Dark Celebration (Dark #14)

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Dark Celebration is a special book within the Dark / Carpathian series. Rather than featuring one couple, it is a reunion story that features chapters on most of the characters we have been introduced to so far, as well as some hints as to the upcoming heroes/heroines. And it takes place at Christmas, so it is perfect for my December reviews 🙂

I have read this book multiple times, and each time I am astonished at how seamlessly Ms. Feehan writes. There was plenty of opportunity for this book to feel choppy with some many key characters, but it remains fluid and perfectly balanced. Nothing felt like it was forced in for the sake of including a specific individual.

Dark Celebration is one of the funnier books in the Carpathian series. There are cooking disasters, kids, and the “jolly red elf”. There is also danger, mystery, intrigue, adventure and lots of sex.

It was fun to get an update on couples who rarely show up as secondary characters in this series. I personally love to see when characters interact with each other in a world. I am not a fan of romance where the hero/heroine seem to exist in a bubble, devoid of other people.

If you are looking for romance, with a bit of comedy and action, this is the perfect Christmas story to pick up… something that is still themed, but doesn’t shove Christmas down your throat. And hey, if you are new to the series, you might be inspired to pick up book one, Dark Prince, and start there.

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Wall Street Titan (Alpha Zone 1)

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A billionaire who wants a perfect wife…

At thirty-five, Marcus Carelli has it all: wealth, power, and the kind of looks that leave women breathless. A self-made billionaire, he heads one of the largest hedge funds on Wall Street and can take down major corporations with a single word. The only thing he’s missing? A wife who’d be as big of an achievement as the billions in his bank account.

A cat lady who needs a date…

Twenty-six-year-old bookstore clerk Emma Walsh has it on good authority that she’s a cat lady. She doesn’t necessarily agree with that assessment, but it’s hard to argue with the facts. Raggedy clothes covered with cat hair? Check. Last professional haircut? Over a year ago. Oh, and three cats in a tiny Brooklyn studio? Yep, she’s got those.

And yes, fine, she hasn’t had a date since… well, she can’t recall. But that part is fixable. Isn’t that what the dating sites are for?

A case of mistaken identity…

One high-end matchmaker, one dating app, one mix-up that changes everything… Opposites may attract, but can this last?

—                         —                         —

* I received a free ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.

Wall Street Titan is the first book I have read from Anna Zaires that was not a dark romance, so I wasn’t if I would enjoy reading a regular romance as much I love her darker stories. Luckily, it was awesome!

Marcus is a total alpha male, and very dominant, even if he is not “dark”. I feel like the billionaire romance genre cannot help but compare every book to Fifty Shades and Christian Grey, and I am happy to report that Marcus completely stands on his own. Marcus and Emma are a cute couple with instant chemistry, much to their chagrin.

Let’s be honest though. The real star of this book is Mr. Puffs. The shenanigans he gets into is hilarious and reminds me of my own not-so-little furball.

Wall Street Titan is the first in a series, so expect to wait a few months before Marcus and Emma meet their happily ever after.

I highly recommend this book and will definitely be one-clicking the sequel when it is available for preorder.

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Leopard’s Wrath (Leopard People #11)

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He’s a man used to getting what he wants, but she’s not the type of woman to take things lying down….

Born into a life of crime, Mitya Amurov has had a hard life, and his leopard has developed into a feral beast to protect him. It’s constantly trying to claw its way to the surface—until a chance encounter with a stranger instantly calms the predator inside him. While Mitya wants Ania desperately, it’s only a matter of time before his past catches up with him, and he’d rather die than put her in danger. But Ania is dealing with dangers of her own….

Considering her family’s history, Ania Dover should know better than to get mixed up with a criminal like Mitya, but she just can’t stay away. Something wild in her responds to his presence. A need so strong it scares her. But she’s not sure she can accept what he’s offering. Ania has always been an independent woman, and Mitya expects to be obeyed in all things.

Even with her body calling out for his, Ania won’t let anything stop her from settling a deadly score years in the making—not even the man who wants to claim her as his mate.

—                       —                       —

I have been a huge fan of Ms. Feehan for nearly two decades now and even though I have outgrown some of her series as a reader, others I have thankfully grown into. The Leopard People series is definitely included in the latter category and Leopard’s Wrath is an amazing new addition to the existing canon.

I really enjoyed Ania and Mitya and the developments their story brought to the series. LW wrapped up some arcing plot points that have carried through the last several books, while at the same time, creating new threads that will clearly be carried forward in future.

