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.

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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 Ugly Toy

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Her time is over.
Things are looking up.

She’s dirty and ugly.
He’s wicked but handsome. 

Six months to toy with her.
Six months of vacation and a ton of money.

I’ll hurt her beyond repair.
I’ve been through much worse.

She’s difficult to control and doesn’t obey.
I’m done submitting to anyone or anything in this life.

I should hate her.
I should hate him.

The game has changed.
I will win.

Dirty Ugly Toy is a novel that blurs the lines of right and wrong, deals with abuse, contains dubious consent, and adult subject matter. If you are sensitive to violent sexual situations, the book may not be suitable for you. Some parts of this book are not easy to read and are not intended for everyone. However, those that keep an open mind and stick with it will not be disappointed.

—                      —                         —

I ordered Dirty Ugly Toy on a whim the other night, because it was recommended by two authors I read and follow on facebook. It was marketed as a dark romance containing dubious consent, a sub-genre that I have had a difficult time finding books that are worth recommending lately.

*** SPOILER ALERT ***

I don’t feel like this book was worthy of the dark romance tag. It is a contemporary romance, with possible dark scenes… another one of those books that I would classify as “grey romance” if there is such a thing.

The beginning of the story definitely sets itself up to be a dark romance. The hero is initially portrayed as a serial killer – he’s not – and it seems the author is setting up a dark psychological thriller / dark romance. However, that quickly fizzles out.

Brax is a devoted son. His mother, who was a drug addict when he was a child, left a deep mark on him. Brax is a successful, billionaire business owner who abducts drug-addicted women from the streets and keeps each for a period of about six months, before returning them to their home city. During those six months, he helps them to detox with medical professionals, uncovers their backstories, the reasons they started using in the first place, and their aspirations for life. He wants to change them for the better.

During this time he also indoctrinates them into his brand of sexual relationship, one between a sadist and a masochist. The heroine who features in this story is a natural masochist however, and she has the emotional upper-hand in their relationship from the beginning. She’s different.

Jessica was addicted to heroine against her will by sexual traffickers and is deep into the throes of addiction until Brax picks her up. However, she is also extremely well educated. Before her kidnapping, Jessica was a trophy wife to a wealthy politician who is currently running for President of the United States. Of course, this husband is cruel, sadistic and very abusive, which is why she never attempted to get back home or contact him after ending up on the streets.

This is why I don’t feel like the dark romance tag is applicable. Brax and Jessica have consensual sex and play in S/m scenes. Jessica’s detox is admittedly against her will, but she is more than thankful after the fact and it is medically supervised the entire time – as safe as something like that can be. Brax saves her from her ex-husband who they inevitably run into and helps take the creep down. Jessica has the ability to leave Brax during their six months together, after she is physically healthy, and has access to a therapist specializing in D/s and S/m relationships the entire time. She also is able to leave Brax after the six months – she is not tied to him.

So how in the heck is this considered to be dark romance or dubious consent?!

I understand that some of the subject matter is dark, and it could be disturbing for people who do not want to read about prostitution, drug addition, etc. But for me, the essence of a dark romance is that the romance is dark. 

The story isn’t terrible although events all fall into place rather conveniently. At the end of the day though, I finished reading this book less than a week ago and still had to reopen my kindle to look up the hero/heroines’ names. So I wouldn’t say it is very memorable or that I would read it again.

* *

xx

Reaper’s Stand by Joanna Wylde

Reaper’s Stand is the fourth novel in the Reapers MC novel. Finally the CDA President of the Reapers MC gets a second chance at love ❤

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As Reapers Motorcycle Club president, Reese “Picnic” Hayes has given his entire life to the club. After losing his wife, he knew he’d never love another woman. And with two daughters to raise and a club to manage, that was just fine with him. These days, Reese keeps his relationships free and easy—he definitely doesn’t want to waste his time on a glorified cleaning lady like London Armstrong.

Too bad he’s completely obsessed with her.

Besides running her own business, London’s got her junkie cousin’s daughter to look after—a more reckless than average eighteen-year-old. Sure she’s attracted to the Reapers’ president, but she’s not stupid. Reese Hayes is a criminal and a thug. But when her young cousin gets caught up with a ruthless drug cartel, Reese might be the only man who can help her. Now London has to make the hardest decision of her life—how far will she go to save her family?

—                         —                         —

I loved reading Picnic and London’s story. Although I have loved every book in this series so it was to be expected. Every time I go back and reread this series, I get a little bit more out of it. The first time around, I remember feeling that Mellie’s character was redundant and that all the drama with Jess was annoying and a distraction from the love arc. But the addition of all these young new secondary characters sets up future stories. It also separates this book from the others in the series and keeps things from becoming repetitive.

