyler Hawk, a good looking, recluse billionaire who deals with fine collectibles such as the necklace. She also learns that Allison, his employee, quit her job registering and restoring his vast assortment of collectibles. Ironically, Allison is home to care for her sick mother, on leave from her job at Riptide, the world renowned auction house and her love of such things has her jumping at the opportunity. Soon, she is spending every waking moment immersed in the job the other Allison left behind.

As Allison begins diving into the job for Tyler, secrets about the other Allison begin to surface that have her concerned for her safety. And as she starts hunting for answers, her path crosses with the enigmatic famous author who has a business endeavor with her boss. Dash Black is a man who is dark and edgy, intense and yet quiet. Funny and yet somehow reserved. He draws her in, sets her pulse racing, and her body on fire. She knows there’s a dangerous edge to him, but she can’t seem to care. She’s addicted to everything he is and she simply can’t turn away, no matter what the cost. As Allison is drawn into the life and mystery of the other Allison, a mystery demands answers and passion burns hot. Allison will travel a path that leads to shocking truths and a side of herself she never knew existed.

My Thoughts

I LOVED this introduction to a new trilogy by our amazing author Lisa Renee Jones. It has Inside Out vibes ALL OVER THE PLACE. that series was based on a girl who found diaries of a woman who went missing, who worked at Riptide and we watched how all that unfolded throughout the extended series. This story is similar that it’s based on the discovery of an item that was meant for someone else, for a woman who’s gone missing, and we get more Riptide vibes throughout this as well.

We start off with Allison (Allie) Wright – our leading lady who works for Riptide in NYC, but who’s on leave right now in Nashville taking care of her mother who’s been fighting cancer. She’s in remission now, but Allie’s not ready to believe that things are better. Allie is working at a museum while she’s on leave and she receives a package one day that turns out to be this expensive necklace with the note ‘Forgive Me’ enclosed – leading her to believe that it’s from her father or her ex. Then she realizes that she’s not the intended Allison W to receive this and that instead it was supposed to go to the legal office of Hawk Legal down the street to an Allison W there. When she goes to return it, she learns that Allison has abruptly left work and no one knows where she is and when she’s coming back.

The story from here takes a similar mysterious tone but we are engrossed just the same.

Enter a few leading men into this story. Tyler Hawk, the partner that hires Allison to jump into Allison’s role to lead up an auction that was left in the lurch, ironically something that our Allie is able to do with skill and expertise. Tyler is just like Mark Compton, the owner of Riptide, so Allie’s able to handle him, but we get dark feelings about him. He’s got arrogance for sure but there’s something more, something darker underneath the surface with him that we haven’t quite gotten to yet.

Then there’s Dash Black – an incredibly successful author that Allie has actually edited before, but at the same time, a man who’s powerful, sexy and has something unknown about him as well. For this guy, we get Chris Merit vibes. Chris was the love interest from Inside Out – a wildly successful author who has his own dark past and history that took several books to uncover.

There’s chemistry between Allie and Dash and we see them dance around it for some time. He brings something out in her that she’s never allowed anyone to do – he makes her drop her walls, but likely because they know that there’s an expiration date since she’s going back to New York soon.

Tyler is a wild card – we don’t know his overt intentions but we can begin to see that there’s something more that he’s either hiding or is going to share with us soon. He has a connection to the missing Allison – and one that no one really speaks of, aside from Dash towards the end of this story. It’s not unexpected, but there’s more that even Tyler was unaware about and that’s what makes us wonder.

The heat and chemistry that Dash and Allie share at some point becomes to much to avoid and we watch how they explode together – there’s a connection that is so heated and powerful that you want to hope that they are salvation for one another. We know that Allie’s past is haunted – there are enough teases about that to gives us inclinations of what it could be but we’re never able to learn the truth. We know Dash has suffered his own share of despair and pain, death over and over again that he feels that he’s without salvation and redemption. There’s something about this unexpected pairing that makes you want to hope for the best, but we also know that they are likely self destructive so there’s really no hope …not yet.

