Publisher: Self-Published

Review: The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen

Posted July 13, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. JensenReviewer: Holly
The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang, James Patrick Cronin
Series: The Bridge Kingdom #1
Also in this series: The Bridge Kingdom, The Traitor Queen
Publisher: Self-Published, Audible Original
Publication Date: August 13, 2019
Format: Audiobook, eBook
Source: Audible Escape, Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 356
Length: 11 hours and 52 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge
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four-half-stars
Series Rating: five-stars

What if you fell in love with the one person you'd sworn to destroy?

Lara has only one thought for her husband on their wedding day: I will bring your kingdom to its knees. A princess trained from childhood to be a lethal spy, Lara knows that the Bridge Kingdom represents both legendary evil - and legendary promise. The only route through a storm-ravaged world, the Bridge Kingdom controls all trade and travel between lands, allowing its ruler to enrich himself and deprive his enemies, including Lara's homeland. So when she is sent as a bride under the guise of fulfilling a treaty of peace, Lara is prepared to do whatever it takes to fracture the defenses of the impenetrable Bridge Kingdom.

But as she infiltrates her new home - a lush paradise surrounded by tempest seas - and comes to know her new husband, Aren, Lara begins to question where the true evil resides. Around her, she sees a kingdom fighting for survival, and in Aren, a man fiercely protective of his people. As her mission drives her to deeper understanding of the fight to possess the bridge, Lara finds the simmering attraction between her and Aren impossible to ignore. Her goal nearly within reach, Lara will have to decide her own fate: Will she be the destroyer of a king or the savior of her people?

This popped up as a recommended read in Audible Escape. The blurb was intriguing so I decided to give it a try. I really enjoyed both narrators. From the very first I was pulled into this novel. I ended up purchasing the ebook so I could read when I wasn’t able to listen.

Lara and her half-sisters were raised in a desert compound for one purpose – to take down The Bridge Kingdom from the inside. As part of a 15 year treaty, one of them must marry the King of Ithicana (the Bridge Kingdom). Lara isn’t the chosen one, but she betrays her sisters to take her place as Queen in order to save their lives. Her goal is simple; Learn as much about the country and the Bridge as possible, so her father and his forces can take it over. Ithicana and her new husband are nothing like she thought they’d be, and it isn’t long before she begins questioning everything.

This was such a stellar story. I was sucked in from the very first page. Lara was such a multi-faceted character. Her whole life she’s been told Ithicana and her King are the reason so many in her country are starving. Although she doesn’t have a lot of love for her father, she does want better for her people. I completely understood why she made the choices she did. From beginning to end, I felt her struggle and determination to do what was right. My heart broke for her at the end, even as I wanted to rage at her. There never came a point when I didn’t understand her plight or her reasons for doing the things she did.

Aren wasn’t as complex of a character. He wanted what was best for his country, and he hoped for a true alliance with Lara’s father, though of course he was wary of ever getting it. Of the two, he was more open and sweet. He just wanted to be able to allow his country men and women to leave, or pursue other dreams, rather than become soldiers. I liked him, but I didn’t feel the same connection to him that I did Lara.

This book ended in a cliffhanger and I immediately dove into the second book.

The politics and intrigue, the personal relationships and Lara’s struggle to do what she was trained to do when her heart was telling her otherwise was very well done. I highly recommend this series.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

The Bridge Kingdom

four-half-stars


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Review: When He’s Dark by Suzanne Wright

Posted July 8, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: When He’s Dark by Suzanne WrightWhen He’s Dark by Suzanne Wright
Series: The Olympus Pride #1
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: April 7, 2020
Format: eBook
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 334
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Cat shifter Bree Dwyer doesn't fear much. Ironically, what she fears most is the person who was put on the Earth just for her. Your true mate wasn't supposed to be cruel and twisted; wasn't supposed to be someone who’d never love or want to claim you. The rumors that her true mate is dead bring her only relief. Bree's intent on moving forward with her life and building a future with someone else. Sadly, the male she wants most is one she can never have—a hot-as-sin wolverine shifter who happens to be her boss … and the cousin of her predestined mate.

