Book Blitz: Review & Giveaway for The Twelfth Paladin

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The Twelfth Paladin by Nora Weston

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Publisher: Melange Books LLC

            Length: 242 pages

Purchase on Amazon: The Twelfth Paladin

Book Description

In The Twelfth Paladin, good against evil battles as an angel, demons, and a temptress extraordinaire, named Rachel Darnell, vie for the soul of Jake Cottrell. Jake foolishly dares Hell to burn him. Hell agrees.

Scarred with angelfire by a rebellious angel, named Micah, Jake Cottrell is sanctioned to become the twelfth paladin in Micah ‘s supernatural unit of slayers. However, regret abounds as Micah is banished and ordered to protect what he now despises a human he believes is unworthy of such an honor. Never fear, Jake is a seeker of mischief who soars on a blistering blacktop to escape the wrath of Hell while he transforms into the twelfth paladin.

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Watch the Book Trailer now!

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Book Review

In The Twelfth Paladin, Nora Weston puts a modern twist on the age old classic tale of good versus evil. Unlike some of those classic tales, however, the protagonist in this story, Jake Cottrell, isn’t depicted as an honorable, virtuous hero who does what’s right and resists evil temptations. No, Jake is a man who doesn’t hesitate to look the Devil, himself, in the eye and say, “Bring it on.”
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He isn’t overly concerned about what happens to his eternal soul; he’s just focused on mindlessly getting through each day working a dead-end job while living with an abusive, alcoholic father.  Danger, mischief, and women are the vices he seeks out in his free time.

So, when Jake finds himself caught in the middle of an eternal supernatural war between Heaven and Hell, God and Satan, angels and demons, well, let’s just say he doesn’t take it as seriously as he should.  Instead of turning toward the light, Jake embraces the darkness that begins to immerse him after a deadly motorbike accident that he barely survives.

Much of this story is told from Jake’s POV, which initially limits our understanding of the events taking place.  Jake has no idea that God has chosen him to become one of his mighty warriors, one of his paladins in the war against Satan.  Unbeknownst to Jake, his life changes when he decides to forfeit a win in a motocross race to help save a fellow racer in danger.  Instead of dying, God leaves Jake scarred by “angelfire,” a supernatural power that will help Jake to fight and kill demons that prey upon human souls.  However, before Jake can use his emerging powers, he must first awaken to this new role God has planned for him and realize his worthiness in God’s eyes. This will be a challenge for Jake since he has also drawn the attention of demons intent on stealing his soul for Satan.  To make things worse, Jake openly taunts these demons, initially welcoming the evil that descends upon him.  I like the use of Jake’s POV in building suspense as he gradually discovers the truth about the demons surrounding him.

I have to admit that I had a difficult time liking and connecting with Jake as the central character in this book.  His apathetic nature and foolish choices kept me frowning through much of the story. Yes, Jake had a difficult childhood. Being abandoned by a selfish mother who cared more for material possessions than her own son and being raised by an abusive alcoholic father has certainly played a role in the man he has become.  Even though I understood Jake hadn’t experienced much, if any, goodness, love, and support, I still wasn’t able to fully empathize with his character as much as I would have liked.  Now, upon further reflection, I have a sneaky suspicion this may have been one of Weston’s intentions.  Jake is a man easy to dislike, easy to fault, easy to judge…but who among us can really know and understand what’s in another’s heart and soul?  This is a prominent theme illustrated throughout the novel.

Micah, a powerful angelic warrior, is an important character in developing the plot and reinforcing this theme.  God has sent Micah to watch over and protect Jake as he struggles to escape darkness and find redemption before joining God’s army of supernatural slayers.   Micah is distressed over his new mission and grumbles about his fall from God’s favor:

“I had to argue with Him about Jake becoming the twelfth one…but that rogue is not paladin material. Lord, he’s scarcely human!” Feeling a sharp stab in his heart, Micah’s thoughts raced. Until I regain my loyalty to humans, and especially Jake, I’m damned to be on this planet without my command. And although I should’ve listened to God, I still believe Jake Cottrell is unworthy of service.”

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Although it was easy to see that Micah is too quick to judge, it took a bit of time for me to realize that I was being just like Micah in my assessment of Jake.  Both Micah and Jake are two well-developed, dynamic characters whose emotional growth infuses the story with a sense of hopefulness about our humanity.

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A part of being human is the frailty we have toward temptation, and Jake’s former high school classmate, Davis Travers, knows exactly how to entice Jake to embrace his sinful nature.  Davis loves to arouse feelings of self-doubt and jealousy in Jake, which makes him more vulnerable to the seductive demon temptress, Rachel, who has been sent by Davis to claim Jake’s soul.  Although Jake easily gives in to the sexual fantasies Rachel promises, these scenes are not explicit but, instead, focus more on Jake’s inner conflict, knowing what he’s doing is wrong, yet unable to physically resist this demon succubus with her own plans for Jake.

To retaliate against the evil Davis has inflicted upon Jake’s family and friends, Jake runs away with Angie, Davis’ fiancé.  Angie is basically a good person, but like everyone else in the story, she has flaws, and her choices have left her living in fear and darkness with Davis.  Just like Jake, Angie wants nothing more than to be free from the demonic hold Davis has on her.  Angie also becomes a powerful motivator for Jake to change:

“We checked into ‘Drifter’s’ knowing our lives had left the realm of so-called normalcy, but the conscious decision to change the future was made the first day I saw Angie at Davis’ mansion. From that point on, the look of sadness dwelling in Angie’s eyes, the haunting tone in her voice…forced me to reexamine my selfish existence. I could not release myself from caring about her. She was, in fact, special…and I was a better man when I was around her.”

I enjoyed the twist that Angie’s situation added to the story’s major conflict and loved seeing the impact she made in helping Jake move away from the darkness that had enveloped his life.

As Jake increasingly moves toward God’s light, the evil intensifies leading to Jake into the ultimate battle for his soul.  I found the resolution to be unified and satisfying in wrapping up the story.

Although the story had a solid, well-developed plot, I did have some issues with story’s POV and narration. Although the majority of the story is told from Jake’s limited POV, at times the author switches to the perspective of other characters, such as Micah and Davis. This is fine except that in a few places, the POV becomes unclear as this sentence illustrates:  “Although, Davis Travers had no idea Jake had planned to be eating, sleeping, and in good spirits with his stolen, virgin bride. Was Angie Helms worth the boundless reprisal of Hell? Let’s hope so.” I’m not sure who “us” is in reference to the story.

Another aspect I found problematic is the use of both past and present tense in narrating the story. Jake tells the story as if it has already happened, and, at times, he interjects his own reflective commentary about what he knows to be true now. These reflective comments are helpful in establishing conflict, foreshadowing, and building suspense. Unfortunately, when Jake describes events in past tense and then reacts to them in present tense, I found that the switch disrupted the flow of the story. Here is an example:

“I enjoyed my reckless ride to work on a long forgotten state road, feeling the need for speed. If only I could forget what I’ve done…who I am. To my surprise… “Wham!” A tree had fallen on the road. I tried to stop, but my skin ate asphalt as I skidded off the road to fall over a steep rocky hill. There I was in the boonies, hanging on to a tree limb for dear life. “Am I screwed or what? This is ridiculous! What am I to do?” Well I really couldn’t move. I was stuck.”

I would have preferred that the author used the past tense consistently. I know the present tense can help intensify a scene’s drama, but this switch became awkward for me as a reader.

Overall, I am glad I read this book; I enjoyed the complexity of Jake’s character, the suspenseful storyline, and overall, how Weston made me think about my own perceptions of others.

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I received a copy of this book from the author via Book and Trailer Showcase in exchange for an honest review.

Rating

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*****

Excerpt from The Twelfth Paladin

Jake Cottrell survived a Motocross accident due to intervention from a rebellious angel, named Micah. Ordered to do so, but done half-heartedly, Micah scarred Jake with angelfire during the accident that was supposed to claim Jake’s life. Angelfire transforms humans into supernatural warriors. Practically healed at this point, Jake accepts an invitation to meet some friends at a local carnival, but nothing is as it seems…

“Jake Cottrell is that you, old buddy?” Not a shadow by any definition, a tall man appeared from out of the darkness. He walked closer saying, “It is you, right, Jake?”

“Yeah, who the hell are you?”

“It’s me, Davis Travers. Have you forgotten hanging out behind Zeke’s and the state football championship our senior year? Man, we pounded the shit out of the Wolverines.” He put his hand out for me to shake. “We go back a long way.”

I shook his icy-cold hand. “Davis, it is you. You moron, were you trying to give me a heart attack?” I asked with my usual tactfulness.

“No, just trying to catch you, that’s all. Walk with me.”

We walked further into the middle of the carnival.

The lights sparkled, shining across Davis’ eyes…making them glow in an unnatural way. At times, he squinted trying to block the flashing streams of rainbows.

“Okay, are you cranked on something? Your eyes look like they’re about to pop,” I said thinking he was tripping out.

“Nah, some lights drive me insane. I prefer darkness since my laser surgery. Oh, never mind, it’ll all work out. Come on, I know someone you need to meet.” With a sense of urgency, he showed me the way to a black tent glowing with a dim blue light from within it.

We stood just outside of the tent.

“Davis, where have you been? I haven’t seen you in six years or so.”

“I’ll fill you in, later. Follow me, and you’ll descend into a world filled with more pleasure than you could ever dream of…hurry, Jasmine is ravishing.”

Just the way Davis uttered Jasmine tempted me to see who she was. “You promise?”

“Well, Napoleon said, ‘the best way to keep one’s word…is not to give it.’ Although, I remember you used to love screwing around with anything you shouldn’t.” Peeling back one side of the black tent, Davis smiled welcoming Jasmine’s eerie, blue light. “Dare to enter her world?” He stared at me with eyes full of arrogance and then chuckled like he knew something I didn’t.

Davis understood I wouldn’t refuse a dare…yet, right before I entered that tent, I glanced up. The full moon looked abnormally huge, and menacing clouds were about to digestthe moonlight. Thunder and lightning crackled in the far distant sky, while the wind whirled as though I was its target. For about seven seconds, a tantalizing, spicy scent captivated me, but I sensed it was loaded with poison. I acknowledged my curiosity thinking, Hum, Mother Nature is pissed. It’s as though there is a war going on up there. More often than not, I didn’t care about such things, but this night felt mystical.

We entered the tent.

Jasmine’s cat-like eyes caught me off guard, as did her sleek black gown molding around a body any goddess would attempt to covet. Dark locks fell around her dolled-up face as she walked over to Davis and smashed her pink lips onto his. She kissed him long and hard. Freeing herself, Jasmine teased us with graceful moves like running her hands through her long, shiny hair. “So, my darling, you’ve brought me a treat for tonight?” she asked with a strong accent, possibly Romanian.

Davis grabbed her and kissed her again as though her lips belonged only to him. He pulled Jasmine against his body smothering her with his confidence. Davis played with her like she was merely a toy.

I could tell they were more than just first time acquaintances and felt somewhat like a voyeur…I mean, for crying out loud, get a room.

In-between kisses, Davis whispered, “Yes, baby. This is Jake Cottrell. Read for him okay? I’m dying for some entertainment.”

Jasmine approached me, snatched my right hand, and placed it around her gold adorned neck. Moving my hand down her body, she said, “Sure, I’ll read for you, and this one is on me. Come.” She motioned for me to sit by a small table draped with various colored, silk scarves. The table had a blue crystal ball positioned in the center of a circle made by five black candles all tied together with silver ribbon.

Without any sense of wrongdoing, or thought I may be dabbling with danger even too risky for the likes of me, I sat down and then stared across the table at Jasmine. “Okay, go ahead and read my future.” Smiling, I clutched onto Jasmine’s hands like nothing she saw could possibly affect me.

Jasmine’s dark green eyes intensified making me feel vulnerable, like my skin was nothing more than clear, plastic wrap. Her crystal ball glowed bluer as pure white light shot out from the top of it. The warm light split up into thousands of hair-like strands, which proceeded to wrap themselves around my stinging flesh. A satisfying, but powerful aroma gobbled up the carnival smell once present.

I couldn’t speak, felt immobile in every physical aspect, yet my mind burned. Things about my ridiculous childhood appeared throughout my mind much like a movie. Tender moments shared with Tony were especially heartfelt to see, like the day he showed us our new home. After that, I remembered when my mother left us, and our life mirrored the underworld. Sadness just about asphyxiated me. Out of nowhere, the sorrow left as I relived the surreal accident at the Motocross Track. For a second, I was dead and descending into Hell.

At last, relief came to me as Jasmine released her hands from mine. As fast as a lightning bolt, the white light retracted back into her crystal ball. “My, my, Jake Cottrell,” she said patting her lovely chest.

“What did you see? Am I going to win a lottery or something?” Standing up to leave, I acted like nothing had happened.

Jasmine came to me and then placed her delicate hand on my right shoulder. A half-smile disappeared when she leaned in to whisper, “Surely you will fall into darkness, before you willingly bathe in the glory of the light. All in due time, Jake Cottrell.”

Faster than Tony could empty a bottle of whiskey, goose-bumps consumed my skin. “Stop it. How’d you know I dreamed that?”

Inches from my face, Jasmine ran her black nails along my jaw. “You’ve been scarred with angelfire. Your right shoulder I believe? A war is going on, but you won’t accept you’re the twelfth one, will you?” She laughed, dancing about the tent looking more like a medieval witch than a modern-day carnival gypsy. “I hope you’re ready for the ride of your life…because it’s coming.” Jasmine spun around faster as the candles flared and her cackle grew more intense.

*****

About the Author

AuthorNora Weston’s fiction and poetry slips in-between and all around science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Her publishing credits include the novels Guardian 2632 and The Twelfth Paladin, plus anthologies, magazines, and e-zines. Themes found in Nora’s work relate to good against evil, Internet safety, the powerful consequences for one’s actions, and the ability we all possess to improve the world. She’s had the pleasure of reaching people through the airwaves on radio stations throughout the US. Recently, her work was published for Bête Noire and Crack the Spine. Feel free to download previous interviews and segments from Desmond Haas/Romance Radio Network and Blog Talk Radio’s Not Picture Perfect, plus B.K. Walker has interviewed Nora on Blog Talk Radio as well. Contact Nora Weston: noraweston.nw@gmail.com

Links for Nora Weston

Author’s Site | Blog | Youtube |Facebook | Twitter: almostsanelady

Additional Buy Links for The Twelfth Paladin

Melange Books

Amazon.com

Bookdepository.com

*****

Giveaway

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2 Autographed Print Copies of The Twelfth Paladin

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Review of How to Write a Book Review

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Purchase on Amazon: How to Write a Book Review

How to Write a Book Review by Rebecca Graf

Book Description

Have you wondered what makes a good book review? Have you wondered what you might be missing in writing a book review? You can find out how to write a quality book review in these pages.

Length of book: 73 pages

Publication Date: February 27, 2013

Book Review

This is a fast and helpful read for anyone who writes book reviews. I read this in one sitting and couldn’t believe how fast I finished this brief, but concise book.

The concepts in the book are not meant to be absorbed at once but are for use as a reference when preparing to write a review. As I read, I highlighted and bookmarked pages I can go back and read more closely and consider the ideas Graf presents. The author provides great tips supported by detailed examples of what you should and shouldn’t do when writing a book review. I especially liked how the Graf demonstrates ways you can be honest to readers while providing constructive feedback to the authors.

There is one particularly helpful chapter that recommends reviewers create a template of the components you plan to discuss after reading the book. Graf even provides a simple, straightforward template to use as a model.

I really think this is a must read for anyone who shares a review of a book. Even if you don’t write book reviews but enjoy reading, this book can help you in identifying and following reviewers who write fair and balanced reviews.

Note: I purchased this book on Amazon without expecting to write a review; however, the book was so informative, I really wanted to share its merits with fellow book  bloggers and readers.

Rating

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About the Author

Rebecca Graf

Rebecca Graf was born in Russellville, Kentucky but grew up in Dothan, Alabama. She graduated from the University of Montevallo with an accounting degree. Given the chance to try her hand at writing, she began writing online articles leading to her first published book, A Gift for a Mouse. From there she ventured into romance, mystery, comedy and drama. The passion of writing was discovered. She currently lives in Wisconsin with her husband and three children.

Rebecca is partner in a publishing company, Silver Tongue Press, at http://www.silvertonguepress.com.

She can help you edit your material as well as market your book at The News in Books – http://www.thenewsinbooks.com.

Check out her book tour company, Celestial Book Promotions, to get more attention for your book or to be a host. (Information from Amazon)

Author Links

Website:  http://www.abookloverslibrary.weebly.com

Twitter: rebeccagraf

Goodreads 

ARC Review of Deep Autumn Heat: (Star Harbor #1)

Book Cover

Purchase on Amazon: Deep Autumn Heat: A Loveswept Contemporary Romance

Deep Autumn Heat: A Loveswept Contemporary Romance (Star Harbor #1) by Elisabeth Barrett

Book Description

In this sexy new Star Harbor romance series, featuring the too-tempting Grayson brothers, a celebrity chef turns up the heat for a local café owner—and things start to sizzle.

Lexie Meyers decides there’s nothing sweeter than watching Sebastian Grayson’s perfect, wicked mouth devour her coconut cake. He’s hot, he’s hungry, and he’s sizing her up like she’s the best thing on the menu. But she’s been burned in the past and flings just aren’t her thing. Too bad Sebastian can’t resist a challenge.