We have a roller coaster that’s a mix of some of the sexiest scenes that we’ve read by our author in any books, and then there are the explosive fights that put us off one another completely. There’s anger and fear, and then there’s a cliff that we’re about to jump off. Dash goes to a fight club to work out his anger, Tyler brings Allie there to save him an it doesn’t work. She goes home (to the house that Tyler’s given her mind you) and while she’s there, in the wine cellar looking for something to soothe her broken heart, she realizes someone is in the house…and she has no signal to call 911. That’s where we are left off and now I don’t know that it’s fair that I have to wait until December for book 2. SAD….but this was an amazing read that I could NOT put down. so on that note, you guys have to read it too and enjoy!

Review: Mafia Queen (The DiLustro Arrangement #3) by CD Reiss

TitleMafia Queen
Author: CD Reiss
Publisher/Year:  Paige Press 10/12/21
Length:  298 Pages
Series: DiLustro Arrangement #3

Overview

What doesn’t kill you makes you a killer.

Santino DiLustro changed me. You can’t spend time in bed with the devil without getting addicted to the heat.

Before him, I was a girl. Innocent and weak. 

Now, I’m a woman. A fighter. A killer.

I’ll burn the world down for him. Shatter the sky. But I will not break. 

No. I will rise up and destroy whoever dares to threaten what my king has built, because I am forever his queen.

My Thoughts

I was relieved when this final installment of the story came out – we were left on such a distressing cliff at the end of book two that I NEEDED to see how the story would pan out. If you remember, things were going downhill fast at the end of book two. While Santi and Violetta were finally in a good place, trying to start the life that they felt they needed, Dami (Santi’s old best friend) was jealous and wanted what he felt was his – the inheritance that Violetta was getting of the sacred crown – and he chose to use Gia (Santis’ cousin) as bait on this.

This story shows us how easy it is to sway someone – convince them that the life they have can be better – that they can get more power and stature just because someone tells them. that’s what happens in this story with Gia. We learn that she had a romance with Armando – one of Santi’s closest men, but Dami showed interest, and claimed her, really to use her as a pawn, and Gia was quick to jump on that attention – to go with what Dami wanted because he had power and she wanted it. She was almost the demise of Santi, and that makes our opinion as a reader of her go way down.

So….we left the last installment with Gia pulling the trigger and shooting Santi, so he’s no longer a factor in the story. We watch him fall and believe he’s dead. At that notion, Dami gets what he wants – he takes Violetta now and goes to marry her so that he can get what he feels he deserves – the crown and the rights that he felt Violetta’s father bestowed on him and not Santi. Lucky for Violetta though, she’s not one to go down without a fight, and she makes a mess of things – kills someone and wishes that it were Dami in fact, but gets out of the marriage.

Violetta is now forced to be the Queen – to rule over Sanit’s men since that’s her position to hold. To gain their trust and their support and some how overthrow Dami and the Tabonas – all other ‘mafia’ groups that want to take over the territory that Santi has claimed.

The roller coaster continues – Violetta learns Santi is alive, they try to get to the Crown from the lawyer yet Dami is a step ahead of them and blows up the lawyers office. Death and destruction continue in this third book because every turn we take there’s another thing going wrong. Santi is captured, tortured, his finger is cut off, he’s imprisioned, and there’s no hope for salvation. The saving grace is in the form of Violetta’s mother’s ‘consigliere’ – he comes bearing the crown – which makes every one bow to Violetta since she’s the only one who can handle it. to everyone else it’s hot to the touch, and it’s ethereal – forcing everyone to bend when they see it.

Things move quickly from here – we see plans and strategies put in place, knowing that there will be death and destruction coming next. We have Dario who’s a mafia leader from New York come to their aid, with his own agenda though since he comes when he believes that Santino is dead. There’s something that we’re not quite getting to with him in this story and I look forward to seeing where his saga takes us since CD Reiss hints that the next series coming is about Dario.

