Category Archives: Net-Galley

Books given to me for review through NetGalley

New Release Tour! Life on the Level (On the Verge #3) by Zoraida Córdova *Review, Excerpt and Giveaway*

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Life on the Level (On the Verge #3)
by Zoraida Córdova

A New Adult Contemporary Romance
From Diversion Books
Released February 23rd 2016

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Never gamble more than you can afford to lose.

River Thomas was born a wild card. Her father took one look at her and decided that his daughter would have the best poker face in the city.

But when he dies unexpectedly, River’s already dangerous life is spiraling out of control. After six months without gambling—staying away from the tables where she makes and loses her fortune—she relapses, and soon must go on the run from a guy looking to settle a score.

She wants to be better, needs to be better, before she ends up like her dad. The road leads her to rehab in Sun Valley, Montana. But first, one last hurrah, and the beautiful stranger at the bar is just what the doctor ordered. She leaves before sunrise still thinking of his face. But her last hurrah with the guy of her dreams is also her counselor for the next ninety days…

Attraction, however, is too strong a lure to ignore, and soon River finds herself gambling with the one thing she never thought she would—her heart.

 

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Review

4 stars

River is heading off to rehab in the morning so she plans to have one last wild night before checking in. Alcohol and sex with a handsome stranger is all she bargained for. Regret, hesitation and longing–not so much.

What I enjoyed the most about this story was River’s voice. It’s rare for me to connect to a heroine as easily as I did with River. She was hard edged, sarcastic and painfully honest, but underneath that tough exterior she was loyal, protective and hiding a great amount of hurt. I appreciated Zoraida Cordova’s efforts to allow me to get to know River well for it helped draw me in deeper into the story.

It also helped that I was eager to see Hutch and River together. Having them being apart initially as well as seeing River adapting to sober life, served to up my interest as well. The author did a fantastic job of making the reader feel River’s frustrations, fears and insecurities while also letting us experience the growth she was undergoing while at rehab.

Of course, Hutch and River had great chemistry and a wonderful connection which the author highlighted and brought to the surface as the story progressed. Both of these elements are essential for me in a romance and I appreciated the way the author brought them forth while still adding the conflict and emotions that rounded up the story.

Keep in mind that although this is the third book in the series, it can be read as a stand alone. I enjoyed Leti and Sky’s visit, but was glad to see the story focused solely on River and her journey. All in all, a fantastic read.

*I received a copy of this title in exchange of my honest opinion.
 

Excerpt
From Chapter 5

“I have to go,” I say.

I start to turn the doorknob. He practically jumps over his desk.

“Wait.”

“What?” I snap.

He shuts the door, then takes several steps away, drawing a line between our personal spaces.

“River, please, just hear me out.”

“Stop saying my name!” Why am I angry? Why is he here?

“I don’t know what else to call you.”

Flashback: him, grabbing my face with his strong hands. You are so beautiful.

I brush my hair out of my face, wishing I could do something about the heat on my skin. “I don’t know. This is—this is not okay.”

He looks at me for a bit. Now that I’m getting over the shock of our reunion, I can get a better look at him with a sober brain. If beer goggles make uggos more attractive, then imagine what it’s done to someone like him. In my mind, I take into account that I lost the bet with myself. He’s not a cowboy. He’s a counselor.

He’s my counselor.

He messes up his hair, making him look all the more adorably rumpled.

“I’m just as shocked as you, River.”

“I’m just going to go.” I feel like a trapped mouse. “This is just too weird. I can’t be here.”

He nods, then after another painful pause goes, “You’re right.”

“Okay.” I dump my coffee in the trashcan and turn around.

He starts to reach for me. I can feel his fingers graze my elbow. He thinks better of it. Then his touch is gone.

“I shouldn’t be your counselor. That doesn’t mean you should leave. You came here to get help. I should’ve seen it when we met.”

“Why?” I ask angrily. “Because I was a drunken mess throwing herself at you? You didn’t seem to mind.”

“That’s not fair.”

“Welcome to this funny little thing called life.”

“I should’ve seen it because you looked so sad. I could see myself—I mean, I should’ve seen there was more to you. I don’t mean it in a bad way. I mean that part of me didn’t want to ask because I just needed—“

“Needed what?”

He shoves his hands into his pockets.

Don’t look at his jeans.

“I just needed to have you. I don’t do things like that normally.”

“And I do? Because I’m some raging slut.” Well, I do do things like that normally. They just never blow up so spectacularly in my face.

“Stop deflecting.”

“Don’t Psych 101 me.”

He smirks.

“And stop smirking.”

He licks his lips, and that just makes everything so much worse. He crosses his arms over his chest, leans against his desk. What a lucky fucking desk.

“Don’t leave because of me, please. I’ll stay out of your way. I can be professional, even if what happened between us isn’t a testament to that.”

I’m suddenly cold. I rub the goose bumps from my arms.

“This is like the let’s-be-friends speech,” I say.

He pushes his tongue against his cheek, and I can tell he wants to say something inappropriate. Maybe flirty.

“Not used to that?”

I shrug. “Won’t people ask questions about me switching counselors? Word on the street is people are clamoring to be yours. I mean—your patients.”

He smiles, and when he smiles I realize we can never be friends. Not if he keeps looking at me that way.

“Are the gossip mills getting to you already?”

“Something like that.”

“Just—be careful who you share things with here. Sometimes information is more valuable than money or cigarettes.”

“I don’t want to get kicked out. And I don’t want either of us to get in trouble. Besides, we didn’t do anything wrong. We are two consenting adults. We met before I checked in, and we’re not pursuing anything.”

“Right.”

“Exactly.”

“I know.”

“Me too.”

He sighs. “I’ll speak to Helen this afternoon. Tell her you’d be better suited to someone else.”

“Okay.” Part of me, the part that’s committed to doing this, is congratulating herself. This is so grown up. This is mature and reasonable. I don’t really need to be here, do I?

The other part—the girl who lost the bet on the man who was supposed to be a rough-and-tumble cowboy—is itching for another shot. God, I wish I had that flask right about now.

“This is the best thing to do,” he says.

“For you or for me?”

“For both, I hope.”

“Are you sure this is okay?”

“You’re the first patient to get transferred out of my sessions.” He walks around his desk and sits again. “Don’t worry, I can take a hint.”

“What do you mean?”

“You walked out on me, remember?”

I nod, and let myself out. I walk away from him for the second time in two days.

 

About the Author

Zoraida Cordova

Zoraida Córdova was born in Ecuador and raised in Queens. She is the author of The Vicious Deep Trilogy. She studied English Lit at Hunter College, and The University of Montana before finding a home for herself in the (kinda) glittering world of New York City’s nightlife. She prefers her cocktails shaken, her bacon crispy, and her men with a side of chivalry.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads

 

Author Giveaway!

http://www.zoraidacordova.com/2016/01/when-did-you-fall-in-love-life-on-the-level-pre-order-gift-giveaway/

 

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New Release Tour! A Friendly Flirtation (Friends First #3) by Christine Warner *Review, Excerpt and Giveaway*

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A Friendly Flirtation (Friends First #3)
by Christine Warner

A Contemporary Romance
From Entangled Publishing
Released February 15th 2016

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One kiss can change your life…

Allison Hall is fed up with being a social outcast. Even at the tech company where she works for her brother and his best friend, Jared, she’s the invisible nerdy girl. What she needs is confidence-and that requires a makeover and dating tips. And she knows just the man to help…

Jared Esterly is shocked when Allison asks for his assistance and turns her down, knowing that her brother-his business partner and best friend, Nick-would kill him if he dated her, even if it is just for practice. But when Al’s attempt to make changes on her own fails spectacularly, Jared reluctantly steps in. Things heat up quickly, and soon lessons move from the salon to the bedroom.

When overprotective big-brother Nick discovers Jared is dating Allison, their friendship and business partnership sour. Allison, consumed by guilt, must make a choice: stay with Jared, even though that means ruining his friendship with Nick and possibly his career, or leave the one man who sets her on fire.

 

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Review

3-stars

3.25 stars

Allison is ready for a change and is hoping that her brother’s best friend helps her in her transition. But when he refuses, she decides to to do it on her own. Failing spectacularly doesn’t necessarily deter her from continuing her quest, but now that Jared is willing to help she feels confident in her decision.

