// REVIEW \\ Protecting It All

Protecting It All
(The Punishment Pit #6)
by Livia Grant

Well Livia Grant certainly saved the best until last. Or at least last for now since a “series 2” is already in the pipeline.

I’ve had my ups and downs with this series, so it was a great relief to end on a truly big “up”. The fact that this book didn’t really include much D/s or BDSM seems very telling. Generally I enjoy the author’s style of writing, but I did find myself agreeing with one reviewer who spoke of how the punishments seemed more important than the welfare of the submissive. I get that this is fiction, and clearly many readers have enjoyed the books, I just struggled with the men never seeming to atone for their wrongs yet going over the top in their punishment of the submissive for the slightest transgression. Particularly given that one was pretty much still a sub-in-training.

However I’m digressing form Protecting It All, which is a great romantic suspense and even though it was insta-love I still found myself believing in Dylan and Hannah’s emotions. Probably more so Dylan but that’s because he’s already a little obsessed by Hannah before she’s even really acknowledged his existence. Whilst we do get some Lukas/Marcus/Tiffany/Brianna scenes, most of the book was either from Dylan or from Hannah’s POV, so it gave it a bit of a “spin off” feel. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed it more, I wasn’t carrying any previous baggage for the two MC’s of this book.

I am wondering if you could read this one stand alone. A part of me thinks that you could, but I’ve read the other books so can’t be sure. I really did enjoy this one though, and I do recommend it. 

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Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre- Erotic Romantic Suspense

Goodreads- https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54818820-protecting-it-all

Protecting it All is book six in the deliciously dark and dirty Punishment Pit series that readers are devouring. 
He would protect her with his life. 

Photo by Ana Maria Moroz on Pexels.com

Review //\\ The Punishment Pit Series Books 1 – 5

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.

• 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.

• 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.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre- Erotic BDSM Romance

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

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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 they need the spanking?

#1 – I do get why Brianna made her original, off-page mistake

 [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 still doesn’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. 

[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.

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Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre – Erotic BDSM Romance

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

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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!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Genre- Erotic BDSM Romance

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.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre- Erotic BDSM Romance
Goodreads- https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54818764-balancing-it-all

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 partners where 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.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Genre- Erotic BDSM Romance
Goodreads- https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54818794-defending-it-all

Defending love at all costs. The devil is coming for them all. 

Review //\\ Black Light: Valentine Roulette

Black Light: Valentine Roulette

This is an anthology of short stories, all based around one event at the BDSM club featured in the Black Light series. I read the book back in 2018 but didn’t review it back then, and since I seem to be an a re-read streak I indulged myself by reading individual stories in between arc reads and other reads. Even though I have a mountainous TBR list of unread books.

Photo by Ellen Araujo on Pexels.com

Broken by Renee Rose – 4 stars

Slave to pain (aka Jennifer) and Master D scene together at Black Light each week. But that’s all Jennifer will ever allow them to be, ships that pass in the night, no attachment, no emotion, no connection, despite the fact that his brand of sadism is a perfect fit for her mile wide masochistic streak. Jennifer has barriers so high Master D will need a miracle to break them down but first he needs to win her on a spin of the wheel.

They spin three kinks, age-play, whipping and anal-intercourse. Don’t be put of by the age play, it isn’t really any more than her using the word Daddy, and if you skip this one you will miss a wonderfully intimate portrait of a man using dominance to release a sub from years of unhappiness and pain.
I liked that Jennifer and Master D already had a connection, it made the scenes more intense and I found I easily believed in the depth of their feelings. I remember first time round finding the level of sado-masochism in this hard to handle, but I’ve now read so much more that it no longer makes me cringe. It’s not my kink but I understand the beauty of the dynamic. This is one scorching hot read, and a great opening story.

Revealed by Livia Grant – 3.5 stars

I love Khloe and Ryder, and have read all their stories though I’d actually forgotten this one where they first met. I really felt a huge emotional connection to Khloe, reading about her pain and loneliness was like hearing it from a friend. The girl who seems to have it all has nothing at all. Her emotions were heartbreaking to read about.

There is some intense medical play, plus two other spins that gave us some scorching hot scenes to observe. My only issue at the end was that Ryder’s play felt far too hard core for a total newbie to the scene to handle. It was addressed at one point, and yes this is fiction, so perhaps others found it easier to let go. Personally it felt that, along with boundaries being severely pushed, believability was also being pushed too.

However this was more than made up for with the intensity of the connection between Khloe and Ryder. He went from zero to hero during the story, with the way he saw the true Khloe and what she needed. Though that ending is quite tough. If I hadn’t been aware of what the future had in store for this pair it would really have been a bitter pill to swallow. Thankfully it’s very much a sugar-coated one.

