Reclaiming Emma (Cloudcroft Ranch #5)

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With credit card debt piling up and her marriage seemingly in trouble, Emma Lanyon makes an impulsive decision and flies to Cloudcroft Ranch unannounced to visit her sister. Upon her arrival, however, she is scolded about running away from her problems, and once her husband joins her at the ranch he quickly leaves Emma in no doubt that things are going to change. From now on, when she needs to be taken in hand her bottom will be bared and very soundly spanked.

Over the coming days, Emma is taught to surrender her body to her husband’s demands. His stern dominance arouses her intensely, and when he decides to share her with another man she is brought to heights of pleasure she never imagined. But obedience is expected, and she soon learns the hard way that putting her safety at risk will earn her a truly shameful punishment.

Emma’s desire for both men grows stronger with every new experience and every blushing climax, but will their shared bond endure even when the time comes to leave Cloudcroft?

—                         —

Reclaiming Emma is the fifth book in the Cloudcroft Ranch series.

This book is unique from the previous works of Isabella Laase. We see a couple who is already married, and attempting to integrate BDSM into their relationship, rather than two individuals who first meet in the book. Additionally, Emma’s husband Javi is mostly new to this lifestyle. This is the first book I have read where the Dominant is a novice.

Together, Javi and Emma decide to add in new friend Dylan to their kinky relationship and eventually form a strong emotion bond as a poly-amorous relationship.

Ms. Laase is a wonderful writer, and that is no small feat. Lately, I have been trying many new authors in the erotica/romance genre and there is so much dribble out there. Ms. Laase is descriptive and actually devotes word count to story and not just kinky fuckery.

That being said, there was a lot in this book that didn’t work for me.

Reclaiming Emma posits that adopting some form of D/s relationship will just fix the very serious relationship problems that exist between Javi and Emma from the start of the novel, and magically cure her depression. Which is ludicrous. Additionally, therapy for her, and for them as a couple is only briefly mentioned in one of the opening chapters and never pursued. I was also highly skeptical that adding in other partners for D/s play and Dylan as a serious third in the relationship was appropriate when Emma and Javi were throwing around the “D-word”.

There seemed to be the expectation among all the Doms in this book that spanking can cure Emma. It can’t. She is depressed and based off her decision to throw away her home and marriage by leaving, she is standing on the edge of an emotional cliff. Spanking may change some of her actions but it is in no way addressing any of the deeper reasons for those actions and is likely to lead to very serious emotional trauma.

The cover blurb suggest that Emma and Javi develop a D/s style relationship, but it almost immediately develops into a Daddy/babygirl style instead. That kink is not identified anywhere on the cover or blurb, and I think it should have been. There isn’t anything wrong with it, but it felt like the author tried to hide that aspect.

There is also a serious lack of conversation between Emma and Javi and Dylan in regards to the problems that developed in the first place in their marriage and how a consensual BDSM relationship would proceed. The consent on Emma’s part is assumed or implied beyond the first couple of scenes, with little discussion.

Finally … if anyone is still reading at this point …

Dylan is the brother of Olivia, the lead character in book four of this series. Olivia shows up repeatedly in Reclaiming Emma and although she and Dylan never interact sexually, they both publicly have naked, kinky sex with their respective partners while in the same room as each other, and discuss Olivia’s babygirl relationship with her two Daddy doms and the physical discipline aspect of that relationship … and that completely squirks me out!

Overall, this is a fun read but nothing that will ever top my list. I feel like the author is wasting her talent because she is quite a good writer, but doesn’t take the time – or possibly have the knowledge – to write a healthy D/s relationship. Maybe this is off base, but IMHO, she seems to be writing about the scene from an outsider’s perspective.

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Leah on the Offbeat

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Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

—                          —                          —

Leah on the Offbeat is set in the same universe as award winning book, Simon Vs. The Homosapien Agenda. It takes place roughly a year following the conclusion of Simon and is told from the perspective of Leah.

Leah and gang are in the twelfth grade and trying to navigate the transition to university, relationship drama and changing friendships.

This book is very high school. I stopped reading it around 15% in, because I couldn’t stand the teenage drama and hysterics. For fans of YA it might be great, but there was so much more drama than in Simon Vs. The Homosapien Agenda, which was already at my limit.

I did not enjoy this book but you may love it if you can overlook juvenile protagonists, maybe it will be a hit for you.

