Quick Reads and Quick Reviews 31

Cake Clash by [Maxwell, BL, Castle, Claire] Trusting Jack (MC Securities Book 1) by [Moone, Ruby] Cowboy Rules (A Breaking the Rules Novel Book 4) by [James, Jacki]

Cake Clash by [Maxwell, BL, Castle, Claire]Successful bakers, Finn and Josiah, were once lovers.  Not just lovers, but in love, the forever kind...or so they thought.  There's no denying their hearts still belong to one another, but neither of them have reached out after they were separated a decade prior.  A television competition, however, just might give them a chance to have the future they always dreamed of.  But first they'll have to navigate competitors, work through the pain of their separation, and learn who they are as men.

The premise of this story was so cute, I could hardly wait to dive in.  The final product, though, left a bit to be desired.  There was an immense amount of telling instead of showing, so much minutiae that I skipped pages of text and missed virtually nothing.  The relationship progressed very quickly after they were "reunited" and while I wouldn't have a problem with pretty much zero angst, it seemed too simplistic, as did the writing which was basic and lacked depth and punch.  Once they decided that there was nothing that would keep them apart, not even their roles in the competition, they wasted no time being together in every way possible.  The many, many mentions of their dwindling time together on the show and how they felt about that came off as the authors trying way too hard to make the future seem shaky and their present bittersweet.  Their deep moments felt a little juvenile, a little forced, and a lot too cheesy.  Overall, though, it was a sweet story with lots of passion and no real angst except the contrived descriptions of an unsure future following the show.  3 stars.
 Cake Clash, BL Maxwell and Claire Castle

Trusting Jack (MC Securities Book 1) by [Moone, Ruby]I really liked both men and their vulnerability, quirks, and tender hearts.  There was something so innocent in their interactions that I found them endearing rather than lacking.  While the resolution of the drama was a bit quick with a giant save from the initial supposed villain, it didn't fully detract from the point of the story.  Michael learned to trust someone, to trust their word, their intentions, and ultimately, to trust his heart to them.  Jack grew to understand his own worth, a new way of interacting with someone he cared for, and what he should expect in return from them.  Both men were so good and needed someone special to highlight their goodness to themselves so they could heal and move forward.

There were a bunch of times I wasn't sure where their heads were, like why Michael, the naturally suspicious, very intelligent, successful tech and securities guy, would push to get a huge wad of cash to a severely shady character when he knew he could watch out for Jack well enough that they could have at least waited until the situation was more in their favor.  And I didn't mind the quickness of their relationship progression because we were so much in their heads, especially Michael's, so it didn't feel as fast as the timeline indicates.  Overall I found the story to be pretty sweet despite its issues.  3.5 stars.
 Trusting Jack: MC Securities Book 1, Ruby Moone

Cowboy Rules (A Breaking the Rules Novel Book 4) by [James, Jacki]More benefits than friends, more friends than benefits, but never more than friends-with-benefits.  Lincoln wanted to change the status quo by moving into something a bit deeper despite his fears and relationship inexperience but he didn't anticipate Matt's fears and reservations being much larger than his own.  When Lincoln's father's health gives him a chance to change the scenery and get some space from his romantic problems both men find a bit of clarity regarding their hearts.  Lincoln wants to be free from Matt, but Matt realizes there's no one he wants more than Lincoln.  If he can find his courage he might be able to win his cowboy before it's too late.

Having gotten to know these men in the periphery of the other Rules books this story didn't feel like insta-love or insta-lust at all.  If read on its own, it might be seen that way, but the depth has been building for quite some time now and I couldn't be more pleased how these men finally get onto the same romantic page together.  They were hella steamy, so sweet I needed to brush my teeth, and they communicated.  Wait, they used their words?  Why, yes, yes they did.  Lots of points right there that they didn't shy away from expressing what they needed, wanted, feared, and hoped.  And when their hearts reached out to Spencer who needed them?  It's like they were already so united that they couldn't help but work toward the same goal.  I really loved how this story came together for these two men and that neither of them were ashamed of their "dating" history but knew that from then on it would be just the two of them.  Their expectations and fears were realistic and addressed appropriately.  I'm totally sold on Matt and Lincoln.  4 stars.
 Cowboy Rules: Breaking the Rules Book 4, Jacki James

