Beneath the Scars (Shadowlands #13)

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Josie doesn’t need any help raising her son.

Pregnant at sixteen, Josie learned the hard way about men and their empty promises. She picked herself up and is raising her eleven-year-old son. By herself. And that’s the way she intends it to stay. Unfortunately, her impressionable boy becomes fascinated by the scruffy, intimidating biker who lives next door.

The scars on Holt’s face are only the most visible of his wounds.

Out of the hospital after being attacked in his own damn house, Holt is coming to terms with the fact that his scars frighten people. Like his now-ex-girlfriend who ran after one look at him. Like his redheaded neighbor who hauled her boy away as if Holt was a serial killer. Fine. He’ll give the pretty bartender all the space she wants.

The Shadowlands will bring them together…

When Josie starts bartending in the exclusive, private club, she discovers her neighbor is a member. And a Master–a skilled powerful Dom who can make her fantasies come true. Slowly, the firefighter breaks down the walls around her heart, teaching her how to trust. How to love…

But when her son’s choices lead to disaster, can their relationship survive?

—                         —                         —

Okay, first off, I hate this cover. It was actually a turnoff for me reading this book but I love the author and the series, so I knew better than to judge it by its cover.

That being said …

We have on our hands yet another fabulous Shadowlands story from Ms. Sinclair.

Beneath the Scars starts off much slower with the sex and BDSM than most of the books in this series have. Josie is new to the club and her first real scene occurs more than a quarter of the way into the book.

I love that the author has created a single mom romance, which is something I have been hoping she would do for a few years now. I also appreciate that the son wasn’t always full of warm and fuzzy feelings towards Holt. I felt that this is a fairly realistic portrayal of a new family forming, with all the ups and downs and stumbles that go along with.

I have become used to this author introducing a new kink in every one of her books. Unfortunately, there wasn’t one introduced in Beneath the Scars and I really missed this aspect. It was something that I had expected and looked forward to, so I kept waiting for this scene to happen.

The romance between Holt and Josie is more of a slow burn than an eruption of passion. They are immediately attracted to one another but move slowly due to a number of circumstances. Holt is heavily into bondage but there was limited use of other toys or kinks in this book. I feel that this book is closer to “romance” than erotica, at least compared to the others in the series.

Overall, a solid addition to the series and one I will definitely read again, but it didn’t completely fill up my bucket.

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Sold to the Billionaire (Emily Tilton)

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As the daughter of the prime minister, eighteen-year-old Heather Gerber is used to society’s high expectations, until the day her entire world is radically changed in an instant and she becomes little more than property to be bought, sold, and used in any manner her future owner sees fit.

Brought to the Institute to be prepared for her eventual sale, Heather quickly finds herself naked, blushing, and helplessly aroused as she is thoroughly and painfully spanked by stern, handsome trainer Paul Federico. But though Paul knows that Heather will soon belong to a powerful billionaire, as he teaches her what it means to surrender her virgin body to a dominant man he cannot help falling for the beautiful, innocent girl. Can he find a way to claim her for his own?

—                         —                         —

Sold to the Billionaire is a short novel by Emily Tilton. It is set during an alternate world, in a small country set in contemporary Ontario, Canada. There are scenes involving consensual non-consent, spanking, and anal sex.

I found this story to be extremely confusing and disjointed. It is part of a series (“The Institute Series”) but it was marketed as being easy to read as a standalone – no prior knowledge of the series necessary. This was not the case at all.

The book blurb available on Goodreads and Amazon insinuates that the story will be about two main characters, Heather and Paul. I didn’t find this to be accurate. In fact, the first intimate scenes are about Heather’s parents, which for me is just icky. I don’t want to read about the parents and the child/dren having sex, even though there is nothing between them (no incest). The POV character changes multiple times. I can think of at least five off the top of my head.

I also strongly disliked that there are scenes where female characters are raped and enjoy it. It is one thing to incorporate consensual nonconsent within a bdsm scene, but this is not the case.

Finally, this backstory that Ms. Tilton created to explain this alternate world was overly complicated. It could have been explained much more succinctly and simply, so the author could get down to the real business of the story.

Overall, not a story I would recommend.

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Show Me Baby (Shadowlands #9)

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A Masters of the Shadowlands Novella

After his last lover chose her career over him, Jake knows he wants a woman who will put him at the top of her priorities—as he would with her. One of the trainees, Rainie, has caught his attention. Lush body, a gift for living life to the fullest, always laughing or smiling. Yeah. She trips all his switches. But she’s never given him a second look and that’s damned annoying.

Rainie has been burned enough times that she’s not going to get serious about any man. Sure, the BDSM club trainees are supposed to be looking for a permanent Dom, but no harm, no foul—they don’t need to know she lied. Trainees get to be involved in everything—and with everyone. But there’s one she avoids. Master Jake is always frowning at her. No matter how gorgeous he is, she doesn’t need any disapproving Dom up in her business.

