Review: The Forever Girl by Jill Shalvis

THE FOREVER GIRL
Series: Wildstone #6
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Author: Jill Shalvis
Release Date: January 12, 2020

New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis does it once again with a heartfelt story of family, forgiveness, and secrets that have the power to change the course of more than one life.

When Maze returns to Wildstone for the wedding of her estranged bff and the sister of her heart, it’s also a reunion of a once ragtag team of teenagers who had only each other until a tragedy tore them apart and scattered them wide.

Now as adults together again in the lake house, there are secrets and resentments mixed up in all the amazing childhood memories. Unexpectedly, they instantly fall back into their roles: Maze their reckless leader, Cat the den mother, Heather the beloved baby sister, and Walker, a man of mystery.

Life has changed all four of them in immeasurable ways. Maze and Cat must decide if they can rebuild their friendship, and Maze discovers her long-held attraction to Walker hasn’t faded with the years but has only grown stronger.

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Because, Maze?” “Yeah?” “You’ve never been ‘just’ anything in your life.”

You may not believe this, especially me being a self proclaimed angst-addict, but I do read non-angsty books. Sometimes. Not often. And when I do, Jill Shalvis is my go to.

Whenever I’m in the mood for a read with plenty of feels that will give me a butterflies and a satisfied smile in the end, a Jill Shalvis book is a no brainer. The Forever Girl was a beautiful story of a family formed in bond rather than blood, second chances and growth.

Maze is an orphan that’s seen the ugly side of family before learning the ugly side of foster homes. She’s never healed her mental scars and she’s never stopped running because leaving is easier than being left behind. She comes back to town for the wedding of her foster sister and gets reunited with her foster family that she left behind but never in her mind. They were once as close as they can get, until tragedy tore them apart. There’s Caitlin, the sweet bridezilla, Heather the baby sister, and Walker, the man that held her heart.

First of all, if you love swoon heroes, it just doesn’t get better than Walker. He’s the silent protector. An FBI agent and a man with a heart of gold but with plenty of his own demons. I fell fast and hard for him. And when we start getting more and more insight into his connection with Maze, I couldn’t get enough of it. Maze is a runner. She runs from her feelings and she runs from her guilt that she continues to harbor years later.

This is a heartfelt and beautiful story of the family you build and forgiveness. It’s a story of growth and second chances. It’s also a story of a once in a lifetime kind of love. You get multiple POVs including Maze, Walker, and Caitlin. There’s also a secondary and incredibly satisfying story for Heather which I absolutely loved.

If you’re looking for a sweet and incredibly fulfilling read, look no further. This one will bring all of the feels.

CHAPTER 1Now

Twin piglet-like snorts distracted her, and she looked down at her fiancé’s “babies.” The pug brothers had huge buggy black eyes and little round bodies and vibrated like they needed their batter- ies changed. Roly was black and Poly tan, both with black faces, black curly tails, and little black feet.

They snorted at her until she gave in and scooped them up, one in each arm, having to smile at their smushed-in faces. “Okay, guys, listen up. We’ve got a lot to do today.” She took a good, hard look around the old cabin that had been in her family’s possession since the early 1900s. It sat right on Rainbow Lake, about twenty minutes outside of Wildstone, a small ranching community on California’s central coast. She had a lot of good memories here: visiting her grandparents, learning to swim . . . she’d even run away here a few times in her dramatic teens.

Her grandparents were gone, and her parents now lived in South Carolina, where both of them were college professors. They were thinking of selling this place, but had agreed to let her live here until her wedding. At least that was the official reason. The unofficial one was that she was losing her collective shit and had needed the safety net.

The problem was that there were still a few vital pieces missing from the puzzle of Caitlin’s life: the most important pieces, the corner pieces, the ones you couldn’t do without. And since Michael was an angel now—and damn, her heart still squeezed painfully every time she thought about him, which was a lot— she was really counting on the wedding to bring the other vital pieces back to her. Those pieces named Heather, Walker, and Maze.

The estrangement between them all felt like a huge, gaping hole. It’d started at Michael’s grave three years ago and had only gotten worse. Hence the thing she’d done.

No one was going to thank her. And it was entirely possible it would all blow up in her face. But she’d had to try. Just thinking about it had the butterflies in her belly escaping and taking flight in her nervous system, giving her the shakes. But that might have been the five cups of coffee she’d consumed. She set down the pugs, much to their snorting, squealing dis- pleasure, and got to it. Running around like a madwoman for the next few hours, she changed the sheets on the beds in the spare bedrooms, swept the wood floors, washed the towels so they’d smell fresh . . . all while fielding call after call from her boss, Sara.

Cat managed the Wildstone deli that Sara owned. Cat also made all the hot food, which was actually the only part of her job she enjoyed, because the deli itself was a nightmare. She’d taken three weeks off for the wedding, but Sara, who’d missed her calling as the passive-aggressive queen of the universe, had been in contact almost every day in the guise of needing something, while really just wanting Caitlin to know of her every little mistake or misstep.