Burning Up: Rainier Family Book 3, Ashton Cade

Burning Up: A Rainier Family Novel by [Cade, Ashton]

Sawyer is the recluse of the Rainier family, and for good reason; there's something in his past that keeps him from letting anyone past his steel-forged defenses.  Until Jason moves to town.  When Sawyer's equine therapy program brings them closer together he finds something that he yearns to hold onto.  Jason has been trying his best to make a good life for his autistic niece and with Sawyer's horses he sees a chance to heal and to love.  But neither of them will get the chance to find out about that future if they can't catch the arsonist plaguing their town.

Jason was fairly straightforward throughout the story, though I did find him quick to react poorly many times.  His ability to think through his initial response and know when he needed to apologize, however, went a long way to signifying just how mature he can be and how willing he was to make a go of things with Sawyer despite the quiet man's seeming reluctance.

Sawyer was really shy, quiet, and damaged.  His horses were his friends and I did feel a connection between them.  Those were some of my favorite parts.  The way he was with Emily was fantastic as well.  Trauma was featured pretty heavily once it came to light and I felt that it wasn't dealt with properly.  Surely some therapy outside of his horses would be beneficial.  Counseling doesn't work for everyone but one "session" of getting it on with Jason isn't a cure and not a long-lasting one either.

There was adequate chemistry between the men but nothing to captivate me.  The story itself plodded along and was a nice read with an adequate resolution to all the trouble-making, but I never felt gripped by a driving need to find out what happened next.  Overall, it was Emily, the horses, and the rest of the Rainier clan that stole the show and made this a good addition to the series.

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 Burning Up: Rainier Family Book 3, Ashton Cade

Aquaman, Warner Brothers

Aquaman poster.jpg

A hero without a cape, living his justice in relative secret.  But what happens when his heritage comes calling and he wants nothing to do with it?  The true measure of a hero is not in what he believes he's worthy of or can do, it's in what he protects knowing he may not be worthy but giving his whole effort anyway.

So first things first, Jason Momoa is freaking hot.  Oh. My. Ovaries.  Straight explode, y'all.  Okay, so after a bit of ... reminiscing on his amazing visage and his smooth baritone, on to the review of the movie.

Oh good Lord, I'm drooling...
#polynesianpride #eyecandyfordays

Let me warn you that a lot of this post might seem like a rant and that I didn't like the movie.  But I did!  I liked it when I just took it at face value rather than reading into it and delving into the content.  Visually, it was stunning, both the actors, the underwater world they created, and the effects.  It had a powerful message, cloaked in cheese, but the message of love and honor was definitely present.  So...I enjoyed myself.  I laughed sometimes and I choked up at other times.  Overall, this was a pretty good movie.

Except that, well, I can't just leave it at that, can I?  On to the "rant"...

I mentioned that the movie was visually stunning, yes?  Well the use of color and cinematic effects was powerful.  It was just too much.  There was so much going on in some scenes that I could not focus on any one thing, especially not the characters that mattered the most.  When the whole screen is constantly filled with shooting lights, explosions that look like fire (in water?  Yeah, that was pretty weird), lava, thousands of creatures of the deep, a billion extras, and then somewhere in the midst of all that are the main characters trying to gain dominance during a big conflict?  Yeah...no.  Overwhelming the audience isn't effective.  Just because we have all these cool CG techniques to bring fantasy to life doesn't mean you need to ram it down our ocular throats.

Another visual point that was hot for a while until it became eye-rollingly overused was the posing of Momoa, the brooding looks, and the close-up shots of his eyes.  A few well-placed broody shots are awesome because they can evoke a sense of intense thought and inner turmoil.  But overused and it's cliche and unimaginative.  With so much talent to work with, you'd think they could change it up and use the story and better cinematography to convey a wider range of emotions instead of the same ones over and over with the same visual set-up.

