Darker Than Love

loveOnce upon a cold, dark night, a Russian killer stole me from an alley.
I’m dangerous, but he is lethal.
I escaped once.
He won’t let me do it twice.

The revenge is his.
The betrayal is mine.
But so are the lies to protect the ones I love.

We’re cut from the same twisted cloth. Both merciless. Both damaged.
In his embrace, I find hell and heaven, his cruelly tender touch destroying and uplifting me at once.

They say a cat has nine lives, but an assassin has just one.
And Yan Ivanov now owns mine.

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Darker Than Love is a standalone dark romance set in the world of the award-winning Twist Me and Tormentor series. It was co-written by Anna Zaires – the original creator – and fellow author Charmaine Pauls. This is a full length novel.

I thought it was weird that Zaires co-wrote this book instead of writing it herself. She is a successful, established author and a great writer. Unfortunately, I felt that the act of co-writing this novel undermined the strength of it, as I could tell differences in writing style between Darker Than Love and the other books set in the same universe.

In addition, DTL is an almost identical story line to the Capture Me series by Zaires. Throughout this book, I kept having flashbacks to the other series. The similarities between the two are striking: the hero takes the heroine captive and interrogates her without harming her in any way; the heroine acts as a martyr and takes it, even though she is (mostly) innocent, in order to protect someone she loves; the hero decides to keep the heroine even though she “can’t be trusted” because she is hot and he has feelings for her that he cannot admit, even to himself.

The book is enjoyable as quick read, but I found it lacking and repetitive as a fan of the author’s other series.

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Everything we give (Everything #3)

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From the author of Everything We Keep comes the final novel in the Amazon Charts and Wall Street Journal bestselling Everything Series. Brimming with suspense, mystery, and romance, Everything We Give brings to a powerful close the gripping series of love, lies, and the secrets families keep.

Award-winning photographer Ian Collins made only one mistake in life, but it cost his mother her freedom and destroyed their family, leaving Ian to practically raise himself. For years he’s been estranged from his father, and his mother has lived off the grid. For just as long, he has searched for her.

Now, Ian seemingly has it all—national recognition for his photographs; his loving wife, Aimee; and their adoring daughter, Caty. Only two things elude him: a feature in National Geographic and finding his mother. When the prized magazine offers him his dream project on the same day that Aimee’s ex-fiancé, James, returns bearing a message for Ian but putting a strain on his marriage, Ian must make a choice: chase after a coveted assignment or reconnect with a mysterious woman who might hold the key to putting his past to rest. But the stakes are high, because Ian could lose the one thing he holds most dear: his family.

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This is the third book in a series. You can read my reviews on the first and second novels as well.

Everything We Give is the final instalment of the Everything series, and is written from the perspective of Ian, who was originally introduced in the first novel in this series. Throughout the book, the timeline jumps between Ian’s childhood and the present day, with the vast majority of scenes told from his POV.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book, and highly recommend the series. It combines family drama, with mystery and romance, and would be a good fit for readers of any of those genres.

Lonsdale always includes an aspect of mysticism and psychology in her works, something which I enjoy. It adds depth to the plot-line and lends a feeling of realism to the turmoil her characters face. These books are extremely well written; everything that unfolds feels natural and organic.

This book is narrated by Andrew Eiden and Amy Landon. I really liked Andrew’s performance as Ian, but Amy Landon’s voice did not suit my perception of Amiee at all. I wish that the publisher had kept the original narrator of Amiee’s POV, from the first audiobook in this series. Otherwise, I greatly enjoyed the narration of Everything We Give and I am excited to listen to the next book by Kerry Lonsdale soon.

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Everything we left behind (Everything #2)

2From the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Everything We Keep comes the highly anticipated sequel. Told from one man’s two perspectives, Everything We Left Behind effortlessly blends suspense, mystery, and romance in an exploration of loss, resilience, and the compelling need to protect the ones we love at all cost.

Two months before his wedding, financial executive James Donato chased his trade-laundering brother Phil to Mexico, only to be lost at sea and presumed dead. Six and a half years later, he emerges from a dissociative fugue state to find he’s been living in Oaxaca as artist Carlos Dominguez, widower and father of two sons, with his sister-in-law Natalya Hayes, a retired professional surfer, helping to keep his life afloat. But his fiancée, Aimee Tierney, the love of his life, has moved on. She’s married and has a child of her own.

Devastated, James and his sons return to California. But Phil is scheduled for release from prison, and he’s determined to find James, who witnessed something in Mexico that could land Phil back in confinement. Under mounting family pressure, James flees with his sons to Kauai, seeking refuge with Natalya. As James begins to unravel the mystery of his fractured identity, danger is never far behind, and Natalya may be the only person he can trust.