So when her phone buzzed in her pocket yet again while Cat was folding clothes in the laundry room, she ignored it.

“Caitlin?” came Dillon’s voice. “Can you bring me my laptop?”

She transferred another load into the dryer, turned it on, blew a stray hair off her sweaty face, and poked her head out of the laundry room to find Dillon sitting on the couch in the living room, feet up on the coffee table, Roly and Poly curled up on his lap.

“Are you kidding me?”

He flashed her the charming smile that had caught both her attention and her heart a year ago. “Sorry,” he said. “But my ankle’s bothering me again. Do you mind?”

Hard to, when his twisted ankle was actually her fault. She’d seen a Cosmo post online titled “The Top Ten Ways to Spruce Up Your Sex Life.” Feeling ambitious, she’d gone with number one: “Seduce Your Man in the Shower.” What could she say? The illustrations had looked intriguing.

Turned out attempting intriguing things in the shower was dangerous.

Feeling guilty, she ran up the stairs and got his laptop, stopping to straighten out the mess he’d left on the desk. When she got back downstairs, he was standing at the front door with his golf bag slung over his shoulder.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Just got a call from Mom. Her golf date bailed and she needs me to do the back nine with her.”

“But your ankle.”

“We’ve got a cart.” He handed her the pugs.

Juggling the soft sausage loaves while trying to avoid the inevitable face kisses—a big no-thank-you, since they had a fondness for licking each other’s butts—she stared at Dillon. “You said that you’d be here to meet my family and have dinner with us.”

“Babe.” His face softened. “I’m your family. Me and my mom, and your parents.”

“You know that’s only technically true,” she protested. She and Heather and Walker and Maze might not be blood, but they were something even deeper. A self-made family, and yeah, okay, maybe it was a very dysfunctional one, but it felt more real than anything else in her life.

“Come on,” Dillon said, putting his hands on her hips and giving her a frustrated smile. “When’s the last time you heard from Maze or Heather”—he set a finger against her lips when she tried to speak—“where you didn’t contact them first. I mean, have they offered to help you with the wedding? They’re in it—you insisted on them over your local friends—so . . . where have they been?”

She could admit that he had a point. They hadn’t been together since their fight in front of Michael’s grave. Heather had vanished, just gone dark for a whole year before suddenly responding to Caitlin’s texts again as if nothing had happened. But she still hadn’t been back to Wildstone and wouldn’t give Caitlin much in- formation other than that she was okay and “working on things.” Whatever that meant.

Caitlin hadn’t seen Maze either, and not for a lack of trying. But they’d texted and had a few strained calls. And to give Maze credit, she always responded when Caitlin reached out, even with her busy life that was now in Santa Barbara, two hours south of Wildstone.

But Caitlin had, however, seen Walker. Sparingly, but he’d been gone on the job nearly nonstop the past three years. She missed him. She missed all of them and wanted them back together.

 And as the self-appointed bossy older sister of the fam, she was determined—and, okay, also slightly desperate—to make it hap- pen. And yeah, maybe, maybe, she’d rushed her wedding along, knowing it was the one thing that could bring her siblings of the heart back together. She couldn’t help herself. For whatever rea- son, the four of them had synced and melded into a core family that long-ago year, but they were losing each other, and that scared her. She’d already lost Michael; hell if she’d lose the others too. She needed this so badly she couldn’t even explain it to Dillon. But the truth was the last time she’d felt vibrantly alive had

been when they’d all been in her life, and she was just desperate enough to play with fate to make it happen. 

Please stay, Dillon.”

He studied her face and sighed, his eyes lit with affection as he cupped her jaw. “I promised Mom, but I’ll get back asap. Take care of my babies?”

It was the best she was going to get, so she nodded. He brushed a nice, warm kiss across her lips, and then he was gone.

From THE FOREVER GIRL by Jill Shalvis, published by William Morrow. Copyright © 2021 by Jill Shalvis. Reprinted courtesy of HarperCollinsPublishers https://www.harpercollins.com/products/the-forever-girl-jill-shalvis?variant=32218755694626 

New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit her website, www.jillshalvis.com, for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

Connect with Jill

Website: http://jillshalvis.com/

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Review: The Fourth Time Charm by Maya Hughes

THE FOURTH TIME CHARM
Series: Fulton U #4
Genre: Contemporary, New Adult Romance
Author: Maya Hughes
Release Date: January 7, 2020

“Are you sleeping with my daughter?”

Not the question I wanted to hear from my coach. The man holding my pro future in the palm of his hand.

The answer: No, sir.

The real answer: I’d sure as hell like to be.

Marisa’s been my best friend since third grade. And now she needs my help–and a place to stay. Senior year was supposed to be the year to keep some distance until the season finished and my draft prospects were safe.

But resisting her is becoming impossible. Movie Thursdays under the blankets. Study sessions on my bed. Wild party nights where I kept any guy interested at bay with a single glare.

Her dad can bench my ass for the entire season, so she’s off limits–for now.

