I Dare You (Dare, #1)

I Dare You by Shantel Tessier

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Plenty of twists, but it didn’t quite do it for me

This was my second read by this author, the first being Slaughter. I LOVED Slaughter, and was fully expecting to love this as well. But then I didn’t. And I’m torn up about it.
I don’t mess with incomplete series on purpose, so I held off on this series. The third book is due out two days from now, so I dove in with the giddiness of a child at Christmas, just KNOWING I was going to love it. Maybe it’s my fault for having too much anticipation? Who knows.
There were a lot of surprises, twists, and secrets in this book, and I loved that. It kept it interesting. However I did not buy into the dare game. It seemed juvenile for the tasks they were undertaking, and made me cringe a bit. It took me out of the story.
I also didn’t understand the perception of the other boys (I can’t call 18-year olds “men”) that Cole, specifically, was to be followed. Why? What was so special about him that set him apart from the others? I didn’t get it.
I didn’t care for Cole’s character. He had an immature inability to deal with emotions, even for being 18. And his drive to “break” Austin and hurt her seemed nonsensical to me. Even once he knew that she and her father didn’t even care about each other he still persisted. It was obviously not about hurting her father. He would have been doing her father a FAVOR by making her disappear, or chasing her out of town.
I am so bummed. I was fully expecting to love this book to no end. And again, the twists and surprises kept coming so that was great. But other than that I can’t quite get behind it.

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What do you do when the devil has you in his sights?

You show him that you can play his game.

Austin Lowes is new to town. She’s running from a mom who hates her to her dad who cares nothing about her. Only a few months and she will be free, or at least, that’s what she hopes … until she meets him.

Cole Reynolds is the devil disguised as a man. He wants her fear, he wants her blood, and he wants her soul.

Just a little game, he says, I dare you.

Will Austin survive him, or will she lose herself and the game?

Secrets are revealed and justice will be served, but at what cost?

Who survives and who doesn’t?

Due to mature content and themes this book is recommended for readers aged eighteen and over. I Dare You is a full-length novel, 123k words. The first in the Dare Series, but can be read as a standalone.

Take Me With You

Take Me With You

Take Me With You by Nina G. Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A dark and twisty story of two broken people

That was dark. That was a dark read. There was a part around the midpoint that nearly caused me to put it down. And I have read some dark stuff without quitting. So, that tells you what you’re getting into with this book. Consider that your warning.
That said, I’d characterize this book as more of a dark suspense than anything else. It was an interesting character study of two broken people coming together- one who hid in the dark and embraced his differences, and one who hid in the light by pretending to be something she wasn’t. Neither really fit where those around them wanted them to be.
There was suspense in this book. Action. Drama. But most of all, it was about the characters. Their reactions to one another, and how they made each other feel.
If you are able to tolerate dark reads, and are in the mood for a drama-heavy suspense read with complex characters, then I do recommend this book. If you are looking for a steamy romance… keep looking.

TRIGGERS: non-consent, kidnapping, child neglect (primarily emotional), and one additional, less common trigger that I won’t list here because it is a spoiler. That said, if you have a trigger not listed you may want to check out some of the reviews that are marked with spoiler warnings as surely one of them will reveal it.

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I watch.
I study.
I prowl.
I hunt.

I always go in with a plan. A set of rules for myself. I don’t take unnecessary risks. That’s how I’ve been able to evade capture all these years.

But there’s something about this girl that is different than the others. When I finally meet her, the rules become a blur. And I break the most important one of all—I take her with me.


It’s just my imagination—that feeling of being watched. That those icy eyes— a vivid turquoise with a distinct golden fleck—aren’t watching me.

It’s just stress. I am the person everyone relies on. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been feeling so content with my life lately. Why I dream those eyes belong to someone who can tear me away from all of my responsibilities.

But these are just shameful fantasies, never meant to breach reality.

Then one night, the dream comes true, only it’s a horrific nightmare.

Now, I only have one task: survival.

Standalone novel. 124k words.
Trigger warning: If you need one, this is not the book for you.