Jared didn’t always notice Allison, but he’s always admired her smarts and her quirkiness. So when she comes at him with the plan a plan to help her get her foot in the dating world, he is tempted but refuses to jeopardize his friendship with his best friend. But Allison brings out all his protective instincts to the surface and when he notices how determined she is to go ahead with her plan, he decides to help her along.

Soon sparks are flying, emotions start running rampant and what started as a way to get Allison into the dating world soon turns into both of them developing feelings for each other.

Although I’ve read plenty of stories with this premise, I was intrigued on how the author was going to bring it all together. Especially since I thought Allison would be a great character to get to know. Thankfully, I was not disappointed in that regards.

Allison and Jared were both great characters. They had their flaws and yearned to find that someone to spend the rest of their lives with but both were stuck in their own issues to make an attempt into love. I enjoyed how the author went about bringing Jared and Allison’s connection to the page. Their interactions were entertaining and ranged from flirty and fun to honest and emotion-driven. I especially liked how Christine Warner built up their chemistry from a tiny spark to smoldering as the story progressed. Especially since I got to experience the emotions each struggled with when they realized there was something more than friendship between them.

My only complaint would have to be Allison’s brother and the conflict that added to the story. Nick’s overreaction to Allison and Jared’s involvement only managed to irritate me, especially when it only served to highlight Jared and Allison’s inability to stand up for what they wanted. Thankfully, both of them grew a backbone and fought for their relationship. But my attention had already drifted and my interest had waned.

Keep in mind that although this is the third book in the Friends First series it can be read as a stand alone.

All in all, a fun flirty romance with some emotions added into the mix to round it up.

*I received a copy of this title in exchange of my honest opinion.

 

Excerpt

She leaned her forehead against his chin, then tilted her head back, parting her lips and inviting him in for another kiss.

And he wanted seconds. More than he’d ever imagined. The soft blush creeping over her face, the way her breasts strained against her blouse as she tried to regain her breathing only encouraged him. Holy. Fuck. With her it’d be too easy to forget where the hell they were. And he didn’t like an audience. Not now. With Allison, not ever.

But that didn’t stop him from running his thumb over her bottom lip. For a second he lost sense of where they were when her eyes grew dark and her lashes fluttered gently over her skin. She looked so beautiful, and that protective urge— or maybe he should just call it what is is…lust—overtook him. He couldn’t picture her with anyone but him. Fuck. He didn’t want her with anyone else. Screw Nick. He’d deal with him later.

If anyone would teach Allison how to please a man, let a real man do the job.

Him.

She was ready, so was he. He was willing, and so was she. And they were both adults. “Al, I don’t want you with any of these men.”

She sighed, sagging against him. “Are we really going to have this conversation again? I—”

He took her mouth in a hard kiss, parting the seam of her lips with his tongue and thrusting inside, swallowing her gasp. She melted against him. He slid his hands down her throat, past her shoulders, and lower still until he curved his arm around her back and squeezed her rear. She smiled into their kiss, and this time he melted. “Do I need to rephrase?” he whispered against her mouth.

She shook her head, their mouths still touching. “I really only wanted one man in this room, but I didn’t think he wanted—”

“You better be talking about me.” He leaned back just far enough so he could watch the way her emotions flickered across her eyes. Excitement. Uncertainty. Acceptance. She nodded, her lips parted and moist.

“Are you telling me—?”

“I’m telling you I’ve come to my senses. Or lost them completely.”

 

About the Author

christine

Christine Warner is living her dream in Michigan along with her family, one laptop, and a much loved assortment of furry friends.

Besides laughing and a good dose of humor, she enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, reading, writing, but no arithmetic. A confessed people watcher, she finds inspiration for her stories in everyday activities. She loves to read and write about strong heroes, and determined, sometimes sassy, heroines.

A girl gone wild, at least where social media is concerned, she enjoys meeting other avid readers and writers on facebook, twitter and her website at christine-warner.com.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads

 

 

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New Release! Call Me, Maybe by Ellie Cahill *Review*

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Call Me, Maybe
by Ellie Cahill

A New Adult Contemporary Romance
From Loveswept
Released February 9th 2016

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Ellie Cahill is definitely one to watch!” raves bestselling author Cora Carmack, and this steamy, upbeat modern romance about connecting in all the best ways proves it once again.

Clementine Daly knows she’s the black sheep. Her wealthy, powerful family has watched her very closely since she almost got caught in an embarrassing scandal a few years ago. So when Clementine’s sent on a mission to live up to the Daly name, politely declining isn’t an option. Of course, the last thing she does before boarding the plane is to grab a stranger’s phone by mistake—leaving the hunky journalist with her phone. Soon his sexy voice is on the line, but he doesn’t know her real name, or her famous pedigree—which is just the way Clementine likes it.

Despite all the hassles, Justin Mueller is intrigued to realize that the beautiful brown-eyed girl he met at the airport is suddenly at his fingertips. They agree to exchange phones when they’re both back in town, but after a week of flirty texts and wonderfully intimate conversations, Justin doesn’t want to let her go. The only problem? It turns out that Clemetine has been lying to him about, well, everything. Except for the one thing two people can’t fake, the only thing that matters: The heat between them is for real.

 

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Review

This was a fun, flirty read with an understated yet impressionable range of emotions that rounded up the story nicely.

I thought the author did a fantastic job in bringing forth Clementine and Justin’s connection to the page, even though their romance came about abruptly. I appreciated this immensely, especially since they met in such an unconventional way.

It helped tremendously that their chemistry jumped off the page and that their connection continued to grow and strengthen with their every encounter.

If you enjoy a sweet yet hot romance between interesting characters that are down to earth and fun to get to know, then like me, you’ll come to enjoy this story from beginning to end.

*I received a copy of this title in exchange of my honest opinion.

About the Author

ellie

Ellie Cahill is a freelance writer and also writes books for young adults under the name Liz Czukas. She lives outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with her husband, son, and the world’s loudest cat.

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HOT New Release! Pain Slut (The Subs Club #2) by J.A. Rock *Review and Giveaway*

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Pain Slut (The Subs Club #2)
by J.A. Rock

An M/M Erotic Gay Romance–BDSM
From Riptide
Released January 30th 2016

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Honestly, I’m ready to take a step back from the Subs Club. Making the kink world a safer place for subs is the sort of bandwagon I’d have boarded as an idealist in my early twenties, but now I’m a pragmatist in my late twenties. I prefer to focus on adopting and raising a child.

But unexpected factors inevitably derail my plans. Like Drix Seger—attractive and the first genuine sadist I’ve encountered. If I were not in the process of renouncing my masochistic ways and becoming the normal, responsible potential father the adoption agency wants to see, Drix and I might do well together.

But he has a foolish name and belongs to a cult of vampyres, and I am quitting kink. So why does Drix’s infatuation with blood and biting make me so hot I can’t think straight? And why, when he looks at me, does he seem to see something beyond a basket case with a stick up my ass?

Can I start a new phase in my life without leaving part of myself behind? Please send help.

—Miles

 

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Review

5-stars

I was lucky to be able to read Miles’s story right after finishing The Subs Club. I was intrigued by his ways–especially his declaration that he would be stepping away from the lifestyle. And also, he was a hell of a pain slut according to the little I learned about him, so I anticipated his story would be epic.

I’m glad to say that it was I was expecting and so much more! A lot more!

Miles is at a stage in life where he feels he needs to finally put down some roots and has decided to adopt. Miles is smart, practical, but he can’t reconcile the thought that he can be a masochist and a father both. He believes himself to be an arrogant jerk who enjoys pain, but doesn’t necessarily see himself as worthy of having it all. It takes meeting Drix, a sadist, for him to accept himself and try his hand at having it all–a successful business, a son, his kink and a partner.

I have to say, this was not exactly an easy read for me. I’m not one for pain and some of the scenes were more ‘out there’ than I am used to reading. However, what made this such an amazing read for me was Miles and the way the author went about telling his story–some humor, range in emotion, banter and kink, kink, kink!

Kudos to JA Rock for not pulling any punches when it came to allowing the reader to see deep into the nitty gritty of Miles’ kink without taking away from his journey–personally and romantically.

