The Perfect Illusion – Winter Renshaw

the perfect illusion

The Perfect Illusion

by Winter Renshaw

408p. (with additional book, so about 202p.)

Synopsis via Goodreads:

It’s only pretend…

And it’s only three months.

I’m in the midst of scrawling “I QUIT!” onto his fancy cardstock letterhead when my boss corners me. He needs a favor, he says. And then he asks how well I can act …

Hudson Rutherford needs a fiancée.

With his old-moneyed parents forcing him to marry some bratty hotel heiress and his hedonistic, playboy lifestyle at stake, the only way to get them to back off is to make them think he’s truly, madly, deeply in love … with me—his third personal assistant this year.

But I can hardly stand working for him as it is.

Hudson is crazy hot and well-aware. He’s arrogant, spoiled, and silver-spooned. He checks me out when he thinks I’m not looking, and his life is a revolving door of beautiful women. Plus, he can’t even pronounce my name correctly—how’s he going to convince his family he’s in love with me?!

I’m seconds from giving him a resounding “no” when he flashes his signature dimpled smirk and gives me a number that happens to contain a whole mess of zeroes …

On second thought, I think I can swallow my pride.

But, oh baby, there’s one thing I haven’t told him, one teensy-tiny thing that could make this just a hair complicated …

Here’s hoping this entire thing doesn’t explode in our faces.

My Review:

4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Mari is executive assistant to talented architect, Hudson, a man she hates beyond words. One day she finally works up the guts to quit her job and tell Hudson what she really thinks of him. Hudson, however, doesn’t react quite how Mari expected. Rather than getting angry, he actually offers her another job offer: legally marry him to prevent an arranged marriage by his parents… for $5 million.

There’s no insta-love in this story, which appeals to my realistic side, but it’s a little overdone. This is purely a business arrangement and it shows, so much that I didn’t really feel an emotional connection between Mari and Hudson. We gather from Hudson’s POV that he’s attracted to Mari, but there’s no tension and very little build-up. When they finally develop a physical relationship, you get more of an over-bubbling pot of sauce than the explosive fireworks you’re hoping for. Once their first dalliance is over, it appears as if they go a prolonged period of time without any more intimacy, nor do they even speak about what happened, leaving the reader in a limbo as to the progression of their relationship.

Early in the book, Mari discloses to the reader that she is pregnant by a one-night stand she had before becoming involved with Hudson. Of course, in order to not jeopardize losing the $5 million agreement she has with Hudson, she does not tell him about the pregnancy. So it’s obvious early on that a big, if not the big conflict of the story involves this secret. There is a twist regarding the baby’s father, but knowing from the third page what the downfall of their relationship will be prevents some of the excitement. The anxiety is there that as a reader, you’re aware that Mari is making a stupid decision and you have to read and just wait to find out the outcome is, making it somewhat anticlimactic.

Mari and Hudson are well-developed and convincing characters. Hudson first appears like a demeaning, arrogant jerk, and he is, but his past explains how he became that way. As the story evolves, it becomes obvious that that behavior is more of a false exterior to keep himself distanced from love and emotions. Mari is a strong, stubborn woman, but still has her insecurities and can sometimes be too stubborn. The secondary characters aren’t as multi-dimensional, which is understandable, considering we only witness them through the eyes of the H and h. I did appreciate that Hudson’s parents weren’t the stereotypical rich parents concerned more with image than the happiness of their son. That role has become way too commonplace in rich boy, poor girl romances.

The ending was incredibly abrupt. I can’t explain too much without giving spoilers, but let’s just say that if there was ever a time for just a little more dialogue between the main characters, this ending would’ve been it. If the author had written maybe two more pages, the conclusion would’ve been more satisfying and concise.
The Perfect Illusion is a sweet, entertaining romance with mild sexiness. No cheating or triggers involved.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Wet – Chance Carter

wet

Wet by Chance Carter

617 p. (ends at 52%, so the actual story is more like 320p)

2 ⭐⭐

The story has potential, but too many mistakes kept jumping out at me and the flow is very stilted.