Egomaniac by Vi Keeland

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Easy, breezy read

I primarily read romantic suspense and/or dark romance, but every now and then I really need a contemporary romance to give myself a break from the heavy reads and cleanse my palate. And this worked great for that.
I liked the cocky/arrogant attitude (but was it REALLY arrogance, or something else entirely?) of Drew against the wholesome midwestern ways of Emerie. He was hardened, throwing himself into work and keeping everyone (especially women) at arms’ length. Or further.
She was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, fresh into town from Oklahoma and clueless about NYC. She was, and had been for the past three years, in unrequited love hell. Throw them together and shake for at least 30 seconds.
I enjoyed the slow burn of this book. Oh, but slow burns are so satisfying. Both were reluctant to admit to feelings for different reasons. Or, well, the same reason but manifested in two ways. After they finally pull their heads out of their rear ends and start acting like the full-grown adults that they are we finally get somewhere! And that somewhere is an extended ticket to pound town. My favorite book destination.
I thought the incorporation of the emotional elements was done well with this book. I really enjoyed the scenes with Beck. The reveal of the secret that Drew initially keeps from Emerie about it tugged at my heart. Hard. I can’t imagine being in that situation. No wonder he had hangups about women after that whole situation.
All in all, I got what I needed from this read. I wanted a contemporary romance with an HEA, a hot, arrogant hero, and smoking smexy times. Check!
This wasn’t my favorite from this author, but that’s only because she has some other really dynamite books that I happen to like more. I do recommend this one for a contemporary romance read.

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A new standalone novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author, Vi Keeland.

The night I met Drew Jagger, he’d just broken into my new Park Avenue office.
I dialed 9-1-1 before proceeding to attack him with my fancy new Krav Maga skills.
He quickly restrained me, then chuckled, finding my attempted assault amusing.

Of course, my intruder had to be arrogant.
Only, turned out, he wasn’t an intruder at all.

Drew was the rightful occupant of my new office. He’d been on vacation while his posh space was renovated.
Which was how a scammer got away with leasing me office space that wasn’t really available for rent.
I was swindled out of ten grand.

The next day, after hours at the police station, Drew took pity on me and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. In exchange for answering his phones while his secretary was out, he’d let me stay until I found a new place.
I probably should have acted grateful and kept my mouth shut when I overheard the advice he was spewing to his clients. But I couldn’t help giving him a piece of my mind.
I never expected my body to react every time we argued. Especially when that was all we seemed to be able to do.

The two of us were complete opposites. Drew was a bitter, angry, gorgeous-as-all-hell, destroyer of relationships. And my job was to help people save their marriages.
The only thing the two of us had in common was the space we were sharing.
And an attraction that was getting harder to deny by the day.

Vanquish (Deliver, #2)

Vanquish (Deliver, #2)

Vanquish by Pam Godwin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thankfully not as dark as the first, but still dark

This series deals with dark (as in pitch-black) subject matter. This second book details the attempted redemption of Van from the first book. In the first book he was unforgivable. Selfish. Cruel. He did incredible damage to Liv as well as over half a dozen others. Without remorse. Right at the end it seemed that, somehow, a tiny seed of a conscience had sprouted in one of the dark cracks of his soul. I was definitely intrigued, and couldn’t wait to read the second book to see how that played out.
True to form, Van struggles with his actions and feelings in this book. In the beginning he still stalks, physically and sexually abuses, manipulates, and disrespects boundaries. Given that is what he’s known his whole life, and what he was rewarded for/made to do as an adult, it makes sense. I don’t like it, but it makes sense.
Enter Amber. I thought it was pretty brilliant that the author wrote it so that, both of them profoundly damaged, they helped heal each other. Van consciously tried to help Amber whereas her helping Van was more subconscious/a side effect, but it helped all the same. It also worked because a healthy, well-adjusted individual never would have made it with Van- he simply would have been in prison. His initial actions toward Amber are shocking, and as a reader I couldn’t see how that was going to be forgiven. And quite honestly I did think the initial turn of the tide of Amber’s feelings toward Van was a little abrupt. After what he did to her in their initial (ahem) “encounter,” she softened toward him and willingly allowed it to happen again way too fast to be believable to me.
That said, clear character arcs are visible for Van, Amber, and even Liv with this book. Arguably, even for Josh. The suspense in this book isn’t due to a tangible villain, but instead the villains are the damage/mental illness of the two main characters. Usually I want an actual villain in my books, but this worked for me. I wasn’t on board with what I consider to be the physical abuse of Amber at Van’s hand, but to be fair that is a whole subculture that I don’t understand, and find completely unappealing. My being repelled by it doesn’t necessarily make it wrong. That said, if mutual consent isn’t achieved I do have a big problem with that. And, while the first time Van hauls Amber outside and punishes her he doesn’t seek consent first, the author does write about Amber’s subsequent feelings in response to it, and she is surprisingly okay with it. Again, not my cuppa and I sure don’t understand it, but hey… to each their own.
Outside of that component (which I just chose to overlook when it happened) I did enjoy the development of the trust between the main characters, and the gradual improvement in their disorders/issues. I also liked that Amber’s back story included multiple attempts at traditional medicine because that would have otherwise been my immediate reaction (“she needs a doctor, not a sadist!”). Since the author mentioned that Amber had tried that, unsuccessfully, it took that argument away. It became more of a situation where it was imperative that she do something about it, and fast, as she was an agoraphobe with no family or friends who was about to lose her home. To be dumped out onto the street in that condition with no support or hope would have been unfathomable. She never would have recovered from that. So it could be said that, as awful and misguided as Van’s initial intents/actions were, he saved Amber. And she saved him back. He was alone, and totally unable to build relationships (see his “relationship” with Liv in book one where he can’t figure out why she doesn’t love him back) until Amber came along.
All in all, this is a seriously dark read with triggers, but that’s not all it is. It doesn’t read as a book that is shocking strictly for the purpose of being shocking- there is more to it than that. And so if you can overlook those darker components I do recommend this for an interesting read about Van and Amber’s journey.
TRIGGER WARNING: non-consent, (what I consider to be) physical abuse, emotional abuse, mental and emotional illnesses, domestic abuse.

