Rome’s Chance (Reaper’s MC #6.6)

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Rome McGuire knew he was in trouble the first time he saw her.

She was sweet and pretty and just about perfect in every way. She was also too young and innocent for the Reapers Motorcycle Club. He did the right thing, and walked away.

The second time, he couldn’t resist tasting her.

Gorgeous and smart, fun and full of wonder, she jumped on his bike and would’ve followed him anywhere. Still, she deserved a shot at happiness somewhere bigger and better than a town like Hallies Falls. Walking away wasn’t so easy that time, but her family needed her and he had a job to do.

When she came around a third time, he’d had enough. Randi Whittaker had been given two chances to escape, and now it was time for Rome to take his.

This time, the only way Randi would be leaving Hallies Falls was on the back of Rome’s bike.

**Every 1001 Dark Nights novella is a standalone story. For new readers, it’s an introduction to an author’s world. And for fans, it’s a bonus book in the author’s series. We hope you’ll enjoy each one as much as we do.**

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Rome’s Chance is the first book to be released in this series in more than a year and I am so thankful Ms. Wylde is back!! Both the heroine and hero were initially introduced as secondary characters in Reaper’s Fire although the timeline has skipped forward several years since then.

I haven’t compared the word counts but this book felt so much shorter than the previous novella, Shade’s Lady. I have no idea why that is because I enjoyed both books, but this one just felt much shorter!

I will warn you, this book was drawing out my tears more than any other I have read in months! I was sick while reading it and perhaps a little more emotional than usual, but there are still some sad moments that you should prepare yourself for.

There is much less sense of the MC in this Rome’s Chance. To me, it read more like a contemporary romance with a hero who just happened to ride a bike, than a typical Reapers MC book. There is no visit to the clubhouse, no discussion of club business, and the only other Reaper who is even named in the book is Gage. And he still doesn’t have a single line. Also, there is less sex than normal for this author, but considering the shorter word count of a novella, that is obvious. I just felt like they had a less physical relationship that I was expecting.

I am glad that this author is back and hope that we get another book before summer is over. I will read anything she writes!

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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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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!

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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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Reaper’s Fire by Joanna Wylde

Reaper’s Fire is the 6th book in the Reaper’s MC universe … aka the best MC romance series going!  This book is great but I definitely do not suggest reading it as a stand-a-lone.

Also, trigger warning. I do NOT consider the hero (Gage) to be a cheater but some others would. Gage is undercover and “dating” this (incredibly unlikeable) girl as his “in” with an out-of-control MC when he meets his one true love. He becomes friends with the heroine and they like each other but he keeps sleeping with the other chick. The hero and heroine do not have intimate relations with one another until he breaks it off and can commit to his one true love. He eventually comes clean but if you are super sensitive about cheating, this may not be the book for you.

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The club comes first.

I’ve lived by those words my whole life—assumed I’d die by them, too, and I never had a problem with that. My Reaper brothers took my back and I took theirs and it was enough. Then I met her. Tinker Garrett. She’s beautiful, she’s loyal, and she works so damned hard it scares me sometimes . . . She deserves a good man—one better than me. I can’t take her yet because the club still needs me. There’s another woman, another job, another fight just ahead.

Now she’ll learn I’ve been lying to her all along. None of it’s real. Not my name, not my job, not even the clothes I wear. She thinks I’m nice. She pretends we’re just friends, that I’ve still got a soul . . . Mine’s been dead for years. Now I’m on fire for this woman, and a man can only burn for so long before he destroys everything around him.

I’m coming for you, Tinker.

Soon.

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I really liked Reaper’s Fire and would still recommend it to anyone who reads romance. But it was my least favourite novel in my very favourite series so please forgive me if this novel comes across as highly critical.  When you are as passionate as I am, it can be easy to focus on the things you didn’t like so much. I’ll try to be brief.

As Gage is undercover on the other side of the state from the rest of the cast of characters who comprise the Reapers MC, there is a markedly smaller amount of page time for those characters. Which is fine. I guess. Except that the interactions between all the different family members is what makes these books so great. I dislike series that focus exclusively on the hero/ine instead of building on this world that the author is attempting to create. If you are making a set of standalones, don’t market them as a series, right?! And this author, Joanna Wylde, is usually so So SO good at balancing the couple’s story with the bigger world they inhabit.

Now, you do see a few familiar faces. A remarkable number really considering that CDA is several hours drive from the setting in Reaper’s Fire. But it still made me grumble.

The time line falls back several years from where the previous book left off. It makes sense why that happened and I expected it, but definitely read these books in order. Even if you skip the earlier ones in the series (although why in the HELL you would do that I don’t know), make sure to read Reaper’s Fall before Fire.