This was a really emotional book. I wasn’t expecting some of that heartache going into it, and to be honest, there was one late night of reading when I cried myself to sleep. I could relate to Ania’s troubles on a personal connection, making it difficult to separate the character’s emotions from my own. I love how this led to a few emotionally explosive scenes, some of my favourites in this series, and how Mitya and Ania dealt with it.

Mitya is a super sexy, Russian lead character and I have to give him the title of my latest book boyfriend! Though, Sevastyan has certainly piqued my interest and I really really hope that he stars in the next instalment.

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Secret Obsession (Cordova Empire #3)

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Layla

From the moment of my birth I’ve been rejected by those who should have loved me, labeled as a freak because of my birthmark, bullied and tormented because I look different. When you’re told every day that you’re ugly and worthless you start to believe it. I managed to escape my malicious family and build a life for myself, but they’d broken something inside of me. I’m afraid to go outside, afraid to be around large groups of people, afraid of any type of confrontation and my panic attacks have left me pretty much house bound. If it wasn’t for my online friends I probably would have given up on life long ago. But there is one special friend, a man by the name of Mark, who keeps me going. He’s brave, smart, strong, and kind…and has no idea that I’m secretly in love with him.

Mark

Once I was a good man with a perfect life. I had a job I loved training dogs for the police with my wife, had a great family who filled our lives with laughter, and I woke up every day with a smile on my face. I was completely content in my blissful ignorance. I had no idea about the criminal world that thrived all around me, no idea that I’d made some powerful enemies who do anything to destroy me. Including killing my wife. I swore my revenge, and got it, but in the process I lost my soul. It was during these dark times, after my vengeance was fulfilled and I was drifting in anguish, that a beautiful soul rescued me from my own personal hell. I tried to keep my distance, tried to shield her from the villains of the world, myself included, but the evil that surrounds me wouldn’t be denied. Despite my best attempts to keep her safe, someone is out to destroy Layla, and I’m the only one who can protect her.

But who’s going to save her from me?

—                         —                         —

Secret Obsession is the third book in the Cordova mafia series, written by Ann Mayburn. This series would best be enjoyed if read in order, but each could be read as a standalone.

Ms. Mayburn is an excellent writer who has crafted an intricate and detailed world in for the Cordovas. It is linked to two of her other series, the Iron Horse MC and Submissive’s Wish.

Unfortunately, Secret Obsession did not live up to the expectations that she has previously built. SO felt much shorter than the previous two books, and the storyline was simpler, predictable. In addition, there was less interaction between the main couple and their friends and family, compared to the first two books.

Mark and Layla do not engage in a physical relationship until about halfway through the novel. This can be done really well and make complete sense for the characters in some novels, but felt like wasted time in this instance. Mark’s inability to accept his love for Layla grew tedious long before he overcame it.

Overall, this is not a book I enjoyed or would read again.

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Dark Illusion (Dark #29)

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At any other time, Julija Brennan would find solace in the quiet of the Sierra Mountains, but now the mage is in the race of her life. Having broken free from her controlling family, Julija’s attempts to warn the Carpathians of the coming threat has failed and put a target on her back—and those who hunt her are close behind…

After centuries locked away in a monastery in the Carpathian Mountains, Isai Florea can’t believe he’s finally found his lifemate—the missing half of his soul. The second he sees Julija his world blazes with color. But despite their explosive connection Julija rebels against what she sees as Isai’s intent to control her and rejects the bond that would prevent him from becoming a monster.

As their unfulfilled bond continues to call to them both, Julija and Isai aim to complete the task that brought them together. They are used to facing danger alone, but now the mage and the ancient warrior must learn how to rely on each other in order to stop a plot that threatens all Carpathians…

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Dark Illusion is a traditional romance novel that has the slightest elements of BDSM in it. The book is very mainstream, but there are two short spanking scenes in the beginning of the book, while the ancient Carpathian hero and the modern mage heroine are feeling each other out.

One aspect of this romance that I loved is that even though the characters are in insta-lust with each other (destiny and all that), they don’t bond immediately, leading both to feel that the souls were mismatched or damaged. Their hesitancies drew me into the story, made the romance easier to relate to and definitely led to certain humourous moments.

There is quite a bit of conversation regarding lifemates, and whether or not it is fair to expect the women to give up her life when she is claimed, or fair to the Carpathian to allow him to turn vampire or suicide, so that the woman does not need to sacrifice herself. I think this conversation was long overdue and I am glad that Julija had it with several characters, working through her problems with Isai’s expectations. I enjoy a little supernatural romance but for me, it always needs to be grounded with some level of magical realism, and normal human emotions and behaviour.