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Her life is like a prison cell.
A self-made, to-hell-with-the-free-world existence that locks from the inside.
Stop judging. Her agoraphobia doesn’t define her. It simply keeps her safe.

He belongs in a prison cell.
The 6×8, make-me-your-b*tch variety that locks from the outside.
But he’s free. To hunt. To take. To break.
And he just found a new toy.

Capturing her is the easy part. Her f*cked-up mind, however, makes him question everything he does next.
But he’s a determined bastard. If all goes his way, this will hurt like hell.

DELIVER series (HEAs with no cliffhangers – must be read in order):
Deliver #1
Vanquish #2
Disclaim #3
Devastate #4
Take #5
More to come!

Deliver (Deliver, #1)

Deliver (Deliver, #1)

Deliver by Pam Godwin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Whoa- that was completely unexpected! I had put off reading this book as I had thought it would be too much of a departure from my usual reads. I like a book with an alpha hero, and thought this would be one where the female main character is the one in control. I finally gave in to read it since I want to read the rest of the series, and didn’t want to do so without first reading the first book. And I am glad I did! My assumptions about this book were wrong.
That said, this book is very dark. Those parts are hard to stomach. However, the twists and suspense were well done, and different. In anything romance-related I rarely find anything different or unique, so that alone will impress me if/when I see it. Note that for me this came off as more of a horror novel where the main characters bond over their shared experience/situation.
I couldn’t put this book down- I had to know what was going to happen! I cared what happened to the characters. That is a mark of a good writer. And while I had an idea about a couple of the twists, I wasn’t able to figure them out entirely (which I often can, and it definitely detracts from the experience).
The writing in this book was solid. I don’t recall any instances of grammatical/spelling errors, repeated/missing words, etc. that so often plague this genre and require being overlooked.
Honestly the whole BDSM thing does absolutely nothing for me, but I still enjoyed the book due to the relationships between the characters, and the suspenseful/twisty story line. I definitely liked trying to figure out Liv’s feelings toward Van, which even she couldn’t figure out due to his inconsistent behavior. He loved her, but he also punched her in the face and threatened her life sometimes. But, no one ELSE was allowed to hurt her. Because he loved her. Because THAT made sense. Van was a whole lot of crazy and scary, but he had his moments now and then where a little humanity poked through. It just wasn’t often.
Anyway, overall I really enjoyed this book. I am not convinced I will ever re-read, but it isn’t off the table.
TRIGGERS: Oh, man- the triggers in this book! Non-consent, gratuitous dubious consent, abusive behavior, physical abuse, domestic abuse, and abduction. Safe to say most of this book is a trigger of some kind.

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His name was Joshua Carter. Now it’s whatever she wants it to be.

She is a Deliverer.

She lures young men and delivers them to be sold. She delivers the strikes that enforce their obedience. She delivers the training that determines their purchase price.

As long as she delivers, the arrangement that protects her family will hold.

Delivering is all she knows.

