Review: Blackbird (Redemption, #1), by Molly McAdams

Blackbird (Redemption Book 1)Blackbird by Molly McAdams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘Blackbird’ is the first book in Molly McAdams ‘Redemption’ series and is a lot darker than her previous works. I have enjoyed just about every book that I’ve read by Ms. McAdams and as a lover of dark romance, I was very excited to hear that she was trying her hand at writing “darker” romance. While not as dark as I was hoping for, ‘Blackbird’ proves to be a captivating read.

The story centers on Briar Chapman, a young lady that comes from a wealthy family. She is finishing up college and is engaged to Kyle Armstrong, the son of the Georgia governor. Much to her family’s disappointment, she chooses to make her own way, waiting tables while going to school.

One day she picks up a shift for a coworker and her life is forever changed. Just outside of the restaurant, she is kidnapped. The next thing she knows, she’s been sold at auction to a wealthy man.

Briar finds herself in a helpless situation. She is at the mercy of a man that says he owns her. He has no intention of ever letting her go and he refuses to entertain her pleas.

In time, Briar finds herself growing attached to her captor. Before long, she is questioning her own sanity and whether or not she really wants to return to her real life. Eventually, she has to face the fact that she has fallen in love with the man that she should hate.

While this story has many things in common with other captivity-themed romances, it also stands out from the rest in many ways. For starters, the man that purchased Briar, Lucas Holt, is not what he seems. The “world” that Lucas is a part of is also unlike any other that I’ve read about. The setting and circumstances were really quite unique. These differences were enough to make ‘Blackbird’ stand out from the rest.

There were quite a few twists and turns along the way. If you enjoy a bit of danger and action, this book delivers it in spades. In fact, ‘Blackbird’ was every bit as much of an organized crime romance as it was a captivity-themed romance.

My only gripe is that it wasn’t dark enough for my tastes. There were quite a few scenes that were heading into some very dark territory, but then something would happen right at the last moment and Briar would be saved. Lucas couldn’t ever really commit to do what he set out to do because he couldn’t stand the thought of hurting his blackbird.

While I can appreciate the sentiment, it was kind of a letdown for me. I love disturbing, dark stories and the strong emotional response that they elicit. This book was like a big tease in that sense.

I’m of the mindset that if you want to go dark, then go dark. Don’t skirt the edges of the forbidden territory while being too afraid to take that leap. This seems to be pretty common among authors that want to write “dark” content. I’m not sure if it is because they are afraid of the backlash that will come with delving into truly dark content, or what. However, for a fan of darker reads, this can be very frustrating.

Otherwise, this was a fantastic story. I would’ve liked it to be darker, but it was certainly much darker than anything that I’ve read by this author before. Even though it wasn’t as depraved as I would have liked, it was still a highly enjoyable read for me.

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Review: Slade (Walk of Shame, #1), by Victoria Ashley

Slade (Walk of Shame, #1)Slade by Victoria Ashley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hmm…Where do I even start with this one? It definitely wasn’t what I expected. Totally my fault, by the way. For some unknown reason, I had it in my head that this was a biker romance. Clearly, I didn’t read the blurb. Again, totally my fault. Instead, ‘Slade’ tells the story of a male stripper that is super-slutty. I didn’t see that coming! LOL.

Although I was able to adjust to the unexpected storyline pretty quickly, I found this short read to be mediocre at best. There was a huge dose of insta-lust and not enough time to actually make the supposed emotional attachment between the two main characters seem genuine.

Essentially, Slade is a manwhore that “falls in love” with his new roommate, Aspen. The attraction is instantaneous, followed by some roommate rivalry. He wants in her pants. She wants to deny her attraction because he is such a slut. His sluttiness is really the result of ineffective coping, using sex to avoid dealing with his tragic past. She has her own secret reasons for not wanting to get involved with the sex machine under the same roof. Eventually, he reforms himself for her.

As you can see, this is similar to a thousand others in this trope. However, the short length of ‘Slade’ resulted in this story being unbelievable and having a rushed feel. It takes time to make readers feel a real connection to the characters. That never happened with this one.

