The Goddesses – Swan Huntley

the goddesses.jpg

The Goddesses
320 pages

3 ⭐⭐⭐

Nancy moves with her husband and twin teenage sons from San Diego to Hawaii for a fresh start. Hoping to reinvent herself and meet new people, she joins an early morning yoga class. She immediately bonds with the teacher, Ana, and begins spending most of her time with her proclaimed “soul sister”. Further alienating herself from her family, Nancy prioritizes to one person that seems to actually see the real Nancy. Only, does Nancy see the real Ana?

Nancy is confused about her identity. Who is she? Who should she be? Being a woman that moved to a foreign country –where my native tongue is hardly spoken- for my husband’s career, I can identify with her loneliness. Living somewhere new where you’re unknown is both exhilarating yet terrifying. There’s a perfect opportunity to reinvent yourself, to escape the pre-assigned roles you’ve been living. With no one around to remind you who you are, who you’re supposed to be, it’s overwhelming figuring out your new purpose. Despite understanding the Nancy though, I found she’s excessively judgmental and pessimistic, making it hard to like her.

Ana is an extreme character, yet predictable. Her behavior hinted a bit too obviously at her secrets, so I wasn’t surprised when they came to light.

*Possible Spoilers*
The ending reduced my rating of the book. The whole story is a slow build-up to what should have been a life-changing confrontation, but of course that doesn’t happen. Instead, Nancy simply wipes her hands clean of Ana, knowing full well that she has a new target in sight. It seems like self-preservation to just walk away, but when Nancy’s thoughts reveal the truth of her mother’s death, I realized that she’s not just selfish, she’s practically heartless, all in the name of her own best interest.

I’m conflicted on my feelings for this book. For too long I just kept wondering ‘where is this going?’. I’d call The Goddesses a slow-paced, but entertaining familial drama, with a dash of psychological thriller, and an abundance of Hawaiian scenery descriptions to last a lifetime.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Loaded – Roxie Noir

loaded

Loaded
322 pages

5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Alex works for La Carretera, a Mexican cartel based in California. His boss gives him the job to go to a fancy weddning and kidnap the daughter of an accountant that’s about to rat out to the Feds. Simple, yeah? Nah, shit hits the fan and he gets more than he bargained for.
Tessa has no clue her father has been working illegally with La Carretera, so she is thoroughly confused when she’s unexpectedly abducted after hooking up with the handsome Alex at her friend’s wedding.

The chemistry between Alex and Tessa is -hoo-
giphy (1)

Alex is the perfect bad-boy, but he does have a soft side he only shares with Tessa. Tessa is feisty and doesn’t take crap lying down. Considering the circumstance they’re in the angst is totally appropriate and unforced. Despite Alex being a kidnapper though, he’s quintessentially the modern knight in shining armor. His goal is to keep Tessa safe and he puts his life at risk to do so.

The plot moves and moves and there’s little opportunity for boredom. Even the smallest interactions between the H/h is engrossing, that’s how strong their connection is. And the ending… the best ending I’ve read in a romance in a long time. And it’s not cheesy!

It’s just so good. Read this book.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Absinthe – Winter Renshaw

absinthe

Absinthe
338 pages

3 ⭐⭐⭐

That cover…
giphy

Anywho… Halston is a teenager with a traumatic past living with an uncle she hardly knows. To fill her time, she downloads a dating app and goes by the username: Absinthe. She immediately comes across someone by the username: Kerouac. Their online relationship lasts a couple of months before Kerouac decides it’s getting too serious and he ends things. Halston’s hurt, but refuses to cry over it, so she deletes the app and expects to never speak to Kerouac again. Soon after school starts, however, she is sent to the principal’s office for cursing in class. And low-and-behold, she comes face to face with Kerouac, AKA Principal Ford Hawthorne.

The characters are really well-developed and have interesting back stories. Halston’s past has definitely shaped her, so she’s impulsive and immature at times, but she’s strong and refuses to be a victim. Ford has some anger and resentment issues that make him abrasive, but his care for Halston is endearing.

The pacing of the story is slow. Halston and Ford don’t spend much time in each other’s company the whole book. Most of their interaction takes place online and they’re separated for 5 years (yes, five) so it’s hard to believe their undying love for each other. It doesn’t help that the five years they’re apart is skimmed over. Chapter to chapter it becomes “Another Year Later”. It’s hard to stay invested in the story and characters when all I’m getting is a glimpse of their lives. HOWEVER, I do love that when they’re separated they don’t conveniently run into each other again. Halston has to actually look for Ford and go out of her way to bring them back together, so thank you for not using the cheap plot device of coincidence, Ms. Renshaw.