Worldly, famous, and notorious with the ladies, Seb had planned a weekend of fishing and relaxation with his brothers. Until Lexie, with her kissable lips and frosty “get lost” attitude, makes him want to forget his culinary empire and create some magic with her. After he fires up his charm—including challenging her to a televised cook-off to break through her resistance—it’s now hotter in the bedroom than it is in the kitchen and Lexie isn’t sure whether she’s lost her mind . . . or just her heart.

Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from these Loveswept titles: Here Comes the Bride, The Wedding Chase, and About Last Night

Book Review

Take two talented chefs, combine them lots of lust and passion, mix in a bit of mystery and suspense, add a dash of scrumptious food descriptions,  and then top off with the hope for love and you have a delicious, mouth-watering read.

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Deep Autumn Heat is the first in a series about the four Grayson brothers “former resident bad boys” who return to Star Harbor, a small resort town outside of Boston.  The opening scene sets the foundation for this series by describing four brothers who will each be featured in a separate book.  Although the opening wasn’t exciting and didn’t grab my attention, it does work to provide relevant background information about these four brothers, especially Seb Grayson who is featured first. I tend to prefer openings that establish immediate conflict, whereas this first scene is all about character development.

This is a story about following your dreams, finding passion in your life, and taking emotional risks, in the ultimate quest for a happily ever after. The book’s central focus is on the tension laden relationship between Seb Grayson and Lexie Meyers.  If you like an ample amount of seduction and romance in your romantic suspense reads, then this book should meet your expectations.  Rising complications throughout the story revolving around a legendary coconut cake and an abusive ex-boyfriend provide suspenseful moments and keep the plot moving along at an effective pace.  The story takes place during fall and is sprinkled with images of autumn, hence the connection to the book’s title.  I think this season is appropriate to the plot, since the changing color of the leaves symbolizes the growth both Seb and Lexie must undergo to find the fulfillment missing from their lives.

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Seb is a renowned chef living in New York, who has returned to Star Harbor, his hometown, for an annual get together weekend with his brothers.  He extends his stay after he meets feisty Lexie Meyers, owner of a local diner/bakery, who acts immune to his fame and charm. I really enjoyed their first scene together when she smoothly and efficiently puts the cocky and arrogant Seb in his place.  Although Seb can be considered the book’s hero, I really felt that Lexi was the protagonist. She is featured in more scenes, and her POV provides greater depth to her character. Her emotional growth over the course of the book is also more predominant than Seb’s.

Lexie has the characteristics to make her a likeable character. She is a dedicated chef running her own successful restaurant/catering business.  Unlike Seb, whose growing empire has forced him out of the kitchen and into an administrative role, Lexie is a hands-on employer who doesn’t hesitate to step in and do whatever job is needed at the time.  She is industrious, passionate about food, and has a kind and compassionate side that is illustrated when she learns someone in the community has been deceiving and threatening her. She is personable and well-liked in her community. Even Seb finds he can take a few lessons from her kitchen.

Yet, no one is perfect, and, although Lexie appears strong and confident in her work environment, inside she has deep-seated fears about love and relationships. Her one and only past relationship was disastrous and terrifying. Understandably, she doesn’t want to experience that pain again. Barrett does a great job of honing in on just how much she has been hurt. Her reluctance to get involved with someone else is realistic and justifiable.

Lexie thought she was happy being single and focused on her growing business until the handsome, black-haired, green-eyed Seb Grayson enters her restaurant and shakes up her contented world.

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Being around Seb leaves her breathless and flustered as she tries to deny the intense attraction sparking between them. She begins to get worried even after their first encounter together:

“I’ll see you later, Lexie Meyers,” he said letting her name play on his lips. He removed his hand from her shoulder, letting his fingers trail down her arm. When she shivered involuntarily, he smiled. A slow, masculine smile that spoke of dark promises. As if he knew she couldn’t take her eyes off of him, he turned and sauntered lazily toward the door.”

*****

“For her own sake, she hoped he didn’t come back.” 

Although Seb is confident about his looks and success, Lexie’s rebuff has both surprised and intrigued him, and she now becomes a challenge.  There is much more to Seth than his first impression.  For example, at first, I thought Seb may be a pompous jerk because of his behavior the first time at the diner, but later he proves that he can be sensitive, caring, and sincere. I think he just became so used to women falling for him that he hasn’t had to put any real effort into getting a woman’s attention.

Seb isn’t one to be in a committed relationship, and even though he knows Lexie’s not the type to go for a casual fling, he still pursues her. I also initially thought Lexie was just a sexual conquest for him. However, his POV gradually reveals the warring emotions of lust and protectiveness he has toward her. His conflicting feelings cause him to send Lexie mixed signals, and for much of the first part of the book, they simply dance around –trying to find a way to get close, only to end up backing away from each another.
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I like the creative means Seb uses to get close to Lexie, all of them revolving around food, of course. One of the best scenes in the book is the culinary cook-off where Seb and Lexie compete against each other to see who can prepare the best crab cakes.

 

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Bassett is very descriptive in describing Lexie’s thoughts and actions as she works under pressure to create a winning dish. And by the end of the scene, I was craving crab cakes! I’m still looking too.

Although their minds try to resist the other, their bodies ultimately betray them and eventually they give in to their insatiable desire for one another.  These scenes are intense, steamy, and explicit.  They seem to need that physical intimacy each time before they can share their vulnerabilities with each other:

“I’ve wanted you since the first morning I saw you. I think I made that fairly obvious, despite out hiccups.”

“I’ve wanted you too, “ she whispered. “Even though I was trying to fight it. But I don’t know that I’m ready for this.”

“Well I have news for you, Lexie. This,” he said, gesturing between them with a large hand, “this does change everything. You’re mine now.”

“I’m no one’s,” Lexie said, her chin jerking up in defiance.

“You’re mine,” he repeated, one hand encircling her forearm. “And I take care of what’s mind.”

This conversation between Lexie and Seb encapsulates their passion, intensity, and fears about loving each other.

The book has a unified plot that wraps up nicely in the end even though the outcome of the two major mysteries is fairly predictable. However, I can overlook that since the evolving relationship between Lexie and Seb dominates the book.

The main aspect of the book that I found problematic is in the attempt to tie in a fabled story with this plot. As a prelude to the beginning, Bassett features a poem about pirates and their treasure called “The Legend of Lorelei.” I am a pirate junkie, so I was excited to see how the author would integrate this legend into the plot. Toward the end of the book a connection is revealed, but it was not as strong or as developed as I expected.

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It could have easily been omitted and not affected the storyline.

This is a great summer read, with a plot that is not overly complicated and lots of sexual tension and romance to keep you engaged.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Disclaimer: All quotes used in this review have been taken from the book’s pre-published version and may be changed or omitted from the final, published copy.

 Rating

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About the Author

author

Elisabeth Barrett lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and spends her days teaching, editing, writing sexy contemporary romance, and enjoying time with her sometimes-bearded husband and three spirited children. She is constantly perfecting her home-work-writing juggling act, but in her free time she loves to hike open space preserves, grow orchids, bake sweet things her husband won’t eat, and sing in grand choruses. (From Goodreads)

Author Links

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

recipe box 50

Once I finished this book, I really wanted to have a piece of the famous coconut cake described in the book.

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After searching online, I found a promising recipe on how to make a homemade coconut cake. It does not look complicated (the simpler the better for me), so I’m going to give it a try:

Incredible Coconut Cake Recipe 

If you have a Coconut Cake recipe that you would like to share, please leave me a comment!

Killing Kennedy

Guest Blogger: Review of Killing Kennedy

Killing Kennedy

Purchase on Amazon:  Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot

Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot by Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard

Book Description

A riveting historical narrative of the shocking events surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the follow-up to mega-bestselling author Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln.

More than a million readers have thrilled to Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln, the page-turning work of nonfiction about the shocking assassination that changed the course of American history. Now the anchor of The O’Reilly Factor; recounts in gripping detail the brutal murder of John Fitzgerald Kennedy–and how a sequence of gunshots on a Dallas afternoon not only killed a beloved president but also sent the nation into the cataclysmic division of the Vietnam War and its culture-changing aftermath.

In January 1961, as the Cold War escalates, John F. Kennedy struggles to contain the growth of Communism while he learns the hardships, solitude, and temptations of what it means to be president of the United States. Along the way he acquires a number of formidable enemies, among them Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, and Alan Dulles, director of the Central Intelligence Agency. In addition, powerful elements of organized crime have begun to talk about targeting the president and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

In the midst of a 1963 campaign trip to Texas, Kennedy is gunned down by an erratic young drifter named Lee Harvey Oswald. The former Marine Corps sharpshooter escapes the scene, only to be caught and shot dead while in police custody.

The events leading up to the most notorious crime of the twentieth century are almost as shocking as the assassination itself. Killing Kennedy chronicles both the heroism and deceit of Camelot, bringing history to life in ways that will profoundly move the reader. This may well be the most talked about book of the year.

Book Review

In Killing Kennedy, authors Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard cover one of the saddest events in United States history, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The authors spend much of the book exploring the paths taken by President Kennedy, his wife Jacqueline, and Kennedy’s assassin Lee Harvey Oswald leading up to the day of the assassination. Only in the final chapters does O’Reilly and Dugard reexamine the events of November 22, 1963.

One of Killing Kennedy’s strengths is the authors’ ability to take the reader behind the doors of Camelot. Readers not only get to see how President Kennedy handled events such as the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Civil Rights movement, but also how he struggled to manage his cabinet and his friendships with Hollywood’s elite. O’Reilly and Duggard do an excellent job of providing a balanced description of John Kennedy. By the end of the book, readers see Kennedy as an extremely devoted father and astute politician who had numerous extramarital affairs and made some shady political alliances during his lifetime. It is important to note here that the authors do go into detail about Kennedy’s sexual affairs. This may not be suitable for younger readers, i.e. middle school and high school aged children.

Another strength of Killing Kennedy is the authors’ depiction of Jacqueline “Jackie” Kennedy as both the influential first lady and a guarded individual. Although Jackie Kennedy was adored by millions around the world, readers discover that she hated the spotlight. For example, before giving the famous White House tour, we learn that Jackie Kennedy smoked a pack of cigarettes to calm her nerves. Moreover, readers get to see Jackie Kennedy in the role of loving wife to John F. Kennedy. While the Kennedys did not have a perfect marriage, O’Reilly and Dugard show how Jackie Kennedy grew closer to her husband during his presidency.

In providing balance to the story of Kennedy’s assassination, the authors describe the transformation of Lee Harvey Oswald from a troubled United States soldier to assassin. Through interviews with former FBI agents closely involved with following Lee Harvey Oswald, readers discover more about the man responsible for killing John F. Kennedy. We learn that Oswald was involved in promoting the Communist Party and even attempted to talk with Fidel Castro and the Cuban government. However, O’Reilly and Dugard stop short of accusing anyone outside of Lee Harvey Oswald of killing President Kennedy, despite demonstrating evidence that many individuals disliked the President.

Overall, Killing Kennedy is an excellent read for anyone wanting to learn more about United States history and President John F. Kennedy. Killing Kennedy is perfect for individuals who dislike reading non-fiction because the authors tell the story in present tense. This allows readers to travel back to the early 1960s and relive the Kennedy presidency with each turn of the page. The foretelling references to Kennedy’s death (example “the man with three years left to live”) can be annoying to some readers, but once one gets into the story these references become less bothering. Another word of caution is that Killing Kennedy may not be the ideal book for serious readers of history (otherwise known as history buffs) With the exception of the FBI interviews regarding Oswald, O’Reilly and Dugard fail to provide any new information about the Kennedy assassination. However, I would still recommend Killing Kennedy to anyone looking for a quick, interesting historical read.

Pros: Great summary of President Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald’s lives. Balanced portrayal of Jackie Kennedy. Easy reading format that will allow fans of fiction enjoy a historical account.

Cons: No earth shattering discovery about Kennedy’s assassination and essentially a rehashing of known facts.

Rating

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Watch Bill O’Reilly discussing Killing Kennedy on Imus Show

Reviewed By

Brent

Brent has a B.A. in History and Peace War and Defense from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has served as an educator for the last two years. His reading interests include nonfiction historical accounts, southern literature, and the occasional mystery novel.

Review of New Release: I Dream of Danger (Ghost Ops #2)

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Release Date: July 2, 2013

Purchase on Amazon: I Dream of Danger: A Ghost Ops Novel

I Dream of Danger (Ghost Ops #2) by Lisa Marie Rice

Book Description

They are the Ghost Ops: a covert squad of super-elite soldiers. After their team was betrayed and massacred, the three surviving members went underground and built Haven, a community of misfits and geniuses. Now they’re at a crossroads, facing a new threat capable of destroying everything they hold dear.

When Nick Ross disappears from Elle Thomason’s life, she is certain she’ll never see the man she loves again—except in her dreams. Ten years later, as a respected researcher breaking new ground in psychic phenomena, she sends a desperate call for Nick’s help. One by one, her colleagues have started disappearing . . . and Elle knows she’s next. An elite soldier, Nick never meant to hurt Elle, duty kept him away—and then she vanished. Now troubled by unusually vivid, disturbing dreams of Elle in danger, Nick will rescue the only woman he’s ever wanted and bring her back with him to Haven.

Though powerful men are after Elle and her special abilities, Nick will die before leaving her side again. 

Book Review

I read Heart of Danger, the debut of the Ghost Ops series earlier this year and enjoyed the creative story angle Rice presents by delving into a not so distant future world of elite military warriors who are considered domestic terrorists by the U.S. government and are now fugitives. Although I Dream of Danger does provide exposition about the plot conflicts, it is best to start the series with the first book. I felt the background information provided in this second book was more to help readers remember important details about the plot rather than to introduce new readers to this series.

I expected the plot to focus on the Ghost Ops’ means of survival as they are being hunted and their quest to clear their name.

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While this aspect is part of the story, it becomes secondary to a more complex plot revolving around a sinister scientist’s obsession with creating a superhuman warrior. The paranormal aspects included add a level of intrigue to the story, and they provide the impetus for human scientific experimentation to continue and for the Ghost Ops team’s involvement to stop the unethical practices of a wealthy pharmaceutical company.

The novel begins ten years before the current action of the central plot. Ella Thomason is the protagonist who has a connection with one of the future Ghost Op team members, Nick Ross. She grew up with Nick until his sudden disappearance five years ago.  When he unexpectedly shows up at the funeral of Ella’s father, she is both shocked and excited about his return:

“The Nick standing next to her looked just as he had in her dreams-hard, tough, fully a man. Dark eyes that gave nothing away, close-cropped dark hair, broad shoulders, lean muscles. A formidable man in every way, even though the last time she’d seen him he’d been just on the verge of manhood.”

During his absence, Ella has often had vivid dreams about Nick observing his life, and through her dreams, she can piece together information about what Nick’s life might be like.  She has never been as close to anyone as she was to Nick, and his abrupt departure left her feeling more alone than ever. Her loneliness was only compounded when she had to sacrifice her life, her dreams, and her education to stay home and take care of her ailing father, whose dementia steadily worsened.

Rice uses multiple POVs to tell the story this story which was effective in providing more depth to their characters and adding more substance to the story. Getting Ella’s and Nick’s POVs deepened my understanding of the intense feelings they have for each other, even through their separation.  Later in the story, Rice also adds the POV of the antagonist, Dr. Charles Lee, the scientist with a deranged agenda for creating a super warrior with special powers.  His motivation for power and respect is the driving force behind his actions.

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During these early scenes it is evident that Ella’s feelings for Nick are stronger than just friendship:

“Nick had been in her heart always, since he had first come into their lives. She’d only been seven, but she loved him the moment she laid eyes on him. She’d been a girl then, but she was a woman now-and everything womanly in her was concentrated on him, his handsome face, those broad shoulders, the outsized hands.” 

Nick’s POV reveals his inner conflict over his restraint and desire for Ella. His attraction for her began before he left her, knowing she was too young for him at the time.

“But now? She wasn’t a young girl, she was a woman and blindingly beautiful. She was no longer the pretty girl of privilege, she was a beautiful woman who had suffered. Overly thin, unsmiling, stunning.

Absolutely irresistible.” 

Nick and Ella finally give into their yearnings for one another as passion consumes them. Ella is elated that Nick is back in her life.  When Nick leaves Ella again without telling her where he is going, she is devastated:  “Nick…was gone. It struck her like a blow to the heart, squeezing all the air out of her chest.”  His abandonment once again almost breaks her. By providing this glimpse of how their relationship has developed, Rice reinforces the agony both Ella and Nick experience once they are no longer together.
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However, I was relieved to see Ella take charge of her life by leaving her childhood home that has become a dark, depressing, stifling place that would only continue to stagnate her.  Courageously, she takes her meager belongings and with limited resources sets out to forget Nick and begin living her life. Kudos to Ella for being proactive instead of playing the victim!

The author makes a smooth transition to describe Ella’s life ten years later. The vivid, life-like dreams Ella has had her entire life have led her to study neurobiology so that she can begin to identify, understand, and control her perception that she is having out-of-body experiences when she dreams. Her work leads her to become part of a research group focused on the study of those with psychic abilities.  Unknowingly, she has become a part of Dr. Lee’s experimentation on human subjects in his efforts to create super soldiers with enhanced abilities and powers.

When members of the research group go missing, Ella is forced to flee. Her desperate situation leads her to psychically call out for Nick, who is now a member of the fugitive Ghost Ops team. Nick hears her call in his dream and begins a frantic search to find Ella. From this point on, the Ghost Ops get involved in the drama.  Here we get to see a very different side of unflinching, stoic Nick whose biggest weakness is Ella. I could feel the meltdown he was beginning to experience in the painstaking search for the woman he loves.  Rice does an excellent job of describing Nick’s tumultuous emotions and his growing impatience to rescue Ella. I even begin to get anxious, silently saying, “Hurry, hurry, hurry before it’s too late!”  Needless to say, the suspense was intense.