First, the proofreader isn’t doing his/her job. The format made it difficult to understand who was talking. You’re supposed to separate dialogue by the speaker. Instead, there were full paragraphs that would go back and forth between characters, and it took me having to reread it to be sure who was speaking. There were several times when the wrong word was used or even the wrong character was being referenced. I.E. towards the end of the book, a chapter from Sandra’s POV has her freaking out that Matt has the address to “Sandra’s house” when it should’ve read “Meadow’s”.

And then… So! Many! Exclamation! Points! Oh my!! I don’t mind the punctuation, but it was used repeatedly when it wasn’t necessary and it became distracting and annoying.

The overall writing style – it didn’t flow very well and a lot of the language was forced and unnatural. I get that the author is male and writing most of the book from a female perspective, but I felt like the constant references to Meadow putting on makeup, checking her hair, being afraid to go out in public without being perfect, etc, weren’t being used as a genuine character trait but more to convince us that he knows what he’s talking about.

And for the story. The H/h know each other for literally, 24 hours, before they’re separated for most of the book. And half of those hours, they hated each other. I know they had a deep connection for that one day, but they don’t reunite until almost the very end of the book. Other than sexual attraction and a little knowledge of each other, I had a hard time believing that they were actually in love. At least they have hot sex.

Seven Days With Her Boss – Penny Wylder

seven days with her boss

103p.

3 ⭐⭐⭐

I finished this four days ago and had to read the synopsis just now to remind myself what the book was about. It’s ok, but nothing really memorable.
Vivian is weaker than I’d like. People can be submissive, yet strong at the same time. It frustrates me when weak characters are branded “submissive” and that makes it ok.
Kodiche was hard to connect with. Anytime you get the chance to learn more about him, he runs away. If Vivian so much as breathed the wrong way, he would go from sweet as pie to the douchiest douche in 0.2 seconds. And he was barely called out on it.

*Sorta Spoiler*
And the ending… phew. Lightning speed conclusion. Everything gets wrapped up in three pages. Like, EVERYTHING. No epilogue needed thanks to those four lovely minutes of Vivian sitting on Kodiche’s lap resolving all of their issues, no discussion needed. The only thing missing was a surprise pregnancy. Praise the lawd for that.

Ghostface Killer – M. Never

ghostface killer

260p.

5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

In the prologue, we’re introduced to Stevie, a 14 y/o homeless girl that gets caught by the wrong guy for picking his pocket. She gets handed over to an undercover cop that sees an opportunity to take advantage of her. Fair warning, the prologue is rife with possible triggers (I’ll list at the end of the review), so beware if some of those things aren’t for you. It’s hard to read, but I found it to be necessary in understanding Stevie’s personality and demeanor.

The book jumps ten years in the future. Stevie is a hired killer for an organized crime family, specifically the family of the man that “rescued” her from her ordeal in the prologue, Benny. We quickly find out that Benny is dead and that his sister, Regina, is now in charge and sending Stevie to get revenge on those that killed him. One day, Regina calls Stevie in to give her her new assignment: kill a man in Colorado. Why? Well, because Regina said so shut up and do the job, Stevie. Stevie lands in Colorado and finds her target, Baz. A wrench is thrown into the hit plan when, ut ohhhh, Stevie really likes Baz. So much so that she fails at the job.

The book is full of exciting action, sexy sex, and best of all, emotional… emotions. The characters are original and multi-dimensional. And a heroine that doesn’t depend on a man for survival? A hero that lets the heroine take charge? Yes, please.
Stevie is easy to love despite her history of ya know, killing lots of people. She’s strong and resilient and unwilling to take anyone’s crap. Well, except for Benny’s. But the real highlight of the book is Baz. He’s sexy and powerful and lovable, but he’s not your typical alpha-male that searches out damsels to rescue. It takes time for Baz to admit to Stevie that he has mental illness that makes everyday activities that most find normal to be unbearable for him. He’s imperfect, and vulnerable, and tortured. I wanted to jump into the book at several points to hug him, or touch his sexiness, and sometimes even to slap him in the face. He was so real and I loved that.

