I’m a little on the fence with this one, there were parts I loved and other aspects that didn’t work for me. Times when I couldn’t put it down and others where I had to re-read a paragraph to make sense of it. The ending was quite a shocker and definitely has you intrigued as to what will happen next.
I liked Mina, she really didn’t have her s##t together but for me this actually made her much more realistic and eminently more likeable. I would have liked a little more depth from some of the supporting characters, particularly Erik, Charles and Phillip, at times I felt I learnt more via what others TOLD me, rather than through what I experienced. However there was enough development for me to enjoy the book.
I know this is both (a) fiction and (b) PNR/alternate reality, therefore “made up”, but some elements of the plot just stretched the imagination. Looking at blurbs for future books I’m presuming the bad guy in this (who wasn’t paranormal) was perhaps being helped by other “beings”, however in this book there was no real recognition or acknowledgement of his actions being impossible. The characters also felt more Young Adult than the late 20’s early 30’s they were meant to be. In fact had the very brief, single sex scene been removed this could easily have been a YA book.
At times I was totally absorbed by the story, particularly during scenes of action and scenes heavy with dialogue. Sadly there were passages where the heroine actually narrated the story to the reader, rather than allowing them to experience it for themselves. It was almost as though someone was recounting an event or memory, resulting in the story losing it’s flow and pace and disconnecting me from the book. This very tell not show experience extended into the somewhat limited emotional aspects of the book. The very brief mention of how Mina felt, and that information was sometimes very contradictory, conveyed no essence of fear, anger, anxiety or passion. The lack of any detailed descriptions of feelings was a significant negative for me.
On balance there were more positives than negatives for me and at some point I hope to continue with Mina’s story.
Synopsis Mage Amina Langston thought surviving the supernatural apocalypse, which killed fifty percent of humankind and changed most of the surviving population into paranormal beings, were the biggest challenges in her life. That is, until she and her brother go on the run from non-gifted humans who want to steal their magical blood to make a power-giving serum. Now she’s in search of a handsome stranger who keeps appearing in her dreams and a secret paranormal city to help free those still held in captivity for their blood.
During her journey, Amina befriends several other magical beings also searching for the mysterious town, including a sexy were-jackal who distracts her from locating the man of her proverbial dreams. However, when the group finds the city, it’s filled with dangerous magic and a barbaric were-pack. Facing these new troubles, will Amina take down her human pursuers and save the other paranormals she left behind or end up in greater peril?
The Newspaper Man and Bedelia Come Sundown #3 by Stevie MacFarlane
TL:DR – An enjoyable warm hug of a read that will let you happily pass a few hours and leave you feeling content with the outcome.
Both Bedelia and Thorn were characters I could warm to, Bedelia in particular was rounded and had depth. Personally I would have liked a couple more chapters from Thorn’s viewpoint, so that I could really get a feel for his personality, but what I did see I liked. There was a lovely chemistry between this pair though of course it’s very slow burn/low heat due to the historical setting. I also loved their verbal sparring, Thorn did seem to respect Bedelia’s independent spirit and need to be somewhat autonomous.
Whilst I very much enjoyed this story (and the 3 stars is NOT a negative review on GR, it actually DOES mean “liked it”) it felt very insta-love, which isn’t a trope I care for. The main reason for that was that we didn’t actually get to see many scenes of Thorn and Bedelia interacting together, particularly not in a romantic way. Given that Thorn took offence that Bedelia wouldn’t share her friend’s secret with him during only their second interaction, it left me feeling as though the emotions were a little rushed.
A large chunk of the story focused on Bedelia, Kate and Carrie Ann working together to make Bedelia’s dreams come true. I loved these scenes, they were my favourite part of the book, and the vast majority were important in both developing the plot and in growing Bedelia’s character. It was also great to see that Carrie Ann hasn’t lost her wild streak or sass and I wouldn’t have wanted to have lost this part of the story. Had some of the later chapters and events – for instance Thorn’s attempts to make Bedelia jealous – been covered in the same depth this would definitely have been closer to a 5 star read for me.
I did find the ending satisfying and absolutely adored the epilogue.
Synopsis A new romance is heating up the old west. Secrecy, rivalry, and jealousy may be the death of it. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Can they survive the flames?
Bedelia Longmore had resigned herself to becoming the town spinster. Always in a hurry, she looked the part most afternoons appearing frazzled, her hat perched slightly cock-eyed on her head. Being an old maid did not bother her, and Biddy was certainly capable of making her mark on the world. She quickly determined she would publish Centerville’s first newspaper. She began to plan accordingly.
Successful reporter Thornton James arrived from Topeka with a plan. He, too, was looking for a place to begin his publishing career. A chance meeting with Bedelia Longmore was an unexpected stroke of luck. She knew everyone, their habits, their preferences and clearly more than she revealed regarding their personal lives.
“Mr. James, you never did say what you were planning to do here in town,” she said breathlessly. “I guess I didn’t,” he admitted with a smile. “I plan to start Centerville’s first newspaper. I really must hurry if I’m going to make my appointment at the bank.”