Ella is an admirable character because of her diligence in overcoming the obstacles she has faced. She never complained or whined about the sacrifices she made to care for her father.  She started over with nothing and eventually earned a Ph.D. Intuitively, she knows she has a gift that others do not, and I like that she becomes passionate about her research to find answers.  Yet, when she becomes suspicious about the real agenda behind Lee’s research, I’m disappointed when she passively continues with research she knows is unethical.

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The story builds into another crisis when Ella eventually works with the Ghost Ops team to resolve another major conflict of the story: the need to rescue her fellow research subjects who have been kidnapped by Dr. Lee and whose lives are in immediate danger.

Furthermore, Ella has her own inner conflicts that she must deal with before she can move forward now that Nick has reappeared in her life.  How will she deal with the pain from Nick’s abandonment and can she overcome her fears that he won’t leave her again?

Rice also weaves in an unexpected element to the story that creates another suspenseful plot thread which changed my expectations of what to expect next In his impatience to develop a super warrior, Dr. Lee has begun injecting himself with the experimental drug, and the consequences of his actions shocked and frightened me. This complication is just developing and will certainly carry over into the plot of the third book in the series. I am looking forward to discovering how this new problem will add to the plot.

Rice does a good job of describing and explaining the advanced technology used to forward the plot in this fictitious world, and she shows how the technology can improve our lives, but that it also has the potential to destroy our future.

I had three major issues with the plot. First of all, I appreciated that Rice included background information throughout the story to aid in the reader’s understanding, but at times this information was redundant and detracted from the pacing of the story.
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A second aspect was that I felt the rescue mission to capture Ella’s colleagues was rushed and lacked the full attention it deserved. I wish Rice would have lengthened the story so that the drama could have been heightened.

A final component that I didn’t like was in how closely this storyline replicated the one in Heart of Danger. A Ghost Op falls in love with a scientist with paranormal abilities, and she uses those powers to help in the mission. I also found the crisis and its outcome mimics the one in the first book. I hope that this doesn’t mean Rice will use a formulaic plot as she continues the series.

Overall, this is a series that I will continue to follow. The characterization and creative storyline with some surprising events kept my interest, and I look forward to the third book which features Jon, the third predominant team member and his search for a woman in danger.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Disclaimer:  All quotes used in this review have been taken from the book’s pre-published version and may be changed or omitted from the final, published copy.

Rating (I would rate this 3.5 Suns so I am rounding up)

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About the Author

Author

Lisa Marie Rice is eternally 30 years old and will never age. She is tall and willowy and beautiful. Men drop at her feet like ripe pears. She has won every major book prize in the world. She is a black belt with advanced degrees in archaeology, nuclear physics, and Tibetan literature. She is a concert pianist. Did I mention her Nobel Prize? Of course, Lisa Marie Rice is a virtual woman and exists only at the keyboard when writing erotic romance. She disappears when the monitor winks off. (From Amazon)

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Start this Series

Heart of Danger (Ghost Ops #1)

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Purchase on Amazon:Heart of Danger: A Ghost Ops Novel

“Edgy, sexy, endlessly exciting…. Give me a dangerous, seductive Lice Marie Rice hero any day …or night.”
New York Times bestselling author Shannon McKenna

 

Introduction & Review for Dragon Kings Trilogy by Lindsey Piper

Dragon Kings Trilogy: Prequel & Book 1

Author: Lindsey Piper

June 25th is the official release date of Caged Warrior: Dragon Kings Book One 

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Since I read the prequel and Book 1, I have combined them for this review.

Lindsey Piper take readers to a dark, edgy, gritty world filled with violence where supernatural warriors, called Dragon Kings live among humans who are either unaware of their existence or take pleasure in exploiting their mythical powers.

Based upon what I have read and pieced together so far, there are five Dragon King clans located throughout the world. Each clan has been gifted with specific supernatural powers. Although many clan members stay together, there are those who choose to live among humans without revealing their identities.  However, some Dragon Kings may find themselves in debt or other kinds of trouble that force them into the seedy world of underground fighting to gain money or favors from one of the three nefarious human cartels who run this illicit gambling operation.

Prequel: Silent Warrior (Dragon Kings 0.5)

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Purchase on Amazon: Silent Warrior

Book Description

An exciting, emotionally charged prequel to the Dragon Kings trilogy featuring warriors fighting for their lives in violent cage matches to guarantee their clans’ survival.

A silent woman ashamed of her criminal background becomes a Cage warrior to seek redemption. An unrepentant fortune hunter chooses combat over death to appease a mafia family. Although rivals in battle, they find common ground when seeking their clan’s stolen idol, but for vastly different reasons. Neither one suspects that love will begin when he becomes the first man in five years to hear her speak.

Review

Let me preface this review by stating that I read Caged Warrior first, initially unaware that there was a prequel to the trilogy. Once I finished book one, I decided to go back and read the prequel hoping the story would provide more exposition and clarification about the mystical origins and existence of Dragon Kings. Furthermore, I wanted to learn more about humans’ involvement with this secret race of people.

The story opens in the middle of a fight between two Dragon King warriors from the Sath clan, dressed in armor with their choice of weapons. They use whatever skills they have to fight for a win.  Silence is a cage warrior from the Aster Cartel who finds herself struggling to outmatch Hark, whose debt forces him to fight for needed money.

Silence and Hark’s alternating point-of-views throughout the story are effective in providing greater insight into their motivations and vulnerabilities. Since volunteering to fight for the Aster Cartel, the woman known as Silence has never spoken a word to anyone.  Her persona is a direct contrast to the easy going, talkative Hark, who finds her silence unnerving. His goal besides winning is to make her say something. While Silence intimidates Hark by remaining wordless, he tries to throw her off balance with his excessive talking and atypical behavior.

Although Silence and Hark have contrasting personalities, they manage to fall in love while running from enemies in Hong Kong.  Their contentious bantering along with their secret revelations make this story an engaging read.  Overall, this short work is packed with action and suspense and leaves you with an uncertainty about Silence and Hark’s future. Because of the story’s brevity, I accepted the “insta-love” between Silence and Hark, even though it is unrealistic, given the time frame.

I already knew the outcome of this story because Silence and Hark continue to play a role in Caged Warrior. Still, I was glad to learn their backstory and the tenderness behind their union.  The sacrifice that Hark is willing to make for Silence is touching.

On the other hand, I was disappointed to find that this prequel did not help me to better understand this fascinating world Piper has created.  In fact, I think I would have been more confused about the sequence of events if I had not already read book one.
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The lack of explanation about the history and current existence of the Dragon Kings kept me from being fully immersed in this fantasy.

Rating

Sunny-icon revised 40Sunny-icon revised 40Sunny-icon revised 40

Caged Warrior (Dragon Kings #1)

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Purchase on Amazon: Caged Warrior: Dragon Kings Book One (The Dragon Kings)

Book Description

The first installment in this fierce and sensual new paranormal romance series features demonic gladiators, ruthless mafia villains, and a proud race on the brink of extinction.

Ten years ago, Audrey MacLaren chose to marry her human lover, making her an exile from the Dragon Kings, an ancient race of demons once worshiped as earthly gods. Audrey and her husband managed to conceive, and their son is the first natural-born Dragon King in a generation—which makes him irresistible to the sadistic scientist whose mafia-funded technology allows demon procreation. In the year since her husband was murdered, Audrey and her little boy have endured hideous experiments. 

Shackled with a collar and bound for life, Leto Garnis is a Cage warrior. Only through combat can Dragon Kings earn the privilege of conceiving children. Leto uses his superhuman speed and reflexes to secure the right for his two sisters to start families. After torture reveals Audrey’s astonishing pyrokenesis, she is sent to fight in the Cages. If she survives a year, she will be reunited with her son. Leto is charged with her training. Initially, he has no sympathy for her plight. But if natural conception is possible, what has he been fighting for? As enemies, sparring partners, lovers, and eventual allies, Leto and Audrey learn that in a violent underground world, love is the only prize worth winning.

Review

Imagine being stripped of your family, tortured, and then enslaved in an underground world where survival depends on how well you can fight.  This nightmare has become Audrey MacLaren’s life.  Audrey’s real name is Nynn, and she is a Dragon King born of the Clan Tigony.  Dragon Kings are an ancient race of supernatural beings with special power endowed to them.  They are proud warriors who have kept their identity a secret from most humans.

Audrey is branded as a traitor and exiled from her clan when she marries a human man and later gives birth to a son. Her peaceful life is shattered when her husband is murdered, and she and her son are kidnapped by the Aster family, a human crime cartel who exploit Dragon Kings by using them for scientific experiments and confining them underground where they train as cage warriors who fight for favor and privilege.

Although the reason is never fully explained, the Dragon King race is in danger of extinction because of difficulty conceiving children. Giving natural birth to a Dragon King is a rarity, and the sinister Dr. Aster keeps Audrey and her son locked away in a laboratory where he experiments on them to further his knowledge of this supernatural race. After a year of being tortured by Aster, Audrey is forced to become a cage warrior and fight for the Aster Cartel if she ever wants to see her son again.

I admired Audrey’s perseverance and tenacity throughout the story. She endures endless verbal, emotional, and physical abuse that would easily break others. Despite the odds, she is willing to do whatever it takes to be reunited with her son, even though she knows that it is likely Dr. Aster will not keep his promise.

Leto of Clan Garnis has the responsibility for training Audrey to fight as his partner. He is a multifaceted, dominating character with a brutal nature, which I found hard to like but could understand, since he has spent his entire life training and fighting in the cages, and violence is all he’s ever known.  Leto is an undefeated fighter in the cages. He is proud that his wins have given his sister the opportunity to conceive a child with her husband and continue the family line. He believes the sacrifices he has made are honorable. His reputation has made him a favorite to the Asters, and he enjoys the respect and privileges that are given to him.

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Leto has never worried about his elite warrior status until he meets Audrey. He is given little time to train her, and if she doesn’t do well, that will reflect upon him and the future of his family.  Leo tries to force Audrey into submission through harsh, inhumane treatment. His lack of compassion and indifference to her situation was at times hard for me to read. However, no matter how cruel Leto is, Audrey still manages to retain some form of dignity and defy his efforts to break her spirit.  Even though Audrey knows she has to learn to fight for her son’s sake, she refuses to use her incredible powers of harnessing and manipulating energy since she has no control over them. She worries that by doing so, she will lose her sense of self and turn into a ruthless monster.

Much of the book focuses on the dynamic  nature of Audrey and Leto’s relationship.  Spending so much time together creates a mounting sexual tension that becomes harder for them to ignore.  A major turning point in the story occurs when Audrey and Leto become victims of Dr. Aster’s malevolence and begin to trust and work in sync with each other.

I was enthralled with the second half of the book, where unexpected events arouse change in both Audrey and Leto.
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As Audrey embraces her warrior prowess, Leto begins to question the illusion of his life.  I enjoyed watching both characters grow emotionally and physically closer once they understood each other’s plight.  Piper does an excellent job with character development and shows that no matter how flawed, one can always be redeemed.

The greatest drawback of the story is the lack of necessary background to help me fully understand these warriors and the challenges they face:  What’s the story behind the origin and powers of the Dragon Kings? Why are Dragon Kings affiliating with human crime organizations? Is it always by choice or are they forced into it like Audrey?  How exactly does Dr. Aster “help” Dragon Kings with their fertility problems?  I hope the author will flesh out more of this fantasy world she has created to make the read more enjoyable.

I received a copy of Caged Warrior from the publisher via Edelweiss.

Rating

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*****

About the Author

Lindsey Piper is the alter ego of an award-winning historical romance author. Her hotly anticipated 2013 DRAGON KINGS series is her first foray into paranormal fiction. She lives and writes in Chicago.

Author Links

Website: http://www.lindseypiper.com To celebrate the release of Caged Warrior, Lindsey is giving away 2 copies of this book. Just visit her website and post a comment. Winners will be drawn at random on July 2nd!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindseyPiper

Facebook: http://facebook.com/AuthorLindseyPiper

To post a comment, please click on the green “Leave a Comment” link located at the bottom of this post after the tags. 

Review & Giveaway For Too Sexy for His Stetson

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Too Sexy for His Stetson by Mal Olsen

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Purchase on Amazon: Too Sexy For His Stetson

Book Description

Anguished over his father’s lack of morals, Deputy Blade Beringer struggles to conquer self-doubts. When he and his K9 partner Rambo arrive in the mountains of northern Idaho, Blade is faced with a band of white supremacists, a homicide investigation, and a murder cold case, not to mention the task of training a gorgeous blond rookie.

Trainee Brandy Wilcox is bent on clearing her mother’s name of a wrongful murder conviction. While working the homicide investigation with her sexy new training officer, she discovers a connection between the victim and her mother’s case. The two deputies struggle to resist their mutual attraction and abide by the no-fraternizing rules, but passion blazes and teeters on the brink of love. With a killer targeting them and danger lurking at every turn, Brandy doubts their love can blossom, especially when she puts Officer Skip Coogan—Blade’s best friend and father figure—at the top of her suspect list. 

*****

Book Review

I love introductions to fiction where the author immediately builds momentum by beginning the story in the midst of a dramatic or tense moment, which is exactly the technique Olson uses in Too Sexy for His Stetson.  You can read this novel’s opening scene in the excerpt following this review.  The introduction had me hooked from the very first line by introducing the two main characters engaged in a potentially combative situation.

Although inexperienced, Deputy Sheriff trainee Brandy Wilcox shows gumption in her attempt to apprehend a very sexy cowboy who appears to be breaking the law. Although she is off duty, I admired Brandy’s determination to bring the hunky stranger in, even though she is ill-equipped to do so. Her less than orthodox methods to prevent his escape are humorous and help to deescalate their tenuous situation.

When they attacked by a group of Neo-Nazi Freedom Fighters, Brandy and Mr. Stetson-Wearing Cowboy join forces to make an escape.  Once safe, the awkwardness of the situation only intensifies once Brandy learns her would- be criminal is actually her new field training supervisor, Lieutenant Deputy Sheriff Blade Beringer. Oops!

Brandy’s life revolves around her career in law enforcement and in bringing to justice the real killer who framed her mother for a murder Brandy is certain she didn’t commit.  Brandy strongly believes that her step-father, Skip Coogan, a highly-esteemed law officer, killed his mistress, even though all of the circumstantial evidence pointed to Brandy’s mother.  After her mother was incarcerated and later killed in prison, Brandy ran away from home and eventually ended up in a state boarding school.  Experience has taught her not to trust others; therefore, she remains a loner outside of her job. Now, she has changed her name and stayed under Skip’s radar so that she can continue to secretly investigate him.

Blade is an extremely likeable hero who lives his life with integrity. He does his best to support and encourage Brandy’s success as an officer of the law.  I really began to respect him when he could have easily embarrassed Brandy by telling officers about her amateurish attempt to arrest him. Instead, keeps her secret and admires her tenacity in the face of a difficult situation.  Overall, Blade is a good man who tries to be fair and do what’s right, even though he harbors deep-rooted fears of the man he might become because of his lineage.

Although Brandy and Blade work well together, their relationship becomes more complicated when Brandy learns that Blade is close friends with her step-father, Skip. Blade proudly acknowledges Skip as his mentor and the only father figure in his life.  Knowing she can’t work behind her supervisor’s back in searching for evidence against Skip, she takes the risk to share with Blade her suspicions about Skip’s involvement in the murder that ended her family.

As she expected, Blade balks at the idea that Skip has been involved in any illicit activity.  I do have to give Blade credit for being willing to listen to Brandy’s theories, even though she lacks concrete evidence.  I also loved watching the bond strengthen between Brandy and Blade as they begin to trust one another and reveal their most painful secrets.

Various twists and turns fraught with danger and deception have both Brandy and Blade second guessing their suspicions at times as they deal with threats from a white supremacy group, a possible terrorist attack, and the endangerment of Brandy’s life as she searches for evidence to exonerate her mother.

In the middle of all the turmoil, Brandy and Blade do their best to fight the mutual attraction and sexual tension zinging between them, especially since the force prohibits co-workers from dating. One of the central questions is whether they will give in to their passion and what the outcome of their relationship will be by the end of the story. Olson does a good job in smoothly interweaving the couple’s burgeoning relationship within the plot so that it ties in with the other major conflicts.

This action packed romantic suspense filled with unexpected surprises kept me riveted until the end and was an enjoyable read.

I received a copy of this book via Tasty Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

 

Rating

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*****

Excerpt from Too Sexy for His Stetson

Brandy’s trigger finger twitched. A bead of sweat tickled its way down her backbone. She was inexperienced, off duty, and miles from her truck, which sat near a trailhead in the mountainous wilderness of northern Idaho, and the intruder she held at gunpoint probably had seventy muscled pounds on her.

She studied the cowboy’s sweet-as-honey, wicked-as-sin smile through the sights of her department-issued Remington semiautomatic rifle. From his pose on the rickety porch of the old log cabin, he assessed her right back. His full lips tugged across Crest-white teeth, exposing a small but sexy gap between his central incisors.

He tipped his head toward the jimmied-open window. “I know this looks bad, Ma’am, but I can explain,” he drawled out “Ma’am” again.

“Deputy Sheriff Brandy Wilcox. Keep your hands where I can see them.”

“Brandy?” Impervious to the deputy sheriff title, he straightened and angled his dusty black Stetson over his forehead so the brim shadowed his cool-water eyes. “Name like that could make a man real thirsty.”