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This is book two in the series and should be read in order. You can read my review of the first novel here.

Everything we left behind was a great book, an interesting follow-up the original story. Most books in a series like this tend to follow the same characters throughout, so when I started reading the first, I expected all three books to be told from Aimee’s point of view. However, the second story takes place in two different time periods and from dual perspectives: Carlos’ POV, picking up immediately after Aimee’s visit to Oaxaca, and James’ POV, in the “present day”, in a post-fugue state.

This is a family drama, a who-dun-it. There is mystery, a little bit of romance, and single parent shenanigans.

My favourite part of Kerry Lonsdale’s writing is that she creates flawed characters, flawed people. There is no one in her story that is wholly good or wholly bad, and each person struggles to find their way through such impossible situations.

I am very excited to read the final book in this series, and will start listening to it soon, although at this point, I have no idea whose POV it will cover as James’ story seems to be completed. I am guessing it will be about Phil, or possibly Thomas?

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Timothy Andrés Pabon, who had a lovely accent. I enjoyed listening him and plan to listen to the last in the series as well.

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Daddy’s Little Darling (Montana Daddies #2)

darlingShe was desperate, homeless and alone…
Charlie was used to fending for herself. She wasn’t necessarily that good at it, considering she was currently living in her car, but it was the only life she knew. She didn’t have family or friends and she certainly wasn’t used to anyone caring about what she did.

Then she takes a temporary job on Sanctuary Ranch, where the men are all dominant and alpha and the woman are cherished and protected. And suddenly there are rules, and consequences for breaking them, and she isn’t certain how she feels about that. Considering the man acting as her guardian is also her boss, and the sexiest, most dominant man she’s ever met.
He’s blunt, gruff and used to getting his way…

Clint likes to be in control. Craves it. What he doesn’t like are surprises. And that’s exactly what she is. A complete and utter shock to the system. She’s in need of a protector, a Daddy to take care of her.
But that someone can’t be him.

Contains one totally Alpha Daddy Dom and a woman who manages to tug at his every protective instinct.

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Daddy’s Little Darling is my favourite book in this series!

Author Laylah Roberts did an excellent job building on the world she introduced in Daddy Bear. Readers are introduced to a number of secondary characters who had great potential to star in future books in this series. This world-building is an extremely important feature of series for me, no matter the genre. Without it, all you have is a succession of standalones, not a true series.

Charlie is introduced to us in adult form, and she maintains that persona for several chapters, before her Little emerges. I think this made it easier for me to connect to her character and accept the relationship between her and Clint.

I love the little bits of humour that break through in this series. When there is dialogue between non-romantic characters, you can tell that it is establishing a great background and I wish the author would bring this out more.

For example, here is a snippet of conversation between Bear and Clint.

“You’ve got something to say, Bear. Just say it.”

“Wasn’t that long ago that you wanted a chat with me about Ellie. Remember that?”

“That was a different situation.”

“Was it?”

“Clearly Ellie was meant to be with you. You were stomping around in a bad temper, too stubborn to go to her. I was helping.”

“Helping … interfering … sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference with you.”

Additionally, I think that this book was better balanced than the first in the series, and appealed to me much more. I am definitely going to be reading more things from Ms. Roberts.

There is one scene, that happened off-page between chapters 8 and 9, that I wish had been written out, for the reader to enjoy. I can’t elaborate without revealing a spoiler, but I really hope that at some point the author writes it as a bonus scene, and pushes it out to ebook versions.

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Daddy Bear (Montana Daddies #1)

bearAfter years of being lied to and used, Ellie just wants a new life. On her own terms.
There’s just one small problem. On her way to that new life, she crashes her car during a snow storm and is rescued by a huge hunk of a man. A man who goes by the name of Bear, has thighs as big as tree trunks, and an extreme case of bossiness.

If anyone ever needed a keeper, it was this girl. Bear knows he shouldn’t touch her, shouldn’t get involved, and yet the close quarters of a tiny cabin in a snow storm make him do things he normally wouldn’t.
Like offering her a temporary arrangement, with him as her Daddy Dom.

Contains a hot, alpha Daddy Dom and a woman who needs his special brand of love.

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Daddy Bear is a daddydom / (adult) little girl romance set in the Montana in the dead of winter. The majority of the book takes place with the hero and heroine trapped in a cabin in the forest, waiting out a blizzard and uncleared roads.

I think it is a great introduction to the subset of D/s that is a daddydom relationship. The concept of consent is regularly repeated between during the story and Bear is an absolute sweetheart. He is always super careful around Ellie.

