Exquisite Innocence (Iron Horse MC #5)

Lyric

I’ve spent my entire life on my parent’s isolated religious compound, sheltered and cut off from the rest of the world. It left me ill prepared to face the evil that invaded my home, and after a horrific encounter with demons masquerading as men, I fled. Some might say that my refuge is even worse than the prison I grew up in, but the men and women of the Iron Horse MC have been better to me than my own family. Unfortunately, the trouble I thought I left behind is still hunting me for reasons I don’t understand. Hustler has been assigned to be my guardian, but to my foolish heart he may be the biggest threat of all. Everything inside of me tells me we belong together, that I’ve been put on this earth to be his, but he insists we’ll never be anything more than friends.

Hustler

For as long as I can remember the Iron Horse MC has been my family. I’ve fought, bled, and sacrificed a piece of my soul for my brothers, but I’ve been set up, labeled a traitor by those I trusted most. My only hope comes in the form of a naive young girl I’ve been tasked with protecting, a woman who’s haunted both my heart and dreams. She’s everything good and beautiful in this world, and while I’ll never allow her to tarnish herself by loving me, I’ll do everything I can to make sure she survives.

(This unconventional MC series is one that SHOULD be read in order, starting with Exquisite Trouble).

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Exquisite Innocence is the fifth book in the Iron Horse MC series by Ann Mayburn. Iron Horse is my second favourite MC series and each of the couples in it has a two book arc. Which means that this book ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger and the conclusion to Lyric and Hustler’s story will be released at the end of 2017, according to the author’s social media accounts.

This series is multi-faceted. It covers the outlaw MC world, the mafia world, and brings in the world of religious cults in this novel as well. It occurs in the same universe as the Submissive’s Wish series by Mayburn and there is cross-over between the two, something I happen to love.

Lyric and Hustler are super easy to fall in love with, both as individuals and as a couple. They fit well together and come alive on the page. There was a preview to this in the final scenes of the previous books so the character pairing isn’t a surprise, but I like how to the author expanded upon Lyric’s backstory, and showed Hustler’s more serious and dangerous side, which was previously hidden.

You knew it had to exist because he was an Enforcer for an outlaw motorcycle club, but he seems so goofy, chatty and sex-oriented that you forgot to be afraid, or at least that little bit on guard.

There are two main complaints that I had about Exquisite Innocence: that it wasn’t long enough (this is a short novel at about 55,000 words) which is significantly shorter than the other books in this series. And, it has been painfully obvious to me since book one who the “baddie” is, undermining and betraying his club brothers and trying to kidnap the heroines left right and centre. The author confirms in this book but I was greatly hoping that this “suspense” arc would have resolved by now!

Mayburn’s other main series (that I read at least) is the Submissive’s Wish series about Russian Bratva Doms and their beloved subs, and I feel like that series is much more complicated, well-thought out and fulfilling as a reader. I feel like not as much time went into establishing the series arcing plot points in Iron Horse, because let’s be honest. I’m not THAT perceptive and the majority of readers shouldn’t have been able to figure it out so easily.

EI would have been much more enjoyable if I didn’t feel that the author was stringing the reader along, trying to perpetuate the “Chief betrayal storyline” for several books longer than enjoyable. It also annoyed me when I downloaded my pre-order to find that the book was so short. As I mentioned above, it is significantly shorter than previous books in the same series and publication was delayed by a month. It makes me suspicious that the author had to split the book into two last minute (posting the update this summer on her social media accounts) rather than publishing one complete story. Most romance novels I read are more than 100 000 words, most actually push 130 000, so the length of the first half definitely does not necessitate splitting this book into two for me.

Unfortunately these issues took an otherwise great story and dropped it down to three stars, IMHO. Hopefully the next book makes up for it because Lyric and Hustler are a great couple and I want to see them have their time in the sun. I am also intrigued by several other characters and hope to read romance stories for Hulk, Sledge/Marley, and Tom Sokolov before the series concludes!

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Zoe Blake

Kinky books alert!

A reader asked me for some book recommendations on Daddy/lg relationships so I am going to dedicate my next few blog posts to this topic and to my fellow reader.

