Girl Last Seen (Nina Laurin)

Two missing girls. Thirteen years apart.

An intense psychological thriller for readers of I Am Watching You, The Luckiest Girl Alive, and All the Missing Girls.

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Girl Last Seen is a fascinating thriller told from the perspective of an unreliable narrator… sidenote: that phrase is so funny. When I first saw it on my reading challenge list I was perplexed over what it meant. I could only think of the narrator of an audiobook … one who wasn’t so good at his/her job, who mispronounced the characters’ names? Then I realized, it is the character telling the story, s/he is the narrator. And Laine(y) is a perfect example of this.

Annnd, getting back on topic…

Lainey is a mess. She had a disastrous youth, even before her kidnapping, but she has not healed or adapted well at all. She has abandonment and trust issues, intimacy problems and is a drug addict. Although not recognized as an alcoholic in the story, she also uses hard liquor to drown out her inner demons. She believes she is a fuck-up and that she can never be good because of what happened to her.

Lainey experiences severe emotional and behaviour disorders. As the main (and only POV) character, she is difficult for most readers to relate to but her past trauma is very easily believed as a result.

I’m not sure what it was that bothered me, but I had the hardest time getting through this audiobook. Halfway through I switched to the physical book and finished it in one sitting!

Always remember that if you are having trouble with a novel, maybe something so simple as changing the medium will help.

In Girl Last Seen, Laurin takes a very commonplace core idea of a thriller and writes it from a completely new perspective – one that I haven’t seen anyone else approach before. This helped keep the book fresh in a genre that is exploding with bestsellers right now. I can’t get into the specifics without spoiling it so I will leave it at that.

I did know who was behind the mystery in the end, and there was no one else I ever seriously considered. I wish it had been written with a few more levels to make it harder to discern the identify of the person.

Girl Last Seen is a easy-to-read gripping thriller that is written by a stellar new Canadian author.

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xx

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Mischief and the Masters (Shadowlands #12)

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She wants a short, sweet Master. One Master.

The two devastatingly dominant Drago cousins have other ideas.

Her life destroyed by a stalker, Uzuri Cheval starts anew in Tampa and joins the exclusive Shadowlands club. Unconvinced of her claims that she can overcome her fear of big men without help, Master Z gives her a time limit. And she is improving–until she hears the stalker is out of prison. Now her time limit is up, and the Masters will intervene, which is okay–as long as whoever helps her is short. Okay, sweet and gentle would be good, too.

But two Doms? Dangerously experienced and dauntingly powerful cousins? No way.

Having volunteered in every hellhole in the world, Dr. Alastair Drago is ready to settle down. Detective Max Drago has joined him and, once again, the cousins share everything. A house, lives, problems…and whatever submissive catches their interest. One mischievous submissive has definitely caught Alastair’s. However, having been burned by a woman, Max remains detached…until little mischief’s troubles turn deadly.

—                         —                         —

Uzuri refers to her Doms as “Dragon Doms”, a play on their last name of Drago, but I kept remembering Sally’s preferred phrase, “Demon Doms” and using that instead. These two definitely keep a girl on her toes!

The first time that I read this book I wasn’t overly thrilled with it. I read it last summer while there was lots of racial BS going on in the US. I am not American and although racial tension can be found everywhere in the world, where I live, we don’t seem to have problems like the US does. Regardless, American news dominates everywhere (especially in the Trump era) and I was damn tired of reading about racial issues. I definitely wasn’t happy to find it addressed in my erotica.

But time is a sweet cure for all things.

Media coverage of this issue isn’t bombarding me 24/7 anymore and on a second read of Mischief and the Masters, I realized that there isn’t as much “lecturing” in it as I felt on the first read.

Uzuri and Alistair are both biracial with white fathers and black mothers. Alistair’s cousin Max is white. The three enter into an exclusive DDs polyamorous relationship (similar to how it works between Sally and her doms in If Only.

I did enjoy this book much more on the second take. I appreciate the author have biracial characters and relationships in her books and although I still feel that certain sections were written with the political climate in mind, I can get past that and just enjoy the story at this point. Ms. Sinclair is currently writing the 13th book in the Shadowlands series, and has announced it should be out in Spring 2018. It’s February now so I’m thinking an April release date sounds about right. Can’t wait!

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Protecting His Own (Shadowlands #11)

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Landscape designer, Beth King survived an abusive husband and built a new life for herself with the help of Master Nolan, the strongest, most protective man she has ever known. She loves him with all her heart, but the one thing he wants, she can’t give him. To her grief, the damage from her abusive first marriage means she can’t bear him children.

