Friday, November 27, 2015

Sebring (Unfinished Hero #5) by Kristen Ashley @KristenAshley68

The finale to a beloved series makes me melancholy, but one from this author totally devastates me. I have a hard enough time letting go of Ms. Ashley’s characters and the excitement that overcomes me the first time I step into their literary worlds. Saying goodbye is excruciating, since I’m always anxious for the next installment. Through the power of KA’s flawless descriptive writings, I’ve emotionally attached myself to Knight, Creed, Raid and Deaconfeeling as if they somehow magically became real. As much as I wanted my hands on Nick’s romance, it broke me knowing that the story line was coming to an end.

Stepping into Sebring, I faced a great challenge with getting to know and hopefully liking Nick, the ‘dark horse’, introduced in Knight.  Bracing myself, the struggle was real because, lets face itNick was a douche. Nevertheless, I liked the challenge of an edgy bad-boy reinventing himself in a way that leaves me no choice but to fall for him. By the end of the prologue, Nick had my heart wrapped tight around his little pinky finger. Olivia (Livvie) and Nick’s erotic romance superbly capped this series and once again, Kristen Ashley overwhelmed me with yet another deeply passionate, highly emotional, poignant tale.

If you have not read the series in its entirety, I highly recommend jumping on that pronto to understand Nick’s mindset. His character started off (in prior installments) as someone I loathed. Jealous, spoiled, sabotaging – he took full advantage of his brother, Knight.  After reading Sebring, I hate reflecting back on the asshole he used to be. But, it’s crucial to remember his beginnings to appreciate his character’s transformation. When a hero/heroine is at their worst, Ashley is at her best as she triumphantly scripts their path towards redemption. I absolutely savored seeing Nick struggle from his lowest point, work hard to piece his life back together, while winning my affection along the way.

I loved the man he became. Loved how he earned the respect of his brother, friends and family. Adored how Nick forced himself through the cracks of Livvie’s armor, drawing her from the darkness of fear into dawn’s light. He had my nerves twisted in knots with his elaborate plan of using Livvie to avenge the murder of his late girlfriend/partner, Hettie (his target being Vincent Shade). But without a doubt, his feelings for Livvie were sincere practically from the start. His heart and soul belonged to Olivia Shade as he placed her needs above all else. It may have taken Nick a while, but in his struggle, he found strength for the sake of his love. That’s the true beauty of this tale. The man Nick Sebring became is compassionate, understanding, selfless and fiercely protective of Livvie. Even though Nick’s an anti-hero (overly dark, edgy and living by his own set of rules), to me he’s also a true Alpha-hero in every sense of the word. He was the perfectly flawed, dynamic protagonist.

Seeing Livvie’s life was achingly painful. Trapped under her father’s (a nefarious, heartless bastard) control, she played the role of his dutiful daughter, while helping to run the crumbling ‘family business’. She survived by maintaining a stone-cold facade. Her somber character made my heart bleed when seeing into her dark and lonely life. What I admired the most was, hidden beneath the shroud of sorrow, stood a woman of great strength who dared to hope. I desperately wanted Livvie to find happiness, and it shattered me knowing she was the pawn in Nick’s plan. My anxiety level soared knowing that the realization would send her reeling. Fortunately for her (and my nerves), what began under false pretenses became very real rather quickly for Nick, when realizing Olivia Shade is not what she appeared to be. She was desolate. She was vulnerable. She was trapped in a prison created by her family and Nick made it his mission to unravel the layers and free her from darkness. He found exquisite beauty in his Livvie and a second chance to love again. In the end, Nick was amazingly romantic as he moved heaven and earth in hopes of bringing Livvie much deserved love and joy.
From the onset, these two ignited in a frenzied fury of erotic explosions. Their sexual chemistry was unrivaled and wild. It was combustible. I was constantly fanning myself down as they frantically battled for domination during each passionate encounter. Nick was incredible and beyond sexy. As Livvie desperately needed affection, Nick consistently gave her everything, and I ate all the intensity up with a spoon. And I loved seeing their tumultuous affair become more than just a romp. Profound feelings of love developed, consuming both, which made me swoon.
I'm always giddy when seeing past loves pop up within the story-line. Knight, of course, comes into play and manages to make me fall even deeper in love with him. He openly welcomes Nick back into the fold and forgives. It was a truly remarkable moment of tenderness and healing between two brothers that struck a chord within my heart. There’s so much more substance to Kristen Ashley’s prose than just a beautifully scripted romance. There are inspirational messages conveyed through her character’s experiences, which brings to light the significance of forgiveness, redemption and family. Whether we are journeying through a motorcycle club, parallel universes, the burgs of Indy, the mountainous towns of Colorado, or in the city of Denver where men live by their own codes – these fundamentals are ever-present in her tales. It’s brothers and sisters lending an abundance of guidance, love and support in a time of need.  With each read, I walk away uplifted and tremendously moved as she feeds my soul.