If only the H/h actually spent time together, this would’ve been an amazing read.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Devil in the Countryside – Cory Barclay

devil in the countryside

Devil in the Countryside

348 pages

3 ⭐⭐⭐

In 16th century Germany, over a dozen children, countless livestock, and a few women were gruesomely tortured and murdered, being literally torn apart to pieces. Devil in the Countryside is an historical fiction based on those murders, attributed to the mythical Werewolf of Bedburg.

The book understandably takes creative license in the telling of the story. Not all of the characters actually existed and not all of the events actually occurred. It’s almost impossible to expect the book to be written in true to 16th century wording and format, but it too often uses modern-day expressions in the dialogue that really pull you out of the story.

The plot is accurate to the time, because it is super depressing. So many good people are punished in horrible ways over mere speculation. Thanks to the metaphorical nearsightedness of the characters, it was hard to like most of them. Their eagerness to judge and condemn was disturbing… even more so when you consider that stuff like that actually happened.

Despite the length and being drawn out at times, I was still left with too many questions. The author doesn’t actually provide an opinion on who the werewolf may have really been. A lot of the characters practically fall off the page and aren’t given much of an ending, but it especially bothered me with Hugo. That poor kid needs a hug, STAT.

The book is entertaining, although slow in parts. But fair warning, there are graphic descriptions of torture and death that may be hard for some to stomach.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Hung – Anne Marsh

hung

Hung

148 pages

4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Pick Revere is wildlife firefighter in a small, isolated town in California. Fire is his life, yet petite Sarah Jo manages to catch his eye. Not only for her looks, but because she very clearly is running from something. She’s constantly on edge, looking over her shoulder, dressing in oversized clothing to hide her appearance, etc. The closer Pick and Sarah Jo become, the more determined Pick is to find out her secrets, but Sarah Jo isn’t sharing.

The characters are easy to like. Pick is the sweetest manly man I’ve come across in a long time. Honestly, I can’t think of a flaw of his, he’s that perfect. And thank goodness he is so sweet, because Sarah Jo can be very stubborn at times. At first she’s quiet and jumpy, but she gradually comes out of her shell, and her resilience stands out.
The plot is straight forward and evenly paced.

Some problems: there were a lot of typos. Too many, even for an ARC copy. Also, I wasn’t happy with the ending. It was too ambiguous about their future, even for a HFN ending. I was left questioning if Sarah Jo was even going to stick around, and then it suddenly ends.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Savior – S.L. Scott

savior

Savior

354 pages

4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Savior is the final book in the Kingwood Duet. It follows Savage, which must be read prior to Savior in order to understand any of it.

*Spoilers if you haven’t read Savage*
Savior resumes where Savage left off. Sara Jane is rushed to the hospital after being shot by Alexander’s enemy and it pulls you in immediately. Alexander is terrified of losing SJ and most of the first 10% of the book is his introspection on how much he needs her. That his life is only worth living because of her.

“Is there a way to trade my life for hers, my sins for hers, to die in her place instead? What kind of deal can I strike? What bargain can I negotiate? Tell me. Fucking tell me and I’ll do it. Anything.”

When SJ wakes from surgery, your heart breaks for everything they’ve lost. Neither one knows how to cope with their pain, so there’s some animosity from SJ towards Alex at first. It doesn’t last though, because he’s the reason she breathes. And he’s only living for her. And life is hard, but still so good because they have each other. Because nothing means more to them than the other. Am I getting on your nerves yet with my redundancy? Because that’s pretty much the gist of the first 30% of the book. At first, it’s heartrending and powerful, but after endless declarations of their undying love and little movement with the plot, it just becomes enough, already.

Once the plot gets moving, it’s interesting and hard to put down. There is a pretty big plot point that happens about 75% in that is nerve-wracking. However, much less time is spent on it than necessary. And THEN there’s a HUGE twist not long after, and I was still left with countless questions even after I finished the book. I don’t expect to have all of my questions answered when I read a book, but something as big as this demands more explanation than what’s provided.

I loved Savage . It was the perfect blend of romance and suspense. Unfortunately, Savior was too unbalanced for me to give it 5 stars. I am happy Jason is getting his own story, though. That guy needs a HEA.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Guarding Her – Lexi Whitlow

guarding her

Guarding Her

1162 pages (obviously, it includes additional stories. The book is a typical full-length novel… length.)

Avery in the daughter of a well-known State Senator and the target of a violent stalker. After being attacked and knocked unconscious one night, she is assigned a bodyguard, Maddox. She’s not thrilled about having a glorified babysitter, but she’s absolutely pissed that her parents assigned the boy that broke her heart seven years ago to be said sitter. Despite the time that has passed, their chemistry hasn’t dwindled, making their interactions fraught with tension. Oh, how will they survive one another??