I loved that I got to see what drove Miles and what encumbered him too. It made him feel so much more real and his journey all that much more intriguing. I enjoyed watching the complexities of his character and how everything unraveled as the story progressed.

Of course, much of Miles’ growth was aided by Drix’s presence in his life. He brought peace, understanding and a thrill that had gone missing in Miles’ life. Plus, Drix had some intriguing characteristics himself. I enjoyed his easy acceptance of Miles’ kink, doubts and determination to be a father. I also admired his determination to adjust to Miles’ needs and his ability to recognize what Miles needed and when he needed it.

As this is the second book in The Subs Club series, we get to see more of the characters that starred in the first book. We also get to learn the way David plans to move the club in another direction while still getting some insight into the other characters as well.

All in all, an intense amazing read.. I can’t wait to see whose story is next!

*I received a copy of this title in exchange of my honest opinion.

 

The Subs Club series

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About the Author

J.A. Rock has worked as a dog groomer, knife seller, haunted house zombie, standardized patient, cashier, census taker, state fair quilt hanger, and, for one less-than-magical evening, a server—and would much rather be writing about those jobs than doing them. A lover of m/m BDSM romance, J.A. lives mostly in West Virginia, and always with a beloved dog, Professor Anne.

Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

 

Giveaway!

Leave a comment for a chance to win your choice of two backlist titles from J.A. Rock and a $10 Amazon gift card. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on February 6, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. Entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

 

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New Release! Against the Wall by Jill Sorenson *Excerpt and Giveaway*

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Against the Wall
by Jill Sorenson

A Contemporary Romantic Suspense
From Loveswept
Released February 2nd 2016

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Fans of Katie McGarry, Simone Elkeles, and Tammara Webber will love Against the Wall! As teenagers, they fell for each other despite the odds. But now that Eric and Meghan are all grown up, they’re reunited by fierce passion and dangerous secrets.
 
Eric Hernandez is the bad boy of every schoolgirl’s fantasies—and every mother’s nightmares. But after serving time for manslaughter, he’s ready to turn his life around. He just needs a chance to prove himself as a professional tattoo artist. The one thing that keeps him going is the memory of the innocent beauty he loved and left behind.

Meghan Young’s world isn’t as perfect as it looks. The preacher’s daughter is living a lie, especially now that Eric is back. Tougher, harder, and sexier than ever, he might be the only person she can trust. But there’s no telling what he’ll do to protect her if he learns the truth, and that’s a risk Meghan won’t let him take. And yet, back in the arms of the troubled boy with the artist’s soul, Meghan can’t help surrendering to the man he’s become.

 

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Excerpt

Noah exchanges a glance with April and takes Jenny into the kitchen. It’s awkward, being on his turf. I don’t belong here. I belong in Castle Park, the down-and-out neighborhood where I used to live with my grandma. Now she’s in Mexico with the rest of my family, and I have nowhere else to go. Nowhere safe, that is. I’m supposed to stay in a stable environment, and I can’t leave San Diego. It’s one of the conditions of my parole.

“Let’s get you settled,” April says brightly.

I grab my backpack and follow her. On the phone she told me I could sleep in the den. It looks sort of like an office with a small bed in the corner. I spot a vintage desk and an old-school record player I recognize as Meghan’s.

I’m struck by memories of the last day I spent with her. She had a room upstairs back then. When we first met, it was just Meghan and Noah living here. She put on some music and I laid her down on her bed. I took everything she had to offer and then some. I can’t even bring myself to regret it. That memory, more than any other, has sustained me on lonely nights in my cell. I’ve jerked off to a thousand variations of it.

I know that Meghan moved out a few months ago, but I imagine her lingering presence. The smell of her hair on the pillows.

“This was Meghan’s room?” I say, my voice hoarse.

April opens the closet, which is half-full of girl clothes. “I can ask her to move her stuff.”

“No,” I say. I don’t need the space; everything I own fits inside a backpack.

“Are you sure?”

I sit on the bed, nodding. This arrangement is temporary, anyway. “Which room are you going to use for the nursery?”

April waves her hand in the air. “I want the crib in my room. You can stay here as long as you like.”

I wonder if Noah is on board with this. He can’t be thrilled about having an ex-con under the same roof with his pregnant wife and stepdaughter. He got promoted to the homicide division, but money might be tight. I should cut out as soon as possible. I’m not a charity case, and even though Meghan’s not here, it doesn’t feel right to inhabit her space.

It feels . . . dangerous. Tempting.

I’ll never forget the look on her face when I told her I didn’t want her. She stared at me with soft blue eyes and trembling lips, pale from shock. Hardest fucking lie I ever told—and I’m an accomplished liar. But I couldn’t let her waste three years on me. I couldn’t let myself wish for something that far beyond my reach. I had to be cruel to be kind.

At least, that was how I justified my actions three years ago. Looking back, maybe I just wanted to be a dick. Getting locked up has that effect. It touches every raw nerve and stirs every violent tendency. It stokes prejudices and festers resentments. The only acceptable outlet for male prisoners is rage.

“When you’re ready, come out to the backyard. Noah’s grilling some carne asada.”

My stomach rumbles loud enough for her to hear. Smiling, she slips out the door and down the hall. She looks happy. That’s the difference in her, along with her rounded belly and fuller curves. She’s not exhausted anymore. Noah takes care of her. Or she takes care of him.

They take care of each other.

April hooked up with Noah around the same time I started seeing Meghan. He interviewed her about the murder of one of her coworkers, a waitress at Club Suave. Cops aren’t supposed to date anyone involved in their investigations, but apparently he couldn’t resist. They fell in love before I went to prison and got married shortly after.

Noah has been good to April and Jenny. Much better than Raul was. Even so, my urge to leave grows stronger. I don’t want to cause problems or be a burden to anyone. I’ve never been part of a nice family. I don’t know how to act civilized anymore.

This isn’t my scene.

I glance around, wiping my sweaty palms on my jeans. There’s a nightstand by the bed. I open the first drawer and peer inside. Unlike the closet, it’s empty. I close it in mild disappointment. I’m not sure what I expected to find in there. Some random girl stuff, like makeup and perfume.

I remove the clothes from my backpack and toss them into the empty drawer. I have three shirts, an extra pair of pants, and some basketball shorts. Then I bring out my prized possession: my portfolio.

I like art. I can draw almost anything from memory. My favorite medium is spray paint on a fresh concrete wall, but in prison the materials are limited. Most of my drawings are ink on lined paper.

I also do ink on skin. It’s how I survived in the joint.

I was only twenty when I went in. I’m about five foot ten, not the biggest guy on the block. I’ve got muscles and I’m strong, but I’ll never be huge. I have a lean build and features they call handsome. To say that I needed protection is an understatement. Despite my unlucky size and face, I had three things going for me when I went in. First, I was down for CVL, my local clique. The Chula Vista Locos pay dues to the Mexican Mafia, also known as La Eme. So I was already connected to a powerful prison gang.

The second advantage I had was my best friend, Junior. We both got locked up at the same time and sent to the same prison. It’s not unusual for San Diego criminals to do sentences in Chino or San Quentin—they’re the two largest correctional facilities in the state. Junior wasn’t in my cellblock, but we saw each other in the yard. He became a captain for La Eme. If anyone fucked with me, Junior made them pay.

The third advantage was my talent for art. I can hold my own in a fight, but I didn’t want to earn my keep that way. I didn’t want to be anyone’s bitch, either. Instead of offering those services, I sold drawings and tattoos. I was the best in my block.

Tattooing has been the only bright spot in my life. Without my art, and my best friend, I’d probably be dead.

 

About the Author

jillsorenson

Jill Sorenson is the RITA-nominated author of more than a dozen romantic-suspense novels. She has a degree in literature and writing from California State University. Her books have been selected as Red-Hot Reads byCosmopolitan magazine, and have received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal. Sorenson currently lives in the San Diego area with her family. She’s a soccer mom who loves nature, coffee, reading, Twitter, and reality TV.

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Tour! Extreme Honor (True Heroes #1) by Piper J. Drake *Review, Excerpt and Giveaway*

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Extreme Honor (True Heroes #1)
by Piper J. Drake

A Suspenseful Romance
From Forever
Released January 26th 2016

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Hot military heroes, the women who love them, and the dogs that always have their backs. EXTREME HONOR is the first book in a high adrenaline contemporary suspense series from Piper J. Drake.