DNF

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I Will Not Beg (Mountain Masters and Dark Haven #9)

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She signed away her freedom…

Starved for affection, young Piper Delaney surrenders her life to a Master. But there is no love—only abuse. She’s told she can’t leave; she signed the slave contract. Years later, beaten and starving, she hears an English Dom say the contract’s illegal. Unenforceable. And she runs.

She reclaims her life and rises above the nightmare that was her past.

But her enslavement left scars. She longs for love, but the only men who truly attract her also terrify her–Dominants. Hoping to conquer her fears, she visits Dark Haven, but the sounds of the club are too much.

When a submissive panics, Sir Ethan steps in.

The powerful English Dom recognizes the shivering submissive in his lap. Years before, he’d corrected her Master’s deceit about a contract. She’s come a long way since then. Cynical at being pursued for his wealth, he finds Piper’s honesty compelling. She’s intelligent, brave…and she needs him. What Dom could resist?

He’s the Dom she’d dreamed about—perceptive, firm, and utterly self-confident.

His voice pulls her from panic attacks. His arms enclose her in safety. He treats her like a person, not something to mistreat. As he helps Piper overcome her fears, she starts to fall in love.

Then her past finds her and destroys…everything.

—                         —                         —

While reading I Will Not Beg, I kept trying to delay the story because I didn’t want the book to end. I guess that is just as much a mark of a good book as one you can’t put down!

Piper and Ethan have a slow burn romance compared to many of the couples in Ms. Sinclair’s books, which was necessary due to the heroine’s backstory. There is no sex until about halfway through the book. Ethan is extremely patient and forgiving, more so even than many of the previous Doms Ms. Sinclair has written about. I swear he is a saint. Just a saint with a penchant for kinky sex.

Piper is very brave to have come so far from where she was in the prologue, especially without any family or close friends in her support network and after just five years. She started her own successful business, overcame so much of the abuse, and worked her way out of a homeless shelter.

I loved regular updates on Dixon and Stan through I Will Not Beg. This couple didn’t get their own book, and Stan in particular was a bit of a question mark. If the author ever changes her mind and writes their M/m book, I would read it in a heartbeat.

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The Huntress (Kate Quinn)

Die Jägerin

From the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling novel, The Alice Network, comes another fascinating historical novel about a battle-haunted English journalist and a Russian female bomber pilot who join forces to track the Huntress, a Nazi war criminal gone to ground in America.

In the aftermath of war, the hunter becomes the hunted…

Bold, reckless Nina Markova grows up on the icy edge of Soviet Russia, dreaming of flight and fearing nothing. When the tide of war sweeps over her homeland, she gambles everything to join the infamous Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment wreaking havoc on Hitler’s eastern front. But when she is downed behind enemy lines and thrown across the path of a lethal Nazi murderess known as the Huntress, Nina must use all her wits to survive.

British war correspondent Ian Graham has witnessed the horrors of war from Omaha Beach to the Nuremberg Trials. He abandons journalism after the war to become a Nazi hunter, yet one target eludes him: the Huntress. Fierce, disciplined Ian must join forces with brazen, cocksure Nina, the only witness to escape the Huntress alive. But a shared secret could derail their mission, unless Ian and Nina force themselves to confront it.

Seventeen-year-old Jordan McBride grows up in post WWII Boston, determined despite family opposition to become a photographer. At first delighted when her long-widowed father brings home a fiancée, Jordan grows increasingly disquieted by the soft-spoken German widow who seems to be hiding something. Armed only with her camera and her wits, Jordan delves into her new stepmother’s past and slowly realizes there are mysteries buried deep in her family. But Jordan’s search for the truth may threaten all she holds dear.

—                         —                         —

The Huntress is one of the best books I have ever come across.

It is an absolute Must. Listen. To. The narrator, Saskia Maarleveld, does a fantastic job of performing many accents and different characters’ voices, both male and female. Maarleveld is the same narrator who performed The Alice Network, also written by Kate Quinn. Throughout the story, there are certain words repeated that are in various languages and to hear them pronounced in Russian, German and Polish is an enriching experience. I believe that the listener will get so much more out of this story by listening to it, rather than trying to read words in a foreign language throughout the book.

