Dark Hunter (Zeta Cartel #4)

Dark Hunter is the fourth book in the Zeta Cartel dark romance series by AJ Adams. You can read reviews for books onetwo and three on this website.

4

Rip Marston is a merciless killing machine. After a decade of hunting his prey, Rip joins the Zetas. The job offers protection as he practices his dark arts, but the Cartel are wary of the monster in their midst.

Finding a badly beaten unconscious girl, Rip sees an opportunity. Posing as her saviour will please the cartel – and provide him with his very own helpless captive.

Isabella Maria Franco is beautiful, wilful and used to making hard choices. Having grown up in the comfortable but lethal embrace of the Gulf cartel, she rejected a life of violence. But when a dark presence from her past returns, her world falls apart.

Betrayed and beaten, she escapes, only to find herself in a living nightmare. Surrounded by her enemies, one man stands between her and death. Terrified by her sadistic captor, she has little choice but to submit.

But embracing his darkness leads to consequences neither anticipated.

WARNING: This bad boy dark romance contains explicit scenes of dubious consent, graphic violence, sex and probably every trigger you can think of.

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Dark Hunter begins with a fairly significant amount of backstory to introduce two new characters into the Zeta Cartel series. This is helpful to fans of the series, but as a reader, I also wanted to just jump in with the main story and revisit old characters, so my impatient personality was also slightly frustrated by the seemingly slow start.

While Dark Hunter isn’t exactly a Romeo and Juliet story, Isabella is dang lucky that she wormed her way into the hearts of her new-found friends before they realized her parentage, because if not, they would have killed her on the spot just because of her last name. She is also supremely lucky that Rip needed her so badly to adapt to his new environment and that Rip’s skills were in particular demand at the time.

I’ve rated Dark Hunter four stars because Isabella is too similar to the previous two heroines in this series for my liking. All three seem to have the same dominant character traits. All are mouthy and hide their fear well from the Cartel, possess dubious backgrounds and fit right in with the outlaw lifestyle, and don’t take things personally. They are perfectly fine with murder and mayhem and don’t seem to have any moral qualms with the world they inhabit.

The heroine in the first book had some striking differences that separate her from these heroines, and in my opinion she probably had the hardest time adapting to her new life, but Dark Hunter felt like the third book in a row with nearly the same heroine. I am fervently hoping the author changes it up in the next book in the Zeta Cartel series, which I will still be eagerly awaiting.

At the end of the day, Kyle is still my first love and main squeeze among the Zetas.

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xx

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Dirty Dealings (Zeta Cartel #3)

Dirty Dealings is the third book in the dark romance series Zeta Cartel by AJ Adams. Click these links if you are looking for my reviews of book one or book two.

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Quique is having a bad time. Back in Mexico his marriage has fallen apart and his wife has made him a laughing stock by cheating on him. Now he’s in London and finding himself out of his depth with a complex commercial deal. To make things worse, Natalia Truelove, a chef and pub manager, is blackmailing him. Quique is ready to commit murder and he’s pretty sure who his first victim will be.

Warning: Dirty Dealings contains strong adult language and themes as well as graphic violence and fully depicted love scenes

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I somehow completely missed the release of this book last year. I just picked up and started book four and realized that Quique was now married to someone new, and went back to one-click this book. No wonder it seemed like such a long time between book releases in this series. I’m just a dunce.

Dirty Dealings features an antihero who is familiar to readers of the Zeta Cartel. Quique is a surprising revelation within the macho Latino world of the Cartel. He has a thing against hitting women, and is amazingly lighthearted and sweet when not in work mode. He also likes his woman to be independent, a partner in life, when most of his colleagues view a woman as an ornament.

This book is mostly set in Britain, with lots of dry Brit humour and colloquialisms throughout. The heroine is a tough, brash woman with a disreputable backstory and an extended family of ex-inlaws with reputations of their own. Natalia reminds me of a workhorse, in the nicest of ways. She just doesn’t stop. She doesn’t acknowledge the obstacles in her way, she is always looking for solutions, searching for better, and will drag her family along with her no matter how much bitching or feet-dragging they do. She truly cares about them and their BS, even when they treat her horribly and have been the cause of much past suffering.