She’s the only woman I’ve ever loved. And one heated night, I can’t stop fighting every cell in my body and can’t stop myself from sampling her sexy smile, her sweet smell, and her sultry curves.

We’re walking a tightrope with my future on the line. Let’s just make sure Coach doesn’t find out…

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Tonight, I’d hold her in my arms. Tomorrow, I’d figure out how to deal with being in love with the coach’s daughter.

Confession time, friends to lovers isn’t my usual choice of trope. Don’t ask me why. I have no idea. I’ll read it but it’s just not a trope I yearn for or gravitate towards. But when it came to LJ and Marisa’s story? I had to have it. I was downright ravenous for it. Ever since we met them as secondary characters in the beginning of this series, I’ve been dying to finally get to read their HEA. This book blew every expectation I had for their book away. I absolutely adored this story!

Sometimes it felt like I could disappear and no one would really care. It felt like I was a temporary fixture in someone’s life until they moved on. But with LJ I felt like I mattered—always.

LJ and Marisa have been friends since they were kids and their connection is one of the most heartwarming things I’ve ever read. They’re so solid together. Always there for each other. And while it could be a sibling sort of connection, there’s simply too much chemistry between them to ever think anything else. Unbeknownst to each other, both Marisa and LJ have feelings but think the other one wants nothing romantic. So if you want unrequited love angst, this has it.

LJ grew up with an amazing family, while Marisa’s parents definitely left something to be desired. Her recent reunion with her absentee father is anything but smooth. She wants nothing to do with him and she has no idea that he’s punishing LJ for their friendship and what he suspects may be going on between them. As much as I hated the coach for the majority of the book, it suddenly took a turn at the end, and I loved how Maya handled this particular story line.

LJ is absolute perfection of a man. He’s sweet, loyal, and doesn’t play games. He’s not interested in doing around even though his football god rep would more than ease that way. I loved how he’s always there for Marisa and their love for each other is so unique and sweet.

Marisa deals with a lot throughout the course of this story and at times it was tough to read. I’ll admit to shedding quite a few tears at the end of the book. My cold black heart broke a little for her.

I’m not going to lie, in parts these two frustrated me and I wanted to shake them to make them see reason and for LJ to just tell Marisa what’s been happening. But I also completely understood his reasoning and had so much respect for him because of it.

If you’re looking for a sweet and heartwarming friends to lovers romance, you won’t want to miss this. Now I’m slowly dying for a particularly mysterious male character to get his story next because it sounds like it’ll be a juicy one.

Maya Hughes, that’s me!, can often be found sneaking in another chapter while hiding in the bathroom from her kids! 🙂 I’m a romance writer who loves taking inspiration from everyday life, namely my husband and biggest fan. Inspiration also strikes when I hear a song, meet someone new or daydream while at soccer practice.

I love writing stories that capture the possibilities of the paths less travelled and enjoy experiencing life through my characters’ eyes. 

I’m the mom of three little ones, the wife to an amazing husband and also work full time. Some of my favorite things are cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, white wine, laughing until I can’t breathe, traveling with my family and Jeff Goldblum. 

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Review: Forsaken Trail by Devney Perry

FORSAKEN TRAIL
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Runaway #4
Author: Devney Perry
Release Date: December 29, 2020

Aria Saint-James has planned the perfect getaway: sweatpants, takeout and two weeks alone with her sister and nephew. Nowhere on that list is wearing a low-cut dress and uncomfortable heels to attend a wedding where she knows neither the bride nor the groom. Toss in her nemesis, Brody Carmichael, and her road trip to Arizona is officially a bust.

But at least there is champagne.

She blames the bubbly for falling into bed with Brody that night. Enemy or no, the billionaire is irresistible in a tux. But after their one-night tryst, Aria has no choice but to cut her vacation short, returning home to escape his devilish smile, vowing never to see Brody again.

Except Aria gets a surprise a few weeks later—she’s pregnant. When he learns that she’s carrying his child, Brody offers Aria the chance of a lifetime. The catch? She has to live under his roof until the baby is born.

Either they’ll kill each other in nine months. Or discover love buried beneath their hate.

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One night of pretending. Then we’d go back to what we were good at. Hating.

I feel like I have been waiting for this story for so long! I’ve been completely enraptured with the Runaway series since book one, and the Cadillac saga continues with Aria’s road to a HEA.

Aria and Brody have been dancing around each other for years. They started off on the wrong foot and it’s only continued from there. There’s certainly no love lost between them but there’s plenty of chemistry. They crashed into each other’s orbit through Aria’s twin sister, who works for Brody. But while her sister and Brody are close, Aria can’t stand the man. She thinks he’s too arrogant for his own good and quick to throw his money and status around.

From the very first time they appear on the pages together, you can cut the sexual tension between them with a knife, and it was utterly delicious. Aria doesn’t mince words when it comes to Brody and is always quick to put him in his place. But then one night changes everything between them.