Pic and London are both a little older than previous couples, although at 38 and 43, they aren’t exactly geriatrics. This life experience – added to the fact they are both parents of adult children – provides each with more perspective, wisdom and ability to overcome the little things … and ahem *not so little things*. Like attempted murder.

Also, Pic is hot for an older guy! I’d definitely date him if I were fortunate enough to take London’s place.

Reaper’s Stand definitely has some unexpected sad parts. I’ll admit that I have been a teensy weensy bit emotional lately, but hearing Picnic talk to his dead wife Heather, and make peace with taking a new old lady, had me in tears multiple times.

Although Heather and London share some characteristics, the comparisons are minimal which kept the book from going into the creepy-zone. However, they both were super feisty ladies. Sorta a necessity when dating the President of your local outlaw motorcycle club!

Case in point… this is from London’s POV.

Thirty minutes later the roast was in the oven and I was setting out frozen rolls to rise. I’d had a second, strictly medicinal shot of vodka, and while I wasn’t exactly buzzed, I was feeling a little more balanced about things. Of course, dumping yellow food colouring in the back of the downstairs toilet tank and pouring vinegar in his milk helped restore that balance . . . I also loosened the lid on the salt shaker. Why did I do these things? Probably best not to examine that too closely.

Wylde, Joanna. Reaper’s Stand (Reapers Motorcycle Club Book 4) (Kindle Locations 1823-1827). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

Parts of Reaper’s Stand get pretty dark, especially around chapter 14. Personally, I like “dark” in my stories so it was a fun extension of the story for me, but could push triggers for some readers. Thankfully, all of Wylde’s stories end with a good love story so push through to reach your happy ending.

Bonus:

There were essentially three epilogues at the end of RS and fans get a mighty big update on Hunter and Em’s arc which was glorious!

* * * * *

xx

 

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.

* * * * *

xx

 

Firestorm by Anne Malcom

Firestorm is the second book in the Sons of Templar series. You can read my blog post about book one here.

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Amy Abrams doesn’t do love. Nor does she do emotional attachments, unless you count the connection she has with designer handbags. She grew up in an Upper East Side penthouse, which had about as much affection within its tastefully decorated walls as Castle Dracula. Her family is the precise reason why she points her red-soled heels firmly in the opposite direction of that dreaded four-letter word.

Then it happens. Love. It comes right out of the blue and knocks her off her six-inch heels. She learns that love comes with pesky side effects such as heartbreak, which seriously messes with the complexion. Amy promises herself that she’ll never open herself to that horrible feeling again. She doesn’t count on an infuriating, albeit drool-worthy biker to roar into her life and ruin the plans she had of locking up her heart. She keeps her distance, wary of the sinfully sexy biker whose tattoos should read Warning – dangerous alpha male, will screw up your life.

Amy may be an Upper East Side princess but she wasn’t looking for Prince Charming. She wouldn’t mind the name of his hair stylist, though. Brock certainly isn’t a knight in shining armour, but he consumes her, body and soul. Drama pulls them apart; danger will bring them back together. When Amy is threatened Brock is there ready to save her life. Her heart is another story.

—                —                —

Firestorm is the ultimate love triangle book. Amy previously fell in love with her best friend’s Spec Ops brother Ian- the first love of her life – but he broke it off to return to the theatre of war, not believing it was fair to keep her waiting. A year later she moves to Amber and starts falling in love with Brock, only to discover that Ian is leaving the military and coming home with the intentions of settling down with her.

Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place!

Please note that there is no cheating in this novel, for anyone who is concerned.

One of the biggest differences in Firestorm, compared to the first in the series, is that the book bounces around a lot in the timeline. Because the relationship between Ian and Amy began before the series, their story is told in flashbacks. So is much of Amy’s back-story with Brock; Malcom recaps the goings-on between Amy and Brock in the first book, giving an insider look to issues that were only hinted at in Making the Cut. At the same time, obviously there is a present day, where Amy is try to dealing with the fallout of book 1.

MAJOR spoiler alert for book 1

Ian dies in book one, remember. He was killed in action and Amy feels a lot of grief and guilt around his death and her life going forward. It would have been much easier I think, for her to accept a second love in Brock and make a new life if she had met him after Ian’s death. But she didn’t, and can’t allow herself to be happy for the longest time.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a Sons of Templar novel without some drama and kidnapping : )

I love the longer style of book Malcom has perfected and that we get updates on Cade and Gwen and their baby girl. The pacing of the story is a little different since the author doesn’t need to spend a lot of time introducing the characters and the world to the reader. I did find that the jumpy timeline slowed down my reading a little bit. Sometimes I needed a moment to reset myself after a jump, to remember where we had last left off. As long as you’ve read the first novel though you already know at least some of what is transpiring, so it helps to not be trying to learn who the characters are as well.

