To Command and to Collar (Shadowlands #6)

collar

Working with the FBI to capture human traffickers, Master Raoul scores an invitation to a slave auction. To his surprise, one slave is the kidnapped friend of a Shadowlands submissive. Although Kim’s body is scarred, her spirit is unbroken, and he can’t leave her behind. Ruining the FBI’s plans, he buys her.

Kimberly’s freedom has come at a devastating price: the other women are still imprisoned. Desperate to help the Feds locate the traffickers, she agrees to pose as Master Raoul’s slave. Although wearing a collar again is terrifying, Kim starts to heal and then to blossom under the powerful Dominant’s care.

“Submission.” It’s what she’s been drawn to–and fled from–her entire life. She has escaped the slavers who captured her body. Escaping the Master who has captured her heart will be far more difficult.

—                         —                        —

To command and to collar is one of my favourite books in the Shadowlands series. Although I would never be interested in a fulltime master/submissive relationship as the leading couple engage in, I love Raoul’s character and personality and have a mighty book crush on that man. I also share a number of personality traits with Kimberly, including her need for clear cut rules and expectations.

Something constricted inside him—she feared his control yet wanted it. How deep did her need run? Light submission…or complete? “The only consistency in the relationship is this: the master decides.”

“But—” Her shoulders hunched defensively.

“That makes you anxious, gatita. Why?”

“I won’t know… I need to know what—”

Did she fear arbitrary punishment? “We’ll go over what I expect from you. The rules. I will never punish you for something you didn’t know or didn’t understand, Kimberly. That isn’t my way.”

Some of the worry faded from her eyes. But not all. Her gaze was focused on the floor.

He considered what he knew of her. Not nearly enough. “I need to know…” she’d said. Needed to know what to do? Some people—and a high percentage of submissives—wanted clear-cut rules. Preferred their duties laid out, liked schedules and lists.

Sinclair, Cherise. To Command and Collar (Masters of the Shadowlands Book 6) (Kindle Locations 1029-1036). VanScoy Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Ms. Sinclair did an AMAZING job taking the hero/ine through such a difficult emotional journey. There was never any point that I felt she was rushing Kim’s recovery to the point that it was unbelievable or “too easy”. Although the pace was pushed by the plot timeline – which was the point of this undercover mission after all – I felt like Raoul and Kim were able to work through a number of her issues and understand the limits of BDSM in healing emotional abuse. Raoul had to walk a tightrope of emotional pitfalls by topping her during recovery and he did an amazing job, proof that he is a top Master, worthy of his Shadowland’s designation.

The sexiness in To Command and to Collar starts slower than is typical for this author, and that is expected because of the subject matter. The relationship between Raoul and Kim has to build emotionally before they become physical. But once the sexy times become, they are hot! I especially loved the fire play scene (this is one kink I have to try) and was giggling over Raoul’s “pervertables”.

The only qualm that I had was at the end of the book. Raoul was deeply wounded by his ex-wife and is reluctant to trust Kim’s assertions that she is able to live a full-time Master/submissive relationship. Raoul knows from experience that he can accept nothing less in his wife, and pushes her away because of this.

I felt that Raoul exhibited SO MUCH patience with Kim throughout the majority of the book, during the worst periods of her recovery, but then was unable to risk his heart and allow her the additional time to try his lifestyle for real, without the pressures of being undercover in an FBI investigation. Maybe he was just burnt out at this point, but it felt a little out of character and cold. I wish that the author has addressed his reasons a little more deeply if this was the case.

* * * * *

xx

Advertisements

Fire Bound by Christine Feehan

Housekeeping Note

Fire Bound is the fifth book in the Sisters of the Heart series that I have been reviewing on Mackenzie’s Mountain these last two months, in anticipation of the release of the last novel in the series, in March. If you are an avid reader, you might realize I skipped reviewing book 4, Earth Bound. I actually reviewed it when EB was initially released.

fire-bound

Flame-haired Lissa Piner is a skilled glass blower whose delicate gift conceals a burning inner strength that can destroy as exquisitely as it can create. Commissioned to design chandeliers for a string of luxury hotels, her remarkable skills have taken her to Italy. But Lissa’s real mission there is a secret. For her entire life has been a lie, leading to a chance to avenge a terrible wrong.