Bedelia watched him until he was out of sight as though glued to the boardwalk. A newspaper! He was the reason the bank had denied her a loan that very morning! Damn, she’d given him far too much information and unwittingly passed on some of her best ideas! Hell’s bells. Let the competition begin!
Ghost Electricity (Hawthorne House #1) by Sean Cunningham
There is quite a wide cast of characters in Ghost Electricity both main and supporting, all of whom are well crafted and nicely rounded. The story is complex, multi-layered and packed full of intrigue. There are lots of strands that are cleverly woven together at the end, but for much of the book I felt as though I was randomly hopping from one random scene to another.
There were over half a dozen different point of view, featuring only very briefly interactions with other protagonists, if there was one at all. Julian and Rob were together for the majority of scenes, Fiona and Jessica were occasionally together but also apart quite a lot, Alice occasionally interacted with Fiona and Julian, but also with other characters, Justin knew about all these players but was on the periphery or manoeuvring in the background. It all just got a little blurry and disjointed since each person had their own agenda and focus. Just as I got into one part of the story it flipped to another scene, then went back to the previous one.
I definitely enjoyed the author’s voice, dialogue felt natural and descriptions were sufficiently detailed without being overly long and tediously complex. The world building was very smooth and felt very much an organic development of the story. Despite my issues this was still a good story, I really liked how the plot gradually unfolded, revealing new snippets of information, new clues or an answer to one question along with a new puzzle to be solved. If you like Urban Fantasy with a dash of humour I do recommend giving this a try, though it won’t be a series I chose to continue reading.
Synopsis Do you know what happens to ghosts in London?
A girl with a monster in her shadow. A warlock believed dead four years ago. A werewolf outcast from the London packs. Rob wants a good job, friends to head to the pub with and a solid cage to lock himself in three nights a month. Julian dropped off the face of the Earth four years ago. He’s back and trying to figure out what living looks like. Together they will face the deadliest of threats hidden in one of the oldest cities in the world. Fiona has a monster in her shadow but she doesn’t know how it got there. A creature in the shape of a man is on her trail and he knows things about Fiona she doesn’t know herself. Her ten year old sister Jessica can build machines that defy the known laws of physics. Accompanied by a brass tortoise and a glass-feathered raven, Jessica will help Fiona unravel the web of lies that surrounds them both. And beneath their feet the plague dead of centuries stir in their graves, waiting for the spell that holds them to break…
A very pleasant but not terribly memorable story, a candyfloss read that is sweet on the tongue but soon gone. It was nice, gentle, hints of funny, a bit of mystery, nice touches of world building but it never really engaged me and definitely didn’t wow me.
The authors voice was very pleasant, reading the book never felt onerous, but on reflection I think my issues are because this is more of a plot driven read. This meant I didn’t feel that connection to the main character that truly draws me into a story.
Even in a light, somewhat funny cosy-mystery I still want to experience a depth or range of emotion, and that was where the book lost me. Secondary characters lacked the necessary nuance of personality that can be used to add richness and texture to the story. I would love to see the author give more background to her characters, create a life history for them, along with personality traits and quirks.
If you’re looking for a paranormal cosy mystery then it is still well worth picking up this easy to read and entertaining book.
Synopsis I didn’t expect to be evicted the first thing I returned from my holiday, but thanks to my roommate Nick, that’s what I was facing.
It’s not exactly easy to find a new place to live in London, so when Phoebe Thorpe spots a room-to-let sign at the window of a magic shop, she doesn’t hesitate. The room is perfect, even if chores are part of the rent. There is only one thing odd about her new landladies. They seem to believe magic exists.
Phoebe doesn’t believe in magic, but unfortunately magic believes in her. A mysterious statuette is sent to her boss, Archibald Kane, and she accidentally triggers a curse meant for him. Naturally, the first person she curses is her ex-boyfriend. But why would anyone want to curse her boss, a perfectly ordinary antiques dealer? Or is he?
Phoebe sets out to break the curse with the help of her new housemates. But it isn’t easy trying to solve a mystery she doesn’t even believe is real. Then again, that hellhound chasing her seemed pretty solid… Maybe there’s more to magic than hexing one’s ex.
This is the first book in House of Magic, a new series by Susanna Shore blending mystery and magic, with a resourceful heroine and plenty of action.
Erupting Danger (EMP Catastrophe Book 2) by Grace Hamilton
I was totally wowed by Erupting Trouble and will definitely be reading more work by this author. I flew through the book, barely pausing in my reading of it and completing it within a day. Hooked doesn’t even begin to describe the grip this story had on my.
This was by no means perfect, there were certain elements that felt a little glossed over and some situations felt easily resolved, but I simply didn’t care. The writing and characterisation were excellent, leaving me feeling as though I knew the protagonists. The Riley family were an interesting bunch, and how they chose to overcome the obstacles facing them were both interesting and well executed. The timeline was a little vague as were some specifics, for example what did Kathleen and Allison do at night? Did they pass through other towns whilst heading home?