Aleksandr “Alex” Devereaux detests being bullshitted, but he’s been lying to himself for years—pretending he thinks of Bree as extended family; that he doesn't want her so bad he aches with it; that he can't feel himself weakening against her pull. The night they spend together changes everything. He's done fighting himself on what he wants. Someone isn't happy about that. Possibly the same 'someone' who's playing mind games with Bree, trying to scare her. They're succeeding, because too many leads point to the possibility that the culprit could be the one person that she's determined to believe is dead.

I was sad to see the end of the Phoenix Pack and Mercury Pack series, so I’m really glad Wright is doing this off-shoot. We were introduced to characters from the Olympus Pride in previous books, but this book stands alone well.

Bree is a pretty strong Omega, which means she can help others control their emotions. There are several Omegas in the Pride, but though she isn’t Primary, she is the strongest. She’s also the one least likely to put up with other people’s crap, or sugar coat things. As a result, she and the Primary Omega butt heads. Bree knows she’ll either have to take over as Primary or leave, so she’s planning to leave.

Alex Devereaux has other ideas. He’s wanted Bree for years, but he didn’t think she was ready for him. Now it doesn’t matter, he’s determined to make her his. When strange things begin to happen to Bree and she’s almost kidnapped, Alex knows he’s made the right choice. She needs him in all the ways.

I really liked Alex and Bree. They had a fun romance. I didn’t love the external plot. These are always pretty predicable for me and I had everything figured out early on. Still, I liked the romance and the characters enough that it didn’t bother me too much.

3.5 out of 5

Olympus Pride

three-half-stars


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Sunday Spotlight: The Dare by Elle Kennedy

Posted July 5, 2020 by Holly in Features, Giveaways | 4 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

I haven’t been reading as much New Adult lately, but Elle Kennedy is one of the few authors I still auto-buy in that genre. The Dare is the latest novel in her Briar U series. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Sunday Spotlight: The Dare by Elle KennedyThe Dare by Elle Kennedy
Series: Briar U #4
Also in this series: The Chase (Briar U, #1), The Risk (Briar U #2), The Play
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: June 16, 2020
Genres: New Adult, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 354
Add It: Goodreads
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Series Rating: four-stars

College was supposed to be my chance to get over my ugly-duckling complex and spread my wings. Instead, I wound up in a sorority full of mean girls. I already have a hard time fitting in, so when my Kappa Chi sisters issue the challenge, I can’t say no.

The dare: seduce the hottest new hockey player in the junior class.

Conor Edwards is a regular at Greek Row parties…and in Greek Row sorority beds. He’s the one you fall for before you learn that guys like him don’t give girls like me a second glance. Except Mr. Popular throws me for a loop—rather than laughing in my face, he does me a solid by letting me take him upstairs to pretend we’re getting busy.

Even crazier, now he wants to keep pretending. Turns out Conor loves games, and he thinks it’s fun to pull the wool over my frenemies’ eyes.
But resisting his easy charm and surfer-boy hotness is darn near impossible. Though I’m realizing there’s much more to Conor’s story than his fan club can see.
And the longer this silly ruse goes on, the greater the danger of it all blowing up in my face.

Excerpt

“Tell me something…why aren’t you already here with someone?”

“What do you mean?”

“There isn’t a guy in the picture somewhere?”

It’s my turn to shrink away from the topic. I’d probably have more to say with regards to thirteenth-century textiles than dating. And since I’ve embarrassed myself enough for one evening, I’d rather not compound my humiliation by sharing the details of my non-existent love life.

“So there is a story there,” Conor says, misreading my hesitation for coyness. “Let’s hear it.”

“What about you?” I volley back. “Haven’t settled on that one special groupie yet?”

He shrugs, unbothered by my teasing jab. “Don’t really do girlfriends.”

“Ugh, that sounds slimy.”

“No, I just mean I’ve never dated anyone for more than a few weeks. If it’s not there, it’s not there, you know?”

Oh, I know the type. Bores easy. Constantly looking over his shoulder at the next thing passing by. A walking meme in the flesh.

Figures. The pretty ones are always aching for their freedom.

“Don’t think you’ve distracted me,” he says, giving me a knowing smile. “Answer the question.”

“Sorry to disappoint. No guys. No story.” One unremarkable entanglement sophomore year that hardly fulfilled the definition of a relationship is too pathetic to warrant mention.

“Come on. I’m not as dumb as I look. What, did you break his heart? He spend six months sleeping on the sidewalk outside the sorority house?”

“Why do you assume I’m the kind of girl a guy would pine over in the rain and sleet?”