Unfortunately, her best friends are having a double wedding. Little hearts are floating in the air. Every breath is filled with romance. Rainie is doomed.

—                         —                         —

Show Me, Baby is supposed to be a novella but it is too long IMHO. I’d rate it more of a short novel which is great because I hate romantic novellas – they are too short for the love to unfurl and blossom.

Oh God, I’m waxing poetic.

Rainie is a BBW. I love that the author includes heroines who are a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Any woman reading these stories will be able to find someone who matches their body type.

Jake and Rainie have both been on the proximity of past Shadowlands stories for a while now, so I am glad that they are getting their stories told. I would also love to read about Uzuri, Anne, Saxon, Holt, Karl and Edward if anyone happens to have the author’s ear.

I reviewed the tenth book in the series, Servicing the Target, back when it was first released, so my next post will be skipping ahead to #11, Protecting His Own and then I will almost be caught up in this series!

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If Only (Shadowlands #8)

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After the last fiasco, Sally gives up. She’ll never find a Dom of her own. Instead the computer whizz is job hunting in between bending the law—just a bit—to unearth the bastards who’d enslaved her friends. The clueless cops and Feds obviously need help.

FBI special agents, Galen and Vance, have waited to play with Sally for a long time. When the mischievous submissive returns to the exclusive Shadowlands BDSM club after an ugly relationship, the experienced co-tops are pleased. Realizing she’s suppressing her emotions, the powerful Doms push her—only to find that her sassiness conceals a scarred and vulnerable heart.

Shaken by the unexpected emotional exposure, Sally flees the demanding Masters and the Shadowlands.

Both Galen and Vance have reasons not to seek a long-term submissive, but when a brutal attack by her ex-Dom sends Sally into their home, the two agents are driven to protect her. To help her. To take her under command. Falling in love isn’t in the plans.

But as the little imp brings light into their lives, they begin to want more…until they discover she’s hacked into an organization that delights in burning people alive.

—                         —                         —

If Only is another exceptional story from the terrific Ms. Cherise Sinclair. It is a closed polyamorous relationship (MMf). The men consider each other (non-biological) brothers and are not gay. They do not have scenes with just each other, but do share the heroine, both together and in separate man-woman scenes. Essentially, Vance and Galen co-top and co-dom Sally who is their spirited, smart and bratty submissive.

I loved this book for a lot of reasons.

Firstly, Sally has been a supporting character since the very first Club Shadowlands book and she definitely deserved her own book and love interest this whole time. I love her and her story tore at my heart strings.

Secondly, often a series starts to plateau at this point and become repetitive but the author has done a great job at changing up the kinks and relationship types. For example, the previous book introduced the first S/m couple and this book is the first in the series to be MMf. There are multiple anal play/sex scenes in If Only, as well as fisting, which is new to the series.

Thirdly, the plot of this book will tie up the four book human trafficking arc that we’ve had going. It was great while it lasted but I am ready to move on. Thankfully the author saw this through without dragging it on forever and turning it into the basis of her series.

believe that If Only is also the first Shadowlands book where the heroine has safeworded during a scene. I love that the author brought this up and I hope she explores it more deeply in a future book. Although I love some aspects of romance novels, HEA and all, sometimes I hate that things tend to go along a little “too perfectly” or when all of the problems the characters face are external or from their pasts. In real life, Doms can’t read our minds and sometimes go too far (physically, emotionally, sexually) and the sub has to call “Red”. I’m glad it happened the first time (in this series) the way that it did and hope that the author will explore it during a more carnal scene eventually, because the aftermath for the characters would be delicious reading.

Cherise keeps enough humour in her books to keep the stories light, even when the subject matter is depressing, like taking down a human trafficking ring. After all, Sally has long been the club’s principle prankster, so you know she had to get into some type of trouble, especially when her Doms get grumpy from work. It is a submissive’s delight to cheer them up you know <evil grin>.

If Only also gives the reader some updates on other characters who have been quiet lately, especially Dan and Kari, who I LOVE. I highly recommend this book, but you should definitely read them in order. All seven previous instalments have reviews on this blog, and I will be catching up the rest before the newest book is released.

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This is who I am (Shadowlands #7)

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When trying to save a woman from slavers, Sam screwed up. Royally. Now Linda wants nothing to do with him. Or with BDSM. She won’t even admit she’s a masochist. As a dominant and sadist, he can give her what she needs, and when an opportunity arises, he slips into her life, intending to make amends. She’s everything he knew she would be…except for her bullheaded determination to be ‘normal’.