Brandy had heard just about every come-on in the book, but never from a trespasser on the business end of her rifle. She calculated his over-confident grin, the twinkle in his eyes, the tilt of his head—blond curly hair no less. A sensual package that promised a ride on the wild side—if one was so inclined. Which she was not.

Yet something primal tugged deep in her stomach.

Bracing the Remington more firmly against her shoulder, she steadied her aim and revved up her grit. This guy was banking on his wild smile a little too heavily. What he needed was some taming.

“Okay, drop ‘em.”

When he lowered his arms, she said, “Not your hands, your pants.”

For several beats, he stared at her like he hadn’t heard.

“Lose your Levis,” she urged again. She had no desire to shoot him, but she didn’t have handcuffs on her and she wasn’t about to chance his getting away. If it came to a footrace, his long muscular legs could outrun her in a heartbeat. But he couldn’t get far stomping barefoot in his skivvies through the mountainous shale-scabbed terrain. Not that making a break for it was something she intended to let him try.

“Excuse me? You want me to strip?” A trill of elation noticeably brightened his whisky-smooth voice. His expression bounced between “this is my lucky day” and disbelief.

“You got it. And while you’re at it, you can get rid of the shirt too.”

The fine lines defining his too-blue eyes crinkled as his expression turned sultry, and charisma dripped off his broad shoulders like summer rain over mountain granite.

Charisma, hell. That would get him exactly nowhere with her. “Necessary precaution. I wouldn’t want you trying to mosey off.” Not before she could engage an on-duty deputy to make an arrest.

She may have looked as young and inexperienced as she was, but she was physically and mentally tougher than her feminine five-foot-four frame suggested. She could outshoot and outthink every cadet in her graduating class at the police academy.

Revenge had a way of empowering a woman.

Despite her upbringing, she’d beaten the odds. She was making something of herself, and she wasn’t about to be intimidated by this guy and his toothpaste poster-boy smile, nor the blond, sweat-soaked curls straggling across his collar. Or the pumped biceps stretching the fabric of his shirtsleeves.

“I’m still waiting.”

“You’re serious?” He eyed the lettering on her I’m a Redneck Woman T-shirt, a fifty-cent find at Goodwill. “I usually like to get to know a woman a little before taking my clothes off and having a good time.” The dazzle of his smile cranked the charisma meter several notches higher.

“I can assure you, you won’t be having a good time.” Smart ass.

“That’s debatable. I’m already enjoying this more than you can imagine.”

Too eagerly, his fingers began tugging open his shirt buttons, revealing a deep triangle of bronzed skin dusted with tawny chest hair. More sun-kissed eye candy than she was ready to cope with.

As he slid buttons through buttonholes, her gaze skidded to a stop on abs honed like corrugated steel. She tore her glance upward only to meet those unnerving eyes, speckles of light glinting in the azure pools.

As he reached for the fastener on the waistband of his slim-fit 510’s, the heat blooming on Brandy’s cheeks slid south. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. Still, he couldn’t run far in his underwear. Seconds ticked by. Golden sunbeams gleamed off beads of sweat on muscles she didn’t really want to notice, but her attention was completely captured by the liquid heat trickling down his chest. She worked harder to convince herself the quiver in her gut came from adrenaline not feminine hormones. At any moment, her survival instincts and training would take over and stop this ridiculous sensual reaction to him. “Turn around and take off your boots.”

“My boots?” The first sign of indignation crept into his voice. “Brandy, Honey, I think you’re making a big mistake. Did you ever hear of fairness in apprehension?”

“You sound experienced.” Obviously, this wasn’t his first tangle with the law. “Have you heard of justification of lethal force? Consider yourself lucky that I didn’t shoot first and ask questions later. Now turn around and get to work on those boots.”

“What about my Miranda rights? Or the proposition that a man’s innocent until proven guilty?” he asked even as he followed orders and pivoted, presenting her with a view of his equally impressive backside.

But rather than shucking off his well-worn snakeskin Justins, he removed his shirt and slowly slid his belt through the loops, making a sensual striptease out of the movements.

The cotton fabric of Brandy’s T-shirt dampened, and her concentration started to wane. Not because the temperature was flirting with triple digits and the August sun had bullied every cloud from the sky. The blame rested on blue eyes that had messed with her thermostat.

She cleared her throat. “The arresting officer will read you your rights. For now, I’d get to work on those boots if I were you.”

“You want to separate me from my boots, you’re going to have to do it yourself.” His back still to her, he planted his scuffed heels firmly on the cabin’s splintered porch boards and glanced over his shoulder.

“On the other hand, if you’re really interested in seeing what’s under my jeans, I’m all yours, Honey. I do love a redneck woman.”

Her heart hammered against the fabric of the particular T-shirt she wished she hadn’t selected that morning, which was clinging to her chest like shrink wrap. The Gretchen Wilson song title had made her laugh out loud when she’d come across the tee on the bargain table at the Goodwill store, and because it was a ridiculously outrageous tag for Brandy Wilcox, she’d bought it as a joke.

As she pondered her purchase mistake of the year, wind-tossed grit scratched her throat. Expelling a slow, controlled breath, she dipped into the pocket of her jeans for her cell phone. “You have the right to remain silent in the face of any questions that might be put to you.” With hardly a waver in her voice, she added, “Do you understand?”

For untold sun-blistered seconds, he exercised his right to remain silent. She steadied the rifle, her finger alongside the trigger, and flipped her phone open with her free hand. Glanced down to read the screen. The blank, dead screen.

In the pristine silence, the sound of a zipper rasped.

Lord. Way too much sinewy, masculine muscle made her insides twist. The heat index rose to equator level. Before Mr. Totally Ripped revealed the answer to the age old question “boxers or briefs,” Brandy choked out, “Hold it right there.”

Jeans hanging low on his hips, he swiveled and faced her. “So, Brandy, what are you doing roaming around out here all by yourself?”

She narrowed her eyes and tightened her grip on the rifle. “Maintaining my sharp-shooter’s status.”

A muscle in his cheek twitched. “Maybe you should put down that rifle before you accidentally kill someone. Namely me. It would be ill advised for a deputy to shoot a suspect merely on probable cause. That could get said deputy in a lot of trouble. Guaranteed.”

“If I take you down, Mister, it won’t be any accident, and it won’t necessarily kill you.”

His tongue played sexily over the sweat collecting on the indentation above his upper lip. “You’re that good, huh?”

Double entendre intended—she was sure. Definitely too sexy for his Stetson.

“Good enough to put a hole in your hat and a crease in your skull without turning you into a pulseless, non-breathing suspect. I don’t think you want to chance that. It would smart a whole lot. Guaranteed.”

“That’s some mighty big talk for such a little lady.” The grin that tilted the corner of his mouth irritated more than intimidated her.

“A little lady with a big gun that could put a crease just about anywhere I choose.” She lowered the barrel of the rifle and set her aim in the vicinity of his zipper. “That’d smart a whole lot more. Absolutely guaranteed.”

It warmed her heart when he came to his senses and reined in his smile.

 *****

 

About the Author

MalMal Olson writes adrenaline kicked romantic suspense. She enjoys skydiving, ski jumping, SCUBA, hang gliding, big wave surfing, car racing, mountain climbing—that is, vicariously through her characters, who are always kick-ass, and often boss her around rather than allowing her to spin her stories the way she intends. (She did, however, personally engage in zip lining this past summer.)

Her debut novel Shadow of Deceit, released by The Wild Rose Press in 2012, is an edge of the seat romantic suspense-thriller set in Milwaukee and parts of northern Wisconsin. A couple of her favorite reviews came from Beverly at The Wormhole, who said, “Wow! This one has it all! Non-stop action, hot and sexy characters, betrayal, smokin’ romance, and a thrilling plot–” and Gothic Mom’s Book Review, which stated, “In the 150+ books that I read per year, there are very few that receive a five star rating. Shadow of Deceit did just that. Non stop action, sexual tension, an adventure that had me on the edge of my seat…A fantastic book that had me from page one…”

Olson also offers two short stories. Danger Zone, which has spent months in the Kindle top 100 free romantic suspense category, is a guaranteed fifteen minute pulse pounder where two strangers survive a rock ‘n roll landing on an icy Milwaukee runway and chase a could-be terrorist into the danger zone. Me and Brad, a feel good romance, features an irresistible K-9 and was ranked in the Kindle free top 100 list for months in the Contemporary Romance category.

Author Links

Website: www.malolson.com

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5754848.Mal_Olson

*****

Giveaway

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3 Digital Copies of Shadow of Deceit

Book Cover Shadow of Deceit

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Review of Officer Off Limits (Line of Duty #3) by Tessa Bailey

Book Cover

Purchase on Amazon: Officer Off Limits (A Line of Duty Novel) (Entangled Brazen)

Officer Off Limits  (Line of Duty #3) by Tessa Bailey

Book Description

His need to possess her is non-negotiable.
 
Story Brooks’ fiancé just called off their wedding two weeks before the happy day. As if that isn’t bad enough, her semi-estranged father, an infamous NYPD hostage negotiator, has suffered a heart attack. Not wanting to examine her lack of emotion over the broken engagement, she hops on a plane to reconnect with her father before it’s too late.Playboy hostage negotiator Daniel Chase has never, not once, been refused by a woman, so when a debate over hospital snack foods with a delectable kindergarten teacher ends in flat-out rejection, he makes it his mission to seduce her. His only obstacle? She’s the daughter of his mentor who implicitly forbade Daniel from pursuing her.
 
Despite her father’s warnings and Daniel’s troubled past, Daniel and Story can’t resist their intense attraction to one another. But when the reason for her fiancé’s abrupt wedding cancellation comes to light, can Story and Daniel’s already forbidden relationship survive?

*****

Book Review

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“Have Mercy” pretty much says it all about this book.  If you’re looking for a smoking-hot, steamy, sexy read full of emotional and physical intensity that explodes on the page then this is a book you’ll enjoy. Although this is the third book in the series, it can be read as a stand alone.

Story Brooks is in shock, reeling from her fiance’s confession that he isn’t going to marry her, when she gets the call that her father, Jack, is in the hospital after suffering a heart attack.  Even though Story has been estranged from her father since she was a child, she hastily leaves California to travel across the country to New York. Not only can she reconnect with her father, but she can also escape her current misery.

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Soon after she arrives at the hospital, she unexpectedly meets Daniel Chase, a successful hostage-negotiator who knows his  “come-hither” good looks  are his invitation to flirt with and seduce the women around him.

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However, this smooth-talking womanizer becomes practically speechless when he first sees Story and is mesmerized by her beauty.  Even worse,  Story seems to be immune to his charm, and, in their first teasing conversation, she shocks Daniel in a way that lets him know his flirtation is meaningless to her. Ironically, though, Daniel only finds her more intriguing and desirable. Their initial stimulating conversation was what really snagged my attention and from that point on, I was hooked.

Daniel is surprised and disappointed when he realizes that Story is Jack’s daughter. Jack is one of the most famous hostage-negotiators in the country and has been a mentor to Daniel since he started his career.  Jack immediately warns him: “She is my daughter and she’s vulnerable after her breakup. I won’t have you taking advantage of her. She came here to heal, not to be your latest conquest. Hands. Off. My daughter.
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Although Story has acted as if she’s uninterested in Daniel, in fact, the opposite is true:

“Every movement of his body screamed sex. Combined with his ladies, ladies, there’s enough of me to go around vibe, she could understand why women stopped to gawk at him on the sidewalk. She couldn’t deny his magnetism. The guarantee of satisfaction practically radiated from him.”

Story is tired of her passive lifestyle, and being around Daniel makes brings out a brazen side of her that pushes him to his limits. Impulsively,  she offers him a sixty second challenge to prove his sexual prowess, and, when the countdown begins,  the sexual tension between the two builds into an intoxicatingly explosive, passionate relationship.
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As they spend more time together, Daniel becomes desperate for her, wanting to become more than a rebound. Yet, the emotional and physical wounds he carries from his childhood have made him feel unworthy to be with a woman like Story.  Although Daniel projects confidence,  his pain runs deep, and his need for Story is so heart-breaking and sincere:

“Belong to me, Story. Even if it’s just for a little while.” 

Story has opened his eyes to everything he has been missing in life.

Although Story didn’t come to New York looking for a relationship, the connection she feels to Daniel in such a short amount of time both excites and scares her. Can she really be falling in love with this strong, possessive man who is determined to make her his?  Can she push beyond the shameful secrets he keeps hidden away?

Even though there are some conflicts involving external antagonists, the story really delves into Story’s and Daniel’s internal conflicts as they must confront their fears and insecurities before they can even think of promising a commitment.

Bailey has created two multi-dimensional characters whose inner turmoil and transformation move the plot, and their struggles intensify into a suspenseful crisis that unifies all plot threads to bring closure to the story. I found the realistic ending to be emotionally satisfying.

I received a copy of this book from Entangled Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Rating

Good-Read-icon

*****

About the Author

Author

Tessa lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and young daughter. When she isn’t writing or reading romance, Tessa enjoys a good argument and thirty-minute recipes. (From Amazon)

Links

Goodreads Profile | Twitter Website

*****

To post a comment, click on the green “Leave a Comment” link located at the bottom of the post after the tags. 

Review of Writers of the Future, (Volume 29)

Book Cover

Official Release Date: June 24, 2013

Purchase on Amazon:Writers of the Future Volume 29 (L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future)

L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future (Volume 29) Editor: Dave Wolverton

Book Description (From Goodreads)

Turn the page…open your eyes…and look into the future  

They unleash the power of dreams and unlock the secrets of the universe.

 They bend time, twist perception, and put a new spin on the laws of physics.

 They show us who we are, what we may become, and how far we can go.

 They are the Writers of the Future.

 Experience their vision.

 “Keep the Writers of the Future going. It’s what keeps sci-fi alive.” —ORSON SCOTT CARD

*****

Praise for Writers of the Future (Volume 29)

A Starred Review in Publisher’s weekly posted May 30, 2013:

“Selected by a panel of judges and edited into a cohesive collection by Wolverton, this year’s Writers of the Future collection is exciting and engrossing, with stories that range across the spectrum of SF and fantasy. Eschewing tried-and-true space opera and epic fantasy, these stories explore new mysteries and ideas. Death takes a bride in Marilyn Guttridge’s “The Ghost Wife of Arlington.” The secrets of the clock that powers the world are revealed in Christopher Reynaga’s “The Grande Complication.” Shannon Peavey’s “Scavengers” introduces the Vulture Lady and explains why no one who leaves her domain ever returns. Adventurous, lighthearted, thought-provoking, and grim, these stories cover a wide range of science and magic, each unique, refreshing, and innovative in a variety of different ways. The anthology is fleshed out by essays from the late Hubbard, Nnedi Okorafor, and artist Larry Elmore. This book is not to be missed, full of exciting new writers to watch. (July) (From Amazon & Goodreads)

*****

Book Review

This exciting anthology is a collection of science fiction stories by talented, new writers and illustrators who were selected from The Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contests.
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These original stories and illustrations are a fine example of what readers can anticipate in the future of the science fiction genre. This stories in this collection are imaginative, and some provide glimpses into an advanced future world and its repercussions on the existence of our society and our humanity.  At times, some of the stores made me cringe, thinking…this could really happen.  Here are some of the stories that lingered in my mind after reading this latest volume of works. The beautiful illustrations that accompany the stories helped me to really grasp the visions of a different type of world.
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Two stories that deal with future worlds and government greed and corruption are “Planetary Scouts” and “Cop for a Day.”  Aiden, a seasoned scout breaks in Lester, his new partner in “Planetary Scouts.”  Numerous planets exist, and humans want to venture beyond Earth and explore possible places for settlement and expansion.  As a result, scouts are sent out to foreign planets to observe and provide feedback on whether the planet is suitable for habitation. The story is filled with action and suspense as Aiden and Lester struggle to survive in unchartered terrain. The sacrifices made by scouts provide an alarming look at the potential for devastation as a consequence of someone’s territorial greed.

“Cop for a Day” describes a world where government controls and restrains capitalism. Citizens are forced to rely on government aid and intervention that is meager and sub-standard. The protagonist, Mark, a convicted felon gets a probationary job that requires him to roam the streets and enforce “asset forfeiture.” While on the job, he partners with a highly intelligent car and by the end of his first day on the job, Mark has the potential to change his current situation.  The story made me think hard about governmental control and human rights.

The concept of death is presented from different angles in some of the stories. Imagine a world where death no longer is exists. “The War Hero” depicts the notion of body regeneration with minds even swapping bodies as needed or desired in order to facilitate covert operations.  On a different, note, consider the possibility of the dying able to communicate the final twelve seconds of their lives to officials.  “Twelve Seconds” reflects the point-of-view of Howard, a man with autism who also suffers from PTSD. He works in the homicide department viewing the last seconds of murdered victims. Precision is a must for Howard, who becomes suspicious of those whose deaths do not meet the 12 second standard showing their last memories before death.  This was one of my favorite stories showing Howard’s perseverance in solving the mystery behind these particular deaths. Although the story involves tragic events, the ending left me hopeful about Howard’s future.

If Death were a live entity, what would he or she be like? “The Ghost Wife of Arlington” is a paranormal romance that personifies Death, an immortal who has taken a “shade,” a mortal woman who is known as the “Ghost Wife.” She walks down “Bone Rattler Street” leaving various gifts for the ghosts who reside there in the city of Arlington.  I enjoyed analyzing this story, looking at the overt and subtle symbolism found throughout that strengthens and unifies the plot.

