Dark Side of the Sun – Addison Cain

DARK SIDE OF THE SUN

Dark Side of the Sun

262p.

4.5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Arabella, widowed Baroness of Iliffe, has just moved into the dilapidated and long abandoned Crescent Barrows in an attempt to hide from her dead husband’s cousin/new Baron of Iliffe, William, who has been threatening her since he took the title. Gregory Harrow is owner of Crescent Barrows and now Arabella’s landlord. They’re at odds with each other from the moment they meet.

Gregory, born a bastard, has always been bitter and resentful of the ton, blaming London’s judgmental and gossipy ways for the death of his mother. Despite acquiring his own fortune, although through unconventional means, he manipulates and mocks everyone he meets for his own benefit. Arabella loathes his behavior and has no problem telling him so. Gregory insults Arabella’s lack of tact and “wild ways” (IE riding a horse astride), but secretly he loves it. It doesn’t take long for him to show her, though.

Arabella becomes friendly with the Jenkins family and finds herself the object of the son’s, Edmund, affection. Out of jealousy and an attempt to get her attention, Gregory feigns affection for the sister, Lilly. That doesn’t stop A&G from having secret trysts every evening, though. Arabella’s distress and fear of William becomes evident to Gregory, who then insists on “solving” her problems and in turn she will become his wife. Arabella doesn’t take the deal… but that doesn’t stop Gregory from doing it anyway.

Arabella is incredibly easy to sympathize with. She’s suffered unimaginable horrors at the hands of her husband, but she doesn’t let that hold her back. She’s honest and compassionate and strong. Really, an ideal heroine.

Gregory…. well, on the surface he was acerbic and mean, but his love for Arabella went deep. He always acted with a plan, always knew what he was doing, and it was always for Arabella. He’s not poetic or even nice, but his love for Arabella becomes his reason for everything, even life.

*Spoiler* The ending kept me from giving the book 5 stars. It was SUDDEN. The scene where Gregory revealed his love for Arabella wasn’t very descriptive or involved. Edmund’s reaction isn’t even mentioned, and I thought he would have at least a little objection. Also, I wanted some interaction between the H/h after they married, but instead we get a quick description of the impromptu wedding and a one-page epilogue told like a fairytale. It was disappointing.

Virgin Bride – B.B. Hamel

virgin bride

Virgin Bride

4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Griffin is a young, single dad to 18 month old Lacey. At his partner’s suggestion, he hires twenty-four year old Erin as her nanny to allow him to put more time in at work. Little does Griffin know, Erin isn’t actually an experienced nanny, but rather there to spy for her father, Griffin’s business rival. Feelings quickly develop between the two and it doesn’t take long before Erin realizes that she’s been duped into thinking horrible, yet untruthful things about Griffin and that he’s really a great father and good man. Now she must decide whose side she’s really on.

The plot moves at a steady pace, making it difficult to put down. There’s a little action, some suspense, and lots of drama. Griffin and Erin’s chemistry is so heavy it practically jumps off the page at you.

Erin’s sweet and innocent, but sometimes that borders on doormat territory. She lets her father and brother belittle and berate her constantly and continues to do right by them. It’s little surprise that when she finally upsets Griffin, she truly embodies her insecurities while pleading and begging him for another chance.

Griffin becomes understandably disappointed and angry with Erin at one point, but he takes it a little far. He discusses it over with her, decides to give her a chance to “earn his forgiveness” (hint: it’s sex stuff), claims she has it, yet not long after he’s right back to doubting and distrusting her. It makes sense for him to be wary that she may be playing him again, but he gives her very little opportunity to convince him before the accusation is out of his mouth and he’s pushing her away. Griffin could really benefit if only he weren’t so prideful at times, and I would’ve loved for Erin to have developed a backbone much earlier. They aren’t the best at communicating, but when they do, at least it’s mature.

I’m not a fan of the title, Virgin Bride, however. Halfway through the book I’m wondering why a bride is mentioned at all. It’s misleading and doesn’t fit the theme of the story very well. It’s not an awful title, but certainly something else would’ve fit better.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Slow Burn – Roxie Noir

slow burn

Slow Burn

391p.

3.5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Gabriel is a disgraced former Secret Service Agent with a minor drinking problem and major problem with womanizing. In order to redeem himself, he takes a job protecting Ruby, the divorced daughter of a very religious senator. Ruby has been getting anonymous letters sent to her father’s house, apparently threatening her. Not too much from the letters is ever revealed because according to her father, Ruby is too delicate to read them. Their professional relationship slowly evolves into a physical one, so now there are bigger problems than her stalker: her father.

The characters are super likable. Almost too likeable. Gabriel has his vices: booze and chicks. Ruby doesn’t seem to have any flaws, probably because she’s not allowed to be imperfect in front of her family. I would’ve appreciated seeing more of the real Ruby, it may have made it easier to relate to her. But with both the h/H being so “good” and agreeable, the tension and anxiety were low. Without that anticipation, I was left having to convince myself to finish the book.

The plot was unusual and the religious aspect was interesting. Reading how Ruby was treated by her family was frustrating and the resolution left it feeling unfinished. The stalker side story was predictable to me. *Minor Spoiler* When an unnecessary character is repeatedly mentioned but rarely seen, it’s usually a tipoff that they’ll come into play down the line.

The book’s pretty good, but nothing I would reread.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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 mean, calling him “bro” in the midst of “getting it”… it was more ‘hood and less erotic. Just strange to me.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Alpha Bodyguard – Luke Steel

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