Claiming Felicity: Ace Security Book 4, Susan Stoker

Claiming Felicity (Ace Security Book 4) by [Stoker, Susan]

Fighting for what's right is never really easy.  And when what you're fighting against sets its sights on you?  Sometimes the only thing you can do is run.  A decade later and Felicity is still running.  Despite making friends, being accepted into their family, and having a steady job with people she loves it seems her trouble has found her again.  When her preparations for running bring all her friends into her drama it's Ryder, the mysterious fourth brother, that gives her the hope of freedom.

Ryder is a man who knows himself.  When his brothers jump at the call to go to Felicity he knows the call is meant for him too.  He's not sure why, he just knows that when that feeling hits his best bet is following it.  What he finds when he does is the woman who was meant for him and him alone.  Immediately he's on her side, in her space, giving her the support she needs to face her demons, her worst fears, and her past.

 Claiming Felicity: Ace Security Book 4, Susan Stoker

The drama from her past is pretty big.  We get a good sense from the prologue that the man haunting her is no one to tangle with.  Felicity has used all the tools in her brilliant mind to stay as many steps ahead of him for the past decade but it's clear that he's found her again, and he's close.  What she feels from Ryder is sincerity and safety.  Never in her life did she think it would be possible to have a future free from fleeing and free from loneliness.  But it looks like Castle Rock is the place meant for her, for them.

I loved Felicity.  She was strong, smart, and still scared.  She was honest and still such a badass when it mattered.  She had the biggest heart and would do anything for and to protect those she loves.  I especially loved it when she agreed to not go alone to meet Joseph.  Her response was all sass and all savvy.  A lot of times when a heroine is strong and finally feeling anger instead of fear she also gets stubborn and willing to give in to the villain's demands because of their perceived power over the situation.  What Felicity does instead is perfect.  Trusting that she has a whole team of awesome at her side and behind her she knows that it's not smart to put any faith whatsoever in the bad guy and to only go into the fray with both protection and support.

 Claiming Felicity: Ace Security Book 4, Susan Stoker

And Ryder.  I'm a huge sucker for a big alpha man who is perfectly devoted to the one woman he knows he's meant for.  From the beginning it's clear that he's not a manwhore, not a playboy, not a badass mercenary who takes physical pleasure just because he can and needs soft bodies and intense release to balance the evil he fights.  Instead, he's reserving his sexual passion for encounters that matter and because his job isn't one that allows for encounters that matter, he's mostly celibate.  That is so very rare in romance novels featuring strong alpha-type men who are physically captivating and I find myself craving those kinds of men more and more frequently.

So anyway, back to Ryder.  He's all in when it comes to Felicity and his passion for her is matched by the zeal he feels towards her protection.  Knowing who she is inside from the very beginning there's no angst in them regarding her past self and present self.  He's just in.  No questions, no reservations, just devotion.  He's noble, honest, and absolutely determined to protect what's his and everything she loves.  He is also incredibly resourceful.  With no hesitation he called on all his friends to give him the information he needed to do his job.

 Claiming Felicity: Ace Security Book 4, Susan Stoker

The direction of the drama wasn't exactly expected and yet when Joseph made his move we could look back and say, "Yeah, I can see that he'd do that."  It escalated the drama into more than just a "final showdown" and it also made for a much more powerful ending.  It was a catalyst for so much more than the plot's progression and resolution, it tested the couples, the friendships, and the connection they all shared.  By having short little scenes from each couple we get to see each of the brothers as they experience their hard-won love and how much intimacy means to them after overcoming tragic events.  Their lives are dramatic but so very filled with the tenderness that connects them, gets them through all the crazy that comes to them.

And then the little scene from Rex's POV?  Dang.  I haven't heard if this is going to be its own series but Susan Stoker doesn't introduce a group of men and not give them their own stories unless there's a crossover of some kind with another author.  I'm more than eager to get to know the rest of the Mountain Mercenaries.  All the men are charming, intriguing, darkly awesome, and have that same noble, protective streak that I love about Ryder.  Each of them deserve their own kick ass woman and I can't wait to get to know them and the women they fall for.

$4.99 on Amazon or FREE on KU!
 Claiming Felicity: Ace Security Book 4, Susan Stoker

The Trainee Cupid(s): Public Limited Cupids Book 3, Riza Curtis

The Trainee Cupid(s) (Public Limited Cupids Book 3) by [Curtis, Riza]

With a job suited to both twins, but for very different reasons, they get themselves into quite a fix.  And when Arron begins to fall for his nerdy, attractive partner, their ruse might end his romance before it can even get off the ground.  When PLC's very way of conducting the affairs of human love matches is threatened by a supply and demand problem their job could be at stake too.  The solution is right under their noses but with so many angles to keep track of it could all be lost unless they come clean and use their innate talents.