A final favorite of mine is “Dreameater,” a disturbing  and suspenseful tale of a prostitute mother who craves men’s dreams to the point she eats their brains. This zombiesh tale is told from her young daughter’s point-of-view as she gradually learns the truth about her mother and the genetic impact on her future.

suspense

Expository essays that offer tips and advice for aspiring writers are also included in this anthology.  One of my favorites is the essay, “The Manuscript Factory” by L. Ron Hubbard where he describes the economics of writing and offers advice on how authors can examine their creative writing from a business perspective. “The Sport of Writing” shows that writing and sports have many similarities, an unusual comparison that I hadn’t considered.

The captivating tales in this anthology are insightful, stimulating, thought-provoking and a thoroughly enjoyable read!

I received a copy of this book from Galaxy Press in exchange for an honest review.

Rating

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*****

About  L. Ron Hubbard

Hubbard

March 13-1911-January 24, 1986

With 19 New York Times bestsellers and more than 325 million copies of his works in circulation, L. Ron Hubbard is among the most acclaimed and widely read authors of our time. As a leading light of American Pulp Fiction through the 1930s and ’40s, he is further among the most influential authors of the modern age. Indeed, from Ray Bradbury to Stephen King, there is scarcely a master of imaginative tales who has not paid tribute to L. Ron Hubbard. (From Amazon)

Goodreads Profile | Official Website

About Dave Wolverton

Wolverton

Dave Wolverton (born 1957) is a science fiction author who also goes under the pseudonym David Farland for his fantasy works. He currently lives in St. George, Utah with his wife and five children. (from Goodreads)

Goodreads Profile | Author Website

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Review & Giveaway for Fatal Exposure (Buried Secrets Trilogy #1)

Fatal Exposure

Fatal Exposure (Buried Secrets Trilogy # 1) by Gail Barrett

Fatal Exposure

Book Description

Cold-case detective Parker McCall has spent fifteen years trying to solve his brother’s murder.  Now a chance photo of the killer in the newspaper sets him hard on the woman’s trail.  A former teenaged runaway, reclusive, award-winning photojournalist B.K. Elliot chronicles the harsh reality of life on the streets — until a photo in the paper reveals her identity, blowing the lid off her secret past.  With a powerful murderer now dogging her heels, and her police officer step-father determined to silence her permanently, the last person she can afford to trust is a cop.  So why does sexy police detective Parker McCall tempt her to break her silence and resurrect ideals she’d lost years ago?  As danger closes in, and with more than her own life at stake, Brynn must decide if the duty-bound cop will betray her…or heal her battered heart.

*****

Book Review

This story starts off with an effective hook that immediately pulled me into the story. Detective Parker McCall gets a major lead on who may have murdered his younger brother, Tommy, fifteen years ago.

Tommy

When a photo of the famed but reclusive photojournalist Brynn Elliot appears in the newspaper, Parker recognizes her from years ago as a runaway teen seen with Tommy. He suspects Brynn may be the one who murdered Tommy or at the very least can provide answers about his death.

Parker is a dedicated, loyal officer who takes his job seriously. He has worked hard to move up in the ranks, despite the suspicions of other officers that Parker may be just like his father, also an officer, who was found to be corrupt on the job.  Although Parker is a stickler for going by the books and following the chain of command, he doesn’t want to risk that this new lead will not be pursued to the fullest extent. Therefore, he decides to find and question Brynn by himself.  This first decision to break the rules of police procedure will soon lead to more decisions on how far Parker will go in his quest for justice.

Brynn has been on her own since she was a young girl, running from a gruesome past and carrying deadly secrets. She grew up surviving on the streets with her two friends Haley and Nadine, also on the run for different reasons.

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Now that Brynn’s identity has been exposed, she must flee again. Before she can escape, however, Parker finds and confronts her about her relationship with his brother.  Brynn soon realizes Parker will not let her continue running and hiding until his brother’s murderer is brought to justice:

“Everything about Parker McCall reeked of danger-from the jut of his steel-hard jaw to those penetrating black eyes that scrutinized every move. He was too smart. Too determined. And there wasn’t a chance he’d leave her alone. “

Although Brynn is distrustful of others, especially the police, she and Parker form an initially shaky alliance that leads them to investigate a secretive plot of murder, perversion, and corruption that goes farther up in the chain of command than anyone ever expected.

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Parker and Brynn work together in this intriguing mystery revealing random clues that they must struggle to put together while on the run from those who want them dead.  I appreciated how the author frequently reiterates the connections Parker and Brynn make as well as addressing the looming questions that still need to be answered. These tactics helped me to avoid getting lost or overwhelmed by the numerous complications and conflicts that occur in this fast-paced suspense.

The romance between Brynn and Parker develops gradually and realistically as both get to know each other, and the foundation for their love is based on mutual admiration and respect. Each understands the loneliness and pain that the other endures.

During a passionate kiss with Parker, Brynn “had the oddest sensation as if he could see straight through to her soul.

As if he saw her

The world fell away. She stayed trapped in his heated gaze, a riot of emotions thickening her throat. Because beyond the rampaging hunger, beyond the need erupting like a wildfire between them, was something else. Something deeper. A sense of connection. A feeling that she’d finally found a man she could depend on. A man who would guard and protect her. A man she could trust with her heart-a thought that both thrilled and terrified her.” 

Although this couple’s observations and thoughts reveal their attraction for one another, I wished for more sizzling sparks to really show that ongoing passion between them.

The protagonists, Parker and Brynn, are dynamic, well-rounded characters who gained my respect through their solid belief in doing what is right regardless of the sacrifices that must be made. Even though both characters have experienced heart-breaking betrayal and disillusionment in the past, each has emerged as a survivor, stronger than one might expect given their traumatic experiences.  In addition, to the external dangers surrounding them, I enjoyed watching these two characters grow over the course of the story as they are forced to deal with and resolve their internal conflicts.

This is a well written romantic suspense that answers many questions behind the mystery but also left me wondering about further aspects of the deeply embedded corruption that will lead into the second book in the Buried Secrets trilogy.  The second and third books will focus on Haley’s and Nadine’s stories, respectively.

I received a copy of this book from the author via Goddess Fish Promotions for an honest review.

Rating

Good-Read-icon

*****

Excerpt from Fatal Exposure

“I can’t breathe.”

Parker didn’t doubt it. He probably had seventy pounds of muscle on her.

“Please.” She sounded desperate now. “I…can’t…breathe.”

Unable to dredge up any sympathy, he steeled his jaw. “You going to talk to me this time?”

“Yes.”

“Somehow I’m not convinced.”

“I said I would.” Despite her predicament, temper flared into her voice.

“You’d better,” he warned. “You try running again, and I’ll hurt you for real this time.”

Too ticked off to trust her, he rolled over, positioning himself on top.  Then he lumbered to his feet, every sense alert in case she tried to bolt.  When she didn’t make a move to join him, he reached down and pulled her up. Still breathing heavily, he pulled out his badge and held it up.

“Put your hands behind your back and face the fence,” he ordered, taking out his handcuffs.

“What?”

“You heard me.” He wasn’t taking the chance that she’d run again.

“You have no right—”

“You ran from the police. You assaulted an officer. I don’t need another reason than that. Now turn around—unless you’d rather I haul you in.”

Her gaze flicked to his shield again. Even in the dim light trickling from a nearby row house, he could see her jaw go tight. But she turned and held out her hands.

Wary of another trick, he slapped on the handcuffs, the delicate feel of her wrist bones causing a startling burst of heat in his blood. Forget that she’s a woman, he reminded himself as she whirled around. She was a possible suspect in his brother’s death, the last one to see him alive, not a potential date.

He picked up the backpack she’d dropped and searched it, unearthing the small, semiautomatic pistol she’d hidden inside. Still keeping one eye on her, he removed the magazine. “You have a permit for this?”

Her gaze skidded away.

“Right.” Stupid question. He stuffed the gun in his jacket pocket and shouldered the bag.

Her eyes returned to his. “So what do you want?”

“Information.”

“You always tackle people you want to question?”

“You always climb out the window when someone knocks on your door?”

Her mouth pressed into a line.

*****

About the Author

Gail Barrett

A former RITA® and Daphne finalist, Gail Barrett has received the Book Buyer’s Best Award, the Holt Medallion, the Booksellers Best, The National Readers’ Choice Award, and numerous other awards.  She lives with her husband in Western Maryland.  Readers can contact her through her website: www.gailbarrett.com.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gail.barrett.961#!/gail.barrett.961

Links to Buy the Book

Amazon: Fatal Exposure (Buried Secrets) ebookFatal Exposure (Harlequin Romantic Suspense) book

Barnes & Noble paperback and Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/fatal-exposure-gail-barrett/1113942081?ean=9780373278275

*****

Giveaway

Gail will be awarding a $25 Amazon / BN (or other bookstore of the winner’s choice) GC to one randomly drawn commenter during this tour.

To post a comment or leave feedback, please click on the green “Leave a Comment” link below this post following the tags.

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Upcoming Books in the Trilogy

Book 2: A Kiss to Die For –  August 2013

Book 3: Seduced by His Target – December 2013

Review of Against the Storm (The Raines of Wind Canyon) by Kat Martin

Against the Storm book cover

Purchase from Amazon: Against the Storm (The Raines of Wind Canyon)

Against the Storm by Kat Martin

Book Description 

Redheads like Maggie O’Connell are nothing but trouble. But Trace Rawlins, a former army ranger turned private investigator, takes the case anyway. After all, he knows a thing or two about women.

Trace can sense that something is wrong—Maggie isn’t telling him everything. If these menacing calls and messages are real, why won’t the police help her? And if they aren’t real, what is she hiding?

As Trace digs deeper to find the source of Maggie’s threats, he discovers a secret that no one was meant to uncover. And the only puzzle left to be solved is whether the danger comes from an unknown stalker…or from the woman he’s trying his hardest not to fall for.

Book Review

Against the Storm (The Raines of Wind Canyon) is the fourth book in Kat Martin’s series. However, it can be read as a stand-alone.  The story centers on Maggie O’Connell, a well-known photographer in Houston, TX. Recently, she has become the target of a stalker who leaves messages on her answering machine and car windshield, promising they will be together soon. She’s gone to the local police for help, but, because of a false accusation she made to police while in high school, they are reluctant to believe her story.

Maggie seeks out Trace Rawlins, former Army Ranger, now owner of his own Security company. Everyone knows that Trace has a weakness for redheads, but he painfully acknowledges that his prior relationships with them have only led to heartbreak. Unfortunately, Trace knows he’s in trouble as soon as he sees Maggie:

“His gaze ran over her, the smooth skin and stubborn jaw, the big green, troubled eyes, the red hair curling softly around her shoulders.” 

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His initial reaction is to turn her away, yet he feels compelled to help her.  All he asks is that Maggie be completely honest in telling him about her past and current life. Honesty is extremely important to Trace since he now has trust issues because of his ex-wife.

However, Maggie has secrets that she doesn’t want revealed. She decides not to fully confide in Trace because of her embarrassment over certain past events. Besides, she justifies to herself, these secrets aren’t connected to the search for the stalker anyway, right? Wrong, her secrets are relevant to the investigation, and she underestimates Trace’s skills in discovering what she’s been hiding. When Trace discovers that Maggie has lied by omission, he angrily drops her as his client.

Of course, with the ongoing stalker drama, Maggie continues to turn to Trace for help. Not only is he one of the few who believes she is in danger, but Maggie cannot resist his charm and good looks:

“He grinned, a flash of white in a suntanned face so handsome it made her breath catch. An amazing face, she thought, with those hard, sculpted features and intense, whiskey-brown eyes, so warm and direct they sent a little quiver into her stomach.” 

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 Their intense attraction for each other and sexual chemistry draw them closer together, leading to a sizzling romance that had me rooting for them

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even with all of the angst involved.

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Both characters have issues with commitment, they continuously deny their growing feelings for each other, and they expect the relationship to end once the mystery is solved. Furthermore, Maggie makes poor decisions against Trace’s advice that make her vulnerable to danger and cause ongoing frustration for Trace. Can they take their relationship further than sex?  This is one of several established conflicts that build suspense in the search for the elusive stalker.

The search for the culprit is not as straightforward as expected. There are unpredictable twists to the plot that create a suspenseful, engaging story right up until its conclusion.  And right when you think the story has reached its resolution, more of the unexpected happens.

As a Texas transplant, I appreciated Martin’s understanding and portrayal of the idiosyncrasies of Texan culture. Yep, Trace is most definitely a Texas cowboy. In addition, the supporting characters enhance the complexity of the story, and most of them are dynamic, rather than static, as sometimes found in other novels.  The book is well-written and ties together all of the side stories by the end.

I look forward to reading other books in this series.

Rating: 

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Click on this link to View the Book Trailer and an Excerpt from the Book

About Kat Martin

Kat Martin Website

Goodreads Profile

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Joe Diffie: “Pick Up Man”

Maggie spends a lot of time in Galveston, TX, taking pictures of nature. She and Trace visit several times.

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Glen Campbell: “Galveston”

*****

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Chicken Fried Steak (A Texas Staple)

Chicken fried steak and gravy

Click on the link below to watch a video on how to  make chicken-fried steak with a creamy pan gravy: From All Recipes.com

http://allrecipes.com/video/2802/the-best-chicken-fried-steak/detail.aspx?prop24=RD_VideoTipsTricks

*****

group discsussion 5If you have read any of Kat Martin’s books, please click on the green Leave a Comment link and let me know which ones are your favorites and why.

Review & Giveaway for The Do Over

The Do Over

The Do Over by A.L. Zaun

The Do Over

Release date: May 20th, 2013

Age Group: Adult

 Genre: Contemporary Romance

 Tour organized by: AToMR Tours

 Goodreads –  http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17381854-the-do-over

Purchase on Amazon: The Do Over

Book Description

Life doesn’t look like it’s supposed to for Daniela, aka Dani. After a painful break-up with Rick, Dani decides she doesn’t want to deal with the hassles of relationship.

After almost two years, Dani’s friends stage an intervention, forcing her out of her holding pattern and back into the real world of dating. 

Liam, a down to earth firefighter, may be just the person to show her she’s still worth something. Their chemistry is instant and electric. But will Dani be able to trust her patched-up heart with him? 

And what will happen when Rick decides he’ll go to any lengths to get her back?

*****

Book Review

The Do Over is a book about getting second chances, trusting in love, and taking risks. At first glance, I thought this book was going was going to have the predictable plot of two men battling to win the heart of one woman they both love. However, as I read this book, I was pleased to see that Zaun deviates from the typical love triangle plot by depicting less than perfect characters whose lives have become stagnant. Each one is looking for that special someone to add the spark back into their lives. The central question in the book is whether they are looking in the right direction.

Three main characters dominate this story: Daniela, Rick, and Liam who provide their own point-of-views to enrich the storyline and advance the plot. Daniela Ruiz known as Dani has experienced a crushing heartbreak over her breakup with Rick Marin, an egotistical jerk who didn’t deserve the commitment Dani was willing to give. I have to question though whether Dani really loved Rick or whether she was just in love with idea of being in love. Unfortunately,  two years later Dani still hasn’t moved on with her life. Instead, she escapes into a fictional world where book boyfriends may come and go, but her heart remains safe.  I love how she describes her reading obsession:

 “I would dive into my stories and become distracted in their dramas, falling in love with the romantic heroes each and every time. My love affairs with my book boyfriends were short lived. I was a book slut.”

Fortunately, Dani has two amazingly loyal friends, Candace and Macy, who decide to intervene when they see that her reading habits have become a deterrent to her social life.  Dani, however, likes the safety of her comfort zone until she meets one very sexy Liam Lucas, a lieutenant with the local fire department. Liam’s instant attraction to Dani and his flirtatious comments rival those book boyfriends that Dani keeps close by, and she begins to rethink her reclusive lifestyle. Hmm…maybe she should take a chance again, and Liam certainly turns her head.

Liam is almost too perfect to me. He definitely meets Dani’s criteria of the ideal book boyfriend brought to life.  However, she is still reluctant to put her heart out there.  Liam, too, has had his share of heartbreak but finds in Dani, what he hasn’t felt in a long time: “When I first saw her eyes looking up at me, she was an unexpected surprise. Now with her in my arms, I knew she was a gift I had no intention of letting go.” The genuine feelings Liam has for Dani are heart melting and downright swoon-worthy!

Before I can sigh and think this is the HEA they are both looking for, Rick decides he’s tired of his playboy lifestyle. When he sees Dani again, he begins to regret letting her go, and  he wants her back. She was good for him, the right kind of girl that should be by his side.  However, he knows he needs to change if he wants to earn her forgiveness and get a second chance. Rick forges an unlikely alliance with Madison, a woman who guarantees she can help him slowly break down Dani’s defenses so that she will reconsider getting back together with him. Yet, it becomes obvious early on that Madison isn’t helping Rick out of the goodness of her heart. She has her own motives for whipping the selfish, egotistical Rick into becoming a better man.  Madison appears to be a tough, no-nonsense type of woman, but behind that façade is a woman filled with pain.  Unfortunately, Madison’s story never gets told, but I found myself really looking forward to the interactions between the two.  Madison knows the real Rick and still is willing to be there for him, but she refuses to put up with his arrogant, self-serving attitude.

As Dani and Liam grow closer, Rick’s scheming and manipulative actions begin to slowly chip away the confidence Dani has in her relationship with Liam, who treats her with love, kindness, and respect that all women deserve. Rick does his best to show Dani he’s changed and that he wants her back, and gradually she begins to fall back into a comfortable, although platonic pattern of spending time with him. She hides her secret meetings from her friends and from Liam but not without guilt that eventually overwhelms her.