Like all good things, this series came to an end and Sebring was phenomenal. It was one hell of a gripping erotic romance filled with nerve-wracking moments of angst as anti-heroes faced off against their vile foes. GAH! My anxieties climbed sky-high as Nair and Benito added even more drama and twists to the plot. I hated to let these sexy men gobut when one door closes, the promise of what’s to come opens. A secondary character from the Rock Chick Series, who teamed up with Nick, was heavily involved in this story line. I’m keeping my fingers crossed hoping to see more of him in the future.

ARC received from Author in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Poughkeepsie Begins (The Poughkeepsie Brotherhood 0.5) By Debra Anastasia @Debra_Anastasia

4.5 Stars

Once upon a time, I fell in love with a man that lived in the shadows and counted the smiles of the girl he adored from afar. And thus began my journey to a small town in Upstate New York and into the lives of three brothers, bound not of blood, but by destiny. Poughkeepsie Begins brought me full circle, as Debra Anastasia beautifully recounts the heartbreaking events, trials and tribulations that forged the everlasting bonds between three memorable characters.

Seeing into the horrors they endured during their teenage foster care years, and the flashbacks into the wretchedness of their early childhood, Blake, Beckett and Cole’s stories made my heart bleed with sadness. The abuse, as difficult as it was to witness, allowed me to truly understand their mindset as well as set the stage for the men they were forced to become. The common factor between was the brutality suffered at the hands of the monsters that confined them. However, the experiences set them down separate paths, taking on particular roles, while vowing to remain a constant in each  others lives.  

Cole, the quietest of the three, underwent the most physical and mental abuse. Somber emotions overwhelmed me when seeing his breaking point – the pivotal moment that brought him to his knees while turning to his faith in order cope with the depravity that engulfed his life. It was devastating, yet hopeful knowing his faith brought him peace.

Cole is the dark horse in this series. On the surface he is soft spoken, understanding, pious and gentle. But buried beneath, lays a boy so lethal, it rivals the likes of Beckett’s deadly ways. Polar opposite forces rule his soul and I love the dynamics of his multifaceted persona.
Beckett is one slick son-of-a-bitch with a twisted sense of humor. I freaking love his witty and sarcastic ways. In a blink of an eye, he could bring down any unfortunate bastard who dares to get in his way, with either his cutting tongue or fists. Beck’s loyalty to his brothers is unrivaled. He is cast in the role as protector, and with it comes the responsibility to guard his brother’s well being.  Beck’s rise to power within the crime underworld is not driven by selfish greed or lust for power. It’s for the chance to obtain stability for his brothers. Their world is cruel, and by selflessly selling his soul, Beck tries to secure their future. And in doing so, he foregoes his chance at love by letting go of the one girl who was determined to save him. There’s honorable intentions buried beneath his immoral demeanor, and his self-sacrifice earned my respect.

My favorite hero within this series is definitely Blake. Don’t get me wrong, I have great love for all, but there is something special about the gentle aurora that surrounds Blake’s persona that touches me deeply. The boy, so shattered and riddled with fears, captured my heart from the very beginning. His dedication, compassion and calmness he unfailingly gives his brothers reminded me of all the reasons why I adored this sexy green-eyed hunk. The symphonic beauty radiating from his character’s soul pulled on my heartstrings and I will miss him greatly.

In Poughkeepsie Begins, Debra Anastasia brings to life some of the most outrageous, yet lovable characters. Her unique writing style harmonizes angst, heartache and dark humor with a touch of romance. The Poughkeepsie Brotherhood is one of my all time favorite series and although this novel is considered a standalone, I highly recommend reading all installments to fully appreciate her heroes’ experiences. Bravo, Debra, and thank you for bringing me back to the beginning.

ARC received from author in exchange for an honest review

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Crush (Tainted Love Series #2) by Kim Karr @authorkimkarr

4 – 4.5 Suspense filled stars

The saga continues to unravel in Kim Karr’s Tainted Love Series finale, Crush.