Enlisted as her bodyguard is Casimir Prakenskii, a trained assassin living off the grid. In Lissa, he sees a kindred spirit—something unexpected and wicked, mysterious and sensual. But more than desire is about to bring them together: because both of their pasts cry out for revenge. And for two people with this many secrets, this much passion, and this many enemies, someone is bound to get burned.

—                         —                         —

Fire Bound is the first book where all seven Prakenskii brothers make an appearance! Yes, we finally meet the last aloof two, Casimir, and Viktor.

I appreciated having a scene with the brothers we have already met introducing Casimir. Most of the book takes place in Europe, away from the family that readers have grown to love, so it was important to have those brief moments of interaction between secondary characters. The lack of this was one of my problems with Air Bound.

Lissa is one fiery red head. She was always a bit of a mystery in the other books, a holdout. She has a ferocious temper that is only matched by her protective instincts. Her desire to take revenge for her murdered parents AND kill the two powerful Sorbacovs who have targeted her brothers-in-law is the drive behind this story. She decides to sacrifice her life to allow her family members to live happily. Luckily, Casimir is secretly watching her back.

Each of the Prakensii brothers have been used for slightly different tasks. Ilya’s tasks were mostly legitimate as he was loaned out to Interpol. Others worked as assassins, influenced events in foreign nations, or went “deep” undercover (working for years at a time to reach a specific target). Casimir is the master of disguises. He went undercover, mostly for short period of time, in order to complete a kill. Throughout Fire Bound, he assumes many different identities, and Lissa also goes undercover for brief periods.

At first this creeped me out, because they both talk about “becoming” that character and refer to each other by those names, often even in private. But on a re-read, I could see their true selves bleeding through in their interactions with each other and it no longer seemed like a weird sex game.

To be able to survive the turmoil and evil surrounding them, Casimir and Lissa use their telepathic link to open themselves up to each other far earlier than any of the other couples, who were more reluctant to do so. They are also kinkier. Finally a couple who isn’t too prudish to introduce a sex toy or two!

Fire Bound provides a great introduction to the final chapter of the Sister of the Heart series, Bound Together. As many readers already suspected, Viktor met his wife Blythe while undercover five years ago and there is a lot of history between them, which will be explained in the final book, due out in March 2017. It was great to meet him before he becomes the hero though, because we got to experience Viktor through the eyes of his sister-in-law Lissa.

Viktor seems intense and scary and a man apart, even from his own brothers. I cannot wait to read Bound Together in June. Hopefully the first chapter is revealed online soon!

* * * * *

xx

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.

reapers-fire

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.

—                           —                            —

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.

* * * * 

xx

A Game of Chance by Linda Howard

A Game of Chance is the fifth book in the Mackenzie’s Mountain series by Linda Howard. My blog’s name is roughly taken from this series, because it had a marked influence on me in my youth.

420747

Blurb:

The last book in the Mackenzie Family series focuses on Chance Mackenzie, a feral, homeless adolescent until rescued and adopted by Wolf and Mary Mackenzie. The stunning and aloof half-breed has built a career in undercover ops, first as a Naval Intelligence Officer, then as a private consultant. However, one particularly vile terrorist has always eluded the law. Chance and brother Zane find a way to lure Crispin Hauer in: They’ll use his daughter Sonia as bait. First step: Make Sunny fall in love with Chance. What could be simpler?

—                —                  —

This is probably the only series I’ve read by Ms. Howard, but it has a special place in my heart. I love macho men like Chance. This type of character epitomizes everything I am attracted to in a man; he determines his own future, is handy, knowledgeable in self-defence and survival skills, kind and funny, and big and strong and take-charge.

I do wish that the story had of been expanded upon in the post-plane rescue scenes. I always feel that romance authors rush the endings. It’s like they feel after the action has come to a head, they only have a chapter or two to bring the story to conclusion. Well, that’s just not true.

This plot made me wonder, if I was in Sunny’s position, could I ever forgive Chance for his deception and betrayal? Would you?

I think that I’d get over it fairly easily. It is not as if the two were in a relationship and then he betrayed her, with another woman for example. He set up an unknown woman to take down her terrorist father, and in the process, managed to free her from him as well. And Chance protected her as much as he could through the whole process.

