Monday, March 27, 2017

Dirty Souls (Sins Duet #2) Review

Title:  Dirty Souls
Series:  Sins Duet
Author:  Karina Halle
Release Date:  March 20, 2017

My Rating:  2.5 Disappointing 's

FYI:  This is the conclusion of the Sins Duet.  You should read book 1, Black Hearts, prior to reading this. 

It is this reviewer's opinion that you should also read the Artists and Dirty Angels trilogies before Sins Duet as characters cross over series.

Violet McQueen has always been a sensitive soul. Troubled and misunderstood, she never realized her place in the world, nor her true potential…until she met Vicente Bernal.

From birth, Vicente Bernal has always known his place in the world – he’s been groomed to be a ruthless king. Yet for a man whose soul has become morally bankrupt, it’s only through Violet he’s realizing the worth of someone’s heart.

But at what cost?

With a deadly game set in motion taking them from the stark deserts of California to the steamy jungles of Mexico, Violet and Vicente’s forbidden relationship will be put to the test. Boundaries will be pushed, lines will be crossed and souls will get very, very dirty.

Because how do you choose between blood and love when both might get you killed?

I read Dirty Souls a week ago - the day it released.  I did so with trepidation, wary yet hopeful the author would not write this story at the expense of the anti-hero Javier and his "hea" in the series that led up to this spin-off.  For me, that's the ultimate sin an author can commit.  After completing this book, I had to take a step back, let my thoughts and emotions simmer, and decide how to rate this book and write an accurate, fair review.  It is not easy.

Dirty Souls is dark, gritty, raw, and explosive. . . and a bit "over the top".  Everything hits you in excess - the good, the bad, the ugly.  Want dirty, erotic sex?  You got it - again & again & again &....  I eventually started skimming those scenes.  (I know! A sin, right?!)  You want bad*ss, take no prisoners, don't give a d*mn about anyone anti-heroes?  Vincente (& others) blows everyone away.  You want a knock down, drag out, on-going gang buster shootout with a timeout for rough sex in the middle of it all?  Baby, it's in here ...along with car chases, explosions, torture, kidnapping.  For me, it just became too much overload - even for battling familes when one is connected to a drug cartel.

Lies, deceipt, betrayal - it's all here even between the so called hero & heroine.  I can handle all that - I love a good, dark, angst-filled read where you're kept wondering if the couple will make it until the very end.  But, I can't say I ever really connected with Vincente & Violet as a couple.  Their chemistry is certainly "sexual" & "explosive", but both characters failed to fully engage me in their plight.  I never felt that "on the edge of my seat" urgency over whether they'd make it.  That's a problem for me.

But, the ultimate sin for me when it comes to reading spin-off series is for the author to attempt to change my concept of an earlier character after they get their "hea" ending - be it good or bad.  If you've read the Artists and Dirty Angels Trilogy, then you know Javier's journey and how it impacts the characters in this book.  You know Javier is an anti-hero you either hate, despise, tolerate or love.  I rode out Javier's version of hell through all the books in both previous series and still - I came to love him.  I accepted the ending that the author envisioned and wrote for him and was okay with living with it.  And now, in Dirty Souls, I'm forced to see Javier at his worse, his lowest point again - and also I'm now left with a vision of him as a depraved, revengeful, broken, stupid old man.  That's not the Javier I was left with at the end of his series - not the Javier I know.  And the hint of his possible rise again in the Epilogue is not enough to undo the damage rendered in this book.  Characters can return in spin-off series and often do.  But in this reader's opinion, they should not be stripped of their previous "hea" (whatever it may be) - and my perception of their "hea" should not be altered. Sadly, it was in this book.

*I'll also note (but not reveal) what I see as a major discrepancy of a support character in this book.  

My Rating:  2.5 Disappointing 's . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx


Monday, March 20, 2017

Shade's Lady (1001 Dark Nights) Review

Title:  Shade's Lady
Collection:  1001 Dark Nights
Author:  Joanna Wylde
Publisher:  Evil Eye Concepts Inc.
Release Date:  March 14, 2017

My Rating:  4 Raunchy BadBoy 's

Looking back, none of this would’ve happened if I hadn’t dropped my phone in the toilet. I mean, I could’ve walked away from him if I’d had it with me. 

Or maybe not. 

Maybe it was all over the first time he saw me, and he would’ve found another way. Probably—if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that Shade always gets what he wants, and apparently he wanted me. 