Words I have learned while listening to The Huntress

Rusalka (Russian)

Die Jägerin…. the Huntress (German)

Nachthexen … nightwitches (German)

From the beginning of the book I expected the plot to take a certain path based off of the initial information and cover blurb, but there are so many twists and turns that I did not expect. Each time I thought this is where character x dies, or where Nina meets The Huntress, I am wrong. It kept me guessing to the end.

There is a somewhat similar style of how the story unfolds between this book and The Alice Network. On its face, these look like fairly similar tales, but this book is so much more intricately woven, with more layers in The Huntress.

Could Anna really be Die Jägerin? She seems to genuinely like Jordan even though we know she is playing a role. Throughout the tale, I constantly asked myself, Can any one person be completely evil? Is evil incapable of loving anyone?

Kate Quinn is a superb writer who was able to make me feel sympathy for a war criminal.

I highly recommend The Huntress, especially if you choose the audiobook. I could not put it down.

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Luca Vitiello (Born in Blood Mafia Chronicles #0.5)

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I was born a monster. Cruelty ran in my veins like poison. It ran in the veins of every Vitiello man, passed on from father to son, an endless spiral of monstrosity. A born monster shaped into an even worse monster by my father’s blade and fists and harsh words. I was raised to become Capo, to rule without mercy, to dish out brutality without a second thought.

Raised to break others.

When Aria was given to me in marriage, everyone waited with baited breath to see how fast I’d break her like my father broke his women. How I’d crush her innocence and kindness with the force of my cruelty. Breaking her would have taken little effort. It came naturally to me. I was gladly the monster everyone feared. Until her.

—                         —                         —

Luca Vitiello is the retelling of Bound by Honor from Luca’s perspective. It is a full length novel from author Cora Reilly, but it does retell stories mostly already known by fans. I found that reading this one made me a little more sympathetic to Luca during his stupid moments.

There are a few new scenes from Luca’s POV, especially several from his childhood and induction into NY mafia.

I got the sense that if Luca and Dante were not from separate (warring) mafia families, they might have made good friends.

If you are looking for a brand new story by Cora Reilly, this would be a book to skip, but it is a fun addition to the series if you are Team Luca.

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Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

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Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

—                         —                         —

Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a YA book that I have been hearing a lot about the past few years. Last year there was a movie released based off of this bestseller, re-titled Love, Simon. I didn’t realize when I checked out the audiobook that I was reading a book about an LGBTQ character during PRIDE month, but that makes it an extremely timely review to post.

During the course of the book, I became extremely invested in the lives of these characters, including both Simon and his friends. I was constantly guessing as to who “Blue” was. There were a few times I rolled my eyes at some of the more teenager behaviour and drama, but the pace of the book is quick enough that the plot doesn’t become embroiled in high school.

The relationship between Simon and Blue unfolds over the course of half a year. It was sweet to watch friendship and then romance develop, based completely on personality and not looks, cliques, or popularity.

The audiobook is slightly less than 7 hours, awesome for getting through quickly. I was able to listen to the book in two days. The narrator’s voice is smooth and easy to listen to.

I plan to pick up the sequel, Leah on the Offbeat soon, and listening to it as well.

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A Tribe Called Bliss (Lori Harder)

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Lori Harder is a self-love expert with over one million listeners on her Earn Your Happy podcast. In A Tribe Called Bliss she shares the exact structure she used to build her own tribe and grow from the anxiety ridden, unhealthy, introverted underachiever she was to the confident woman who takes risks and leaps out of her comfort zone, with a foreword from #1 New York Times bestselling author Gabrielle Bernstein.

The benefits of a having a tribe are undeniable. Women who have strong social circles are living longer, happier, healthier lives in comparison to those who lack connections and are mentally and physically exhausting themselves trying to quench external desires in isolation.

Today, we live in an uber-connected era, where anyone is able to make thousands of friends and participate in their lives with the swipe of a finger. Why then, in such a connected time in history, do so many women feel disconnected, confined, misunderstood, defeated, or think that success is a solo project?

In A Tribe Called Bliss Lori Harder bridges the gap between inspiration and action, providing a lasting resource for positive change and a guidebook for establishing a support tribe. This practical book is for the growing audience of woman seeking the sisterhood and connection they crave so much. It encourages readers to examine life on a micro level, and Lori provides lessons and contextual self-work exercises on how to develop the kind of awareness of the present moment that is the key to a lifetime of blissful happiness.

—                         —                         —

I listed to this book on my phone, but I think it is definitely better suited for reading a physical copy instead. If I ever reread it, I will definitely go that route.