I felt like Quique and Natalia were well-matched and once they got over being on separate sides of a business deal, they realized it as well. Bruja mala leche (evil, little witch) is one of my favourite insults to use IRL (and I’ve been known to call my sisters this) so I was vastly amused as Quique’s use of this term gradually changed from a hate-filled curse to an endearment.

Also, apparently my efforts in learning the Spanish language are having an effect because I could translate most of the Spanish bits without referring to a dictionary or the internet! Woot!

Dirty Dealings is very plot-driven, more so than the previous two books. I felt that the romance took a backseat, and should have been brought forward more. The couple don’t fall into bed together until nearly 60% of the way in, so if you like super steamy books, that is something to take note of ahead of time.

** getting darker … **

I also wish that the issue of rape had been examined more. Adams wrote Quique mostly as a dark hero, a baddy who would still drop everything to rescue a child, but he is also a high-ranking member of the most powerful Cartel in the world, and a former Guatemalan special forces soldier. He doesn’t like rape, but had used it in the past as a tool of war, of intimidation and interrogation. Unfortunately, this subject is examined in a couple of short, introspective paragraphs and I think it is something that should have more of a big deal in the plot. Hopefully Adams will bring it up again with a future character in the Zeta Cartel.

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xx

Obsession

obsession

Hannah

All my life, I’ve only wanted one thing: someone to love me and someone who will let me love them in return. This seems like a simple request, but I was born to parents who wished I had died of childhood leukemia, instead of my younger sister, and who have ignored me no matter how much I’ve tried to please them. I’m starved for affection, addicted to the feeling when someone cares about me, which has led to a love life filled with either boys I’ve scared off, or men all too eager to take advantage of me. I thought I would never find a man who could feed my craving for constant attention—and then I met Leo. He fills the void inside of me, haunts my dreams, and does things to me in bed that are so good, they’re probably illegal. I can only pray I don’t scare him off once he figures out just how needy I really am.

Leo

There are very few people in this world I’ve ever been able to form an emotional attachment to, but the moment I saw Hannah, I knew she was mine. We were bound together by fate, our paths crossing first as children, then as adults, each time marking me. She doesn’t know it but I’ve been watching her for a year now, studying her, stacking the deck so when I do make my move, there’s no way she’ll ever escape me. But my world is a harsh, cruel place, and the cartel I work for demands absolute loyalty and trust…a loyalty Hannah has yet to earn in the dangerous eyes of my employers. There is only one way to ensure Hannah’s absolute devotion, and I hope that she doesn’t hate me forever when she finds out that not only have I brainwashed her into loving me, but that I don’t feel an ounce of guilt about doing it. She’s mine, only mine, and I’m keeping her forever.

Warning: This story features a rough and demanding Dom who’s completely devoted to bringing his baby girl pleasure through such unconventional means as spanking, mild BDSM, D/S, roleplaying, and various other forms of wicked kinkery.

—                         —                         —

Hannah and Leo’s story is hot and sexy! It is the first book in the Cordova Empire series by Ann Mayburn and it is dark “ish”, but not as dark as many of her other recent series. I think of it more as a “grey” romance if those even exist. There are a few elements that I think will push buttons for some readers, but they worked for me.

First-off, there are elements of a captive romance in Obsession. While Leo never stoops so low as to kidnap Hannah, he does watch her from afar for a long period of time and researches everything there is to know about her before inserting himself into her life. He uses this knowledge, and his worldly experience to overwhelm her defences and bind her to him emotionally.

Leo, who is like a son to the head of the Cordova Cartel, is their master torturer for the and my heart was racing at the knowledge. It wasn’t a big part of the story though and Hannah is kept well away from cartel business for the most part – she never stumbles upon him torturing a person, that’s for sure! I actually wish his profession had been played up more, but then, I like dark romance. *insert wolfish grin*

Everyone in the cartel has major trust issues, especially the inner family who run it, because in the past, a woman married into the family, bore a child and then sold her son for money to a rival cartel. The child was tortured to death before his father found him.