The book’s twist wasn’t a big surprise for me, and it ended much faster than I would have liked, but it was still satisfying. My only complaint with Ghostface Killer is that early in the book, Stevie mentions how she has a job at a cafe to make her feel more normal, etc. But it never comes up again. Nothing about her having to take time off to go kill a guy, or getting fired for taking off too much time to go kill a guy. It’s really insignificant but my neurotic mind kept wondering, “wait, so is she not a barista?”

If triggers such as: forced sex, sexual assault, pedophilia, sexual assault on a child and sexual manipulation are a big deal for you, maybe avoid this one. I, however, think it’s a risk worth taking.

Dirty Daughter – JB Duvane

dirty daughter

170 pages, about

2 ⭐⭐

Jeez, I certainly felt dirty reading this book, but not in a good way.

*Possibly Spoilers throughout*

18 y/o Emily has just graduated from boarding school and is now home to live with her abusive and drug/alcohol addicted mother, Amelia. Amelia is a highly successful…. something, no clue of her profession… living in a ginormous house all alone. Despite the large space, they still manage to run into one another and get into nasty fights.
Not long after her return, her mother *Spoiler* dies and Emily is left alone and drowning in her unexpected responsibilities. In comes Max, Amelia’s long time psychiatrist/lover. Max’s introduction into the story is really where the trouble begins.

First, the whole representation of the therapist/client relationship is poorly researched and inaccurate. Not just because Max is a creep, and he is super creepy, but since I had so many other problems with the story, I just overlooked those flaws when deciding my rating. Just be aware that they’re there.

So, Emily has been in love with Max for three years, specifically since she witnessed him having sex with her mother. He “finished” whilst still keeping deep eye contact with her, a 15 year old girl. I guess you can chalk that up to, “well, maybe he’s an exhibitionist and would’ve maintained eye-contact with anyone that caught him mid-bang session”. Ah, but no, Max is quite clear in his POV that he was attracted to Emily at the time, even going so far as to say that basically he would be cool tapping her at that age.

But the ick just keeps on a’coming. That scene where Max is seen with Amelia comes up as a flashback about…. 7 times? I didn’t count, but it’s a lot. Too much, actually. I’m supposed to be reading about Max’s relationship with Emily, and just keep getting his professions of love for Amelia and attraction to Emily whenever she acts like a child. Shouldn’t that turn him off?
And then! He. Makes. Comparisons. “She’s even better than her mother,” he thinks about Emily as she’s loving on his equipment. Come onnnnnn. I understand the book is supposed to be erotic and romantic, but stuff like that just comes off as unhealthy.

And the characters are really hard to like. Emily is immature and bratty, Max is a manipulative predator (more on that later). Emily is young, so her behavior is somewhat expected; she’s desperate for love and Max is a good point of interest. In reality, she would go to a therapist, one that doesn’t want to sleep with her, and come to realize that she’s alone and scared and attaching herself to Max for the wrong reasons. Instead, Max takes advantage of her weakness for him. And apparently she’s not the first. The descriptions are vague and little information is provided, but from what I could gather, Max is a dominant, and despite his relationship with Amelia, he needed a submissive to control. So, since Amelia was not into that, he would find patients with daddy and sex-abuse issues, keep them drugged, put them in his basement and rape them. Literally. And once he tired of them, he would send them to a mental hospital and recommend they be kept in isolation.

Max isn’t a hero, he’s a monster.

In the end, Emily has declared her love for Max. And Max has declared his love for Amelia, but hey, maybe he could learn to love Emily because he really cares for her and would love to do naughty things to her body. And Emily friggin accepts this. Gahhhhh.
With a storyline like this being labeled as romantic, you would expect some sort of resolution to all of this, right? Well, there’s not. They’ve told each other *some* of their secrets, but he still doesn’t love Emily and she’s still immature and desperate to please him. There’s almost no growth for the characters, so I find it hard to believe that anything would improve. Well, at least he won’t have to go looking for another girl, put her into a zombie-like state and make her his sex slave. That’s… progress, right??

