Dark Illusion (Dark #29)

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At any other time, Julija Brennan would find solace in the quiet of the Sierra Mountains, but now the mage is in the race of her life. Having broken free from her controlling family, Julija’s attempts to warn the Carpathians of the coming threat has failed and put a target on her back—and those who hunt her are close behind…

After centuries locked away in a monastery in the Carpathian Mountains, Isai Florea can’t believe he’s finally found his lifemate—the missing half of his soul. The second he sees Julija his world blazes with color. But despite their explosive connection Julija rebels against what she sees as Isai’s intent to control her and rejects the bond that would prevent him from becoming a monster.

As their unfulfilled bond continues to call to them both, Julija and Isai aim to complete the task that brought them together. They are used to facing danger alone, but now the mage and the ancient warrior must learn how to rely on each other in order to stop a plot that threatens all Carpathians…

—                         —                         —

Dark Illusion is a traditional romance novel that has the slightest elements of BDSM in it. The book is very mainstream, but there are two short spanking scenes in the beginning of the book, while the ancient Carpathian hero and the modern mage heroine are feeling each other out.

One aspect of this romance that I loved is that even though the characters are in insta-lust with each other (destiny and all that), they don’t bond immediately, leading both to feel that the souls were mismatched or damaged. Their hesitancies drew me into the story, made the romance easier to relate to and definitely led to certain humourous moments.

There is quite a bit of conversation regarding lifemates, and whether or not it is fair to expect the women to give up her life when she is claimed, or fair to the Carpathian to allow him to turn vampire or suicide, so that the woman does not need to sacrifice herself. I think this conversation was long overdue and I am glad that Julija had it with several characters, working through her problems with Isai’s expectations. I enjoy a little supernatural romance but for me, it always needs to be grounded with some level of magical realism, and normal human emotions and behaviour.

The remaining sections of the book are devoted to the epic struggle between Carpathian and vampires and evil mages. Battles are fought, betrayals uncovered and through it all Isai and Julija enjoy some sheet-ripping good sex.

I enjoyed the book, although the Carpathian series is the one I like least from this author. Dark Illusion hinted at Elisabeta and Ferro’s upcoming story, and I am very excited to read that one.

Overall, fans of the Carpathian series should enjoy reading Dark Illusion. It should be read in order, as much of the plot will not make sense otherwise.

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Twisted Emotions (Camorra Chronicles #2)

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* Note: This is a re-post, somehow my first one was lost.

Nino Falcone is genius and monster. As the right hand man and brother of the Capo of the Camorra, his lack of feelings is a blessing, not a curse – until his brother asks him to marry for the sake of the Camorra.

Kiara Vitiello, cousin of the Capo of the New York Famiglia, is chosen to marry Nino Falcone to prevent war with the Camorra, but what she hears about Las Vegas makes her veins pulse with terror. After her father betrayed his Capo and paid with his life, her family thinks marriage is her only chance to bring honor to her name; but only Kiara knows she’s a faulty prize given in return for peace.

A man incapable of emotions and a woman scarred by the past – an arranged marriage with the potential to unite, or destroy…

—                         —                         —

Note: Kiara was raped as a child by a member of her family. This book may have triggers to someone who is sensitive to this topic.

For a long time fans of Reilly, Twisted Emotions will feel like a throwback to her earlier style. Rather than a love match, Kiara Vitiello is forced to marry Nino Falcone in order to secure a period of peace between the Las Vegas and New York mafias.

Nino is a bit of a cold fish, much like the character Dante Cavallaro was in the second book. However, underneath that cold, calculating brain there is a simmering volcano of emotions, brewing from severe childhood trauma that he has yet to deal with. Slowly, Nino’s emotions break loose loose with Kiara, although he remains very emotionless in every other situation.

Nino was exceedingly patient with Kiara, especially considering his nature and history. I think that he approached their relationship and her trauma perfectly, and has become a solid support system with her.

Almost everything was perfectly balanced in Twisted Emotions. The plot, the relationship between Nino and Kiara, the supporting characters, it all worked beautifully together. I did feel that the book ended very abruptly, and I didn’t feel like the story built up to an explosive ending. It was a little bit anticlimactic other than the epilogue scene. However, that epilogue very clearly sets up the next book in the series – starring Remo – and I have a feeling that Nino and Kiara’s story will continue to unfold as secondary characters.