As I explained at the top in the trigger warning, Tinker and Gage start their relationship off as employer and employee, and then as friends. So the sex inevitably comes much later in the book than readers would probably expect. This didn’t bother me and I am glad that Gage did not sleep with Tinker and the crazy chick at the same time, but it felt like there was this huge long build-up – BAM he comes clean – insert wild action scene and then book over. I needed more of a cool down period. I would have liked to see some of the earlier pages cut and more of the length of the book in the back-end of the story.

Gage and Tinker are bother older than the typical couple in a romance series. They are in their very late 30s to mid 40s. This doesn’t really make a difference to me but if you are looking for a slightly older couple in your romance, here’s your couple. It does reflect in their behaviours at times, where you can see they are just slightly more mature than certain individuals in previous novels.

I do want to make one note about this series that I have been pondering for the last few books. I think I am itching for Wylde to go darker. She usually has at least one dark scene per book, but her series is lighter than some of the others that I read. And the material is right there. Outlaw biker badasses. Let’s get dark.

The series began with a pretty dark premise when Horse essentially kidnapped the woman he liked and made her his house mouse to punish her brother for crossing the club. Usually a series gets a little darker as it goes on, and I would love to read just one really dark book with an almost unredeemable hero. Gage, being the Club’s Enforcer, could have been this character but hopefully it will be someone else down the line.

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Reaper’s Fall by Joanna Wylde

Can I just start by saying that I can’t believe I never wrote this blog?! I must had read this book six times over now, but I just noticed it still sitting on my “Currently Reading” shelf on goodreads. Huh. Guess I get the joy of reviewing this and the next in the series this week then 🙂

Reaper’s Fall is the fifth book in the Reapers MC series by Joanna Wylde. And although there is some fierce competition because I read a lot of MC romance, the Reapers are by far my favourite world to jump into.

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He never meant to hurt her.

Levi “Painter” Brooks was nothing before he joined the Reapers motorcycle club. The day he patched in, they became his brothers and his life. All they asked in return was a strong arm and unconditional loyalty—a loyalty that’s tested when he’s caught and sentenced to prison for a crime committed on their behalf.

Melanie Tucker may have had a rough start, but along the way she’s learned to fight for her future. She’s escaped from hell and started a new life, yet every night she dreams of a biker whose touch she can’t forget. It all started out so innocently—just a series of letters to a lonely man in prison. Friendly. Harmless. Safe.

Now Painter Brooks is coming home… and Melanie’s about to learn that there’s no room for innocence in the Reapers MC.

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Painter and Mel’s book starts way back in the same time period as the previous book, before Painter’s year long prison sentence. This means it also takes place before Silver Bastard. It is nice because you get to “see” Painter and Mel meet and start to fall for each other from their own perspectives, although nothing serious happens until after Painter goes through that year in a California prison. But if you are a regular reader of the series, you are taking a step back in terms of the timeline.

One thing that separates this book from others in the universe is timeline. Most of the Reapers books take place in a fairly compressed period of time, a few months at most. Reaper’s Fall stretches out over 6 years or so, beginning with their first meeting, then mostly skipping past Painter’s year in prison, to the eventual conception of Mel and Painter’s daughter several months later, and up until she is about four years old.

I enjoyed seeing their relationship grow and develop over a longer period of time. It makes it seem much more realistic than most romance novel relationships however I wish that the book was a little longer. The first two thirds of the novel are our love birds falling in love, but their reconciliation has lots of “two years later” gaps in time. Those gaps occurred too frequently towards the end of Reaper’s Fall, so I wish the author had added an extra 50 pages length to fill some in.

One of my favourite scenes was between Painter’s best friend Puck, and Mel. I love that Puck took Mel and her baby across the country to see Painter when he was in prison. I would have loved this scene to also be expanded because it humanizes both bikers from their normal badass personas and shows the sense of family that is at the core of the MC world. There are times Mel comes across as a raging bitch, and given her situation she has more than enough reasons to act that way, but her trip with Puck – a virtual unknown to her at the time – also shows how much love she has for both Painter and their daughter, and demonstrates that she wants them to have a great relationship.

This book had all the tension, romance, sex and passion that I have come to expect from Joanna Wylde. I am eagerly awaiting more additions to this universe and will write a review for Reaper’s Fire ASAP!

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Dauntless – a Sons of Templar MC novel

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From Goodreads:

This isn’t a fairy tale. I’ll save you the trouble by telling you that now.

This is the tale of a girl who spent her life bouncing around foster homes, who had her innocence stolen in the darkness before she knew it was something that could be lost. Her demons followed her everywhere, after that night. They chased her to the medical school she dropped out of, to the strip club she sold herself in, and finally caught her in a river of sin where they tried to drown her.