I like how he handles Sunny at the conclusion, giving her space to process and then overwhelming her with love, all the while having her back with Margreta. That is how a real man treats the woman he loves.

The following excerpt from A Game of Chance is my favourite scene. It is so heartwarming and sweet that it actually made me cry. It is my dream to one day marry into a large, loving, demonstrative family such as the Mackenzie clan.

‘Chance looked up at him, the only father he had ever known, and the man he respected most in the world.

“I don’t know who gave birth to you,” Wolf said. “But I do know bloodlines, son, and you’re a thoroughbred. Do you know what I regret most in my life? Not finding you until you were fourteen. Not feeling your hand holding my finger when you took your first step. Not getting up with you in the night when you were teething, or when you were sick. Not being able to hold you the way you needed holding, the way all kids need holding. By the time we got you I couldn’t do any of that, because you were as skittish as a wild colt. You didn’t like for us to touch you, and I tried to respect that.

“But one thing you need to know. I’m more proud of you than I’ve ever been of anything in my life, because you’re one of the finest men I’ve ever known, and you had to work a lot harder than most to get to where you are. If I could have had my pick of all the kids in the world to adopt, I still would have chosen you.”

Chance stared at his father, his eyes wet. Wolf Mackenzie put his arms around his grown son and hugged him close, the way he had wanted to do all these years. “I would have chosen you,” he said again.’     – copyright to Linda Howard

Isn’t that the sweetest? One of the things that we don’t do often enough in this world, is to tell our loved ones exactly how much we love them and that we are proud of them. Hearing those words fills the recipient with such a feeling of empowerment and hopefulness, providing courage and belief in self to get through future hardships.

Even though I am re-reading the books out of order, I will try to post reviews as I do so. Lately I’ve just been reading based on what I feel like in that moment, because I’ve felt so overwhelmed. I haven’t wanted to exert the discipline necessary to read and review things in order!

* * * * *

xx

Hidden Monsters – a review

Hidden Monsters is the fourth full novel in the Volkov Bratva Mafia series.
18224319

Blurb:

Until Luka…

Aleksandra Volkov happily escaped into the oblivion that alcohol and pills provided, longing to forget the memories that plague her. But sometimes, it takes someone as equally broken to mend the fractured pieces of her life.

Until Alex…

Luka Sergeyev willfully courted death by living in the midst of the very people who would have him killed if the truth of who he was ever came out. But he would gladly take that risk if it meant she would look at him like he mattered for just a little while longer.

When it comes to life within the Volkov Bratva, love comes at a price, secrets are common, and most of all, one’s survival is not guaranteed.

—                   —                   —

Hidden Monsters is the fourth book in the Volkov Bratva series, featuring Russian-American monsters and the women they love. It is the only story between Alex and Luka.

Much like the previous books that I also reviewed, Hidden Monsters is a young/new adult romance novel about the Russian Mafia operating in NYC. Alex is a ballerina, whose brother Mishca is the Pakhan (or leader) of the NY organization.

Luka is the only one who sees that she is drowning after the revelations of the last few years. Not wanting to intrude on her brother and sister-in-laws newly wedded bliss, a stranger from her newly discovered brother Klaus and half a world away from her school and professional ballet friends, Alex spirals further and further, using drugs and alcohol to numb the pain inside. Until Luka discovers what she is doing and steps in, putting her in rehab, the Mafioso version.

I love the completed web of plots that the author mixed into the novel, from the complicated relationships between Luka and Alex, Alex and Mishica, and Luka and Mishca, to the Albanian ties that existed from the beginning of the series, it felt like the fitting finale missing at the conclusion of The Final Hour.

I like the sense of closure that this book brought to the series. My only regret is that I felt the ending was rushed.

** Minor Spoilers **

This is a romance novel with a happily ever after, so of course Luka survives and reunites with Alex. I felt like this section was too rushed, a couple more chapters would have been useful. I wanted to see bits and pieces of Alex and Mishca repairing their relationship, the fragmentation of which was covered so thoroughly.

A lot of authors tend to do this, reunite the couple and then quickly end the novel. Um hello?!! We just had the big climax and then one chapter of reunion and that is it? Maybe I’m a little sensitive but I want to be led out of the story more slowly. Ease me back into the real world. Tie up loose ends such as the mains’ relationships with supporting characters. You spend an entire book (or series!) developing these relationships and making us believe in them, don’t ignore them now!!!!