I love me a good surprise baby plot device, but it has to be done right. And it’s definitely done right in Forsaken Trail. I absolutely HATE when the heroine keeps the baby from the hero for whatever reason. Aria is not about that life. She tells Brody as soon as she knows. And even though there’s still plenty of unresolved issues between them, she doesn’t want to keep Brody away. Though she has doubts given her sister’s history with her baby daddy.

Brody is impossible not to love. The more you learn about his history, the more you love him. There’s a soft mushy center to this successful man and I adored it. He mans up right away when it comes to Aria and doesn’t play any games. Their road to a HEA was not a quick one but it was full of emotion and absolutely heart warming.

I did want a little bit more of the hate lust between them. It felt like they turned the corner really quick and a lot of their animosity was mentioned off the page and I would have loved more of that. But then again, I’m a sucker for that angsty enemies to lovers tension. This book is not quite that. It’s more feel good then angsty, and I didn’t mind that. It was satisfying from beginning to end and I adored Aria and Brody’s story. Now I’m eagerly waiting on Clara’s book next.

Devney is a USA Today bestselling author who lives in Washington with her husband and two sons. Born and raised in Montana, she loves writing books set in her treasured home state. After working in the technology industry for nearly a decade, she abandoned conference calls and project schedules to enjoy a slower pace at home with her family. Writing one book, let alone many, was not something she ever expected to do. But now that she’s discovered her true passion for writing romance, she has no plans to ever stop.

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Review: Blame It On The Champagne by Fiona Cole

BLAME IT ON THE CHAMPAGNE
Series:
Blame It On The Alcohol #1
Genre:
Contemporary Romance
Author:
Fiona Cole
Release Date:
December 15, 2020

There’s only one thing to do when you wake up, married to your brand new boss, whom you hate but can’t resist: You blame the champagne.

I blame the bubbles for my wild night with a masked stranger.

Who cares if it’s nothing this good girl would normally do–with a man that turns out to be my horrible boss?

Who cares that I’m promised to someone else?

I blame the alcohol for agreeing to marry him.

As long as my new husband keeps his mouth shut, I can survive five years of our little arrangement. It’s too late for anything else.

But our impromptu wedding leads to so much more than I bargained for. His dirty promises warm me. His kisses make me lightheaded. His respect slips past my best defenses. The hate turns to friendship, and makes me dream of more. He’s like the most dangerous kind of champagne.

That’s why I blame him for making me fall in love with him.

But when I find out our marriage was nothing more than revenge, what’s to blame for my broken heart?

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AMAZON

Sometimes Prince Charming is everything you need when you didn’t know you needed it.

Who just read their very first Fiona Cole book and is now kicking their own @ss for waiting this long?
Clearly I’ve been living under a rock all of this time. But better late than never, right? *grins sheepishly*

This book was so much fun. It’s a marriage of convenience trope with a splash of enemies to lovers and enough sexual tension to make your ovaries clench. Side note: I don’t think ovaries actually clench. But if they did, I would imagine the tension in this book would make them do it. But I digress.

First thing is that I absolutely loved the heroine. As the only daughter of an extremely old school Italian family, tradition is everything for Vera. She grew up knowing that ultimately she’d have an arranged marriage just like her parents did but dreamed that she’d also get to work for her family’s shipping company. Unfortunately, her father is truly old school and her only use to him is through marriage. Vera is an extremely bright and fierce woman, so she doesn’t exactly take her fate sitting down. Even if it’s a small rebellion, she needs to feel a little freedom before it gets taken away from her.

Nico is man that’s used to being chased for his good looks and money. So when Vera gets a job at his company, he’s convinced a woman attractive as her has ulterior motives. Suffice it to say that they don’t exactly get off on the right foot. The tension between the two of them is EVERYTHING. And it soon becomes apparent Nico is a man with an agenda of his own when he offers Vera the answer she didn’t know she was looking for with a marriage of convenience.

I devoured this story. DEVOURED it. First of all, I love a strong female friendship bond in books, and this one had it in spades. Nova and Raelynn were fantastic secondary characters who I can’t wait to know more about. Vera was everything I love in a great heroine. She fights for respect and doesn’t take things lying down. She’s fierce, smart, even if a little sheltered through her upbringing. I loved the way she made Nico work for it. And Nico? Holy dirty talk, batman. The man opens his mouth and my ovaries quiver. The dirty talk was on point. Nico is just a hair shy of being domineering and is just the kind of dirty talking alpha I love in my romance. So good!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to binge on Cole’s backlist as I eagerly await Nova’s book next.

Fiona Cole is a military wife and a stay at home mom with degrees in biology and chemistry. As much as she loved science, she decided to postpone her career to stay at home with her two little girls, and immersed herself in the world of books until finally deciding to write her own.

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Review: Dream Chaser by Kristen Ashley

DREAM CHASER
Series:
Dream Team #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Author: Kristen Ashley
Release Date: December 15, 2020

In this steamy, addictive contemporary romance spinning off the New York Times bestselling Dream Man and Rock Chick series, Ryn Jansen must put her trust in the one man she wants — and the one man she can’t let herself have.