Was the speed with which social norms crumbled believable? I felt it was, we’ve all seen a crowd suddenly turn violent, it doesn’t take much to push some people over the edge. The moral dilemma’s that were faced were fascinating, who knows what we would do to survive in a world gone wrong.
I will definitely be reading the next book – I can’t wait for it to be released!
After an EMP knocked out power around the globe, Matthew Riley and his family are finding their way to survive while realization of their dangerous new reality sinks in. It was a struggle to reunite in the immediate aftermath, but the fallout from the dangerous journey may be even worse.
Other desperate souls are converging on any place that might offer hope, and the Rileys’ hotel in Galena, Illinois, is a prime target. With food running short and medicine almost out, the Rileys will need to find supplies. But they’re not the only ones looking.
While the family works together at the hotel, Matthew’s brother-in-law, Max, works to escape from prison to reunite with his family and the relative safety they offer. But dangerous enemies have their eyes on him and may put everyone at risk.
With resources running out, family is the only bond that can be counted on. But those bonds are strained and frayed as the tensions of the new world begin to pull them apart. How can one family survive when the world has turned upside down?
Acknowledgements – Photo #1 by Maria Orlova on Pexels.com Photo #2 by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com
Thank you to Netgalley for an arc of this book, which I also read as part of a buddy read with my Dark Erotica girls. Well where to start! I’d seen the chat around the previous books and was impressed enough to want to find out more about this author. Sadly it seems that this isn’t one of her better offerings. I’m not sure whether I would have rather read her other work first, so at least I would feel more confident with reading her work again, or am glad I didn’t set my hopes to high for a spectacular end to the series, which we definitelydidn’t get!
At the 70% mark I found myself questioning when something of any real note was going to happen. At the 80% mark we get the one and only sex scene, and it’s rather “one-and-done” at that. By 90% I was wondering how the solving of who was out to get our poor heroine, Felicity, would be approached. Well the answer to that last one was rushed, badly and lacking in all credibility. Though given the whole “disfigured hero who underwent facial reconstruction surgery” plotline, I should have expected further suspension of belief to be necessary. You would have thought that with not much happening at least the characters would be really well portrayed, but yet again I was disappointed. They were bland, underdeveloped and easily forgettable.
The plot had all the bones of a great story but nothing, not one damn thing, was fully explored and there felt to be very little, if any, cohesion between the separate story elements. What resulted was a plodding, disjointed, and too far fetched story. There were the pieces of information that led absolutely nowhere for instance all the hints about Marco and whether he was behind the attacks and the needless dead end of the families former solicitor. Links between scenarios were missing, imagine my surprise when a conversation between two characters seemed to expect me to know that Mrs Winterton was seriously ill in hospital as the result of poisoning, yet the only previous mention of this had been that she was “suffering the gastric effects of a poorly cooked fish stew”
The cherry on the cake came in the form of the stories resolution – namely who was out to get Felicity. To describe it as “out of left field” would be an understatement. Not only was there zero foreshadowing, the whole thing was revealed, concluded and nicely wrapped up within the span of a few pages. Based on feedback from friends, I would still read this author’s work in the future. I have nothing to compare to, but their view is that this isn’t reflective of the usual quality of Kerrigan Byrne’s work and I respect their opinion enough to believe them.
Synopsis A brand-new deliciously wicked romance series from USA Today Bestselling Author Kerrigan Byrne. The Goode Girls aren’t simply good; they’re stunning.
Disfigured in fighting pits as a lad, Gabriel Sauvageau has lived his entire life without the touch of a woman. As the brains and brawn behind London’s most ferocious smuggling syndicate, he knows he doesn’t deserve shy, bespectacled Felicity Goode. But that doesn’t stop him from watching her. Guarding her.
Wondering if her gentle touch would soothe his savage soul.
Though she wiles away hours immersed in the pages of romance novels, shy and anxious Felicity Goode has vowed never to become a bride. How can she share a life—not to mention a bed—with a man, if she can’t bring herself to share a simple conversation without trembling and stuttering? Once news of her obscene inheritance circulates through the ton, she is barraged, not only by a slew of suitors, but also several distressing threats against her life.
What she needs is a bodyguard. The large, scarred ruffian she finds on her stoop is exactly what she has been looking for.
So, why does his presence make her tremble in ways that have nothing to do with fear?
Whilst Beyond the Compound is a well written story, with some excellent BDSM scenes, for me it just lacked that something that makes a great read. I didn’t feel a lot of emotion from the two main characters and as a result the story was felt fairly bland.
However I did finish it, which is more than I can say for a few recent DNF’s that were due entirely to my current reading mood – so perhaps I’m being a little harsh with this one. I’m just not convinced there was much to remember about this book. I wanted more passion, or angst, or… just something to get my teeth into. What I got was a pleasant enough palate cleanser of a read. A sugar and spice treat when you want a quick read.