HONOR, LOYALTY, LOVE

David Cruz is good at two things: war and training dogs. The ex-soldier’s toughest case is Atlas, a Belgian Malinois whose handler died in combat. Nobody at Hope’s Crossing kennel can break through the animal’s grief. That is, until dog whisperer Evelyn Jones walks into the facility… and into Atlas’s heart. David hates to admit that the curvy blonde’s mesmerizing effect isn’t limited to canines. But when Lyn’s work with Atlas puts her in danger, David will do anything to protect her.

Lyn realizes that David’s own battle scars make him uniquely qualified for his job as a trainer. Tough as nails yet gentle when it counts, he’s gotten closer to Atlas than anyone else-and he’s willing to put his hard-wired suspicion aside to let her do the same. But someone desperate enough to kill doesn’t want Lyn working with Atlas. Now only teamwork, trust, and courage can save two troubled hearts and the dog who loves them both…

 

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Review

3-stars

Evelyn Jones arrives at Hope’s Crossing Kennel to assist in the rehabilitation of a military dog who’s having trouble adjusting after his handler’s death. She’s an experienced trainer whose focus is more on the psychological aspects of the dog’s behavior rather than the physical or tactical. She’s excited with the prospect of working with a dog of this type and hopes the success of the case helps to further her career.

David Cruz works as a dog trainer along with his former-military buddies at Hope Crossing’s Kennel. He is Atlas’s primary trainer. He is determined to help Atlas through his funk and get to the bottom of his buddy’s death and doesn’t appreciate having another trainer in the case. Especially a civilian who has never worked with military dogs. However, after witnessing Atlas’ reaction to Lyn he decides to give her a chance to work with the dog. It doesn’t help the case that he’s insanely attracted to the woman or that her presence awakens his every protective instinct.

The very first thing that attracted me to this book was the cover and my anticipation only grew as I read the blurb. The concept of ‘Hot military heroes, the women who love them, and the dogs that always have their backs” sold me on the story and I couldn’t wait to get started. Sadly, the book didn’t fully live up to my expectations.

Don’t get me wrong, the concept was interesting and the author went to great lengths to bring that to the page. I enjoyed Atlas and everything that pertained to him and/or his rehabilitation. I just believe that the romance got lost among the other elements that were introduced.

The premise was intriguing and kept my interest throughout. I enjoyed the added mystery of who was after Lyn and the truth surrounding the death of Atlas’ handler. I admit, I got somewhat lost among the twists and turns the author brought forth, but I enjoyed the process and the added suspense it brought to the page.

Unfortunately, the romance left me wanting and not in a good way. Lyn and David shared an instant attraction, but their chemistry lacked in intensity and their connection never made it fully into the page. I felt like I was just riding along without any chance of investing myself in these characters’ lives. Mainly, I didn’t get a a full picture of who Lyn and David were as individuals. In truth, we mostly got to know Lyn and how her relationship with her stepfather has impacted her life and not much more. And sadly, we got to learn even less about David. This is turn prevented me from connecting with the character’s on a deeper level. It didn’t help that I couldn’t see more than a thread of a connection between them. I would have preferred less self-analysis on Lyn’s side and more personal interaction between Lyn and David.

As the first book in a series, Extreme Honor worked well. The author did a good job of introducing the main players in the series while giving the readers an inside look into Hope Crossing’s Kennel. It also delivered a bit of intrigued and gave the reader an idea of what to expect in books to come.

*I received a copy of this title in exchange of my honest opinion.

 

Excerpt

Her heart rate had picked up, fluttering at the pulse point under his touch.

“Yeah?” The urge to slide has hands over more delicate areas grew and he couldn’t help running his thumb along the inside of her arm.

Awareness grew in her gaze and she bit her lip as she nodded.

He leaned toward her, focused on her plump lip caught under her teeth.

“What else do you like?”

She opened her mouth to answer but he didn’t plan to let her get a word out. Maybe later. He bent his head to capture her lips.

And seventy five pounds of fur jumped up on his side.

“The hell?”

Lyn gasped. “Atlas!”

Af.” Mindful of the dog’s injury, Cruz gave Atlas a gentle shove.

The dog dropped back to all fours, his tongue lolling. Looking from him to Lyn and back again, Atlas lay back down on his belly.

Jealous. Damn dog was jealous.

***

Be real. Every dog recognizes a fake. And good men can see through it too.

“I’d really like to help.” Honest. Simple. All the other reasons paled in comparison to this.

“Whatever is going on, you know more about it than I do.” She licked her lips, her mouth gone dry.

His gaze dipped, focusing on her mouth. “I might. I know something. I’m not sure it’s related. But this next question is important.”

Can I kiss you?

Doubtful that was the question he was going to ask. But the moment was drawing out and she very much wanted for him to ask it. “Okay.”

“Do you think I would hurt you?”

“No!” It popped out before she had time to think about it. Anger burned up from her chest and spread outward. She scowled. “Of course n—”

He kissed her.

 

7

 

Coming Soon!

Book_2_UltimateCourage
Available July 26, 2016
Ultimate Courage (True Heroes, #2)
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About the Author

Piper_TH
Piper J. Drake (or “PJ”) began her writing career as “PJ Schnyder” writing sci-fi & paranormal  romance and steampunk. She has recently received the FF&P PRISM award for her work as well as the NJRW Golden Leaf award and Parsec award.

Now, PJ is exploring the complexity of romantic suspense, incorporating her interests in mixed martial arts and the military into her writing.

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New Release Tour! Hallowed Ground (Flight & Glory #4) by Rebecca Yarros *Review, Excerpt, Trailer and Giveaway*

HALLOWED GROUND BOOK TOUR

Hallowed Ground (Flight & Glory #4)
by Rebecca Yarros

A New Adult Contemporary Romance
Released January 25th 2016
From Entangled Publishing–Embrace

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There are some debts you can’t repay.

Josh Walker is loyal, reckless, and every girl’s dream. But he only has eyes for December Howard, the girl he’s craved since his high school hockey days. Together they have survived grief, the military, distance, and time as they’ve fought for stolen weekends between his post at Ft. Rucker and her college at Vanderbilt. Now that Josh is a medevac pilot and Ember is headed toward graduation, they’re moving on—and in—together.

Ember never wanted the Army life, but loving Josh means accepting whatever the army dictates—even when that means saying goodbye as Josh heads to Afghanistan, a country that nearly killed him once before and that took her father. But filling their last days together with love, passion, and plans for their future doesn’t temper Ember’s fear, and if there’s one thing she’s learned from her father’s death, it’s that there are some obstacles even love can’t conquer.

Flight school is over.
This is war.

 

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Review

4 stars

3.75 stars

Hallowed Ground, the last book in the Flight & Glory series, centers on Josh and Ember from Full Measures. As a follower of the series, I was ecstatic to learn that there was one more book and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. And while this story was a great follow-up book to Josh and Ember’s romance, it wasn’t everything I had expected.

Josh and Ember have gone through a lot in the past two years while Ember went to college and Josh went to flight school. They made every sacrifice and crossed every hurdle thrown their way and are now finally moved in together and looking forward to their new beginning. Of course, fate has other plans which will test the strength of their love and commitment to each other.

I’ve enjoyed my fair share of angsty reads and usually seek them out, but I will admit that this story had a lot more angst that I anticipated. Which was not an entirely bad thing, but for me it took away some of my enjoyment of the story. Mainly because it seemed to drag on quite a bit and I found myself skimming through those parts more often than not.

Other than that, I found that the overall story served as a great conclusion to the series. I enjoyed visiting with the other couples and seeing how they’ve grown. I laughed, I cried and I even cursed the characters a time or three. Hallowed Ground managed to bring out a varied set of emotions from me, which makes it a winner for me.

Keep in mind that this is the fourth book in the series. It is my recommendation that you read ALL previous books in the series before starting Hallowed Ground so you can get the full scope behind the series, these courageous men and the women who love them.

All in all, an emotional rollercoaster of a ride!

*I received a copy of this title in exchange of my honest opinion.

