Review: The Bad Guy, by Celia Aaron

The Bad GuyThe Bad Guy by Celia Aaron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love dark romance and stories with captivity themes are among my favorites. So when I read the blurb for ‘The Bad Guy’, I was sure that it would be right up my alley. I wasn’t wrong. It was just the type of “reformed” bad guy story that I love.

When Sebastian Lindstrom sets eyes on the girlfriend of one of his company’s executives, he is determined to have her by any means necessary. A highly-functional psychopath, he doesn’t conform to the social constraints of polite society. He sets out to possess her. Stalking, kidnapping and manipulation are all on the table.

Camille Briarlane has the “perfect” boyfriend. He’s patient and doting. She knows that he wants to take their relationship to the next level. She only wishes that she felt half as passionate about him as she did for her teaching job. She’s not sure what is holding her back, but something is.

When Camille accepts a job over Christmas break as a researcher in the Amazon, she has no idea that she’s walking into a trap. Instead of being taken to the airport, she is taken prisoner. The sexy man that she once danced with at her boyfriend’s company’s party has stolen her. It is clear that he is unhinged and will go to any length to have her. She only hopes that she can get out alive.

I should be clear that this book is far different from most dark romances with a captivity theme. If you’re looking for a really dark story with whips, chains and an abusive anti-hero, you won’t find it here. It just wasn’t that type of story.

Yes, Sebastian kidnaps Camille. Yes, he holds her captive in his family’s countryside mansion. At times she even fears him.

However, Sebastian has no intention of physically harming her. He comes off as determined to woo her and absolutely clueless about how to make that happen. He knows that Camille is the woman for him, even if he doesn’t understand “normal” emotions. He is sure that given enough time, she will come to realize that they are meant to be together also.

As messed up as the situation was, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Sebastian. There was an underlying vulnerability and even innocence to him that is hard to pinpoint. He didn’t feel things in the same way as others, but Camille brought out his humanity.

Eventually, Sebastian has to face some hard truths. He realizes that he cannot make Camille love him. The harder he tries to force her hand, the more she will slip away. He begins to grow a conscience.

Likewise, Camille has to come to some realizations about her life. Her “perfect” boyfriend is not so perfect after all. Right or wrong, she has feelings for Sebastian that she needs to evaluate.

Overall, this ended up being a great book. It is a standalone and didn’t leave me with any unanswered questions. It was different than other captivity-themed romances, but that only made it stand out from the rest. If you want a taboo love story that toes the line without leaping into “dark” territory, this is a great choice.

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Review: When It’s Real, by Erin Watt

When It's RealWhen It’s Real by Erin Watt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I picked up ‘When It’s Real’, I wanted something that was sweet and heartwarming. I loved ‘Paper Princess’ by Erin Watt, so when I started seeing this book pop up on friends’ pages, I knew that I’d want to read it. I was not disappointed.

This book was everything that I had wanted. It was the kind of light and fluffy read that puts a smile on your face and leaves you feeling contented. Although it was predictable and not particularly original, it was still a highly entertaining read. After all, who doesn’t love a modern-day, rags-to-riches love story?

The story centers on the “fake” romantic relationship between Vaughn Bennett and Oakley Ford. Essentially, their relationship is a publicity stunt concocted by Oakley’s management team to revamp his bad-boy image. Oakley is a famous singer. Vaughn is the everyday, girl next door teenager.

While Oakley is accustomed to a life surrounded by admirers, he is lonely. He has no doubt that if the fame were to go, so would everyone that claims to care about him. All the booze, drugs and women that fill his time cannot fill the void within him.

Worst of all, Oakley has been in a rut. He hasn’t written anything new in a while and everything is sounding the same to him. It’s like he’s lost his magic.

More than anything, he wants to work with a famous producer that is known for his ability to produce the best hits. However, Oakley’s irresponsible shenanigans have gotten in the way. The producer doesn’t believe that Oakley is a serious artist and is refusing to work with him until he proves himself.

Vaughn needs for their fake relationship to be as believable as Oakley does. Her family is depending on her. She knows that she will never be able to earn this type of money any other way and she desperately needs the money. Her “real” boyfriend will just have to understand.

Along the way there is plenty of humor, as Oakley and Vaughn banter back and forth. They kind of start off on the wrong foot and their relationship begins with a healthy rivalry. Of course, the more time these two spend together, the more they start to develop real feelings for one another.