And then there's the story line.  Holy complicated Batman!  (Ah, the versatility of the DC universe...)  There were so many antagonists, so many conflicts all masquerading around as one big one, and so many secrets that don't move or stymie the plot at all.  Streamline, people, streamline!  This movie suffered from a lack of focus.  By having the Ocean Master issue, the creation and consequences of Black Manta, the rivalry, the war, the reluctant hero, and the reluctant hero's quest, we've got way too much going on to do any of those things justice.

Honestly, I think we should have gone with the reluctant hero's quest because there would have been plenty of action, drama, a bit of romance, and at some point, our hero would have to think for himself.  We've got another Harry Potter on our hands here, unfortunately.  In order to make him more human, more "relatable", Rowling made him an idiot and all the answers were fed to him mainly by Hermione.  Aquaman starts out with Arthur living his life following his own sense of justice, that innocents should be protected, even at the peril of the other humans that cause the suffering.  His choices and actions are his own and, combined with his history, have paved the way for our protagonist to become a hero.

But once he's begged and pretty much forced to take on the role, virtually nothing is of his own volition.  And aside from one scene where he uses the knowledge gained from his father, all the other answers are given to him by Mera.  Now, I'm all for a strong female lead and that she could even upstage the males in the cast, but to essentially castrate our hero by treating him like an idiot and for the writers to perpetuate that ridiculousness does our hero absolutely no justice at all.  At some point I expected Arthur to decide that the mantle placed on his shoulders was his by choice, not just by circumstance.  That he'd be less reactive and more proactive.

Oh, and the romance was unnecessary and out of place.  Throwing it in haphazardly made it seem disingenuous and fickle rather than a changing and growing of hearts that would become a true partnership for the good of both nations.  I mean, I'm pretty sure that's the goal of their togetherness, but it was poorly executed.

So...to say I'm conflicted is an understatement.  Why would you give us a hero that you could basically write from scratch because he's so misunderstood and underdeveloped and make his brain impotent and his brawn overwhelming?  Where's the balance?  Where's the focus?  With cliche and simplistic writing, way more telling than showing, overuse of CG, and giving us a way too many conflicts because you're not sure how many sequels you can milk from this if you were to give us only one...what were you hoping for?  High hopes, eye candy, and sheer curiosity will bring me back for a sequel...maybe.  But probably only if it shows up on Netflix.

Men of Hidden Creek Season 3

Masterpiece (Men of Hidden Creek Season 3 Book 2) by [Welch, HJ] Milestone (Men of Hidden Creek Season 3) by [Bailey, J Hayden]
Melody (Men of Hidden Creek Season 3 Book 5) by [Roland, Blake] Mistletoe (Men of Hidden Creek Season 3 Book 6) by [Hendricks, Alison]

Masterpiece (Men of Hidden Creek Season 3 Book 2) by [Welch, HJ]This was surprisingly low on the coming-out angst.  I was honestly expecting a lot more vacillation and denials from Vince than we got.  What we saw instead was an earnest man who was willing to accept something new and different about himself with very little shame or inner turmoil.  The passion he shared with Koby was sweet and a little hot but nothing to write home about because most of the story was spent educating us about labels and dividing the allies from the extremely homophobic responses.  Koby was an anticipated character for me and he did live up to the kind, supportive, creative, and straightforward person we caught glimpses of previously.  Together he and Vince were more sweet than anything as was the response to their announcements.  Overall this was a nice story that had a quick and low angst build-up to a genuine relationship.  3.5 stars.
 Masterpiece: Men of Hidden Creek Season 3 Book 2, HJ Welch