 

 

Excerpt

I pushed my chair out and reached for her, lifting her tiny, curved frame into my lap. Her head tucked beneath my chin, and she curled into me, fitting right where she was always meant to be. My arms closed around her. “We have a month.”

“It’s not long enough.” Her fingers gripped my shirt like she could keep me here if she just held on tight enough. God, what I wouldn’t have given to stay with her.

“Forever isn’t long enough for us, December, but that’s what we’re going to have. You and I have never chosen the easy path. This is just another hurdle.” I rubbed my chin over her soft hair and tried to soak in every detail of holding her—the sweet way she smelled, the smooth texture of her skin beneath my hands.

She leaned back in my arms and cupped my face. “I can’t lose you.” Her voice broke, and tears pooled in her eyes.

I’d never hated myself more than I did in that moment. She’d made it through a nightmare no one should have to face, and I was about to ask her to chance that fire again. My breath hitched, barely passing the lump in my throat. “You won’t. It would take something a hell of a lot stronger than a war to keep me from you.”

I sealed that promise with a kiss, tasting her fear and desperation as she responded. She opened underneath me, and I fused my mouth to hers, surrendering to the heat between us to pull us through this moment. There was nothing hotter or sweeter in this world than kissing December, feeling her go soft and pliant.

We’d fought so fucking hard to get here, to be together. This wasn’t fair, and we both knew it. But we also both knew it didn’t matter. Fair wasn’t exactly in the U.S. Army vocabulary.

I retreated just enough to whisper against her lips, “I’ll come home. I swear it.”

 

hallowed ground teaser

 

Flight & Glory series

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Full Measures (Flight & Glory, #1)
Ember & Josh’s story
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Eyes Turned Skyward (Flight & Glory, #2)
Jagger and Paisley’s story
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

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Beyond What is Given (Flight & Glory, #3)
Grayson and Samantha’s story
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

 

About the Author

rebecca yarros

Rebecca Yarros is a hopeless romantic and lover of all things chocolate, coffee, and Paleo. In addition to being a mom, military wife, and blogger, she can never choose between Young Adult and New Adult fiction, so she writes both. She’s a graduate of Troy University, where she studied European history and English, but still holds out hope for an acceptance letter to Hogwarts. Her blog, The Only Girl Among Boys, has been voted the Top Military Mom Blog the last two years, and celebrates the complex issues surrounding the military life she adores.

When she’s not writing, she’s tying on hockey skates for her kids, or sneaking in some guitar time. She is madly in love with her army-aviator husband of eleven years, and they’re currently stationed in Upstate NY with their gaggle of rambunctious kiddos and snoring English Bulldog, but she would always rather be home in Colorado.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Facebook Group | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon Page

 

 

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New Release Tour! Earning a Ring (More Than A Game #4) by Kristina Mathews *Review, Excerpt and Giveaway*

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Earning a Ring (More Than A Game #4)
by Kristina Mathews

A Contemporary Sports Romance
From Lyrical Shine
Released January 19th 2016

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For Rachel Parker, covering the San Francisco Goliaths is the perfect opportunity to launch her career as a serious reporter. But she didn’t bargain on Bryce Baxter, the team’s star shortstop, tempting her more non-professional aspirations. After tearing up the base paths with him, she finds herself with a little problem, and Bryce might be the only man who can save the game.

Bryce Baxter should be living the dream. His team just won the World Series and he just signed the multi-year contract of his career. But his field of dreams has been overtaken by a fiery redheaded reporter, who’s bearing a news flash that will change both of their lives forever…

Earning A Ring_SHINE

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Review

3-5 stars

Bryce Baxter has it all–a career as a professional baseball player, a new contract, endorsements, women at every corner. But after a terrible night when he cost his team the game, he can’t help but think everything is hanging in the balance. He needs to get his head on straight and finding out the news the woman he has been hooking up with throughout the year will not help matters none.

Rachel Parker is happy in her life with a career she loves and her dream job in the horizon. Finding out that she’s carrying last year’s MVP’s baby has her questioning everything. She knew what they had was casual, so she’s not certain how he will react and how this will affect her career.

I liked this story very much, especially since it delivered a common trope in a new and fresh way. I think it helped tremendously that Bryce was an overall good guy who stepped up to the plate immediately. I admit, Bryce struggled with some issues and kept himself closed off, but it ultimately helped to make his journey that much more enjoyable. He was funny, charming and caring and it showed throughout–especially when the author upped the drama and brought his past to the surface.

Rachel wasn’t my favorite simply because she had a tendency of assuming and coming to conclusions regarding Bryce without actually taking the time to find out the truth for herself. She complained Bryce was closed-off but she wasn’t any better either. Thankfully, the author did give me the opportunity to get to know her better and understand her struggles so I could understand where she was coming from.

As with other books on the series, the author made a great effort in bringing forth Bryce and Rachel’s connection and chemistry to the page. Although a bit tame in the heat department it was easy for me to see how attracted each was to the other. My only regret was that I didn’t get a chance to see more of their connection make it to the page. I would appreciated a hell of a lot less time inside their heads and a lot more time connecting as a couple.

All in all, a sweet little read and a great addition to the series.

*I received a copy of this title in exchange of my honest opinion.

 

Excerpt

Bryce Baxter sat alone in the San Francisco Goliaths’ clubhouse. He didn’t want to go home and watch the replays of tonight’s game. There was enough of that going on in his head. He’d blown the game. How many times had he made that play since he first picked up a baseball at the age of five? A thousand? Ten thousand? Probably more. Not tonight. Tonight it was as if he’d forgotten everything he knew about the game. What should have been an easy double play ended up being the game-winning run.

The loss put his team even farther behind in their division going into the second month of the season and had reporters questioning the Goliaths’ chances of repeating a World Series run. Some were even questioning the team’s decision to re-sign Baxter to the big contract extension. The biggest one he’d ever inked. So naturally, he was having his worst start to the season ever. He couldn’t hit. Couldn’t draw a walk to save his life. And when he struck out, he did it in spectacular fashion.

Last November he’d been king of the world. San Francisco’s biggest hero since Willie Mays. As World Series MVP, he’d been awarded a brand new Corvette. His face had been on the cover of magazines. He’d made the talk show rounds. Met the President. Women had lined up outside his door. And he’d had his choice of endorsement deals, including a line of men’s hair care products. Now, if his game didn’t improve, his agent would be lucky to get him a spot peddling adult diapers.

Reluctantly, he headed toward the parking lot.

“Hey, Bryce, you got a minute?” He recognized the voice of the woman standing beside his car. A month ago, he would have been happy to see her. Professionally, personally, a little bit of both. But not now.

“Look, Rachel, I’m not giving any more interviews tonight.” He was so down, all he wanted to do was go home and crawl into bed. Alone.

“I’m not here for an interview.” She would have waited in the clubhouse if she were. He knew that. Rachel Parker was a professional, the in-game reporter for Bay Area Sports Network. “Can we go somewhere? Somewhere private?”

“I’m not giving that tonight either.” He waited for his body to protest, recalling the dozen or so encounters with the sexy journalist. She’d been hot. Real hot. Hot enough for him to forget his rule of one and done. They’d been hooking up off the record since before spring training of last season.

“Look, I really do need to talk to you.” She seemed a little nervous, not her usual confident, perky, and always upbeat self who was part bubbly cheerleader, part hard-hitting reporter. She was still hot. But instead of smoking, she was…smoldering. His body stirred. Enough for him to think that maybe spending the next several hours in bed might not be such a bad idea.

But it probably wasn’t a good idea either.

The last time they’d hooked up had been intense. Almost too intense. Too real. But maybe he’d just been riding the high of signing his ridiculous contract. Or maybe he’d felt the pressure of the deal and had transferred it to his personal life. Something he could control.

“You know, I think maybe we should take a step back.” He raked a hand through his hair, still damp from his long shower after the game. “I’m not good for anyone right now.”

Rachel gave him a weird look, almost as if her eyes slipped out of focus. Her face drained of color. She turned and stumbled toward his car, bracing herself against the front fender. Then she threw up on the hood of his Corvette.

“Are you okay?” He took a step toward her.

“No, I’m not okay.” She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. “I’m pregnant.”