I was thinking we'd get Arron and Lysander's POV in this story but instead we get Arron and Owen.  Owen's snark balances Arron's shyness but it goes a bit far and makes him seem more immature and petty after not too long.  I was also thinking we'd get more of the romance development than we did.  There wasn't enough page time on that.  The focus of the story was more on the twins' dynamic and the drama surrounding the arrows.  I must say that I found that quite disappointing.

If the romance were better developed and we had Lysander's view I would have liked it much better.  The only bit that made having both Arron and Owen involved in the story was with Tom and what he could see.  There's also no hint about Owen's relationship so he may or may not get his own story next.  The length of the story was the real detriment to both the plot and the relationship.  With a couple/few more chapters I think we could have had something more full, complete, deep, and satisfying.

*$1.99 on Amazon or FREE on KU!
 The Trainee Cupid(s): Public Limited Cupids Book 3, Riza Curtis

Torment: Savages and Saints Book 1, C.M. Seabrook

Torment (Savages and Saints Book 1) by [Seabrook, C.M.]

Quinn has loved Zee her whole life and despite the hurt and the six-year separation, she can't seem to shake her feelings.  No man she dates can measure up, no man tears her up or torments her heart the same way.  And when she finds him in her bed one night she can't deny that despite him making her crazy, she'd like to keep him there.

Zee knows Quinn has had a crush on him for most of their lives and somewhere deep inside he knows that it's her adoration that lights his heart.  But he also knows that the darkness eclipses everything and ruins everyone he touches.  His penchant for running away is the only thing that can truly break her heart and he'll do it because the one thing he knows above all else is that he's unworthy of love.

They've led a long life together but always on the periphery of one another.  With the two families intricately connected it was inevitable, but what wasn't was the fallout after the St. James patriarch's death.  Zee doesn't handle it well and his mistakes are all catching up with him.  Even after six years of being gone there's nowhere else he can run without trying to make it up to everyone he's hurt.  Except no matter how hard he tries he seems to only be successful at mucking it all up and then pulling a runner.

If it weren't for Quinn he'd be out the door right away but there's something about her that keeps him there.  He won't admit that he yearns for her but with her permission he'll give her all the passion she craves with the caveat that it can't be permanent.  Quinn accepts because she'll take anything she can get from the man who could very easily become her whole world.

I liked these people.  Quinn was full of sass and stubborn as an ox but so very full of love.  Through everything it's her love and willingness to see beyond the pain that makes me love her.  She's immature at times but that kind of adds to her charm.  Zee is such a martyr.  But he doesn't even martyr well.  He's full of self-loathing and a lot of it is with good reason.  He needs a lot of help to work beyond all that to right his wrongs.  I like him because he's redeemable and the way he is with Quinn when he's not being a prick is so tender and full of hope.  I'm looking forward to seeing them on the periphery of the rest of the series.  As the first coupling from these families they've brought together the Savages and Saints in a way that will provide fodder, angst, and incredible feels throughout the subsequent books.

*99¢ on Amazon or FREE on KU!
 Torment: Savages and Saints Book 1, C.M. Seabrook

Submit: Power Book 2, Bailey Bradford

Submit (Power Book 2) by [Bradford, Bailey]

Larry has had an incredibly difficult life and I loved him right from the beginning.  His heart and commitment to helping everyone around him before himself is not just selfless, it's an example worth emulating...to a point.  You can't serve someone from an empty platter.  Larry has trouble refilling his platter.  His friendships and philanthropy aren't healing him the way he had hoped.  He's lonely and needs relief.  A mutual acquaintance brings him to the attention of a Dom that can give him the relief he seeks and before he realizes it, he's drawn to the man for more.

Bo is lonely.  When he's captivated by Larry's face and attitude willingly participates in a scene with him.  Realizing quickly that he's drawn to him beyond what he can do for the beautiful man with a cane or a flogger, he hopes to find him at the club again.  There's something deeper and darker that calls to him.  Seeing him outside of the club by coincidence gives him the opportunity to begin something more with him.  As he falls for Larry his own heart finds the place it was always meant to be.