Zoe Blake is an erotic romance author who writes relationships based on the Daddy/little girl kink. Most of her novels are novella length and have an element of non-consent or dubious consent to them as well. However, all her leading ladies end up loving what is being done to them.

The dubious consent is usually because the books are set in historical times, featuring an older and experienced male partner and a younger, virginal female partner who has never even heard of this type of play. Power relations are key in any portrayal of relationships in historical novels, because women were considered property in those times and often kept as powerless and uneducated (sexually speaking) as possible.

I do find that most of Ms Blake’s novels follow the same story-arc and would love if she developed her writing further and also branched out to full length novels, but she is a great pick if you are looking for a quite and dirty read.

If you are interested in books that have dubious consent, Daddy/lg themes, spanking or anal sex, Zoe Blake is a good author to check out. I will publish a few more posts on this theme as soon as I have the time!

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Master of the Dark Side

Master of the Dark Side is the fourth book in the Mountain Masters / Doms of Dark Haven series by Cherise Sinclair. It is a novella that was originally published in an anthology.

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Real Doms terrify her, so Summer plays with lightweights only. And only in the safety of her club, Dark Haven. But on Western Night, the tough cop who wins her in a sub-roping game is as powerful as they come.

Virgil’s first taste of BDSM was disturbingly enticing. Hoping to burn out his interest, he visits an infamous San Francisco club, where he wins himself the prettiest little submissive he’s ever seen. He’s in a quandary. A man shouldn’t render a woman helpless, let alone spank her ass. But the nervous little submissive clearly loves being in his ropes. Her need to be controlled is as powerful as his need to control. So he indulges himself, and her.

That one night could be the beginning, but instead it’s the end. She won’t play outside the club and he lives too far to visit often. He’ll just have to find a way to forget her…or get her in his ropes to stay.

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Master of the Dark Side is the second novella in this series so far. Normally I don’t like novellas because I feel like too much of the story is missing, and the relationship doesn’t progress as naturally as it should because of the contracted timeline, but I have yet to dislike any book by Cherise Sinclair! She is that good.

My favourite thing about this story is that the dominant, Virgil, is completely new and his submissive Summer, while not exactly an expert, has been in the scene for a couple of years. Most of the D/s stories I come across feature a female submissive who is obnoxiously clueless about the lifestyle, many even believing that it is something imagined by romance authors to sell book, rather than a practice that actually happens in real life.

*face palm*

In the modern world of high-speed internet and sky-high erotica sales, I find it difficult to believe that most people are THAT naive.

So it is completely refreshing to watch as Virgil explores his dominant side, discover what he is comfortable with, and learns the art of bdsm. Virgil is a cop with strong protective instincts, especially for women, and he has to reconcile those instincts with his need to dominate, to control, to push.

Summer had a traumatic and abusive “scene” in Simon Says Mine when a shoddy Dom did not respect her safeword and literally beat her bloody. Thankfully she was rescued by Simon and Rona, but she hasn’t recovered emotionally from the scars. This creates a minefield for Virgil to navigate in their relationship, especially since bdsm scenes require trust and vulnerability – both physical and emotional.

I loved this short story and am glad that the author writes updates on previous couples into all her books, so we will get to see some more from Virgil and Summer sometime soon!

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Simon Says Mine

Simon Says Mine is a novella by Cherise Sinclair, and it is a part of the Dark Haven/Mountain Masters series. I originally read this as part of an anthology by three different authors, however Sinclair’s was the only story I liked of the three so I was ecstatic when it was re-released on its own. It is considered to be book 1.5 in this series.

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With an empty nest and divorce in hand, Rona decides it’s time to explore the fantasies that nourished her through a long, tedious marriage to a man whose idea of outrageous sex was leaving the lights on. At the top of her fantasy list is touring Dark Haven, the BDSM club, but she isn’t prepared for the effect of a powerful Dom. When Master Simon takes control and introduces her to toys and sensations she’s never felt before, she realizes he could fulfill every fantasy on her list all by himself. But she’s vowed to never get trapped in a relationship again.

One of the most popular Doms in Dark Haven, Master Simon has had his fill of eager, shallow, young subs. Rona is older, intelligent, independent…and sweetly submissive. After an evening of intense pleasure and despite her obvious attraction, she refuses to see him again. He needs a way to change her mind. She’s not the first sub he’s taken on a journey of exploration, but he’s beginning to think she might be the last.

