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review 2017-11-21 23:53
ARC Review: The Secret Of The Sheikh's Betrothed by Felicitas Ivey
The Secret of the Sheikh’s Betrothed (Dreamspun Desires Book 46) - Felicitas Ivey

First off, I had no issues whatsoever with the writing style of this author, or the writing itself. The story flowed along well, and I wasn't bored at all while reading. That is one of the two reasons this book got two stars instead of just one.

The other one is that I was super enraged for most of the book at the treatment Ikraam had to endure at the hands of her sister.

Moving on.... 

After I mulled it over for a while, I realized I had massive issues with some of the characters, the plot, and the setting, as well as the social aspects of this book. The messages within are really problematic for me. 

I mentioned in my status update when I finished the book that "this was different". It sure is. The book is set in a country in the Middle East, where sheikhs and Bedouin tribes are still aplenty. Goat herding is mentioned. Grazing grounds. Filthy rich sheikhs. Camels. Donkeys. Lots of goats. Women are second class, at best, required to hide their faces and their bodies in hijabs, niqabs and veils. 

The basic premise is that rich billionaire sheikh Fathi, who's secretly gay, has been told by his grandfather that he's been betrothed to a Bedouin girl named Ikraam, sight unseen, before the girl was even born, due to some debt the grandfather owed to the girl's father many many years ago.

That's basically believable, right? 

The rest of this? Not so much. 

Ikraam is actually not a girl. Ikraam is a young man who was born to the 2nd wife of a Bedouin tribe chief/leader who thus far only fathered girls. He's been raised as a girl in a large harem because his oldest sister didn't want him to be the heir and remove her from her position of power after their father died. She basically forced Ikraam's mother, and then Ikraam as he grew up, to keep his gender a secret and raise him as female. This was continued after the mother died. The oldest sister married a weak man who became the new tribe leader, but it's really been her in charge. She then set out to marry off all her sisters to other tribes so she could be HBIC. 

I had some issues right there. Not only is this plot point unrealistic, but even if it were believable, the psychological repercussions of Ikraam being raised as a female, and eventually realizing he's not female, are never even addressed. Can you imagine being raised this way? And noticing at some point that, hey, I have a penis, and, hey, the others girls do not? And, hey, I could be killed at any time if someone finds out? And, hey, my oldest sister abuses me daily and I have absolutely no way out of this situation other than death? Wouldn't YOU have some serious psychological issues? Can you imagine how fucked up that is? The suffering? The constant fear? Knowing you will die on your wedding night? Feeling that you have to go along with this plan so you can possibly save your niece from a fate worse than death? 

Additionally, Ikraam has been raised without ever learning to read, without knowing anything about the modern world (which I guess is expected when one grows up in a tent in the desert, weaving cloth and hiding underneath a niqab). And yet, this is never addressed even when Ikraam marries Fathi. The difference between Fathi, who was raised with money and educated in the US, and the poor Bedouin woman/man, who's never even been to a city, who's never read a book, who has no idea how the world works outside of goat farming and weaving cloth and hiding behind a veil - how could they possibly be compatible? And to top this off, when the secret does come out, Ikraam suggests living as a female in public, and as a male in the privacy of their bedroom, and NO ONE questions the feasibility of this and its possible repercussions. Fathi thinks it's a great idea. Is Ikraam identifying as gender-queer, made so by how he was raised? Are we supposed to believe that gender identity is thus nurture instead of nature? What message is the author sending here? 

We are introduced to Fathi and his twin brother early on. Fathi has a secretary whose only apparent purpose was to be a contrast to Ikraam as this secretary is educated and modernized, but then used only to be shamed and ridiculed for her aspirations. There's a scene at the very end that had me cringe in second-hand embarrassment that the way this particular scene played out made it past the editor. What was that, even? This is a young, modern, educated woman, someone who did a good job in the position for which she was hired, and yet, she's shamed for being interested in her boss, and the uneducated, unworldly, MALE-pretending-to-be-female Ikraam is held up as a "better" example of being female than this young woman, going so far as showing up on the arm of his new husband, dressed in traditional FEMALE finery and given an opportunity to announce to the secretary that her boss is now married and she needs to take a hike. How did this make it past the editor? What message is this sending to the reader? Readers who are primarily women? 