When we began this series, there was the hope for love and the need to validate family. We have ups and downs in this story – watching as love is forced and not earned. Power is exchanged and taken from those who earned it by those who are too hungry for it. We watch as there’s a hope and desire for a life that’s never meant to be, in the hopes that we can make a life that works ….with balance. There’s chemistry and passion and there’s heat and need. All the necessary ingredients to a story that keeps moving quickly and resolves in a way that’s worthy. So….that all being said – i’m now off to find something new to read. Enjoy!

Review: Broken Vow (Broken #2) by Stella Gray

TitleBroken Vow
Author: Stella Gray
Publisher/Year:  Paige Press 10/5/21
Length:  194 Pages
Series: Broken #2

Overview

I thought the past was behind me… but becoming Mrs. Bellanti put a target on my back.

My husband isn’t a gentle man.
And God knows he isn’t the sharing type.
Rico’s announcement has dropped a bomb into my marriage.

I never thought I’d see Rico again.
Never thought Dante would ever have to know.
Seeing the way he looks at me now, as though I’m just another problem to be handled?
It’s breaking my heart.

I thought I was in love once before.

I swore I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.

But falling for a Bellanti was far worse than a simple mistake…

My Thoughts

We ended book 1 on the worst note – seeing things start to get amazing for Dante and Frankie – they really did seem to have a true and real relationship, one that had love in it regardless of the means to the beginning, and then Rico shows up. We didn’t know who he was, but we knew that there was a reason that Frankie was avoiding his calls in book 1.

She was married. To Rico. And he left her. On their Honeymoon and never came back. She was heartbroken, then angry and then she went home.

Fast forward to the present when she’s truly happy with Dante and he with her, and then Rico appears. Perfect timing right? He makes Dante lose trust in everything, and we see Frankie lose everything. She is kicked out of the house, out of Dante’s life, out of the vineyard. She watches Jessica the conniving assistant come back and sink her claws into Dante. On the other side of things, we also watch her non-Dante life fall apart. Her father sells off all of the horses that Livvie loves so much and we watch Livvie get shuttled between Charlie’s house in SF to school every day since they deem it unsafe for her to stay at the house with their father anymore.

There’s so much despair happening – we don’t know what else can go wrong. Charlie and Frankie are trying to be strong – Charlie’s husband is still away and he’s been away longer than ever so she’s nervous. There’s really nothing good on the horizon and really all that Frankie wants is for Dante to give her a chance to explain.

He’s not having it. He wants to hear nothing that Frankie has to say – he just wants to cut his losses with her, take over the winery that he got when he married her and be done with it all so that his family’s reputation doesn’t get hurt any more.

Little does he know that there’s more to the story than anyone knows. Frankie goes searching in her father’s office and finds the contract that sells her to Dante. What is included are the clear words that the Abbot vineyard goes to Frankie and her legal husband. which is not Dante – so she goes in fighting, knowing that Dante only wanted the grapes. She thinks that she’ll be able to convince Rico to leave and give her his piece of a failing winery but vindictive Jessica lets Rico know the full value of what he has.

This makes the story take a frustrating turn. Rico doesn’t want to let Frankie go because he wants the money from the vineyard – and Franke really doesn’t want to sell her family history. Rico never wanted anything from Frankie even when they were married if it wasn’t tied to money. When he realized that her father wasn’t going to be able to buy them a house in Italy, that’s when he left her, so we know that his money driven.

On the flip side, Dante hates Frankie and hates Rico, and really just wants to get everyone out of his life. What’s nice for Dante though is that he has a brother Armani who’s not going to leave any rock unturned and will get to the bottom of what’s going on with Rico – and what we learn is not surprising but it’s a way to end things.

The turn that we see happen in this story – throughout the uncertainty is the notion that love can conquer all – and that sometimes even the hate that you have for someone is firmly rooted in love. Dante wants to hate Frankie and wants her out of his life but what he realizes is that she’s gotten under his skin. He wants to get her out of his system physically but when he does that, when they come together with intense heat and passion, it’s not enough for him. He wants more. On the same note, Frankie has never stopped loving Dante – she only wants to make him realize that what they had is real and what she had with Rico was an illusion.