Fast forward one year to our present love story and the Cartel has developed a sort of truth serum that enables them to bring a person into a drug-induced, relaxed state, almost as if they were hypnotized. Leo uses this drug on Hannah to insure her loyalty to him forever, although he routinely points out that you cannot change anything fundamental to someone’s personality using it … therefore, he cannot force her to fall in love with him or anyone else.

Luckily for Leo, Hannah is desperate for someone to love and to love her back unconditionally, and is also into his particular brand of rough kink. Hannah and Leo’s bedroom play is a cross between bdsm and daddy/lg play and it is sexy as hell!

In any story you have to suspend disbelief somewhere, and this can be hard to do. In this case, the author asks the reader to believe that the Cordova Cartel are sheep in wolves’ clothing. To believe that they only torture, extort, kill people who deserve it and would help out another person without expecting anything in return in many cases. Bullshit. They are a criminal empire, one of the most powerful in their region apparently, and to be successful they must be ruthless.

This is why I wish the Cartel business and Leo’s “services” had been utilized more throughout the book and that the story had been darker, to be more realistic. To compare to the author’s Submissive’s Wish series about the Russian Bratva, even though each of those Mafia Men fall in love with the woman of their dreams and would never hurt her, they sure as shit do bad things to everyone else. They are the ultimate anti-heroes. At the end of the day, I am never going to buy that a guy involved in organized crime, particularly the Torture Master, is a really good all-round guy.

Despite this little hiccup, I loved Obsession and would highly recommend it!

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xx

The Darkest Hour – a review

I love the first few books in Maya Banks’ KGI series. They feature a post-military career family of 6 boys who start their own consulting business together, covering everything from outsourced government jobs, to private hostage rescues and corporate security.

What sets these books apart from other contemporary military/LEO series is the strong sense of family and the supporting cast that shows up in every book. Because the author starts with such a large family and immediately introduces supporting characters, you don’t get the sense that she is merely adding characters to pair up, in order to continue the series. They are a part of the story from the beginning.

I also love how the heroes are sensitive and gentle to the woman in their lives, without losing any of that badassery. You get to see characters like Rachel experience meaningful relationships outside of the romantic lead in novel, which is something many romances lack.

Speaking of Rachel … here’s the blurb and cover to book 1.

KGI 1

Blurb:

It’s been one year since ex-Navy SEAL Ethan Kelly last saw his wife Rachel alive. Overwhelmed by grief and guilt over his failures as a husband, Ethan shuts himself off from everything and everyone.

His brothers have tried to bring Ethan into the KGI fold, tried to break through the barriers he’s built around himself, but Ethan refuses to respond… until he receives anonymous information claiming Rachel is alive.

To save her, Ethan will have to dodge bullets, cross a jungle, and risk falling captive to a deadly drug cartel that threatens his own demise. And even if he succeeds, he’ll have to force Rachel to recover memories she can’t and doesn’t want to relive—the minute by minute terror of her darkest hour—for their love, and their lives, may depend on it.

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The Darkest Hour is a stand-out first book in the KGI series. I love Ethan and Rachel together and how the whole Kelly clan came together to support them and help Rachel reintegrate back into her old life. If you are looking for a book full of action and explosions, some of the later books in the series might be more to your taste. While The Darkest Hours definitely has action, more of the book is dedicated to Rachel’s overcoming of the abuse she suffered during her year as a captive, and the journey she and Ethan have to take to find their ways back to each other.

The KGI books have less sex and steamy scenes in them than many of the author’s other books, if you are familiar with her writing. There are no bdsm or kinky scenes, making it a good choice for someone who prefers “sweet romance”.

The relationship that Ethan’s brother Garret and Rachel share is incredibly special, and one I’m a little jealous of. The second and third KGI books are about Sam and Garret and I look forward to reviewing them shortly.

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Edit: I just noticed that the first 1.5 chapters are on the book’s amazon page if you want to try this book out before purchasing.

xx

Songbird by AJ Adams – a review

Songbird is the second novel in the Zetas series that I have reviewed. They are about young women emerging from the hardest of lives imaginable, and men who are the ultimate baddies. Songbird is the sequel  to The Bonus.