I love a steamy love story as much as the next girl, but I need to have some “meat” in my stories. This one was a little smutty for my taste. The sex was plentiful, even gratuitous, but it lacked appeal because I felt no connection to the characters at all.

Overall, ‘Slade’ is a 2 1/2 star read for me. If you’re in the mood for something quick and very smutty, then you might enjoy this one. I needed more of an actual story and I didn’t find it with this one.

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Review: Truth or Beard (Winston Brothers, #1), by Penny Reid

Truth or Beard (Winston Brothers, #1)Truth or Beard by Penny Reid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been meaning to get around to this series for quite a long time. Finally, I downloaded the audiobook and decided to find out what all the fuss was about surrounding these bearded brothers. I wasn’t disappointed.

In the first book in the series, readers/listeners are introduced to the Winston brothers. Listening to the Audible version, I couldn’t help but envision the men from the ‘Duck Dynasty’…which wasn’t exactly sexy. However, with time, I was able to overcome that and mold the brothers into sexier versions of bearded bliss.

Despite being rather over-the-top at times, each of the brothers stood out as being unique and loveable. They were definitely a quirky bunch, but very endearing. I think they might be my latest guilty pleasure.

Jessica James is the leading female character in this first book in the series. She is dying to get out and see the world, but her plans have been temporarily derailed. She’s returned to her hometown to earn enough money to pay off her student loans so that she can travel the world. Long-term relationships or any other commitment that would tie her down are not in her plans.

When she runs into the object of all her young fantasies, Beau Winston, she acts in an uncharacteristically passionate way. Nobody is more surprised than her to discover that her impromptu make-out session was actually with Beau’s twin brother, Duane, her childhood nemesis. She certainly wasn’t prepared for the jealousy and longing that she felt toward her one-time rival.

I enjoyed the progression of Duane and Jessica’s story, from stand-offish to inseparable. This was a sweet, heart-warming kind of story. I smiled and laughed at the personality quirks of the various characters throughout this story. There was just enough action and mystery to keep me engaged as well.

Eventually, everything works itself out. We get the HEA that we craved and are left feeling contented. This story can easily be read as a standalone, even though it is the first book in the series.

If you’re in the mood for a sweet, humorous, feel-good type of love story, then this is a great choice. I can see why so many of my friends have fallen in love with the Winston brothers. I will definitely continue this series. I look forward to seeing what the other brothers have in store for me.

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Review: There’s Something About Blaire (Blaire, #1.5), by Anita Gray

There's Something About Blaire (Blaire #1.5)There’s Something About Blaire by Anita Gray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After finishing ‘Blaire’, I was left wanting. Blaire and Charlie had fought so hard to get to where they were, but I felt like I didn’t get enough of their HEA to feel content. Although I’ll still have to wait a while for the sequel to be released, I did stumble across ‘There’s Something About Blaire’, which proved to be a tasty little “extra”.

‘There’s Something About Blaire’ is a retelling of the first chapter of ‘Blaire’, from Charlie’s POV. This super-short “extra” provides insight into Charlie’s thoughts and feelings as he plots his revenge against Maksim. It was kind of surprising to be in his head as he was first introduced to Blaire, honestly.

Although this was an incredibly quick read, it did shine a great deal of light on Charlie’s motivations. Even knowing what his original intentions were, having completed ‘Blaire’, I was a little taken aback by how cold and calculating Charlie came across. After all, he portrayed the polar opposite of that man in ‘Blaire’.

If you’ve read ‘Blaire’ and are dying for a little bit more to hold you over until the sequel is released, then ‘There’s Something About Blaire’ is a nice “extra”. Don’t expect a full story or book though, this is just a retelling of a single chapter. It is great bonus material, but not a story in and of itself.