It takes a while for the characters to grow on you. Maddox is harsh and judgmental of Avery without trying to understand her. Avery is spoiled and hard on Maddox because she thinks he left her willingly all those years ago. They’re both stubborn and pretty bad a communicating, making their issues last a bit longer than I would’ve liked. Their physical chemistry was understandable, but they had a bit too much hate in their love-hate relationship. It made it hard to believe they really loved each other.

The plot is steadily paced with a good amount of suspense and a few low-grade thrills. I must say, though, that the Epilogue was probably my favorite part of the book. It was humorous and had a satisfying HEA.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Dirty Promise – Penny Wylder

*Releases August 8th*

Dirty Promise

Dirty Promise

Novella length (approximately 100 pages, give or take…)

5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Cosmetologist, Fiona, comes home to find a box of envelopes from her best friend, Kia, who just passed away a month before. Each envelope contains an item on Kia’s bucket list that she never got the chance to accomplish. Envelope #1? Sleep with the hot tattoo artist that they have been admiring from afar. Nervous but determined to fulfill her friend’s wishes, she goes to the tattoo shop and meets the mystery artist, Max. She shows him the letter and he is only too happy to oblige. Like, immediately. So to his apartment they go and thus begins Fiona’s adventure.

After the whole First and Last debacle, I was conflicted on whether or not to continue reading Wylder’s stories. But I’m glad I did, because this is easily my favorite Penny Wylder story.  Despite the short length, the characters are well-developed and complex. Max starts off as a ginormous jerk, but soon after he’s growing on you and being the sweetest guy, ever. And after what Fiona has been going through, she deserves the nicest guy on the planet.

Several times I teared up as I read. Kia’s letters are lighthearted and encouraging, but the fact that she reaches from beyond the grave to help Fiona discover herself because she’s no longer around for her… it’s hard not to get the feels.

Despite the somewhat somber tone of the story, there’s still plenty of sexiness tastefully weaved in. I’m truly impressed by this one.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Rose – Leslie North

Rose

Rose

185 pages

4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Giovanni DeRose is manager and sometimes artist at Thorn Tattoo. The shop was started by his deceased father and now belongs to his brother, Antonio, so he is fiercely passionate when it comes to what’s best for it. When Gio finds out his brother went behind his back and hired a new co-manager, Riley, he is none too happy. Convinced she has no idea what’s she’s doing, he fights her on every decision and recommendation. But Riley doesn’t back down easy, which only makes Gio want to ravage her… after he fires her.

Riley and Gio’s love-hate relationship easily draws you in. The drama and situations presented in the book aren’t drastic, but the characters are so multi-layered that you can’t help but invest in them. There’s plenty of angst and their chemistry is palpable. When they’re not at each other’s throats, they’re actually pretty sweet together.

The book’s primary focus, other than on their relationship, is Thorn Tattoo and trying to save it from going deeper in the red. There’re a few scenes where Gio’s temper gets the best of him and he makes for some entertaining drama, but overall, it’s pretty relaxed.

My only complaint is that there’s a lot of introspection in the book and it manages to become repetitive. The same insecurities and doubts keep coming up, yet rather than actively doing anything about it, they continue to ignore their issues. I would’ve loved for Riley and Gio have been a little more proactive and a little less mentally hung up. But overall, it was an easy, enjoyable read.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Prince Player – B.B. Hamel

prince player

Prince Player

Hazel was traveling around Europe alone when she had all of her money stolen. In order to make enough money to buy a plane ticket back home to America, she takes a job as maid in Polovia’s (made up European country) royal castle.

Prince Nolan’s father, the King, is about to pass him over for title of Crown Prince in favor of Nolan’s douchey cousin, Julian. In an attempt to win his father over, Nolan comes up with an ingenious plan: get married and have a kid. Since he finds the maid, Hazel, so hot, he propositions her the same day they meet to become his Wife Consort. She accepts and – bada-bing, bada-boom – she’s a princess.

 

The plot is a bit fantastical, but it was cute. I found the characters to be the best Hamel’s written, so far. Granted, Nolan and Hazel get married the day after they meet, but it isn’t insta-love. Nolan is patient with Hazel, letting her get to know him before they knock boots and make a baby. And once they do get it on? *PSSSSssssss* (that’s bacon hitting the pan…. It sizzled. That’s my point). Anyway…

Prince Player was a solid 4 stars… until the ending. It was “don’t blink to long or you might miss it” fast. The entire climax with Julian had ok buildup, but it ends without a significant resolution. *Possibly Spoiler* I was left with soooo many questions as to how they can have a happily ever after despite the King being completely unsupportive and Julian still being a threat. And Julian, WTH happens with him? Jail? Excommunication? Castration? I finally found out how horrible of a person he gets no comeuppance? Bubkus!

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.