Exquisite Innocence (Iron Horse MC #5)

Lyric

I’ve spent my entire life on my parent’s isolated religious compound, sheltered and cut off from the rest of the world. It left me ill prepared to face the evil that invaded my home, and after a horrific encounter with demons masquerading as men, I fled. Some might say that my refuge is even worse than the prison I grew up in, but the men and women of the Iron Horse MC have been better to me than my own family. Unfortunately, the trouble I thought I left behind is still hunting me for reasons I don’t understand. Hustler has been assigned to be my guardian, but to my foolish heart he may be the biggest threat of all. Everything inside of me tells me we belong together, that I’ve been put on this earth to be his, but he insists we’ll never be anything more than friends.

Hustler

For as long as I can remember the Iron Horse MC has been my family. I’ve fought, bled, and sacrificed a piece of my soul for my brothers, but I’ve been set up, labeled a traitor by those I trusted most. My only hope comes in the form of a naive young girl I’ve been tasked with protecting, a woman who’s haunted both my heart and dreams. She’s everything good and beautiful in this world, and while I’ll never allow her to tarnish herself by loving me, I’ll do everything I can to make sure she survives.

(This unconventional MC series is one that SHOULD be read in order, starting with Exquisite Trouble).

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Exquisite Innocence is the fifth book in the Iron Horse MC series by Ann Mayburn. Iron Horse is my second favourite MC series and each of the couples in it has a two book arc. Which means that this book ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger and the conclusion to Lyric and Hustler’s story will be released at the end of 2017, according to the author’s social media accounts.

This series is multi-faceted. It covers the outlaw MC world, the mafia world, and brings in the world of religious cults in this novel as well. It occurs in the same universe as the Submissive’s Wish series by Mayburn and there is cross-over between the two, something I happen to love.

Lyric and Hustler are super easy to fall in love with, both as individuals and as a couple. They fit well together and come alive on the page. There was a preview to this in the final scenes of the previous books so the character pairing isn’t a surprise, but I like how to the author expanded upon Lyric’s backstory, and showed Hustler’s more serious and dangerous side, which was previously hidden.

You knew it had to exist because he was an Enforcer for an outlaw motorcycle club, but he seems so goofy, chatty and sex-oriented that you forgot to be afraid, or at least that little bit on guard.

There are two main complaints that I had about Exquisite Innocence: that it wasn’t long enough (this is a short novel at about 55,000 words) which is significantly shorter than the other books in this series. And, it has been painfully obvious to me since book one who the “baddie” is, undermining and betraying his club brothers and trying to kidnap the heroines left right and centre. The author confirms in this book but I was greatly hoping that this “suspense” arc would have resolved by now!

Mayburn’s other main series (that I read at least) is the Submissive’s Wish series about Russian Bratva Doms and their beloved subs, and I feel like that series is much more complicated, well-thought out and fulfilling as a reader. I feel like not as much time went into establishing the series arcing plot points in Iron Horse, because let’s be honest. I’m not THAT perceptive and the majority of readers shouldn’t have been able to figure it out so easily.

EI would have been much more enjoyable if I didn’t feel that the author was stringing the reader along, trying to perpetuate the “Chief betrayal storyline” for several books longer than enjoyable. It also annoyed me when I downloaded my pre-order to find that the book was so short. As I mentioned above, it is significantly shorter than previous books in the same series and publication was delayed by a month. It makes me suspicious that the author had to split the book into two last minute (posting the update this summer on her social media accounts) rather than publishing one complete story. Most romance novels I read are more than 100 000 words, most actually push 130 000, so the length of the first half definitely does not necessitate splitting this book into two for me.

Unfortunately these issues took an otherwise great story and dropped it down to three stars, IMHO. Hopefully the next book makes up for it because Lyric and Hustler are a great couple and I want to see them have their time in the sun. I am also intrigued by several other characters and hope to read romance stories for Hulk, Sledge/Marley, and Tom Sokolov before the series concludes!

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xx

The Power of Habit

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A young woman walks into a laboratory. Over the past two years, she has transformed almost every aspect of her life. She has quit smoking, run a marathon, and been promoted at work. The patterns inside her brain, neurologists discover, have fundamentally changed.