The remaining sections of the book are devoted to the epic struggle between Carpathian and vampires and evil mages. Battles are fought, betrayals uncovered and through it all Isai and Julija enjoy some sheet-ripping good sex.

I enjoyed the book, although the Carpathian series is the one I like least from this author. Dark Illusion hinted at Elisabeta and Ferro’s upcoming story, and I am very excited to read that one.

Overall, fans of the Carpathian series should enjoy reading Dark Illusion. It should be read in order, as much of the plot will not make sense otherwise.

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Leah on the Offbeat

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Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

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Leah on the Offbeat is set in the same universe as award winning book, Simon Vs. The Homosapien Agenda. It takes place roughly a year following the conclusion of Simon and is told from the perspective of Leah.

Leah and gang are in the twelfth grade and trying to navigate the transition to university, relationship drama and changing friendships.

This book is very high school. I stopped reading it around 15% in, because I couldn’t stand the teenage drama and hysterics. For fans of YA it might be great, but there was so much more drama than in Simon Vs. The Homosapien Agenda, which was already at my limit.

I did not enjoy this book but you may love it if you can overlook juvenile protagonists, maybe it will be a hit for you.

DNF

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I Will Not Beg (Mountain Masters and Dark Haven #9)

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She signed away her freedom…

Starved for affection, young Piper Delaney surrenders her life to a Master. But there is no love—only abuse. She’s told she can’t leave; she signed the slave contract. Years later, beaten and starving, she hears an English Dom say the contract’s illegal. Unenforceable. And she runs.

She reclaims her life and rises above the nightmare that was her past.

But her enslavement left scars. She longs for love, but the only men who truly attract her also terrify her–Dominants. Hoping to conquer her fears, she visits Dark Haven, but the sounds of the club are too much.

When a submissive panics, Sir Ethan steps in.

The powerful English Dom recognizes the shivering submissive in his lap. Years before, he’d corrected her Master’s deceit about a contract. She’s come a long way since then. Cynical at being pursued for his wealth, he finds Piper’s honesty compelling. She’s intelligent, brave…and she needs him. What Dom could resist?

He’s the Dom she’d dreamed about—perceptive, firm, and utterly self-confident.

His voice pulls her from panic attacks. His arms enclose her in safety. He treats her like a person, not something to mistreat. As he helps Piper overcome her fears, she starts to fall in love.

Then her past finds her and destroys…everything.

—                         —                         —

While reading I Will Not Beg, I kept trying to delay the story because I didn’t want the book to end. I guess that is just as much a mark of a good book as one you can’t put down!

Piper and Ethan have a slow burn romance compared to many of the couples in Ms. Sinclair’s books, which was necessary due to the heroine’s backstory. There is no sex until about halfway through the book. Ethan is extremely patient and forgiving, more so even than many of the previous Doms Ms. Sinclair has written about. I swear he is a saint. Just a saint with a penchant for kinky sex.

Piper is very brave to have come so far from where she was in the prologue, especially without any family or close friends in her support network and after just five years. She started her own successful business, overcame so much of the abuse, and worked her way out of a homeless shelter.

I loved regular updates on Dixon and Stan through I Will Not Beg. This couple didn’t get their own book, and Stan in particular was a bit of a question mark. If the author ever changes her mind and writes their M/m book, I would read it in a heartbeat.

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Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

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Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

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Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a YA book that I have been hearing a lot about the past few years. Last year there was a movie released based off of this bestseller, re-titled Love, Simon. I didn’t realize when I checked out the audiobook that I was reading a book about an LGBTQ character during PRIDE month, but that makes it an extremely timely review to post.

During the course of the book, I became extremely invested in the lives of these characters, including both Simon and his friends. I was constantly guessing as to who “Blue” was. There were a few times I rolled my eyes at some of the more teenager behaviour and drama, but the pace of the book is quick enough that the plot doesn’t become embroiled in high school.

The relationship between Simon and Blue unfolds over the course of half a year. It was sweet to watch friendship and then romance develop, based completely on personality and not looks, cliques, or popularity.

The audiobook is slightly less than 7 hours, awesome for getting through quickly. I was able to listen to the book in two days. The narrator’s voice is smooth and easy to listen to.

I plan to pick up the sequel, Leah on the Offbeat soon, and listening to it as well.