Ellie is a virgin before she and Bear get together and I thought that the pain she was in during intercourse for the first time was pretty realistic, especially considering their size differences. I hate when it’s all sunshine and roses and completely unrealistic. Even though that is what some romance readers are clearly looking for, it ruins the story for me if too many details are unbelievable. A girl can only suspend belief so many times!

I would recommend this book 🙂

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Just This One Summer (The Montebellos #2)

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A sexy forbidden-lovers, billionaire romance.

On the coast of Italy, sheltering in a stranger’s home to wait out a storm, heartbroken Maddie Gray throws caution to the wind for the first time in her life and ends up in the powerful tycoon’s arms…and bed! The next morning, she discovers her knight in shining armour is the last man she should have got involved with: Nico Montebello. The best friend of the abusive ex Maddie’s spent months trying to elude.

He’s completely forbidden, but when Nico – who has no idea who Maddie really is – suggests a brief summer affair with no strings, no questions, and no future Maddie wonders if she can have her cake and eat it too. After everything she’s been through, she deserves a bit of fun, doesn’t she? So long as she doesn’t let her heart become involved…

But even casual flings have the power to heal and gradually Nico pieces Maddie back together until she’s whole once more. He’s rescued her – from the storm, from her grief and fears, but can he ever forgive her for keeping the truth of their connection from him?

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Just This One Summer is a sweet, Italian summer romance between billionaire playboy Nico Montebello and British author Maddie Gray. Maddie has run away from her life in England in an attempt to escape her abusive partner. She and Nico meet one stormy day on the beach and the attraction between them is instantaneous.

The plot in Just This One Summer is very simple and I was able to see from the beginning where the story was heading. Regardless, the romance between these two was entertaining and a heart-warming quick read on a cold winter night.

I recommend this book to other readers who like their romance light-hearted.

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Regret Me Not (The Montebellos #1)

One sexy night with consequences…

It was one single night of passion with a mysterious stranger, but when Elodie Gardiner realises she’s pregnant, she naturally intends to tell her billionaire lover – only before she can do so, she discovers a very pressing reason to keep their baby a secret!

Three years later, ruthless tycoon Fiero Montebello receives a shocking call from a London hospital. The woman he slept with three years ago is in a serious condition in ICU – and the son he never knew he had is in the crèche!

Family is everything to Fiero and there’s no way he’s going to let his son be raised anywhere than under his roof – even if that means his one-time lover is a part of that. He can never forgive her for keeping their child a secret, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still want her. This seduction is a dangerous game laced with resentment and hurt…

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Regret Me Not is the first of seven in the Montebellos series, and also the first book I have ever read from author Clare Connelly. It is a traditional romance story, not dark or erotic, and would likely appeal to a wide audience of romance fans.

Fiero is a billionaire businessman with a large family and serious trust issues. He also has a heart of gold, but it was difficult reading through the issues he and Elodie had to work through. First as parents, then as lovers, Fiero and Elodie struggled to forgive each other for the decisions they had made, and to put Jack’s best interests at heart, despite their pain. Reading from both points of view, it was impossible to say either parent was entirely right or wrong, which contributed to the real emotion behind the book.

Regret Me Not brought out my emotions and I was definitely crying at a few different points. Connelly did a great job of connecting the reading to her characters. I did find Fiero’s brothers to be thoroughly unlikeable though, and considering they are the stars of future books in this series, she is going to have a time writing redemption arcs for some of their opinions and advice!

I plan to read the next book in this series, Just This One Summer soon, and hopefully will be reviewing it shortly.

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Twisted Hearts (Camorra Chronicles #5)

Savio Falcone has a few non-negotiable rules when it comes to girls.

They need to be hot as f*ck. Spread their legs without much prompting. And leave as soon as the fun is over. Preferably minus any bitching or tears.

With his easy-going bad boy attitude, a last name that rules over Las Vegas and a body to die for, girls have always been at Savio’s disposal.48499902._SY475_

Unfortunately, the hottest girl in Vegas comes with a price Savio isn’t willing to pay. For Savio to get Gemma he’d need to seal the deal and put a ring on her finger. Settling down is out of the question, no matter how hot a piece of ass waits at the altar.

Gemma Bazzoli has had a crush on Savio from the first moment she came face to face with his arrogant smile, but for him she was always his best friend’s annoying little sister—until her hard-earned curves catch even his attention.

But Savio likes it easy, and Gemma is anything but. When she’s promised to another man, Gemma resigns herself to the fact that the man she’s wanted all her life, doesn’t want her badly enough.

Savio has to decide how much work he’s willing to invest, because bending the rules in his usual style might not be enough to get the girl that haunts his wet dreams.

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*An honest review in exchange for an advanced reader copy.