“You kidding?” His silvery eyes sweep over me, lingering on various parts of my body before returning to meet my gaze. Everywhere he looked is now tingling like crazy. “Babe, you’ve got the kind of body that boys build in their heads under the sheets after dark.”

“Don’t do that,” I tell him, all humor draining from my voice as I start to turn away. “Don’t mock me. That’s not nice.”

“Taylor.”

I jerk when he takes my hand, keeping me in place so that we’re still facing each other. As my pulse kicks into overdrive, he presses my shaky hand against his chest. His body is warm, solid. His heart beats a quick, steady rhythm beneath my palm.

I’m touching Conor Edwards’ chest.

What the hell is happening right now? Never in my wildest dreams did I envision the Kappa Chi Spring Break Hangover party ending this way.

“I mean it.” His voice thickens. “I’ve been sitting here having filthy thoughts about you all night. Don’t mistake my manners for indifference.”

Briar U

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: July 2020

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About Elle Kennedy

A New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, Elle Kennedy grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, Ontario, and holds a B.A. in English from York University. From an early age, she knew she wanted to be a writer, and actively began pursuing that dream when she was a teenager.

Elle writes romantic suspense and erotic contemporary romance for various publishers. She loves strong heroines and sexy alpha heroes, and just enough heat and danger to keep things interesting!


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Review: Magic Tests & Magic Stars by Ilona Andrews

Posted June 8, 2020 by Rowena in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Magic Tests & Magic Stars by Ilona AndrewsReviewer: Rowena
Magic Tests by Ilona Andrews
Series: Kate Daniels #5.3
Also in this series: Magic Shifts, Magic Shifts, Magic Binds, Magic Bites, Magic Strikes, Iron and Magic, Magic Triumphs, Magic Bites, Magic Bleeds , Magic Burns, Magic Strikes , Magic Slays , Gunmetal Magic , Magic Rises , Magic Strikes, Magic Mourns, Magic Bleeds, Magic Dreams, Magic Slays, Gunmetal Magic, Magic Gifts, Magic Rises, Magic Shifts, Magic Steals, Magic Breaks, Magic Breaks
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: September 4, 2012
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 32
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2020 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-half-stars

A short story in the Kate Daniels universe. Kate recruits her teenage ward, Julie, to search out a missing student whose location spell has her hidden somewhere on campus…

I’m doing a complete read of the Kate Daniels and I have fallen hard for every one of these books. When we first meet Julie, she’s this scared little girl who just lost her Mom and is on her own. I was super thrilled when Kate took her in and with each passing book, seeing Julie grow more and more comfortable in herself and in her place in Kate’s life (she’s got a long way to go but I see progress and that’s great!) makes me love her all the more.

This was a fun short story featuring Julie and it was a lot of fun seeing her personality away from Kate. She’s really growing into her own person and I really like seeing it. Julie is smart and she reminds me so much of Kate that I smiled my way through this entire story. When she slides that Lennart name into her interrogation with the dragon, I laughed out loud. She showed that she can hang with the big dawgs in this book and I cannot wait to continue watching her grow into her own. I’m a big Derek and Julie fan (sorry Ascanio) so I welcome any and every story featuring Julie front and center. More, please!

Grade: 4 out of 5

Review: Magic Tests & Magic Stars by Ilona AndrewsReviewer: Rowena
Magic Stars by Ilona Andrews
Series: Kate Daniels #8.5, Gray Wolf #1
Also in this series: Magic Shifts, Magic Shifts, Magic Binds, Magic Bites, Magic Strikes, Iron and Magic, Magic Triumphs, Magic Bites, Magic Bleeds , Magic Burns, Magic Strikes , Magic Slays , Gunmetal Magic , Magic Rises , Magic Strikes, Magic Mourns, Magic Bleeds, Magic Dreams, Magic Slays, Gunmetal Magic, Magic Gifts, Magic Rises, Magic Shifts, Magic Steals, Magic Breaks, Magic Breaks
Publisher: NYLA
Publication Date: December 8, 2015
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 84
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2020 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-half-stars
Series Rating: four-half-stars

From award-winning author, Ilona Andrews, an original novella, set in the New York Times #1 bestselling Kate Daniels World and featuring fan-favorites, Derek, and Curran and Kate’s very independent ward, Julie.