Now the horrible time is past, Linda just wants to return to her small conservative town, pick up her quiet life, and be normal. But how can someone who likes pain be ‘normal’? To her dismay, when someone spray-paints her home with obscenities, Sam shows up to rescue her. Again. Doesn’t he understand that the last thing she needs in her life is a sadist? He’s amused by her objections. But his dry sense of humor can’t disguise that he’s tough as nails and dominant and stubborn. He’s not going to let her drive him off this time. Soon she realizes she wants him to stay.

When he takes her to the Shadowlands, she feels as if she’s found a home…until she hears a voice from out of her nightmares.

—                         —                         —

This is who I am was a huge surprise hit! I am not into S&M and had never read a book with this kink before, but I trust Sinclair more than any other author so I knew that I would still give Linda and Sam a go. True to form, Cherise Sinclair never disappoints!

One of the best things about the Shadowlands books is that we get to see previous couples and get updates on their lives. I’ll just say that this one has a very exciting wedding in it and I loved the special moment the bride and groom share before the ceremony.

Sam wasn’t at all what I expected. I thought he would be scary and grumpy a lot of the time. He definitely isn’t Mr. Personality, but I think Sam is way harder on himself than anyone else. He holds himself to a very high standard but isn’t an ass about it towards everyone around him, as most people tend to be. I loved his reflection that sadists tended to be more polite than most Doms, at least outside of a scene. Sam ALWAYS put Linda’s needs before his own, and isn’t too immature or macho to apologize when he messes up. I sincerely hope that this author writes some more sexy cowboys in the very near future.

Sam sighed. Sometimes he enjoyed his “eat babies for breakfast” reputation, but sometimes it got old. Eventually the girl would discover that sadists tended to be politer than regular Doms—at least, when not in a scene. After all, if a sadist was nasty, then how would he get anyone to play with him?

Sinclair, Cherise. This Is Who I Am (Masters of the Shadowlands Series Book 7) (p. 122). Loose Id LLC. Kindle Edition.

Linda gave a different perspective of a sub than any we have seen before. She is the oldest heroine I have blogged about to date and is very mothering. I love how she was able to let her hair down and have fun with the other Shadowkittens, working side by side as an equal partner in life with Sam – even while being his submissive in the bedroom – and she had an iron hard backbone when things go wrong. Linda isn’t a youngster to cry on the couch about how hard and unfair life is. She reminded me numerous times of the saying, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”.

The S&M scenes in this book did not squirk me out at all. They were super hot. Drop your panties hot.

This is who I am helps to wind down the human trafficking plot line that has weaved the last few books together and while it has been very interesting, I am also ready for this series to move in a new direction. I don’t want to see it become a crime thriller. Although, those feds still haven’t partnered up with a Shadowkitten so I’m am sure the next book or two will contain the concluding threads ; )

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To Command and to Collar (Shadowlands #6)

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Working with the FBI to capture human traffickers, Master Raoul scores an invitation to a slave auction. To his surprise, one slave is the kidnapped friend of a Shadowlands submissive. Although Kim’s body is scarred, her spirit is unbroken, and he can’t leave her behind. Ruining the FBI’s plans, he buys her.

Kimberly’s freedom has come at a devastating price: the other women are still imprisoned. Desperate to help the Feds locate the traffickers, she agrees to pose as Master Raoul’s slave. Although wearing a collar again is terrifying, Kim starts to heal and then to blossom under the powerful Dominant’s care.

“Submission.” It’s what she’s been drawn to–and fled from–her entire life. She has escaped the slavers who captured her body. Escaping the Master who has captured her heart will be far more difficult.

—                         —                        —

To command and to collar is one of my favourite books in the Shadowlands series. Although I would never be interested in a fulltime master/submissive relationship as the leading couple engage in, I love Raoul’s character and personality and have a mighty book crush on that man. I also share a number of personality traits with Kimberly, including her need for clear cut rules and expectations.

Something constricted inside him—she feared his control yet wanted it. How deep did her need run? Light submission…or complete? “The only consistency in the relationship is this: the master decides.”

“But—” Her shoulders hunched defensively.

“That makes you anxious, gatita. Why?”

“I won’t know… I need to know what—”

Did she fear arbitrary punishment? “We’ll go over what I expect from you. The rules. I will never punish you for something you didn’t know or didn’t understand, Kimberly. That isn’t my way.”

Some of the worry faded from her eyes. But not all. Her gaze was focused on the floor.

He considered what he knew of her. Not nearly enough. “I need to know…” she’d said. Needed to know what to do? Some people—and a high percentage of submissives—wanted clear-cut rules. Preferred their duties laid out, liked schedules and lists.

