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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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review 2017-10-03 02:31
ARC Review: Facing West by Lucy Lennox
Facing West: A Forever Wilde Novel (Volume 1) - Lucy Lennox

I flew through this book. Didn't even take the time to post a single status update, because I was riveted to the pages and could. Not. Stop. Reading. until I had finished the whole thing.

 

Nico is a tattoo artist with his own shop in California, having run away from his family in small town Texas when he was only 15, for reasons that are elaborated upon in this book. He had zero plans to ever return, but then he gets a call from an attorney that his sister has passed away and declared him her baby's guardian. So Nico goes back to Hobie, TX, to take care of things, find a suitable couple to adopt his little niece, and hightail it back to Cali.

 

West(on) is the town's doctor, and Nico's late sister was his best friend, and there's no way in hell that West will allow Nico to take custody of the baby. He's initially a judgmental jerk who never even thinks to ask why someone so young (15, for the love of Christ) would run away. Never mind the purple hair and multiple tattoos, clearly Nico can't be trusted anyway.

 

I'm not going to elaborate on the plot in this review, because I think you should read this book and find out for yourself how and why West changes his initial mindset, and how Nico isn't the bad guy for abandoning his mom and sister, and how two rather adorable old fogies (Doc and Grandpa) in love might help them along to their HEA.

 

There's a good amount of steam inside, and it's some holy hot boysecks, Batman, because both West and Nico get along fabulously in the bedroom. Outside of it, well, that's another matter entirely, as neither trusts the other completely for quite some time.

The running theme in the book is one of family - the one you're born into and the one you make for yourself, and the author does a fabulous job exploring that theme in a variety of ways, including the sacrifices a young boy might make to give his family what he thinks they need, and how family isn't necessarily determined by blood alone, but also but what you'll do for the ones you love.

 

The other theme is that not all is what it seems, and that's a lesson West in particular has to learn. He does, fortunately, but it's a hard-won lesson, and one in humility to boot.

 

As I said, I flew through this book. The characterizations were spot-on, and having a dual POV gives the reader a lot of insight into what makes each man tick. Nico especially is distrustful of other people, based on his experiences, and comes across as skittish. He wants to run when things get tough, but also wants to stay with West. He falls in love with his niece at first sight, but also doesn't believe that he has anything good to offer her. West is happy living in the small town, but also realizes that homophobia is a thing, even if his own family is cool with it and wants to see him settle down. He's mostly calm and clear-headed in his actions and reactions, where Nico tends to shoot from the hip and react more impulsively.

 

This was a great start to a new series, and I'm definitely interested in reading the next book as well. The author's writing style worked well for me, and the story flowed easily, without any massive time jump or long drags. Well done!

 


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

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review 2017-09-16 22:58
Release Day ARC Review: Finding Mr. Wright by B.A. Tortuga
Finding Mr. Wright (Dreamspun Desires Book 42) - BA Tortuga

What do you get when you mix the enemies-to-lovers trope with a pinch of doing-the-bossman and an almost FUBAR wedding plan?

Finding Mr. Wright, is what.

Mason is a wedding planner in Colorado. His most recent contract calls for a 200-person wedding and reception at the Leaning N Ranch where Ford and Stoney (from the first book) have been busy creating a fabulous destination for weddings and other such things, all LGBTQ friendly. Yurts included. I had to google what a yurt is, but now I know.

Anyway, a few days before the wedding, Noah Wright, whose office has so far communicated with Mason by phone/email about this huge wedding, comes up to the Leaning N from Dallas, where he's got a gazillionaire oil business, to make sure everything is as planned but finds out that someone somewhere FUBAR'd - Sam isn't one of two grooms, as Mason assumed, but the bride, and as her brother, paying for the shindig, he ain't none too pleased. Matter of fact, Noah acts much like an entitled jerk at first, but the author did a fine job making him a lot more likable as the book progressed. 

But Mason is of course a professional, no matter how much he wants to climb Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome at first sight even if he's a bit snotty and snarky, and quickly rearranges things to be fit for a princess. 

Noah is impressed. Intrigued. And definitely in lust.

I quite liked this. This author has an uncanny knack for writing fun characters, and I enjoyed my time reading this book. Of course it's super tropey - this is a Dreamspun Desires title after all - but when you take away all the OTT and super rich stuff, you're still left with two men who fall hard and fast (with sexy times too), and decide that nothing shall stand in their way to their HEA. Well, Mason might not be so convinced at first, but Noah is - and what Noah wants, Noah gets. They figure it out, y'all, as they should. 

It was lovely to revisit with Ford, Stoney, and all the folks on Leaning N - they played a big part in Mason pulling off the wedding after the big oops, and I hope we'll get to see more of them in a future book. Sam, the bride, and her groom were a fun couple too, even if Sam came across as a wee bit on the spoiled side, used to getting her way. Seriously, a climbing wall? 

There were a few moments toward the end where Mason has some doubts, understandably so, based on what he's being told. I mean, I knew that they would get their HEA, but for a short while there, I was a little worried that things might not work out as planned. Mason actually shows some backbone throughout, and refuses to let Noah walk all over him. Good for him, that. 