Deeply submissive and highly trained, Hailey hungers for the profound connection all slave girls crave. Too bad her new Master has other ideas… Movie-heartthrob Ronan Wolfe doesn’t need the hassle of getting caught with a whip in his hand, but he misses having a sub under his control. When a friend gifts him Hailey’s six-month slave contract, the Dom in him just can’t resist. Too bad Ronan forgets one thing… The world is watching his every move. If you love edgy, romantic BDSM with plenty of sizzling plot twists and turns, you’ll adore Beyond the Compound. *A stand-alone novel within The Compound series
Wanting It All (The Punishment Pit #1) by Livia Grant
There are spoilers contained within this review, marked by ***
There were parts of this book I enjoyed and other parts I struggled with. Those were mainly near the beginning of the book, and I did briefly consider DNF’ing, mainly because I wasn’t fully invested in the story at that point. With encouragement from both the author, and another reader, I forged on and ultimately am very glad I did so.
My stumbling block involved aspects of the hotel scene, however it was definitely worth pushing through as I found the second half of the book much more to my liking. The writing and overall story are good, really good, in what is a fairly quick read and where the story of all four protagonists will continue in future books.
Very often the more I think about a book I’ve struggled with, the more negative my feelings for it become. The converse is true here. As I’ve sat and worked through what I want to say in my review, reflecting on the story and characters, I can see how the author is throwing questions and challenges at the reader. How often have I whinged to friends about “too perfect” characters in books? How often have I begged for real characters who make real mistakes? So even though I’m going to outline some “negatives” below, I have a feeling that (a) they may have been deliberately placed in the book to cause a reaction and (b) they will be dealt with later in the series.
The Positives • Excellent writing – the author’s “voice”, the story flow, the dialogue, knowing who is speaking, descriptions etc are all executed to a high standard. There was no “effort” required to read the book. Not once did my attention drift, nor did I skip or skim any parts. I did wince at the use of the word “tool” but it also made me smile!
• Tiffany– This book features TWO couples, the series will feature two separate relationships and we get all 4 points of view in the book. Even though it could have ended up being too many points of view in such a short opening, it didn’t feel that way. In fact – and this is a testament to the great writing of Livia Grant – despite only having 2(?) chapters from Tiffany’s perspective I felt as though I got to know her personality quite well. I liked her. She showed integrity, respect, kindness and loyalty. Tiffany’s a strong factor in me wanting to continue the with the story.
• Lukas– Despite Lukas agreeing to something he shouldn’t have, I believe it was a decision taken in the heat of the moment, and it certainly became clear it was something he regretted doing. His self-reflection was the highlight of the book for me. It took me from almost disliking the guy, certainly not respecting him, to absolutely adoring him and totally accepting him. I’m hugely #TeamLukas.
• Final Chapters– The scenes and conversations between Brianna and Lukas in the latter half of the book did change most of my feelings about it, perhaps NOT quite in the way the author hoped, but enough to have me invested in reading future books in the series.
• Subject matter covered*** – As odd as it might sound, I liked the idea of exploring infidelity and rebuilding that shattered trust. There are reasons behind Brianna’s foolishness, it isn’t a simple cut and dried matter, though I’m not sure we still have all the information as to the why.
Neutral/Undecided • Markus – we didn’t really see much of Markus, so for me he is still very much an unknown quantity. Whilst I can appreciate that his actions were born out of pain and anger, they still weren’t acceptable actions. Be an adult, sit down and talk to your wife. And a lawyer of his calibre would have been aware of the possible ramifications of his actions. The premeditation of his undertakings I can put down to a variety of negative emotions caused by what he witnessed. However to maintain that level of cold calculation, of epic fury, during the time he spent waiting for Briana along with all the actions he took to deceive her as he did – well that makes him almost as bad as her in my eyes. Both of them are going to have to earn my respect back – but I’m fairly confident that at some point they will.
Negatives • Brianna – When I struggle with a protagonist it is usually an overbearing, arrogant male. However it was Brianna who I found myself disliking, though I suspect she may have been deliberately written that way. I did warm towards her a little by the end, but she was just so stupid, almost too stupid to believe at times. Since she, and others, acknowledge that very thing later in the book it did go a fair way to ameliorating her behaviour. She does still have some way to go yet.
*** • Cheating with JAKE specifically– This was my BIGGEST hiccup with the book. I could get to grips or even be ok with Brianna making stupid decisions because her needs weren’t being met. Ish. However I just COULDN’T believe that she would choose a man who had abused her in the past. Treated her so badly it had taken months/years to recover. *** Jake had raped her and abused her repeatedly and violently. There is no explanation in the world as to why she would choose HIM in the first place. *** The interaction we do witness is not consensual, so I can’t and won’t call that cheating. I might have to eat crow because a good reason will come up, but I didn’t get one here and I do need one.
I was confused by Brianna’s response *** to what was a very serious assault. Her words acknowledged what had happened but her demeanour didn’t. I did get the impression she slut shamed herself by accepting blame for the rape by admitting she was stupid to trust Jake/go anywhere with him. I think that she either denied the seriousness because then it wasn’t real or she wouldn’t name if for what it was because her body had reacted and she got turned on by what Jake did. I’d really love the author to explore this more in later books – and perhaps she does!