There are a few bumps along the way, but nothing too surprising. It was pretty predictable, but a sweet and fun read. I listened to the Audible version and the narration was terrific as well. I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone that is looking for a light-hearted, feel good type of love story. It is a standalone, so you won’t be left hanging. Although, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a spin-off featuring Oakley’s bodyguard and Vaughn’s sister. I’ll be looking forward to reading that one also if it comes to light.

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Review: Ruckus (Sinners of Saint, #2), by L. J. Shen

Ruckus (Sinners of Saint, #2)Ruckus by L.J. Shen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second book in the ‘Sinners of Saint’ series, ‘Ruckus’ tells the story of Dean Cole and Rosie LeBlanc. I was a little weary going into this book because of Dean’s history with Rosie’s older sister. I wasn’t sure that was something that I was going to be able to get past. Fortunately, I did.

Dean Cole is a hard-partying, manwhore. He is one of the hotholes and is used to getting everything he wants. If he was a spoiled rich kid in high school, he has only gotten worse as a grown man. His life is one of excess to the extreme.

Yet, the one thing that he wants most is the one thing that continues to allude him — Rosie, aka “little LeBlanc”. Dean knows that he irreparably damaged his chances with Rosie when he dated her sister in high school. He knew all along that he was with the wrong sister, but didn’t do anything about it before it was too late. Now, he’s hell-bent on proving himself to Rosie.

No matter how hard Rosie tries to live a “normal” life, she cannot forget that she is seriously ill. Growing up with Cystic Fibrosis, her entire life revolves around her medical care, as do the lives of everyone in her family. It has been a long time since she felt like she was a real person and not just her diagnosis.

As much as Rosie wants to be “normal”, she is perfectly aware of her prognosis. She will die young and will most likely never bear children. For these reasons, she pushes others away before they get too close. She doesn’t want to begin a relationship that is doomed from the start, leaving heartache in her wake.

Rosie has perfected the art of shutting others out. She tells herself it is for their own good and she’s never regretted it. The only exception is Dean Cole, the guy she has always fantasized about but could never have.

Rosie and Dean have a long history of taboo flirtation and stolen moments. She loves her sister, but she felt like Dean was hers from the first time she laid eyes on him. When he chose her sister, it broke her heart. Even though her sister has moved on, marrying one of Dean’s best friends, Rosie feels like crossing that line would be a betrayal.

Now, Rosie and Dean are both grown and living in New York City. To make matters more complicated, Rosie lives in Dean’s building and witnesses his sexual exploits first-hand. Of course, he plans to use his position as her landlord to bend Rosie to his will.

When the two travel home for Vicious and Emilia’s wedding, the sexual frustration is at an all-time high between these two. Over the course of a few weeks, their relationship grows far more intimate and they become inseparable. Despite everything working against them, they decide to give a relationship a shot.

However, their relationship is anything but smooth sailing. Dean has some major demons that he’s fighting. Rosie’s health poses it’s own set of risks. Both of them have a lot of work to do on themselves before they can make a relationship work.

All in all, I thought that this was a great read. Rosie and Dean were perfect for one another, despite his past with her sister. I expected it to be a much bigger deal in this book than it ended up being. Although that seemed to be a little inconsistent with his reaction to Emilia and Vicious’ relationship in the first book, I just went with it. This story was hot and with just enough angst to keep me emotionally engaged.

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Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3), by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3)A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m not sure that I can say much about this book that hasn’t been said already, so I’ll keep this short and sweet. ‘A Court of Wings and Ruin’ was a great finale to the series. I have loved watching Feyre evolve over the course of this series and this book did a wonderful job of bringing everything full circle. If you’re a fan of the series, then this book is a must-read.

That being said, I honestly didn’t think that this book was as spectacular as the second book. This is probably a reflection of my personal tastes more than anything. I am primarily a romance reader. I like a little fantasy and adventure, but I need a healthy dose of romance thrown in.

While this third book definitely continued the love story, it wasn’t as smutty as I would’ve liked. There, I said it. I wanted more steamy, hot times with Feyre and Rhysand. The second book definitely provided more to work with in that regard, but I understand that this book is not marketed for adult romance readers, like me. Again, it is just a matter of personal preferences.

On the other hand, this book was action-packed. From start to finish, there was always something adventurous and deadly brewing. There was never a dull moment. It definitely kept me on the edge of my seat right to the very end.

I won’t say much about the storyline, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. There are a lot of changes that occur during this book. Some are heartbreaking, others will make you melt. I was left with a feeling of contentment, resolute that everything was “right” in this make believe world that I grew to love so much.