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Review: Blaire (Blaire, #1), by Anita Gray

BlaireBlaire by Anita Gray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I read the blurb for ‘Blaire’, I was intrigued. I love nothing like a deliciously dark story that pushes my boundaries and makes me wriggle in nervous anticipation of what will come with the next turn of the page. Luckily for me, ‘Blaire’ did not disappoint. This book held my attention from start to finish.

Blaire was taken at a young age and subjected to horrific abuse. She was brainwashed and conditioned, both physically and mentally, to be the a slave for Maksim. Over time, she became his fiercest protector and most treasured possession. Despite her petite frame, she is more lethal than men twice her size.

When a rival crime boss, Charlie, enters the scene, it is clear that he is different. He doesn’t fear Maksim the way that others do. In fact, Maksim seems to be afraid of this newcomer. Their actions hint at a complicated history and it seems that Maksim may have betrayed Charlie in the past.

As repayment for past transgressions, Charlie asks to borrow Blaire from Maksim. He is in need of her expert hacking skills for a job that he has planned. Although, his keen interest in Blaire makes it clear that he is interested in far more than her computer skills.

To Blaire’s astonishment, Maksim agrees to Charile’s terms. Before she can voice her protest, she is drugged and taken to be Charlie’s captive. Soon, she is forced to feel things that she’s never experienced before and everything she knows is called into question.

Little by little, Blaire and Charlie’s relationship evolves into something entirely new to Blaire. Charlie treats her with kindness, which she had never experienced before. She battles between the feelings that she has and those that her conditioning tell her that she should have. She is beginning to fall for Charlie, but knows that this is the ultimate betrayal of Maksim, the man she has been groomed to protect and cherish.

Eventually, Blaire and Charlie must face the light. Blaire’s time with Charlie comes to an end. Betrayals and their consequences come to pass. Things go from bad to worse in the blink of an eye.

Reading Blaire’s story, I found myself enjoying this atypical captivity story quite a bit. Blaire wasn’t weak or even innocent, by any stretch of the imagination. She was a conditioned, hardened killer. Yet, she was vulnerable at the same time.

If dark stories with abuse do not appeal to you, then this is one that you’ll want to steer clear of. There are graphic accounts of sexual, physical and mental abuse in this book. Heed the warning in the book’s disclaimer.

If you enjoy dark stories, like I do, then ‘Blaire’ might prove to be just the book that you’re looking for. It is different from the plethora of other captivity-themed books out there. I enjoyed it quite a lot and will be reading the next book in the series when it is released.

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Review: The Unbroken Line of the Moon (Sagan om Valhalla, #4; The Valhalla Series, #4), by Johanne Hildebrandt

The Unbroken Line of the Moon (Sagan om Valhalla #4; The Valhalla Series - English Translation Order #1)The Unbroken Line of the Moon by Johanne Hildebrandt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I purchased this audiobook based upon the recommendation of a friend. I didn’t realize at the time that this book was actually the fourth book in a series. That being said, I enjoyed it quite a bit and felt that it was easily read as a standalone. Of course, I can’t really know what I might have missed in the earlier books that might have enhanced my reading experience.

‘The Unbroken Line of the Moon’ is set in the tenth century, when the Vikings and Christians were battling over the Nordic lands that comprise present-day Sweden, Norway, Denmark and England. As this is a period of history that I haven’t spent much time reading about, I can’t speak to whether or not it was an accurate portrayal of this time period. For me, it was an interesting and entertaining introduction to the religious mysticism of that time.

The story opens with the heroine, Sigrid, learning that she is to be wed to Erik, the Swedish king. She doesn’t want to leave her homeland, but understands that it is her duty as a princess to marry in order to secure a better position for her father and her people. Sigrid has been chosen to serve the goddess Freya and has visions of the future.

On the way to meet her future husband, Sigrid meets Sweyn. She is immediately taken aback by the illegitimate son of Harald Bluetooth, the ruler of Denmark. Despite her upcoming nuptials, she and Sweyn have a brief, but intense, love affair.