TL:DR – So to some up, this isn’t an easy read in terms of character actions and subject matter, it is in terms of technical writing. It is a story I will continue with, and if you’re open minded to a challenging read, one where you might not warm to all the characters immediately but where the journey is worth the challenge, then I do recommend this series.
Everyone has a dark secret from their past… hers just forced his way back into her life. Brianna’s moment of weakness cost her everything but she’s not giving up. She’ll do anything… anything… to convince her husband to give her a second chance. Even if it means facing her demons and finally accepting the darkness which lies within. The only problem is… she’s not the only one with a past. It turns out… her husband has secrets of his own.
Securing It All
I definitely enjoyed this more than the first book, mainly because Brianna wasn’t quite as much of an idiot (that might be in part to her POV not being used that much.) However I am still carrying two issues from book #1. Both are spoilers, I’ll warn when we get close to them, but I’ll try my best to convey my feelings on both of them. Before I get to them I need to praise the author’s prose, her writing flows smoothly and I found myself “sinking” into the story and being totally absorbed by it. Her characters are believable and have real depth to them, I’m looking forward to getting to really know Markus in future books.
Lukas and Tiffany are still great characters, Brianna did behave better in this book, though Markus still has room for improvement. For a man who’d only just been found not guilty of stepping over the consent line Lukas (along with Markus) seemed to forget this and made choices that, to my mind, were neither wise nor SSC. Both men realised how stupid their decision was and apologised for it. However given it was another mistake on top of one made only 24 hours earlier, clearly these Dom’s don’t learn their lessons too well, perhaps theyneed the spanking?
#1 – I do get why Brianna made her original, off-page mistake
***spoiler*** [have “kinky” sex with an ex who was also a Dom ].
That’s not to say I agree with what she did, but I understand the why of it. However it’s the fact that Jake had abused and raped her repeatedly in the past that stilldoesn’t make that aspect of the storyline work for me. Why would she ever have wanted to speak to or see the guy again? I do know that there may be more to be revealed about Jake, but I’m not sure it will clear up this specific issue.
#2 – In the last book there was definitely an act of sexual assault.
***spoiler*** [When Briana meets Jake at the hotel, he has sex with her regardless of her telling him “No”. There has been NO real move to acknowledge or treat the incident as what it is – rape.]
However because their body responded with pleasure to the act, it doesn’t seem to have been acknowledged, or treated, as such. Markus and Lukas have been so focused on their punishment and retribution, that they seem to have pushed that fact aside as an inconvenient/forgotten truth. There is a lot of murk surrounding the assault, and the murk becomes the focus rather than the act.
Because I’ve had a break between book #1 and book #2 I could go with the flow and enjoy this story, but I know if I’d read this immediately after #1 I would perhaps struggle to believe that Brianna would not have been more affected by ALL the events that happen to her over a 48 hour time period. It’s a strange dichotomy because great writing made me believe in Brianna and her feelings as I was reading, however if I cogitate on what has actually happened then her calm acceptance isn’t realistic. The story, the book, the emotions I feel whilst reading it tell me one thing, my cold logical head tells me another.
I do now feel much more invested in the series and definitely intend to continue reading it. I need Markus to show me how/why he is worth the suffering Brianna went through and I hope Lukas proves to be the great dominant and guy that he so far appears to be.
Punishing his wife for her mistakes was the right choice. Having his best friend handle it definitely wasn’t. Choosing dominance should be easy. He did it for years, and there’s too much on the line to fail now. But Markus has been torn apart by betrayal, twisted up and confused by all the lies. His and hers. A matching set. But leaving Brianna at The Punishment Pit didn’t help. Lukus has always been the Master’s Master. Permanent bachelor and hardcore dom, yet seeing Brianna’s submission has him wanting more. But she’s forbidden fruit, his best friend’s wife, and a good man would help them fix this mess. Everything is a gamble. A game of pain and pleasure. One that might be too dangerous with all of their futures are at risk.
Having it All
After reading the first two books, and being on the fence with the series, and having indulged in purchasing a KU membership, I decided to see where the story went in these books.
I got more into the flow of this one, particularly the Lukas and Tiffany scenes, which were very steamy, consensual and totally had me captivated. I really enjoyed seeing their developing relationship and the compromises Lukas was prepared to make. It was also good to see Tiffany retaining her independence and strength of character.
Markus learns the truth about an event in book #1, I can’t say I was a fan of his response. It still seemed a lot of “about him” rather than how was his wife coping. And I still didn’t find her reaction very realistic. The emotional turmoil and stress Brianna had gone through in a very short period of time would surely have resulted in some sort of break down, at some point. I just failed all round to connect or really believe in this couple.
However Tiffany and Lukas carried the story for me, so I didn’t mind too much. And that cliffhanger ending really had me on edge!