Twisted Hearts is written as a standalone book within the Camorra series, so readers do not have to follow the series for it to make sense, although fans will obviously understand more of the backstory of Savio and the Camorra if they do. The narrative is linear, with the plot beginning several years before “present day”, when the H/h were young teens. A significant portion of the novel is spent developing Savio and Gemma as individuals, something unique to this book. Normally in this universe, the couple are virtually strangers on their wedding day.

Due to the backstory’s development Twisted Hearts is a slow burn romance. There is no sex or even kissing between the couple until the very end of the book. While some readers will love this aspect, I personally did not. It felt like I was reading less of a mafia romance / dark romance tale and more of a young adult novel.

As TH is written as a standalone, there are far fewer instances of secondary characters like the Falcones showing up. This was a disappointment for me.

The grammar and sentence structure were far improved in this book which made it more of a fluid read and I was able to more easily immerse myself in the world that Ms. Reilly created. I have long wondered if English is the author’s second language because she is an amazing writer, but the syntax is often disjointed, as if she grew up speaking or writing in another language. I am so glad that she is improving.

I enjoyed reading Twisted Hearts and will definitely be one-clicking all future books from this author.

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Lethal Balance (Sons of the Survivalist 2)

lethal balanceHis name means hunter.

Once the best assassin in black ops, Cazador is now the best at saving lives. His path has changed from seeking bloody vengeance to running a health clinic in Rescue, Alaska.

He will never again risk loving someone he can’t protect.
His mother and sister were murdered in front of him, his fiancée slaughtered in a war zone. Despite his popularity with women, he’s determined to remain unattached. His heart can bear no more loss. Unfortunately, the universe isn’t listening.

First, his brother hires JJ, a fiery-haired, tough cop who lives on the edge of danger and has the biggest heart of anyone he knows. And then, his disreputable past returns in the shape of an adorable, foul-mouthed nine-year-old daughter. Now he has two loved ones to protect. An impossible task, because…

Life is dangerous. Especially in Alaska.

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Lethal Balance is the second book in the Sons of Survivalist series by the amazing author Cherise Sinclair. She been a one-click author for me since I read her first book many years ago, and I continue to love her work and look forward to each novel she writes.

This series is sent in the Alaksan wilderness, and features rugged, alpha, ex-military heroes. Caz is strong, sexy and dominant, even though no BDSM play takes place. His backstory has a huge impact on his ability to develop a relationship with police officer JJ, an Alaskan newcomer, and is something that he has to work through throughout the story.

JJ is amazing. I love how Ms. Sinclair balanced her personality; she can be a tough-as-nails cop and a sensual woman, and a caring surrogate mother to Regan.

One thing that I have noticed is that the main characters in this series seem to be too …. perfect? complete? one-dimensional? There is very clearly a us versus them mentality with the H/h and bad guys which doesn’t reflect the conflicted, impersonal people we all are and simplifies plot lines. In all, I think this world seems a little flat, with everything always tied up in a neat little bow, and the main characters never making mistakes.

Lethal Balance was a solid read and clearly sets up the following two (and presumably final) books in this series. While I can’t put my finger on what it is, this author does seem to be struggling to find her stride in a traditional romance book. I cannot put down her erotic / BDSM series, and yet both “Sons” books I had to push myself to finish reading. I will still read the following two because I like this author and want to finish it out, but they don’t draw me in.

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Damage (Collateral Damage #2)

damageWe’re a match made in hell, Stefan and I.

He took me to exact his revenge. I went from being a pawn to my father to being a pawn to Stefan. The only difference is I have a ring the size of a boulder on my finger and a husband I don’t want.

And the hardest part is I thought he was different. I thought I was falling in love.

I guess my father was right. I’m not a very smart girl.

Stefan is a powerful man. He doesn’t play nice, not if you’re his enemy. But I’ve learned one thing about my husband.

He takes care of what’s his.
And I am his.

His enemies have become my enemies, but he’ll never let anyone hurt me. He’s fiercely protective. It’s the predator inside that scares me.

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Damage picks up immediately after the cliff-hanger ending of CollateralI thoroughly enjoyed this book as well and also read it in an evening, but I wasn’t as in love with it as I was the first in the series.

The tone of Damage is still dark, and the couple actually as sex in this book! Gasp!

There were times that I felt like Gabriela was too stupid to live. In her defence, she is very young – just 18 – and in completely surreal circumstances. So I tried to remember that and it felt me sink back into the story.

Overall I enjoyed it and was happy with where the author leaves off this couple, but I felt really poorly for a couple of secondary characters. I seriously hope that poor cousin Rafe one day gets to be the hero of his own story.

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