Trigger warnings: references of incest, sexual abuse, sex between hero and women not the h, a scene that could be construed as cheating, and veiled acknowledgements of pedophilia.

Virgin’s Daddy – B.B. Hamel

virgin's daddy

3 ⭐⭐⭐

It was ok.

Virgin’s Daddy follows your typical BB Hamel storyline: young virgin falls for a much older and experienced man, there’s a significant amount of family drama, sexy intimate scenes, and heartless villains.
Sadie is old money. Gavin is new money. Sadie falls for Gavin, whom her family finds to be well-beneath their status. Repeated episodes of Sadie sneaking out to see Gavin, then being punished and confined to her room for ridiculously long periods of time. I felt like over half the story was focused on Sadie sneaking out just to return home with barely a fight. I wanted her to fight, to not give a crap about losing her family’s money, but in the end she was too young and scared to risk it. I would’ve enjoyed the story more if there was more action than Sadie repeatedly sneaking out of the house like a typical teenager.
The epilogue was less satisfying than I’d hoped for, but it was good enough.
In the end, the book was good, but nothing really stood out to keep me from not confusing it with similar books.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Single Dad Boss – Luke Steel

single dad boss

1327 locations

4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Another sweet and sexy novella by Luke Steel.
Cedric is single dad to 3 y/o Tobi. His long-time nanny recently retired, leaving him overwhelmed and without help, leading to his slacking at work. His business partner, Ted, calls him out on his distraction… aka caring for his daughter. As a solution, Ted hires his youngest daughter, Dalia, to act as nanny for Tobi.

Cedric and Dalia are instantly drawn to one another and their chemistry is “hand-fanning-my-face” heavy. I felt like Luke Steel’s last story or two were a bit tame for him, but SDB broke that pattern. Cedric is just, so dirty, but in such a good way.
Cedric and Dalia are layered characters, and their love is realistic. It’s so easy for shorter stories to result to instalove and unbelievable situations in order to explain their characters’ emotions, but Steel doesn’t do that. Cedric’s and Dalia’s relationship is intense, but also gradual, and I rooted for them the whole time.

If you’re looking for a super-sexy book that will leave you feeling lighter and happier, then Single Dad Boss is your book.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Shipwrecked and Horny – Gabi Moore

shipwrecked-and-horny.jpg

406p.

4.5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

It’s a bit difficult to review this book thoroughly without giving some spoilers, but I’m going to give it a shot.
Anthony and Ellie are recently engaged, so they chose to go on a cruise as a last “hurrah”. Within just a few pages I could feel a vibe that Ellie and Anthony, well, they aren’t really happy together. The POV switches between them, so there’s a good balance and explanation for why they are each frustrated with the other.

But wait a second. Now we’re getting a POV from Todd, a younger man Ellie just met on the deck. At this point, I’m not sure where the story is going or who I should root for. Then Charlie comes along, and now we’re getting chapters in her POV, too. I couldn’t stop reading, I had to know why it was so important we get the perspectives of four different characters and soon enough, I understood the significance. And I was really happy when it finally clicked: this isn’t your run-of-the-mill predictable push-and-pull romance. And I loooooove that. S&H is incredibly exciting and unique, and it flew well beyond my expectations.

Unfortunately, as much as I loved the story, I do have one complaint: the title. The story is really special and I feel like “Shipwrecked and Horny” just cheapens the experience. Not because horny’s an offensive word or anything, but because it gives the impression that what you should expect is a dirty, erotic story, but in the end, you end up getting so much more. Toss-away title or not, I highly recommend the book.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

While They Watch – Sosie Frost & Lana Grayson

while they watch

5684 locations

2 ⭐⭐

I wanted to stop reading While They Watch several times, but I kept convincing myself, “hey, maybe they’ll turn this around and so&so will be redeemed”. Nope. A few things corrected themselves, but the majority let me down.