I loved learning about how absolutely shitty Amy’s family members are. It would have been neat to also learn more about Brock though. I find that 99% of the books are about the women and their history. Considering each is written from the perspective of the heroine, this partially makes sense, but I still wish we had gotten more backstory on the hero.

One of my favourite parts of Amy is her forced optimism, bravery and sheer mouthiness. Happiness doesn’t shine from her soul, she has to work for it and sometimes gets dealt a pretty shitty hand, but she perseveres through humour, which is a valuable quality to have. She inspired me to try to remember to use humour more frequently through the bad times. My go-to is to try not to acknowledge a lot of the bad, because I figure the world is dark enough and I don’t need to invite more into my life, but sometimes there is no helping it, and then, humour can be invaluable.

I highly recommend you pick up Firestorm asap. This is one where you probably need to read book one first to enjoy it though.

* * * * *

xx

Exquisite Redemption – a review

Exquisite Redemption is the third book in Ann Mayburn’s Iron Horse MC series. They feature a Texas-based 1% motorcycle club and the hardcore bombshells the members fall for… and they fall hard.

I’m not sure if this will continue throughout the series, but the first couple introduced have two books to tell their stories and the current couple are also in a two-parter. Beach and Sarah’s story begins in Exquisite Redemption and concludes in Exquisite Karma, which will probably be out around February 2016. I was lucky enough to score an e-arc from one of my fave authors, so here is my review!

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Blurb:

Sarah

In my wild, reckless past Carlos ‘Beach’ Rodriguez would have been my ideal man. He’s handsome, experienced, rich, kind, and in complete control of his destiny. Unfortunately he’s also a criminal, the President of an outlaw motorcycle club, and I’ve sworn off bad boys in my efforts to live my dream of being normal. It would be so much easier to resist him if he hadn’t saved my life more than once and didn’t treat me like his queen.

Beach

Gorgeous, smart, and deadly, Sarah is my ideal woman, even if she is almost young enough to be my daughter. On the surface she’s one of the toughest females I’ve ever met, but underneath all that hard beauty and menace lies an incredibly tender heart that’s been damaged in the past. Winning her love is gonna be a challenge, but I’m determined to have her as my old lady and I’ll do whatever I have to in order to make that happen. That would be a hell of a lot easier to do if people weren’t trying to kill us all the time.

**Author’s note- This is part ONE of TWO for Beach and Sarah’s story and ends on a Happy For Now. Book TWO of Beach and Sarah’s story will be available February 4th, 2016.**

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** Side-note: Although this book is the third in the series, it is a pre-quel. It takes place about two years before book one. If you’ve read the series, you know why. If you haven’t I don’t think it really matters which way you start, but book four will take place in current time so either read them as they were written (1, 2, 3, 4) or chronologically (3, 1, 2, 4). That is all. **

It was really interesting to see things from Sarah and Beachs’ points of view. You meet both characters in the first two novels but see very little of either so you form an impression based off of other characters’ takes on who they are, which turn out to be rather narrow. Not inaccurate mind you, but the reader definitely gets to see more of the real person behind the facade with “Redemption”.

I liked the book and seeing more characters from other perspectives (Smoke is a prick before he meets the love of his life!) is cool, but Exquisite Redemption wasn’t a hit for me. Too much of the story was repetitive and followed the exact same path as Trouble and Danger did. The driving motivation behind the plot is the machinations of the “unknown” traitor within the IH MC and if you have read the earlier (later?) books, you know who it is. Personally, I hate when the reader knows and the characters don’t because it is so frustrating and I always feel like the characters are the biggest idiots in the world for not putting it together…. kinda takes away from the badassery of a 1%er outlaw.

I wish that we had gotten more time with these characters and been able to see them interact with each other and the people surrounding them a little bit more. They are such interesting individuals and so much more could have been developed! We barely scraped the surface of the daddy/lg relationship  that forms between Beach and Sarah, which would have been fascinating to see (I trust the author can do it in a totally non-incesty way). It seemed like Beach and Sarah went from one plot point to another with guns blazing, but there was so much action that there wasn’t any character development, and relationships don’t build as much as I would have wanted.

I also want to learn more about Sledge, the club VP and Beach’s best friend. Three books in and we have had one scene with him. Based off of the author’s pinterest account he sounds really fun and yummy, I hope he has more scenes in Karma!