This was an intense story that was far too short for my liking.  I seriously enjoyed it.  There was a dynamic here to their practice of BDSM that was unique to this pairing.  A lot of respect and genuine affection drove their interactions which I found fantastic.  The sexy times didn't happen at first and this isn't something I've come across in other stories like this I've read thus far.  Usually, it's an intense sexual attraction that leads to some kind of scene with sex included and then some angst and a relationship that grows from there.

Instead, we have two men who need something deeper, a connection to be their foundation, turmoil from their lives outside their scenes that drive the need for their scenes.  Affection builds as they learn boundaries.  Their communication is phenomenal.  They discuss limits and expectations and personalities before getting into what they can do for one another and they make it work.

Like I said, this story was far too short.  I wanted much more.  There was so much potential as individuals and as a pair that was unfulfilled because of the story's length.  I'm hoping that as I continue the series I'll get more relationships like theirs that feel real, organic, and tender in addition to the hotness that comes from their steamy interactions.

*99¢ on Amazon!
 Submit: Power Book 2, Bailey Bradford

*You get to meet Tom and Hank briefly in Submit.
Find out how Larry encourages them to find their own happiness together...
Exchange (Power Book 1) by [Bradford, Bailey]
Exchange: Power Book 1, Bailey Bradford

What’s a sub to do when the Dom he wants looks dejected? Hank’s about to find out as soon as he works up the nerve to approach Master Thomas.
Hank has watched and wanted Master Thomas for a long time. When Master Thomas’ sub leaves him looking dejected, Hank wants to take a chance. Fear holds him back until his friend prompts him to take action and be more forward than he’s ever been before.
Thomas isn’t broken-hearted, but his pride sure took a hit. He’s sitting in the club, doubting himself, as his ex-sub is acting more like a Dom than not.
Then a sub wearing white leather approaches Thomas with some goading from a friend. Thomas has noticed Hank before, but the timing was never right for them to connect—until now.
With one daring move by a sub who knows Doms are only human, the future suddenly looks brighter than Thomas had hoped it could be.

Every Breath You Take: Redeeming Love Book 2, J.E. Parker

Every Breath You Take (Redeeming Love Book 2) by [Parker, J.E.]

There's surviving, and then there's thriving.  Shelby has survived but now she's finding her place in life to give her son the best life possible away from everything that could harm him.  She's committed to making his future one where he can thrive.  Along the way she's also committed to providing safety and peace for others that have survived like she has.  And if she can find a way to thrive on her own?  Well, it'll take a miracle to heal her and give her the security and freedom she affords others.

While he's not exactly a miracle, Anthony Moretti came close enough that Shelby finally found someone that thought about her.  But more than that, he made her think about herself.  Falling in love with her and her son opened doors for her that she never thought possible.  And that support and affection changed her life.

But no matter how much love there is, it won't erase your demons.  Time, patience, understanding, and love go a long way to giving you internal power over them.  For Shelby, though, she's got those demons and another far more physically real one that won't stop until she's either dead or his.

Anthony will do everything in his power to protect Shelby.  His complete devotion to her right from the start was both tender and powerful. I don't know that I liked the pushing and belligerently macho posturing he does at times.  With one instance of triggering her panic attack I thought he should have used his softness afterward to find out what her triggers were so he could knock it off.  Aside from that, though, he was thoughtful, incredibly sexy, understanding, and such a good, good man.  He provided the perfect complement to the mouthy, fiery Shelby.

Shelby was so much sass and fierceness.  I loved her.  She was a bit too stubborn at times but I loved that she never let all the male posturing dampen her will.  Never let any of them keep her from doing what was right.  Without her tenacity and resolve she could have quickly faded in their giant ego's shadows but instead, she balanced them, called them out, fought her own battles, protected others around her fiercely, and ultimately, it was all of those traits that let her be her own hero.

This story was so funny at times I laughed out loud (very rare occurrence for me to laugh outwardly) and it was also incredibly intense.  There was violence and horror from her past that haunted her present and threatened her future.  There was incredible steam between Shelby and Tony.  There was an astounding amount of tenderness and love.  I was drawn in to the story and the characters right from the very beginning and they didn't let me go until the end.  Each pairing is phenomenal and I'm really excited to read more of their stories.

*$2.99 on Amazon or FREE on KU!
 Every Breath You Take: Redeeming Love Book 2, J.E. Parker

*Maddie and Hendrix had their own rough, 
long road to travel for their HEA.
Read their story in Every Moment with You...
Every Moment with You (Redeeming Love Book 1) by [Parker, J.E.]
 Every Moment with You: Redeeming Love Book 1, J.E. Parker
Two broken hearts. One second chance.