Right from the first. 

There's something so dang addictive about these bad*ss, badboy alpha males! They growl, drink, fight, cuss, ride, and "love" - and they all sport equipment that would fulfill any woman's darkest fantasy...and then some. Some eventually settle down with one woman, some don't. Shade falls in the latter category. He's the President of the Reaper's MC...not just local chapters, but as in Top Gun - King of the Hill - the Main Man...President of all Reaper's clubs in the U.S. He travels from chapter to chapter staying awhile, taking care of business, bedding women, and then moving on. When it comes to the ladies - he's a love 'em and leave 'em man. King of one night stands. Until he meets Mandy. Mandy is her own woman - quirky, funny, hard working, devoted to her sister and her three kids. On one thing, she is very clear...She isn't looking for a relationship because she knows she has bad taste in men. She has four weeks left to serve on parole for something her Ex got her into before she divorced him. And for fun, she has taken to riding with Rebel, a douchebag from a weekend MC club. And so ... when Shade sets his sights on Mandy & comes sniffing around, she shoves him right back out the door. Mandy says "No thank you Mr. Gorgeous, Bad*ss, I really want you bad MC President. I've sworn off men. From now on, only one night stands for me." Finally - a woman that agrees with Shade! Let the games begin.

Be ready for lots of raunchy, hot, melt-your-panties scenes in this one. Being a novella, it's short on pages but long on teasing, taunting, manipulating, betting, and loving. As the story unfolds, you'll meet an array of strong support characters - good guys & bad guys. The plot/story is action intense and actually very heart touching as we see Shade glide in to protect what he soon considers "MINE". (think Batman cape! ;) Is there anything hotter than a possessive, protective alpha male? I think not. Shade's Lady is a Page Burning Must Read! I loved it! Only downer was its short length ... I really wanted MORE!

My Rating:  4 Raunchy BadBoy 's . . .And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx


Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Idea of You Review

Title:  The Idea of You
Author:  Amanda Prowse
Publisher:  Lake Union Publishing
Release Date:  March 21, 2017

My Rating:  5 Hope-Filled, Inspirational 's

*Many thanks to Lake Union Publishing for an arc of this book via Netgally.

With her fortieth birthday approaching, Lucy Carpenter dares to hope that she finally has it all: a wonderful new husband, Jonah, a successful career and the chance of a precious baby of her own. Life couldn’t be more perfect.
But the reality of becoming parents proves much harder than Lucy and Jonah imagined. Jonah’s love and support is unquestioning, but as Lucy struggles with work and her own failing dreams, the strain on their marriage increases. Suddenly it feels like Lucy is close to losing everything…
Heart-wrenching and poignant, this latest work by bestselling author Amanda Prowse asks the question: what does it mean to be a mother in today’s hectic world? And what if it’s asking too much to want it all?
What a beautiful, powerful story . . . at times heartbreaking - but also an inspiring story of love, hope, courage, family - a story of getting back up when life knocks you down. I was a little wary starting this book. I knew the subject matter and expected that it would be a hard read - one filled with the devastating effects of the ultimate loss. And it is. I found myself wiping the silent tears running down my face several times while reading this. But, this story is so much more. The tenacity and compassion of the human spirit is an amazing thing to see and it shines brightly in this story. Amanda Prowse has done a beautiful job of finding the right words, the right scenes, the right characters to deliver this story and message to readers, to help others understand. The writing is beautiful as the words flow out of the hearts of these characters, filling the pages with both their darkest and brightest thoughts.

I'll give only a brief set up of the story. Lucy & Nate meet, fall in love, and get married. Life is almost perfect as they work to fulfill their dreams of having a child together. As the story unfolds, Lucy & Nate find themselves struggling to cope with some curveballs - the hurt & pain that life throws at them. And in the middle of everything, Nate's unhappy sixteen year old daughter Camille arrives to live with them. While Lucy tries to open her heart & home to Camille, the teenager's surly attitude makes a difficult situation even harder, and thus a crack is forged in Nate & Lucy's marriage. As this family struggles to get past the anger, guilt, and pain, past secrets surface that threaten the very foundation their marriage was built on. It's hard to say more without revealing too much of the story. Readers deserve to discover this precious gem of a story on their own. Get the tissues ready and tell your family you're "off the clock" as you will not want to stop reading until you finish the book. I sat down to begin the book one afternoon and found myself reading into the wee hours as I could not sleep without knowing where their journey ends.