Ok, baby rant aside, I loved this book. I hope that the author has plans to write a novel for Klaus. I suspect she will from the tidbits we have gotten, but it might be more the first novel of another series, rather than a part of this one. He seems to have a lot going on away from this cast.

I loved Hidden Monsters and read it very quickly. London Miller has matured in writing since starting with Lauren and Mishca, and it has become my second favourite Russian Bratva series.

* * * * *

xx

 

 

Hidden Away – a review

KGI 3

Blurb:

A man who shoots first and asks questions later…

Most people would take an all-expenses-paid trip to the beach in a heartbeat. Garrett Kelly only accepts to keep tabs on Sarah Daniels, who’s in hiding after witnessing a murder by Marcus Lattimer, her half-brother—and a personal enemy of KGI. This gig may be beneath a disciplined soldier like Garrett, but if he gets a shot at Lattimer, it will all be worth it…

…and the ultimate moving target.

But Garrett hadn’t counted on falling for Sarah. He’d considered seduction as a tactical maneuver, but when he glimpses Sarah’s dark past, he feels an urgent desire to keep her safe—even after she disappears on him. Garrett doesn’t know exactly who, or what, Sarah’s running from, but whatever it is, she’s running for her life…

—                   —                    —

One of the things that I really admire about Maya Banks’ first three KGI novels is that each of them has a very different tone. Ethan and Rachel’s novel is more emotional and intimate. You see the family dynamics strongly at play and the softer side of everyone. It tugs at your heart strings just a little bit. Sam and Sophie have lots more action. So much of the story is told from Sophie’s perspective that even though the reader has already met the Kelly brothers, they seem a little cold and harsh, a lot intimidating and powerful. In particular, I loved seeing the very different sides of Garrett, from lovey with Rachel to suspicious of (and frightening to) Sophie.

Which leads us to Hidden Away, featuring the enigmatic Garrett and fragile, forgiving Sarah.

I loved the beachy tone of this book, and the time that this allowed for Garrett to break down Sarah’s defences. I don’t think that their relationship would have worked in any other environment, because he wouldn’t have gotten through those barriers without completely breaking her down as a person. I felt a lot of empathy for their situation. And now I feel a strong need to escape my life and move to a sleepy little Caribbean island.

There were a couple of things that bothered me a slightly about this book. Sarah is so emotionally fragile – understandably so from her character’s backstory – but she seemed to get over it a little too easily when she and Garrett became intimate. I would have really loved to see the back-end of their story extended at least five chapters to see how they work through some of those problems, and also to demonstrate how they stay together and overcome the fallout at the end of the plot …..

* * * Minor Spoiler Alert * * *

You know it isn’t going to end completely happy because Sarah is inevitably going to lose either Garrett or her brother … and it’s a romance … so you can probably guess who she loses from her life. That was well-written and I enjoyed how it played out on the page but was another thing that I wish Banks had teased out a little more. Without giving everything away, I have no idea how Sarah and Garrett were able to overcome the hardships and emotional entanglements that became embedded in their relationship due to his mission and her circumstances. It would be so natural for this to break them apart and their reunion is little more than that. A reunion. You have about a half chapter where he apologizes and they get back together to sail off into the sunset.

I don’t like that the book ended this way. It left out all the hard stuff and it’s super lazy when authors do that. I suspect Banks was concerned that the novel was going to be too long, but there was other stuff I would have much preferred she remove, especially the whole Alaska plot-line. It would have saved a few pages without affecting the story at all.

It would have been awesome to see Sarah slowly make her way into the Kelly family and overcome what I’m sure would be initial fear – intimidation, at least – of the KGI group as she and Garrett made a life together. You do get to see glimpses in later books, but it is very understated because this couple is not the focus of those instalments.

Despite my criticisms, I do really like Hidden Away, I just wish the tough bits had been more flushed out.

This is the last KGI book that I am going to review – for now at least. There are seven more after Hidden Away, but I like the first three the best so I don’t want to re-read the others for a review. If you really like these ones though, you might want to continue.

* * * *

xx