Alexandr’s Cherished Submissive by Ann Mayburn – a review

Alexandr and Jessica’s story is a two part story-line within the Submissive’s Wish series; this is the first part so the couple doesn’t get their happily ever after yet, but the author doesn’t leave you with a cliffhanger either. Part II is due out in September 2015. Thankfully, not a long wait.

alex 1

Here is the cover blurb for this book:

7 years before books I & II

From the moment Alexandr Novikov met the young auburn haired woman bartending at her uncle’s pub in Ireland, he’d been fascinated by her delicate beauty and fiery spirit. Unfortunately, he is in no position to offer her the kind of safe, normal life she deserves so he attempts to put her from his mind for her own good. Something easier said then done when a deal is struck between the Novikov Bratva and the Irish Cleary Gang, an arrangement that includes Alex and his men being on twenty-four hour bodyguard duty with the object of his forbidden desires.

Jessica Venture came to Dublin to spend some time bonding with her birth mother’s family, a connection she desperately needs after losing her adoptive parents within a year of each other back in the States. The last thing she expected was to fall in love with a handsome, mysterious, and sometimes scary man who was well known for his sexual appetite, but rejected her attempts to seduce him.

There are outside forces that will do anything to keep them apart, and Jessica will have to make a desperate choice that will change their lives forever.

Warning: There is light bondage, domestic discipline, spanking, and an F/F scene that is a voyeuristic Doms delight.

—                     —                    —

This is probably my favourite series at the moment, and has been for about a year. I was curious going in, because I knew that this book would be different from the others and I wasn’t sure how I would like that.

To start, ACS takes place several years before books 1 or 2, sort of like a prequel I suppose, and many of the life-changing, formational events that turn our beloved characters into the people they are haven’t happened yet. Plus, the reader is used to seeing them in a certain way and in a certain relationship so it is rather strange to see them with other woman. Thankfully though, I didn’t have any problems with the familiar characters and their undevelopment as it were.

Books 1 and 2 both feature female leads in their mid-twenties, several years older than Jessica’s 19, and their relationships are hot and heavy from the beginning. Alexandr’s Cherished Submissive is much more of a slow burn. Alex and Jessica are friends for months before they become intimate and their bedroom shannanigans feature much less dominance and submission than voyeurism and swinging, another departure from the other books in the series.

In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, this whole series is definitely 18+ erotic 😉

Now voyeurism and swinging aren’t really my thing, I’m more of a straight D/s person, so I didn’t enjoy the sex scenes in this book as much as I did in others, but they were still      H-O-T HOT!  And the plot development was great.

Jessica is young and innocent and sweet. Although a lot of people in her life have died, her birth parents, adopted parents and their parents, she is still such a kind-hearted person who sort of floats through life doing good deeds. She isn’t a pushover in any way, but she has great compassion and occasionally shames her bodyguards for not being more helpful to perfect strangers. Jess has a heart of gold.

Alexandr is pretty much what I expected from the first two books. He loves Jessica with everything in him and is desperate to protect her from the consequences of his fathers’ increasingly erratic plots, and the numerous enemies of both his Bratva and Jessica’s Uncle’s.

My favourite aspect to Mayburn’s writing is her ability to create such multi-dimensional characters and worlds, and to create multiple interesting secondary characters with depth and backgrounds without detracting from the leads. It was a treat to revisit many characters already introduced, including Dmitri, Maks, Ivan, Petrov, Catrin, and Nico, while also meeting Krom and Oleg. I cannot wait until Krom gets his own book, probably book 5 in the series.

The only section that didn’t quite hit it with me, is when Jessica discovers that Alex is a mega criminal and flips. At the time, her bodyguards lock her in the house to keep her from taking off before Alexandr can return from out of country the next morning. You never see her really lose it on them for physically holding her captive essentially, nor does she have a moment of doubt about what else they might do to her for Alex. Although they had come to love and respect her by then, their loyalty is to Alex and the Novikov Bratva first, and I expected her to be rather displeased for a period.

Plus, she totally caves to Alex upon his return. Granted, he makes a big gesture to show her how much she means to him, but I still thought she let him off too easily for keeping this a secret from her for something like 18 months!

