At His Mercy – Sophia Desmond

at his mercy

At His Mercy

about 165p. (2007 locations)

2 ⭐⭐

Morgan is a 29 year-old 19th Century American Literature professor. There’s a sexual harassment lawsuit going on within her university that is going to bankrupt her department and put her out of a job. As a desperate attempt, she turns to billionaire playboy Blaine… who also happens to be her ex-stepbrother that she hasn’t seen in 13 years.

For starters, the book is not a dark romance, despite being labeled such. The plot is contemporary, the sex is vanilla, and there’s practically no suspense. Either the sub-genre “dark” was used to draw more interest during marketing, or the author/editor has misused the label due to a misunderstanding.

The characters aren’t developed and they’re hard to connect with. Morgan is ok at first. She works hard, she has passion for her job, and is all around a seemingly good person. Blaine starts out as arrogant and when with Morgan, ridiculously immature. I know his intention was to tease her with the whole brother/sister rivalry thing, but it was too much. He even goes so far as to invite Morgan’s own TA to dinner with him and offers her to stay the night at his place all because Morgan denied his dinner invitation. And he ADMITS it is to make her jealous. That’s when I would’ve walked away, but Morgan managed to fall for it. Ugh.

About 75% in, the characters switch their like-ability. Now Blaine is wearing his heart on his sleeve and willing to do anything to get and keep Morgan. Morgan, on the other hand, sees one thing (vague to prevent spoiler), misunderstands it, fails to give Blaine the opportunity to explain and then decides to write a tell-all story trashing him. Be an adult, Morgan, c’mon!

I felt like I was watching a tennis match while reading this. Everything moves super fast and the characters just keep bouncing back and forth. Overall, the book is stilted and hard to relate to. And some of the sex scenes are just awkward.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Alpha Bodyguard – Luke Steele

alpha bodyguard

Alpha Bodyguard

5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Luke Steele just keeps getting better and better. I think Alpha Bodyguard is now my favorite of his.

Quinn has just been hired as bodyguard for Sally Swanson, a new up and coming actress. She has been getting harassed while on the set of her new movie, so to her displeasure, the studio insists she have protection until either the perpetrator is caught or filming is wrapped.

The plot surrounding the harassment is secondary to Quinn and Sally’s relationship, so not much information is given nor time spent on it. And considering Sally wasn’t even threatened by it, I was ok with that.

The characters are multi-dimensional and relatable. Quinn is a tough, Irish ex-Army guy that likes to read Yeats and isn’t afraid to share that he misses his mum. Sally is career-focused, goes for what she wants, and unashamed of her past. (Can’t mention specifics of her past since it’d be a major spoiler). Yet she still manages to be fun and mischievous. It’s even subtlety implied that when she’s nervous she rubs the fabric of her clothing between her thumb and forefinger. The smallest things can really make or break a character, so I appreciate that despite it being a short novella, Sally and Quinn still have several layers.

I love love love how strong Luke Steele’s heroines are. And I love that his heroes are always turned on by that. It makes for solid and sexy intimate scenes.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

First and Last – Penny Wylder

first and last

First and Last

about 110p. (1323 locations)

3 ⭐⭐⭐

Joyce jokingly signs up for a “Sell Your Virginity” website, not expecting to go through with it. But then Declan comes along and being much older and sexy, sweeps her off her feet. They fall for one another fast, and the rest is history.

I am conflicted on how to review this. Here’s why:

OK, so the entire time I was reading First and Last I kept thinking, “wait, did I already read this? Is this a rename and republishment of a book she’s already written? Did I miss something?” Well, no, I hadn’t already read it, but I have read something startlingly similar by Penny Wylder, before.  The Billionaire’s Virgin, where the heroine also sets herself up on a Sell Your Virginity website, only she actually needs the money from the auction in order to support her ailing grandmother. Otherwise, the premise is so similar, it was like reading the same book. Much older, successful, sexy man sweeps her off her feet. There’s a video-call sex scene. The entire idea was at the recommendation of a “bestie”. I could go on.

Two reasons I’m giving this 3 stars rather than 1. First, I guess it isn’t technically plagiarizing when the original was yours to begin with. Secondly, First and Last was done better than The Billionaire’s Virgin. The characters were easier to connect with, although not very developed, and the sex scenes were steamier. So, if you’re stuck between the two, I’d go with First and Last. If you end up loving it, then you will probably love TBV, also.