Wet by Jennifer Bene – 5 stars

Sienna so beautifully portrayed the lack of worth those of us with self esteem issues can suffer from. A sub willing to forego aftercare and any real affection because she wasn’t worthy of it. Alexander, of course, was the uber confident and in charge Dom with a liking to be called Daddy and a craving to push his sub’s buttons. Written so well, he induced shivers down my spine.

Ms Bene pushes our boundaries, and poor Sienna’s, with a terror inducing scene of water-based breath play. As someone who struggles to get their face wet in the shower, this both horrified and thrilled me in equal measure. It was certainly hot. Communication is vital to any BDSM scenes, so Alexander was determined to push until the very tongue tied and shy Sienna let go and talked. I can totally empathise with her when she struggled with answering his questions

There was no script for this interaction, no easy answers, she had to fucking talk to him, and that was the problem.

You either know, or you don’t know, that terrifying hot-cold feeling of opening your mouth and having a totally blank, panic filled mind. Because whatever you could say they will obviously find boring and not be interested in. It was both hard to read Sienna in those moments and uplifting too. I love that the author gives her characters real flaws that resonate with many readers.

Given that the majority of this scene wasn’t overtly sexual in nature I was amazed by how incredibly intimate it felt. A part of me did feel that Alexander overstepped the boundaries in demanding personal information from someone who he had no long term commitment with, but without it we wouldn’t have had such an amazing story.

Unmasked by Lee Savino – 2.5 stars

Whilst this story didn’t have quite the emotional or ‘kink’ impact of other stories in the book, I appreciated how it examined the feminists dilemma of submitting to a man. Chessie and Kane were both easy to like characters, though neither really captured my heart if I’m being honest.

Kane did seem to take extra care with Chessie since she was yet another “totally new to the scene and never tried it before” submissive. However I would have liked him to remind Chessie of her safeword/signal given that very fact. I also felt the ‘nasty/jealous sub’ moment was not only cliched but fed into that cliche of having to have a rival and bitchy female in the story.

Unraveled by Addison Cain – 2 stars

This was one of those books that I enjoyed well enough as I read it, but mental cogitations after the fact saw it mimic the title and unravel somewhat. The ‘hero’ of the story not only isn’t the Dom that the heroine plays Valentine Roulette with, but their relationship prior to the night had been toxic. So it made believing that they had any sort of feelings for one another very difficult. All three characters also had personality defects, and not in a good way.

Klara was brilliant in that she had taken on huge responsibilities at a very young age. She was so tough and strong, when life kicked her in the lady balls she pulled up her big girl pants and kicked it back twice as hard. So it made my wonder why she would burn her bridges by not giving adequate notice to her employer. Nor did I believe that employer held enough sway to get her blacklisted by his competitors.

For an ex-military man, Spencer was a childish, whiney bottom-hole whose behaviour was as far from professional as it was possible to get. Self-centred to the nth degree he didn’t deserve Klara in any way shape or form.

And Will, I kind of liked him until their last scene where he deliberately pushed Klara beyond her breaking point, despite knowing she was totally inexperienced and that she was unlikely to safe word until he took things to the extreme. He even acknowledge that the play wasn’t ‘sane’ because Klara had felt forced into taking part. He knew that and still continued. He also knew, from the previous scene, where her breaking point was and he stomped right over it. At that point I wasn’t sure who was the most despicable male, him or Spencer. The only way either man would ever get any sympathy from me was if I threw a dictionary at their conceited, idiotic heads.

Unbroken by Maren Smith – 3 stars

This story is less about the BDSM play and much more about the two protagonists, Abby and Newton, connecting. This really left me in a quandary because I loved the depth it gave the story, and you could really see not only the characters grow but also the fledgling connection start to bloom. However it meant, for me, that it lacked that sizzle that I want from a BlackLight book but overall the pros and cons are balanced.

I did like both characters and enjoyed the story, it was also a nice change of pace to give the book some balance. Extra points were earned for the pair NOT being madly in love with one another at the end of the story!

Bared by Measha Stone – 4 stars

I’m a real sucker for second chance, so this was already going well with me. Add into the mix a heroine who hid her vulnerabilities behind a hard as nails exterior and an amazing Dom who was determined not to let her run away a second time, and you’ve got yourself a winner.

They spin humiliation, but don’t worry, it never felt too much or too over the top. In fact it was very gentle in those terms. However Dane does lay bare all of Riley’s insecurities and fears, pushing her to truly accept her submissive nature. Yes he pushes her, and pushes her hard, but he is there every single step of the way, ready to catch her should she fall and always, always giving her the strength and support she needs.