The Idea of You is a powerful, poignant love story that will touch your heart in every deep, dark corner - a love story that carries hope, love, and forgiveness for everyone if they can/will just accept it. My heart bled for these characters and the world of hurt they struggled through to survive - So much strength, so much hope, so tenacious & relentless in their pursuit of happiness. In the end, this is a story of love that only grows stronger when it's given & received freely. We don't always get what we want in life, but often get what we really need. Blessings & miracles come in all kinds of just have to learn to recognize them and hold on with all your heart and soul and believe the sun will shine again - good things will come. The Idea of You is A Heart Touching Must Read that offers a ray of light in the darkest night...A beautiful gem of a story that deserves to be heard loud & clear around the world. A Must Read!
My Rating:  5 Hope-Filled, Inspirational, Beautiful 's . . . And that's the truth!
Cross My Heart . . . xxx

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Night Mark Review

Title:  The Night Mark
Author:  Tiffany Reisz
Publisher:  Harlequin MIRA
Release Date:  March 28, 2017
Order:  Amazon

My Rating:  3 's

*Many thanks to the publisher, Harlequin MIRA, for an arc of this book via Netgally.


 She has nothing to live for in the present, but finds there's something worth dying for in the past…

From Tiffany Reisz, the international bestselling storyteller behind The Bourbon Thief and The Original Sinners series, comes an enthralling new novel about a woman swept away by the tides who awakens to find herself in 1921, reunited with the husband she's been mourning for four years. Fans of Kate Morton and Diana Gabaldon will fall in love with the mystery, romance and beauty of an isolated South Carolina lighthouse, where a power greater than love works its magic.


The Night Mark tells the tale of a woman living in limbo, grieving the loss of the love of her life four years ago.  She can't move forward, and she can't go back.  She's struggling in darkness, looking for a way to turn the light back on.  When she receives an unexpected offer of a photography job in Beaufort, S.C., she decides to take charge of her life once again and make the move.  In doing so, Faye Barlow finds herself irresistibly drawn to a run down lighthouse standing on the edge of the ocean on Bride Island.  Despite being warned away, Faye can't resist making the trip over to the lighthouse looking for answers - unaware of the unstoppable tides she set in motion - tides that will change the course of her life forever.  As the story unfolds, the history of the lighthouse and the secrets it harbors come into play.  What will they mean to Faye?

The time travel aspects of  The Night Mark are unique - an interesting vessel through which the history of the setting, as well as the stories of the characters from 1921 are revealed.  Rich in old lighthouse facts and lore, the historical aspects carry the story as readers are introduced to and pulled into the life of Carrick Morgan, the lighthouse keeper in 1921, and his connection to Faye.  I'm fascinated with old lighthouses and thus found that part of the story intriguing.  And yet, I still found it hard to fully connect with the characters and find the empathy I needed to buy into their story.  I'm a fan of stories about "rediscovery of oneself", second chance romances, and happily-ever-afters, but I wasn't totally immersed in this one.  An interesting, certainly different read that many will love, I'm sure.

My Rating:  3 's . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx


Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Awakening (Graveyard Queen#6) by Amanda Stevens - Review

Title:  The Awakening
Series:  Graveyard Queen #6
Author:  Amanda Stevens
Publisher:  MIRA
Release Date:  March 28, 2017

My Rating:  5 Haunting 's

My Thoughts:  Pure lyrical magic . . . haunting, chilling, ominous cover to cover.  A phenomenal ending to a once-in-a-lifetime series.

*Many thanks to the publisher for an arc of this book via Netgally.

Shush…lest she awaken…

My name is Amelia Gray, a cemetery restorer who lives with the dead. An anonymous donor has hired me to restore Woodbine Cemetery, a place where the rich and powerful bury their secrets. Forty years ago, a child disappeared without a trace and now her ghost has awakened, demanding that I find out the truth about her death. Only I know that she was murdered. Only I can bring her killer to justice. But the clues that I follow—a haunting melody and an unnamed baby's grave—lead me to a series of disturbing suspects.

For generations, The Devlins have been members of Charleston's elite. John Devlin once turned his back on the traditions and expectations that came with his birthright, but now he has seemingly accepted his rightful place. His family's secrets make him a questionable ally. When my investigation brings me to the gates of his family's palatial home, I have to wonder if he is about to become my mortal enemy.