Marketers at Procter & Gamble study videos of people making their beds. They are desperately trying to figure out how to sell a new product called Febreze, on track to be one of the biggest flops in company history. Suddenly, one of them detects a nearly imperceptible pattern—and with a slight shift in advertising, Febreze goes on to earn a billion dollars a year.

An untested CEO takes over one of the largest companies in America. His first order of business is attacking a single pattern among his employees—how they approach worker safety—and soon the firm, Alcoa, becomes the top performer in the Dow Jones.

What do all these people have in common? They achieved success by focusing on the patterns that shape every aspect of our lives.

They succeeded by transforming habits.

In The Power of Habit, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. With penetrating intelligence and an ability to distill vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives, Duhigg brings to life a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential for transformation.

Along the way we learn why some people and companies struggle to change, despite years of trying, while others seem to remake themselves overnight. We visit laboratories where neuroscientists explore how habits work and where, exactly, they reside in our brains. We discover how the right habits were crucial to the success of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and civil-rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr. We go inside Procter & Gamble, Target superstores, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, NFL locker rooms, and the nation’s largest hospitals and see how implementing so-called keystone habits can earn billions and mean the difference between failure and success, life and death.

At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving success is understanding how habits work.

Habits aren’t destiny. As Charles Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

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The Power of Habit is an interesting split between self-help book and scientific / medical study. It follows multiple cases where people have changed their habits, due to serious developmental changes, professional sports analysis, or psychological intervention. Some have changed their habits on their own, others were guided by medical professionals. But they have all drastically altered their lives.

I decided to read this book because habits are a topic of interest of mine of late. After all, who doesn’t have a few they would like to get rid of?! Or good ones to they’d like to start. I have also heard that this book is recommended by many health professionals, from mental health experts to general practitioners, as a tool for creating changing in one’s own life.

Also, I listened to the audiobook version … the narrator has a smooth and pleasant voice!

I am not sure how practical and relatable most of the dialogue is, but this book is definitely one to get you thinking!

The author explores habits on an individual level, as well as in larger social contexts. He explains some of the behaviours that can lead large groups of people, particularly protesters, to occasionally turn into mobs. He explores why some professional sports teams always seem to lose (his example was the 1990’s era Indianapolis Colts, but I couldn’t help but think of the Toronto Maple Leafs), and the habits of multinational companies.

Wait. Multinational companies?

Yes. They have habits too, a concept I had never thought too hard about before. But companies – large and small – are made up of collective habits that we all abide by, because they are made up of human workers, from the lowest employee to the CEO.

Think of it this way. If you had a new co-worker start with you at work, what insider tips would you give them to help them fit in and succeed? Would you say, this person is awesome and can be trusted, stay under the radar of so and so, or make sure you keep this person in the chain of command for the most simple of things or they will lose it on you? These are common social habits of a workplace that we all learn quickly upon starting, and we all agree to abide by, even though they aren’t official rules that you would find in any employee handbook. Habits are everywhere.

I personally found most of these examples thought-provoking and was able to apply them to my own workplace, and see certain communal habits in a new light. I did have to skip ahead on some of the more medical-based institutional examples though. I’m pretty queasy when it comes to things like listening to a description of neurosurgery. Not my thing at all.

Overall, The Power of Habit is enlightening and thought-provoking, a book I would definitely recommend to a dedicated reader looking to change their life, or improve their lot in the workplace. I would especially suggest it for a manager struggling to lead in a toxic workplace.

However, I am not sure how helpful it is to the average person who wants to start working out and drinking more water, or stop that habit of picking up fast food on the way home from work. This is because it is difficult to identify keystone habits, and understand why they affect us and you have to be able to do this before you can change an established habit. This isn’t easy to do.

Luckily, the author includes an appendix which lists a step-by-step guide to helping readers go through this process with the least amount of anguish and missteps possible. I was expecting this easy-to-read guide to be a much larger portion of the book, however, and I am unsure how much it will help me to actually change those habits I don’t like, although I am more aware of them now. So at least that is a step in the right direction.

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xx

Dirty Ugly Toy

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Her time is over.
Things are looking up.

She’s dirty and ugly.
He’s wicked but handsome. 

Six months to toy with her.
Six months of vacation and a ton of money.

I’ll hurt her beyond repair.
I’ve been through much worse.

She’s difficult to control and doesn’t obey.
I’m done submitting to anyone or anything in this life.