My name is Bex and this is my story.

I’m paddling, barely keeping my head above water. And even though I’m submerged, I’ll never be clean. The layer of dirt that has clung to me since birth is a tattoo I’ll wear for life.
He can’t see it, though.
Even when I’m torn and tattered, and left in pieces, he wades into the filth to try to put those pieces back together.
He doesn’t seem to understand there’s nothing left to repair. To love. Just sullied fragments of a damned soul.
He’s willing to damn himself in order to exact revenge on those who sent me to the pit.
Problem is, my name is at the top of that list, since I not only damned my own soul, but his too.

*Contains dark subject matter and potential triggers
**Can be read as a standalone

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Okay, yes this can be read as a standalone. But I REALLY would not recommend it. The Sons of Templar MC is stellar and you would get so much more from the book if you read the others first. At least read Beyond the Horizon, which is the fourth book in the series and the one where Bex and Lucky meet.

Also, if you have read the series, note that this one is the darkest yet, IMHO. Trigger warnings include child abuse (in the heroine’s backstory), drug use, rape and mental illness. The heroine feels like she is worthless trash due to her experiences. Please note that none of the violence and abuse occurs between the hero and heroine.

Now we have that established…

I absolutely loved Dauntless. It totally made up for my last (disappointing) review. Bex and Lucky have a dark and twisted love story and I love that Bex is not your typical helpless heroine, waiting for the boys to come rescue her and help her deal emotionally. She is a kickass, strong, mentally-tough woman.

But she’s not perfect. The author, Anne Malcom, wrote a strong female lead who struggles with mental illness and with addiction. She has a horrific upbringing, from being dumped into the system at birth and being “raised” in a series of shitty foster homes, to her rape by one of those so-called “Dads” when she was just 12 years old. Those experiences have left some pretty extensive emotional scarring.

The story picks up when Bex is 23, a college dropout stripping to try to make rent every month and using drugs to cope with the she life she’s been handed. I love that Malcom doesn’t pretend a person who is mentally strong does not have any issues. Sometimes, the strongest have the most horrific life experiences. THAT is what makes them so strong.

Lucky and Bex appear to have been made for each other. The amount of patience and self-discipline Lucky demonstrates while waiting for Bex to pull herself together is incredible. I truly don’t think that I would have been able to do that for anyone. He knows that she is the one for him and is willing to do whatever, wait however long, in order to be with her and respect her boundaries. Repeatedly he steps back and lets her do things he doesn’t approve of because he understand her, understands that need to control her body and her life after control was taken from her so brutally in the past.

He also takes a lot of emotional abuse, understanding that the bitchiness is protecting a soft, extremely delicate core that cannot handle any more abuse. Lucky has always been the funny guy of the group, always with a joke and a smile. You sure see another side of him in Dauntless, but there is also a lot of humour and banter between him and Bex that helps to counter the dark content.

I felt that Dauntless was a more balanced story between the hero and the heroine than previous books in the series. It is still told almost entirely from Bex’s POV, but we learn a lot more of Lucky’s viewpoint and backstory than we did for previous male leads. This is a huge improvement in my opinion. I also loved that Malcom wrote them as an inter-racial couple and it was so not a big deal that I almost missed that point. This is how it should be! I’m tired of reading books where the author describes the hero/ine’s skin tone as chocolate or coffee a million and one times.

The earlier books in this series also had a slightly different pacing and style. Partially, I think the author is adapting her writing style, but also, her changes really fit with the dark tone of this book. There is a lot less jumping around in timeline – Dauntless mostly reads chronologically – and the supporting cast have far less importance and “page-time” than in other books, except for Rosie… who I seriously hope is the star of book six!

Malcom has started two other series, one a spin-off from the Sons of Templar MC and another completely separate, so I am guessing the books are not going to be coming as swiftly as I am used to. Too bad because I am very interested in reading all about Rosie and Luke, the hunky deputy!

I absolutely recommend this book for anyone who doesn’t mind a little dark in their romance!

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Out of the Ashes – Anne Malcom

Out of the Ashes is the third novel in the Sons of Templar series. Although this series can be read out of order (and honestly, I mistakenly did this), I’d read it in order if I could do it over again.

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Living a life in darkness causes the soul to char to ash. Battling demons by turning himself into a monster is the only way he can survive…the only way he can keep a grip on sanity. That grip is precarious at best, every day is a silent battle with demons that threaten to yank him into the truest form of darkness, the abyss he’ll never escape. Then it happens. Light shines through the cracks.