Much of the book is written as an easy-to-understand guide to forming your own girl tribe with 2 or 3 other women. As such, when listening to the book, it can come across as an instructional manual. Also, the author gives you assignments throughout the book that would be impossible to do without sitting down and thinking about them a bit … not ideal when you are listening to a book at work, or while driving.

A Tribe Called Bliss is written from a religious point of view. The author does reference God and prayer multiple times. If you are not a Christian, this may turn you off, but she does also mention that when she refers to God, you can think of any deity/angel/higher power that is appropriate for you.  The “religious-speak” is not overwhelming and I would encourage you to still give the book a go.

One of the lessons that I will take away with me is the idea to not keep yourself small. Harder recommends keeping a small list of people whose opinions matter to you on your person or in your purse, and when criticism is coming your way, reflect back on it. I reflected on who would be on my list, and it isn’t very long. More to the point, there was a lot of baggage that I have been carrying around from people who are definitely not on the list. Deep breaths … and let it go.

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Dark Wolf (Dark #22)

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In Dark Lycan, Christine Feehan journeyed into the heart of the Carpathians, and into the souls of two lifemates stirred by the flush of passion and the threat of annihilation. In Dark Wolf, the breathtaking story continues as the bonds of family are imperiled, and the fate of two lovers lies hidden in the seductive shadows between life and death.

Skyler Daratrazanoff always recognized the miracle that was Dimitri Tirunul, a man beyond any dream that had ever engaged her nights. But she was human. Vulnerable. He was Carpathian. Nearly immortal. She was nineteen. He was an ancient. Yet she held half his soul, the light to his darkness. Without her, he would not survive. Caught between the two warring species, Dimitri has spent centuries hunting the undead to keep his people free, and humans safe. He had survived honorably when others had chosen to give up their souls. But now, marked for extermination by the Lycans, Dimitri found himself alone, and fearing for his life. But salvation was coming…

No Lycan would ever suspect someone like Skyler to dare mount a secret rescue operation. A teenage girl. A human of untested abilities. But she had something no one else had. She was predestined for Dimitri—as he was for her. And there was nothing stronger for Skyler than her desire to see her life-dream come true. Whatever the risk.

—                         —                         —

I have been reading the Dark / Carpathian series since I was in the seventh grade. Well over a decade at this point. And I still read it, although its place as number one in my heart has been usurped. Normally I try not to review series out of order on this website. It doesn’t really matter but my OCD disagrees.

Nonetheless, I am way too far into this series to start at the beginning right now, so we are going with #22 instead.

Dark Wolf was a looooong awaited book. It tells the story of Skyler Daratrazanoff, who was introduced as a young teenager much earlier in the series.

I was rooting for Skyler from day one. She is tenacious, brave, resilient and someone you can’t help but cheer on as a fan. Her lifemate, Dimitri is absolutely worthy of her and they are fierce in their defence of each other.

This book takes place in the Carpathian Mountains, at a time when their people – normally isolated and far-spread – have come together. As someone who has read every book in this series, it was a welcome chance to revisit some previous couples that haven’t been seen in awhile.

I love how imaginative this author is. She can create a detailed and multifaceted world in a few short paragraphs. Lycans had already been introduced in the series, but in a very limited capacity. Ms. Feehan made the world so much more vibrant, exploring the world of Lycan politics, military tactics and history, without ever taking away from Skyler and Dimitri’s story.

I definitely recommend Dark Wolf, which is one of those books that stands out for me in a fantastic series. If you are willing to start this series from the beginning with Dark Prince, you will get more out of it, but it isn’t completely necessary.

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Shadow Warrior (Shadow #4)

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Vittorio Ferraro is a man whose family loyalty knows no bounds. He would die for his siblings and the people they love, but what he really wants is to start a family of his own. Deep down, Vittorio has always known finding a woman who could ride shadows would be nearly impossible—let alone one who could accept his particular needs—and he never expected to find her in the middle of a kidnapping.
Grace Murphy has always been drawn to Vittorio Ferraro—or at least to the billionaire’s public bad-boy persona. Now that she’s under his protection and the sole focus of his intense caring, she can’t help wanting to get as close to him as possible. But Grace knows her presence is putting the entire Ferraro family in danger. Her monster of a brother will never let her go, but Vittorio has no intention of losing the woman whose shadow matches his own.