Kiara and Nino are my favourite couple of 2019. I really loved their story. I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with Nino. He was so emotionally dead that I expected to have a difficult time warming up to him, but it was actually super easy …. too easy. I would definitely be that girl who transposed her feelings onto the scary serial killer. Whoops.

The one niggling thought I had as I read this book, was what do these women do all day? No kids, no job, no household responsibilities. No driving license or volunteer work because of the danger to their lives …. do they just sit and watch the dust collect on the windowsill? Seriously though. I think that is the one thing that I would like to see further developed in these books. Give the girls something to do! I guarantee you that a woman does not sit pining for her husband until he returns home from work.

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Twisted Bonds (Camorra Chronicles #4)

Twisted Bonds

Can you ever truly leave the past behind in a house full of haunted souls?

Kiara always wanted a loving family she could take care of. She never thought she’d find it with the Falcones.

Nino and Kiara both lost part of themselves in their traumatic childhood. Together they’re trying to recover the missing pieces, but they aren’t the only broken souls in the Falcone mansion; Kiara fears that not all of them can be saved. Determined to protect her new family and the future of her dreams, she’s on a mission to help each of them in her own way, even if it means stacking up secrets.

Four brothers bound together by an unbreakable bond forged in their dark past. If one of them falls, will they all?

—                         —                         —

* I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Twisted Bonds is the fourth book in the Camorra Chronicles series. I loved revisiting Kiara and Nino’s relationship and reading about events from their points of view. I was in love with their first book and have read it at least a dozen times, so it was a treat to get a second.

There is a lot of family drama in this book, but in a good way …? If that even makes sense. The bonds between Nino and his brothers cannot be broken. Serafina, and especially Kiara, have become integral members of their family as well. I love the community aspect of a book and seeing all the different relationships unfold; the secenes between Kiara and Remo were some of my favourites. Cora Reilly does this extremely well and it is something I always highly anticipate in her books.

Twisted Bonds has absolutely increased my appetite for another book. Unfortunately, the next will not be out until February 2020, so I will probably read this one several times over before then.

Please Note: Twisted Bonds must be read as part of the series, in order, or it will not make much sense!

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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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Twisted (Zeta Cartel #5)

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Persia York has the face of an angel and a reputation that’s pure gutter but she will do anything for her family. Forced into debt-slavery to save her brother, things aren’t what they seem. No matter how hard she works, Persia can’t free herself. Worse, she publicly disses Jorge Santos, the leader of the Zeta cartel, and is catapulted into a turf war. Abducted and a helpless captive of the deadly drug lord, Persia decides she’s had enough. It’s time to fight back.

Dangerous, devious Jorge Santos doesn’t take shit from anyone. When a meeting with a rival turns ugly, Jorge goes to war. Determined on destruction, his first step is to abduct his enemy’s most prized possession, the beautiful but mouthy Persia York. But Jorge soon learns his victim is not as easy to break as he thought and to his shock, he falls for his adversary’s woman. As the war heats up, the cartel boss is forced to make decisions that may cost him his life – and his love.

A ruthless man on a quest to win no matter what it takes.
A woman intent on holding her own, even if it destroys her.

Twisted is a compelling tale of vengeance, murder, cartel violence and finding love in the darkest of times.

—                         —                         —

Twisted is the latest cartel novel from author A.J. Adams and it has skyrocketed to one of my favourites in this series. Something about Jorge and Persia just melted my heart.

This novel takes place in England, where the cartel is establishing a foothold, under Jorge. He and Persia start off as enemies – mostly due to a series of misunderstandings – and he kidnaps her to get revenge and gain leverage on her “lover”. Little does he know how much of an asset she would be if he would only work with her and not against her!

This novel is billed as containing graphic violence and dubious consent. The violence isn’t all that graphic compared to previous books in this series. I doubt it would bother anyone accustomed to reading thrillers or dark romance. The dubious consent scene is in the first 25% of the book, and the remaining scenes are entirely consensual from that point forward.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and highly recommend it, but readers will definitely get more out of it if you have read the series. That being said, it could be read as a standalone.

Twisted is one of those books that I am already eager to go back and start reading again. Hopefully you love it as much as I did!

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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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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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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)

Sin

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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