 

About The Author

Kristina

Kristina Mathews doesn’t remember a time when she didn’t have a book in her hand. Or in her head. But it wasn’t until she turned forty that she confessed the reason the laundry never made it out of the dryer was because she was busy writing.
While she resigned from teaching with the arrival of her second son, she’s remained an educator in some form. As a volunteer, parent club member or para educator, she finds the most satisfaction working with emergent and developing readers, helping foster confidence and a lifelong love of books.

Kristina lives in Northern California with her husband of more than twenty years, two sons and a black lab. A veteran road tripper, amateur renovator and sports fanatic. She hopes to one day travel all 3,073 miles of Highway 50 from Sacramento, CA to Ocean City, MD, replace her carpet with hardwood floors and serve as a “Ball Dudette” for the San Francisco Giants.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

 

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New Release Tour! Kill Without Mercy (ARES Security #1) by Alexandra Ivy *Review, Excerpt and Giveaway*

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Kill Without Mercy (ARES Security #1)
by Alexandra Ivy

A Romantic Suspense Thriller
From Zebra
Released December 29, 2015

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From the hellhole of a Taliban prison to sweet freedom, five brave military heroes have made it home—and they’re ready to take on the civilian missions no one else can. Individually they’re intimidating. Together they’re invincible. They’re the men of ARES Security.

Rafe Vargas is only in Newton, Iowa, to clear out his late grandfather’s small house. As the covert ops specialist for ARES Security, he’s eager to get back to his new life in Texas. But when he crosses paths with Annie White, a haunted beauty with skeletons in her closet, he can’t just walk away—not when she’s clearly in danger…

There’s a mysterious serial killer on the loose with a link to Annie’s dark past. And the closer he gets, the deeper Rafe’s instinct to protect kicks in. But even with his considerable skill, Annie’s courage, and his ARES buddies behind him, the slaying won’t stop. Now it’s only a matter of time before Annie’s next—unless they can unravel a history of deadly lies that won’t be buried.

 

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Review

4 stars

4.25

Rafe Vargas is getting ready to open ARES Security firm when he’s required to travel to Ohio to pack up his grandfather’s house now that it found a buyer. He’s not thrilled to take care of it, but the sooner he gets it done the sooner he’ll be back to Texas and his friends. What he wasn’t expecting was to be thrown into a missing person’s case and find love along the way.

Haunted by visions of women running for their lives, Annie White decides to return to the town she left behind as a child when her father was arrested and murdered in jail. Her foster parents have been wonderful in taking care of her and is torn between leaving them behind and finding the meaning behind the visions. But once she arrives in town, she’s surprised to find that the women are starting to go missing again which leads her to believe her visions and the missing women are somehow related to the past she left behind. Having Rafe determined to protect her and falling for him is not something she was counting on, but it’s also something she can’t help but be drawn to.

When I first read the blurb I was drawn to the characters. Both Rafe and Annie had a rough past they were coming to terms with and I wanted to see how the author would work around their issues to bring them together. Although I was a bit disappointed that this was more of an insta-love scenario, I have to hand it to the author because she managed to bring a viable romance to the page while still keeping the reader intrigued when it came to the conflict that arises when Annie arrives in Ohio.

This is my first book by this author and I’m glad I gave her a chance. The writing was precise and not over-embellished, with all the elements working together well. I enjoyed the intrigue, the action and the twists and turns as they appeared just as much as the range of emotions and the cast of characters. Criminal Minds in ebook form! I enjoyed it thoroughly.

While the chemistry between Rafe and Annie was slow in coming it was always present and ready to be brought to the surface. I wished I would have gotten more of a chance to see their connection grow. But taking into consideration the circumstances they found themselves in, I could understand how the emotional connection would develop but not be as fully explored until later in the story, which it was.

Thankfully, Alexandra Ivy delivered in other fronts, which kept my interest constant throughout. I enjoyed getting to know the men of ARES Security and find myself curious to find more about them. I enjoyed wondering who was behind the missing women and watching as the clues fell into place.

As the first in a series, Kill Without Mercy served its purpose well and left me wanting more. All in all, an intriguing romance that paved the way for more stories in the series.

*I received a copy of this title in exchange of my honest opinion.

 

Excerpt

Her thought was interrupted as she kicked a small object that had been left in the middle of the floor.

Automatically glancing down she came to a sharp halt, her breath locked in her chest as she leaned over to pick up the small doll with the mass of tangled blond hair.

Britney Spears.

It was covered in dust, and the clothes were rumpled, but Annie had a vivid memory of dancing through the house with the doll clutched in her hand.

The sun had been shining and her father was laughing as he watched her silly antics.

“Annie?”

The sound of Rafe’s deep voice broke her out of the past, although the precious feelings of childish joy refused to be completely dismissed.

“This house should be a place of horror, but I had such good memories,” she muttered, her attention locked on the doll that looked as lost and broken as she felt since returning to Newton.

He moved to stand next to her, his hands clenching as if he was battling the urge to reach out and touch her. “You loved your father?”

“Very much,” she admitted without hesitation, lifting her head to meet his searching gaze. “I know you must think it’s twisted, but he was always kind and patient and funny when we were together.”

“I don’t think it’s twisted at all,” he protested. “Tell me about him.” He held up a hand when she frowned. “I mean, tell me about him as your father.”

Expecting the usual condemnation, Annie was caught off guard by his gentle question.

No one had ever asked her about Don White as something other than the psycho serial killer.

Tentatively she allowed herself to return to the past, the doll unconsciously pressed to her chest. “He always had two Oreo cookies and a glass of milk waiting for me on that table when I came home from school.” She nodded toward the shrouded piece of furniture situated near the door. She hadn’t eaten an Oreo cookie since she’d left Newton. “And he went with me to the movies on Saturday afternoon just because I said I wanted to be an actress when I grew up. And every Sunday morning he took me to the restaurant for pancakes.” Bittersweet pain sliced through her heart. “I don’t understand how the same man could be so evil.”

“He was sick, Annie, not evil,” Rafe murmured.

She hunched a shoulder. “Is there a difference?”

“Yes. I’ve seen men in battle,” he said, a hard edge in his voice hinting at memories that were as dark and painful as her own. “Some are just naturally cruel. They enjoy causing pain because it’s a basic part of their nature.” His jaw clenched. “And there are others who’ve been ruined. By life. By war. By . . . fate. They do what they do because they can’t help themselves.”

Annie studied the lean, fiercely handsome face. How did he do it? How did he always know exactly what to say?

It was freaky.

“Thank you,” she breathed.

He cocked a brow. “For what?”

“Most people don’t want to think the Newton Slayer could have any redeeming qualities,” she said, having learned from the second she’d been rescued that her father was public enemy number one. “I usually feel guilty for not hating him.

He destroyed so many lives.”

He brushed a hand over her tangled curls, careful to keep

his touch light. “He was your father.”

“Yes.” He’d been more than that. He’d been her entire family. She gave another shiver. “We should go.” He dropped his hand and nodded, keeping a small distance between them as she headed out the door and across the

rickety porch.

“My truck is at the end of the drive,” he murmured as they reached the overgrown yard. “I’ll tell Teagan to join us at the motel.”

She had a vague impression of a large man who appeared from the shadows to speak with Rafe before he was jogging toward her Jeep, but her concentration centered on keeping her feet moving forward.

Christ, she was tired.

Rafe was back at her side by the time she reached the edge of the road, opening the door to his truck and helping her to climb into the seat before he was rounding the hood and taking his place behind the steering wheel.

In silence he started the engine, flipping the heater on high before performing a U-turn. There was a brief stop as he waited for his friend to approach the truck holding her purse that he’d obviously retrieved from her Jeep. Then, placing the bag in her lap, he shoved the truck in gear and headed back to town at a pace far slower than the one she’d used to get to the house.

Annie clutched her purse, only vaguely aware of her surroundings. She had the impression of genuine leather and a dashboard that had all the bells and whistles. The sort of truck that would be functional for work around a ranch but no doubt cost more than she made in a year. But her gaze remained glued to the dark, chiseled profile of her companion.

Safely tucked in his car with the warm air beginning to ease her shivers, there was nothing to distract her from Rafe’s sheer male beauty.

It was . . . nice.