While this series has drawn to a close, I am left wondering if Ms. Maas has any plans to create a spin-off series. There were so many characters introduced in this series that have grown dear to me. I feel like their stories want to be told and she certainly planted the seeds to do this. I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

Overall, this was a fantastic book and series. I would definitely recommend this series to others. ‘A Court of Mist and Fury’ is still my favorite by far, but this one was great in and of it’s own right also.

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Review: Tailspin, by Jaimie Roberts

TailspinTailspin by Jaimie Roberts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**I received an ARC from the author.**

It has been a week since I finished ‘Tailspin’ and it is still consuming my thoughts. Even though my emotions are still all over the place with this one, I’m going to try and capture my thoughts in this review. Who knows, maybe it will prove to be therapeutic!

This book completely and totally wrecked me — in the best of ways. I absolutely devoured it. If I had started it early in the day, I would have read it in one sitting. As it was, I started it in the evening and read well into the night. Eventually, pure exhaustion overtook me and I fell asleep with my iPad propped up on my chest. When it finally fell over and hit me in my face, all I could think about was getting right back to the story. It was that kind of book for me. The kind that consumes your every thought until you finish it…then continues to haunt you for days or weeks afterward.

Although this book has fast become my latest favorite, I will be honest about the fact that it will not appeal to many readers. In fact, I know that many of my friends will downright hate this book. Why? Well, it deals will some difficult and controversial subject matter. This book tackles topics like abuse, rape, addiction, mental illness, etc. If you require your books to be a “unicorns and rainbows” picture of perfection, then you should run far, far away from this one.

If you are like me though, and love it when a book can make you “feel” things that you may not even be comfortable feeling, then this book is exactly what you are looking for. This book made me feel conflicted, sad, angry, joyful, devastated. You name it and I felt it while reading this one. It has been a long time since I’ve read something that took me on that kind of an emotional rollercoaster ride. It blew me away!

There is nothing that I love more than an uber-a$$hole that may, or may not, be redeemable. I have a personal weakness for leading males that make you love them in spite of all reason. Devon Jackson is exactly that type of guy.

In real life, this is a guy that you should run from at all costs. However, for me, his character was fictional perfection. I could not get enough of this complex, damaged, guy. Oh, how I loved him…even as he broke my heart.

The heroine, Andi Bellingham, was Devon’s polar opposite. She was naïve, sweet and strictly off-limits. The younger sister of Devon’s best friend, Charlie, she is hired as Devon’s personal assistant as a favor to her brother. Of course, she has spent years lusting after her older brother’s best friend, but she knows that he’s out of her league. If Andi ever had doubts, the weekly condom runs that he sends her on and his mid-day office trysts drive the message home.

When I started this book, I thought it would play out like a million other romantic comedy types. Devon was an ass, but I couldn’t help but laugh at his outrageous antics. I was sure that I knew exactly how things would play out as he began to lose his internal struggle to hide his attraction to Andi. I kept thinking, “This is great, but I know where it’s headed.” I was wrong.

Then, about half-way through, there is a shift in the story. It took on a different tone. Again, I thought I had it pegged. Nope. I was still clueless. Nonetheless, I cruised along blissfully unaware of what Ms. Roberts had in store for me.

Suddenly, big things are happening. Huge, plot twists and revelations seem to spring up out of nowhere. My world was turned upside down as I looked back at all of the subtle warning signs and clues that were there all along. Ms. Roberts left a trail of crumbs, but I didn’t want to see them. I was blinded by my own hopes and expectations. Then, she came along and pulled the rug out from under my feet.

It was absolutely brilliant! I don’t want to give too much away, because this is a story that needs to be experienced. It is a story about obsession, love and forgiveness. It was painful, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have no doubt that this book is one that I will re-read, time and time again. I absolutely LOVED this book!

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Review: Royally Screwed (Royally, #1), by Emma Chase

Royally Screwed (Royally, #1)Royally Screwed by Emma Chase
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘Royally Screwed’ is a book that has been on my radar for quite a long time. After finishing a couple of mediocre books and being in a bit of a reading rut, I thought that it might be the time to change it up with something sweet and “fluffy”. It ended up being exactly what I needed to lighten the mood.

Nicholas Pembrook is the Prince of Wessco. His sex appeal is only rivaled by his arrogance. He seems to have it all – money, admiration, power, looks.

