Reign to Ruin by Zoey Ellis

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Reign to Ruin (Myth of Omega #4)

168 pages
3 ⭐⭐⭐

Reign to Ruin continues in the same Omegaverse as the Crave series, but follows different characters. It can possibly be read as a standalone, but it’s probably easier to understand if you read the MoM series first.

The story starts out slow, but the dynamic between Malloron and Amara is intriguing, gaining momentum for the story and making it difficult to put down.

In the previous MoM books, King Malloron learns that there are Omega spies within his castle, but he doesn’t know why they’re there. He isn’t thrilled that there are people within his home that are deceiving him, but he isn’t necessarily threatened either. Even more, Malloron’s excited, too, but not because he’s an Alpha looking for a mate. No, there’s a secret reason he needs an Omega and he’s beyond pleased when he discovers Amara, a beautiful servant he suspects is an Omega.

There’s a rumor of Malloron’s kingdom capturing children and holding them hostage in the Red Dungeon, and that’s where the Omega spies come in. Amara is one of the Omega leaders and she’s determined to find and free the imprisoned children she believes are being kept as slaves. Working as a servant, she has seen the horrors and results of Malloron’s pleasure chamber, and is sickened when he sets his sights on her, leading to her pushing away and Malloron refusing to let her go.

Malloron is not a good guy, but compared to his personality in the first three books, in Reign he’s more of a Malloron-light. He’s selfish and crosses many lines, but he’s not as dark as I expected. (He does own slaves (most of them are sex slaves), but it’s often just mentioned and never shown, so it’s easy to ignore and forget about.) He was really taken by Amara and although he doesn’t treat her like gold, he still treats her fairly well for a captive and he acquiesces to most of her demands. Amara was strong and fought Malloron on everything, but she was a pretty crappy spy. I think with such a proud character I expected her to be better at her job. :-/

I liked the story and plan on reading the next one, but my biggest issue with the book was the amount of editing errors. Even for an ARC it was rife with so many mistakes that it often impeded my ability to understand what Ellis was trying to say.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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His For a Week: Ravaged by Em Brown

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His For a Week: Ravaged
244 pages
3.5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I initially questioned whether or not I would continue this series because I wasn’t a huge fan of the message Bought was sending. But I decided to give Ravaged a go and see if Brown managed to explain or redeem that message, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Ravaged picks up where Bought left off. Ben and Kimani are still figuring out the dynamic of their relationship; Kimani’s still trying – quite poorly – to be covert about her undercover story; Ben’s still trying to figure out what Kimani’s hiding; Jake is becoming even more of a monster; the other women are still stupidly naïve in regards to their own well-being; and Ben and Kimani finally take a trip to Pound Town.

I preferred Ravaged over the first book mostly because I felt like there was less force being used on Kimani and the importance of consent was more abundant in the plot. There were still some scenes of humiliation, but Kimani’s strength and Ben’s seemingly non-malicious intentions worked in the story’s favor.

Brown’s ability to weave meaningful discussions about social injustice remains as natural as ever and it adds greatly to the characters’ personalities. Ben and Kimani have a lot of common ground, but their disagreements really add to their chemistry and sexual tension, too.

The story does have a cliffhanger, but it’s low-key enough to not make me angry that I need to wait another month for the next book.

Possible Triggers: Humiliation through pet play, partner swapping (not between H&h, though), public sex, dub-con (secondary characters, H&h not involved).

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review

Stoking Her Fire by Mila Crawford

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Stoking Her Fire: A Blue Collar Romance
58 pages
3 ⭐⭐⭐

Stoking Her Fire is a safe and sweet romance, but it’s pretty slow and uneventful. It’s a short read about two people that’ve had feelings for each other since childhood finally getting the chance they’ve longed for.

Jackson’s feelings for Avery are cute and swoon-worthy, and the devotion Avery had towards Jackson when he was bullied at school makes your heart melt. There just isn’t any conflict and it’s very insta-love, so there isn’t enough time to watch their relationship grow to really get invested in the characters or the story.

But if you’re in the mood for an adorable angst-free read, give it a shot.

Buckle Up, Buttercup by Gigi Thorne

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Buckle Up, Buttercup
Novella length
1 enraged ⭐

This book is the perfect testament of how important quality is over quantity. I’m not sure how many authors are working under the Thorne name, but a book/novella a week isn’t beneficial if the quality isn’t worthwhile.

I’ll start with my lighter complaints and progress to my worst. First, the blurb states the h’s son’s name is Noah, but it’s Randy in the book. Editor, get on this stat, please. I have no idea how this was missed.

There are tons of inconsistencies in the story, especially with the timeline. One minute Beau claims he broke up with his ex, Alex? Amber? Some “A” name I can’t remember because

Anyway, one minute he broke up with her over a year ago. Then it’s two months ago. And if you were to ask Beau when he and crazy Amy (I’ll stick with this name for the remainder of the review even though it’s probably wrong) met, you’d be told five years ago. Or was it three years ago when his parents died? Or was it after they died? Can I just get a clear answer for once?

Next problem: Winnie’s a virgin that met Beau an hour before she gives her virginity to him.

At least she begs him to wear a condom.

BUT THE JERKOFF TAKES IT OFF AND PUTS IT IN HER MOUTH INSTEAD OF – I DUNNO- RESPECTING HER WISHES? (That crap’s not sexy, it’s disgustingly nonconsensual.)

The characters aren’t well-developed and I don’t understand their attraction/love. Other than their lust for each other, the characters talk about three things: their kid, crazy Amy the ex, and there’re a few paragraphs about the ranch and the new job Beau gave Winnie. The job that used to belong to Amy.Which brings me to my next peeve: Beau’s so obsessed with Winnie that when he finds out that Amy ran her out of town, he continues to employ her. And when Winnie gets Amy’s old job, it’s not because Beau finally grew some nuts and fired her, it’s because she got a new job in town.

Which tells me Amy would still be working for Beau even after Winnie returned.

Beau,

And that’s not even the worst of it.

No, crazy Amy kidnaps baby Randy and this asshole Beau, doesn’t tell Winnie because he figures he’ll resolve it solo and doesn’t want her to worry.

At this point I’m all

But it still manages to get worse. It’s bad enough to hide that when he has no right to do so, but when the kidnapper is also apparently guilty for the deaths of his parents???

That’s right.

Nutjob Amy is responsible for the death of his parents that he loved so dearly and this tool bag protects her by not turning her in for the hit and run. No, instead he 1) employed her 2)kept dating her (for apparently years) 3) still kept her employed after she ran off the lurve of his life and 4) still never tells the cops, even after she kidnapped his f’ing son. No, he just tells her to leave town or he’ll finally tattle.

This looney toon clearly has some problems with emotional and mental stability and she often acts with malice, but delicate Beau decides it’s too much of a hassle to deal with her and just wants her gone. So she gets to move a few states away and continue to live her life, all while being batshit nuts. And I assign more blame to Beau than Amy because I mean,

but Beau not only lets her get away with it, he helped her hide it for years. Does he care at all for the other lives she’ll end or ruin? With his history of protecting her, even after she treats the love of his life so horribly, I’m more convinced of his love for Amy than Winnie. That’s… that’s not how romance novels are supposed to work. Right?

P.S. Don’t even read it for the smut. The connection between the characters was too weak for me to even care and the sex scenes were both cheesy and clinical.

Not His Dragon by Annie Nicholas

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Not His Dragon
227 pages
3.5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Angie is a human among shifters. At least she thinks she’s human, but one unfortunate interaction with the town’s lone dragon, Eoin, has her and everyone around her thinking otherwise.

I liked the characters. Eoin was a bit of a jerk at first, but he quickly turns it around and is all about pursuing Angie and getting her to realize they’re meant to mate. Angie was the furthest thing from a doormat heroine. She was stubborn and insistent on being independent and she never let a man boss her around. Their banter and chemistry are what propel this story forward, IMO.

The story was cute and funny and light, but it wasn’t quite fleshed out. There are a lot of characters and plot points with great potential that dropped off or never evolved into anything significant. Like Ryota, Angie’s wolf-shifter ex that was labeled as being possessive and jealous that Angie was spending time with Eoin who just *POOF* disappeared. I expected some angst because of him, but didn’t get it. There was a lot of talk about bad luck and drama with the pack witch that could’ve been really intriguing, but it just fizzled out. The resolution to Angie’s seeming human problem was interesting, but the reveal was a little lackluster. It was a good story, the execution just needed some adjustments. But the romance was solid.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Knight by Kristen Ashley

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Knight
285 pages
⭐⭐

I’m clearly in the minority here, because I don’t think KA is for me.

Let me count the ways:

1- There’s too much misogyny and toxic masculinity being passed off as sexy alphaness. I’m all for possessive alpha heroes, they’re my favorite, but the hero is endlessly dismissive of the heroine and she just sits back and takes it.
2- Heroine is weak with a mind that goes blank every time the hero looks at her. And good lord, the endless “oh, oh my”s, the breathed responses, the giggling… she sounds like an airhead.
3- It’s too shallow, and I’m not just talking about the characters or how the heroine’s friends are obsessed with getting the “golden goose”. There’s way too much focus on the clothing and interior design and how much everything costs. I knew more about what the characters were wearing than what I was. Get rid of the preoccupation with how expensive everything was and how desirable the hero was for buying it and you lose 80% of the book.
4- The author favors some phrases too much. Every other paragraph someone “burst out laughing” at quite bland comments. And “plundered my mouth”… I’ve never read about so much plundering outside of a pirate story in my life.
5- This reflects off of #3: the story is really lacking in substance with a lot of telling. The hero is secretive and dangerous. We know this because of a few interactions and because the hero is constantly warning the heroine of it. But once we really get a good idea of how dangerous this guy is, the heroine basically shrugs it off which brings me to my final # which is a spoiler, so beware.
6- It takes a while before we find out exactly what the hero does, but eventually we’re told that he’s a pimp. Literally a man that sells women for sex. But he’s not your typical pimp because he doesn’t abuse or force them. Well, then, good for him but the heroine was too goddamn dismissive of such a big freaking deal. And he’s insensitive about it when he tells her and she still doesn’t give a crap. He wanted to protect her from it? Then don’t date her, because it’s almost impossible to hide something so big from someone that you claim to want so badly. Plus, she’s at significant risk because of his profession. Shouldn’t she be forewarned of something so big?? And then he tells her it doesn’t matter how much she wants a ring or kids or whatever because he’ll never give them to her because he’s a big bad wolf that lives in fantasy land where bad guys can’t have any semblance of normalcy in their lives. But he eventually gives in because she seems sad when her best friend gets those things from her boyfriend. ‘Wow, thanks Knight. I’ve always wanted a man to agree to marry me because he feels guilty and annoyed by my feelings of inferiority. You’re so dreamy.’ 

So, after my big introduction to KA? If all of her stories are like this…

Tempted by the Viscount by Sofie Darling

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Tempted by the Viscount
283 pages
4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Over ten years ago, Lady Olivia was widowed and left a single mother when her husband died fighting for his country. About six months ago, after finding out her husband was in fact alive, Olivia petitioned to have her marriage terminated and she is now one of very few women unfortunate enough to be saddled with the label “divorcée”. Lord Jakob Radclyffe is new to the Viscountcy and determined to make it easier for his half-Japanese daughter to be accepted amongst the ton when she comes of age. He’s looking for an appropriate wife with an impeccable reputation that will help guide his daughter in her new role and doesn’t consider love a factor in his hunt. But he soon meets the disgraced Lady Olivia and feels an attraction to her that makes him doubt if he’s doing the right thing.

The plot is entertaining, but a little slow and repetitious at times. Jake is an amazing hero even despite his hunt for a wife. He does entertain the idea of finding a more appropriate choice than Olivia for longer than I appreciated, but it’s obvious he was simply lying to himself the whole time. Lady Olivia is surprisingly strong for a heroine of that time period and I thoroughly enjoyed how she never allowed anyone to treat her less than she deserved. It’s rare to find historical romances where the heroine is the hero’s equal, but Tempted by the Viscount breaks that trend beautifully.

It’s a safe read with great chemistry and several sexy scenes.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Smiley Face Killers by Steph Young

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245 pages
2 ⭐⭐
There’s a lot of information in this book. Info and names that get hard to follow due to the format. There is an introduction followed by ten chapters and a conclusion. With all of the info provided, it would’ve been more comprehensive to separate it into Parts and then have sub-chapters for each section. The way it’s organized is, well, disorganized. Young jumps from victim to victim, to year to a different state to Satanic rituals to the kitchen sink in a manner that makes the book appear more like the rantings and ramblings of a conspiracy theorist than a cohesive story.

I’m typically critical of self-published nonfiction/true crime books because much of the information is almost impossible to corroborate. With big publishing companies, investigative authors usually have the burden of validating their claims in case there’s a threat of lawsuits for libel or purposeful misinformation. Sources – even when unnamed- must be verified to prevent such problems. Investigative authors research and it’s obvious Young has also done her research, but if sources cannot be confirmed (IMO) then their claims aren’t worth much. Maybe Steph Young’s sources are 100% truthful and proven, but if she can’t “show me her work”, then my skepticism will never pass.

She’s in a difficult position because there’s no self-publishing foolproof protocol to verify the story. Simply writing things such as, “The retired Federal Agent (name withheld) who has worked with Josh’s father unrelentingly ever since the death of his son, told me he traced the telephone call […],” means nothing to me. I don’t need a name, but provide some supporting info on your sources. Maybe where they worked and for how long; a brief summary of a case they worked on; even direct quotes that support a significant event are more impactful than haphazardly paraphrasing every once in a while, which is all I got.

Also, this cover is much more appropriate for a horror novel than a true crime investigation story. (Just had to get that out there.)

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Hers, Unbroken by Anna Adler

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Hers, Unbroken
Full-length novel
4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is the second book of the Hers series and can be read as a standalone, although I do recommend reading the first book (Hers, Untamed) as it’s a great read and an imaginative introduction to the fictitious world Adler has created.

Like the last book, the people of Silenia continue to keep aliens and alien-human hybrids as pets, often using them for sexual gratification. The hero, Chase, is a human-alien hybrid and often rejected by women for that reason. After learning about Silenia’s reputation), Chase is willingly captured with the hopes of soon belonging to a woman who actually finds him desirable rather than repulsive. But Chase’s captors/trainers soon become suspicious of his lack of resistance, so they label him as a spy and plan on exterminating him. Thankfully, head-trainer Holly, comes to Chase’s rescue and decides to train him herself.

The story is unique and engaging, but the characters drive this story. The dynamic between Chase and Holly is different from most romance stories, but in a (IMO) good way. Chase is jealous and possessive when it comes to Holly, but he often gives her the control. And not because he feels like she needs it or that he even owes her anything, he’s just eager to have someone care for him and catering to Holly makes him feel wanted. And Holly is a strong enough heroine to give him that. Their chemistry is intense and you can feel the love they have for each other. It’s satisfying.

“She was the sun. She burned him, pleasantly, and he felt like a satellite trapped in her orbit.”

The story is funny, exciting, sexy, and endearing. If you are looking for a safe sci-fi romance, Hers, Unbroken is a great option.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

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Jar of Hearts
320 pages
3 ⭐⭐⭐

The story begins with Geo Shaw testifying at the murder trial of her ex-boyfriend, Calvin James. Calvin has finally been caught and connected to the deaths of four women, the first of which was Geo’s best friend, Angela. Geo knew what happened that night but never said anything, so she accepts a deal and goes to prison for five years.

The mystery was ok, but the most interesting parts of the story for me were the scenes of Geo’s life inside prison and how she managed to cope. It allowed me to sympathize with Geo, but that began to fade the further I got into the book. She was multi-dimensional and complicated so it was easy to imagine her as a real person. But later in the story, the more the author hinted at the “secret” (which wasn’t really secretive to me) the more I wanted her to wake up and start using her brain. She was rife with TSTL moments all the way up to the end. Disappointingly, I was hoping for more growth and enlightenment from Geo, but I didn’t really get that.

There’s a romantic aspect of this story that isn’t really romantic and I didn’t see the need for it to be included. There are several flashbacks to when Geo was a teenager and dating Calvin which adequately showcased why she made the decisions she made. But then there are the scenes between Geo and Kaiser, both as best friends when teens and some present day where they have a shared attraction (and some animosity on Kaiser’s part). Why they had to potentially become more than friends, I don’t know, because their romance wasn’t at all convincing. Other than giving Kaiser’s confliction over arresting the woman he’s loved for years a platform, it was unfulfilling.

The “ah-hah” moment was more like an “ah-yeah I saw this coming about six chapters ago” moment. It was a substantial part of the book, but it lasted just a handful of pages and once it was over, it sprinted to the epilogue. A disappointing epilogue, because despite discovering the killer, there were several plot points that simply dropped off and left me wondering how on earth Geo was going to reinvent her life post-prison. Instead, I was left with sentimental closure but unfinished business.

Jar of Hearts has some descriptive bits of violence, rape, and domestic abuse that some may be averse to.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.