We’ve made it over a hill of sorts, but there are lies and there are untruths being told that have broken trust all over again. The end of this story leaves us on another cliff where we thought life would be happy and move in the right direction but the discovery of information makes that impossible. Our happy bubble is shattered and it’s going to take quite a bit of effort to get it back on track. Now I have to wait 3 weeks -ish to get the final installment of the series – so i’ll try to be patient. Enjoy!

Review: Broken Bride (Broken #1) by Stella Gray

TitleBroken Bride
Author: Stella Gray
Publisher/Year:  Paige Press 9/7/21
Length:  200 Pages
Series: Broken #1

Overview

I was sold to him to settle a debt… but Dante Bellanti never settles.

My father was always a gambling man.
Unfortunately, he never could pick winners.
When the wolves closed in, he chose himself, like always.

He traded his freedom… for mine.

He forced me to marry.
Now Dante Bellanti owns my body.
I’m just another possession for a man who already has too much.
So I won’t let him have my heart.

But you know what they say about gambling.

The house always wins.

And I’m at the mercy of the Bellantis…

My Thoughts

Well….I read through this book in a matter of hours last night, could not put it down because I really needed to see what happened between Frankie and Dante. Frankie was on the precipice of something great – coming home from Italy after spending a few years learning how to improve her family business and what does she learn when she walks in, it was all for nothing

Down the road there’s the Bellantis – who are mourning the death of their patriarch and Dante finds himself at the head of the family. Trying to alleviate the family of the ownership of some debts that people owe them, ensuring that territory that is theirs remains safe and giving space where they can afford to in order to keep the peace. As part of that, he takes on the debts of Frankie’s father and with that, he takes her as part of the payment.

The story from here on out is watching Frankie come to terms with a life that she never wanted, for reasons that she’s not sure of, and with a man that she wants but doesn’t want to want. Her older sister is able to give her some guidance on how to life with a ‘made man’ since her husband is part of a crime family and together they try to protect their younger sister.

Dante on the other hand has to manage his two brothers – each of who has a different motivation in the family business if any at all, and we hope that there’s something that can come out of that family.

There’s an adversary in the form of Dante’s assistant – a woman who clearly wants Dante as more than a casual bed partner, and when she meets Frankie and sees there is something building between husband and wife, well, we know that it’s not going to end well for anyone.

There are several unknowns in this story. One is how Dante’s father died. We learn that perhaps Frankie’s father knows more about it than he let on, so we see if that plays out. Then there’s the notion of wondering if Frankie and Dante will ever find a common ground. She wants to be an equal – she wants love and she wants to work. She’s given an opportunity to help the vineyard and we have to be patient to see how that plays out. There’s also a man named Rico that Frankie clearly doesn’t want to have any contact with and of course that means that he will show up at the wrong moment.

We have a roller coaster with this couple – there’s chemistry and a spark between them that’s unexpected and they slowly come to have more than hate towards one another. They are celebrating the First Press of a new wine that bonds their families together and then the unimaginable happens. A spouse turns up that no one expected…..end scene.

You can now understand why I couldn’t put the book down last night so now thank goodness book 2 is out and i’m going to read it tonight! Enjoy!

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

TitleThe Cult
Author: Penelope Sky
Publisher/Year:  Hartwick Publishing 9/14/21
Length:  268 Pages
Series: The Cult #1

Overview

I see his wicked smile in the theatre. I see it in the apartment across from mine.

I see it everywhere.

Before I can run, I’m taken.

And when I wake up…I’m in the middle of nowhere.

The man who’s taken me claims to be a demon.

And claims I’m his angel.

What happens when he finds out I don’t have wings?

I’m not the only prisoner in this forest. There’s a little girl too. Her name is Claire. She’s beautiful, happy, wonderful. It’s my responsibility to protect her–and I will give my life to accomplish that.

She says her father will save us both.

She says he’s powerful, formidable, that he’ll burn this entire forest to get to her.

I hope she’s right.