As Beth and Nolan change their plans and pursue adoption, they’re already imagining a baby girl in the nursery. But when two boys from the local domestic violence shelter see their mother taken to the hospital, they call Beth in a panic. Agreeing to care for them temporarily, Beth soon falls in love with the two adorable boys.

Now Master Nolan has a new problem. How can he protect the children when their drug-addicted mother is released—and how the hell can he keep his sweet submissive’s heart from being broken when they leave?

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This is the 11th book in the Club Shadowlands series but the second book about Nolan and Beth. Book #3 is called Breaking Free and it tells the story of the two meeting and falling in love. Alas, it was a short novel, and I am super excited that Ms. Sinclair has FINALLY written a followup story. I always felt that we never got the full story from Nolan and Beth and we definitely did not get enough time with this strict and sexy full-time Dom.

To Protect His Own is a sweeter story than I am used to – and although there are multiple kinky scenes – it is more focused on family and relationships than on intimacy and sex.

There’s still enough time to introduce a new kink though – mummification!!

Fostering and adoption are topics that are near and dear to my heart. I loved seeing them included in a romance novel. Life isn’t all rose petals. Sometimes past abuses leave an enduring mark, physically and emotionally. Thankfully Beth has a devoted Master to help see her through them and together they have more than enough love for a couple of kids who haven’t had nearly enough of it in their short lives.

To Protect His Own has a unique plot that is a welcome change from the criminal romantic suspense that has been so popular lately. No bad guys chasing down the heroine, no undercover police operations … just love finding a way through bureaucracy and bullshit.

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The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls)

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A tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that, despite its profound flaws, gave the author the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.

Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn’t stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an “excitement addict.” Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.

Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town — and the family — Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents’ betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.

What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.

For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story.

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I found this book very difficult to listen to at times, not just because of the subject matter, but because of the author’s approach to her story. Ms. Walls reflects upon her childhood with frankness and affection, seemingly content with her eccentric parents decisions for the family. She talks about growing up “wild” and how she appreciated the freedom her parents gave the four Walls kids to explore, make mistakes and

Walls comes across as very matter of fact regarding the many abuses she and her siblings faced growing up as a result of her parents decisions, and more often, as a result of their neglect. Her father’s drinking and mother’s distain for housekeeping or mothering made me ache for these children who often missed the barest of essentials, including food and warm clothes.

As the listener, I felt that Jeannette had been brainwashed by her father growing up, a mentality that exists today to some degree. She doesn’t seem to find fault with their poor decisions that put her and her siblings into danger, and at times brought the attention of medical personnel, and children’s aid employees. It was difficult to listen to her seemingly idolize her parents at times, even as an adult reflecting on the past, knowing how selfish, neglectful and at times abusive her parents were.

The mother’s whining that she didn’t want to get up and go to school to teach – knowing this paycheque was the only thing that was feeding her children at the time – was so bizarre and highlights the irresponsible and selfish nature both parents exhibited, as did hiding her chocolate snacks while her children are literally starving because neither parent is working and the family doesn’t receive food stamps.

Despite their actions, I cannot doubt Rex and Rose Mary Walls loved their children, particularly Rex. And as Jeannette muses, I think we make the lives we want in the end.

The Glass Castle is well-written and compelling. I didn’t love this book because I felt the author was overly sympathetic to her parents and her parents’ behaviour made me angry, but I am still giving this book four stars.

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This is who I am (Shadowlands #7)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Breaking Free (Shadowlands book #3)

The Shadowlands series should be read in order. The first book is called Club Shadowlands and the kindle version can be acquired for free from Amazon : )

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A sadistic husband left Beth scarred, inside and out. Only at the Shadowlands BDSM club does she feel like a woman. But her fears limit her to Doms who won’t overwhelm her–the very ones who cannot arouse her. The Master of the Shadowlands gives her an ultimatum: accept the Dom he assigns or lose her membership. The last thing Beth wants is a ruthless, powerful Dom, but that’s just what she gets.

Asked to take on a problem sub, Nolan sees the issue immediately–although truly submissive, the little redhead is too scared to relinquish control and her Doms have let her get away with it. That will change right now.

As Master Nolan takes Beth under command, compelling her submission, she’s terrified, but the experienced Dom brings her pleasure, not pain. His only demand is that she never lie to him. Under his capable hands, her body comes alive, and she begins to heal. As he pushes her limits, she learns to trust…and then to love. And she realizes he is beginning to care for her in return.