The one thing she can’t deliver is a captive from slavery.

Until him.

And her stubborn slave thinks he can deliver her…from herself.

DELIVER series (HEAs with no cliffhangers – must be read in order):
Deliver #1
Vanquish #2
Disclaim #3
Devastate #4
Take #5
More to come!

Close Remembrance (The Krinar Chronicles, #3)

Close Remembrance (The Krinar Chronicles, #3)

Close Remembrance by Anna Zaires

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m glad I finished this series, but this final book missed the mark a bit for me. The most suspenseful aspect for me was the villain (the reveal of whom would have made for a killer cliffhanger for book 2 as opposed to an opening chapter for book 3). Unfortunately I wanted there to be more with the villain. It felt like the scenes with him enacting his nefarious plans (climax scenes) were sort of rushed. They seemed to be wrapped up within a short few pages. His plans were indeed dastardly- there was no disappointment there. But for how terrible they were the implementation felt almost glossed over. I feel like equal page space was given to one of Mia’s trips to the waterfall.
I thoroughly enjoy this author’s style, and her male main characters. That said, this type of story (sci-fi/paranormal) is just not for me. I still enjoyed this series, namely because Zaires wrote it and made Korum delightfully possessive and alpha, but I do not foresee reading any more books of this nature. It is because of his character that I would recommend this series to fans of sci-fi/paranormal.

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The stunning conclusion to the critically acclaimed series that has won thousands of fans!

When a ruthless enemy finally strikes, Mia and Korum will face the biggest test of their relationship yet. But it’s Korum’s own secrets that may ultimately tear them apart.

From the beaches of Costa Rica to a planet in a distant galaxy, theirs is a love story that may change the world . . .

Warning: This book contains strong sexual content and explicit language and is not suitable for readers under 18.

Close Obsession (The Krinar Chronicles, #2)

Close Obsession (The Krinar Chronicles, #2)

Close Obsession by Anna Zaires

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the first one. I kept reading, intrigued by the nameless villain, only to find that we don’t find out who he is, nor does any big plan go into action. As a result I felt like this book didn’t really have a climax. It was just kind of… there. It felt like more of a set up for the third book than a book of its own.
It gave more information about the background of the Krinar, and there was development within Mia and Korum’s relationship, but that’s about it.
The writing was still solid. The characters were consistent with the first book. But it felt like something was missing, like perhaps this book could have been combined with the third book absent adding in some kind of suspense build with a climax.
I’m still going to read the third book. I’m still enjoying the series. But, I had to reflect my feelings about this second book in my review.

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The highly anticipated sequel to Close Liaisons . . .

In Lenkarda – the main Krinar colony on Earth – Mia is completely at Korum’s mercy. With no way to leave and no idea how to operate even the most basic Krinar technology, she has no choice but to trust the K who brought her there – the lover whom she had betrayed.

Will he keep his promise to bring her home, or is she destined to be his prisoner forever? Can a human become a part of Krinar society? Does Korum love her, or does he only wish to possess her?

Read on to find out . . .

WARNING: This book contains strong sexual content and explicit language and is not suitable for readers under 18.

Word Count: 88,000

Close Liaisons (The Krinar Chronicles, #1)

Close Liaisons (The Krinar Chronicles, #1)

Close Liaisons by Anna Zaires

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Let’s start with this: this is not my normal genre (meaning paranormal and/or extraterrestrial and/or fantasy). At all. I only read this because I am a die-hard Anna Zaires fan. As such I went in skeptical, but came out pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed a romance book about… an alien. My cheeks are flushed with nerdy embarrassment, honestly.
I could tell the difference between this book and her more recent books (the latter being a bit more polished), but this was still heads and tails above a lot of what is out there.
I liked the twist. I liked the crazy technology the main character uses. I liked the way he effectively does the modern-day caveman equivalent of knocking Mia over the head and dragging her back to his cave. This is especially ironic given he is supposed to be evolved and intelligent. But then he’s in the park and he’s all “me want… me take.” What an interesting turn of events.
I do so love a possessive alpha main character, and Zaires delivers that in this book. Okay, the subject matter (him being an alien) was a bit much for me to swallow given this isn’t my normal cuppa, but if I ignored that part to a degree it wasn’t that different from how the story would have unfolded if he had been human, and just a defense engineer (or similar). Thankfully he looked just like a normal person, except hotter. If that hadn’t been the case I would not have been able to get past it. Okay, he was really strong. Got it… possessive alpha characters usually are. He had access to unusual technology. Again, not uncommon for possessive alphas who, as of the last few years, seem to have a tendency to microchip their captives (sorry- I meant “romantic interests”) and have their entire compounds wired for spying (I mean “security related video and sound monitoring”) on their “romantic interests.” I realize that my use of quotation marks indicates that I scoff at these aspects of story, but obviously I am reading them, so… no. I admit that OTT possessive alpha characters are my jam. Even if they are a bit stalker-y. Maybe even more so if they are a bit stalker-y.
Okay, DEFINITELY more so if they are a bit stalker-y. There must be something wrong with me.
Anyway, all I’m saying is that a person who is normally completely uninterested in books of this genre may want to give this a chance if they are otherwise a Zaires fan.
I do not see myself reading anything else from this genre, but I plan to finish this series. Because, Zaires. I’d read her grocery list if she published it.