Submission is an addiction she thought she’d left behind, but who can say no to him? Best friends are always supposed to be there for each other, but walking into a place like The Punishment Pit was above and beyond. Now Master Lukus is holding her captive, intent on punishing Tiffany for her mistakes, and instead of saving Brianna, she’s trapped with a man from her darkest fantasies. She’s in way over her head. Falling too hard, too fast. And the dangerously dominant owner of the club is pushing all her buttons, waking up every naughty desire she’s ever had — and more. But his life isn’t simple, and neither is hers, and nothing is easy when hearts are involved. Everyone has decisions to make, but when every choice is hard, can any of them really have it all?
Balancing It All
I loved how Derek talked Lukas down, following Tiffany’s foolish venture at the end of the last book, he really did lay down some home truths. I loved the heat of Markus and Brianna’s scenes, I quite warmed to the couple in this one. A real strength of them was in their roles as friends to Brianna and Lukas. Having learnt their lesson, the communication between them was very good too.
Lukas needed to follow their lead, he fell far too often into telling Tiffany not to do something, rather than explaining why. I suppose he’s used to submissives who obey his every word, but he knows that isn’t Tiffany. It also felt like a lack of respect for her, keep the little woman in the dark because it’s easier for him.
I was definitely on Tiff’s side regarding the contract. I know Lukas was worried about over stepping boundaries but for me they were embarking on a relationship as a couple who would explore D/s and BDSM, not one as a Dominant and his submissive. I was surprised, after how much her strong spirit and independence was drummed into us, that she folded and went for the 24/7 relationship Lukas was after, rather than a compromise that allowed her to retain some autonomy. It felt like an easier path for the author than an honest path for the couple.
I more and more felt as though Lukas was wanting everything his way, waiting for the right time to push on, rather than truly compromising. By the end (and yet another tough cliffy) he felt like a total selfish ass who really didn’t deserve Tiffany. Lukas was the only thing that kept me reading after book #1. He and Tiffany have held me into this series. Sadly in this book he took a huge nosedive in my estimation.
I loved the introduction of Violet and Gray, it helped me believe in Tiffany’s progress and acceptance of events. Seeing a strong female submissive, one who had her own “mind” was a nice touch, and definitely a reassurance Tiffany needed. The scenes prior to the collaring ceremony were incredibly hot, though I felt as though Lukas and Markus were more interested in their own sexual gratification than they were the well-being of Brianna and Tiffany. They crossed from dominant to overbearing at times. In fact the upset at the end of the ceremony was a prime example of Lukas not being as open with Tiffany as he expected her to be with him.
However, overall I enjoyed the book and the ending left me on tenterhooks for the next book! Someone has a lot of grovelling to do.
Balancing it All is book four in the deliciously dark and dirty Punishment Pit series that readers are devouring. It’s a battle between dominance and submission.
Defending It All
For me this books was very up and down with some parts I loved and others I really didn’t. I think the biggest problem for me was that Lukas, disappointingly, fell into that tired old BDSM cliche of deciding things for Tiffany, or not telling her things, “for her own good”. In other words because it was easier for him.
Had she kept things secret for as equally justifiable a reason he would still have subjected her to a punishment and I just cannot abide that type of double standard. I’m not sure if I’m an oddity amongst readers in not loving these mind-reading, “know you better than you know yourself” Doms, but they get right on my goat.
For heaven’s sake Tiffany is a grown up women who runs her own business and has managed to live her life really well until she met Lukas. She is capable of making her own decisions and choices, given ALL the relevant information. So when Lukas treats her like she is incapable of this he really goes down in my estimation. It’s misogynistic and smacks of Christian Grey, not a truly consensual BDSM relationship and very much not a partnership!
I also felt that Lukas definitely got off lightly (from his terrible decision at the end of book 4), considering it demonstrated how little respect he had for Tiffany. I appreciated how strongly she made her point to him – and I was glad he realised how unjust and out-of-order punishing her would have been. Would he have found it so easy to forgive and forget had the boot been on the other foot? Yeah, I doubt it. Double standards again
Over the last book and this Lukas became quite whiney and woe is me, just because Tiff wasn’t a pushover submissive. Oh let’s all feel sorry for the poor little Dom who doesn’t have everything going his own way. He fell in love with Tiffany’s independence and sass but then seems to want to change her and dampen her spirit.
The book took on a more suspense element and moved away from focussing so much on just the two couples, and that was a very welcome addition to the story. There were also several new characters introduced, two of whom I suspect will feature strongly in the next book. I look forward to getting to know them both.
I’m coming back to rant about the men keeping information from their women, again. Their excuses for not telling their romantic partnerswhere they were disappearing off to or why they couldn’t go to the bachelorette party were, quite frankly, weak. Whilst I appreciate their will be times Lukas wouldn’t be able to give Tiffany details,that wasn’t the case here. He could AND should have warned her about Jake. Yet again it felt as though the men were refusing to be totally honest when they wouldn’t accept the same treatment from their submissive.