By developing the story from the three main characters’ point-of-views, Zaun gave me plenty of opportunities to analyze each character’s real motivation behind their actions compared to their supposed feelings. Even though Rick and Dani’s secret meetings are seemingly innocent, both are drowning in denial, and it is denial that serves as the catalyst building to a painful climax where the truth is revealed.

Some aspects of the plot were predictable, and the outcome was what I expected. On the other hand, there were several relational aspects that I felt were left hanging without any clear foreshadowing of what to expect, and there are minor cliffhangers waiting for a resolution that is yet to come. I hope this means there will be a sequel at some point in the future. Overall, the book was well-edited, except for a few minor proofreading errors that need correction in a future revision.

I’m glad I read this book and appreciate the complex, flawed, but redeemable characters Zaun has created that make this story a worthwhile read.

I received a copy of this book via AtoMR Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Rating

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About the Author

A.L. Zaun

A.L. Zaun graduated from Florida International University with a degree in English Literature a long time ago.  A degree she didn’t use at all in her professional endeavors.  She loves to read, write and take pictures.  She walks around with her camera, and most importantly she has her e-reader available at all times.  Healthcare Management by day, Mommy in the evening and most nights, you can find her sitting in front of her laptop with a bottle of Diet Pepsi, bringing the voices in her head to life on the pages of her debut novel, The Do Over.

Author Social Media Links: 

Facebook: https://facebook.com/alzaun01  

Twitter: https://twitter.com/anaz01

*****

Giveaway

Enter the Do Over Giveaway for a chance to win

(1)  Print copy of The Do Over – US/Canada

(1) eBook Copy of The Do Over – International

(1)  $5 Gift Card – International

Click on the Rafflecopter link below to enter

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Link to the tour schedule: –http://wp.me/p20ttU-1tz  

To post a comment or leave feedback, please click on the green “Leave a Comment” link located at the bottom of this post after the tags.

Review & Giveaway for Spirit of the Revolution

Spirit of the Revolution Tour

Spirit of the Revolution by Debbie Peterson

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Purchase on Amazon: Spirit of the Revolution

Book Description

Only divine intervention could have guided Jolena Leigh Michaelsson to the doorstep of a ramshackle manor in Pennsylvania, bringing her face-to-face with the man she has waited her whole life to find. There is just one problem. Mathias McGregor died two centuries ago…

Mathias, Revolutionary War ranger and spy, battles his conscience and his heart when he finds himself falling for the beautiful violinist invading his home. Jolena is mortal and deserves far more than what he as a spirit can offer her.

When Jolena’s family motto leads them to unearth a valuable coded message—the very message Mathias died trying to deliver to General Washington—Jolena vows to unravel the mystery surrounding the cryptic document. But someone else wants the message, and he’ll stop at nothing to get it, not even murder.

Divine intervention brought them together—will it also allow them to find forever?

*****

Book Review

Spirit of the Revolution is one of the sweetest romances I have read.  It is a paranormal romance combining history, mystery and suspense all wrapped up into one great read!

Readers are first introduced to Mathias McGregor and his fellow troop of soldiers known as the Rangers. They performed dangerous, covert missions against the British during the Revolutionary War. Their last mission required them to deliver a cryptic message to General George Washington. However, before they could reach Washington, the British ambushed them. Rather than surrender, they put up a valiant fight to the death.  Instead of moving on, though, they chose to remain on earth, living at Mathias’ homestead.

The story then jumps to the present, where musician Jolena “Jo” Michaelson has bought the McGregor homestead and refurbished it to honor and reflect the 1700s time period.  She has no idea her house is haunted, in spite of warnings by neighbors. Unlike with previous owners, Mathias and the boys are pleased with Jo’s renovations and have remained quiet rather than try to scare her away with their outrageous haunting.

When Mathias and the other boys finally reveal themselves to Jo, she takes their presence in stride and becomes very close to them.  They quickly form their own unique type of family, supporting and helping each other when needed. I found myself chuckling throughout the story when the ghosts taunted the neighbors with their over-the-top antics and their endeavors to learn to use modern day technology.

There are two main conflicts that kept my interest. First was the mystery behind the failed mission of Matthias and the Rangers. What was the meaning of the message that should have been delivered to Washington? If they had succeeded, how would the outcome have affected history? After conducting research on ghosts, Jo realizes that Matthias and his troop may have remained earthbound because they have unfinished business: their incomplete mission.  Jo is determined to help these ghosts find the answers they seek so they can finally have peace.  Their search takes them on a hunt for historical artifacts containing clues leading them to solve the mystery. Unfortunately, Jo and the ghost gang are forced to speed up the search when they learn there is another historian hot on their trail who will stop at nothing to steal their clues and solve the mystery for his own fame and financial gain.  Peterson does a great job including tidbits from history as she builds suspense in the race to solve the mystery.

The second conflict involved the blossoming romance between Matthias and Jo.  At first both do their best to deny the attraction because each seeks happiness for the other. Matthias knows he can never be a husband to Jo and build a family with her. He doesn’t want his presence to deny her that opportunity. Similarly, Jo doesn’t want Matthias to remain on earth after the mystery is solved just to be close to her. It is only through Jo’s dreams that they can actually really touch and express their true feelings for each other. However, thinking that one day they must let each other go is almost more than each can bear. I found myself getting teary eyed, at times, thinking of such a beautiful love that can never be.

I knew this was an everlasting love after learning of the sacrifices each was willing to make to remain together. Mathias and Jo have a love that transcends the boundaries of time, and Peterson’s surprising resolution left me saying, “Oh!” and “Wow!”

I received a copy of this book from the author via Goddess Fish Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Rating

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*****

EXCERPTS (Your exclusive excerpt):

 

It’s about time you woke up, sleepyhead. How are you feeling?”

“Like I’m slipping away,” she replied. “To…somewhere…else.” The words tumbled out in response to his question, but she didn’t know exactly what she meant when she said them.

“No,” Mathias said as he cuddled her even closer to his body. “I need you to stay here, with me. You promised. I’m supposed to watch you get old and crotchety remember? You can’t go back on that promise. I won’t let you.”

“You…could just…come away with me…we could go off together…and stay together…forever…just like my parents,” she whispered. “You don’t have…to stay here. I think maybe, it’s…not so bad on the other side.”

“I know. We’ve had this discussion before and when the time is right, we’ll walk through the light together, hand in hand, I promise. But not right now, Jolena,” Mathias said as he shifted her body more toward him so he could look into her eyes. “Not now. You need to finish what you’ve begun. We need to take Matthew and Joshua out of here, remember? You don’t want them forgotten. What about all of the places we want to see and all of the things we want to do together. Please, Jolena—”

 ***** 

About the Author

Debbie Peterson

Debbie has always had a soft spot for fairy tales, the joy of falling in love, and happily ever after endings. Stories of love and make believe filled her head for as long as she can remember. However, it was her beloved husband who encouraged, cajoled and inspired her to take up a pen and write some of them down.

Her journey to published author could fill quite a few pages, but in June of 2010, she submitted her debut novel, “Spirit of the Rebellion” to her wonderful, patient, editor at The Wild Rose Press. A few short months after Rebellion’s release, her second novel, “Shadow of the Witte Wieven” was published through InkSpell Publishing. Her third novel, “Spirit of the Revolution” will be released May 31, 2013, through The Wild Rose Press.

When she’s not busy conjuring her latest novel, Debbie spends time with the members of her very large family. She also pursues her interests in family history, mythology, and all things ancient and historic.

Author Links

Website: http://dk-peterson.com/

Blog: http://debbie-peterson.blogspot.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DebbiePeterson1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Debbie-Peterson-Author/214882805206529?ref=tn_tnmn

*****

Giveaway

Debbie will be awarding a custom made piece of jewelery to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. This necklace called “The Jolena” was designed especially for this giveaway by “Shandra Kay.”

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She will also award an Ebook copy of “Shadow of the Witte Wieven.” The winner will have the choice of selecting a Mobi, epub or PDF copy of this book.

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For your chance to win, please post a comment by clicking on the green “Leave a Comment” link located at the bottom of this post after the tags.

Good Luck!

Review of SEAL of Honor (HORNET # 1) by Tonya Burrows

Seal of Honor

Purchase on Amazon: SEAL of Honor (Hornet)

SEAL of Honor (HORNET # 1) by Tonya Burrows

Book Description

It’s a good thing Gabe Bristow lives and breathes the Navy SEAL credo, “the only easy day was yesterday,” because today, his life is unrecognizable. When his prestigious career comes to a crashing halt, he’s left with a bum leg and few prospects for employment that don’t include a desk.

That is, until he’s offered the chance to command a private hostage rescue team and free a wealthy American businessman from Colombian paramilitary rebels. It seems like a good deal—until he meets his new team: a drunk Cajun linguist, a boy-genius CIA threat analyst, an FBI negotiator with mob ties, a cowboy medic, and an EOD expert as volatile as the bombs he defuses. Oh, and who could forget the sexy, frustratingly impulsive Audrey Van Amee? She’s determined to help rescue her brother—or drive Gabe crazy. Whichever comes first.

As the death toll rises, Gabe’s team of delinquents must figure out how to work together long enough to save the day. Or, at least, not get themselves killed.Because Gabe’s finally found something worth living for, and God help him if he can’t bring her brother back alive.

*****

Book Review

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I jumped at the chance to review Seal of Honor because of its plot and the fact that I’m always drawn to characters who are involved in dangerous, military-style covert operations.  Add romance to the story, and it’s a must read for me.  Tonya Burrows’ debut novel shows a promising start to this new series.

Lieutenant Commander Gabe Bristow and his close friend Travis Quinn are newly retired Navy SEALS due to a car accident that left them with permanent injuries, ending their careers.

Travis wants Gabe to work with him in the private sector doing security work, but Gabe is reluctant to pursue this career avenue until Travis introduces him to Tucker Quentin, who is funding a private hostage rescue team that he wants Gabe to lead. Compared to the desk job, Gabe’s father, the Admiral has lined up for him with the Pentagon, this seems like a more appealing option, and thus the HORNETs are born.

Quentin needs a team assembled immediately for their first mission: to rescue American entrepreneur, Bryson Van Amee, who has been kidnapped by a notorious terrorist group while conducting business in South America. The terrorists demand a ransom in exchange for Van Amee’s release. While the FBI is officially in charge of the case, Van Amee’s insurance company has hired the HORNETs to go in undercover and rescue Van Amee.

Travis has already organized a haphazard team of men who have never met, but who have experience in this type of work: ex-CIA, former FBI negotiator, Delta Force medic, a linguist, and an explosives expert. The team members officially meet on the flight to Columbia, and it becomes abundantly clear that this group is going to have problems trying to work together. Although everyone brings a vital skill to the group, Gabe realizes their lack of discipline, along with their diverse personalities and attitudes will be a barrier to the success of this mission.

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As leader of the group, Gabe tries organize the group by integrating some of the tactics he learned to be part of a successful SEAL team. However, throughout the story, their clashing personalities, plus the emotional baggage each is carrying around lead to disagreements and minor conflicts that further complicate the plot.

Burrows has created a group of heroes who are flawed but realistic.  For example, Gabe, the team leader and protagonist of this story struggles with a mangled foot and has to use a cane to get around. His physical impairment can become an obstacle for him when he is put in a dangerous situation, and he hasn’t quite accepted that he will never again be a SEAL.

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Throughout the story, Burrows gives readers a glimpse into each man’s past, fears, and haunting demons to establish a foundation for the continuing series.

During their search for Van Amee’s location, they find Bryson’s sister, Audrey Van Amee also in the area conducting her own search for her brother. When she meets the team, she’s not quite sure what to think: “Such an odd assortment of men. She wasn’t sure whether to cheer, laugh, or cry that they were apparently her brother’s only hope since the FBI wasn’t doing jack to save him.”  However, once Audrey learns Gabe, their leader, was a SEAL, she begins to gain confidence that they can succeed in their rescue mission.

Audrey is strong-willed and determined to be involved in finding her brother. Although Gabe doesn’t want her involved in the mission, he reluctantly concedes when the rest of the team supports her involvement since she is fluent in Spanish and can translate information.  Deep down, he knows he’s also very attracted to her and worries she will be a distraction for him:

“God knew she drew him like the proverbial doomed moth to a flame. Which ticked him off in a big way. Never before had a woman fascinated him to distraction like this. He liked to keep his love life-if he could even call it that…as orderly and precise as everything else he did. But she had the potential to destroy his meticulous life like a wrecking ball through concrete.” 

Gabe partners with her to help get information from someone who works for Van Amee, and, while on the way back to their base of operations, they are kidnapped by guerilla soldiers and taken hostage into the jungle. From this point, the story’s pacing picks up and is full of non-stop action and suspense.   Now that their leader is missing, the team is forced to put aside their differences and form a cohesive group to find Gabe and Audrey so they can continue with the mission.

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I enjoyed watching these alpha characters get to know each other and begin to bond.

In the midst of all this danger, Gabe and Audrey are unable to resist the strong attraction between them. I was surprised they could let their guard down in this ongoing crisis to become intimate with one another. The entire time, Audrey worried and cried over her brother, yet, when alone with Gabe, she seems to easily put her worries aside and flirtatiously teases him into giving in to her seduction. I can’t say this was unrealistic because the direness of their situation may have pushed them to make the most of every moment they could, but the timing of these romantic scenes just seemed incongruent with the precariousness of their situation.

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Overall, though, I enjoyed Gabe and Audrey’s growing relationship. Audrey is brave and assertive, facing confrontation head on, instead of shying away. Gabe’s calm, commanding presence is complementary to her sometimes impulsive behavior. Gabe is a man with honor and integrity. He wants to do what is right, and he feels that it is unprofessional to get involved with Audrey. When she admits she loves him, he thinks it’s only temporary because of the situation. With time, she’ll realize that her love for him was only an illusion.  Gabe doesn’t have much hope for their relationship after the mission:

“Her eyes, still spilling tears, never left his, and he saw her heart there, his for the taking if he wanted. He did. Christ, did he ever want it, want her. So much that he ached with a sweet need to make her his forever. But he couldn’t do it. It was impossible. He couldn’t be the kind of man a woman like her wanted for the long haul.”

His feelings for Audrey are a constant emotional battle that he fights throughout the story.

I enjoyed reading this story and found the mystery and suspense behind the rescue thrilling. Just when I thought the story had reached its resolution, an unexpected twist emerges creating one final, climatic conflict. Burrows ties all loose story ends together in a satisfying outcome.

I received a copy of this book from Entangled Publishing, courtesy of publicist  J.J. Bonds to provide an honest review.

Rating

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*****

About the Author

Tonya Burrows

(From Goodreads)

Writing has always been my one true love. I wrote my first novel-length story in 8th grade and haven’t put down my pen since. I received a B.A. in creative writing from SUNY Oswego and I’m now working on a MFA in popular fiction at Seton Hill University.

When I’m not writing, I spend my time reading, painting (badly), exploring new places, and enjoying time with my family. Give me a good horror movie over a chick flick any day. (And, let’s be honest, I’ll take a bad horror movie too!) I’m a geek at heart and pledge my avid TV fandom to Supernatural and Doctor Who. I’m also a big fan of The Voice. What can I say? Guilty pleasure.​​

I share my life with two dogs and a ginormous cat. I’m from a small town in Western New York, but I suffer from a bad case of wanderlust and usually end up moving someplace new every few years. Luckily, my animals are all excellent travel buddies.

Author Links

Official Website | Twitter | Goodreads Profile | Facebook

*****

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Other Works by Tonya Burrows

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Purchase on Amazon: Wilde Nights in Paradise (A Wilde Security Novel) (Entangled Brazen)

Review of The Testing

The Testing

Purchase on Amazon: The Testing

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

Book Description (From Amazon)

It’s graduation day for sixteen-year-old Malencia Vale, and the entire Five Lakes Colony (the former Great Lakes) is celebrating. All Cia can think about—hope for—is whether she’ll be chosen for The Testing, a United Commonwealth program that selects the best and brightest new graduates to become possible leaders of the slowly revitalizing post-war civilization. When Cia is chosen, her father finally tells her about his own nightmarish half-memories of The Testing. Armed with his dire warnings (”Cia, trust no one”), she bravely heads off to Tosu City, far away from friends and family, perhaps forever. Danger, romance—and sheer terror—await.

*****

Watch the Book Trailer Now!

*****

Book Review

The Testing is a fantastic YA dystopian read that captured my interest from beginning to end.  The setting is in the future, where the United States no longer exists due to The Seven Stages War.  Now there is a new government in place that has divided the remainder of the population into colonies.  In order to go on for higher education, students must be selected as a Testing Candidate. Malencia  or Cia Vale is excited to be chosen, along with three fellow graduating students from Five Colonies to travel to the capitol of Tosu City to undergo the Testing process. Those who pass the four intensive parts of the Test are allowed to move forward and attend the university.  The government has established the Testing in order to find the most qualified future leaders of the country.

As Cia prepares to leave home, a disturbing conversation with her father puts her on alert. Cia’s dad underwent The Testing years ago, although he no longer retains any memories of what happened during the testing process.  His memories were erased. Apparently, this is done to prevent any one candidate from having an edge over the other. However, CIa’s father admits that over the years, he has had haunting dreams about experiences he doesn’t recall, but thinks these are memories that weren’t completely erased and are subconsciously submerging. He gives Cia the ominous warning to trust no one.

Cia is an admirable heroine in this story. She is remarkably intelligent, observant, and resourceful as she struggles to advance to each level of Testing after realizing the seemingly innocuous Test is anything but safe. More importantly, unlike some other candidates , Cia refuses to sacrifice her humanity and compassion for others in order to achieve success. She and former classmate Tomas Endress decide to work as partners as much as possible to support each other in completing the tests. The Testing Officials have created an environment in which the competition is deadly, and sabotage is just part of this sinister endeavor to weed out the weak.  Those who admit weakness or seek out help, never return. Those who fail at each level of the test are never seen again.