Maddie
I've loved Hendrix Cole ever since I was a little girl.
From the moment I first saw him, I knew that one day, he'd be mine.
And he was. At least... until he threw it all away.
I gave Hendrix my heart and he shattered it into a million pieces.
I begged him not to leave. Still, he walked away.
It's been six years since I've seen him.
But now a cruel twist of fate just brought us face-to-face.
He swears he never meant to hurt me.
He begs me for another chance.
I still love him. Always have. Always will.
But can I trust him?
Losing him once almost killed me.
I won't survive if it happens again.

Hendrix
I've loved Maddie Davis ever since I was a kid.
From the moment I first saw her, I knew that one day, she'd be mine.
I was right.
Maddie gave me her heart and I gave her my ring.
But like the screw-up my father says I am, I blew it.
Before I could explain, she vanished.
Our love? Gone in the blink of an eye.
I know I hurt her and I hate myself for it.
Now she's back.
This is my chance.
I won't let her walk away.
Not again.
Maddie is mine.

Captive Hearts: Deviant Hearts Book 1, A.E. Ryecart

Captive Hearts (Deviant Hearts Book 1) by [Ryecart, A E]

Sometimes tragedy is just tragedy, other times, precious rare times, tragedy turns into salvation.  With no hope of being saved himself, Billy is willing to surrender his body and mind to evil incarnate for the ability to care for the woman who loved him, raised him.  And then Dashiell appeared.  Coming face to face with someone he wants but seeing no way to have him he realizes just how well and truly trapped he is.  It'll take everything Dashiell has in him to believe they'll both escape together.

Billy is in an incredibly difficult situation.  The beatings his body, self-esteem, mind, and heart have taken over the last couple years were his price to pay to give his grandmother the life she deserves whether she knows she's getting it or not.  He's found a way to be numb through it all.  But when Dashiell saves him from a violent encounter his eyes are suddenly open again.  Pain becomes fresh, awareness makes him sensitive in a whole new way.

Dashiell is in a tenuous situation.  Teetering between protecting Billy and feigning deference to Frankie, he's realizing very quickly that his hatred for the tyrant holding Billy's life and their fates in his hand is going to doom them if he can't find a way to get them both out.  The stunning man has suddenly become the center of his world.  They give in to the passion and tender feelings connecting them and when worse comes to worst it's Dashiell's surprising and unlikely ally that helps to freedom.

 Captive Hearts: Deviant Hearts Book 1, A.E. Ryecart

This was an intense ride with more than a little darkness.  The tenderness was there, though, and you can see their true selves shine through everything they do.  It's natural that they gravitate to one another and even more natural that they become one another's salvation.  Their honesty is truly touching.  I love that Dashiell didn't excuse all of Billy's snottiness, that he called him on it and made fun of it sometimes.  He was badass and yet so very kind.  His recklessness, however, made me roll my eyes at times because I just knew that it would get them in trouble.  The constant reaffirmation of his dislike for following rules got a bit tedious.  It did help move the plot along, but it doesn't mean I had to like it.

Billy was truly a brat sometimes and though he knew it he couldn't help it.  His life wasn't the kind that allowed for softness but Dashiell's heart shining on his face gave him the courage needed to apologize, make amends, and find moments of peace in the chaos that was his life.  He was incredibly emotional and I don't blame him for it, not in the least, but I was hoping for a moment where he found his spine, found his inner strength and became something more than he was in the beginning.  To become decisive and defiant if only in his mind until they could escape.  To use his resources and privileges to find solutions not involving Frankie with the support, love, and encouragement Dashiell freely gave.

Their ending was sweet and full of hope and also gave a great opening for Lee's story.  I'm definitely looking forward to more from this series.  Despite having tragedy, despair, abuse, and hopelessness the story was touching and all that darkness made their love and hope for the future so much brighter.

*$3.99 on Amazon or FREE on KU!
 Captive Hearts: Deviant Hearts Book 1, A.E. Ryecart

To New Beginnings, Corinne Mazille

To New Beginnings by [Mazille, Corinne]

All the best decisions are made with copious amounts of wine...until you wake up and have to face the consequences.  Mia is stuck with some of the best consequences, though, when you compare drunk texting with a couple weeks in paradise.  Except what she really doesn't expect is to find the rest of her forever.