"Shush...lest she awaken..."  Four little words and just like that I have goosebumps, the ominous tone for <i>The Awakening</i> firmly established.  Cover to cover, the lyrical atmospheric magic I've come to expect from Amanda Stevens is prominent . . . haunting, chilling, ominous - whispering on the breeze, taking shape in the cemetery, following Amelia home.  I literally could not put this book down, reading most of it in one setting as my heart raced and my eyes flickered over the shadows lurking around the corners of the room.  Like a fine meal, it's an experience that is served best without prior knowledge of the ingredients - so please, do yourself a favor and don't let anyone tell you what happens before you read this book.  There are no spoilers in my review as I only "set the scene" - you can take it from there.

Welcoming the opportunity to sleep in her own bed at night, Amelia accepts the job of restoring Woodbine Cemetery.  Her first day there, she discovers an area of unmarked graves - a place where the powerful upper crust of Charleston society had buried their "mistakes" - illegitimate children buried without recognition or acknowledgement that their lives ever mattered to anyone...buried in graves with headstones having no names so the elite, rich families involved could remain untarnished.  As Amelia stands over an infant's grave, the ghost of a small girl startles her by lashing out in a powerful, demonstrative display of anger demanding something of Amelia.  Who was she?  How did she die?  Was one of the unmarked graves hers?  What did she want from Amelia?  One thing was crystal clear. . . A door from the dark side had been left opened allowing passage to those with evil intent, and Amelia knew she would have to find the answers to close it or risk being claimed back to the other side.  

And so the story unfolds taking Amelia down a deadly road that would see her crossing paths with her ex-lover John Devlin and his aristocratic family as well as revealing long buried secrets about her own family.  How are the two connected?  Amelia faces the realization that all is not as it seems - and the only way out is to reveal the truth - no matter who it may hurt, no matter the personal cost - which for Amelia may be everything, including her own life.

Once again, Stevens has brilliantly manipulated characters & plot lines to peel back the layers and slice to the heart of this story thus giving readers a phenomenal ending to this epic series!  Age old secrets and connections are revealed as loose threads are woven together in a twisted, shocking tapestry that will keep you on the edge of your seat.  Readers finally get answers . . . Are they ones you're hoping for?  Only one way to find out!  <i>The Awakening</i> is a Page Burning Must Read! I will be anxiously awaiting to see if a spin-off series develops as mentioned.  Fingers crossed!

My Rating:  5 Haunting 's . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Hoping For Love Review

Title:  Hoping For Love
Series:  Gansett Island
Author:  Marie Force
Publisher:  HTJB Inc. (Marie Force Author)
Release Date:  March 6, 2012

My Rating:  3.5 Feel Good Romance 's


All her life, Grace Ryan was the “fat girl.” Taunted and teased and ignored by her peers, she tried every diet ever invented to no avail. Desperate to change her life as her twenties slipped away, she decided it was time for drastic measures and had lap-band surgery. More than a year later, she's lost 130 pounds and is venturing into the dating world for the first time. During a boat trip to Gansett Island with the new guy in her life, Grace refuses to have sex with him and finds herself abandoned without a dollar to her name at McCarthy's Gansett Island Marina.

At home for the summer awaiting the launch of his debut CD, music star-in-the-making Evan McCarthy is performing at the Tiki Bar when he notices Grace looking lost in a sea of happy people. Evan comes to her aid and quickly finds himself smitten. But the last thing Grace needs after all she’s been through is a guy who “doesn't do relationships.” Will Evan change his ways to win Grace's heart?  


Another feel good, low-angst romance in this series. So nice to slip one of these books between two dark ones to lighten the mood. Grace spent most of her life obese...aka "The Whale". Finally, having enough, she turned to lap band surgery and lost 130 pounds in the year that followed. Visiting Gansett Island for the first time with a guy she planned to finally go "all the way" with, she gets a rude awakening after intercepting a text message from one of his friends asking if he'd "nailed the whale" yet. Seems there was a $500 bet on the line. Humiliated yet again, Grace finds herself abandoned with nothing but the clothes on her back on GI. Who comes riding to her rescue but the devastatingly gorgeous rising music star Evan McCarthy...a man soooo out of her league - and one that made it loud & clear that he doesn't "do relationships". Can a woman with zero experience with a man build a relationship with a sexy "ladies man"? And not get hurt in the process? Hmmm.