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I liked Simon and Rona. Even though this story was considerably shorter than the first in the series – it is a novella after all – I felt like we still got to know the characters just as well. Jake, Logan and Rebecca all turned up with cameos.

Simon and Rona are an older couple for a romance novel. Rona is in her late thirties and Simon in his forties. Both are divorced parents of college-aged boys who are looking for kinky lovin’. Simon likes to call Rona “lass” because her name is Scottish and it makes me swoon every time he does it. His strong and polite attitude mix with a ton of patience and genuine interest in other people.

Rona is a very straight-forward women who isn’t out to play games. She is a professional hospital administrator with a history working as a nurse and is usually game to take charge of a situation and care for other people. She has read lots of bdsm-themed novels but isn’t prepared for the impact of a true Dom’s stare … or frown .. or command … in real life. Simon sets her heart and mind at war with one another. She was determined to capture the youthful experiences she lost by marrying and having children young, and along comes this handsome, kinky, sweet man intent on sweeping her off her feet!

I don’t want to imply that Simon isn’t a powerful dom by calling him sweet, but he really is! He’s the guy who you know is always going to be there to support you, even if you’ve been kinda a jerk. He is going to do the right thing. He is responsible and has his head on straight and the older I get, the more attractive those qualities become. One of my pet peeves is reading about grown-ass characters who behave like teenagers and thankfully, that isn’t a problem in this book!

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Shade’s Lady by Joanna Wylde

Shades’s Lady counts as book #6.5 in the Reapers MC series. It is a novella and a fun departure from the previous books. It tells the story of Shade, the national President of the Reapers MC and takes place in a different location than any of the other books. You won’t meet many familiar faces, but the new ones introduced certainly make up for it!

shade

Looking back, none of this would’ve happened if I hadn’t dropped my phone in the toilet. I mean, I could’ve walked away from him if I’d had it with me.

Or maybe not.

Maybe it was all over the first time he saw me, and he would’ve found another way. Probably—if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that Shade always gets what he wants, and apparently he wanted me.

Right from the first.

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So first off, this is a novella so obviously it is the shortest book so far. Also as obvious, I wish it was longer! I wanted to explore Shade more and the unique aspect he is in as national President of an outlaw MC. Most of the complaints that I had about the book stem from its shorter length, but I want to be fair and judge the book as the novella it was intended to be.

So I did love this book and feel that it added some freshness to the series. We didn’t get to revisit any of the former main characters, although readers were briefly introduced to Shade in a couple of earlier novels.The heroine, Mandy, is also completely new to Reapers MC.

The one thing that all heroines in this universe seem to share is that they have gumption! They are all real ladies, not too prissy or perfect and each has faults. But they have to have a certain level of confidence to stand up to an outlaw biker, and this is usually what attracts the hero to them.

Mandy has had a rough life so far but she gave up everything to support her sister and three little nieces going through a rough time. This pretty much nominates her to knighthood in my opinion, since she doesn’t even have a bed to sleep in as a result!

Shade has the patience of a Saint! It surprised me how much of a “good guy” he is considering his office, but I guess you need to have a fair amount of patience and diplomacy to be the big honcho.  I wish we could have explored his character more but you can only do so much in a novella. Hopefully, these characters will show up again in future books.

I love how the author weaved together the subplots and new cast of characters that Mandy brought with her. From her boss “Bone” to her family and the Sheriff’s Deputy her sister starts dating, I didn’t feel at that the story was lacking due to a smaller word count. It only became obvious in the club world. The only Club characters that really get introduced, besides Shade, are Dopey and his Old Lady.

This struck me as weird, since Shade supposedly has two brothers assigned to him at all times, in a bodyguard capacity. But we are only ever introduced to one. It would have made a lot more sense to me to either add on a couple of pages every few chapters to give Muscle #2 a storyline or to just write him out completely.

Otherwise, this story gets five stars and I cannot wait to get another book from Ms Wylde! She has recently teased that she is writing a book about Taz and that this will be the first book in a “side-quel”series about the Devil’s Jacks!!! Hopefully we also get Fathomless soon as well! It was originally supposed to be released in 2015 but apparently keeps getting pushed back due to publishing issues.