I should hate her.
I should hate him.

The game has changed.
I will win.

Dirty Ugly Toy is a novel that blurs the lines of right and wrong, deals with abuse, contains dubious consent, and adult subject matter. If you are sensitive to violent sexual situations, the book may not be suitable for you. Some parts of this book are not easy to read and are not intended for everyone. However, those that keep an open mind and stick with it will not be disappointed.

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I ordered Dirty Ugly Toy on a whim the other night, because it was recommended by two authors I read and follow on facebook. It was marketed as a dark romance containing dubious consent, a sub-genre that I have had a difficult time finding books that are worth recommending lately.

*** SPOILER ALERT ***

I don’t feel like this book was worthy of the dark romance tag. It is a contemporary romance, with possible dark scenes… another one of those books that I would classify as “grey romance” if there is such a thing.

The beginning of the story definitely sets itself up to be a dark romance. The hero is initially portrayed as a serial killer – he’s not – and it seems the author is setting up a dark psychological thriller / dark romance. However, that quickly fizzles out.

Brax is a devoted son. His mother, who was a drug addict when he was a child, left a deep mark on him. Brax is a successful, billionaire business owner who abducts drug-addicted women from the streets and keeps each for a period of about six months, before returning them to their home city. During those six months, he helps them to detox with medical professionals, uncovers their backstories, the reasons they started using in the first place, and their aspirations for life. He wants to change them for the better.

During this time he also indoctrinates them into his brand of sexual relationship, one between a sadist and a masochist. The heroine who features in this story is a natural masochist however, and she has the emotional upper-hand in their relationship from the beginning. She’s different.

Jessica was addicted to heroine against her will by sexual traffickers and is deep into the throes of addiction until Brax picks her up. However, she is also extremely well educated. Before her kidnapping, Jessica was a trophy wife to a wealthy politician who is currently running for President of the United States. Of course, this husband is cruel, sadistic and very abusive, which is why she never attempted to get back home or contact him after ending up on the streets.

This is why I don’t feel like the dark romance tag is applicable. Brax and Jessica have consensual sex and play in S/m scenes. Jessica’s detox is admittedly against her will, but she is more than thankful after the fact and it is medically supervised the entire time – as safe as something like that can be. Brax saves her from her ex-husband who they inevitably run into and helps take the creep down. Jessica has the ability to leave Brax during their six months together, after she is physically healthy, and has access to a therapist specializing in D/s and S/m relationships the entire time. She also is able to leave Brax after the six months – she is not tied to him.

So how in the heck is this considered to be dark romance or dubious consent?!

I understand that some of the subject matter is dark, and it could be disturbing for people who do not want to read about prostitution, drug addition, etc. But for me, the essence of a dark romance is that the romance is dark. 

The story isn’t terrible although events all fall into place rather conveniently. At the end of the day though, I finished reading this book less than a week ago and still had to reopen my kindle to look up the hero/heroines’ names. So I wouldn’t say it is very memorable or that I would read it again.

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xx

Still Waters

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There’s a phrase: Still waters run deep.

But there’s more to it than that.

Because “still” doesn’t denote peace. Nor calm. Nor happiness.

It’s an illusion. It’s chaos.

The only way to handle chaos is to become it.

That’s what Lucy did. She created stillness out of the chaos tumbling inside her and called the most chaotic motorcycle club in the United States her family.

The Sons of Templar gave her chaos, friendship, family, danger and death.

But she wouldn’t want it any other way.

Then he came. The one who showed her that her handle on chaos was tumultuous at best.

Showed her how to stand still.

And how good it could be.

And how drowning in those waters comes as easy as breathing.

—                         —                          —

I’ve been a fan of Malcom’s MC series for a while and have recently gotten into her paranormal books as well, but for some reason, I one-clicked this book way back in March and never got around to reading it.

The hero Keltan is the owner of a hot new security company in L.A. And he is a dream-boat. He’s attractive, muscular, Kiwi (New Zealander), tattooed, well-spoken, kind and a good ol’ country boy.

I have to ask, do guys like this really exist? Guys who say things like “where I come from, a woman doesn’t pay for a thing when a man is around”. Guys who aren’t turned off by the outwardly prickly nature of a wary woman AND aren’t just trying to “get the prize”.