It's a feel-good read, which is what I expect from one of these titles. This was an excellent addition to this series, and while it can be read as a standalone, why would you want to? Read 'em both, I say. They're worth it.


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

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review 2017-09-02 00:30
Release Day ARC Review: Finding Mr. Wrong by Charlie Cochet
Finding Mr. Wrong (Dreamspun Desires Book 41) - Charlie Cochet

This story had a solid plotline, but suffered from a bit of overload with all the extra stuffing.

Matthew Hart is a successful business man and the heir to family fortune and high-end furniture and interior decoration company Hart and Home. Twenty years ago, he thought himself in love with Jax Foster, but when Jax and his father disappeared overnight, Matthew was crushed and hasn't really had a serious relationship since. When he has a near-death experience brought on by a severe allergy, he becomes a little scared about the future and decides he needs to find a husband and have children to carry on the family legacy. He even creates a list of attributes this husband needs to have. 

Jax Foster loved Matthew Hart, but his father's gambling addiction and subsequent debts required that they ran from the town. Jax resents his father for what he's put him through, but also loves the man and cannot leave him to his own devices. He's making a name for himself as an artist, designing and creating stained glass pieces. 

When a customer of Hart and Home requires special stained glass inserts for his doors, Matthew and Jax's paths cross and converge.

Mr. Hart Sr, Matthew's father, and Adam, Matthew's PA, both help this along. I liked both of these side characters, especially Adam who really looked out for Matthew.

As Jax and Matthew rekindle their romance, and some truths come out, the suspense part of the plot increases. We have attempted murder, a kidnapping, a mobster enforcer named Rai whom Adam would like to climb like a tree, and Matthew's cousin and crazy wife also play a role.

The sex is hot, with lots of dirty talking, the dialogue had some bite on occasion, and though I didn't like the obvious "big misunderstanding", I did like their relationship. Having both Matthew and Jax alternate in being the narrator helped to understand both of their perspectives, their hopes, and their fears, and made them more sympathetic to me. I could understand that Jax didn't want to give up on his father, despite the addiction, and I could understand that Matthew was wary Jax would run again. 

The lone female in this book was the designated villain, something that I don't particularly care for, and her portrayal was totally OTT. I could believe the mobster money collector, and I could even believe that Adam had the hots for him (hopefully, these two will get their own book), but all in all, it was just a little bit too much, even for a Dreamspun Desires title.

The romance though, that second chance at love, was well done, and I wanted Matthew and Jax to find their HEA. Which, no spoiler here, they did.

Charlie Cochet's writing style is a good fit here, and thankfully not flowery at all. The plot flowed smoothly, without any lulls, and I was engaged throughout the book. It fits within the series by having a somewhat implausible setting (Matthew being a young, hot, successful and rich guy, partnered with a young man from the wrong side of the tracks - fabulous trope, that) and the scenarios within are not close to the realm of realism, but it's entertaining nonetheless. There's not a whole lot of in depth character development, but I didn't expect that from this book. I do expect a whirlwind emotional romance when I read a title in this series, and I got that here. Mission accomplished.


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

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review 2017-08-30 02:44
ARC Review: Sins Of The Father by Sam Burns
Sins of the Father (Wilde Love Book 2) - Sam Burns

This is the 2nd book in the Wilde Love series, and it's rather different from the first one. This one was a bit more quiet, if you can call it that, considering that it still has mobsters and family ties, and an FBI investigation. And guns. 

Keegan Quinn, whom me met in the first book, quit his father's business six years ago, after a shootout with the Russian mob left him near death, and lingering pain and stiffness from the injuries still plague him. He's since built a successful business with his restaurant Wilde's. Of course, while he may be out of the family business, he's not out of the family, and he still loves his father. 

Jon Brookfield is an FBI agent tasked with interviewing Keegan to see if he can find out anything about the father's business/crimes. He didn't expect to want to climb Keegan like a tree upon first meeting him, but then the heart wants what the heart wants, and since this series is tropey and OTT and unrealistic, Jon's boss tells him he can quit that part of the investigation and date Keegan.

I didn't actually care about realism while reading, since I didn't expect any to begin with. What I did expect, and what the author delivered, was a grand romance, with a bit of angst, a bit of action, and some hot shmexy times.

I got all that in droves. The book is highly entertaining, the writing flows well, and the story line was well paced, without any lulls or massive time jumps. The supporting cast was fabulous, especially the people at Keegan's restaurant, except for the ex-boyfriend who got what was coming to him, and I enjoyed every minute I spent reading this book. 

I especially enjoyed how much emotions the author gave the characters, and how well the family connections were portrayed. While the actual plot was unrealistic, the relationships weren't. Keegan and Jon begin dating and falling in love, and while their romance was high-speed, it didn't feel insta-lovish. There also was very little relationship angst - when they decided to be together, they were in it for good, and neither doubted the other's commitment. The only thing that might have derailed them was Keegan's father's illness, but even then they fought for what they wanted. Their communications were honest and mostly straight-forward. I liked that a lot.

I'd say, suspend your disbelief while reading, but read it anyway. Sam Burns' books are sweet but not cloying, with great characters, some snark, and hot sexy times - ergo, excellent comfort reads.

I need the next book in this series, like, yesterday! Keep 'em coming! (pun intended)


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

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