Overall this book felt rushed to me. I believe it is shorter than the first two books in the series and was originally intended to be one novel, but it became too large for the romance genre as one novel, so the author was encouraged to split it up into two. That’s so trendy these days. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough meat on the bones of this book.

Also, I continue to follow authors on social media to be able to get chances like this, to review an e-arc and help publicize their work, but it means you get little tidbits and teasers of their works in progress as well. It is great at the time but you start to form an impression of what you think the book will be like and when that impression is completely off, it throws you. For example, Ann posted several times that the way in which Sarah and Beach met was super dark compared to the watered down version they tell Sarah’s twin in book one, but it wasn’t dark at all. I think that Smoke and Swan have a much darker beginning. I beg to differ with the claim that “Beach practically kidnaps her [Sarah]” but I was expecting this book to be really dark and sinister at times and I didn’t find that it happened at all! To me, it was actually more light-hearted than either of the two previous novels which was disappointing to me, personally.

I hope I still get the chance to review Exquisite Karma in February and that it is more fulfilling to me. Dark and sinister and full of evil things happening to a certain traitor!

* * *

xx

Breaking Love – a review

I’m a happy girl 🙂 I received an e-arc copy of Breaking Love from the amazing and talented B.B. Reid! The following is my honest and unbiased review.

If you aren’t familiar with this series, “BL” is the fourth book in the Broken Love series. The first two novels are about the first couple and are very dark. The other two couples each have just one book since their back stories are well-established through the series openers and are also not as dark. If you are sensitive to dark themes, you might want to start with this book as a test-run. While I always prefer to read in order, I think the author does enough catch-up that a new reader could jump in here and not feel confused.

Okay, here’s the good stuff.

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Blurb:

She’s the girl who got away, but now she’s back…

Four years was all it took.

I told myself I didn’t need friends. I didn’t need family. I sure as fuck didn’t need him.

And you know what?

I was right.

He had been inside of me, coursing through my veins.

So I cut and bled Dash Chambers until I was free.

But the day I returned to Six Forks and was thrown at his feet, I realized I would never forget how it felt to have every inch of him inside me.

…and he’s waiting.

Angel thought if she ran far enough, she’d be free.

What’s mine will always be mine.

This time I do things my way.

* * *

DISCLAIMER: While Breaking Love isn’t dark, the first of the series contains sensitive themes many people aren’t able to swallow.

—                —                —

This was the come-back book in my opinion. The third really rubbed me the wrong way for various reasons, but Breaking Love was more true to the author’s writing in the first two novels, albeit lighter in content.

I liked how the story unfolded for Dash and Willow and that you could see how they had grown from their teenage selves we were first introduced to. Dash is less likely to lash out and seems to be the most stable man in this series. Considering the parenting that they all had, it is remarkable that the characters weren’t institutionalized, actually.

Willow on the other hand is much more vulnerable than in the past. I felt a lot of empathy for her. She has never really had someone who loved her unconditionally without demanding anything of her. It seems that every time she starts to feel something and take a chance on someone, that person lets her down or makes demands alien to her personality, even her parents. I’m glad that she starts to really connect with the people around her by the end of the novel, people she’d been around for years but never actually connected with before.

I would have preferred the plot to be refined a little more because I did feel like there was a lot going on at times. Despite this, the story was such a vast improvement over the third book, that “BL” was a miraculous joy to read and review in comparison.

I do wish that the author had removed some of the superficial plots to stream line the book. I found it confusing for her to reveal that Willow had been making secret trips home every month for years while in hiding (between book 2 and the start of this one) and never got caught, when she is estranged from her abusive mother and stepfather, and her beloved brother was away at university. What exactly was the point of taking huge chances to go home and visit people she detested when she had run away from everything and everyone in her old life?? This was never explained to my liking and I wish a beta-reader had pointed it out.

By taking out minor things like this, the story could have been made less confusing and opened up word count for the areas where there was VAST room for expansion: Willow’s relationships with the old gang and especially, between her and Keiran. I loved the couple of scenes between these two, about 85% in, and wish that BB Reid had further explored their relationship. I think Keiran was a huge part of why Willow was so hurt and disappeared for years, possibly as responsible as Dash was, so seeing this interaction was hugely important to me. I really like to see main characters interact with characters other than their romantic partner, because you get a much fuller sense of who they are in that way.

I hope you take a chance on this new author, she is doing a great job with very complicated material for a rookie. And she left a little bonus present for her dedicated fans at the end of the book 🙂

* * * (and a half)

xx