Don't get me started on Ikraam's oldest sister and the mother of his niece. The woman was pure evil but basically gets away with it. Not only is she perfectly willing to let Ikraam die for her subterfuge, which his husband would then obviously discover, but she's also willing to get rid of her own daughter by attempting to marry her off to a disgusting and violent man at least twice her age, who will likely break not only her spirit but also her body. Evil sister/mother don't care. And even when all of these things come out, she's not punished for her behavior. Ikraam is safe, and so is his niece, but the evil sister never gets a real punishment for not only the deception but also the cruelty and suffering she inflicted. 

Fathi is secretly gay, as I mentioned. His grandfather, described as a very traditional and old-fashioned man set in his ways, then doesn't even really blink when a) Fathi admits to being gay, and b) Ikraam's secret is revealed, and c) they want to get married anyway. Say WHAT? You're trying to tell me that an old man from the Middle East doesn't care that his heir is gay? Embraces it? Is fine with the Bedouin girl being really a man? And you explain it away by stating that he's not super religious and THAT'S IT?? I'm sorry, but I didn't buy what the author was trying to sell here. 

The secondary men in this book, namely the tribe leader and the niece's potential groom, are either weak or evil. Both were one-dimensional characters and used to provide a specific plot point or two, then discarded. 

I usually like the titles in this very tropey series, but this was a complete miss for me. The gender identity issue could have been handled in a much healthier way here, and I would have expected more conflict and pushback from the grandfather based on his portrayal. I would have liked to see some psychological help for Ikraam, and some education as well. 

This book didn't work for me. YMMV.


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A review was not promised in return. **

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review 2017-11-21 23:46
Book Review: Silk by K.C. Wells
Silk (A Material World Book 3) - K.C. Wells,Meredith Russell,Michael Craft

This book was gifted to me by the author in hopes I'd leave a favorable review.

Hells, yeah!! 

First off, I love this series, each one focusing on a specific material. We had Lace and Satin, and now I've devoured Silk. 

Here, we have Lucas, early 40s, a self-made millionaire, whose stoic and rigid upbringing has left him with a mild case of social anxiety and an unwillingness to form romantic attachments. Or any kind of attachments with other people, really. When he needs sex, he calls upon an escort, never inviting the same man more than twice, at the very most. Usually, the escorts get only one dance upon his silk sheets - the rare man may be hired twice. 

It was clear early on that Lucas was lonely and unhappy, but didn't realize it. He thought his life was normal. Cuddles, embraces? Who needs them. 

Then Lucas, intrigued by images online, hires Matt, 27, an escort/underwear model/server at his parents' restaurant, which he'll take over at some point. When he's ready. Modeling underwear is for fun, as is escorting - and Matt likes sex. The money is nice, but Matt knows that this isn't something he'll do long-term. Besides, his parents would be mortified and disappointed if they knew about his side jobs. He has a few regulars, but is also perfectly happy to accept new clients.

So Matt breezes into Lucas' life/condo and their first night is super hot. Holy moly, do they burn up those silky sheets. A couple of weeks later, still thinking about Matt, Lucas hires him again. And then again. And then... well, you read this for yourself.

I really liked how the author drew her characters here, giving them a full backstory that made them who they are, but also gave them room to grow and expand their world views. As Lucas and Matt go from client/escort to more, spending time outside of Lucas' condo, they both realize that they could be much more than casual sex. Matt's rule of never falling for a client crumbles. He still has other clients, but there is thankfully no sex with others once he starts hanging out with Lucas outside of the bedroom. 

Lucas, though being the older man, doesn't have a whole lot of experience with romantic relationships and it shows. And Matt, as mature as he is, crumbles under the perceived expectations of not only Lucas, but also his parents, and he definitely has some growing up to do. He's stubborn and somewhat unreasonable, but so is Lucas to some degree. They both need to learn the fine art of compromise which is so important in any relationship, and they both need to learn to communicate honestly and openly, which translates to telling each other what's bothering them. What they want. What they need. And what they expect. 

Matt's sister Angela, as well as his parents, were also well done, and I absolutely adored Lucas' grandmother Diane. The scenes set at her house were often hilarious, but Grandma Diane also has a huge hand in sorting these two knuckleheads out when they can't seem to do that on their own. 