Milestone (Men of Hidden Creek Season 3) by [Bailey, J Hayden]Another relatively easy acceptance of another side of their sexuality has the men of Milestone at the low side of the angst scale.  While I think their relationship's "conclusion" was a bit rushed, their progression was believable.  I liked how they built a friendship and a mutually beneficial arrangement that included using both men's talents to help one another and, ultimately, allow both men to realize their individual potential as well as their potential together.  This was such a win for me that I didn't even mind the overly dramatic and then quickly deflated "reunion".  4 stars.
 Milestone: Men of Hidden Creek Season 3 Book 3, J. Hayden Bailey

Melody (Men of Hidden Creek Season 3 Book 5) by [Roland, Blake]When we first met Zach he was a man who yearned for love so hard that he got walked all over by a manipulative pretender and my heart ached for him.  What he finds with Shane has all the makings of something really amazing, but he's so gun-shy that he almost blows it.  I found his almost paranoid hesitance distracting and frustrating most of the time.  His focus on doing what's right, doing his job, and being honest with Shane, however, just about redeems him.  He grew by the end of the story and made me feel confident that he really could get it together enough to be a good partner for Shane.  Shane was stalwart right from the start and deserved someone who could support him and accept all the goodness in his heart.  I was glad the drama was appropriate for each man and it suited the story as well as getting them both to the point of crumbling or standing tall in the face of adversity.  While one just about crumbled, he found his inner strength and confidence enough to work out a very sweet ending for both of them.  3.5 stars.
 Melody: Men of Hidden Creek Season 3 Book 4, Blake Roland

Mistletoe (Men of Hidden Creek Season 3 Book 6) by [Hendricks, Alison]Micah and Brandon dance around their chemistry in a way that's actually quite sweet.  We know the predicament they're in and know where they'll end up, but the journey to that point is one of a lot of complicated feels, more feels than I expected.  I liked Brandon's honesty at the outset of the change in their dynamic as well as his concern for his daughter.  Micah's yearning for love was endearing as well.  What didn't work for them was what frustrated me the most and that was the complete lack of communication.  And then Micah's refusal to apologize enough for his actions, no matter how much Brandon overreacted, was disappointing to say the least.  This couple had the potential to be one of my favorites and the side cast was both overwhelming and wonderful as well.  The superstars were actually the brothers who gave the words of wisdom, the support, and the kicks in the bums both men needed to get their heads on straight.  I was set up for such greatness in the beginning and while the ending was full of tenderness and vulnerable honesty, the apology wasn't two-sided and the individuals' indignation soured all those wonderful warm things I felt prior to those moments.  3.5 stars.
 Mistletoe: Men of Hidden Creek Season 3 Book 6, Alison Hendricks

Matched Intensity: Open Wounds Book 3, Michelle Frost

Matched Intensity (Open Wounds Book 3) by [Frost, Michelle]

Family and secrets tore them apart years ago, the same thing brings them back together.  Rory and Magnus have always known there was only one man who could own their soul, but with all the hurt they might not be able to trust one another with their hearts again.  Finally willing to let down their walls and aim for a new normal, they're at the cusp of beginning something different, better than they had when they were young.  Except a dangerous past comes calling and might keep them from the future they both hoped to forge anew.

Rory had my heart from day one with his fierceness, loyalty, brooding, and quiet strength and love for the Rourkes.  It was clear that he wanted something from Magnus but didn't believe he could have it and was therefore punishing himself.  The impression I had up to this point was that it was Magnus keeping them apart despite Rory's disappearance for a decade.  What we learned here was much more complicated, frustrating, and heartbreaking.

Magnus was the aloof, brooding, and proud brother that was almost more of a mystery to me than Vidar.  The Magnus I met here was nothing like what I imagined up to this point.  I don't know if I like this version better, to be honest.  I will say that I did like how he stuck up for himself, got help, and was trying for honesty with Rory in a way that he was holding back before.

There were so many unanswered questions in this book that I'm feeling quite conflicted about Magnus as well as the relationship's struggles.  My feelings are unresolved by the end and while I do like the men together and have so much hope and love for them going forward, I feel that there's a whole foundation and background that is lacking.  What is this huge, hurtful outburst that happened a year and a half ago?  We didn't get that in Carry & Drag so I'm left mystified about their initial reunion.  What made Magnus go from modeling to porn and why did he make that decision?  I don't remember reading that anywhere before.  Magnus' pride in his porn career is fine, I don't really have a problem with that choice, but it doesn't feel like pride so much as bravado and familial acceptance of his choice.