Ryn Jansen has no interest in taking a risk on Boone Sadler. Thanks to a long list of men who’ve done nothing but let her down, Ryn vows to stay far away from the caring, protective commando. And when Boone confronts Ryn with evidence that her loved ones are conning her, Ryn is less than thrilled — with her family and Boone. But even as Boone proves he’s the kind of guy to meet her every need, she doesn’t trust him to stay when life gets hard . . .

Boone Sadler’s never been one to back down from a challenge. He’s determined to show the funny, sexy Ryn that the irresistible connection between them is worth exploring. But caring for Ryn’s heart and body becomes a matter of life and death when Ryn’s beloved niece and nephew are put in danger and dirty cops begin gunning for Ryn. Soon Boone realizes their romance is in danger of more than heartbreak — and to have any future together, they’ll have to put their trust in each other.

 AMAZON 

Baby, I want you,” he whispered back. “And if the happy birthday cookie doesn’t win you, I’ll find something that does. So tear down the walls, Ryn, I want in, I’m getting in and we’re gonna see where this goes.”

When I read Dream Maker, I fell instantly and hard for this new band of badass commandos and sassy women (that also happen to be strippers. rawwr!). It gave me those vintage KA vibes that I’ve been craving for years. And I’m happy to report that I enjoyed this book just as much as the first and so hooked on this series. I’m already chomping at the bit to get my hands on the next one. But I won’t get ahead of myself here. Let’s talk about Dream Chaser.

Kathryn, or Ryn to her friends is trying to make ends meet as a stripper while dreaming of getting her property flipping business off the ground. In usual KA fashion, she’s perfect. Perfectly sweet, perfectly giving, and perfectly there for her family. She gives her every last spare dime to support her alcoholic brother’s ex and their adorable children while barely scraping by herself. She’s also a sub with a rocky history with men, starting with her deadbeat father.

She’s instantly attracted to Boone when she first meets him, but his Dom presence intimidates her and forces her to push him away. And when Boone first gives up on his pursuit, he comes back all the more determined to get her and she doesn’t know what to do with it. Now if you’re like me, the D/s element made you salivate when you got a taste for it in book one. But if you’re also like me and a loyal reader of the BDSM genre, lower your expectations here. What you’re getting is the KA version of BDSM here. As in, BDSM-light, if you will. As in a dominant man that likes to meet out a spanking and tie his girl up every now and then. But was he a true Dom? Meh. Enough to hit the spot, but not enough to truly sell it for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved him. But the kinky beoch in me was expecting a little more. What? Stop judging me! THere’s a difference between kink and BDSM, and I didn’t quite get the distinction here.

That small quibble aside, I really did love this story. I loved when Boone finally got his head out of his @ss and went after Ryn and gave her no room to push him away again. I loved how fiercely protective he was and how he still had his very deep rooted insecurities from his past. I loved Ryn’s sweet nature and the way she grew a spine and stood up to her family.

Of course would it really even be a KA book without some crazy shenanigans and a bad guy that’s not truly a bad guy and has a sweet spot for the women? NOTHING. So of course I loved the suspense element of this story as much as the romance. And that’s partly because we get a cameo from some of my favorite KA couples that I will never get enough of. I’m obsessed with this series. And the set up for book three? DELICIOUS.

Review: Bound by Honor by Cora Reilly

BOUND BY HONOR
Series: Born in Blood Mafia Chronicles #1
Genre: Mafia Romance
Author: Cora Reilly
Release Date: December 14, 2014

Born into one of the leading Mob families in Chicago, Aria Scuderi struggles to find her own path in a world where no choices are given. Aria was only fifteen when her parents betrothed her to Luca – The Vice – Vitiello, the oldest son of the head of the New York Cosa Nostra to ensure peace between the two families.

Now with eighteen, the day Aria has been dreading for years is looming dangerously: her wedding to Luca.
Aria is terrified of marrying a man she hardly knows, especially someone like Luca who got his nickname ‘the Vice’ for crushing a man’s throat with his bare hands. Luca might be one of the most sought after men in New York thanks to his good looks, wealth and predator-like charisma that radiates power, but the society girls throwing themselves at him don’t know what Aria does: that the bad boy aura isn’t just a game; blood and death lurk beneath Luca’s striking gray eyes and arrogant smile.

In her world a handsome exterior often hides the monster within; a monster who can just as easily kill as kiss you.

The only way to escape the marriage to Luca would be to run away and leave everything she’s ever known behind but Aria can’t bear the thought of never seeing her family again.
Despite her fear, she decides to go through with the marriage; Aria has grown up among predators like Luca and knows that even most cold-hearted bastards have a heart and she has every intention of working her way into Luca’s.

Books in the Born in Blood Mafia Chronicles:
Bound By Honor
Bound By Duty
Bound By Hatred
Bound By Temptation
Bound By Vengeance
Bound By Love

AMAZON

I’ll burn down the world if I have to. I’ll kill and maim and blackmail. I’ll do anything for you.