The somewhat large age difference really didn't matter here - they were well-matched from a maturity perspective, and Lucas had no issue keeping up with Matt's libido either. *fans self*

That epilogue - perfection. I loved, loved, loved it. 

This was an excellent read, and I enjoyed myself immensely while reading. I might have taken a cold shower after, but this is not unusual for a KC Wells book. 

Recommended!!

I also need the next book, Denim, like, RTFN! The short teaser at the end of this book has me salivating already. 


** I received a free copy of this book from its author. A review was not promised in return. **

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review 2017-11-08 02:42
ARC Review: The Hideaway by Rosalind Abel
The Hideaway (Lavender Shores Book 5) - Rosalind Abel

4.5 stars!

In this 5th book in this fantastic series we finally get the story of Connor and Micah, the two Bryant brothers. Well, they're not actually blood-related brothers, because that would be super icky, but Connor Clark was sort of adopted into the Bryant family when he was merely 13, escaping from his super-religious and abusive family, and Micah has been in love with him ever since. 

Micah even tried seducing Connor when he was just 16 and Connor was 20 and home from college. 

The book starts really slow - all the reader knows is that Micah and Connor love each other desperately but can't find a way to come clean to their family and their friends about being in love and soulmates and wanting to be a couple - I mean, how would you tell your family that you're in love with who they consider to be your brother, amirite? 

But they're gonna do it - they're gonna come out. And then Connor's nephew Moses, 17 and in dire need of rescue himself, comes to live with Connor, and all thoughts of coming out as lovers fly out the window.

There's a lot of heartache and pain within, and the author did a fabulous job pulling me into the story, wanting these two men to have their happy ending. The characters are fully fleshed out, and it is clear that they love each other very much. And yet, Connor worries that he might be holding Micah back from pursuing his violin virtuoso career in NYC if he allows himself to grab onto the younger man with both hands, never thinking that Micah is perfectly happy being in Lavender Shores and actually doesn't want to live in NYC. I mean, it's not like he asked - he just assumed. 

And Micah is so patient. He keeps waiting for Connor to find the courage to come clean, while pretending to be happy with stolen moments in their hideaway - a underground cove near Micah's house - where they are free to be open and affectionate. 

For a lot of the book, their relationship is fraught with tension, for obvious reasons, and Micah actually has a boyfriend of sorts for a while in Seth (who needs his own book, stat), but it's a casual and open relationship which ends amicably. 

It's possibly that a reader might find a sexual and romantic relationship between two brothers objectionable, but it's important to remember that they're not blood-related, and that Connor was never officially adopted by the Bryants, so there are no legal ties either. Additionally, it is very clear from the start that Micah never thought of Connor as his brother - for him, Connor is always the man he loves; Connor is his soulmate. 

This book is full of heartache and pain, but also much love, and it is that love which carries the day and makes it worth all the tears. 

Highly recommended. 

While the books in this series can be read as stand-alones, I wouldn't recommend you read them out of order, as all of them build upon their predecessors to some extent. 

I also hope that the author has more books planned. While The Hideaway provides us with a natural stopping point, there are plenty of other characters in this fictional town who deserve their own chance at lasting love.


** I received a free copy of this book from its author. A review was not promised in return. **

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review 2017-11-03 23:05
ARC Review: Game Point by M.J. O'Shea
Game Point (Dreamspun Desires Book 45) - M.J. O'Shea

Quinn Valenzuela, heir to the Sparta Athletics empire, has spent most of his life, first at boarding school and then traveling the world, playing on the yachts of the rich and famous, drifting his life away, pretending this is all he wants from life.

Porter Davis, COO of the same company, hasn't had a chance to even enjoy the fruits of his labor, working his way up from athlete using the product to basically running the company for and with Quinn's grandfather and mother. He lives with his sister because it's easy, and pretends he's not lonely.

The book is a little heavy early on as the characters deal with the grief of losing the old man. Both men are adrift in different ways, neither quite sure how to move forward. Quinn decides he wants to learn how to run the company, but needs Porter's help to do so. 