Lucy and Keltan’s love story takes place over approximately two years. Although they fall for each other at first glance, both have issues to work through that they refuse to dump on another person, and Lucy in particular is scarred by her previous relationship. This negated the insta-love eye-rolling on my part, because even though they experienced lust at first sight, they got to know each other before jumping into a serious relationship.

Still Waters is the first book in a new series by Malcom entitled Greenstone Security. It appears to be a series that should be read in order – not all plot points are resolved by the end of this book and it is clear that there will be a “baddie” plot point that arcs across two or more books. However, this is the only book about this particular couple, the rest will focus on different people within Keltan’s security company.

Malcom’s writing style is wordy, filled with lots of flowery phrases that make great teasers but “chunk up” the story too much in my opinion. I do however like that all of her heroines are different from one another, and that Keltan isn’t your typical grunting alpha male. He is just as good of a conversationalist as Lucy!

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xx

 

Scrappy Little Nobody

Anna Kendrick’s Scrappy Little Nobody is the funniest book I have ever read. I went with the audiobook, which Kendrick read herself, because I am now convinced this is the only way to take on comedic or biographic novels. So thankful for this choice! Once again, a shout-out to my co-worker Ewa who recommended this book!

She just gets me 🙂

anna

Official Blurb:

A collection of humorous autobiographical essays by the Academy Award-nominated actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect.

Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air, Twilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.”

At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations.

With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.”

Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious).

—                         —                         —

In some ways, Anna could be me and in others, she would definitely be my best friend. I love her. I wish I knew her IRL. Speaking of … Anna. Want to move to Canada?!

Things H & A have in common:

  1. We both lust after Tom Hardy
  2. Directionally challenged (both in terms of height and finding our way to places without GPS)
  3. Mostly anti-social peeps who prefer to be at home
  4. Neither of us can sail
  5. Nerds
  6. List-makers
  7. Awkward and riddled with self-doubt

One of the things that struck me the most about this book is that Anna is well-spoken and SMART! Not that I thought she wasn’t, but the more serious portions of her book are much deeper than I was prepared for and she appears markedly more self-possessed, driven and self-aware than I am myself.

I was also very surprised by the fact that she was still dirt-poor and living with roommates after her Oscar-nom for her role in Up in the Air. Listening to her describe this period in her life, when she was barely getting by but everyone around her spoke about her like she’d made it big, was definitely an eye-opener.

In Scrappy Little Nobody, Anna describes herself as a “Man-Child” who is perpetually three months away from maturing enough to take care of “shit”. I KNEW I couldn’t be the only one who stopped emotionally developing at a much younger age! She and I are experts at rationalizing ANYTHING. Make the bed? Why make the bed when you are just going to mess it all up again tonight? Do homework? Isn’t the point of going to school to learn? I can learn without regurgitating it all back to the Teach, who assuredly, most know this stuff already. So I’ll just skip that step thank you very much.

I have OCD so if I start something, it has to be done PERFECTLY or I will drive myself and anyone around me cray. It’s so much easier to just not start a project at all.

Scrappy Little Nobody doesn’t feel like a book. It feels like a conversation, albeit one where the listener is very good at listening and Anna is constantly “on”. Six hours have never passed so quickly and I am seriously contemplating just re-starting her book over again, because I am not ready for it to be over. It’s been 24 hours since I finished listening and I am still missing Anna like a friend who popped in for a short visit and was off again.

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xx

 

Alta Hensley

This is my second post in a recent series highlighting erotica authors who write about Daddy/lg relationships, as requested privately by one of my readers.

Note: For those who aren’t aware, Daddy/lg relationships take place between two adult partners. Most often the male takes a paternalistic, authoritarian role and the female partner takes a more submissive, childlike personality, although the gender roles can be switched or play can occur between same sex couples. There is definitely no child abuse taking place since all the parties are the legal age of consent.

The “little” can take on a variety of ages from very young to teen. Age play can be utilized in the bedroom, in a relationship but outside of the bedroom, for scenes only or full-time. The Daddies or Mommies tend to have high protective and controlling instincts, similar to a Dom who wants a full-time sub/slave. The “little” tends to seek this role to remove themself from the stresses of adulthood and turn over control to another for a period of time. It is essentially a power exchange, similar to Doms/subs but acted out differently. 