But now her cruel husband has found her, and Master Nolan discovers she’s been lying and lying and lying.

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I love Master Nolan. He is my very favourite Dom so far, and that’s saying something because every Dom in the Shadowlands is hot, attentive and genuine!

Breaking Free is about Beth’s overcoming past abuse but I LOVE that this isn’t a simple hero-rescues-heroine story. Beth escaped her powerful and influential abusive husband before the book begins, going into a self-styled witness protection plan. She started and built up her own landscaping company to make a new life for herself – a far cry from the financially-privileged house wife role she played before.

Even more impressive, she joins a private BDSM club in this new life, trying to overcome the physical, emotional and sexual abuse to regain her control over intimacy and engage on an interpersonal level with another kinkster. Although this is something she is seriously struggling with, I am so thankful that the author didn’t paint Beth as a wilting flower, afraid to try again.

“She’s a good person. Honest, full of enthusiasm. But when she gets here, she turns into a mouse. She’s not just submissive; she’s terrified. She comes to the club because she requires more than the vanilla world can offer, but we’re not meeting those needs.”

Nolan studied the scene some more. Pretty obvious what the problem was. She was too scared to give up control, but she needed to give up control to get her needs as a submissive met.

“She wouldn’t be an easy sub to top.”

“Exactly.” Z tilted his head. “You up to the challenge?”

Sinclair, Cherise. Breaking Free (Masters of the Shadowlands Series Book 3) (p. 5). VanScoy Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Breaking Free is another short novel, like the first two in the Shadowlands series, but it is self-contained. I am super thankful that the author evolved into writing longer novels after this one, and also that she later wrote a novella that follows Nolan and Beth, updating up on their future life and relationship. I look forward to reviewing it soon!

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The Dom’s Dungeon

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Foster child. Teenage whore. Now a veterinarian, MacKensie’s turned her life around, but the scars remain. She saves her affection for the animals who never judge or scorn her, but it’s time to get out, move on from her past in Iowa. So, she arranges a vacation exchange to job hunt in Seattle.

Although the house is lovely, one room is locked. Her years in foster care have given her two ‘gifts’: a neurosis about locked doors and the ability to open them. After she gets into the room, she’s appalled…and intrigued. Chains and manacles, whips and paddles, odd benches with straps…

When Alex returns home days early and finds MacKensie draped over the spanking bench in his locked dungeon, he’s furious. But her wariness arouses his protective nature and curiosity, so he strikes a deal to keep her close—she’ll act as his submissive in exchange for a place to stay and help finding a job.

He’d planned to use the veterinarian to deter an ex-girlfriend, not replace her, but with MacKensie’s compelling mixture of strength and vulnerability, the little sub slides right into his well-defended heart.

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Cherise Sinclair is one of favourite authors (possibly my ACTUAL favourite) and I have been reading her for years now. I started in early when she had only published five books or so and never got off the crazy train to sexy-ville.

One of those stories that has always stuck with me was a standalone, set in the Seattle bdsm club “Chains”. The Dom’s Dungeon tells the story of Mackensie, a young veterinarian with serious trust issues who house swaps for two weeks with a wealthy, sexym dominant beast who is travelling to her hometown for a conference. Alas, he misses his flight and walks back into his house to find Mac in an *ahem* compromising position.

This is a shorter story than I usually prefer, coming in around 250 pages, which is characteristic of this author’s earlier writing. However the steamy sex (spanking anyone?!), and strong character development make up for the shorter length. One of the things that I really liked about the Dom’s Dungeon is that the story focuses on the heroine, Mackensie, and her story. Normally I like balance between the couple, but it works in this case and the author doesn’t resort to “hero does something goofy and learns from his mistake” trope to add to his arc just because.

The Dom’s Dungeon is an excellent book to read if you are looking for steamy scenes in a well thought-out plot that actually makes sense and doesn’t have any flowery prose such as “thrusting members” and “womanly petals”.

I have long hoped that Ms. Sinclair would turn The Dom’s Dungeon into a series like she has with the Shadowlands. Steel and Drake have stories that need to be told!!! And although everything is SSC, the vibe I got from Chains is that its a little scarier than the Shadowlands. Maybe because of the extremely negative experience that Mac runs into in the story, or because her nemesis Cynthia got a much more extreme (though just) punishment than I think she would have gotten in the other series. I have commented on the author’s social media a couple of times this year, hoping for a book for Drake or Steel, so who knows, maybe I have put the bug in her ear and she is as ready for a change of pace as I am!

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