Being fired, evicted, and catching her fiancé being ridden by another woman, Mia has every reason to take a break from life.  Her best friend has her back, that's for sure, and when Mia accidentally purchases a two-week vacation on ʻOʻahu it's that support that has her waking Mia up and packing for her before her flight at an ungodly hour the next morning.  A meet-cute followed by a bar encounter sets Mia up for the fall of a lifetime, she just doesn't know it yet.

Beau is running from grief and responsibility.  When his best friend and quasi-brother is killed along with his wife in an unfortunate accident he skips town and ends up on a plane soaring across the ocean.  And then a stunning redhead bumps into him at baggage claim.  A meeting that sends her fleeing in embarrassment intrigues him and when he sees her dancing and drinking at his hotel's bar?  He's unwilling to let her run away this time.

 To New Beginnings, Corinne Mazille

The time they spend together in Hawaiʻi is passionate, fun, honest (to a point), and heartfelt.  They connect in a way they never realized was possible.  When Mia offers to help Beau when the news about Olivia is dropped on him he's reluctant to accept but she's determined to give him exactly what he needs.  Mia sees something in Beau that she yearns for but doesn't know if she can ask to keep him.  Beau feels the same but his life is in turmoil and with all the changes going on he's not sure if there's more in the cards for them beyond their island fling.

But fate isn't about to let them stay apart for long.  Mia can only avoid Beau for so long now that they're back in the same city and when he asks for her help it opens them up to take up right where they left off.  Their ups and downs are more cute and steamy than angst-ridden and chaotic.  I enjoyed seeing them fumble through the reconciliation despite the potential for misunderstandings and hurt.

When situations came up where they needed to be true to their feelings they were betrayed by their mouths and that actually helped them overcome what could have kept them from their happiness.  Thinking before speaking would have doomed them because of their insecurities and fears.  It was when they were thinking too hard that they got into trouble.

 To New Beginnings, Corinne Mazille

The drama surrounding their union and family was resolved pretty quickly and painlessly.  Well, except for the glass to the forehead and the knock to the back of the skull...  I liked the ending very much.  It was sweet, cute, hopeful, and very sexy.  Every character in the story was interesting, even the villains.  With a solid cast we're drawn in to their world far more than if this were just about a vacation fling and a fake marriage.  Meeting each person through their interactions with Mia and Beau builds affection for them as people and curiosity about who they'll end up with and how.  I'm absolutely in when the next story comes out!

*99¢ on Amazon!
 To New Beginnings, Corinne Mazille

Living in Your Hell: Shattered Lives Book 5, Barb Shuler

Living in Your Hell (Shattered Lives Series Book 5) by [Shuler, Barb]

Our childhood has a way of defining us as adults for better or worse.  When your nightmares revolve around your formative years how can you find a way to move on, to heal, to thrive?  Even with all the love and support in the world sometimes you still find yourself slowly descending into your own personal hell.

Shelby was given verbal abuse instead of food, pain instead of encouragement, scars instead of love.  When she finally finds success, love, and a home all it takes is a familiar face to threaten it all.  She thought she escaped her past but it turns out that her past has come back to show that her escape was an illusion.

Charlie loves Shelby with everything he has.  He also has a calling as a Sherriff's deputy.  When his two worlds collide he's willing to do everything he can to protect Shelby.  But how can he protect her from something he can't see?

I loved that Shelby was intelligent, determined, fierce, protective, and so full of love for her chosen family.  She was a kick-ass woman both literally and figuratively.  When there's something worth fighting for she's all in.  With an awesome cast to support her and love her through her trauma as it slowly comes to light she thrives.  Her confrontation with her past makes her fierce before she gives in to shock and fear.  The way she can keep her head in a crisis is both admirable and a surprise especially because the crippling fear that comes from a child is what she's struggled her whole life to get a handle on.

 Living in Your Hell: Shattered Lives Book 5, Barb Shuler

Her love and partner in Charlie is a great choice.  He's willing to help her through all the crazy as well as be there for her during the quiet.  His love for her is apparent in everything he does and he's a good man.  I do think he's a little hot under the collar when it comes to protecting Shelby, though, because he goes from level-headed to so heated that he would make terribly rash decisions if not for the control and guidance of some of his coworkers, family, and friends.

The entire cast was unfamiliar to me because I started with this book, book 5 in the series.  I'll definitely need to go back and read the rest to get to know each of these women and the community that accepts, supports, and loves them.  As for the drama in this book, I was glad that it was mostly streamlined.  It kept the story focused and allowed the progression to flow well.  The additions to their make-shift village were essential to the individual's growth and healing as well as the plot itself.  Each person played a role that was vital to the MC's situation and made for a much more cohesive story.  Overall it was an intense ride from start to finish and I'm looking forward to more.