There are some parallels to The Hunger Games, and I couldn’t help but to be reminded of this during the field component of the Test, where each person is given a choice of weapons and supplies to help them as they are dropped off in the wilderness and forced to survive the harsh terrain as well protect themselves against candidates who are seeking to eliminate their competition. However, this story has its own unique storyline that is equally engaging.

Throughout the story, Cia was never sure who she could trust, and as the plot progresses, she finds herself second-guessing her choices, as do readers.  During the field test, Cia and Tomas work together to find their way back to the capitol city. In the midst of the danger that surrounds them, their attraction deepens into a romance. Tomas seems like a great guy for Cia, but after the test is over, she discovers secrets that Tomas has been keeping from her. Is he as trustworthy as she thinks?

The cliff-hanger ending was foreshadowed earlier in the story, but, nevertheless, the outcome shocks Cia and will have a significant impact on what she decides to do next. The governmental system is strict, but will Cia be able to follow her destined path?  I look forward to the sequel, The Testing: Independent Study.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating

Good-Read-icon

*****

About the Author

Joelle Charbonneau

(From Goodreads Profile)

I am a storyteller at heart. I have performed in a variety of operas, musical theatre and children’s theatre productions across the Chicagoland area.

While I’m happy to perform for an audience, I am equally delighted to teach private voice lessons and use my experience from the stage to create compelling characters on the page. I am the author of the Rebecca Robbins mystery series (Minotaur Books), The Paige Marshall Glee Club mysteries (Berkley) and The Testing YA triology (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).
Author Links

Official Website | Goodreads Profile | Twitter

*****

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An ePrequel to The TestingThe Testing Guide  

Free on Amazon!   The TestingGuide

The Testing Guide

Review of New Release Sniper Elite: One-Way Trip

Sniper Elite-One-Way Trip

Purchase on Amazon: Sniper Elite: One-Way Trip: A Novel 

Sniper Elite: One-Way Trip by Scott McEwen with Thomas Koloniar

Book Description

IN DIRECT DEFIANCE of the president’s orders, Navy Master Chief Gil Shannon, one of America’s most lethal SEAL snipers, launches a bold mission comprised of SEAL Team Six and Delta Force fighters to free a captured female helicopter pilot being held by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

The president is afraid a botched rescue could jeopardize US foreign policy as well as end his presidency. But once the special ops community learns that one of their own—the first female helicopter pilot of the Army’s elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR)—is being held and brutally mistreated, there is no executive order strong enough to stop them from attempting to rescue her.

This fast-paced, action-packed thriller with incredibly realistic and blistering battles introduces a new American hero, Gil Shannon, whose iron will and expertise with the .308 Remington Modular sniper rifle will spell the difference between freedom and an ignoble death for America’s female POW.

*****

Book Review

Sniper Elite is one of the best military suspense novels I have read in a long time.  I really appreciated the author clarifying that the fictional storyline actually details some of the special operation missions that have actually occurred.  The book is riveting, full of intense action scenes that provide us with insight into the danger and brutality that are an evident part of war.

The protagonist is Navy Master Chief Gil Shannon and readers first encounter him taking a break at his ranch in Montana with his supportive wife, Marie.  We begin to get a glimpse of Gil’s character and his passion serving as a Navy SEAL when he tells his wife: “It’s what I do, baby. I can’t explain it, but I feel like the only other thing I was ever meant to do was love you.”

Meanwhile, the story shifts to the capture of Warrant Officer Sandra Brux, the first female pilot, to serve in the elite Night Stalkers, who provide support during black op missions. While observing a military training exercise in Afghanistan, their group is attacked by terrorists. Sandra is the only survivor and is taken prisoner to a secret location, where a ransom is demanded for her release.  In order to rush the government to make a decision whether to pay the ransom, Sandra is brutally tortured. Video footage is sent as evidence.

The current President has little knowledge of military operations and relies upon his staff to help him understand his options. Of course each option has political ramifications, especially since the President is close to re-election.  Although ransoms are not usually paid for servicemen captured, Sandra’s gender and distinguished status provide cause for consideration. The President worries about the public backlash that could ensue if word is leaked of her abduction and the President’s failure to take appropriate action for her rescue.

While the President and his advisors are in the decision-making process, Gil and other members of  Special Forces, especially the Night Stalkers are adamant that they will rescue Sandra, since she is one their own. Gil and an Afghani translator working for the U.S. put together a secret team combining SEAL and DELTA operatives.

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Without authorized military support, Gil knows that he and the others who have agreed to take this risk may not return from this mission. Gil’s call to wife before he leaves letting her know that he may not return is heart-wrenching to say the least.

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When this perilous mission gets underway, it is a heart pounding, action-packed, edge of your seat depiction of the rescue that is so graphically detailed and realistic I found I could really envision these dramatic scenes.  The Epilogue did not leave me at ease, and I hope the authors will continue the story in a future book.

This was an excellent read that gave me a greater understanding of the dangerous situations our armed forces encounter while loyally serving their country.  Their dedication and willingness to give their lives for our safety defines them as true heroes that deserve our admiration and respect.

I received a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Rating

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About the Author (From Amazon)

author Scott McEwen

Scott McEwen (1961- )is a trial attorney in San Diego, California. He grew up in the mountains of Eastern Oregon where he became an Eagle Scout; hiking, fishing, and hunting at every opportunity presented. He obtained his undergraduate degree in Oregon and thereafter studied and worked extensively in London, England. Scott works with and provides support for several military charitable organizations, including the Seal Team Foundation.

Scott’s interest in military history, intense patriotism, and experience with long-range hunting rifles, compelled him to accurately record the battlefield experiences of Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in United States military history.

To post a comment, please click on the green “Leave a Comment” link located at the bottom of this post following the tags. 

Fire Inside

ARC Review of Fire Inside (Chaos #2) by Kristen Ashley

Fire Inside

Purchase on Amazon: Fire Inside: A Chaos Novel

Fire Inside (Chaos # 2) by Kristen Ashley

Book Description

Lanie Heron isn’t looking for love—no surprise, considering her last serious relationship nearly got her killed. So when Lanie propositions Hop Kincaid, all she wants is one wild night with the hot-as-hell biker who patrols with the Chaos Motorcycle Club…

For Hop, Lanie has always been untouchable. She’s too polished and too classy for his tastes. But when she gives Hop the once-over with her bedroom eyes and offers him a night in paradise, he can’t say no. And he doesn’t regret it when he finds that Lanie is the best thing that’s ever happened to him—in or out of bed. Now the trick will be to convince her of that.

*****

Book Review

I’ve been riding on motorcycles all my life. In 2003, I decided to get off the back and ride my own. For me, the exhilaration and freedom of riding without restraint on the open highway is a way to escape the tedium that daily life inevitably brings.  So, when I find novels that involve motorcycles, they immediately jump to my attention.

My friends on Goodreads have recommended that I read Motorcycle Man, from Ashley’s Dream Man series, but I never had the chance. When the Chaos series was introduced, starting with Own the Wind, I decided to jump in with this series.  I wish now that I had read Motorcycle Man first, but I have discovered that Ashley provides the necessary exposition to help you follow the story line no matter what book you choose first. I could just as easily have started with this second book, Fire Inside without having read Own the Wind.  By reading the books in order, however, I think readers will find greater satisfaction with the ongoing plot and character development over the course of the series.

Ashley immerses you into the fascinating, intricate world of the fictitious Chaos Motorcycle Club (CMC) biker gang. While I attend bike rallies and socialize with other riders, in no way do I fit into this world. I’m more like the guys in the movie Wild Hogs who leave behind Life’s stress to take a road trip.

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 photo tumblr_mc3qlwCZyX1qdk4doo3_r1_250nicetattoo_zpsd64c03c7.gifHowever, for the CMC, riding motorcycles is more than a passion; it is a way of life.  Gang members work, socialize, and even live together at a compound that provides living and recreational areas behind a bike garage and shop.

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When reading Own the Wind, I found it a bit shocking and initially difficult to get over the pervading gang members’ sexist attitudes and their need to dominate their women.  There is no room for political correctness in this environment. Women who visit the club and socialize with the members are called “bitches,” while a woman who gains the status of significant other becomes “an old lady.” The language is at times vulgar, and the men don’t put much stock in long, drawn out conversations. They pack as much meaning in as few words as possible. All of these aspects combine to give Ashley a distinctive writing voice and style which carries over into Fire Inside.

This story centers on the evolving and unlikely romance between the classy Lanie Heron and Chaos member Hopper “Hop” Kinkaid.  Based on stereotypes, Lanie certainly wouldn’t seem like the type to hang out with bikers, but, because her best friend is married to the Chaos’s leader, Lanie is accepted as Chaos family.  Lanie has suffered physical and emotional trauma from her past relationship, where her fiancé died because of his involvement with the Russian mob. It’s been years since she’s been involved with anyone, since she is unwilling to take the risk of having her heart crushed like before.

One night out of loneliness, Lanie boldly propositions Hop for a night of sex guaranteed with no strings and no further expectations. She’s been attracted to Hopper for years, even though she has never once acted on it…until now.  Although Hop is secretly pleased that Lanie is interested in him, he doesn’t want to deal with any complications or conflicts that may ensue if they do this. When Lanie walks off telling Hop she’ll be waiting in his room for him for fifteen minutes in case he changes his mind, well that just seals the deal for Hop.  He can’t resist the temptation of the beautiful, elegant Lanie Heron, who chose him.

For Hop, one night with Lanie is not enough. When the night is over and she leaves, he refuses to accept that one night is all they will have, and he tracks her down at home to continue their sexual escapades.  Although the sexual chemistry between is comparable to exploding fireworks, they both know their relationship is more than just physical.  Hop sees Lanie as a sophisticated, refined “lady,” and that is the term of endearment he uses for her throughout the book. He tells her he’s never had anyone with her class and beauty, and he’s not willing to let her go.

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Throughout the story, even though Hop is at times domineering toward Lanie, he is also gentle and respectful to her. Hop is more than a one dimensional, stereotypical biker guy, and Lanie is drawn to Hop’s gorgeousness, charm, and charisma.

Lanie lives in guilt, fear, and loneliness, plagued by the nightmares of her past. She doesn’t want to get involved with Hop because she fears his dangerous lifestyle will only cause more pain and heartache for her.  Although she tells Hop to leave her alone, that she has nothing to offer him, he still keeps a close watch on her, knowing that she needs someone there for her. Circumstances keep drawing them together, forging a stronger bond between the two.

I love how much Hop cares about Lanie, and as much as she tries to resist him, he just keeps moving forward, knocking down those imaginary steel walls that have enveloped her heart.

 He is emotionally strong enough to not be deterred by her repeated rejections, and to softly beg her to take a chance on him. He promises he will help her fight those “monsters” that keep holding her back from fully living.

Most of the book is about the painful, yet so fulfilling process of falling love. Much of the conflict is relationship-based, with family drama, miscommunication, and Club business creating obstacles for Hop and Lanie.  Throughout the book, my favorite parts occurred when both Hop and Lanie exposed their vulnerabilities and admitted painful truths to hold on to what they have together.

To all you dedicated Kristen Ashley fans, let me just state, now I get what all the fuss is about!

Live Free Ride Free

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating

Good-Read-icon

*****

About the Author (From Goodreads Profile)

Author KA

Kristen Ashley was born in Gary, Indiana, USA. She nearly killed her mother and herself making it into the world, seeing as she had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck (already attempting to accessorise and she hadn’t taken her first breath!).

Kristen grew up in Brownsburg, Indiana but has lived in Denver, Colorado and the West Country of England. Thus she has been blessed to have friends and family around the globe. Her posse is loopy (to say the least) but loopy is good when you want to write.

Kristen was raised in a house with a large and multi-generational family. They lived on a very small farm in a small town in the heartland and existed amongst the strains of Glenn Miller, The Everly Brothers, REO Speedwagon and Whitesnake (and the wardrobes that matched).

Needless to say, growing up in a house full of music, clothes and love was a good way to grow up.

And as she keeps growing up, it keeps getting better.

Author Contacts

Official Website | Goodreads Profile | Twitter | Facebook

*****

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Start the  Chaos Series Now!

Click on the Book Cover to visit Amazon.

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*****

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Music to Complement Fire Inside

Songs Referenced in the book: (Credit to Kristen Ashley)

Bob Seger- “We’ve Got Tonight”

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – “You’ll Accomp’ny Me”

Review of Taking Shots (Assassins #1) by Toni Aleo

Book Cover

Purchase on Amazon:  Taking Shots: The Assassins Series (Ebook) /Taking Shots: The Assassins Series  (book)

Ebook is .99 on Amazon for a limited time!

Taking Shots (Assassins #1) by Toni Aleo

Book Description

Elli Fisher has never thought she was good enough, let it be her job, her weight, her love life, nothing. That is until she meets Shea Adler. After doing a promotional shoot for the NHL team, the Assassins, she meets the hunky hockey player who shoots a puck, shattering her world.

Shea Adler was tired of the life he was living outside of the rink. The girls, the money blowing, the drinking, everything had to stop and it all did when he met Eleanor Fisher. He had never met anyone like her. She was feisty, witty, shy, and simply gorgeous. When he laid eyes on her, it was as if he was taking the hardest hit of his life into the boards, and he had to have her. Elli is a little skeptical of Shea, but he knows that they were meant to be together, and he needed her in his life.

Can Elli throw her insecurities out the window and love Shea with everything inside of her, or will she let a past relationship, and her family ruin any chance of her being happy.

*****

Book Review

Taking Shots is the first book in Toni Aleo’s Assassins series, where each book focuses on a hunky hockey player for the Nashville Assassins and the woman he comes to love.  If you like a romance book that slowly depicts a couple’s developing relationship, as they each battle their insecurities, then you will enjoy this book, even if hockey isn’t one of your favorite sports.

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Eleanor Fisher, called Ellie, is a professional photographer as well as a die-hard Assassins’ fan.  She attends every game, has awesome seats to watch the home games, and is most likely team captain Shea Adler’s most dedicated fan.  When she gets a chance to be the official photographer for the Assassins team, she jumps at the opportunity to be around the players of a sport she loves.  On her first day taking pictures of the team members, she finds herself blushing as she considers how gorgeous Shea is when she is photographing him.   When he flirts with her, she is too shocked to even reply.

In her eyes, someone like Shea Adler could never be interested in her.  First of all, Ellie has low self-esteem because of her family and a past relationship. Readers are given bits and pieces about her family and past but the full story isn’t revealed all at once; instead it is parceled out over the course of the story to keep the reader’s interest.

Secondly, Ellie has major issues with her body image that I found surprising and saddening.  When she was in her teens, she was a size two.  Later, she developed hypothyroidism and gained a lot of weight. Although she has lost some of the weight, she isn’t happy that she is now a size ten and, in her opinion, still overweight. So being a size 10 means you’re fat? I think not.
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There is nothing wrong with being a size 10, but I think, today, young women feel so much pressure to be “stick thin.”  Unfortunately, Ellie places too much importance on a person’s physical attributes in the beginning of the story, but, her attitude does change as her character begins to grow.

Shea is a wonderfully, caring, honest man who doesn’t understand why Ellie sees herself in such a negative way. Whenever he can, he always compliments her and works to boost her self-esteem.  He also doesn’t understand her cautiousness about taking their relationship beyond just kisses and dates.  During a heavy make out session, Ellie pulls back, terrified to allow Shea to see her body, thinking he will be disgusted by the sight. This hesitation about letting Shea close to her occurs repeatedly, and her inability to accept the fact he thinks she’s beautiful eventually began to annoy me.

However, Shea is patient with her.  Because of the connection he has with Ellie, he is willing to take things slowly.  They spend a lot of time conversing, where Shea openly share details and stories about his life and his family. Unfortunately, Ellie doesn’t share anything about her family and tries to avoid discussing her past.  When her parents learn that Ellie is seeing Shea Adler, they are persistent in having the couple over for dinner.  Ellie does not like being around her family and doesn’t want to expose Shea to them either.  Over dinner it becomes clearer to Shea one of the reasons for Ellie’s insecurities. Everyone in her family, with the exception of her father, seems to derive pleasure in criticizing Ellie, especially her mother.

What makes the entire experience even more disastrous is that almost everything Ellie has avoided sharing with Shea is revealed by family members. Not only is Ellie embarrassed and horrified, but Shea is absolutely shocked by what he learns about Ellie’s past, and he realizes how much about herself she has kept hidden.
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By the end of the dinner, he is angry and frustrated with Ellie, as I think anyone would by this point. However, what confuses me is why Ellie agreed to bring Shea to dinner, knowing this could happen.

These revelations, however, help Shea to gain insight about what has made Ellie so afraid of getting close to someone.  Furthermore, this scene was an integral part of the book because it enables Ellie to begin lowering the barriers she has erected to protect herself from getting hurt. Now that Shea knows more of the truth and still wants her in his life, Ellie decides it’s time to give herself fully to him.

As their relationship deepens, Shea finds he has fallen in love with Ellie. Even though he gathers the courage to tell her how much he loves her, he is disappointed that she doesn’t say it back.  What amazes me about Shea is his level of commitment to Ellie. He’s willing to wait for her to fall in love with him. I keep wondering what’s really holding her back. So a previous relationship didn’t work out? Why should that deter her from finding happiness with someone else?  Only when a drunken Ellie finally tells Shea the details about her last relationship can I finally understand her caution and fears. I wish I had learned this information earlier because it would have helped me to have more patience with Ellie.