Sigrid goes on to marry Erik, carrying Sweyn’s child. As Sweyn goes on to achieve success driven by his love for Sigrid, she does whatever she must to secure the safety of their child. Guided by her visions, she manipulates events to ensure that Sweyn lives to fulfill his destiny and claim his crown, even if it means pushing him away from her.

This story was brutal at times, as the Viking battles played out in vivid detail. The gods and goddesses were cruel and harsh often times, demanding bloody sacrifices. Trustworthy friends were in small supply, as Sigrid learned the hard way.

Although this story didn’t have as much romance as I usually prefer, there was enough of a love story to hold my interest. I found myself getting lost in this tumultuous time of the Viking warriors. It was brutal, but intriguing.

All in all, this was a great story and something a little different from my usual reading choices. My only complaint is that Sigrid and Sweyn’s story is not wrapped up completely with this book. I wanted Sigrid to get her HEA after everything that she had been through, but I will have to read further into the series in order to see if that happens or not. I plan to do that sometime soon.

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Review: And I Darken (The Conquerers Series, #1), by Kiersten White

And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga, #1)And I Darken by Kiersten White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘And I Darken’ was the first book that I’ve ever read by Ms. Kiersten White, but it certainly won’t be the last. The first book in ‘The Conquerers’ series, it managed to completely captivate me. I am both intrigued, enamored, and at times appalled, by these characters and the turbulent world that they occupy.

Lada Dragwlya is an unlikely heroine. She’s unattractive, uncouth and at times, downright mean. She’s everything her father had hoped for in a son, but got in his daughter. Her only redeeming qualities are her love for her homeland, Wallachia, and her love for her younger brother, Radu.

By comparison, Radu is everything that Lada is not. He is soft-spoken and gentle, an utter disappointment to their father, the Prince of Wallachia. Immediately, Radu claimed a piece of my heart.

When their father trades Lada and Radu to the Sultan of Ottoman as pawns to guarantee his loyalty, they are left to fend for themselves in a hostile new world. Lada is determined to be strong and to plan for her eventual revenge on the Sultan and his countrymen. She refuses to show any weakness that might be used against her and Radu.

Unlike his sister, Radu soon takes to the ways of this new world. He never felt that he fit in in Wallachia and finds comfort in this new country. He is not resistant to the new teachings or the new religion, as Lada is.

After months living in the Ottoman Empire, Radu and Lada make an unlikely friend. Mehmed is the illegitimate son of the sultan. Before long, the three are inseparable. The line between friend and enemy blurs and loyalties are called into question.

From start to finish, I was completely captivated by this story. It has a little of everything. There’s plenty of action and battle scenes. There’s romance and angst. Kingdoms rise and are overthrown. The incredible highs are off-set by bitter betrayals.

I am completely and totally hooked on this story. It is the first book, in what I’m sue will prove to be an epic saga. The characters were certainly flawed, but that only made me love them more. As soon as the next book is released, I’ll be diving in again. I was left with a lot of questions and I’ll have to wait for the next book to get my answers.

I listened to the Audible version of this book and I thought that the narration was well done. I could easily distinguish between the characters and I thought the narrator did a great job of conveying the emotions and intensity. It was a fantastic audiobook choice for me.

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Review: Black Swan Affair, by K. L. Kreig

Black Swan AffairBlack Swan Affair by K.L. Kreig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I started ‘Black Swan Affair’, I anticipated a steamy love affair and a fair amount of angst. I had absolutely no idea that this book would gut me the way it did. This book ripped my heart out! Several days later, I’m still trying to get ahold of my emotions and come to terms with what this book made me feel.

The story centers on Maverick DeSoto, who is marrying her childhood best-friend, Kael. Only, Maverick isn’t in love with Kael. She’s in love with his older brother, Killian.

After an intense opening scene with Maverick and Killian arguing on the day of her wedding, I knew that I was in for a hell of a ride with this book. Killian is trying to stop Maverick from going through with her wedding to his brother and she is determined to marry Kael to spite Killian. It was like watching a bad train wreck in slow motion.