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Dark Wolf (Dark #22)

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In Dark Lycan, Christine Feehan journeyed into the heart of the Carpathians, and into the souls of two lifemates stirred by the flush of passion and the threat of annihilation. In Dark Wolf, the breathtaking story continues as the bonds of family are imperiled, and the fate of two lovers lies hidden in the seductive shadows between life and death.

Skyler Daratrazanoff always recognized the miracle that was Dimitri Tirunul, a man beyond any dream that had ever engaged her nights. But she was human. Vulnerable. He was Carpathian. Nearly immortal. She was nineteen. He was an ancient. Yet she held half his soul, the light to his darkness. Without her, he would not survive. Caught between the two warring species, Dimitri has spent centuries hunting the undead to keep his people free, and humans safe. He had survived honorably when others had chosen to give up their souls. But now, marked for extermination by the Lycans, Dimitri found himself alone, and fearing for his life. But salvation was coming…

No Lycan would ever suspect someone like Skyler to dare mount a secret rescue operation. A teenage girl. A human of untested abilities. But she had something no one else had. She was predestined for Dimitri—as he was for her. And there was nothing stronger for Skyler than her desire to see her life-dream come true. Whatever the risk.

—                         —                         —

I have been reading the Dark / Carpathian series since I was in the seventh grade. Well over a decade at this point. And I still read it, although its place as number one in my heart has been usurped. Normally I try not to review series out of order on this website. It doesn’t really matter but my OCD disagrees.

Nonetheless, I am way too far into this series to start at the beginning right now, so we are going with #22 instead.

Dark Wolf was a looooong awaited book. It tells the story of Skyler Daratrazanoff, who was introduced as a young teenager much earlier in the series.

I was rooting for Skyler from day one. She is tenacious, brave, resilient and someone you can’t help but cheer on as a fan. Her lifemate, Dimitri is absolutely worthy of her and they are fierce in their defence of each other.

This book takes place in the Carpathian Mountains, at a time when their people – normally isolated and far-spread – have come together. As someone who has read every book in this series, it was a welcome chance to revisit some previous couples that haven’t been seen in awhile.

I love how imaginative this author is. She can create a detailed and multifaceted world in a few short paragraphs. Lycans had already been introduced in the series, but in a very limited capacity. Ms. Feehan made the world so much more vibrant, exploring the world of Lycan politics, military tactics and history, without ever taking away from Skyler and Dimitri’s story.

I definitely recommend Dark Wolf, which is one of those books that stands out for me in a fantastic series. If you are willing to start this series from the beginning with Dark Prince, you will get more out of it, but it isn’t completely necessary.

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Shadow Warrior (Shadow #4)

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Vittorio Ferraro is a man whose family loyalty knows no bounds. He would die for his siblings and the people they love, but what he really wants is to start a family of his own. Deep down, Vittorio has always known finding a woman who could ride shadows would be nearly impossible—let alone one who could accept his particular needs—and he never expected to find her in the middle of a kidnapping.
Grace Murphy has always been drawn to Vittorio Ferraro—or at least to the billionaire’s public bad-boy persona. Now that she’s under his protection and the sole focus of his intense caring, she can’t help wanting to get as close to him as possible. But Grace knows her presence is putting the entire Ferraro family in danger. Her monster of a brother will never let her go, but Vittorio has no intention of losing the woman whose shadow matches his own.

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Shadow Warrior is the fourth book in the Shadow Rider series from Christine Feehan. I am a fan of Ms. Feehan so most of her books are auto-buys for me.

Grace and Vittorio have a longer amount of time to build a relationship with each other than any other couple in this world. Grace’s severe injuries and the threatened violence from their enemies lead to most of the romance taking place in an insulated world, behind gated walls. This also means that the physical aspect of their relationship is a bit delayed, and there is no sex until about halfway through the book.

I liked Shadow Warrior but it is my least favourite in the series so far. One of the aspects I like about these books is the sense of community and family that are instilled in them. I found these aspects lacking in Warrior and got pretty bored. IMHO, the pace of the story was much slower. There is also a lot of dialogue between Grace and Vittorio.

Throughout the last book and this one, it is made clear that Vittorio and Grace would be engaged in a Dominant/submissive lifestyle. I was concerned that the author would gloss over this. She doesn’t in their discussions, but their bedroom time is pretty vanilla. I figure Ms. Feehan did this because she writes for a traditional publisher and has many longtime fans who would be disappointed if her books transitioned from romance to erotica. But that in turn disappoints fans like me who want to see characters live up to their reputations.

I would recommend Shadow Warrior for anyone who is interested in supernatural romance or romantic suspense, but I was a little disappointed in this instalment. Hopefully the last two books will be more my style.

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