The conclusion to Alexandr and Jessica’s story arc is coming soon:

Book 4

* * * * *

xx

Hold Me by Anna Zaires – book review

This is a series of three books, the third of which is Hold Me, and I’m reviewing it in this post. I have already posted reviews of the first two books (Twist Me; Hold Me) and this review WILL contain SPOILERS for them.

Anna Zaire writes a couple of series. The one that I am going to review is a modern, new adult, (very) dark romance. The male protagonist (Julian) is an anti-hero, a very successful international weapons dealer. In the first novel, he kidnapped 18yo Nora and took her to his extremely remote private island in the South Pacific where he held her captive, a victim for his violent erotic urges, bending her mind to his will. In the second, they marry, somewhat against her will, and start to build a new life together before their old enemies kidnap Julian and torture him for information. Nora has realized that she loves him and convinces his security to allow her to risk her life to save them both, something she ultimately succeeds at, but not without some consequences.

book 3

Book Blurb:

Captor and captive. Lovers. Soulmates.

We’re all that and more.

We thought we were past the worst of it. We thought we finally had a chance.

We thought wrong.

We’re Nora and Julian, and this is our story.

***Hold Me is the conclusion of the Twist Me trilogy, told from Nora & Julian’s point of view.***

—                    —                    —

Hold Me continues to follow the evolution of Julian and Nora’s relationship, which began in Twist Me. Now a (mostly) united front, Nora has admitted her true feelings for Julian, acknowledging her love for him and accepting the nature of their relationship. She decides it doesn’t matter how their relationship started and gives up on wondering if it can all be boiled down to psychological programming and stockholm syndrome. She wants to be with him, even though their relationship is unequal, and now accepts the dominance and submission aspects of their relationship and the power exchanges that occur. Her only remaining desire is to see Julian also admit his love for her, loving her as the person she has become rather than an object under this thumb.

Hold me is still an excellent read, but I didn’t like it as much as either of the preceding books, for a couple of reasons which will be the focus of my review.

Firstly, Nora’s parents were introduced in a limited capacity in the second installment during the webcam wedding scene, but their presence in this book is greatly expanded. I liked how the Mum and Dad had different attitudes and abilities to manage Julian and what they regard as their daughter’s brainwashed ramblings about her husband. But I would have liked to have seen Zaires expand upon the interactions between Julian and Nora’s parents, particularly without Nora present. He kidnapped their daughter, twice!, married her hastily and moved her to another continent permanently, where she now resides with him, despondent and abused (or so her parents believe). They understandably bit their tongues around Nora to keep from alienating her, but I felt that the book built to an explosive confrontation between the parents and Julian, one that never occurred.

The second thing that took away from the book in my opinion, was the high octane, overly dramatic car chase between Julian’s troops and the Irish-Chicago Mafia. Between the three books, Julian has lost well over 100 men, all of whom are supposedly highly trained and many are former Spec-Ops. So far, they only seem to be good at their chauffeuring services, and beating up unarmed teenagers. Seriously, is he not scraping the bottom of the barrel yet for men to put on assignment? He really shouldn’t have lost Peter’s services so easily. He needs the tough Russian bruiser on his side at this point.

At the end of the day, the three books have built up Julian as this unstoppable force – even with the torture by the Middle East group in book 2, he didn’t break – but the local mob and cops just about had them with one car chase. It would have been better to not have the cops and mob team up (an unbelievable plot-point in my opinion) and have Julian take care of them without losing half the men he did. The scene just made him seem like less of a badass, which is exactly how you don’t want this series to end.

Despite three paragraphs of complaints, I did love Hold Me and gave it a very good rating. It starts out differently than the others, with Julian using a much gentler approach with Nora. He will never change, but he does learn to embrace different aspects of his personality to manage her that, thus far, he only expressed while she was in hospital.

After the horrors of the second book, both characters are in need of healing, and Nora requires a gentle touch. She is badly traumatized, suffering from panic attacks and night terrors. She has always had Julian’s protection, but this development lends her the emotional protection and support that was missing from their relationship, bringing them closer together. Julian even brings a psychologist to their compound to work with Nora.