*$2.99 on Amazon or FREE on KU!
 Living in Your Hell: Shattered Lives Book 5, Barb Shuler

Where I Am, Michelle Dare

Where I Am by [Dare, Michelle]

When what you see isn't what you thought you saw but you spend years angsting over it it's time to ask yourself if you can really believe your own eyes.  Astoria and Parker were deeply in love despite her being so young and one moment crushed it all.  Or so she thinks...  Astoria returns home to Arrow Falls after a four-year hiatus and runs into the man that broke her.  Their reunion is far from ideal but Parker is determined that Astoria will hear him, hear the truth.  Confession can't erase the past, but maybe it can give them a fresh start.

Astoria was young when she met Parker.  She fell hard and fast and just before leaving for college she catches him doing something inconceivable.  With tears streaming down her face and shouting her pain she runs away.  The next four years at college give her experience, growth, and time away.  What it doesn't do is erase Parker from her heart.  She wants closure but her heart doesn't want to give up.

I like her despite her youth.  She's so stubborn that it seems like she wants to live with her grief and anger.  Her youth doesn't allow her perspective or patience to see that there's always two sides to the story.  It doesn't allow her hindsight to speak sense to what she's determined to believe.  Outside of that flaw she's kind, caring, forgiving, loving, and devoted.  I enjoy watching her show her true colors when she finally accepts the truth.  She's also very honest.  When she speaks up and gives Parker all of her, including sharing her thoughts and goals knowing that they might not be what he wants to her I'm impressed by her maturity.  She also doesn't pout or become stubborn to the point of not listening to his concerns or desires for their future.  She's determined to be a true partner to Parker.

 Where I Am, Michelle Dare

Parker is enchanted by Astoria.  He falls hard and fast for the young girl that almost side-swiped his expensive ride.  When his heart is torn in two directions the one most pressing is also the one that shattered his love.  Standing by what he had to do even if it cost him Astoria he strives to make a new life for himself.  Finding no woman to take her place in his life he makes do with a stream of women in his bed.  None bring him peace, happiness, or even a desire for a repeat.  And then he sees her.  Astoria is home and his new purpose is to make her hear the truth and to get her back.

I enjoyed his sincerity.  He struggled quite a lot after Astoria took off and I don't really blame him for the way he lived his life after that.  What I loved was that it was like it was completely over.  The time between meant nothing and there was no angst from the relationships either of them had in the interim.  From the moment he saw her in her car until they were back together there was no one but her.  His devotion to her was incredible and passionate and the forever kind.  He understood her need for space and time before they resumed what they had before the Big-Mis.  The way he also treated his friends was more than admirable.  I was expecting something to instill doubt but there was nothing.

That nothing was perfect for their relationship because it gave them absolutely no obstacles to taking all the steps necessary to build something new, clean, and deeper than ever before.  What did come at them, however, was a bigger drama than I expected.  I had no clue, none whatsoever, about what was coming for them and their friends.  It was incredibly intense and violent where I was only anticipating male/female conflict and angst.  There was some of that, for sure, but the external factor that initially caused it was what grew and took on a life of its own.  It pulled in everyone and threatened all of them.  Evil came for them all and met a bloody, horrific end.

Another thing I wasn't expecting was a lot of life after that point.  Where most novels would end with the huge dramatic event and an emotional descent where a heartening resolution brings the MC's together and gives hope for their HEA, we get a long way into Parker and Astoria's HEA.  We get to see the healing, the changes, the growth, the families, the love all get to a solid point before the words "The End."  I both liked it and found myself constantly checking to see how many pages I still had to read before the end.  It was also a bit over the top.  But one thing I will say about it, it gave a better picture of how family, love, and counseling are all essential to moving above and beyond tragedy and horror.  It was good, happy, passionate, sexy, uplifting; the kind of ending we all hope for.

*99¢ on Amazon!
 Where I Am, Michelle Dare

*Cy and Eve may be devoted now,
but they didn't start out that way.
Read their story in Where I End...
Where I End by [Dare, Michelle]
 Where I End, Michelle Dare
Eve
Pretentious. Arrogant. Condescending. Cruel.
All words I'd used to label him. Exactly what I’d always believed he was. All that changed one spring morning when I realized I didn't know the man behind the facade at all.