Overall, this was a good story and I'm so very glad Rory got the man he always wanted, that his heart could truly heal.  I appreciated Rory's honesty regarding Magnus' career consequences and felt that was the most believable outlook he could have had.  The drama was suitably built up but the resolution was a little too clean and quick using something like a deus ex machina, or maybe more like a Rory and Tom ex machina, and it felt a bit cheap and rushed.  I just feel such a disconnect from  Magnus as an individual and from their relationship that I had a hard time coming to terms with their history in order to feel fully invested in their future.  Doesn't mean the story was bad, not at all, it just left me conflicted rather than satisfied.

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 Matched Intensity: Open Wounds Book 3, Michelle Frost

Drawn to You, Jaclyn Quinn

Drawn to You (A Beyond the Cove Novel) by [Quinn, Jaclyn]

A heart can only pine for so long before the ache takes over.  For Elijah, he feels like he's approached that point over and over but after hearing the callous words from Jake, the man he hoped could be more, he's finally done.  Jake sees what he's doing is hurting Elijah but he just can't stop because he doesn't feel worthy enough to give Elijah what he deserves.  Until a tragedy brings Jake to his knees and Elijah to his side.  Navigating loss, heartache, and the casualties of the devastation bring both men closer together until they think that maybe, just maybe, they might be able to make things work after all; or maybe their closeness is just a product of hurt and comfort and it won't last.  Without courage they might lose it all before they can speak their hearts.

From their first coupling until the end, it's clear Elijah and Jake have serious chemistry.  It's that chemistry and the hope for more that brings Elijah back for more over and over again.  Finally, when he declares he's had enough, Jake begins to show his possessiveness, a possessiveness that has no place in the face of his rejection of Elijah's heart.  I was pretty disgusted with Jake's treatment of Elijah and the things he'd say to their partying coworker.  All the broken pieces of our hearts, mine and Elijah's, are mended by Jake's confession near the end though.  In fact, it's Jake's heart that made me fall in love with this story so hard.

There was so much pain, so much raw honesty over and over here.  From the horrendous grandparents, the grief of so many, the fallout of the grief and recovery, the passion, feeling undeserving, the tenderness and healing, feeling worthy...I was moved all throughout the story and couldn't have predicted just how much I would love the journey.  It's family that can bring us down or lift us up, but it's the chosen family that gives our heart a home, enhances the meaning of who we are, and provides a place to land when life throws us its worst.  From lows to highs, the family Jake and Elijah surround themselves with are some of the best humans and it was a pleasure to read this story.

*$3.99 on Amazon or FREE on KU!
 Drawn to You, Jaclyn Quinn

Faith: SEAL'ed Book 5, Andi Jaxon and AJ Alexander

Faith (SEAL'ed Book 5) by [Alexander, AJ , Jaxon, Andi ]

Being randomly paired with a soldier overseas, Becca begins to write letters to a lonely SEAL and finds her heart being slowly engaged by the man.  Justin is captivated by the lonely but beautiful soul that has become a true friend through their correspondence.  What he didn't expect was the desires he'd have toward her romantically or that he'd want to have her and her daughter for his own.  But Becca is running in fear of a future heartbreak she's sure is inevitable.  Justin will have a tremendous task in front of him if he hopes to claim his family, but no SEAL backs down from a challenge.  If Becca can find the faith to believe in her letter lover, she might find freedom from grief and an enduring love she never expected to find a second time around.

The premise here was so sweet and I'm a sucker for a pen-pal turned more because they have a chance to build something immensely strong before lust enters the picture.  Too often we find relationships based on sex first rather than a foundation of all the other solid stuff.  There's nothing wrong with physical passion in a relationship, for many it's an essential part of it.  But everyone knows sex has a way of confusing things and lengthening relationships that really shouldn't have happened in the first place.  What we get here is something tangible and sweet and deep before adding in the physical attraction, which is definitely abundant on both ends.