Almost as if she was a normal girl being driven home by a man who she found intensely attractive.

A damned shame her brief daydream didn’t last for long.

All too soon they were back in town and he was turning into the drive of the motel. Rafe pulled to a halt in the center of the parking lot and glanced in her direction.

“Do you remember where you lived before coming to Newton?”

She froze at the abrupt question, too startled to tell him it was none of his damned business.

“Most of my memories from my early childhood are fuzzy. I think my dad said that we lived overseas, but it’s really just a blur,” she admitted.

It was weird. She had such a clear recollection of her time in Newton. Time with her father. Her friends at the school she’d attended. Climbing on top of the house so she could see her father in the distant fields.

But she never could capture any memories of her days before coming to Newton or the days after she’d been found tied and blindfolded in the bomb shelter.

“Why do you ask?”

“I thought you might have some family who could come to give you support,” he smoothly explained.

Her gaze narrowed. She sensed there was more to his question than he was admitting, but she was too tired to try and search for any hidden meanings.

“There are just my foster parents, and I don’t want to worry them,” she said.

He reached into his rear pocket, pulling out his wallet.

“Then I want your promise you’ll call me if you need anything,” he commanded, handing her a small business card.

She took the card with a frown, asking the question that had been bothering her from the moment their paths had crossed.

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why are you so determined to help me?” she demanded. “I’m a stranger.”

He held her wary gaze. “It’s what I do.”

“A hero?”

“Something like that.” He pointed toward the business card. “My private cell number is printed on the back. Call me . . . any time, for any reason.”

Tucking the card in her purse, she crawled out of the truck and hurried to her motel room.

 

About the Author

AlexandraIvy

Alexandra Ivy graduated from Truman University with a degree in theatre before deciding she preferred to bring her characters to life on paper rather than stage. She currently lives in Missouri with her extraordinarily patient husband and teenage sons. To stay updated on Alexandra’s Guardian series or to chat with other readers, please visit her website at www.alexandraivy.com.

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Spotlight: Worth the Fight Series by Sidney Halston *Series Review*

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Worth the Fight Series
by Sidney Halston

A Contemporary Romance Series
From Loveswept

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Love gets way more than a fighting chance in USA Today bestselling author Sidney Halston’s seductive MMA romances! Beginning with Against the Cage and continuing with Full Contact, Below the Belt, Laid Out and the upcoming  Fighting Dirty, the Worth the Fight series features loyal, hard-edged mixed martial arts fighters and the women who fall for them.

 

againstthecageAgainst the Cage (Worth the Fight, #1)

In her Loveswept debut, Sidney Halston turns up the heat as a sexy cage fighter shows a former bookworm how delicious a few rounds between the sheets can be.

For Chrissy Martin, returning to her Florida hometown always seems to bring bad luck. The day starts with a breakup text, followed by a jailhouse phone call from her troublemaker brother. Now a routine traffic stop has ended with her accidentally punching an officer . . . in a delicate place. Then Chrissy realizes that the hot cop on the receiving end of her right hook is none other than the man from her teenage fantasies.

Jack Daniels knows how to take a hit. After all, when he’s not chasing reckless drivers, he’s kicking ass in a mixed martial arts ring. So what takes his breath away isn’t the low blow, but the woman who dealt it: a gorgeous knockout with legs Jack wouldn’t mind being pinned under—who just so happens to be his best friend’s nerdy little sister, all grown up. Soon their instant chemistry leads to a sizzling affair, but Jack and Chrissy are fighting an uphill battle if they want to make love last beyond the final bell.

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fullcontactFull Contact (Worth the Fight, #2)

Sidney Halston returns to steamy Tarpon Springs, Florida, where a hell-raising bad boy prepares to get down and dirty for the woman he loves.

How could she have been so stupid? When Jessica Cross decides to give her violently jealous boyfriend—the otherwise influential and charming Dennis Stavros—a second chance, she very nearly becomes a statistic. After weeks of healing from a broken rib and collapsed lung, and with Dennis behind bars, Jessica finally feels ready to come out of hiding. But will she ever be able to take a chance on love again with someone new?

Mixed martial arts fighter Slade Martin knows he has a bad reputation. Hell, he’s probably earned it. So it won’t be easy to convince beautiful, vulnerable Jessica that she can trust him—that from the moment she walked into his life, she’s been the only one he’s wanted. Powerful and confident, Slade knows he can honor his vow to protect Jessica body and soul. Winning her heart will be another matter . . . but a woman like Jessica is worth the fight.

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belowthebeltBelow the Belt (Worth the Fight, #3)

In Sidney Halston’s latest sizzling MMA romance, a former title contender turns the tables on his knockout trainer with a lesson in seduction.

Once one of the most sought-after names on the mixed martial arts circuit, Antonio “Scarface” Marino watched his career go down for the count as he chased skirts and made tabloid headlines. Now he’s finally making a comeback, and it’s all thanks to Francesca Silva, a Brazilian bombshell as tough as any of her fighters. But who’s the real Francesca: the trash-talking trainer who rides him hard, or the vulnerable woman who blushes at his touch?

Francesca went to the mat to sign Tony because she believes he still has the potential to bring big success to her gym—if she can keep his head in the cage and out of her personal life. After a short-lived marriage soured her on love, a one-night stand is all she can handle. Now Tony’s kisses are stirring up complicated feelings—especially when he agrees to face her ex in the ring. Francesca’s used to freezing guys out. But Tony’s tempting her to give in to the heat.

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laidoutLaid Out (Worth the Fight, #4)

Perfect for fans of Monica Murphy and Cecy Robson, Sidney Halston’s scorching new MMA romance proves there are no holds barred when it comes to seduction.

Growing up an Army brat, Violet Channing could never meet her dad’s high expectations. But in the eyes of her best friend, she could do no wrong. He even insisted that he should be her first kiss. Now Cain Sorensen is all grown up, hardened by years in special ops and always looking for a good fight. Tall, with striking blue eyes and impossibly blond hair, he’s a modern-day Viking warrior. Of course, Violet’s all grown up, too, and she’s ready to surrender to his every command.

Cain knows he’s bad for Violet. His work is dangerous, and his hobbies are downright deadly. As a private mercenary and a mixed martial arts fighter, he could never let such an innocent soul into his world. And yet his most grueling combat training is no match for Violet’s killer curves, hot touch, and suggestive glances. Now all of Cain’s most explosive fantasies are coming true—but once they cross the line between friends and lovers, there’s no turning back.

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Fighting Dirty_coverFighting Dirty (Worth the Fight, #5)

If you love the MMA romances of Vi Kreeland and Kendall Ryan, Sidney Halston’s Worth the Fight series will knock your socks off! In Fighting Dirty, a geek-chic cage fighter proves that appearances can be deceiving . . . and oh-so-tempting.

With his preppy clothes and horn-rimmed glasses, Enzo Silva is the last dude anyone expects to find in a mixed martial arts gym. A wealthy Brazilian banker who never had to fight for anything, Enzo’s stuck in the amateur circuit—but he burns to make the pros. Maybe that explains the heat he feels whenever he’s around Jamie Lynn Calhoun. The pint-size, magenta-haired bartender with the Texas drawl is everything he’s not . . . and everything he craves.

Tough as nails and independent to a fault, Jamie Lynn—JL to her friends—works hard to pay her bills and keep life simple. Enzo is doing his best to complicate that. Even though she likes to bust his balls, he’s got some kind of a nerdy-hot vibe that makes JL wonder if she might finally be able to let her guard down. It might do the boy some good to spend some time in her world, where blood, sweat, and victory are as sweet as the first taste of real love.

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Series Review

4 stars

I’ve read my share of MMA Romances and what it comes down to for me to enjoy them is that perfect balance between the sport, the romance and the characters. Not too much drama but enough emotion to make me invested in the characters. Not too much fighting but enough sports talk to fell like a team member. And finally, an intense chemistry that while potent doesn’t overwhelm the other aspects of the relationship–mainly the connection between the hero and heroine.

This is what Sidney Halston has brought to the page in every single one of the books in the Worth The Fight series thus far.