—                         —                         —

Shadow Warrior is the fourth book in the Shadow Rider series from Christine Feehan. I am a fan of Ms. Feehan so most of her books are auto-buys for me.

Grace and Vittorio have a longer amount of time to build a relationship with each other than any other couple in this world. Grace’s severe injuries and the threatened violence from their enemies lead to most of the romance taking place in an insulated world, behind gated walls. This also means that the physical aspect of their relationship is a bit delayed, and there is no sex until about halfway through the book.

I liked Shadow Warrior but it is my least favourite in the series so far. One of the aspects I like about these books is the sense of community and family that are instilled in them. I found these aspects lacking in Warrior and got pretty bored. IMHO, the pace of the story was much slower. There is also a lot of dialogue between Grace and Vittorio.

Throughout the last book and this one, it is made clear that Vittorio and Grace would be engaged in a Dominant/submissive lifestyle. I was concerned that the author would gloss over this. She doesn’t in their discussions, but their bedroom time is pretty vanilla. I figure Ms. Feehan did this because she writes for a traditional publisher and has many longtime fans who would be disappointed if her books transitioned from romance to erotica. But that in turn disappoints fans like me who want to see characters live up to their reputations.

I would recommend Shadow Warrior for anyone who is interested in supernatural romance or romantic suspense, but I was a little disappointed in this instalment. Hopefully the last two books will be more my style.

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Exquisite Sin (Iron Horse MC #6)

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Lyric
I thought once I finally fled the strict confines of my old church I’d be free. Safe from the demons masquerading as holy men. Unfortunately, there is just as much evil in the real world as my former home, and the demons that want to destroy me are still on the hunt. My hero comes from the most unlikely of places, a knight in black leather who is ready to lay down his life for my own. My church may have called him a sinner who was leading me into damnation, but to me he is my salvation.

Hustler
I’ve spent my life alone, my heart and soul claimed long ago by the Iron Horse MC. My loyalty to them was unquestionable before a certain freckled angel entered my life. Now my devotion to my club is torn between doing what my President wants, and what my woman needs. It kills me that I’m forced to leave her side when she needs me the most, but if I stay with her much longer I’m going to get her killed. Except my absence doesn’t make her any safer. By the time I figure out the true threat comes from within, it’s too late to do anything but pray to a God who turned his back on me long ago for a miracle I don’t deserve.

—                         —                         —

Exquisite Sin is the sixth book in the Iron Horse MC series, and the second of a two part arc featuring Hustler and Lyric.

There was a looong wait for this book! The previous one was released nearly two years ago and fans have been waiting since then for the conclusion to Hustler and Lyric’s love story.

Although the wait was painful (and to my mind unnecessary), Exquisite Sin was well worth it, IMHO.

To begin with, this is a series that should absolutely be read in order.

I loved Exquisite Sin; it is quite possibly my favourite book in this series. There is a good balance of action, love, sex, and world building – although Swan annoyed the heck out of me.

The biggest drawback was the ending of this book. It is very sudden and the book ends with the climactic action scenes. There is almost no let down after this drama. It also means that as a reader, you don’t get to ever see Hustler and Lyric together outside of a crisis situation.

(I strongly believe that the 15 years later epilogue at the end doesn’t count).

One of my favourite quotes came from a new background character, who is lending a shoulder to a heroine in need:

The thought of discussing my relationship concerns with this big, intimidating man had me nervously looking away. “I’m okay.”

“I’m okay, you’re okay, we’re all fuckin’ okay, until we’re not okay. Am I right?”

I slumped back against the couch then threw my hands in the air. “I’m fine!”

“Little girl, I got three grown daughters and a wife I’ve been lucky enough to be married to for over twenty-five years. I know when a woman says she’s fine like you just did, it means she’s anything but.”

Mayburn, Ann. Exquisite Sin (Iron Horse MC Book 6) . Honey Mountain Publishing. Kindle Edition.

With the release of this novel, author Ann Mayburn announced that it would conclude the Iron Horse MC series. Talk about disappointing, considering she has introduced us to awesome background characters that deserve their own HEAs! Luckily, she has also teased that we will revisit her MC world with different chapters of the Iron Horse MC, so hopefully those characters we love like Sledge and Hulk will just migrate over there.

I guess this means if you prefer your romance to be fully completed, it is an awesome time to start reading this series though! If it is new to you, pick up Exquisite Trouble first.

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