When Dane got Riley to wash the word she wrote about herself off of her arm, I wasn’t sure whether to sob or swoon.

Stripped by Sophie Kisker – 3.5 stars

I really enjoyed this story, though it did stir a bit of conflict inside me. I admired that Sari made the decision she did (in the bathroom) though I could equally understand why Adam was upset by it. I didn’t agree with his “special” comment, that’s a very male perpetuation of a problem that has been around for a long time.

I felt we spent more time in Sari’s mind during the story, which was great because the author really showed us what some peoples submission looked like. I found her thought process and decisions to be fascinating and enlightening. It wasn’t the steamiest offering in the book but it was a well written and very entertaining story.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Title – Black Light Valentine Roulette
Author – Various
Genre – BDSM Erotica/Romance

Three hours. Four hard limits. Eight sexy stories.
Are you brave enough to spin the wheel?

Black Light is the most exclusive BDSM club in Washington, D.C. and for one night they’re changing the rules of play to entertain their members with a game of chance – Valentine Roulette. Challenge and adventure awaits as these sexy dominants spin to win their submissives, and the subs spin to choose how they will play. Their prize if they last the night? One free month at Black Light, and for some of our daring participants… even a chance at love.

Favourite Reads from – Part One

For the last few years I’ve written a post on my top 12 books of the year, and my top 12 series’ of the year. This time I’m going to do thinks a little differently and talk about my top 3 reads in various categories/genres/tropes.

First category is Contemporary Romance.

This is a genre I’ve found myself reading less and less of, at least in terms of ‘straight’ contemporary. My first, and greatest, love in reading was the sci-fi/fantasy genre with authors such as Anne McCaffrey, Julian May, Katherine Kerr, Andre Norton and David Eddings being amongst my favourites. Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams will forever hold a special place in my heart, and prominence on my book shelf. Of late I have found myself drawn back to the genre, but preferring those books which also combine it with a good love story.

However I have read some excellent contemporary romances this year, and actually struggled to narrow the group down to a top 3! Colour me surprised because I didn’t actually expect to find even that number to include.


1. Bass-Akwards by Eris Adderly.

This is one seriously under-recognised author. Her writing is superb and I just wished she was more well known, Eris thoroughly deserves it.

It’s the story of a seriously messed up pair, who are dysfunctional to the extreme yet who somehow come together to create something wonderful. It’s one of those “so wrong, it’s right” stories and I loved every minute of it.

My full review can be found here – https://louisesbookbuzz.home.blog/2019/04/09/bass-akwards-eris-adderly/ – for what, to me, is a must read book.

2. Crazy on You by Amelia Wilde.

This is part of a series of books on the Bliss brothers, and oh what bliss they do bring. I really enjoyed the whole series, but Charlie and Leta just had that something extra special about them.

It’s a second chance romance, which has always been a guilty pleasure of mine. I’m just a sucker for folks getting their much needed HEA and this story just ticked all my boxes.

The full review can be found here – https://louisesbookbuzz.home.blog/2019/05/31/crazy-on-you-bliss-brothers-4-by-amelia-wilde/. This is a book that will give you plenty of feels.

3. Rogue Wave by Gwyn McNamee.

This is part of an ongoing series, which really needs to be read in order to fully enjoy and understand the back story. Each book features one couple, Cutter, the hero in this one, is a complete alpha-hole but in the best way possible. He’s constantly brought down to size by the bad-ass heroine that is Valentina.

The book is full of twists, turns and steam. Find the full review here – https://louisesbookbuzz.home.blog/2019/08/22/rogue-wave/.

I did have a fourth book, Rebel’s Redemption by Lexi C Foss, that I also need to mention. It is A-MAZ-ING and it’s only because I’m going to be featuring this author in other categories that I didn’t feature the book more widely here.

Next are my favourite 3 books containing BDSM. This was a category that I DID struggle with deciding on, I could easily have included many more books. In fact I’m featuring a series as one of my choices.

BDSM romance

1. Special Agent BDSM series by C.P. Mandara.

There are 6 books in the series, the final one was released a few days ago and I am currently reading (and loving) it. The first book, Sparks, is free. It is more erotic, less dark than the subsequent books, which take us into a dark, underground world full of danger and kink.

These have been amongst my most favourite reads of the year in any genre/trope. The author writes with a subtle humour and her characters are always strong. In fact along with Cari Silverwood, she has written some of my favourite heroines.