 Faith: SEAL'ed Book 5, Andi Jaxon and AJ Alexander

What bothers me here, though, is Becca.  She vacillates so quickly and uses her daughter as a shield rather than a legitimate reason.  If she wants friendship first, stick to that and don't keep her daughter from knowing a good man.  Having a great male influence in her daughter's life can benefit her beyond the possibility that the connection could turn into more.  There's no rule that says if you can't have someone as a lover that you need to break your kids' heart by separating them from someone who genuinely cares about them beyond what they might feel or not feel for you.  Becca going from wanting more to shedding tears over cutting herself and him off, to deciding to keep him in her life, then again to reiterating the same fears yet again to her girlfriends gets super annoying very quickly.

Justin is mature and I liked him quite a lot.  He had a clear understanding of where she was coming from and knew how far he'd go for her and them together.  He didn't push, he respected her and loved her for all the best reasons.  His confessions and the end were so very sweet, absolutely worth reading in the end.  The depth of character created here was almost enough to make up for Becca's disappointing predictability.

 Faith: SEAL'ed Book 5, Andi Jaxon and AJ Alexander

The story dragged in places because we kept going over the same thoughts over and over from both perspectives, mostly Becca, and we didn't actually learn much that was new no matter how many times we covered their fears.  I honestly skimmed a ton of the story making it much shorter than even the novella is originally.  After reading Honor and Love from this series I have to say I had super low expectations for this story.  I'm glad it seems to have improved greatly and I may even go back to give Fate a chance.  Overall, this is one of the the better books from a cliche, erotic, and superficial series that could have been great.

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 Faith: SEAL'ed Book 5, Andi Jaxon and AJ Alexander

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Andi Jaxon

Raised all over the USA, Andi Jaxon is an interesting mix of East Coast meets West Coast with a little bit of Southern thrown in, just for good measure. She drinks too much coffee until it's late enough to drink too much wine and while her husband is defending his country, Andi is sexually frustrated for your freedom. If you see Andi online, she is probably sitting in a closet, hiding from her kids.

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AJ Alexander

AJ Alexander is a wannabe psychologist, writer, and author of the recently completed, SEAL’ed Series. AJ’s passion is writing angst filled happily ever afters that have to be earned by her characters. Women with no backbone need not apply.  AJ uses sarcasm and an unlimited supply of song lyrics to bring her romance novels to life.

AJ lives in the angst capital of the world, Seattle Washington with her own personal knight in shining armour and her two beautiful girls.

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Promise to Shield: Personal Protectors Book 2, Brittany Cournoyer

Promise to Shield (Personal Protectors Book 2) by [Cournoyer, Brittany]

A father's love puts Brice and Carter in close proximity to one another and while Carter was willing to do the job, it doesn't keep their personalities from clashing, often.  Attraction is buried deep under their animosity, but when an enemy from Carter's past puts them in danger the situation changes and their feelings change along with it, deepening to something irreplaceable.  If they can shield one another from the dangers and survive, they might get the chance to let down all their walls and keep what they've found.

From the very beginning the sniping, childishness, and assholery took center stage.  I'm not a fan.  I do understand that Brice had some major issues and was acting out in the only way he knew how.  Totally get it.  But it went on for sooooooo looooooong that I wanted to skip so many pages of their interactions because none of it gave much insight beyond the first couple chapters, none of it progressed their feelings or changed their relationship, none of it made me like either man...and that's a damn shame because the way the story ended made me want to like them so much.

The drama was definitely big and the conclusion came quick on its heels.  There wasn't a ton of build-up, that was used on drawing out their insane chemistry through hate-sex as well as their constant bickering.  I don't know that I'm a fan of the villain.  The players were slightly predictable as were their accomplices, but the situation did work.  Jillian was the most disappointing and I felt that her little confession was forced and contrived rather than natural and the confrontation in the hospital didn't really give closure because the same feelings of betrayal and hurt were the same after their earlier phone call.  Ultimately, I think the bad people were sufficiently bad and was surprised by the amount of damage that was allowed to happen at the end.  I wasn't mad at that surprise despite all the pain and awfulness Brice and Elliot had to endure.