Watching Grace and Evan's relationship develop was fun! Grace is funny and truly beautiful inside and out as Evan soon learns. I laughed out loud at Evan a few times as he struggles to "NOT fall in love". Like some of the other McCarthy men, he fights it every step of the way causing a few bumps and bruises along the way.

An added plus are the side stories playing out between Owen & Laura and Blaine & Tiffany. Looks like a bumpy ride for all involved. Also loved spending a little time with past couples - especially Linda & Big Mac. Seems there's trouble in Paradise since Big Mac hit his head in the boating accident...something's definitely not right. All in all, another good read in the series. A Must Read!  

My Rating - 3.5 Feel Good Romance 's . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Hot Pursuit Review

Title:  Hot Pursuit
Series:  Troubleshooters #15
Author:  Suzanne Brockmann
Publisher:  Ballantine
Release Date:  Jan. 1, 2009

My Rating:  5 Hunky 's

My Thoughts:  Hot, sexy SEALS protecting Ladies & Babies - Yes, please!  I'm a goner!

Alyssa Locke is no stranger to dealing with danger. As team leader of the nation's number one personal security company, Troubleshooters Inc., she's seen more than her share of action, survived plenty of close calls, and holds her own with the best of them-and against the worst of them. Guarding lives is her game, and no one plays it better. But her toughest challenge will be protecting herself from a serial killer she's been after for years-known only as The Dentist-who is determined to make her his ultimate trophy. 

The assignment was supposed to be an easy one: teach self-defense techniques to a newly elected assemblywoman and her chief of staff after a political controversy generates a blizzard of hate mail-including death threats-from hotheads and cranks. But as soon as she mobilizes her squad of moonlighting Navy SEALs in New York City, Alyssa begins butting heads with the hard-case cop who thinks that the Troubleshooters are chasing shadows. 

Until they discover a dead body. And then another. Now Alyssa really has her hands full-bodyguarding two independent, busy women, managing a murder investigation, and trying to find time for her husband, Troubleshooters operative Sam Starrett, and their infant son. Meanwhile, it wouldn't be a Troubleshooters operation without romantic sparks and heated rivalries-and any time the SEALs of Team Sixteen are involved, there are plenty of both. 

But then, while investigating a suspect, Alyssa is ambushed and suddenly finds herself imprisoned by The Dentist. Cut off from everyone she loves and relies on, Alyssa must call upon all of her strength and skill to survive this final confrontation with the sadistic monster, meanwhile trusting that her Troubleshooter teammates, led by her beloved Sam, will reach her before it's too late.

An "easy" assignment & a mini-vacation turn into a desperate search for a serial killer when Sam & Alyssa, with baby Ash in tow, head to NYC. Alyssa has been asked to teach some self-defense classes to a newly elected congresswoman who is receiving threatening notes - piece of cake, right? While there, she plans to enjoy some get down and dirty time with her sexy husband, Sam. But things are never that simple, are they? As dead bodies begin to stack up, Sam strongly suspects that someone other than the congresswoman is the real target of this sadistic serial killer. If he's right, the ones he loves most are in serious danger. 

An obsessive, homophobic serial killer from the past makes a return visit in Hot Pursuit. This time, he won't stop until he gets the one he wants most. Intense suspense builds as the story unfolds - impending danger around every corner. Believing the congresswoman to be the target, Alyssa has brought in some of the other Troubleshooters/SEALS (Izzy, Danny, Jay, Tony) to help protect the congresswoman and her assistant Jenn. As things spiral out of control, she also calls for FBI Agent Jules Cassidy who also brings along his mate Robin. 

As always, multiple support characters and their relationships are masterfully developed throughout the story. The volatile dynamics between Izzy and Danny are explored taking an interesting twist. But it's the "side couple" of Danny and Jenn that I found most intriguing. Brockmann has a way of taking on social issues and weaving them beautifully into her storylines. In the case of Jenn, it's a weight/size issue . . .the perception that a "large" woman is desperate for attention from a man and thus "easy" to manipulate for sex is expertly portrayed. Yes, it makes Danny come off as a bit of a sleazeball at first as he plays on the sympathies and insecurities of Jenn. But man - does he have a lesson to learn! Well done, SB! I can't wait for their story to continue.

Hot Pursuit is an intriguing story featuring the best of the series! Gorgeous, hunky SEALS protecting ladies and babies - Yes, please! I'm a goner! A Must Read!

My Rating:  5 Hunky 's . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx