Breaking Free (Shadowlands book #3)

The Shadowlands series should be read in order. The first book is called Club Shadowlands and the kindle version can be acquired for free from Amazon : )

breaking free

A sadistic husband left Beth scarred, inside and out. Only at the Shadowlands BDSM club does she feel like a woman. But her fears limit her to Doms who won’t overwhelm her–the very ones who cannot arouse her. The Master of the Shadowlands gives her an ultimatum: accept the Dom he assigns or lose her membership. The last thing Beth wants is a ruthless, powerful Dom, but that’s just what she gets.

Asked to take on a problem sub, Nolan sees the issue immediately–although truly submissive, the little redhead is too scared to relinquish control and her Doms have let her get away with it. That will change right now.

As Master Nolan takes Beth under command, compelling her submission, she’s terrified, but the experienced Dom brings her pleasure, not pain. His only demand is that she never lie to him. Under his capable hands, her body comes alive, and she begins to heal. As he pushes her limits, she learns to trust…and then to love. And she realizes he is beginning to care for her in return.

But now her cruel husband has found her, and Master Nolan discovers she’s been lying and lying and lying.

—                         —                         —

I love Master Nolan. He is my very favourite Dom so far, and that’s saying something because every Dom in the Shadowlands is hot, attentive and genuine!

Breaking Free is about Beth’s overcoming past abuse but I LOVE that this isn’t a simple hero-rescues-heroine story. Beth escaped her powerful and influential abusive husband before the book begins, going into a self-styled witness protection plan. She started and built up her own landscaping company to make a new life for herself – a far cry from the financially-privileged house wife role she played before.

Even more impressive, she joins a private BDSM club in this new life, trying to overcome the physical, emotional and sexual abuse to regain her control over intimacy and engage on an interpersonal level with another kinkster. Although this is something she is seriously struggling with, I am so thankful that the author didn’t paint Beth as a wilting flower, afraid to try again.

“She’s a good person. Honest, full of enthusiasm. But when she gets here, she turns into a mouse. She’s not just submissive; she’s terrified. She comes to the club because she requires more than the vanilla world can offer, but we’re not meeting those needs.”

Nolan studied the scene some more. Pretty obvious what the problem was. She was too scared to give up control, but she needed to give up control to get her needs as a submissive met.

“She wouldn’t be an easy sub to top.”

“Exactly.” Z tilted his head. “You up to the challenge?”

Sinclair, Cherise. Breaking Free (Masters of the Shadowlands Series Book 3) (p. 5). VanScoy Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Breaking Free is another short novel, like the first two in the Shadowlands series, but it is self-contained. I am super thankful that the author evolved into writing longer novels after this one, and also that she later wrote a novella that follows Nolan and Beth, updating up on their future life and relationship. I look forward to reviewing it soon!

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Obsession Mine by Anna Zaires

This is the second book in the trilogy. To read my preview of book one, please click here.

Obsession Mine is available for pre-order today and will be released on 14th November 2017. I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I stole her in the night. Caged her because I can’t live without her. She’s my love, my addiction, my obsession.

I will do anything to keep Sara mine.

—                         —                         —

Anna Zaires is the reigning Queen of dark romance in my world. I loved her Twist Me and Capture Me series, and now the current WIP has stolen top spot.

I absolutely loved both Tormentor Mine and Obsession Mine. This book starts off immediately from where the previous one ends, which is certainly an action-packed couple of chapters, as Peter is kidnapping Sara, stealing her away from the world!

Sara becomes a true captive of Peter, even more so than when he was living in her house because he has taken her away from her family, her friends and her patients. I think that the lack of work is the hardest to adjust to for Sara. She is a workaholic who fills emotional needs through her efforts as an OB-GYN and to suddenly have days that are mostly empty is difficult to reconcile, especially given the circumstances.

It is difficult to believe, but the sex just gets hotter in this instalment! And it is now beyond obvious that there will be a third concluding book in this trilogy, something I was hoping for though it also means having to suffer through the months of waiting for the conclusion. Anna, please write quickly!

Some of the sex in Obsession Mine is of dubious consent and there is an oral rape scene. Please read the tags for this blog post if you are concerned about triggers.