It takes some brass balls for her kidnapper to move a professional mental health expert in with them to work with the abductee and be secure in the knowledge that his own programming of Nora will not be affected!! While he may not be able to admit it yet, he has fallen in love with her.

I loved the pregnancy that Zaires wrote in. She did it differently than authors usually do, and it helped to re-establish the relationship parametres between Nora and Julian. She wonders if he impregnated her on purpose, deceiving her with the implantation of a fake birth control device in her arm, and is able to take him for his word when he assures her otherwise, because if he had wanted her pregnant, he would have made it happen regardless of her wishes and wouldn’t have hidden it, something she knows. After seeing a softer side of Julian for much of the book, this scene helps to ground them in the roles that were established in Twist Me, and that Nora has just accepted will never change.

* * * *

xx

Keep Me by Anna Zaires – book review

This is a series of three books, the second of which is Keep Me, and I’m reviewing it in this post. I will post reviews of the third book shortly. This review WILL contain SPOILERS for the first book, Twist Me.

Anna Zaire writes a couple of series. The one that I am going to review is a modern, new adult, (very) dark romance. The male protagonist (Julian) is an anti-hero, a very successful international weapons dealer. In the first novel, he kidnapped 18yo Nora and took her to his extremely remote private island in the South Pacific where he held her captive, a victim for his violent erotic urges, bending her mind to his will.

After rescuing her from his enemies at the end of book one, Keep Me picks up a couple of months later when Julian shows up in her hometown of Chicago, where she is again living. Willing to take her by force, Nora is happy that Julian is alive and well and agrees to leave with him, travelling to his native country of Colombia, where the story takes place.

book 2

Book Blurb:

Abducted at eighteen. Held captive for 15 months.

It reads like one of those headlines. And yes, I did it. I stole her. Nora, with her long dark hair and silky skin. She’s my weakness, my obsession.

I’m not a good man. I never pretended to be one. She can love me, but she can’t change me.

I can, however, change her.

My name is Julian Esguerra, and Nora is mine to keep.

***Keep Me is the sequel to Twist Me, told from both Nora & Julian’s POV.***

—                    —                    —

Nora undergoes a lot of character development between the first novel and the second. She is still completely overwhelmed by the forcefulness of Julian’s personality and cannot find equal ground with him in their relationship, but she handles challenges with more maturity and grace than you see her exhibit in the beginning of their story. As Julian remarks, his little kitten has learned she has claws and is starting to figure out how to use them. This leads to slight changes in the dynamic of their relationship. Julian becomes more honest with her and share more about his work and past, so that their relationship no longer exists in a bubble. Nora begins to make requests of him, and assumes authority over domestic staff in their household. This authority is something that she never experienced with Beth and exemplifies the evolution of her role as a pampered wife from the abducted girl who shares the Master’s bed.

Nora learns to stand up for herself a little bit more and gains more of a sense of personal self in Keep Me, between her painting and studies. These activities are one of the positive changes from the first book that I loved. On the island Nora essentially just existed. She read, she watched movies, ran and swam and sunbathed, enjoying everything the island had to offer her. But her only interactions for 15 months were with Beth and Julian, her captors. She struggled to create a new self-identity in captivity and had little freedom to experience new things. The one saving grace was her ability to paint, something she had never had time to devote to in ‘the real world’. In Keep Me, she enrolls online at Standford University and makes great strides towards world art domination with her painting. Her life gains purpose besides serving Julian and merely existing.

There is great development from the first to second novel. By nature of holding a kidnap victim on a private island, there is a dearth of characters and plot development for much of the first book. While it works for Twist Me, it wouldn’t have worked a second time and I am glad that the author did not just seek to recreate her success with the first novel.

Rather, she continued to build this world and added numerous secondary characters, while allowing both Nora and Julian to grow in themselves, and in their relationships with each other. It was especially gratifying to see the role Nora’s parents play, finding their daughter after 15 months, just to hear her announce she is willingly moving to another continent with the man who kidnapped her. It is also interesting to read Julian’s POV, as this book is written from both perspectives.

My favourite scene I can’t remark on without major spoilers so I will end the review here, but I really hope you take my recommendation and read this book. The third one is called Hold Me and I will post my review of it in a few days.

* * * * *

xx