Confession time: I totally read this book for the cheating.
What? Don’t you judge me. It’s an enticing hook. But I digress.

Truth be told, this book has set on my kindle for way too long. I’m not sure why I’m only getting around to it now since it’s been on my radar forever. I first tried Cora’s books Twisted Pride and was left….a touch underwhelmed. Then I tried a few of her other recent releases, and felt much the same way. The forgettable heroines. The lackluster romance. The somewhat formulaic plot. It just didn’t entice me to read her earlier books. But I’m certainly kicking myself for it now. Because this book was totally right up my alley.

I love a mafia romance. Make it gritty, raw, and a touch dark and I’m all over it. I think that’s what I really appreciated about this book, the rawness of it. Aria is promised to Luca when she’s 15 and married at 18. She may not be naive to the reality of being a mafia daughter, but she’s still young and naive to her ultimate reality of being married to one of the most feared men and soon to be head of New York Cosa Nostra. Theirs is not a love written in the stars. Theirs is a reality born of duty and alliance.

What I loved about the story is that Luca doesn’t change. I think that’s what I really appreciated about the author here. She took a risk writing a hero that’s imperfect but she stayed true to her characters. I simply wouldn’t buy it if it was any other way. I loved the push and pull dynamic between the two of them. I love that Aria may fear him but also doesn’t back down or cow down to Luca. She doesn’t just take her reality sitting down, and for an 18 year old, this was truly refreshing. I loved seeing her grow into her own and slowly fall for this capo. I also loved watching the cold and unfeeling Luca slowly fall for his young bride. There’s a bit that’s left open ended here which I’m assuming is later addressed in Bound by Love. One thing that’s for sure, I’ll definitely be reading the rest of this series.

Review: Little Lies by H. Hunting

LITTLE LIES
Genre: Contemporary, New Adult Romance
Author: H. Hunting
Release Date: November 16, 2020

I don’t want you.
You mean nothing to me. 

I never loved you.

I turned my words into swords.

And I cut her down.

Shoved the blade in and watched her fall.

I said I’d never hurt her, and I did.

Years later, I’m faced with all the little lies, the untruths, the false realities, the damage I inflicted, when all I wanted was to indulge my obsession.

Lavender Waters is the princess in the tower. Even her name is the thing fairy tales are made of.

I used to be the one who saved her.
Over and over again.

But I don’t want to save her anymore.

I just want to pretend the lies are still the truth.


AMAZON | AUDIBLE

I want to save her from her demons, and me from mine. But they always catch up. No matter how hard we try to outrun them.

I love Helena’s contemporary romances, but I’m a sucker for some angst. So when I saw she’s realizing an angsty New Adult under a different pen name, well I’m pretty sure I left dust tracks in my rush to sign up for this book.
I’m also a sucker for a good spin-off, so the fact that these are the kids from Pucked and A Lie for a Lie was just icing on the cake.

Lavender and Kody’s story was deliciously angsty and heart wrenchingly emotional, touching on some very real issues that just endeared you to these characters that much more.

Lavender and Kody grew up together. They were each other’s everything and no one was closer than the two of them, not even Lavender and her twin. Something traumatic happened when they were children that drove them to their own particular neuroses that each of them dealt with in a very different way. And then when they were teens, something happened that set their friendship on fire. Kody and Lavender went from the best of friends, to being nothing.

Lavender grew up immensely sheltered and in the shadow of her brothers’ over protective nature. Now in college, she’s slowly gettin out of her shell but it’s hard to do when her biggest tormentor was once her best friend and confidant. She’s trying to move past her issues, but Kody is always there to remind her of her weaknesses.

The angsty and slow burn of this story dang near killed me. I lived for the back and forth that these two had. Kody was downright vicious, but beneath the rough hewn exterior, you can see to the vulnerable heart beneath. And I couldn’t wait to find out what made them fall apart so tragically. I also was itching to know where all of his aggression and anger towards Lavender stemmed from.

I loved the first 70% of this story. I seriously couldn’t put it down. Where it did miss a mark for me was on the big revelation. I suppose I thought it would be something different or…more than it was. It felt almost underwhelming, to be honest. But ultimately, it didn’t really detract from my love of this story. I loved Kody and Lavender so much, that even my small issue aside, I devoured the story. I seriously hope Helena makes this into a series because now I want a book for all of the other kids. And ESPECIALLY a book for Lavender’s twin. GAH. How utterly amazing it would be!!

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of PUCKED, Helena Hunting lives on the outskirts of Toronto with her incredibly tolerant family and two moderately intolerant cats. She writes contemporary romance ranging from new adult angst to romantic sports comedy.

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Review: Bound by Forever by S. Young

BOUND BY FOREVER
Series: True Immortality #3
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Author: S. Young
Release Date: November 17, 2020

New York Times Bestselling author Samantha Young writing as S. Young.