Sparks review link – https://louisesbookbuzz.home.blog/2019/09/03/special-agent-bdsm-1/
Smoke review link – https://louisesbookbuzz.home.blog/2019/09/04/special-agent-bdsm-2/
Flames review link – https://louisesbookbuzz.home.blog/2019/09/05/special-agent-bdsm-3/
Fire review link – https://louisesbookbuzz.home.blog/2019/09/06/special-agent-bdsm-4/
Embers review link – https://louisesbookbuzz.home.blog/2019/12/21/embers/
Ashes – https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3104159478

2. Twisted Fates by Kitty Thomas.

Let’s face it, Kitty Thomas is the QUEEN of the dark romance. If you haven’t read Comfort Food I can only say – “Why?”. It’s not an easy read but it is amazing, as is Twisted Fates which is part of the interlinked Pleasure House series and may be read as a stand alone story.

Whilst it’s a morally dubious story, it doesn’t contain non-consent and the dubious consent isn’t all that dubious either. On paper we should hate the hero, and in real life I’d want to see him locked away from society for a very long time. However Kitty persuades us that not only is Lyndsay perfect for Shannon, but she made me love him too.

My review can be found here – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2654606.Kitty_Thomas – heaven only knows why I haven’t shared it on the blog yet. It must have been a busy arc period!

3. Black Light: Scandalized by Livia Grant.

Technically the Black Light books can be read stand alone, though part of this story builds on a short story by the same author in the Celebrity Roulette anthology. The book features two separate couples, mainly focusing on two new characters, Shane and Nalani, but also concluding Piper and Nolan’s story that began in Switched.

This book should have a trigger warning – there is a very violent and detailed rape scene. It wasn’t added just for the shock factor and the aftermath was handled well, in my opinion.

My review can be found here – https://louisesbookbuzz.home.blog/2019/10/30/a-journey-into-the-world-of-black-light/.

Romantic Suspense

1. The Savage Duet by Nicolina Martin.

The link will take you to all 5 books of the Russo Saga. It’s a series of interlinked books, all of which I can highly recommend, but the duet of Absolution and Redemption are definitely my favourites. T

he story takes you to hell and back, along with the anti-hero and heroine. There were times. whilst reading Absolution, where i had to take an “feelings break” in order to recharge my emotional batteries.

My reviews for this duet can be found here – https://louisesbookbuzz.home.blog/2019/08/08/redemption/ – and here – https://louisesbookbuzz.home.blog/2019/08/24/book-review-absolution/

2. The Kingmaker Saga #2, 3 & 4 by London Miller.

Book #1, White Rabbit: The Rise, was listed amongst my favourite reads of 2018. The series has gone from strength to strength this year, with the release of 3 further books and the imminent release of book #5, Dark Horse.

White Rabbit: The Fall, Black Swan and Red Herring continue the story of Belladonna and The Kingmaker, otherwise known as Karina and Uilleam. And oh what a twisty, cat-and-mouse, game-of-chess, power-play story it is. London Miller has an amazing talent for weaving a complex tale where a seemingly random array of threads pull together at the last minute to form an intricately detailed tapestry.

My links can be found here – https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2722883777?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1 , here – https://louisesbookbuzz.home.blog/2019/05/27/black-swan-the-kingmaker-saga-3-by-london-miller/ – and here – https://louisesbookbuzz.home.blog/2019/08/17/red-herring/.

3. Beauty (Part 1 & Part 2) by Kirsty Dallas.

Part of the Blaire’s World collection, and based on Anita Gray’s books of the same name, this is a dark and delicious duet. It delves into the underbelly of society, a world of pain, cruelty and evil and it doesn’t pull it’s punches.

One could argue that this belongs in the “Dark” catagory, below, but it’s my post so it’s my rules.

My reviews can be found here – https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2705398076?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1 and here – https://louisesbookbuzz.home.blog/2019/05/19/beau2y-part-1-by-kirsty-dallas/.

Again, I need to mention a Lexi C Foss book, this time it is the amazing Scarlet Mark. Part of the Cavalieri Della Morte series, it was the book that brought the author to my attention. When I discovered this was her first foray into Romantic Suspense I was gobsmacked to say the least. I tell you, she hit this one out of the ball park, and then some.

I’m going to finish today’s post with my top 3 Dark Reads of the year, and will be back tomorrow with 4 other categories of goodness to share. I think this was the hardest group to pare down to just 3 books, but I did it eventually!

Dark Romance

1. The Five by Lily White.

No list is complete without a Lily White book, she is an expert at knowing how to mess with your mind. She’s had some personal struggles this year, so has been very quite for the last few months, but we are expecting a new release soon and I, for one, can’t wait to read more by this wonderful author.