However, Nicholas knows that beyond the glamour and glitz there are drawbacks to being a prince. For such a young man, he carries a heavy burden. He is expected to do what is demanded of a man in his position, regardless of his personal desires. Prince to a country in turmoil, he is expected to marry a woman “fitting of a prince”.

With only a few months of freedom left before he will have to choose a bride, Nicholas sets out for New York City to track down his rebellious younger brother. Stopping into a coffee shop to escape a downpour, he is immediately attracted to Olilvia. She is everything that he longs for, but is forbidden. The more she resists his advances, the more determined he is to have her.

Olivia Hammond has her own set of stressors to live with. Following the death of her mother, she has had to step up to keep her family’s business afloat. As her father tries to drown his sorrows, Olivia is forced to assume the role of the “responsible adult” in her household, a role that she feels like she is failing at.

There is no denying the attraction between these two. Their connection is strong, but social conventions and global expectations work to keep them apart. They know from the start that there can be no happily ever after in their future. What starts as a short-term fling, soon becomes more.

This serves to provide plenty of angst and conflict along the way. Knowing where this story was bound to lead, I still couldn’t help but fall in love with this couple. Nicholas had his fair share of jerky moments, but they were easily forgiven.

If you’re in the mood for a sweet, feel-good type of love story with a touch of angst, then ‘Royally Screwed’ is a great choice. Was it predictable? Yes. Did that negatively impact my reading experience? Absolutely not. ‘Royally Screwed’ was a fresh take on a familiar storyline.

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Pre-Review: Tailspin, by Jaimie Roberts (Expected Release Date: 06/20/17)

TAILSPINTAILSPIN by Jaimie Roberts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book has wrecked me! I can’t even begin to make sense of all my emotions right now. I’m angry, devastated, completely gutted and heartbroken. I’m so damn conflicted! This story…argh! It really hit me in the “feels”.

Full review to come once I’m able to get a grip. Seriously! I devoured this book and I’m a total mess right now.

**I received an ARC from the author.**

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Review: The Iron Knight (The Iron Fey, #4), by Julie Kagawa

The Iron Knight (Iron Fey, #4)The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the time I started listening to this series, I have been unable to pull myself away from it. Over the course of a week or so, I have read the entire series from start to finish. I have enjoyed every minute. (Okay, maybe not all of the time spent discussing Ariella.) Gladly, I can say that this series did not fizzle out at the end like many series do. This story was action-packed and engaging right to the very end.

Picking up where ‘The Iron Queen’ and ‘Summer’s Crossing’ left off, Ash and Meghan are separated for most of this book. He’s working diligently to find a way to get back to Meghan’s side, even if it means becoming human so that he can survive the Iron Realm. He’ll stop at nothing to get back to her.

In some ways it was kind of fitting that now that Ash has finally figured out that he loves Meghan that he would be kept apart from her. After all, Meghan endured his cold shoulder treatment repeatedly. So, I kind of felt like most of this book was Ash’s dose of karma for how he rebuffed Meghan in ‘The Iron Daughter’. (I’m blood-thirsty that way.)

I don’t want to say too much, but I will say that there were some pretty big twists along the way. I can’t say I was completely surprised, but there were definitely some wrenches thrown in the plans. One of my biggest pet peeves – the perfect, dead ex-girlfriend – continued to be an issue in a huge way. (Why can’t this dead girl just GO AWAY???)

Maybe I should be more sensitive and try to like Ariella, but I just can’t. Ash’s wishy-washy feelings also got on my nerves where the dead ex was concerned. It made me question the genuineness of his feelings for Meghan.

Meanwhile, Puck started looking better and better. The poor guy’s loyalty was infallible, but he was destined to forever remain in the “friend-zone”. My heart broke for him.

As Ash endures multiple trials on his quest to gain a soul and become human, Puck, Grimalkin and the great Wolf hunter are right by his side. Like ‘Summer’s Crossing’, Meghan was absent for a large part of this book. However, the robust cast of characters in ‘The Iron Knight’ did not leave me wanting the way that the earlier novella did. There was never a dull moment.

More so than any of the books that preceded this one, ‘The Iron Knight’ provided insight into Ash’s character. I felt like I really got to know him in this book. I won’t lie, he definitely had some pretty big skeletons in his closet. However, in my opinion, he had a soul all along. He clearly had a conscience, even if he was taught to ignore it from the time he was young.

I really felt for Ash, especially as a child. His world was so cruel and cold. Never was he nurtured like a child should be. It is a wonder that he didn’t turn into a total psychopath.