For most of this book, my heart broke for Kael. He was so in love with Maverick and she just couldn’t see past her love for Killian to appreciate what she had in front of her all the time. Kael truly did have enough love for both of them.

In contrast, I despised Killian until about 85% through. He seemed to want to have his cake and eat it too. He had married Maverick’s sister, Jillian, without so much as an explanation, leaving Maverick brokenhearted. I doubted the sincerity of his feelings for Maverick right from the start. After all, who would do that if they really loved somebody?

Then, there is Maverick. Jilted by Killian, she sets out to do the same thing to him that he did to her…marry his sibling. Only, she actually claims to love Kael, even if she isn’t in love with him. Kind of cruel, if you ask me. All the while, she pines over Killian.

The longer Kael and Maverick are married, the more he begins to creep his way into her heart. Slowly, she begins to fall in love with her husband. She is determined to push Killian out of her mind and Kael is eager to help her make that happen.

However, there are some big secrets being kept from Maverick. When they come to light, everything will change. Suddenly, the reasons for Killian’s shocking marriage will be explained. The betrayal and lies run deep. Everyone except for Maverick seems to be in on it. She has to decide whether she can get past this deception at all.

I loved every painful moment of this story. It broke my heart, but I couldn’t get enough of it. I wanted to scream and throw a tantrum so many times while reading this one. In the end, I came to a place of acceptance with the decisions that were made. Yet, I can’t say that I felt content with the ending.

I don’t think that there was any way for this to work out with a perfect happy ending. It just wasn’t that kind of story. I understood why Maverick made the decisions that she did and think it was the right one…but it still hurt so much. This one definitely got me in the feels. I highly recommend any book that can make you feel the way that this one does.

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Review: Seducing Virtue (Wicked Trinity, #3), by Courtney Lane

Seducing Virtue (Wicked Trinity Book 3)Seducing Virtue by Courtney Lane
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It has been a while since I read something as messed up as ‘Seducing Virtue’. This was just the dark, twisted and shocking story that my depraved mind needed. Christ on a cracker! Courtney Lane always messes with my head. She has one disturbing imagination…and I love it!

This is the third book in the ‘Wicked Trinity’ series and the books must be read in order. In fact, this series is so multifaceted and complex that I found myself having to go back and re-read many parts of books one and two in order to make sense of certain events. It was absolutely no bother though, because this series is that good!

If you have already read the first two books, then it goes without saying that this is one dark and twisted series. It is brutal, gritty, gory and offensive. If you can’t handle a really dark read with very disturbing content, then you probably wouldn’t have made it this far in the series. Ms. Lane does not hold back when it comes to the dark content and I applaud her for that.

This book picks up with Keaton back at her parents after recently escaping Noah. She’s still shocked at the revelation of Braeden’s true identity, but inexplicably drawn to him nonetheless. She’s kind of in limbo, trying to do what she knows is logical while wanting to do something that is absolutely crazy but feels so good.

The beginning of this book seemed a little slow to me. However, once it got going it really took off. Buckle up, because you’re in for one hell of a twisted ride!

There were so many twists and turns along the way that I had to clarify and reorient myself more than once. If you’re like me and it has been a while since you read the first two books, you’ll want to have them handy to reference. There were so many intricate details that I had to go back a few times to remind myself where different things had left off.

The layers of deception seemed never-ending. Every time that I thought I knew where the story was headed, something else would happen and I find myself going in another direction entirely. It was definitely a mind-f*@k!

Throughout the book, Keaton and Braeden had a strong push/pull relationship. The two could seem to be together or stay apart. There were many things about their relationship that had me scratching my head. Yet, I wanted them to get the HEA in spite of Braeden’s horrible crimes.

Noah also spoke to me. He definitely isn’t a character that is easy to like, but deep down, I think he loved Keaton in his own messed up way. These two guys are perhaps two of the most damaged characters that I’ve ever encountered. I’d love to hate them, and sometimes I did, but mostly, I felt sad for them.