I did really enjoy how Lukas handled Tiffany’s family and the lengths he went to in order to ensure her happiness. He did manage to melt my heart with the depth of his love. And the author can definitely write, the stories are really easy to read, the pace is good and the plot flows smoothly.
When Ezra Fain joined the ranks of the CIA, the last thing on his mind was romance. After meeting Kim Soloman, it was difficult to think of anything else. A tragic mistake drove them apart, leaving him shattered and unable to forgive the woman he loved. But when his greatest enemy threatens her life, Ezra leaps into action, prepared to do anything to try to save her.
Solo accepted long ago that she won’t get over Ezra. She’s worked for years to get back into his life, looking for any way to reignite the love they once shared. Unfortunately, nothing seems to penetrate the wall he has built between them. When she’s arrested for a crime she didn’t commit, she believes she’s on her own.
Racing across the globe, Ezra and Solo find themselves together again, caught in the crosshairs of the agency they sacrificed so much to serve. Days on the run soon turn to steamy nights, but Levi Green isn’t about to let them find their happily ever after. And when the smoke clears, the men and women of McKay-Taggart will never be the same again.
Excerpt: “Kim, stop.” Beck sighed, an exhausted sound. “Please.” It was the please that did it. He was so rarely polite to her. She took a deep breath and turned to him. They needed to ratchet down the emotion. It was what always tripped them up. “I don’t think we can work together.” “We certainly can’t if I continue to be a massive asshole.” He moved toward her, putting his hands on her shoulders. “I’m sorry. You’re still a touchy subject for me.” She nodded, unable to say a word for fear of unleashing a tidal wave. Not seconds before she’d told herself to tamp down the emotion, but here it was, threatening to overwhelm her and all he’d had to do was touch her. “How about we agree that Levi Green is a problem for both of us and we work together to solve it,” he offered. “Kim, we’ve been going in circles for years. Maybe it’s time we find a way to move on. I know I’m tired of hating you.” She stepped back. She couldn’t have his hands on her when he used that word. It was wrong when all she’d ever done was love him. “Ariel pointed out that it would be easier on both of us if I stopped showing up in your life.” His gaze softened. “Would it? I didn’t see you for a couple of years and it didn’t feel any easier.” She let a moment pass. How was it she felt even more vulnerable than she had when she was with Levi? “I know. I’ve tried to move on. I don’t seem to be able to.” His hands moved as if he wanted to touch her, but he seemed to rethink the idea. “So maybe we should go about this another way. Maybe we should take this time and do what we didn’t do before. Talk. Try to find a way to get through this. I’m sorry I said what I did about you and Levi. It still hurts and I’m lashing out. All I know is when I thought you were in danger, I knew I couldn’t sit on my hands and let it happen. I can’t do it now either. Let me come with you. Let me help fix this.” No. It was the only word she should say to him, and then she should turn and walk out and never look back. If she let him in, he would hurt her no matter how good his intentions were. Beck had always had a well of rage inside him that he wouldn’t deal with, wouldn’t acknowledge even existed. He hadn’t changed. “Okay.” She hadn’t changed either. She was still helpless when it came to this man. She was still in love with him and likely always would be. He let go of a heavy breath. “Good.” He was silent for a moment, looking her over. “Did he hurt you? Are your wrists okay?” She’d managed to get what was left of the zip ties off in the car. She had some red marks on her wrists. “They’re sore, but all right. He didn’t slap me around this time.” She watched as Beck’s hands formed fists and wished she hadn’t said that. His rage was always simmering under the surface when she was around. He seemed to let it go. “All right. We should get on the road. Can you grab some water and protein bars? I don’t know what we’ll find when we get to Paris.” She kind of thought she did know. She’d done a lot of homework on Big Tag, and if Rene was who she thought he was, then Beck would feel right at home. Still, she grabbed the water bottles and bars and stuffed them in the duffel Steph had provided for her. There were a couple of T-shirts and a pair of sweatpants that would likely be too short, but beggars couldn’t be choosers. This was all she had in the world. It was odd. She would have said possessions were meaningless, but now that she had no access to any of the things that brought her comfort, she missed them with all her heart. She had one thing. She reached up and found some peace knowing her ring was still there. All these years and she still had her wedding ring. It hung low around her neck, and she always hid it under her shirt when Beck was around. It was all she had left of her marriage. “You ready?” Beck fitted a cap to his head and passed her another. “You might want to put your hair up. I know if I was looking for you, all that hair would be the first thing to catch my eye.” How many nights had he tangled his fingers in her hair and gently tugged, had he told her how beautiful it was and that he never wanted her to cut it? “Yeah. I’m ready.” He stepped in front of her and placed the cap on her head, his gorgeous eyes staring down at her. “I really am sorry I said what I did. Can you forgive me?” Her whole soul threatened to melt. She nodded. “Can I hug you? I want to. I want to reassure myself that you’re really okay.” She nodded again and then she was in his arms for the first time in years. “Promise me he didn’t get a chance to hurt you,” Beck whispered. He sounded like he actually cared. His arms around her made her feel safer than she had in forever. “He threatened me with a bunch of stuff, but I don’t want to talk about it. I will, but not now.” “Okay.” They stood there for the longest time, the sound of his heartbeat the only thing she could hear.