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For college student Mia Stalis, the invaders—the beautiful, mysterious Krinar—are only stories on the news. Rumors about them abound: about their impossible strength and speed, their intentions toward Earth… their vampiric tendencies. None of it concerns her, though—until she catches Korum’s eye.

Powerful and terrifyingly seductive, the Krinar leader will stop at nothing to possess her. Helplessly drawn to her magnetic captor, Mia is plunged into the dangerous, secretive world of the Ks and forced to choose between truth and lies, her people and her lover… her freedom and her heart.

An Escort for Christmas aka Unwrapping Mr. King

An Escort for Christmas

An Escort for Christmas by A. Zavarelli

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Enjoyable fluff

Aaah, this was just what I needed- a quick, fluffy novella. The literary equivalent of Hostess Snowballs- no nutritional value, it doesn’t fill you up, but it tastes good all the same.
It takes place at Christmas time, so it would likely be even more enjoyable at that time of year (being “in the spirit,” and all that). There isn’t insta-love, thank goodness. The main characters develop feelings for one another over the course of two weeks spending every day/night together, but not love.
Recommended if you’re in the market for a quick, easy read that doesn’t get too deep.

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Harper Nichols is in a desperate situation.

After her Aunt’s passing, she’s been left with a mounting pile of medical bills and other debt. Just when she thinks it can’t get any worse, she loses her job… only weeks before Christmas.

The very roof over her head hangs in the balance, and so far her job leads have been less than fruitful. As a last resort, she accepts her friend Katia’s offer to work for her dating service. The only stipulation? Extras are off the table.

But when she meets wealthy real estate mogul Jameson King, things aren’t exactly what she expected. Hired to spend two weeks with him at his family’s home over Christmas, she quickly realizes that some rules are just meant to be broken. But what will happen when this business transaction is over? Harper might be richer, but at what cost to her heart?

Hear Me

Hear Me

Hear Me by Skye Warren

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Unique and different

Well, that was unexpected. This book was different from the boatload of “kidnapped and trained” stories out there. It wasn’t about what happened while in captivity, but what happened after. Even what happened beforehand wasn’t covered (revealed) until nearly the end. And, quite honestly, I’m still a little confused. But not confused in a frustrated/mad way, just in a “I need to talk to other readers about this” kind of way.
The main character can’t remember her name. Her life before the facility where she’d been held. Pretty much anything. She wakes up in a cabin, terrified and believing she’s been sold and is now with her new owner. She also can’t speak. This lends considerable intrigue to the story since you don’t know her name, how she got there, where she is, or where she’s from. The whole thing was just so mysterious.
This book did leave me with questions. I wish there had been more information about the background of the main character ending up where she’d ended up, about what another character’s plans had been for her later in the book, about how she’d ended up at that particular cabin, and confirming (or not?) what she’d feared later in the book. So many questions!!

TRIGGERS: dubious and non-consent, physical abuse is alluded to.

Anyway, a good standalone read if you can handle dark, and understand that not all questions will be answered.

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“Beautifully written, and just so much to experience…” – Maryse’s Book Blog

She doesn’t remember her past, but none of that matters when she wakes up in the warm, rustic room. The only man there is distant but kind. There’s only one problem: there’s no way to leave the island.

Longing for the shackles of safety, she pulls from the last dregs of her will to prove her worth. It seems to be working. He responds first to her innocence and next to her confidence. The secrets of his past haunt the cabin, fraying the tightening bond between them, but it is her own memories that may finally unravel it.