Eventually, everything does work out for the best. Of course, that is a matter of opinion. This book has the type of ending that will have many readers wanting to pull their hair out, but for me, it was perfect. I couldn’t have dreamt up a more fitting conclusion to this series.

If you love a dark, disturbing story that pushes your boundaries this is a good one. I love the dark stuff and there were times I felt an urge to rock myself in a corner. Be forewarned. If that appeals to you, like it does to me, you don’t want to miss this series.

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Review: Heat Wave, by Karina Halle

Heat WaveHeat Wave by Karina Halle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have loved every Karina Halle book that I’ve read up to this point. So, when I saw that she had a new, forbidden love story released, I was sure that it would be an instant hit with me. After all, Ms. Halle can write a taboo love story with an anti-hero that you love to hate and hate to love like nobody else. Javier Bernal, anyone?

Unfortunately, ‘Heat Wave’ failed to deliver for me. It elicited plenty of emotions, just not the ones that were intended. Mostly, I was just damn angry! I don’t mean angry in that infuriating, but irresistible, way that I love when a book is tearing my heart out only to piece it back together. Nope, this wasn’t the kind of anger and emotional pain that has me craving another taste, no matter how it wrecks me. This book just made me straight-up mad!

Veronica Locke, aka “Ronnie”, met Logan Shephard at a charity function one night. She was there as a prop for her mother’s political career. He was there to rub elbows with the uber-wealthy with hopes of finding an investor for his dream resort.

Right away, the two seemed to have a connection. They gravitated to each other, bonding over their mutual discomfort at being present at the stuffy, black-tie affair. After a few minutes of light, flirtatious chatter they’re getting ready to ditch the event when everything changes.

When Ronnie’s sister enters the room, Logan drops Ronnie without a second thought. The next thing you know, Logan has married Ronnie’s “perfect” sister, Juliet. The two move to Hawaii where they plan to live happily ever after. Nice, right?

To say the least, this guy really made a bad first impression on me, as did Ronnie’s competitive, self-absorbed, selfish sister. I don’t believe for a second that Juliet didn’t know what she was doing when she walked over to Ronnie and Logan. Sadly, there was no coming back for either of them in my book. I hold a grudge that way.

Speaking of which…Juliet ends up dying when her car drives off a cliff. Of course, Logan is heartbroken and bereft. Boohoo. As if she wasn’t irritating enough, “perfect” Juliet only becomes more “perfect” in death. I wanted to throw up! Maybe I’m mean, but I call it karma.

Years later, Ronnie’s career as a chef is in ruins and she is desperate to find a job. With the loss of her last job after her affair with the head chef, she had to move back in with her parents. Constantly reminded of how she’ll never measure up in her parent’s eyes, Ronnie knows that she needs to get out of their house ASAP.

Begrudgingly, she takes a job that her parents have arranged for her. As much time as she’s spent trying to avoid Logan, she knows that she will soon be face to face with him for the first time in years. She feels equal parts hate and lust for the man that she blames for her sister’s demise. Now, she’ll be working for him as the chef at his resort in Hawaii, a place he built with her sister.

From that point forward, the story revolves around Ronnie’s forbidden desire for Logan. Meanwhile, every time she turns around accounts of how perfect Juliet was are thrown in her face from everyone she meets. She pines over Logan and he seems to pine over a ghost.

Finally, Logan seems to have a change of heart. I knew it would happen, but I expected something more convincing. Nope. With the exception of one or two very weak professions that “it always should have been Ronnie”, Logan seems to continue to view Ronnie as second-best.

He actually explains to her that he ditched her the first night they met because he found her sister more attractive. I think it went something like, “Juliet walked in and well, just look at her”. He’s a guy and couldn’t help himself, etc., etc. This guy made me feel very stabby!

As much as I love Ms. Halle’s work, ‘Heat Wave’ didn’t do anything for me aside from making me seriously consider seeking out anger management counseling. I hated Logan…and not in a good way. This guy was really a piece of work! I wanted Ronnie to grow a spine and date somebody that actually placed her first. That didn’t happen. This book left me with heartburn.

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