Unfortunately, I think I’m going to take a Penny Wylder break. I enjoy her writing, especially for a quicker, sexy read, but if she has to reuse plots then she’s probably putting her books out too fast.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest read.

Apollo’s 11 – Anna Collins

apollo

Apollo’s 11

5839 locations, so approx. 340p.

4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Callie is a freelance writer of click-bait type articles. One day, she receives a copy of billionaire Apollo Iron’s autobiography to beta-read. Being unimpressed and convinced that Apollo is just writing a puff-piece, she tells him so. Taken by her honesty amongst dozens of positive reviews, he reaches out to her to become his ghost-editor. Apollo and Callie are instantly attracted to one another, but nothing really happens since she has a live-in boyfriend. Romantic angst, commence!

The plot moves at a steady pace so it’s hard to put down. There’s a little too much of the plot that relies purely on coincidences, but at least the interactions are entertaining. There are a few story-lines that were left either unfinished or weren’t thoroughly explained, making me feel like something’s still missing. *SPOILERS* IE Early on, it is mentioned numerous times that Apollo’s father disappeared and is still missing. He’s been declared legally dead, but not many people believe that to be true. A few more mentions of it and how it has negatively affected Apollo then *POOF* it’s never brought up again. Also, I understood why Ares was given to Daphne to raise initially (I didn’t agree, but I understood). But it didn’t make sense for Ares to continue living with her, especially once Apollo’s grandfather died. I found it really unappealing for the hero to leave his son to be raised by someone he (Apollo) can no longer tolerate, just to save face. Especially when it becomes obvious that she’s not doing a good job.

Callie’s no BS attitude makes her a funny and strong heroine that’s easy to connect with. She was stubborn at times, but I disagreed with very few of her decisions. Apollo, well, he takes a tad longer to adapt to. He’s initially arrogant and uncompromising, but the more time he spends with Callie, the more charming he becomes. I never did get past the whole leaving his son to be raised by someone else and still find it unpalatable, so he won’t go down in history as one of my favorite heroes.

The sexual chemistry between Apollo and Callie is strong and, sometimes, angsty, so I was definitely not disappointed in that regard. There were a few timeline inconsistencies, but nothing glaring that changes the outcome of the story. A few characters that I really wanted to know more about disappeared, leaving me unfulfilled. Namely, Drake. That poor guy needs his own book.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Executioner – Shauna Allen

the executioner

The Executioner

195p.

5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Executioner centers around Asher Creed, a Corrections Officer that also happens to be one of three officers always assigned to assist with the executions of death row inmates. The story is told in first-person from Asher’s POV.
One night after assisting in an execution, he is approached by a journalist, Genevieve, in the parking lot. She eventually convinces him to be interviewed for her piece and thus begins their love story. Secondary to that is the story of Asher’s sister, Claire, who went missing ten years ago.

We’re treated to Asher’s thoughts and fears, his apprehension of falling in love with a woman that claims to not believe in love. He’s a complex character with multiple layers to peel. The book moves slow at times, in large part because there’s a lot of reflection, but not much happening. But it’s worth it and necessary in order to really understand Asher and his family.

Asher and Gen’s romance doesn’t take your breath away, but you can feel how much they care for one another. They’re both really good people with realistic flaws, making it easy for the reader to become attached and to root for them. Not as much insight is given to Asher’s family members, but what little there is speaks volumes. You get to know a little bit about everyone’s personality and how they’ve been coping with the loss of Claire. Your heart breaks a little each time some new information about Claire comes to light, but Silas is really what will make you cry. He’s Claire’s twin, and the only family member open with his belief that she isn’t alive.

Asher: “Ten years is a long time for her to wonder where her daughter disappeared to.”
Silas: “It’s a hell of a long time to wonder where half your soul is, too.”

Asher and Gen are a charming, admirable couple, but ulltimately, The Executioner is about a family’s strength and love despite an unending tragedy.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

A Baby for My Millionaire Boss – Cassandra Zara & Annie Young

baby for my millionaire boss

A Baby For My Millionaire Boss

84p.

1 ⭐

This is the first part of what I believe is going to be a five-part story.