Happiness. Mia Spencer’s life is full of it. She has an amazing new job, friends, family, and the light of her life – her daughter Lexie. Running from the demons of the past, escaping a hell that she vowed Lexie would never know about, she worked through hardship and near poverty to create something she was proud of. Buried deep inside, underneath the swell of love she had for her only daughter, were the fractured pieces of her. Pieces that were smashed and battered when she was young and vulnerable.

Then she meets Bull, who seems to hate her on sight. He screams danger, from his huge physique, to his beautiful ink, to the motorcycle club he belongs to. He is silent, his glares threaten to burn her into flames, yet she finds herself falling for him. Finds this broken man slowly fixing the pieces she thought would stay shattered forever.

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Out of the Ashes is my favourite book in this series so far! Mia and Lexie are adorable together. It is overwhelmingly obvious that the author is a fan of Gilmore Girls, as Mia and Lexie share more than a passing resemblance to the main characters on the show. They wittily banter back and forth non-stop, and are both addicted to coffee. They have the sweetest mother-daughter relationship and similar backgrounds.

Unlike in the show, Mia was born into trailer park trash, but she finds herself a mother and alone at 16 and raises her baby on her own, by starting out as a maid in a hotel working for room and board and rising to hotel manager. Lexie, just like Rory Gilmore, is a super smart, super kind, eclectic and not at all teenagerish teenager who is destined for great things.

 

Here is an example of some of the more refreshing banter between Mia and Lexie:

“Okay, I’m giving the coffee a hundred and twelve and the pancakes a solid nine and a half. I deducted half because I feel like they could be improved by adding chocolate chips to them,” I declared, leaning back in my seat.

Lexie nodded at me. “I’m seconding the coffee, and I’m hugely impressed a town this small has embraced acai bowls. I must say this one is hells good.”

I rolled my eyes. “I fail to believe that any acai bowl could be “hells good.” It’s a crime to breakfast foods everywhere that that can be considered appropriate as a meal. It’s a smoothie poured into a bowl. It’s like cold soup,” I said, my nose curled in distaste.

Lexie folded her arms. “Acai is a super food and it does wonders for your immune system. It’s full of antioxidants and is a much better way to start the day than with processed sugars and bleached flour,” she told me in a scolding tone.

“The only way, other than coffee, to start a day is with sugar. That’s the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning,” I argued. “That and the possibility Jensen Ackles will finally realize he’s in love with me,” I added dreamily.

Lexie sighed. “I don’t know how you’ve stayed this skinny, Mom. You should need a crane to get you out of the house,” she said, scrunching her nose at me while she looked me up and down.

“I don’t know how my daughter learned about acai and freaking quinoa when such things are sacrilege in my mind,” I countered.

“A little thing called the internet,” she replied.

Malcom, Anne. Out of the Ashes (The Sons of Templar MC Book 3) (Kindle Locations 158-171). Kindle Edition.

With a teenage daughter in tow, Mia is the most reluctant of all the leading ladies so far to pursue a relationship with an outlaw biker. She is painfully aware that building a relationship with the club could place her daughter at risk and while she is more than willing to risk herself for love, no way is she going to do the same to Lexie.

Leading guy Bull feels the same way. He lost his first wife due to a war with another club and has been in the throes of depression ever since. The optimism and zany banter that Lexie and Mia bring to town starts to draw him out, but Bull remains the quietest, grumpiest and most taciturn biker of the group. Even his club brothers seem to be removed from him and nervous of his control at times. I get the feeling that the only people completely safe from Bull (when he loses it) are Lexie and Mia.

I’m impressed with Mia’s forgiving patience because I would have given up on him long before, but I guess that is just the animal magnetism at work. Bull and Mia also have the kinkiest relationship to date. He is definitely dominant in bed and likes to call the shots outside of it as well. Mia keeps him on his toes and is absolutely alpha when it parenting Lexie, but she loves Bull’s wild and possessive personality and is totally on board with bangin’ against the wall. I wish we had seen more of this unrestrained passion.

I think my one regret in this novel is that Bull and Mia spent so much time working through his (totally justified) hangups to establish themselves as a couple, and then overcoming Mia’s reluctance to associate with people who could be a danger to Lexie, that we don’t actually see them together as much as the other couples. I would love to read another book about them in the future, even if it is a novella, and also to see more of the parent/friend relationship that develops between Bull and Lexie.

There is a super sweet and heart-warming romantic sub-plot between Lexie and bad boy Killian who has been raised by the club and I can see that the author has also published a novel about them, so I am exited to read that one soon.

Overall, I absolutely loved this book. As I said, it was the first one that I read, although I held on to my review so I could release them in series order. I’m thankful that taking a chance on this new-to-me author paid off and cannot wait to read more of her works!

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