Niamh Farren has been burdened by knowledge for most of her life. As one of seven fae children born into the human world with the ability to open the gate to Faerie, Niamh’s mission is to guide her fae brethren to do what’s right. Because Niamh has seen what will happen to the human world if she does not protect the gate. Throughout the years, she’s traveled the world with her brother Ronan, using her psychic visions to find the fae-borne and convince them to stay on the path that will keep the gate from opening. She has sacrificed much … but when she loses her brother to the mission, Niamh begins to lose herself.

For nearly one hundred and fifty years, werewolf Kiyo has wandered the planet as a lost soul. Cursed with immortality, he spends his awful eternity as a mercenary for hire. When the powerful Fionn Mór confides the truth about the existence of Faerie and hires Kiyo to protect one of the fae-borne, he accepts the challenge out of boredom, not heroism. Yet Niamh is unexpected in every way the werewolf can possibly imagine.

Guarding Niamh from her enemies is nowhere near as challenging as protecting the fae woman from herself. If Kiyo is to succeed, he must help Niamh find herself again, and not just for her sake. Ignoring the fierce connection between them may no longer be an option. A new enemy is rising and threatening to rip open the gate between worlds. To remind Niamh of who she really is, Kiyo must make the choice to lower his defenses and give into their bond. Or safeguard his own heart … and in doing so lead the human world to the brink of war


AMAZON | iBOOKS | NOOK | KOBO

Protecting Niamh from her enemies was one thing. Protecting her from herself was a far greater challenge.

I live for a good PNR, and I was hooked on this series the second I read War of Hearts.

In this third installment an immortal werewolf is sent to protect a powerful fae with visions of the future from a revenge that may cost her her life. I’ve been anxiously anticipating this story ever since
Niamh first made an appearance as a nameless and mysterious secondary character in War of Hearts. Her story really came to a head in Kiss of Vengeance and I highly recommend that you read this series in order to truly get the full impact and experience. You definitely need to at least Kiss of Vengeance in order to fully understand Niamh’s plight and the introduction to Kiyo.

Now if you love your heroes grumpy and uber protective like me, you will fall head over ovaries for Kiyo the second you meet him. When Fionn hires Kiyo to protect Niamh, he’s not exactly thrilled. A loner by nature and one of the only immortal werewolf in existence, Niyo lives a life of secrecy and no attachments. A beautiful but tortured fae that tempts him at every turn is not a complication that he needs in his life. So suffice it to say that the two of them clash epically when they first meet. But then again, Kiyo does essentially kidnap her to protect her. And then she escapes him at every turn to run head first into danger. So this is certainly not a recipe for a smooth relationship.

The chemistry between them is instant even though the relationship is very a much a delicious slow burn. Kiyo fights his connection while Niamh yearns for something…more. I loved her sweet and vulnerable nature in comparison to Kiyo’s cold and ruthless one. I loved watching him succumb more and more to their connection and reveal bits and pieces of his past. I loved Niahm’s mixture of fierce strength and emotional vulnerability. These two were like the missing puzzle piece for the other.

The story was full of twists and turns with a layer of sizzling slow burn romance that I couldn’t get enough of. With each new installment in this series another layer gets peeled back and I can’t wait until the conclusion with book four. Bound by Forever was a wonderful combination of action, suspense, rich world building and swoony romance. I can’t recommend it enough for any PNR lover out there

 Samantha is the New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of over forty books, several of which have been nominated for Goodreads Choice Awards. She writes adult contemporary and paranormal romance, YA urban fantasy and YA contemporary fiction. Her books have been published in 28 languages in 30 countries. She resides in Scotland.

For more information visit http://authorsamanthayoung.com

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Review: Ruthless Savior by Julia Sykes

RUTHLESS SAVIOR
Series: Captive #5
Genre: Dark Romance
Author: Julia Sykes
Release Date: November 17, 2020

My pretty little captive thinks she can run from me. She doesn’t understand how ruthless I truly am…

Guarding my lovely hostage has become my obsession. I protect Marisol from the vicious men in my brutal cartel, including myself. I’ve kept the promise I made to my boss on the night of her capture: No one touches her.

But she runs from me at the first opportunity, escaping the safe cage I built for her.

I’ve denied myself for far too long. She’s made the mistake of believing I’m gentle and forgiving. There’s nothing gentle about what I intend to do to her once I catch her, and she’ll have to beg for my forgiveness.

I’ve spent endless nights imagining so many delicious ways to torment her.

Now that she’s defied the cartel, I can indulge all of my twisted desires.

I’ll never let her escape me again. Marisol is mine


AMAZON 

My dark affinity for dangerous men would be my ruin.

The Captive series is one of my favorite guilty pleasure reads. I’m a sucker for a good captive romance, and Julia Sykes writes some of the most delicious antiheroes. They’re ruthless criminals that become borderline obsessive and uber protective when it comes to their females and I am so here for it.

Ruthless Savior is the story of Marisol and Ruel, who we met in Wicked King. Marisol was Carmen’s maid and a long time captive of the cartel. She yearns for freedom but seems to always get in the crosshairs of dangerous and ruthless men. This time her captor is Stefano’s right hand man, Raul.