Speaking of surprises, the set-up for the next story was a big shock when it was revealed though I could see how it came together afterward; hindsight is always 20/20.  With enough of these little surprises and all the heart and honesty that came at the end I wasn't ready to write this one off.  My extreme annoyance with their quarreling immaturity was tempered with the way things ended.

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 Promise to Shield: Personal Protectors Book 2, Brittany Cournoyer

False Memory and False Hope: The False Series Books 1 and 2, Meli Raine

Waking up and seeing your attempted killer's face is frightening enough.  For Lily to realize she's been in a coma for 14 months and that killer has integrated themselves into her family is worse.  Learning they know she knows who they are could spell her death, for real this time.  Only by lying can Lily have the hope of surviving and saving her family in the process.  Trusting no one is second only to lying to ensure the safety of all those she loves.

Lily is a very strong woman.  I admired her inner strength and commitment to her goal, that no one and nothing would keep her from remembering who she is and what she's fighting for.  She never gave up the fight and handled everything that came at her with a focus and clarity that I didn't expect.

But I have to say this story dragged...a lot.  While I appreciated all the little elements that made hour journey through the coma and afterward so real, so visceral, it went on for a long, long time.  We do get to the point where she's out of the hospital and going through the excruciating experience of PT, but by this point we're deep into the danger from her would-be killer.  Her emotional outbursts are quite understandable and I liked seeing her get to a point where something had to change for progression's sake.  When she and Duff were finally coming to some kind of understanding I had a really difficult time following their interactions.  Their dialogue wasn't easy to follow either because it was far more difficult to decipher joking, sarcasm, honesty veiled with lies, outright lies, and intent in their words than it should have been.  I had to re-read sections wondering if I was missing something.

The end is quite abrupt and very leading in terms of Lily and Duff's path together and the drama surrounding them is ramping up to be quite big.  It's definitely a cliffhanger, but that's to be expected with this author and how she puts her stories together, and the stopping point quite effectively makes you feel almost a sense of panic to get to the next book...

Picking up exactly where we were left with False Memory, we're treated to Duff's POV.  He knows Lily is lying and it's imperative she reveals her secrets to him.  But what he learns is both devastating and enlightening.  The truth leads them to a web of secrecy so interconnected it'll take a miracle to sort it out and save Lily's life.

Through Duff's eyes we see Lily in a similar way as before, but we're adding a tender element to the crazy that surrounds them.  Lily is still the strong woman we've come to know and despite her moment of panic and shock, which is completely understandable in their situation, she's also seen as a bit more vulnerable.  We get to see her tells and her frustrations with a fresh perspective.

Duff is frustrating to no end.  I'm not really a fan of how often we have to hear that he's a robot, or he shouldn't see Lily as he does, or the endless references to their job descriptions as well as his secrets without learning them at all.  He lies, he conceals, he evades, he distracts until he's backed into a corner and is forced to share his true allegiance.  Nothing is ever that simple, though, because the web just gets more tangled.

If at this point you haven't read the Harmless or Shameless books, you may be lost like I was.  Even starting The False Series from the beginning isn't helping me because the characters brought in, mentioned, and the motives and machinations of all of them are so convoluted I can't seem to keep it all straight.  I'll be doing a bunch more reading before False Start comes out so I can get it all straight before we're treated to the finale.  The final scene here creates that same sense of panic, but we also get disorientation and more urgency.  The finale should be a doozy...

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False Start: Coming January 15, 2019...

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About Meli...
Meli Raine writes romantic suspense with hot bikers, intense undercover DEA agents, bad boys turned good, and Special Ops heroes — and the women who love them. Meli rode her first motorcycle when she was five years old, but she played in the ocean long before that. She lives in New England with her family.

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