With humor, sexual tension and subtle emotions Against the Cage paved the way for other books in the series. I loved Jack and Chrissy! Jack is a cop by day and an amateur MMA fighter in his spare time. He enjoys the rush of stepping into the cage and the camaraderie of being a part of a team. He has known Chrissy since childhood and although he never acknowledge it, he always felt protective of her. Was it brotherly love or attraction? He never gave it much thought–at least not until Chrissy came back to town to bail her brother out of jail.

Chrissy has always been straight-laced and has harbored an unrequited crush on his brother’s best friend. And although distance has kept her from being near, years later she still gets all tingly in his presence. He also infuriates her to no end, which only makes the sparks between them that much more intense. The fact that they meet again when she’s having one hell of a day doesn’t help their first meeting none, but it sure made for some entertaining reading.

What I loved the most about this story was the fact that I got to see Jack and Chrissy reconnecting on the page. It was great to see how Jack’s perception of Chrissy shifts from annoying little sister to potential lover. I also enjoyed their bickering, flirty banter and candid moments spent together. These moments served to make their intimate encounters that much more real and intense. That first kiss alone was worth all the anticipation! Of course, the addition of interesting characters, subtle emotions and a vicious little dog just amped my experience that much more.

It came as no surprise that by the end of Against the Cage I was excited to get to the next book. Full Contact tells Jessica and Slade’s story. I knew of Jessica and Slade from the previous book where Slade went to jail because he got into a fight because of Jessica. Acquaintances who shared a mutual attraction, Jessica and Slade were nothing more than strangers but after Jessica left her abusive boyfriend after a bad beating, it was Slade who took care of her while she recovered.

Although I also enjoyed this story, I couldn’t help but be a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to see Jessica and Slade’s connection growing from the very beginning. The story picks up several weeks after Jessica got out of the hospital, so the reader doesn’t get a first-hand look of that time spent together. However, the author does a great job of bringing their connection to the page. Enough to satisfy my need to see it on the page.

It helped a lot that the story centered around them and their time spent together afterwards. What began as a friendship soon became something more, where their mutual attraction was explored while emotions were kept under the surface. Soon enough the emotions came into play right along with Jessica’s ex bringing forth a whole set of problems.

Unlike Against the Cage, I didn’t feel that light-hearted vibe from this story but I came to enjoy it nonetheless. The humor was present, if understated, but thankfully the chemistry, candid moments and the growth of Jessica and Slade’s connection made up for it.

Since the stories in the series overlap in places, I thought I knew what to expect from Below the Belt. In Full Contact Slade became a partner in WtF with Francesca Silva, the owner’s daughter, who is now running the gym. With the new partnership in place, Francesca decided to bring in Antonio “Scarface” Marino. Below the Belt tells their story. And what a story it was!

Francesca and Tony’s interactions stole the show for me in this story. I loved their bickering and heated exchanges–both the vocal and the physical. Francesca was strong-headed and completely unfazed by the eye candy in the gym–until Tony came into the picture. The man pushed her very button and try as she might she couldn’t help but give in to the attraction that simmered between them. Both stubborn and both with a hell of a temper, these two coming together made for an entertaining read.

Of course, it helped tremendously that their chemistry was as intense as their bickering. They butted heads just as much as they kissed, which only made the unraveling of their emotions that much more intense. And I have to say that their candid moments did it for me too. The unrelenting ‘cubanito’ with the ‘tough as nails’ Brazilian beauty hid their vulnerabilities well, but when they let their guard down it was worth all the posturing I endured from them.

Below the Belt definitively made it to my favorites’ shelf, so I was hesitant to start Laid Out because I didn’t know what to expect from Cain’s story. In the previous stories, Cain seemed so closed-off that I thought his story would be overwhelming angsty. Thankfully, although there were plenty of intense emotional moments, Sidney Halston managed to bring in some of the humor, camaraderie and care-free vibe I’ve come to expect.

Cain is troubled and uses fighting to ‘deal’ when he feels weighted down by his emotions. His friendship with Violet goes back to their childhood and now that she has moved to town, he can’t seem to get a handle on himself. He’s rude, short-tempered and downright unbearable to be near. Violet, however, takes it all in stride. She’s determined to make a new start for herself now that she’s not under her father’s watchful eye. But having Cain near only brings to the surface the attraction she tried to put behind her when she decided to marry their best friend. Soon Cain and Violet find themselves fighting rampant emotions, troublesome libidos, their pasts and a their present.

What I enjoyed the most about this story was the way the author went about bringing the friends to lovers concept to the page. Yes, the concept has been done before, especially the part of having the friends coming together to ‘prepare’ the other to undertake the ‘dating world’. But what made this story different was the way the author didn’t wrap it up all pretty-like and called it happily ever after. Sidney Halston didn’t make it easy on these two, which was what ultimately upped my enjoyment of this story.

Cain and Violet both dealt with different emotions and issues that in the end allowed them to come together as a couple, and it was their journey what truly kept me engaged throughout. There were the fierce moments that showcased how stubborn they were, the tender moments when their guards were down and the intimate moments when their lust overtook them and their chemistry shined through. It also helped that I got a chance to glimpse how deeply connected they were as teenagers and that the author developed their connection as the story progressed.

Although not as upbeat a story as I’ve come to expect, Laid Out had a mix of well-balanced elements that made Cain and Violet’s story worthwhile throughout.

I admit that Fighting Dirty was a surprise for me, since I was expecting Travis’ story. I didn’t really know much about Enzo Silva–other than he was Francesca’s cousin–but thankfully, I had come to know a bit more about Jamie Lynn Calhoun. In the end, I decided to give it a shot, because after reading the blurb I became curious about how these two would come together.

Jamie Lynn is Travis’ twin sister and Violet’s best friend. She leads a simple life centered on her friends, her job at the bar and her art. However, her art is a secret she has kept from her friends and family. So of course it comes as a surprise to her when she attends her art class and finds her brother and his team members there. More surprising, however, was seeing clean-cut rich boy Enzo as the nude model for the class.

Enzo is finally free of his wife and mostly leading the life he wants since moving to the US. He’s an amateur MMA fighter trying his best to fit in his love for the sport with his work responsibilities while attempting to land a date with the ever-elusive Jamie Lynn. Who knew it would only take a lost bet for him to have his chance at her?

Initially disappointed that I wasn’t getting Travis’ story next, I was glad I came across Fighting Dirty because in the end it was a pleasant surprise. I especially enjoyed how the author played out a ‘first date’ for a couple of days and allowed me the chance to get to know Enzo and Jamie Lynn along the way as well. I enjoyed how Enzo and Jamie Lynn connected over the simplest of things and the undercurrent of attraction they shared throughout their time together.

Of course, once that ‘first date’ was over and they returned to the real world was when the story truly picked up. With Jamie Lynn pursuing her passion for urban art and Enzo’s role in its success coupled with both of them dealing with issues from their personal lives, it was bound for emotions to make their appearance.

Enzo’s struggles with his dad’s expectations showed a whole different side to his personality. His caring protective side came to the surface, which added to the conflicting emotions he was experiencing. Jamie Lynn also showed another side to her through her struggles with dealing with her Mom. There was more to her flighty persona and she didn’t allow a lot of people to see it. It was a treat to learn that she was a strong independent woman hiding many vulnerabilities.

Needless to say that these two shared a great deal of chemistry. How could a first date last as long if there wasn’t a spark between them? Although I enjoyed those moments thoroughly, it was the unguarded moments that defined the relationship for me. I loved their flirty banter and good-natured bickering just as much as their honest confessions and candid moments of conversation. I also loved watching Enzo come fully into himself and fight for what he wanted and I was glad that Jamie Lynn got some closure with her relationship with her mother in the end.

As you can see, this series has a varied collection of stories that range from the fun and flirty to the more emotion-driven. But what these stories all have in common and what I’ve come to love about the series is the great cast of characters, the fantastic sense of camaraderie between the characters and the perfect balance of romance and heat.

*I received copies of these titles in exchange of my honest opinion.

 

About The Author

Sidney_Halston
Sidney Halston lives her life by one simple rule: “Just do it.” And that’s exactly what she did. At the age of thirty, having never written anything other than a legal brief, she picked up a pen for the first time to pursue her dream of becoming an author. That first stroke sealed the deal, and she fell in love with writing. Halston lives in South Florida with her husband and children.

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