Alta Hensley write erotic romance which heavily feature spanking and sex. Some – though not all – of her books are based on Daddy/lg relationships. I have read a few of Hensley’s novels and novellas and would rate them on average 3/5 … not the highest rating but I haven’t yet found any daddy/lg authors that I would rate more highly. Her books would probably be more appealing though to someone who is into this kink.

Here a few select few with synopses from Goodreads 🙂

A standalone novel that re-imagines gender roles in a futuristic society.

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At the age of eighteen, all women who cannot afford a dowry for marriage must be placed in a facility in the hopes of being adopted by an affluent husband.

To maintain order, all women go through a mental reassignment reverting their minds to six- year-old girls—progenies. By keeping the women innocent in all ways before marriage, they can later function as a wife and mother more efficiently. The progenies are sheltered, nurtured, babied, and even disciplined by their assigned poppas. The progenies have no baggage, no hardship, no broken hearts. There are no dark secrets in their lives, no torrid affairs, and no pain. Their husband is buying the purest gem there is. He adopts for marriage so his wife is flawless. Life has not chipped away at her.

But what happens when the mental reassignment doesn’t work? This is what happens to Juniper Ambrose… she’s not truly the little girl she should be. She has no choice but to play the twisted game of pretend, hoping no one, especially her poppa, finds out. Secrets, lies, pretending—this is the world the progeny, and her poppa, have been thrown into.

—                        —                         —

The Ashby Chateau Series

This series is an alternate take on historical romance. A wealthy gentleman has set up a boarding school for “littles” who are sent there to be trained into the type of bride their future husband/daddy is looking for.

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Book 1

From Goodreads:

Philip Hartley owns an elite finishing school; a hidden gem that focuses on the sexual submission and complete discipline of young ladies. Behavior, expectations, and beliefs are quite different there. It’s a finishing school to help a woman find that inner little girl which once was lost. A private school that requires its pupils to surrender their bodies, their minds, and their souls to their betrothed.

When Henrietta Waters’ estranged uncle decides it is best for her to attend the Ashby Chateau and become betrothed to a proper husband, the young woman has no choice but to comply. The recent death of her father has left her with very little options.

But can Etta fully surrender in ways she has never imagined? Can she allow a nanny to take care—fully take care—of her every need? Can she submit to discipline and sexual training as the purity of her inner child blends with the fire of her sexual desires? And is it possible for her to truly become the little love that Headmaster Philip Hartley demands?

Publisher’s Note: Enrolling Little Etta is a Victorian erotic romance that focuses on ageplay, anal play, spankings, and graphic sex. If a spicy Victorian story is not your cup of tea, then please do not take a sip.

 

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Book 2

From Goodreads:

When street urchin Georgiana Hayes meets a mysterious gentleman who offers her a warm meal and a chance to get warm again, she cannot resist.

The man who has rescued her from the cold is, in fact, Mr. Philip Hartley; headmaster of the Ashby Chateau – a finishing school, and a place where young ladies can learn to submit and rediscover their inner ‘little’ selves. He is looking for a new nanny, and is quick to offer the position to Georgiana.

Georgiana accepts gratefully, and she instantly becomes The Nanny.

Unfortunately, she soon realizes that she is not really cut out for the role of disciplinarian. If anything, she finds herself beginning to envy the girls under her care, and wishes that she, too, could experience what it would be like to be little; to be cherished, cared for, and loved.

Theodore Elliott, a well-established businessman, is seeking a wife, and has craved the special love and affection of a ‘little’ for as long as he can remember. The moment he sets eyes on Nanny Giana, he knows without a doubt that she is the one he has been searching for. No other little at the school can compare to the dark-haired beauty.

Can Theo convince the headmaster to allow Giana to resign from her position as governess and enroll in the Ashby Chateau as a little? More importantly, is Giana willing to take that step for a man she barely knows… but is intrigued by? Can she surrender herself physically, emotionally and sexually in order to become what Theo desires above all else: his little Gia?

From the authors of the best-selling ‘Enrolling Little Etta’, this next book in the Ashby Chateau series also contains elements of age-play, anal play, spanking, and graphic sex. While ‘The Nanny’ does feature some characters and settings from the first book, it should be noted that it can be read as a standalone.

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I hope this blog post is informative! I have come across a couple more author who write on this theme and I will periodically review their books here.

xx