The Five is typical Lily White, and was a very popular Book of the Month over in the Dark Erotica group on Goodreads. It’s not your typical romance and is very psychological, testing your morals, pushing your boundaries and challenging your judgemental side. It was a book that seemed to have a marmite effect, dividing readers into loved it or hated it. I was most definitely in the former camp and highly recommend it.

My review can be found here – https://louisesbookbuzz.home.blog/2019/03/20/the-five-by-lily-white/.

2. Crazy Broken Love by Jennifer Bene.

This story started life as Cocoon in the ‘Just Breathe‘ anthology, but has since been extended and improved, even though I didn’t feel that was possible as I thought the original was already perfect.

This is not as dark a piece of work as we are used to from Ms Bene. It does contain strong elements of dub-con, hence including it in this group. Crazy Broken Love spoke to me deeply and left me questioning my own prejudices, however unintentional they are.

My review of this amazing story can be found here – https://louisesbookbuzz.home.blog/2019/11/16/a-truly-crazy-story/.

3. Dark Necessities Prequel series by Felicity Brandon.

For some reason the link only takes you to the first two books of the trilogy. Book #3, Forbidden, can be found here. The trilogy of books are NOT stand alone and must be read in order, they feature Ethan and Lily, the parents of Conor, who is the anti-hero of the original Dark Necessities trilogy.

Despite not liking Ethan for most of the story, my love for Lily (and her love of Ethan) made this one gripping must-read series for me. It’s dark and Ethan is not a good man, not a good man at all. But he does love Lily and that was his saving grace for this reader.

My review of the books can be found here – https://louisesbookbuzz.home.blog/2019/05/07/flawed-by-felicity-brandon/ – here – https://louisesbookbuzz.home.blog/2019/06/26/fallen-dark-necessities-prequel-by-felicity-brandon/ – and here – https://louisesbookbuzz.home.blog/2019/08/10/forbidden/.

A Journey into the world of Black Light

BlackLight: Scandalized
by Livia Grant

5+ STARS 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

BOOM! Mind blown and mouth agape at this masterpiece.

Wow, wow and triple wow. Having had the massively good fortune to not only meet Livia Grant but chat with her (after the Four Brits Book Fest), I know how much blood, sweat and tears were involved in writing this book. I want to just say that it was worth it because without a shadow of a doubt this is her best book to date, and is up there as one of the best Black Light books too.

The book mainly follows a new couple, Nalani and Shane, though there is enough of Piper and Nolan’s story to satisfy the ‘need it now’ feeling, resulting from their appearance in the Celebrity Roulette anthology. There are several ways that these four characters are linked, some obvious, others less so.

I wish I’d re-read Piper and Nolan’s Celebrity Roulette story, just to have the events and ‘feelings’ fresh in my mind. However this book has been written in such a way that you can enjoy it without having read that story first, it really is a standalone book. I absolutely fell in love with these characters, they were believable and had depth, growing and learning as their stories unfolded.

There are some incredibly hot BDSM scenes for those who enjoy a little spice to their read. Shane has a penchant for humiliation play on an almost sadistic level, Nalani is a BDSM novice. Thankfully safewords were discussed and encouraged, though I would have liked to see some discussion/negotiation of limits too.

I just couldn’t read this book quickly enough, always desperate to know what was going to happen next. At the same time I wanted to make it last forever, savouring each moment and submerging myself in the amazing world created by this supremely talented author.

Scandalized is an absolutely amazing read, firmly ensconcing itself as one of my favourite reads of the year. I had the day off and, despite my best intentions to take my time, I just couldn’t put it down. It’s an absolute must read for any Black Light, Livia Grant or BDSM romance fan. I would also happily recommend it to those who like contemporary romance and are willing to be a little more adventurous.

***This book does contain a fairly graphic sexual assault scene, if that is a potential trigger this may not be the book for you. I felt the issue was handled sensitively, respectfully and in a believable manner. ***


Four lives tangled by an invisible thread…
Prepare to be scandalized!

Nolan and Piper have a lot in common, and a complicated history that has already hit the rocks twice before. But their undeniable chemistry keeps pulling them back together, and even if she’s Mistress Ice, Nolan is determined to have Piper any way he can get her — secrets and all. 

Famous actor, Shane Covington has almost nothing in common with Runway housekeeper Nalani Ione, but after one fateful meeting there’s no denying the fire between them. Dirty words and naughty fun bring them closer and closer together… but there’s danger in the halls of Black Light.

One dark force will bring these two couples crashing together, and it will take love to bring the scandal to light.

Buy LInks

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