The only thing that struck me as odd in this book is the limited amount of time spent developing relationships between Sara and Peter’s team, in the first half of the story at least. I expected them to have more interaction right off given the circumstances and hope those secondary characters will be expanded on in the next book because they all deserve their own trilogies!

I also really wanted Sara to have a full-fledged freak-out at some point, and the bathtub scene on her first day at the safe house seemed perfect. Readers of the first book will remember that before Peter and Sara became romantically entangled, he tortured her for information, and part of this was him water-boarding her. She has PTSD and an angry Peter standing over her in the bathtub should have triggered this.

Otherwise, an exceptional book that I will be re-reading again and again while I wait for the concluding part in this series!

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Tormentor Mine by Anna Zaires

Note: This is the first novel in a new series that is a spin-off of the Twist Me series, but Tormentor Mine CAN be read as a standalone.

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A new dark romance from New York Times bestseller Anna Zaires

He came to me in the night, a cruel, darkly handsome stranger from the most dangerous corners of Russia. He tormented me and destroyed me, ripping apart my world in his quest for vengeance.

Now he’s back, but he’s no longer after my secrets.

The man who stars in my nightmares wants me.

—                        —                        —

Tormentor Mine is a dark romance novel written by Anna Zaires. The relationship between the two main characters is strained and non-consensual to begin with, but this book does not contain any scenes of rape or sexual violence between the hero and heroine. If you are a fan of the original series, Twist Me, I do not think this book is as dark in comparison.

I wish Tormentor Mine had been longer! I finished in about 3 hours so the most disappointing part of the story for me was that it ended so quickly! I have a bit of a book hangover from Peter and Sara, to say the least. They are my new favourite couple from this author and I cannot wait for the sequel! It hasn’t officially been announced yet, but it is obvious from the ending in TM that one will be written.

I was eagerly anticipating Peter Sokolov and ever since his introduction a couple of years ago, I have wondered at his actions and his backstory. Thankfully the author takes the time to provide all the information I had been hoping to get. And now, when my typical anti-hero romance authors have been going through a drought, I was especially excited to get my hands on a dark new book.

Sara is different from most of the previous heroines that Zaires has written, in that she is highly educated, confident and comfortable in her life. Not that everything is perfect – far from it – but she is a full-fledged OBGYN doctor, a homeowner and just generally seems to have all her shit together (unlike myself).

I like that Peter fell in love with her from afar.  His traumatic life, from childhood all the way up to the present, has created a need in him to possess love, to be fully in control of his woman. But this violent and controlling nature is tempered by fierce protective instincts.

Peter’s wife and son were murdered five years previously and although his marriage was one of convenience, he was affectionate towards this first wife and loved his son fiercely. In his relationship with Sara, he isn’t only protective of her safety or of his position in her life. He respects her intellect and her skills as a doctor, and is proud of her work with mothers and babies.

Peter respects her strength and the inherent emotional vulnerability that he sees in Sara. She is loyal, strong, compassionate and good. The type of good he hasn’t seen much of in his life and these are the main reasons that he decides to insert himself into her life. He has already fallen in love with her, knows he wants her to be his permanently, and also recognizes that his previous actions have left her absolutely terrified of him.

It is kind of cute and romantic – in a decidedly creepy way – that he inserts himself into her life completely against her will, and almost becomes a sort of househusband. During the daytime while she is working at the hospital, or volunteering at a free clinic, he does his super secret “shadow work” as the head of a team of assassins. But every night this run-down, underfed, stressed out, PTSD-suffering doc comes home to a home-cooked, candlelit meal, and is pampered and taken care of. He doesn’t press her for sex until she initiates it, just sleeps with her in his arms so that she can become desensitized to him and learn to trust him.

Peter has the power to abduct and keep Sara anywhere in the world. To keep her exclusively his. He makes sacrifices and undertakes significant risk to stay in her world, so that she can remain close to her family and care for her patients for as long as possible, supporting the work that she does. Sara’s wings may be clipped, but he still wants her to soar as high as possible, within the cage he has created.