Gorgeous model held captive behind bars

Blurb:

When cartel boss Arturo Vazquez discovers his girlfriend Gina is a DEA rat and his deputy Escamilla is staging a take-over, Arturo fixes his problems by killing everyone – except for Solitaire, Escamilla’s unwilling mistress. Solitaire is intelligent, tough, and shares Arturo’s interest in BDSM. Arturo falls head over heels but someone is leaking information – and the evidence point at Solitaire.

Songbird is a complete and self standing novel. Warning: This book contains explicit scenes of dubious consent, graphic violence and sex.

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I am impressed with how Adams was able to redeem Arturo after his actions in the first book. Talking so cavalierly about the murder of a four year old child to further business, and his ordering of Chloe’s torture at the beginning of The Bonus, made me feel like there was no way Arturo could possibly be a protagonist in his own novel.

I was wrong.

I liked how he took a chance on Solitaire. He could have easily killed her or ordered Kyle to, and not dealt with the hassle and risk of letting her out of that house alive. I think Kyle’s (admittedly limited) morals have rubbed off on good old Arturo a bit!

This book was great because it wasn’t just a repeat of the first novel. Although Solitaire and Chloe both have some serious mental issues to deal with following their pasts, they have very different personalities and coping mechanisms, which keeps the material interesting.

There was a lot more mystery and subterfuge in Songbird, compared to the first book where it felt like the reader just watched events unfold.

One thing that I didn’t like though, is that it was obvious (to me at least) who “Songbird” was from the get-go. The mystery sections of the novel should definitely have been written better.

I also would have preferred to see Solitaire have some problems adapting to her new life in Mexico! She just seemed to soar into this whole new world like it was nothing new, and that is unrealistic. She doesn’t have to struggle pathetically the whole way through, but it just seemed all a little too easy.

* * possible spoiler * *

My favourite scene by far was Kyle’s interrogation of Solitaire in the hotel. Going into that scene, knowing his usual methods of interrogation, I had chills! I wish that the book had of stayed like that all the way through.

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xx

The Bonus by AJ Adams – a review

The Bonus is the first book in the “Zetas” series, by AJ Adams. I discovered it through the recommendation of another blog: http://www.romanceandsmut.com/topics/best/all/1/

This is actually the same blog where I discovered the “Twist Me” series by Anna Zaires, which I loved and previously reviewed on here. Another hit, so I guess I’ll keep using Romance and Smut when searching for books for awhile.

1

Blurb:

Chloe is a seasoned drug courier who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Facing a lingering and painful death at the hands of the Zetas, Mexico’s most brutal cartel, she persuades their enforcer to claim her. Has Chloe made a huge mistake, or will her choice prove her salvation – and his?

Warning: This book contains explicit scenes of dubious consent, graphic violence and sex.

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I really liked this one!!!!

If you regularly read my blog, you probably know by now that I favour books with anti-heroes, partially because I like bad boys and partially because the characters tend to be more complicated and twisty, exactly what I am looking for.

Kyle Suarez is definitely that. Former Spec Ops Marine and Gitmo interrogator, he became disenfranchised with life in the United States after as nasty run-in with DEA agents hunting his older brother. So he moved to Mexico and became the number one interrogator and security specialist for his broski’s cartel.

The way that he and Chloe, aka “The Bonus” meet is seriously f***ed up. Like, the brother and his men torture her by making her balance on a melting block of ice, with a noose around her neck until she slowly strangles. But she gets off and runs to him, the late-comer, offering him whatever if he will only take her with him. Since his brother just offered Kyle a bonus gift for a job well done, he takes her home to serve.

What I like most about The Bonus, is the author’s balancing of Kyle’s personality. He is a bad dude. And not like in a cool leather jacket, brawler kind of way.

Hello?!!! He’s the head enforcer for the cartel and specializes in sending … messages.

Like crucifying his victims. To make headlines around the world. Not the kind of guy you expect to be merciful.

But Kyle gets to know Chloe really well and really quickly. She has been through things as bad as anything Kyle could dish out and reading her journal, he gets to know her intimately in a matter of days. Add to that her shaking, night terrors and just generally being one step away from a complete mental breakdown, he is more gentle with her than you ever expect him to be based off of first impressions.

I definitely enjoyed this book and will read the next couple in the series forthwith. Hope you enjoy, my loves.

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xx