Raul is fiercely protective of Marisol, but he’s no different than all other men in Marisol’s life; he wants to own her. She’s been planning an escape and when she finally takes it, she knows he’ll stop at nothing to bring her back. And when he does catch up to her, he won’t let her out of his sight again. She becomes his captive and even though he vows to protect her at all costs, she still knows that he won’t let her leave. Haunted by her past mistakes with dangerous men, Marisol can’t stop fighting for her freedom. her past haunts her and her dark urges for Raul terrify her.

If you like dark romance to dip your toe into the genre, this is the series. It has just the right amount of danger and darkness to be delicious, without being overwhelming. Raul is fiercely protective and dangerously lethal. But there’s enough characterization to humanize this cartel criminal that you also feel for him. I love how Sykes captures that in all her romances. This was a sexy romance full of grit and danger and just the right amount of suspense. I’m already salivating for my next fix in this series.


Julia Sykes is the USA Today bestselling author of the Impossible Series. She has always kept dark stories tucked away in her mind, so she was thrilled when she discovered that other people actually want to read them. Her books blend romance, suspense, and BDSM.

You can usually find Julia in Starbucks with a venti iced coffee clutched in her hand (two pumps of mocha, liberal half and half). If she’s not in Starbucks, you will find her with a glass of prosecco in hand, probably reading Harry Potter. Again.

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Review: Morally Corrupt by Veronica Lancet

MORALLY CORRUPT
Series: Morally Questionable #1
Genre: Dark Romance
Author: Veronica Lancet
Release Date: November 1, 2020

The first time I saw him I knew he was mine.

I pretended to be innocent, sweet, pure.

It couldn’t be further from the truth.

I lied to him. I married him.

And now he knows.

Hooker. Assassin. Junkie.

I am rotten to the core.

I am morally corrupt.

Bianca Ashby, a certified sociopath with an obsession for her husband, tries to juggle two lives – the demure NYPD Chief Commissioner wife, and the perfect Bratva assassin; all the while keeping her husband safe and blissfully unaware.

But when high-level corruption and a personal vendetta raise the stakes, no one is who they say they are; least of all Bianca’s perfectly dull husband Theo.

From glitzy New York ballrooms and charity events to underground sex rings, drugs, and illegal fights, the best pretender wins it all.

Morally Corrupt is book one of the Morally Questionable series but can be read as a standalone.
Warning: This book explores questionable moral behaviors and includes graphic violence and adult situations that may trigger some readers. Please proceed with caution

 AMAZON

Sometimes, maybe even monsters deserve some redemption.” 

I’m what you’d call trigger shy when it comes to new to me or debut authors. (See what I did there? Assassin? Trigger? Ha! Whatever, it was funnier in my head). I’m such a picky reader, that I’m always hesitant to try a new author for fear that my nitpicking brain will kick in and won’t shut off. Yes, I’m one of those. I own it. But when I read the blurb to Morally Corrupt, I knew that blurb was simply too delicious for me not to give it a try. And you know what? I am so happy I did because I just may have found myself a new author to follow.

I’m a sucker for a dark and gritty read, and when you add into the mix incredibly unconventional characters? I’m putty in your hands. PUTTEH I tells ya! And it just doesn’t get more unconventional than a certified sociopath heroine who is obsessed beyond reason with her husband and happens to moonlight as a Bratva assassin behind his back.
Bianca Ashby was a character that’s vivid and multi-layered. Her quirks hook the reader immediately. Here’s a woman that grew up in glitz and glam, with some daddy issues on the side, and is one of the deadliest assassins out there with absolutely no moral compass. And the only thing beyond her job that she’s more obsessed with is her NYPD Chief Commissioner who treats her like spun glass when all she wants him to do is the opposite. Then you have her husband Theo, who is not quite all that he seems. GAH. Delicious.

Now that’s about all you’ll get out of me regarding this story, because you simply need to experience it for yourself.

What I will tell you, is while this is an author to watch out for. For a debut, this blew me away. It was an action packed thrill ride full of intrigue, secrets, murder, and suspense. Warring mafia families, twisted bonds, a sizzling romance, all of it cleverly crafted to keep the reader at the edge of their seats from beginning to finish. There were some parts that were a bit drawn out, and some details that felt a bit much at times. However, I wasn’t going into a debut book expecting it to be perfect, so it did nothing to distract from the story. I was obsessed. I was obsessed not only with the main characters, but with some of the most intriguing secondary characters. Luckily we’re getting the book for one of them next, but I’m pretty sure if we don’t get Vlad’s book right after that, I may cry a little.

What can I tell you. This book was deliciously morbid. It was dark, gritty, and sucked you right into the dark underbelly of NY’s crime underbelly. The romance was the exact icing on the cake the story needed and I devoured it! Simply devoured it. Told in dual first person POV, it was filled with enough twists and turns to leave her head reeling. Do yourself a favor and read this. Trust me on this. This is one debut you’ll want to check out.

Copyright © 2015 · Dirty Girl Romance

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