I love how Zaires has expanded the original Twist Me world and introduced three new hunks with potential future hero statuses: Yan, Ilya and Anton. This is one book that I would love to see be turned into a movie!

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Devil’s Game by Joanna Wylde

Devil’s Game is the third book in the Reapers MC series by Wylde. It tells the story of Em and Hunter that was teased throughout the entire second novel. The first part covers Em’s kidnapping and the fallout, only told from her and Hunter’s perspectives, rather than Sophie’s. As such, it is more detailed. Em and Hunter are a classic Romeo and Juliet story retold from the perspective of contemporary characters who belong to enemy outlaw motorcycle clubs.

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Liam “Hunter” Blake hates the Reapers MC. Born and raised a Devil’s Jack, he knows his duty. He’ll defend his club from their oldest enemies-the Reapers-using whatever weapons he can find. But why use force when the Reapers’ president has a daughter who’s alone and vulnerable? Hunter has wanted her from the minute he saw her, and now he has an excuse to take her.

Em has lived her entire life in the shadow of the Reapers. Her overprotective father, Picnic, is the club’s president. The last time she had a boyfriend, Picnic shot him. Now the men in her life are far more interested in keeping her daddy happy than showing her a good time. Then she meets a handsome stranger-a man who isn’t afraid to treat her like a real woman. One who isn’t afraid of her father. His name is Liam, and he’s The One.

Or so she thinks.

—                         —                          —

I loved this book! I actually had to read it twice to appreciate its glory. The first time I read it was just a few days after the previous book and it was too soon. I didn’t want to recover any of the same material. But after taking a few months before going at it a second time, I am so thankful for the author’s decision to retell the kidnapping from Hunter and Em’s POVs. This decision provides insight into their psyches and lots of  delicious tension. Em is fiery and passionate and makes several escape attempts that were tons of fun to read.

The prologues and a couple of flash backs give excellent background info on both characters It is pretty funny to see some of the things that Em had to deal with growing up as the daughter of the President of an outlaw MC. Despite some of the very difficult periods of her life that she has gone through – or maybe because of them – she understands the value of life and second chances quite clearly and is very forgiving.

A little vengeful too. But that just keeps life interesting.

Devil’s Game opens up the Reaper world just a little bit more. The reader gets to meet Deke further, and see the beginnings of a relationship between him and Cookie develop. I hope they get a story of their own one day …. I would be super excited to read it! We also see the Portland chapter of a Devil’s Jacks MC start up.

Hunter is delicious. Very ignorant of how to conduct himself in a relationship but charming all the same. He may be pretty rough around the edges but he loves his girl and that shines through clearly.

I loved Em and Hunter’s story. The only problem I had with it is that it ends very suddenly. As soon as the main plot point was resolved, the story just drops off with one chapter. I think the ending would have been improved with more of a lead off.

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Reaper’s Legacy – Joanna Wylde

Reaper’s Legacy is the second book in the Reapers MC series by Joanna Wylde. If you are rolling your eyes right now, thinking to yourself NOT ANOTHER MC romance series, take heart, because this one is the best around and you’ll be glad you sucked it up and read just one more.

Wylde was a professional journalist before she moved into writing novels and her experience shows. She did major research into how MCs operate and the people who choose that lifestyle. It is reflected in the quality of her work, which has an integrity and honesty few other authors have managed to communicate. Wylde has done countless interviews with outlaw bikers and their women.

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From Goodreads:

Reaper’s Legacy is a raw and intensely erotic tale in Joanna Wylde’s Reapers Motorcycle Club series.

Eight years ago, Sophie gave her heart-and her virginity-to Zach Barrett on a night that couldn’t have been less romantic or more embarrassing. Zach’s step-brother, a steely-muscled, tattooed biker named Ruger, caught them in the act, getting a peep show of Sophie he’s never forgotten.

She may have lost her dignity that fateful night, but Sophie also gained something precious-her son Noah. Unfortunately, Zach’s a deadbeat dad, leaving Ruger to be Noah’s only male role model. When he discovers Sophie and his nephew living in near poverty, Ruger takes matters into his own hands-with the help of the Reapers Motorcycle Club-to give them a better life.