Sinclair, Cherise. To Command and Collar (Masters of the Shadowlands Book 6) (Kindle Locations 1029-1036). VanScoy Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Ms. Sinclair did an AMAZING job taking the hero/ine through such a difficult emotional journey. There was never any point that I felt she was rushing Kim’s recovery to the point that it was unbelievable or “too easy”. Although the pace was pushed by the plot timeline – which was the point of this undercover mission after all – I felt like Raoul and Kim were able to work through a number of her issues and understand the limits of BDSM in healing emotional abuse. Raoul had to walk a tightrope of emotional pitfalls by topping her during recovery and he did an amazing job, proof that he is a top Master, worthy of his Shadowland’s designation.

The sexiness in To Command and to Collar starts slower than is typical for this author, and that is expected because of the subject matter. The relationship between Raoul and Kim has to build emotionally before they become physical. But once the sexy times become, they are hot! I especially loved the fire play scene (this is one kink I have to try) and was giggling over Raoul’s “pervertables”.

The only qualm that I had was at the end of the book. Raoul was deeply wounded by his ex-wife and is reluctant to trust Kim’s assertions that she is able to live a full-time Master/submissive relationship. Raoul knows from experience that he can accept nothing less in his wife, and pushes her away because of this.

I felt that Raoul exhibited SO MUCH patience with Kim throughout the majority of the book, during the worst periods of her recovery, but then was unable to risk his heart and allow her the additional time to try his lifestyle for real, without the pressures of being undercover in an FBI investigation. Maybe he was just burnt out at this point, but it felt a little out of character and cold. I wish that the author has addressed his reasons a little more deeply if this was the case.

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Make Me, Sir (Shadowlands Book #5)

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Her job is to make his life miserable. His job is to make her submit. Whose heart will surrender first?

Across the country, rebellious BDSM submissives are being systematically kidnapped, one from each club. When her friend falls prey to the slavers, FBI victim specialist Gabrielle volunteers to be bait in a club not yet hit: the Shadowlands.

She finds that being a bratty sub comes naturally, especially when she gets to twit the appallingly conservative Master of the trainees. But she soon discovers he’s not as stuffy as she’d thought. Or as mean. She’d expected punishment, even humiliation, but she sure never expected to fall in love with a damned lawyer.

Courtesy of a prima donna ex-wife, Marcus loathes disobedient submissives. When the club owner insists he admit an incredibly bratty trainee, he’s furious. But as he comes to know Gabrielle and sees the alluring sweetness beneath the sass, he starts to fall for her.

Unfortunately, Marcus isn’t the only one who believes the feisty redhead is a prize worth capturing. And in the world of the slaver, such treasure is worth a hefty fee.

—                         —                         —

Make Me, Sir is my favourite book in this series so far! It flowed well, the couple are spirited and well-matched and some new kinks were definitely introduced. Look forward to great experiences with wax play, puppy play and figging. Hopefully you, the reader, enjoy them more than our heroine did.

Speaking of, I loved Gabi and Marcus. There is something about the down-south country-boy charm that Marcus exhibits that just makes my toes curl. I could hear his drawl in my head and his courtly manners were divine. There is something special about the combination of a gentleman Dom. You know he is a man who will hold the door open for his woman and then smack her ass as she walks through it.

Something that really sticks out in Make Me, Sir is that this is an incredibly funny book, despite some of the difficult subject matter that is broached. The following excerpt is from one of my favourite parts, a wax play scene that Gabi isn’t too sure is a smart idea.

After rolling up the sleeves of his white tailored shirt, exposing those muscular forearms that really didn’t belong on a lawyer, he picked up the candle. He dripped some wax on his inner elbow, grunted, and raised the candle higher. More wax splatted onto his arm. “That’ll do.”

She couldn’t take her eyes from the dancing flame. No, this was so wrong. Candles should be used for meditation…for romance. Or on a birthday cake at least.

So where was the cake? The present? The song?

As he stepped closer to her—as the damned flame got way too close—she started singing. “Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to me…”

Marcus paused, looking at her in disbelief. See. I knew he didn’t have a sense of humour.

“Happy birthday, dear Gabi”—she lifted her head and blew out the candle—“happy birthday to me.”

He stared at her, and she tensed, and then he burst out laughing, so loud and strong that she giggled. God, he was so incredibly sexy when he laughed.

Sinclair, Cherise. Make Me, Sir (Masters of the Shadowlands Series Book 5) (pp. 261-262). VanScoy Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I felt so bad for Gabi’s upbringing and the author was right on the money when she compared Gabi to a flouncy puppy and her parents to snooty Siamese cats. I’m a lot like Gabi (Re: a bit of a brat … handful) but thankfully my parents love me (and usually even like me!).

This is another full length novel in the Club Shadowlands series and a definite auto-buy for me. I can’t wait to dive into another book in this series. I am having so much fun re-reading them!

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