Angry. Desperate. Broken. Mine.
All words I'd use to define him after I interfered. Once our eyes locked, I was all in. There was no turning back. He tried to push me away, but I refused to let him go. I was determined to save him. What I didn't expect was that he would save me, too.

Cy
I was so close to ending my misery. Mere seconds away. Then she stumbled upon our argument, and I changed my plans. She wasn't supposed to be there. She knew too much. Even with my entire world burning down around me, she wouldn't walk away.

I’ve always been on my own. No one had ever fought for me before. Why should anyone start now? But she did, no matter how much I tried to stop her. I knew I was nothing, unworthy of her, but she was persistent. Once she got under my skin, I couldn't let her go, because where I end, she begins.

The Jaguar's Romance: The Apex Shifters Book 2, Emilia Hartley

The Jaguar's Romance (The Apex Shifter Book 2) by [Hartley, Emilia ]

The nature of a cat and the nature of a bear are not too different, according to Oscar who shares the soul of a jaguar, and he's about to entice Sally to believe the same thing.  He's determined to draw out her innate sensuality himself.  And maybe find a way to keep her out of trouble with the law at the same time.

Sally is confused, frustrated, and frightened by the situation in which she finds herself.  Turned into a were-bear by a murdering, sadistic, insane grizzly out to ruin them all for unknown reasons, she's struggling to make peace between her and her bear.  With Thorn as a mentor she feels awkward and very like a burden.  Her crush on him makes her dependence on him bittersweet.  Sweet because he can understand her dilemma and she gets to ogle his hotness, but intensely more bitter because his lover and mate, Felicity, is never far away and her presence reminds her that she'll never have a chance with him.

Their situation is made infinitely more complicated by the fact that her sire is in the wind and his control over her might lead to Thorn's demise.  They need help to solve the mystery and Oscar is more than willing to help Sally in every way he can.

They have great chemistry and I like that the player in him can see what Sally has inside of her.  Not just her enticing curves, but her intelligence and goodness.  There's potential between them because her innocent curiosity and need to be desired for herself are drawing her to Oscar, not just the sexy facade, but the real man inside.  She breaks down his walls and opens his heart to more than just physical pleasure, something he didn't think existed.

Sally and her bear needed more assistance in accepting one another as well as honing her skills.  Her "jaunt" in the woods was kind of a hot mess and unsatisfying to say the least.  The romance was better, thank goodness, and I liked Oscar's explanation of why he accepted monogamy with Sally.  Hearing his thoughts about other women was slightly off-putting but actually not too bad because we knew from The Bear's Home and from the beginning of this story that he is quite the libertine and he had his own evolution to go through.

There's a ton of drama in this one.  With a number of plot points to cover in this relatively short story I was fairly impressed by how everything came together.  I did think it was a bit over the top at some moments and the resolution was slightly unsatisfying.  Yes, we didn't want Oscar to be like their nemesis but I'm really not sure human law enforcement is enough.  And unless the next story comes from Iwalani or The Vet, this just doesn't seem like a fitting end.  Whether the series continues or not, we'll see.  I'm hoping so because I'd like to get to know these other characters (I have my suspicions about The Vet) and I'd also like to see all the loose ends get tied up.

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 The Jaguar's Romance: The Apex Shifters Book 2, Emilia Hartley

*Meet Sally and Oscar before they find one another
in The Bear's Home and find out
how they get involved with the murderous interloper.
The Bear's Home by [Hartley, Emilia]
 The Bear's Home: The Apex Shifters Book 1, Emilia Hartley

Being the largest shifter in the area, Thorn had plenty of responsibilities. Unfortunately, there were only two things Thorn cared about. Fighting, and sex. This made Ripple, Oregon an easy target for other Apex Shifters. Especially of the sly female variety. Thorn could spot her a mile away. The sexy, confident blonde definitely didn't belong here. Not that it mattered... he was just interested in getting in her pants.

The small town was Felicity's next playground to tear apart. With plans to commercialize it with skyscrapers and malls, she could already feel the money in her hands. To make matters easier, the current Apex was a dumb brute named Thorn. Taking over this town was going to be easier than she'd originally thought, all she had to do was convince Thorn... and she knew exactly how.