The relationship between the men progresses from reluctant acceptance to realizing that they work well together to developing a friendship to bedroom benefits, and the development felt natural and realistic within the confines of the plot. It was lovely to watch driven, workaholic Porter start to relax a little, and drifting, unsure Quinn find his footing and start to shine. Of course, it's not smooth sailing all the way, and the two men still have to figure out what they need long-term.

I liked the supporting characters as well - Quinn's mother and Porter's sister were two well-developed female characters who both supported and challenged our MCs as needed. 

The requisite relationship hiccup was visible from a mile away, and I liked how the author handled Quinn's obliviousness and panic, but also how it wasn't dragged out for too long. I also think that this needed to happen for the relationship to actually grow beyond what it had become at that point, and for Quinn to think about what he really wants. 

This is slow burn by design, though there's plenty of UST within. And tons of believable emotions, so that worked quite well for me.

It's a sweet romance and definitely worth your time.


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A review was not promised in return. **

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review 2017-10-16 01:41
ARC Review: Off The Beaten Path by Cari Z.
Off the Beaten Path - Cari Z.

Ever since I read my first shifter book, I've been hooked. For some reason, Off The Beaten Path escaped my notice at first, but when it kept popping up in friend reviews on Goodreads, I requested a review copy from the publisher.

I was not disappointed.

This is not some fluffy wolf shifter meets human and they live happily ever after shifter book. No, as the title indicates, this shifter universe is off the beaten path, set in an alternate reality where shifters exists, after a government experiment gone terribly wrong, but are controlled by the human government, living in remote areas away from human cities, within confined compounds, with the pack Alphas required to serve as ultimate soldiers whenever the military requires them to utilize their extra strength and abilities to carry out the military's dirty work. 

Additionally, some children are born as shifters to human parents, and when their true nature is revealed, they are removed from their human parents, severing the relationship, and relocated to a shifter compound, where they either can shift back to human or, if they can't, are destroyed. 

Thus, we meet Ward Johannsen whose young daughter Ava shifted into a wolf during a stressful situation and was immediately taken by the feds to the nearest shifter camp. Unwilling to give up his daughter, Ward does everything he can to obtain her location, which just happens to be in the Colorado mountains. And it's winter. 

Ward is rescued, nearly frozen to death, at the perimeter of the pack compound. Once inside, he's faced with the pack's Alpah, Henry Dormer, who only recently returned from his last mission and hopes to have a bit of time to recuperate before he's sent out again.

Both men are really strong-willed and not inclined to give up. Ward is unwilling to let go of Ava, even if the law says he has to, and he does everything in his power to get back to her, even if that means willingly walking into a werewolf compound and standing his ground. Henry too fights every day to ensure the security and well-being of his pack, even if that means that he himself suffers abuse and faces possible death.

See, the government doesn't really care about the werewolves it created, considering them dangerous and thus in need of being kept separated and hidden, but is perfectly willing to use the wolves' Alphas for its Black Ops missions. Henry's CO especially is a sack of shit, vengeful and vile, but Henry knows he has to follow the rules so his pack can get what it needs to survive. 

Relationships between wolves and humans are strongly discouraged, though not forbidden. 

Obviously, Ward's presence in the camp, and his having found the compound, breaks all kinds of security rules, and Henry has to take the blame. Still, Henry realizes that Ward's presence will likely help Ava shift back to human, so he is willing to give it a try. 

The attraction they both feel to each other is neither expected nor necessarily wanted, but Ward's persistence and courage seems to calm Henry in the face of the multiple pressures he's facing not only from his CO but also his pack. 

This isn't some fluffy shifter tale. It's gritty, it's dark, and there are oh so many obstacles Henry and Ward face before they can find even a modicum of happiness. Though, I think the point here is that the happiness you have to fight for so hard is worth more in the end - simply because you have to fight for it. 

At the end of this book, there's hope. Not only for Ward and Henry to have a happy ending, but for the shifters in the compound, and all shifters under the thumb of the feds. In fact, there are forces at work to better the lives of the werewolves and give them a chance to actually live

I do hope that the author has more books planned, and that this will turn into a full-blown series. Because Tennyson and David surely need their own book.

This book is full of tension, passion, and courage in the face of nearly insurmountable odds. A true "edge-of-your-seat" read, this comes highly recommended. 



** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. **

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