My Thoughts

WOW – that’s all I can say about this one – it’s a sick and twisted version of all that we love from Penelope Sky and i’m here for it. If you remember back to the Chateau series – we were in the Alps in a camp that was used to package and distribute drugs. Women were kidnapped and kept there to do the dirty work because they came at no cost- and their lives were held solely in the hands Fender and his brother.

Once they abandoned the camp, someone came in to take the land over. Someone who believed in all that was good and perfect and beautiful in the world – Angels. Because they themselves were demons. The worst form of Hell and they needed Angels for redemption. And so, the history of kidnapping women and bringing them to the camp continues, in a new form, because Forneus and his men kidnap women that they believe are angels who can help get them forgiveness for all they’ve done.

We start this story with our leading lady Constance – she’s a ballerina and she’s just finished a performance when a man, Benton, walks in – holding up a picture of another ballerina who has gone missing. We don’t know the story there – but we know that he’s in despair. This is the night that Constance’s life changes forever.

Benton’s ex-lover has been kidnapped along with his daughter Claire and he’s trying to hunt them down. No one can help him find her and while he wants to find Beatrice, he wants his daughter more. Constance has this memory in her mind when she performs the next night and discovers a man, all in black, staring at her with a smile that is so creepy that she’s scared out of her mind. She goes home and discovers him in the apartment across the way staring at her, and then when the police won’t take her seriously, we know her moment is about to come. The next night at her performance, the man is there again, with an entire team of men dressed in black, with horns on their heads. The police won’t help her so she tries to find Benton, knowing that he knows she’s not lying.

She goes to him to try to get protection and that’s not enough – she’s captured and we now have no idea what her fate will be or the fate of Beatrice and Claire.

We then learn that Benton is connected to a man from The Chateau. Bartholemew and the Chaussers. The group that tried to overthrow Fender and Magnus and destroyed the camp in entirety. He’s able to find out about The Cult and what they are doing, and where they are. Be barters to get Beatrice and Claire’s freedom, by trading distribution help for Forneus and his team. (they deal in LSD). When Benton goes to retrieve his daughter, he’s told that she’s dead and handed a bag of bones. Once they realize that they’ve been crossed, the story takes another turn.

On the inside of the camp, the women learn that the cult, the demons believe that they are truly angels who will help save them from hell. Each demon has an angel and each demon has their own method of getting forgiven for their sins. Constance has Forneus who’s the leader – and he’s not resorted to harming her in any way which is a plus, but we haven’t figured him out yet. He’s terrifying and he even gives her the pill (LSD) in the hopes that she can lead him to being saved, but that doesn’t work.

Beatrice’s demon on the other hand is dark and mean. He gets angry when she’s not able to make her true wings come out and he cuts her back open to force them to come out. He allows another demon to try to do the same with Beatrice’s young daughter and Constance comes to her defense and kills the demon that goes after her.

we watch a transfer of power and authority here – the men are afraid of the angels, but they are even more afraid of Constance. She has a knife and she’s killed a demon, and for that, they cower. She’s not afraid of them and she protects Claire in that sense because she knows that she can’t be hurt. The question now becomes how can they break out and how can they get their freedom. We know that Benton tried and failed since he believes they are dead, but the tide will turn once he knows they are alive.

The story for the back half is a roller coaster. Benton some how manages to get Beatrice and Claire free and Claire won’t leave without Constance. Beatrice is on the brink of death after being tortured some more by her demon, and yet Constance has managed to keep Claire alive, happy and protected. So Benton has no choice but to bring her with them but he wants nothing to do with her once they are back in Paris.

Forneus believes that Benton has something that’s his – Constance. And he’s not willing to give it up. He finds her in Paris, hunts her down, and scares her even more. The only safe place for Constance to go is Benton’s house but he wants nothing to do with her. We are left at a point in this story where we know that Constance means quite a bit to a lot of people, but will she mean enough to the people who can save her. We just don’t know yet and that’s where we have to wait until November when book 2 comes out. So…on that note – please read this one. it’s sick and twisted in a way that none of Penelope Sky’s books have ever been and it’s a treat. Enjoy!