For starters, the relationships in this book just confused me. What was the deal with Anthony and Simone? Ex-lovers, fine. They’re both kinky. Whatever. But *Spoilers* she held his *noodle* and inserted it into Morgan’s *pot* (I’m really limited with metaphors here and can’t use dirty words, so, you get what you get). And he would “stare into Simone’s eyes” at times while being intimate with Morgan. I’m not really a jealous person, but if my guy was in the middle of making love to me while staring at/speaking with another person, woman or man, I would be furious. Even if an attraction for BDSM is the humiliation aspect, ok, understood, but don’t try to convince me they’re in love while this is going on.

Morgan and Anthony were drawn to each other sexually. That was understandable and well-explained, but other than sex, not much seemed to bring them together. He liked that she was musically talented, even if he didn’t respect her lack of ambition. She liked that he was powerful and commanding. How those few things resulted in a passionate love boggles my mind.

Most importantly though, Morgan was portrayed as desperate for affection and beyond realistically naive, and everyone around her abused those characteristics without any consequences.
I’m all for dark, intense romances. I’m ok with dubious consent. I’m ok with multiple partners. What I’m not ok with is a man in his mid-thirties, with butt-loads of sexual experience, completely exploiting the naivety of a twenty-three year old virgin.
*Spoilers*
Dominant/submissive relationships seem to thrive with trust, and Anthony sucked at fulfilling his end. He felt betrayed when Morgan hid her virginity from him. Fine, maybe she should’ve told him from the beginning, but at least she told him before it went too far. And ya know, it’s 100% her secret to tell, no one else’s… not even her controlling dom has any right to share that information without her consent. Did that stop him from telling his ex-girlfriend (who just annoyed the hell out of me with how consistently rude she was to Morgan)? No. It didn’t even stop him from telling an ENTIRE SEX CLUB FULL OF STRANGERS. He manipulated Morgan into attending Duchess. She anticipated sex, but clearly in a bed and in private. For him to put her on a table, underneath a spotlight (literally, a spotlight, like a friggin stage), and whisper to her after everyone is already watching that “hey, I wanna take your virginity right here in front of all of these strangers and you can totally safe word and it won’t happen, but it makes total sense for you to fear refusing me because you’re afraid I’ll reject you for doing so and then you could lose me”. H-How? Words eluded me at this point. Exhibitionism usually turns me on. So does rough play. And reluctance/resistance at times, if done correctly, does too. But Anthony went too far and just took absolute advantage of Morgan and exploited her vulnerabilities to the point that it turned my stomach.

The ending was abrupt and unsatisfying, but I expect there will be another book in the series that will refer to Morgan and Anthony as secondary/tertiary characters, so I’ll give the authors the benefit of the doubt for those reasons. Whether I’ll read any follow-up books remains TBD.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Match Made – Amélie S. Duncan

match made

300p.

3 ⭐⭐⭐

Match Made is a standalone spin-off of another Amelie Duncan novel, Match Fit. There are some recurring characters, but their history is explained well enough to prevent confusion.

Knox and Gemma run into one another a year after they went on a horrible date. Apparently, Knox chose to ask the waitress for her number… while at dinner with Gemma… in front of Gemma. Needless to say, I was happy to know that she immediately ditched him.
Gemma has just broken up with her live-in boyfriend who emptied her bank account, so she’s temporarily homeless. Knox insists she come home with him until she gets back on her feet. Eventually, they call a truce, and Gemma allows Knox to help her. Gemma moves in, and they keep it flirtatious, yet platonic to avoid messiness.

The story was good, but predictable. Lust-hate turns to friendship, which turns to FWB, turns to serious relationship, hero and heroine fail to communicate out of fear and insecurities, dramatic separation, and finally, a HEA. It’s an entertaining romance with little opportunity for boredom.

It doesn’t hurt that Knox has a fabulously filthy mouth. If you want an alpha playboy that talks a lot, you will be happy with Match Made.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.