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Outside the Lines review

Outside the lines is a novella in the Sons of Templar series. It should be read in between books two and three. It is about the New Mexico chapter that the Cali boys visited in Firestorm, so we get to see the sexy doc Hansen fall in love with club girl Macy.

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My life’s not easy. I’ll tell you that now. It’s not neat. I don’t fit into society the way most people expect me to and I don’t color studiously between the lines, outside the lines is where I reside. The fringes of society is where I found my place, with the Sons of Templar MC. The life they lived gave me everything I wanted, and everything I needed. Most importantly, it gave me something I’d been lacking for over a decade—family. A place to belong.

Club girl—that was my title. There were other words for what I was, but I preferred the less derogatory version. Sure, I’d love to be an Old Lady. It’s the dream. But, as someone who escaped into fantasy worlds when life got too much, I knew the difference between dreams and reality. I had resigned myself to the fact, I’d always belong to the club. It didn’t mean I didn’t crave one man in particular to claim me. To put me on the back of his bike and ride off into the sunset with the man who’d captured my heart the first day I saw him—Hansen. The dream where he’d finally see me and make me his, existed strictly in Macy’s world of wonder. Until now. Until somehow my fantasy world and reality world collided and he looks at me in the way I’d dreamt of for a year.

Fairy tales usually had neat and happy endings once the hero and heroine got together. This wasn’t a fairy tale. Hansen wasn’t your traditional hero and I was the furthest you could get from a heroine. I feared my past might dictate my future. That my world outside the lines would go from messy to complete disaster.

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This book is very different from the previous ones in so many ways! I like when an author doesn’t just replicate a winning formula over and over, instead choosing to grow as a writer and take chances with the direction she takers her audience. Outside the lines is a novella, so it is much shorter and less detailed than the first two in the series, but there was still that sense of “club”, or community, despite having fewer pages devoted to establishing those background characters and relationships.

Macy is also the exact opposite of earlier heroines. Instead of a wealthy, sophisticated fashionista, Macy is a complete nerd who quotes LOTR all the time. She doesn’t do her hair in the morning, is perfectly happy in jeans and a tee and has no problem with her status as a club girl. She is the epitome of a quirky, fun-loving, low key geek and I love her! It was nice to have the change after Gwen and Amy who were so alike.

I do think that it would have been nice to read a full length novel about these characters, and to expand upon Hansen’s military career and medical training, but I still loved this sweet, short story. Unlike the Amber chapter, which has gone legit by this point, the New Mexico chapter is still happily outlaw and that does present a slightly different tone to the novel. Not all the characters are as sweet to women as we have seen previously, but still, abuse isn’t tolerated. It is also a unique aspect to witness Macy’s transition from club girl to Old Lady. She has trouble overcoming her previous status as a whore (her words, not mine) and this is an ongoing issue in her and Hansen’s relationship.

Normally, I don’t give too much though to titles, but this one is especially apt. Hansen and Macy live completely outside the lines of what society has deemed acceptable and she is also way outside the lives of what we have so far established to the the norm for an Old Lady. She transcended the barriers between the women who belong to the club as a whole, and the women who belong to the club because they belong to a patched member.

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Mr and Mrs by Alexa Riley

Mr and Mrs is a sweet, romantic novella about a young couple passionately in love with one another, but a little lost in the intense emotions and busyness of life.

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This isn’t my normal type of romance, but I randomly found it while home sick from work and was desperate for something to read. What I did like about this novel is that there is a distinct beginning, middle and end. Oftentimes in romance, particularly with novellas, the book appears to just end, a style that I do not enjoy reading.

While the book lacked depth – which I’m not really faulting the author for because that is difficult to achieve in the shorter word count of a novella – there was enough there that I felt it could have been flushed out into a full length novel.

My favourite aspect of Mr and Mrs was its sweetness (unusual for me!). Neither of the protagonists were difficult to relate to or like. Neither was overly dramatic, which is another big turn-off IMHO. I admired the Mr for his passion and ruthlessness and related to the Mrs for her sweet desire to have a family and put it first.

If you are looking for a short story that you can read in an hour or so, this one is for you.

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