I could not wait to get my hands on this sequel and glad when it quickly picked up, right where I was left dangling by my fingertips, over a cliff in Blow. Tensions escalated and ran sky high as Logan and Elle’s love and relationship strengthened despite unknown forces and past enemies working in a concerted effort to rip them apart. 

There’s some push and pull drama at first as Logan struggles with his fears over imminent threats against his Elle. Nevertheless, his desires and the overwhelming need to safeguard her could no long be denied. I loved his determination and over-protective Alpha tendencies when it came to Elle’s safety. He claims all of her; works tirelessly to shield her from harm as no one, not the mob or the feds, will stand in their way. Logan was the perfectly sexy, dominating hero.

Karr always delivers sizzling romances coupled with extreme angst and mysteries layered within its plot. I’m always on edge, fully engrossed, as the tension she builds skyrockets. In Crush, the web of secrets and dangers that surround this couple held me captivated as my nerves were frazzled, trying to piece together clues peppered throughout this fast paced story.  And as I tried to pay close attention to the tiniest of details, surprise plot twists had me gasping. Always expect the unexpected when savoring this author’s tales.

Crush had it all – murders, mysteries, mayhem…the mobster element (which gave me a ‘Soprano’s’ meets ‘The Departed’ vibe), nail-biting drama and heart pounding moments. I was on the edge of my seat throughout most of this read. Although I would not consider this a dark romance, there were times of gloom and doom that crushed me with dread and sadness.

                             A life for a life…

Elle was a somewhat strong heroine who grew more confident as the story progressed, but Logan stole the show for me. He was just the perfectly devoted, swoon-worthy knight in shining armor whose raw passion and dominance caused my heart to pitter-patter. He was so sweet and gentle as he put Elle’s needs before his own.

This series was a tense roller coaster ride and a good choice for fans of romantic suspense. I was totally consumed and pulled deeper and deeper within the story-line, falling in love with a cast of unforgettable characters. Another beautifully written, scorching hot romance from Author Kim Karr. 

ARC received in exchange for an honest review

Monday, November 16, 2015

Untamed (Thoughtless #4) by S.C. Stephens

4 Stars

Finding out Griffin “The Hulk” Hancock was getting his own book…

I was overjoyed and could not wait to crawl inside Griffin’s crazy mind. Throughout the Thoughtless Series, his character came across as the comic relief to an otherwise serious, angst filled story.  In Untamed, we get all of Griffin – His lunacy, his outlook on life and seeing the world through his eyes. The experience was interesting, to say the least. I can unequivocally say that Griffin is the most delusional, self-centered character I have ever come across, yet I adored him. This bad boy bassist has the largest ego – ever. His world and everything he touches is… Awesome.

Beyond his clueless idiocy, lays the heart of a man who learns life’s lessons the hardest of ways. In losing it all, Griffin struggled and learned not to take life, family and friends for granted. And in his struggle, he worked hard to regain the adoration of those who love him. I have to say he drove me nuts with all his misguided views and poor decisions.  But, I cherished how he matured and sought redemption.

For most of the story Griffin, in his uniquely comical way, exasperated me with his stubbornness, jealousy and selfishness. The mistakes and circumstances he got involved in had me both giggling at his hijinks and wanting to smack some sense into him.

Poor Anna, I felt terrible for all her frustrations. Her husband was a handful, driving her (and me) to the point of vexation at times. 

By hitting rock bottom - losing fame, fortune and his family, reality FINALLY sank into his thick skull. Griffin was smacked silly with a huge wake up call, forced into maturity and took responsibility for his actions. This is where I’ve come to adore him even more – the clueless Hulk grew up. 

This story was a great departure in style and tone from the previous installments of this series. It was a refreshing change to see Stephens penning a tale mostly filled with levity in comparison to the emotional angst fill heaviness that draped Kiera and Kellan’s romance. Yes, there were serious moments, but for the most part, Untamed was a lighthearted read. As much as I love Kellan, I am a hulk fan girl too. I liked Griffin jumping into Untamed and walked away cherishing his character. I always appreciate a good story involving a character’s redemption and Griffin certainly proved himself to me despite his stupid, ridiculous mistakes.  He grew and learned to treasure the important things in life…his wife, his family and friends. I loved seeing more of Kellan…*sigh*…and the rest of the D-bags. For a fan of the series, this is a must read and I do hope Stephens continues the series by giving Evan and Matt their own romances. I don’t want to let these characters go.

Arc kindly received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.