Jane just got her first job at a large financial firm in NYC. Her second day there, she finds a big discrepancy in some stock info, saves the company tons of money, bada-bing, she gets a huge promotion to work directly under the company’s CEO and company heartthrob, Carter Winthrow.

The book is short and seems to be more of a set-up for the rest of the story, so the plot isn’t quite evolved, but then neither are the characters. Instead, we get what seems to be the delusions of an immature woman that lacks common sense. Within the first few weeks of working for Carter, she has determined that she wants his baby, completely based on her physical attraction to him. She finds him hot and successful, he looks at her boobs every once in a while, and that makes him the perfect baby daddy candidate. Get that? Yeah, me neither.

There’s no sexual chemistry between Carter and Jane. It comes off as one-sided, but Jane doesn’t care! She’s certain that showing him her goods enough times will get her hand in his pants (like foot in the door… get it?), so to speak. And since this book is entirely lacking in reality, it actually works.

*SPOILER* He’s supposed to take her to dinner to congratulate her for doing a good job, but instead she wears a slutty dress and they bang on his desk. Andddddd, she talks him out of pulling out and tells him to “deposit his seed directly into her soil”. *Slow claps* Way to walk right into that one, Carter. Dinner gets canceled, she goes home expecting to hear from him, but doesn’t. But it’s ok, this excuse and that, they’ll make a beautiful couple and have a darling baby and live HEA. When she finally sees him again on Monday, surpriseeeeee, he’s standoffish and dismissive towards her. The fact that his behavior after avoiding her for three days doesn’t shock her goes to show that she has no footing in reality.

As flawed as Jane is, Carter seems to be just as bad, if not worse. We don’t have insight to his thoughts, but his behavior speaks volumes. After meeting Jane, he still gets with several other women. Jane doesn’t mind, because she’s cukoo, and Carter doesn’t even see Jane as attractive. This is a romance, right?
He’s supposed to be an upstanding guy and wonderful boss, but the moment he sleeps with his employee, he avoids her and treats her like a jerk. Wow, what a hero.

If the authors didn’t separate the book into so many parts, I would be required to finish it, and who knows, maybe it’s redeemable once you get further into the book. I won’t be finding out, though.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Teacher’s Bet – Ruby Steele

teacher's bet

Teacher’s Bet

3 ⭐⭐⭐

Olivia is a 21 year-old college student who goes to Las Vegas with the intention of losing her virginity. While at the high-bets-only black jack table she meets Aiden, the sexiest man she’s ever seen. After flirting for a while, they make a bet, go back to Aiden’s room and she loses her virginity… she thinks. She can’t remember. About a month later, she’s back at Stanford (over 8 hours away from Vegas, mind you) and low and behold, one of her new professors is none other than sexy Aiden.

The writing was decent, Olivia was more tolerable than I expected her to be, and Aiden wasn’t as apprehensive about a relationship like most heroes, but some of the cliches got on my nerves. Aiden isn’t only a professor but a super-rich heir to some internet fortune company or something, I don’t know, it was really vague. Point is, does every hero have to be blindingly rich? It wasn’t necessary. It actually took away from any potential conflict. Aiden teaches for fun, not because he needs to, so if he wants to get into a serious relationship with a student, he won’t be homeless while waiting for a new position. Or, hell, he doesn’t have to work at all if he doesn’t want to. There’s little to no tension when the reader knows that the problem can be very easily resolved.

I get that it’s a novella and not very long, but the characters were still underdeveloped. Olivia and Aiden were perfect at everything. Both supermodel gorgeous, but they wore glasses and liked math so they were nerds? That’s pretty much all I know about them.

If I’m going to peek into a neighbor’s window, it certainly won’t be that of the adorable, successful couple that hold hands every time I see them. I’ll take the couple that makes a scene and causes a lot of noise at night, thankyouverymuch. Aiden and Olivia don’t have to love-hate each other, but I would like some form of a clash or struggle. It just wasn’t there.

Teacher’s Bet is the typical Taboo teacher gets with student story. It’s decent, you’ll probably enjoy yourself, but it’s not the best teacher-student story out there.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review

Wine and Die – Rachel Hargrove

wine and die

Wine and Die

3 ⭐⭐⭐

Wine and Die is a follow-up to Hargrove’s debut novel, One Way Ticket, but can be read as a standalone.