I did enjoy this, but I just can’t say I loved it. I adored the first 4 or 5 books in the original Masters and Mercenaries series, they had kink, passion, a story that didn’t drag and a fresh feel. Whilst I’m sure Lexi Blakefans will love No Love Lost, for me it didn’t bring anything new to the table.
It had great characters and plot twists galore, but those twists seemed to come out of nowhere. With a plot twist, I like to know there were clues and hints to it scatted throughout the story. This felt more like new facts or information was introduced to move the plot on, rather than revealed secrets where hindsight allows us to see the foreshadowing.
Pros 1 – It’s a second chance romance, which I’m a total sucker for. 2 – The story is well written, the characters had depth and were believable. Most of all was how convincing the emotions of the main protagonists were. Despite the con mentioned below, I could feel their emotions, they definitely felt authentic. 3 – Beck recognising his mistakes in the past, seeking help to change, and genuinely attoning for them.
Cons 1 – The huge amount of time this couple spent apart (view spoiler) whilst supposedly being so madly in love and such utter soul mates they barely/didn’t have any other relationships in the meantime. They were together as a couple for about two years in their early/mid-20’s and I’m meant to believe that all those many, many years later they are STILL in love with one another. Too much, sorry. 2 – The pace was too slow. There is a LOT of intrigue and plenty of twists but I felt like the actual relationship was going nowhere for far too long. At 75% we’d had a bit of spanking and a few, very basic sex scenes.
It’s really difficult for me to rate this because it is a good read but, for me, it’s also a fairly forgettable one. That’s partly due to the large number of books I read every week, many of them are forgotten, but it just didn’t have that edge to it that I needed. It’s still a good romantic suspense, but for a series that mentions BDSM clubs so much, there has been a noted absence of any significant kinky action in it.
About Lexi Blake
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lexi Blake lives in North Texas with her husband, three kids, and the laziest rescue dog in the world. She began writing at a young age, concentrating on plays and journalism. It wasn’t until she started writing romance that she found success. She likes to find humor in the strangest places. Lexi believes in happy endings no matter how odd the couple, threesome or foursome may seem.
Blurb: Seventh Circle Violence Also Known As Ezra Cross
He’s one of a pair. Identical twin to Damon. And an enforcer for the Inferno if one is ever needed. I knew better than to get involved with him. With his aggression. With the constant fights. With the games the twins were known to play with every woman stupid enough to fall for them. We made a mistake when we met again as adults. I fell in love. He fell in love. His brother fell in love, too. What used to be a good time is now a tragedy. Our story is messy. It’s cruel. It’s forbidden. Despite all that, Ezra refuses to let go.
*** Each novel in the series depicts a unique romance, but the plots through each book connect in one world. For the best experience, read the series in order.
Nine Dangerous Men. Nine Unrepentant Sinners. Nine Irresistible Manipulators.
Mine is probably not going to be a popular opinion and I am perfectly fine with that because it is much more to do with me as a reader than anything else. I read most sub-genres of romance, but I’m not a huge fan of straight-up contemporary romance. Unlike the first two books, which I enjoyed because they had plenty of secrets, battles and mystery/suspense to whet my appetite, this read more like an angsty contemporary story. It just didn’t float my particular boat. There isn’t anything specifically wrong with this book, it just didn’t fit with my preferences. I know without a shadow of a doubt that for most readers this will be a 4 or 5 star read, so I do recommend giving it a try.
I found myself both questioning and frustrated by Emily. Controlled by her parents at 18 I could get but still under their thumb at 28? Really? I was told how tough she was, how brave to take on the Cross twins, what fire burned inside her, but all I saw was a little girl who allowed others to run her life. And the only conclusion I could draw was because she liked having access to her parent’s money too much to try and be independent. So whilst I liked her, it made it difficult to respect her.
At times I found the pace to be slow. After a couple of hours of reading, and only a third of the way through, I’ll admit that I started to skim parts of the book. This was because there didn’t seem to be a clear focal point for the story. Tanner needed Luca’s servers and Gabe wanted Ivy’s secrets (or at least her father’s secrets) but that was lacking for me with Emily and Ezra.
There was a lot of OTT angst, push and pull between the protagonists, which simply isn’t for me. If you love angsty reads then grab this book because Lily Whiteis an amazing author, I have zero complaints about the writing. I did enjoy the final half/third of the book and am glad I read it so that I can continue with the series, which is still a winning one overall.
Lily White is a romance writer who likes to dabble on the taboo side of eroticism. She is most known for her Masters Series, Target This, Wishing Well, and Asylum. In addition to dark romance Lily writes contemporary romance, taboo romance, and psychological thrillers. Lily enjoys stretching her writing muscles by continuing to challenge herself with each book she publishes.