Stealing A Cowboy's Heart: The Omegas of Sweet Water, Texas Book 3, Beau Brown

Stealing A Cowboy's Heart: The Omegas of Sweet Water, Texas Book 3 by [Brown, Beau]

Accepting that you need help is one thing, but actually accepting that help is a whole other can of worms.  Griff doesn't trust easily, especially not a cocky, attractive alpha.  That's what got him into his current situation.  And when Tex doesn't do anything but offer him a room, food, clothes, safety, and genuine warmth in return for trying to steal his truck and snarking at him each time he opens his mouth?  There's got to be an ulterior motive, he just knows it.  But as he softens he realizes that he wants those ulterior motives except as more time that passes he's slowly seeing that Tex might just not have those.  Who would want a snarky omega pregnant with another alpha's kid?

Little does he know Tex really does have desires for Griff.  He just wants him to feel safe, protected, clean, warm, and fed more than he wants to get him in bed.  He's had his share of omegas but hasn't had any that inspired him to keep them.  No one before has brought out his protective instinct or inflamed his desire the way this scraggly omega on the run has.  The more time he spends getting to know him the more he realizes he just might like him, might want to make his stay more permanent.

Tex had a lot to offer Griff and Griff could have been just the fiery companion Tex needs to keep him in line and interested.  When their rough edges are worn down by their prolonged proximity we see new sides to both of them that give us a more complete picture of who these men are, why they are the way they are, and just how great they could be together.

I was frustrated by their inability to communicate.  They talked around all the important feelings stuff and it made for misunderstandings, bitterness, and hurt.  And the bar scene when Tex knows what Griff is to him, no matter how prickly Griff is, was just wrong.  Totally wanted to smack him for saying and doing what he did.  I get why Griff holds back but to be so vehemently against claiming and making sure Tex knows that but to be upset when Tex respects him isn't okay either.  I think that the relationship angst was a bit too high for such a short story, especially when there's other drama threatening to separate them and endangering Griff and his daughter.

And when it came to the external drama it was like fireworks.  Big boom only to instantly fade.  The confrontations were both sudden and intense only to be dealt with quickly.  While that could have been comforting, it didn't feel right for the story either.  A guy who has a history of abusing omegas isn't really a flash-in-the-pan kind of guy and I was expecting a bit more from that plot point.

The story overall was good, though, because the writing was clear and gave us a great picture of the two men.  Passion was present and very intense.  Their claiming scene was hot but with the angsting before and especially after I was disappointed in the men.  By the time we get to their confessions I had mixed feelings of their compatibility but can't deny that I'm a lover of honest hearts.  With a slightly longer story and a more streamlined plot I think this could have been a great story.  As is it was a nice story with great chemistry, humorous bickering (to a point), a surprising amount of angst, and an awesome mom and friends to carry both men through and make them see beyond themselves.

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 Stealing A Cowboy's Heart: The Omegas of Sweet Water, Texas Book 3, Beau Brown

Sweet Crazy Song: Kings of Crown Creek Book 1, Vivian Lux

Sweet Crazy Song: A Small Town Rockstar Romance (Kings of Crown Creek Book 1) by [Lux, Vivian]

When a second look provides clarity.  When a kiss opens doors.  When grief opens the heart.  When the arms you least suspected become the ones you can't live without.  Jonah and Ruby are devastated by the death of a loved one and while they don't seek one another out, fate has a way of bringing them into their lives a way neither expected.  But without the courage to keep each other close and to change dreams of the future and what success looks like, they could lose the very thing that will heal them and make them fly.

I actually quite liked these characters.  They were flawed and didn't give either of one another any quarter when it came to fear and responsibility.  Together they brought one another solace, healing, passion, and love.  It breathed life into Jonah's creativity and gave Ruby the companionship she never really had despite her close relationship with her girlfriends.  Each of them possessed the something the other person needed.

Ruby was defensive at times but what came out of her mouth directed to Jonah was spot-on.  It gave him the fuel and fodder for making good, real change.  The kind that fundamentally changes a person and their relationships.  Because of her he could heal the rifts between him and his siblings.  It also brought him peace.  Something he wasn't sure he'd ever really feel again.

Jonah was damaged and childish without a rudder in the storm that was of his own making.  Feeling lost and abandoned he didn't know where to turn.  And then he ran right into the little spitfire that was Ruby.  With her compassion, empathy, and kick in the butt, he could finally breathe, grow.

I enjoyed the ride but could have used more of the foundation aspects of relationship-building instead of relying on bickering, passion, and a snowstorm to bind them together.  They weren't really friends as children so there wasn't that to bolster their romance either.  Despite that, tenderness, grief, togetherness, healing, redemption, and love; this story had all of that and more.

*$3.95 on Amazon!
 Sweet Crazy Song: Kings of Crown Creek Book 1, Vivian Lux