Jules is supposed to be on leave after her recent run-in with a serial killer on a train. She goes to Napa to celebrate her friend’s bachelorette party. While at a vineyard, Jules discovers the body of a highly loathed Wine Review blogger floating in a vat of wine. Needless to say, she’s no longer on vacation after that.

I’m not really sure of the timeline of the story. It’s vague chapter to chapter how much time has passed and it was confusing at times. *Spoiler* I.E. After Ashley is poisoned and goes into a coma, it doesn’t seem like much time has gone by before she’s out without any explanation. Side note: where was Ashley’s fiancée? It was her bachelorette weekend, she gets poisoned, goes into a coma, almost died, yet not one word is mentioned about contacting the nameless guy or him showing up to the hospital. Granted, it’s not the main storyline, but it was a pretty significant circumstance.

The killer’s reveal was anticlimactic and unsurprising. Not everyone will catch onto the perpetrator’s identity, but if you read enough mysteries and thrillers, it might be obvious to you.

The book isn’t as violent as the first book, but it’s still pretty descriptive, so keep that in mind. Wine and Die is a shorter read, so it moves fast and is hard to put down.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Tangled in Sin – Lavinia Kent

tangled in sin

Tangled in Sin

262p.

4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Tangled in Sin is the fifth book in the Bound in Determined series, but it can be read as a standalone.

I’m not sure of the period, but it’s listed as a Regency Romance/Erotica, so I garner the book takes place in Regency London. (Try not to be too impressed by my detective skills, please).

Cynthia is abducted in a case of mistaken identity, taken to an abandoned cottage and left there. Her childhood crush, James, comes to the rescue, but they both get stranded for a few days due to a heavy storm. The sexual tension is palpable, so of course stuff happens and James informs Sin (Cynthia’s childhood nickname) that now they must wed to prevent scandal. Sin finds herself drawn to James, but unable to stand how demanding and controlling he is, so she refuses his “proposal”. James isn’t quite sure of his feelings for Sin, but is finding the idea of being married to her more and more appealing.

The plot is pretty predictable, but the heroine is enchanting. I groaned at the “innocent virgin learns the ropes from well-sexed man” theme, but Sin manages to make it her own. She’s resistant to James’ domineering ways and doesn’t allow him to get away with many, not all, but many of his offenses. Sin’s evolution from innocently naive virgin to (at times) foul-mouthed vixen is too fast to be believable, but I’d rather her change too quickly than not at all.

James, well, I’m not sure how I feel about James. I’m not a Regency Era historian or anything, but I’m pretty sure the way he spoke to Sin doesn’t fit how gentlemen would speak to ladies at that time. Butttt, it is an erotica, so I think the dirty talk is a tad necessary. Just be forewarned that if you’re a stickler for historical accuracy, Tangled in Sin might not be your cuppa.
Back to James, he didn’t seem to really get Sin. I felt like everything she said to him was heard as well as my two-year old hears me when I tell him to clean up his damn toys. Goes in one ear and out the other. I guess that is true to life, but I appreciate my romance heroes to be a little more… perfect? I at least want them to say “I love you” back when it is said to them. C’mon, James, grow some balls….

I wouldn’t consider Tangled in Sin to have a cliffhanger, but the HEA isn’t quite complete by the end. There is a side story concerning James’ sister, Jasmine, that is quite intriguing but goes unexplained, so I suppose there will be another book for her and the rest of Sin’s and James’ story will be satisfied then.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Last Hookup – Luke Steele

last hookup

Last Hookup

77p.

4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

NYC Real Estate developer, Clark, is visiting New Orleans to pursue new deals, properties, etc. He runs into a half-Creole, dark haired beauty named Sara his first night there and his interests (read: libido) are perked. What begins as a one-night stand evolves into something more. Only problem is they don’t quite communicate with each other that they actually have feelings and want more than just “wam, bam, thank you ma’am”.

The banter between Sara and Clark is funny and entertaining. She’s a smartass, he’s goofy and charming. Even at their most insecure they seem natural with one another. The sex is caliente, but more importantly, they’re cute together.

If you’re ever looking for a well-written, quick, steamy read told from the man’s perspective with an HEA, look no further than Luke Steele.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.