At long last, things worked out the way that they should have. I was left feeling relieved and contented at the end of this book. A part of me was even a little sad that I had reached the end of this series.

Overall, this was a fantastic book. It was the perfect finale to this series. I’m glad that I read it and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a “clean” fantasy/adventure/paranormal type of story. It has romance, as well as plenty of action.

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Review: Summer’s Crossing (The Iron Fey, #3.5), by Julie Kagawa

Summer's Crossing (Iron Fey, #3.5)Summer’s Crossing by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Much like ‘Winter’s Passage’, ‘Summer’s Crossing’ left me wanting. Another short novella in ‘The Iron Fey’ series, it takes place following ‘The Iron Queen’ and before ‘The Iron Knight’. This was one of those stories that you want to love but don’t, no matter how hard you try.

‘Summer’s Crossing’ surrounds Puck and Ash’s adventures as they work together to repay a debt that Ash owes to Leanansidhe. Along the way, Puck is offered what might be considered the opportunity of a lifetime. He has the chance to eliminate Ash as a rival for Meghan’s affections, if only he betrays his one-time best friend. It is definitely a tempting proposition that Oberon offers.

As the two work together to complete the required task, I can’t say that I ever really questioned what Puck’s decision would be…until I did. There was a big twist that I didn’t see coming that kind of threw me for a loop. Suddenly, I found myself wondering about Puck’s true motives. How far would he go to obtain the object of his affections?

In addition to the quest that they set out on, Puck and Ash find unexpected adventures along the way. From bearing their souls to one another, to nearly killing one another in a final attempt to keep a decades-old oath, this novella shed a great deal of light on their strained relationship.

Since Meghan has grown into my favorite character in this series, it was disappointing to find her entirely absent in this novella. I understand why she wasn’t there… I just didn’t like it.

In my opinion, the narration was also less appealing in this novella. This was probably due to the fact that this one was told from male POVs vs. Meghan’s POV. I’m not sure if it was a different narrator, or if it was the same narrator and I just didn’t care for the voices as much this time around. Whatever the reason, the narration didn’t pull me into the story and hold my attention like it did for the other books.

All in all, ‘Summer’s Crossing’ ended up being an “okay” one for me. It wasn’t horrible, but I definitely had plenty of gripes this time around. That being said, I still read the next book in the series immediately. It wasn’t enough to turn me away from ‘The Iron Fey’ saga and I am still dying to know where the story leads.

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Review: The Iron Queen (The Iron Fey, #3), by Julie Kagawa

The Iron Queen (Iron Fey, #3)The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Of all the books in ‘The Iron Fey’ series, ‘The Iron Queen’ is my favorite. This book is pivotal and takes the story in an entirely new direction. Not only is this book filled with action and adventure, but I finally got to see the romance between Meghan and Ash evolve.

Not only does the relationship between Meghan and Ash grow, but Meghan undergoes a great deal of self-discovery and growth as an individual. ‘The Iron Queen’ really is Meghan’s “coming of age” book. She grows stronger, both physically and spiritually. She is faced with many painful truths and twists along the way, but she rises to the challenge.

To say the least, I felt that this book had a strong “girl power” vibe going on. In earlier books, Meghan was always cast as the damsel in distress, waiting for Ash or Puck to come to her rescue. While she still has a plethora of male protectors to do her bidding, Meghan also rises as a leader in and of her own right. She is only beginning to learn about the power within her and I cannot wait to see what she will be able to do once she is able to access it fully.

Meanwhile, this book proved to be emotionally engaging and, at times, heartbreaking. Mostly, my heart went out to Puck. He made some mistakes along the way, but none more serious than anything that Ash ever did, in my opinion. He loved Meghan so much, but it was evident that he had been “friend-zoned” and had no chance at ever becoming anything more. As much as I loved Ash and Meghan as a couple, I couldn’t help but feel bad for poor Puck.

King Oberon and Queen Mab take on unexpected roles, as the false Iron King continues to gain power. In order to save faerieland, Meghan will have to rise to the challenge. She is faced with many difficult choices and adversity along the way.

More so than other books in the series, ‘The Iron Queen’ ended with a huge upset. I was left reeling. It felt like my heart was ripped from my chest. Knowing that the story wasn’t over yet kept me pushing forward. I knew that things wouldn’t be left like that.

Like the other books in the series, the narration for this book was superb. I continue to be enthralled with this story and the magical world that Ms. Kagawa has created. After finishing this one it was on to the next on immediately. I had to know how things would work out for these characters.

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