Shea is one of the most heart-melting heroes I have encountered. The strength of his love for Ellie makes him a perfect match for her as she deals with those pesky inner demons that whisper to her she’s not worthy of Shea. It is his loving commitment to her that helps her grow and flourish.

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However, the progress to happily-ever-after is halted when a major incident occurs that shatters Ellie’s trust in Shea.  I became frustrated with Ellie again because she just runs away instead of listening to Shea’s explanation.  So the angst continues in the midst of heartbreak.  Other readers may think her reaction was justified, but I think by this point in the story, Ellie should have been bold enough confront the issue and deal with it after ascertaining all of the  facts. Instead she runs away and leaves the entire issue unresolved until the end of the story.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, and I am certainly glad to have had the opportunity to read a story like this that really depicts the intricacies of making a relationship succeed.  On the other hand, at times, I felt the pacing was too slow, and the story was dragged out longer than it needed to be. I also found there to be entirely too much “giggling” over the course of the plot.  There is nothing wrong with the use of giggle, but I found this descriptor overused to the point that it became an annoyance for me.

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I think fans of contemporary and New Adult romances will find this to be an enjoyable read. I am certainly willing to give the next book in the series a try.

I received a copy of this book from Random House Publishing- Loveswept via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating

Good-Read-icon

*****

Learn More about the Assassin Series by watching this Series Trailer

*****

About the Author (From Goodreads Profile page)

My name is Toni Aleo!

I am a wife, mother, and hopeless romantic. I have been told I have anger issues, but I think it’s cause of my intense love for hockey! I am the biggest Shea Weber fan ever, and can be found during hockey season with my nose pressed against the Bridgestone Arena’s glass, watching my Nashville Predators play! When my nose isn’t pressed against the glass, I enjoy going to my husband and son’s hockey games, my daughters dance competition, hanging with my best friends, taking pictures, and reading the latest romance novel. I love things that sparkle, I love the color pink, and did I mention I love hockey? I am currently working on Empty Net, and I hope to have it out by November! I hope to hear from you on here, my Facebook, or my twitter! Thank you so much!

Author Links

Website | Twitter | Facebook

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Music to Complement the Book

These songs were referenced in Taking Shots (credit goes to Toni Aleo)

 

To post a comment, please click on the green “Leave a Comment” link located at the bottom of this post after the tags.

Spotlight, Review, and Giveaway for Kissing Fire by A.M. Hargrove

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Kissing Fire (An Edge Novel # 3) by A.M. Hargrove

KissingFire-BookCover

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Date Published: April 15, 2013

Purchase on Amazon:  Kissing Fire (ebook) / Kissing Fire (book)

Each book in An Edge Novel series can be read as a stand alone

Book Description 

Preston Mitchell, undercover DEA agent, has led a life of danger and obscurity. Knowing his job would never allow a normal relationship, he’s never opened himself up to any woman…that is until the lovely Avery Middleton stumbles into his life.

To the outsider, Avery has it all…wealth, family, connections and a great job. But on the inside, she’s miserable. Her social life is in the dumpster, the kooky gal next door has some zany plans for her and her selfish mother drives Avery to the point of insanity. Her only salvation is to get out of Charleston and start a new life. So that’s precisely what she does. She moves to Seattle and steps right into the path of hot and sexy, Preston.

Unfortunately for both of them, Avery ends up being in the wrong place at the wrong time and is now running for her life. But she’s not alone. She has a gorgeous DEA agent protecting her and suddenly finds herself irresistibly captivated by him. There’s only one problem. Preston carries more than his share of mental baggage, courtesy of his job. His covert missions have put him in places and situations he can barely stand to think about. Avery rocks Preston’s world because she is nothing like anyone he’s ever met and something extraordinary begins to happen between them. But can their love survive in this world, where danger, intrigue and deception lurk on every corner?

*****

Book Review

Kissing Fire is a contemporary romance that blends a comedic and serious tone to tell  this story.  Based on the book’s description, I expected more of a dangerous, action-oriented story involving romance, so I was happily surprised to find this book includes funny, light-heart moments to provide relief from some of the painful, and, at times, heart-wrenching aspects of the storyline.

The initial setting for the story is Charleston, South Carolina, where Avery Middleton realizes her social and romantic life has become stagnant.  Longing for a change, she accepts a job in Seattle and moves with the intention of starting over. Although Avery comes from a privileged family, she wants to be independent from her family’s wealth and be successful on her own.  Avery is an easily likeable character because of her feisty nature, humorous thoughts, and the unexpected situations she often finds herself in, leading to, sometimes, embarrassing and belling jiggling laughter.

Upon arrival to Seattle, Avery visits her brother who has also moved away from home to start a life with his new wife. Caroline.  There, she coincidentally meets Preston Mitchell, Caroline’s brother, who is staying with the couple. Preston is a DEA agent who has recently returned to the country after completing his latest undercover mission.

When Avery and Preston meet, they instantly fall into lust for each other. By providing both Avery’s and Preston’s point-of-view, I was able to really connect with and care about them because I’m given insight into their private thoughts that clearly reveal their insecurities and vulnerabilities.

Working undercover has put Preston into more than his share of unimaginable horrors. Because of his past, Preston sees himself as “Dirty. Disgusting. And certainly not fit for proper society.” He believes that he will never find a good woman capable of loving him because of the physical and psychological scars that have skewed his perspective.

Preston initially hides his profession from Avery to protect his identity, but, when a Mexican Drug Cartel finds his location, he is forced to go on the run, dragging Avery along with him, since she now become a target as well. Although Avery is strongly attracted to the sexy DEA Agent, her low self-esteem and body image issues make her think Preston would never be interested in her. An awkward situation provides the impetus for them to reveal their insecurities and paves the way for romance.

I fell in love with Preston over the course of the story. His willingness to sacrifice his personal happiness for his country is more than admirable, given what he’s endured.  I also loved how he is direct and honest with Avery, so that she knows what she’s getting into before they pursue the relationship.  As he reveals the gritty, raw details of his past, Avery always responds  to him in a way that soothes Preston’s mind and body.  They are so good for each other on an emotional level because they consistently boost one another’s self-esteem. I also appreciated that Preston wants more than just a sexual relationship with Avery. He wants her heart before they become intimate. Their time alone together allows their attraction to grow into love. The passion between them is hot, steamy, and intense!
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Everything is wonderful until Preston confesses a secret he’s been keeping from Avery, and everything falls apart. Avery is angry, hurt by Preston’s actions, and she doesn’t feel she can trust him anymore.  Once Preston explains the motivation behind his actions, I know I could forgive him. However, Avery thinks he’s destroyed her life.  I have to admit, I think Avery overreacts by giving up on their relationship so quickly after they have worked so hard to establish a strong foundation.

Nevertheless, Avery leaves Preston. She leaves Seattle to start over yet again. Although the hurt and pain over their breakup lingers, a visit from her friend Melissa, a female sumo wrestler, with her outrageous antics provides a nice diversion to Avery’s somber mood.

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A central question from this point in the story is whether Preston and Avery can truly let go of their love for each other. In the midst of all this angst, Preston and Avery again find their lives endangered, and the action and suspense that follow, as these conflicts are resolved, also contribute to making this book a worthwhile read.

Rating

Good-Read-icon

*****

Excerpt from Kissing Fire

Boy oh boy, was Preston hot. Make that boiling. Scorching. Molten lava kind of hot. Messy dark brown, slightly wavy hair that was not long but not short either. And, oh what a mouth he had. His mouth made me want to jump on board and ride that train for life. His lips were the perfect kind of full and every so often, he’d run his tongue across them and I’d automatically squirm. His face was pure angular perfection…high cheekbones with those slight hollows beneath them, that were the perfect shape to accommodate my lips. But those eyes…my oh my. They were golden brown, like coffee with lots of cream. I could only imagine what they looked like right when he was…

Cheezits Ava, get your head out of the bedroom!

“Wouldn’t you agree Ava?” my brother was asking me.

I shook my head and swallowed. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“We were talking about the weather here in the summer and I was saying how much more pleasant it is than in Charleston?”

“Oh, yes it is.” Was my voice breathy sounding, or was it my imagination?

Preston was wearing jeans that rode low on his hips. They were tight and he had a superior set of buns. What would I pay to see those babies?

“Ava? What do you think?” someone asked.

“Buns!” I blurted out.

“Excuse me?” Caroline, my sister-in-law, asked.

Holy Toledo, did I just say buns out loud? What the hell Ava!!!

“Fun! Anything sounds fun!” I quickly said.

“Ava, you look a little flushed. Are you sure you’re feeling okay?”

“Hot! I mean no, I’m fine.” I looked across the room and my face totally flamed. Everyone was staring at me. I had unbuttoned my blouse and was fanning myself. I’d noticed that Preston had a gloriously hot tattoo of a sideways cross on his arm. I think I needed to go home.

“So Avery, where are you staying?” Caroline asked.

“Oh, I’m at the Four Sexy. Seasons! I mean the Four Seasons.”

Oh dear God, I need to get my act together here.

*****

About the Author

A.M. Hargrove

One day, on her way home from work as a sales manager, A. M. Hargrove, realized her life was on fast forward and if she didn’t do something soon, it would quickly be too late to write that work of fiction she had been dreaming of her whole life.  So, she rolled down the passenger window of her fabulous (not) company car and tossed out her leather briefcase.  Luckily, the pedestrian in the direct line of fire was a dodgeball pro and had über quick reflexes enabling him to avoid getting bashed in the head.  Feeling a tad guilty about the near miss, A. M. made a speedy turn down a deserted side street before tossing her crummy, outdated piece-of-you-know-what lap top out the window.   She breathed a liberating sigh of relief, picked up her cell phone and hit #4 on her speed dial.

 Boss:  Hello

 A.M.:  Boss, is that you?

 Boss:  Why yes, A. M., who else would be answering my phone?

 A.M.:  Er… right.  Well, I’m calling to let you know you can pick up my luxury Ford Focus at Starbucks near the interstate.

 Boss:  Why ever would I want to do that?

 A.M.:  Because I quit!

 A.M. hit the end button and speed dialed her husband.

 A.M.:  Hi hubs, can you pick me up at Starbucks?

 Hubs:  Sure… Having some car trouble?

 A.M.:  Not at all.  I don’t have a car to have trouble with because I just quit my job.

 Hubs:  WHAT?!

 A.M.:  It’s time for a new career and I am going to be a very famous novelist.

 So began A. M. Hargrove’s career as a young adult paranormal romance author of self-published ebooks.  Her series, The Guardians of Vesturon, centers around a family of six siblings and is a mix of humor, mystery, suspense and of course, love.  Survival and Resurrection are her first and second full length novels in the series and Beginnings is the prequel novella.  Her third installment, Determinant, will be released on June 30, 2012.  (It didn’t happen exactly like that, but you get the idea!)

Author Links

Official Website | Twitter | Facebook | Blog

Goodreads Author Page | Goodreads Fan Club

*****

Giveaway

 Click on the rafflecopter link below to enter the A.M. Hargrove Kissing Fire Tour Giveaway!

Prizes: 

Ebooks of Kissing Fire, Shattered Edge and Edge of Disaster
 
$50 Amazon Gift Card

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*****

To post a comment, click on the green “Leave a Comment” link located at the bottom of this post after the tags.

Review of New Release Forever (The World of Nightwalkers #2) by Jacquelyn Frank

Book Cover for Forever

Purchase on Amazon: 

Forever: The World of Nightwalkers (World of the Nightwalkers) (ebook)

Forever: The World of Nightwalkers (World of the Nightwalkers) (book)

Forever (The World of Nightwalkers, #2) by Jacquelyn Frank

Book Description

New York Times bestselling author Jacquelyn Frank returns with the sizzling second book in her sensual new series set in the World of the Nightwalkers—where alluring entities known as Bodywalkers face the ultimate threat.
 
After being brought back from death, police officer Jackson Waverly receives the shock of his life: he has become host to a Bodywalker, a spirit that is reborn in flesh and blood, and part of a proud, ancient race that uses its extraordinary gifts to battle dark, evil forces. Jackson’s spirit is a powerful one—none other than the Egyptian pharaoh Menes, who longs to reunite with his eternal love, the Egyptian queen Hatshepsut.
 
While Menes is obsessed with finding the perfect vessel for his queen, Jackson cannot stop thinking about Dr. Marissa Anderson, the gorgeous precinct shrink who keeps pushing him to confront his grief over the loss of his K-9 partner. But what Marissa really arouses most in Jackson is intense desire, which is exactly what Menes is looking for. To fight a great enemy, pharaoh and queen must join; but to host Hatshepsut, Marissa will first have to die. Fate has given Jackson a profound choice: save Marissa from Menes’s plan or keep an entire species from the brink of extinction.Includes a preview of Jacquelyn Frank’s next World of Nightwalkers novel, Forsaken

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Book Review

Jacquelyn Frank takes readers into a new series about Bodywalkers, which is a spinoff of her Nightwalkers series. I have read the first book Forbidden and learned that this series centers on a fantasy world combining ancient Egyptian mythology, civil war, and intense romance.

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Let me provide a brief background to set the scene for this series and to prepare you for my review. Ancient Egyptians believed strongly in their gods and wanted to be prepared for the afterlife.  The Templars, priests and priestesses, prepared the bodies using a complex mummification process that would allow the dead to hold on to their material possessions.

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It is believed that their unwillingness to give up earthly possessions was an affront to the gods; therefore,  their souls or Ka’s were cursed to be tethered to the mortal plane where they would live in the Ether instead of peacefully passing onto the afterlife.

Humans who are at the verge of death may find themselves in the Ether, and, there, they are given the opportunity to either die or return to their mortal lives by agreeing to share their bodies with an Egyptian soul.  In addition, they get to have a longer life span and are endowed with special powers.  Once the host awakens, a blending process begins to merge both souls into a Bodywalker.

An Egyptian’s resurrection through a human host allows him or her to return to the mortal plane where there is an ongoing civil war between the governing body called the Politic and the Templars to rule the Bodywalkers.  Those that support the Politic are awaiting their King Menes’ arrival as a Bodywalker to lead this war.

Forever picks up right where the first book in the series Forbidden ends. King Menes has been incarnated through Jackson Waverly, a police officer, who was introduced in Forbidden. It is ideal to start the series at the beginning, but Frank provides enough exposition throughout this second book for readers to become comfortable with the storyline and ongoing conflicts.

Jackson and Menes have gone through the process of blending and, now, along with fighting against his enemies, one of Menes’ priorities is to find a host for his beloved Queen Hatshepsut.

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Because he and Jackson now know each other’s memories and thoughts, Menes is aware of Jackson’s attraction to psychiatrist, Dr. Marissa Anderson, who counsels officers within the police department where Jackson is employed.  Behind the scenes, Menes is “fanning the flames” encouraging Jackson to pursue a romantic relationship with Marissa. Menes thinks Marissa would be a great candidate to host his queen.

Marissa spent a great deal of time getting to know Jackson when he was required to see her after the death of his K9 partner when Jackson was assaulted. Throughout their encounters, they have often clashed over differences in opinion. Yet, this doesn’t douse the mutual attraction that radiates between them.  Now that Menes has become one with Jackson, he encourages Jackson to take the initiative with Marissa and reveal his feelings for her.

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While working a case together, Marissa witnesses a supernatural attack upon Jackson/Menes by an enemy.  Marissa shockingly learns that Jackson is no ordinary man, and because she has been seen by the enemies, her life is in danger as well.
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The always professional and self-controlled Marissa finds herself ill-equipped to deal with the reality of this fantastical world she has entered. After Jackson takes Marissa to a safe house to protect her, he finds it even more difficult not to physically seduce Marissa. Their sultry kisses show him that Marissa is a sensual and passionate woman, but she is reluctant to let go, take a chance, and give in to her carnal desires for Jackson.

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So Jackson/Menes together woo her with beautiful, romantic prose that would melt any woman’s icy heart. And Marissa is no exception

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Once they become intimate, Jackson/Mendes are determined to make her theirs. They proposition her to become the host for Hatshepsut. Marissa gasps when she realizes that even if she would consider becoming a Bodywalker, she would have to die first. Her obvious response is
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Marissa has a serious choice to make. Will she refuse to become Jackson’s mate, knowing that eventually Menes will  push Jackson to find someone else to become host to the queen?  Throughout the story, Menes describes the perfect, profound, and enduring love that he shares with his soul mate, Hapshepsut.  Can Marissa take a leap of faith and believe that Jackson truly loves her and that they, too, can have this same passionate and lasting love?

Rather than being more action-oriented, the heart of this book focuses on the internal struggles both Jackson and Marissa face as they try to adapt to the Nightwalker world. The story certainly made for a suspenseful read as I awaited Marissa’s decision and what will happen next. Forever also foreshadows a major conflict in the next book, since a Templar has, unknowingly, unleashed one of the most evil gods into this world.

After reading Forever, I am impressed with the creative and fantastic story line Franks has created, and am now a fan of this series.

A copy of this book was provided to me by Ballantine Books in exchange for an honest review.

Rating

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*****

Author Jacquelyn Frank 

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Author Contacts

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The World of NightWalker Series

Forbidden (The World of Nightwalkers, Book 1)

cover for Forbidden

Purchase on Amazon:  Forbidden  (ebook)/ Forbidden (book) 

Book Trailer for Forbidden 

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Music to Complement the Book

For Menes & Hatshepsut – Natalie Merchant: “My Beloved Wife”

For Jackson & Marissa- Sarah Mclachlan: “I Love You”