Living with outlaw bikers wasn’t Sophie’s plan for her son, but Ruger isn’t giving her a choice. He’ll be there for Noah, whether she wants him or not. But Sophie does want him, has always wanted him. Now she’ll learn that taking a biker to bed can get a girl dirty in every way.

—                             —                             —

Ruger is basically Noah’s Dad, in everything but name. So at its heart, this is almost a baby daddy / estranged parents story, except that Ruger and Sophie have never actually done the deed.

Reaper’s Legacy is the second story in the MC world of the Reapers where the heroine is new to club life. This gives the audience a chance to learn the rules with her. Like the heroine in the previous book, Sophie initially struggles with the sexist rules of the MC and with certain terms like “property” … but she also quickly becomes friends with the bikers’ Old Ladies, and none of those broads are the least bit intimidated, or oppressed by the club members. Sophie can see the differences in the treatment these women receive and how the club sluts are treated. Added to how kind everyone is to her and her son, she can’t quite slam the door on the biker world. Or Ruger.

I love how Wylde seamlessly patches together subplots involving a whole cast of secondary characters without taking away from the hero and heroine. In particular, we get to learn a whole lot more about Em Hayes and also have regular updates on Horse / Marie and their upcoming wedding.

Wylde’s bikers are alpha males, and kinda assholes to be honest, but they’re asses who love their women and would throw down for them anytime anywhere which takes a bit of the wind out of the feminist sails. While Horse, from book 1, is still my ultimate dream guy, I also absolutely love Ruger. We might kill each other in real life, but I love him.

Highly recommended!

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Dauntless – a Sons of Templar MC novel

dauntless

From Goodreads:

This isn’t a fairy tale. I’ll save you the trouble by telling you that now.

This is the tale of a girl who spent her life bouncing around foster homes, who had her innocence stolen in the darkness before she knew it was something that could be lost. Her demons followed her everywhere, after that night. They chased her to the medical school she dropped out of, to the strip club she sold herself in, and finally caught her in a river of sin where they tried to drown her.

My name is Bex and this is my story.

I’m paddling, barely keeping my head above water. And even though I’m submerged, I’ll never be clean. The layer of dirt that has clung to me since birth is a tattoo I’ll wear for life.
He can’t see it, though.
Even when I’m torn and tattered, and left in pieces, he wades into the filth to try to put those pieces back together.
He doesn’t seem to understand there’s nothing left to repair. To love. Just sullied fragments of a damned soul.
He’s willing to damn himself in order to exact revenge on those who sent me to the pit.
Problem is, my name is at the top of that list, since I not only damned my own soul, but his too.

*Contains dark subject matter and potential triggers
**Can be read as a standalone

—      —       —

Okay, yes this can be read as a standalone. But I REALLY would not recommend it. The Sons of Templar MC is stellar and you would get so much more from the book if you read the others first. At least read Beyond the Horizon, which is the fourth book in the series and the one where Bex and Lucky meet.

Also, if you have read the series, note that this one is the darkest yet, IMHO. Trigger warnings include child abuse (in the heroine’s backstory), drug use, rape and mental illness. The heroine feels like she is worthless trash due to her experiences. Please note that none of the violence and abuse occurs between the hero and heroine.

Now we have that established…

I absolutely loved Dauntless. It totally made up for my last (disappointing) review. Bex and Lucky have a dark and twisted love story and I love that Bex is not your typical helpless heroine, waiting for the boys to come rescue her and help her deal emotionally. She is a kickass, strong, mentally-tough woman.

But she’s not perfect. The author, Anne Malcom, wrote a strong female lead who struggles with mental illness and with addiction. She has a horrific upbringing, from being dumped into the system at birth and being “raised” in a series of shitty foster homes, to her rape by one of those so-called “Dads” when she was just 12 years old. Those experiences have left some pretty extensive emotional scarring.

The story picks up when Bex is 23, a college dropout stripping to try to make rent every month and using drugs to cope with the she life she’s been handed. I love that Malcom doesn’t pretend a person who is mentally strong does not have any issues. Sometimes, the strongest have the most horrific life experiences. THAT is what makes them so strong.

Lucky and Bex appear to have been made for each other. The amount of patience and self-discipline Lucky demonstrates while waiting for Bex to pull herself together is incredible. I truly don’t think that I would have been able to do that for anyone. He knows that she is the one for him and is willing to do whatever, wait however long, in order to be with her and respect her boundaries. Repeatedly he steps back and lets her do things he doesn’t approve of because he understand her, understands that need to control her body and her life after control was taken from her so brutally in the past.

He also takes a lot of emotional abuse, understanding that the bitchiness is protecting a soft, extremely delicate core that cannot handle any more abuse. Lucky has always been the funny guy of the group, always with a joke and a smile. You sure see another side of him in Dauntless, but there is also a lot of humour and banter between him and Bex that helps to counter the dark content.

I felt that Dauntless was a more balanced story between the hero and the heroine than previous books in the series. It is still told almost entirely from Bex’s POV, but we learn a lot more of Lucky’s viewpoint and backstory than we did for previous male leads. This is a huge improvement in my opinion. I also loved that Malcom wrote them as an inter-racial couple and it was so not a big deal that I almost missed that point. This is how it should be! I’m tired of reading books where the author describes the hero/ine’s skin tone as chocolate or coffee a million and one times.

The earlier books in this series also had a slightly different pacing and style. Partially, I think the author is adapting her writing style, but also, her changes really fit with the dark tone of this book. There is a lot less jumping around in timeline – Dauntless mostly reads chronologically – and the supporting cast have far less importance and “page-time” than in other books, except for Rosie… who I seriously hope is the star of book six!

Malcom has started two other series, one a spin-off from the Sons of Templar MC and another completely separate, so I am guessing the books are not going to be coming as swiftly as I am used to. Too bad because I am very interested in reading all about Rosie and Luke, the hunky deputy!

I absolutely recommend this book for anyone who doesn’t mind a little dark in their romance!

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Sordid by Nikki Sloane

Sordid is the newest dark romance that I have read and a surprisingly good addition to my library. The premise relies on the traditional older man overwhelms younger female virgin trope, but it is well-done, IMHO. The anti-hero protagonist is Luka, the eldest son of a Mafia Captain, and his very reluctant heir. Luka is brilliant and wants to go legit as a businessman, but can’t break out of the role he was born into.

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** Warning: Moderate spoiler alert here in terms of a trigger warning.

Luka rapes the heroine, Addison. It happens at the beginning of the book, when they are both drunk at a frat party. He isn’t excessively violent (ie; no hitting or punching her, and he tries to protect her from his mafia connections afterwards) but at the end of the day she says no and he doesn’t stop. That is rape. It IS the darkest part of the book, but if that’s a trigger for you, don’t bother reading Sordid.

So when Luka fails to cover up his crime by drugging Addison (in the hopes that she would forget it happened), he takes her prisoner and decides to make her his forever. To be fair, he intended to do that all along but hoped to woo her more gently if he could manage to make her forget the rape… and his relatives were all in favour of killing her to avoid police attention, so in “keeping” her, he does save her life. I guess there was no letting her go at that point.

But I transgress ….

Lately, I have been heavily into the captive romance sub-genre, no doubt brought on by the fantastic series Twist Me by Anna Zaires. While I hate reading about a man hitting his girl in anger, there’s no denying I like books that push the envelope far further than genteel society would prefer. I like my stories to rip me open, tear out my guts and heart and then stuff everything back inside and close up, a little different for having the experience. Sordid succeeded on this account.

It wasn’t my favourite captive romance but I enjoyed it and would highly recommend. The drawbacks were that the ending was a little too tidy and easy, the betrayals too few, and Addison adapted with too little introspection. She obviously resists at first, and then tries to play along to gain an attempt at escape, but ultimately settles in and learns to enjoy Luka’s rougher preferences and ownership without too many qualms. I’d rather have seen her struggle with it more.

The takeaway: I liked the story and would definitely read more from Nikki Sloane. I’ll have to see if she has anything else out there. Sordid read like a stand-alone, not a series.

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