Scarred, solitary Derek Gaunt has separated from his Pack, and is truly a lone wolf. With no family he answers to no one; but is fiercely loyal to a chosen few. So, when several of those close to him are murdered, he’ll stop at nothing to hunt their killer through the magic-drenched streets of Atlanta.

Never one to be left on the sidelines, equally determined—some might say stubborn—Julie Lennart-Olsen soon joins in his pursuit; and what began as revenge turns into a race to save the city. Their search pits them against powers they never imagined and magic so old, it predates history. It may cost Derek his life, but there are things for which even he would risk everything.

Man, I’ve been looking forward to this story ever since I found out about it. Derek has been one of my favorite characters in this series from the jump. I ugly cried over him in Magic Strikes and I have loved him more and more with each passing book. Derek is Kate’s ride or die and seeing him go through it over the course of this series really hit me in my feels. He’s one of the good ones and I’m absolutely thrilled that we might be getting more books featuring him (we are, right? I mean this is the first book in the Gray Wolf series so I just kind of assumed). I really enjoyed the little bit that we got of Derek at center stage in this story and my hopes are sky high that Derek and Julie are going to become a thing.

This story has Derek on a mission to track down some bad guys that popped up on Curran’s radar and his mission puts him in Julie’s path, who plants herself right in the middle of Derek’s mission and seeing them work together to figure out what’s going on and then put their plan of attack into action…together was just great. They’re a great pair and I so want more books featuring them. Ilona Andrews does such a great job with making readers fall in love with their characters and readers will definitely fall in love with Derek and Julie. Derek’s protective streak and Julie’s fierce loyalty where Derek is concerned (and her undercover love for him) make for a fantastic story and I’m so here for more. I definitely recommend this short if you need just a little more Derek and Julie. You won’t regret it.

Grade: 4.75 out of 5

Kate Daniels

four-stars


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Joint Review: His Bride for the Taking by Tessa Dare

Posted June 2, 2020 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Joint Review: His Bride for the Taking by Tessa DareReviewer: Ames and Rowena
His Bride for the Taking by Tessa Dare
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: May 22, 2018
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 89
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2020 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars

*This novella was originally published in Rogues Rush In: a Regency Duet (2018), by Tessa Dare and Christi Caldwell

It’s the first rule of friendship among gentlemen: Don’t even think about touching your best friend’s sister.

Sebastian, Lord Byrne, has never been one for rules. He’s thought about touching Mary Clayton—a lot—and struggled to resist temptation. But when Mary’s bridegroom leaves her waiting the altar, only Sebastian can save her from ruin. By marrying her himself.

In eleven years, he’s never laid a finger on his best friend’s sister. Now he’s going to take her with both hands. To have, to hold…and to love.

Rowena: His Bride for the Taking is a novella by Tessa Dare that was originally published in the Rogues Rush In anthology. It’s a brother’s best friend’s romance and it was such a sweet romance that I wasn’t even mad that it was so short.

So, Sebastian made a promise to his best friend Henry Clayton long ago. Henry’s sister Mary is off-limits but when Henry died, Sebastian promised that he would take care of Mary. It’s been hard to keep his hands off of Mary because he’s always been a little bit in love with her but when she needs him to step up for her, he doesn’t hesitate.

Mary Clayton is all alone in the world. Her father and brother are both long gone, her brother’s title having gone to a distant cousin, and the only person that is really around for her is her brother’s best friend Sebastian Ives. When Mary is stood up at the altar, Sebastian steps up for her, and things really take off from there.

I really enjoyed this short read. I thought the romance was light, and it was fun and I felt the chemistry between Sebastian and Mary. This was another winner for me.

What did you think, Ames?

Ames: It was definitely a winner. For being so short there was a lot of story! I am kind of slumping due to all the craziness happening in the world and this was the perfect little tidbit to keep my reading momentum going. I usually shy away from novellas but I’m glad you chose this one.

I liked the friends-to-lovers plot. I liked that Sebastian was a wee bit younger than Mary. She was her own independent woman but Sebastian proved he was someone she could count on, and he recognized that she was her own woman.

And the humor! That scene, with the ‘Swedish’ bed and the discussion around putting it together and directions. That had me laughing, thinking about putting Ikea furniture together. haha

Rowena: Ha, yes. When they were putting the bed together, fighting about putting the bed together, and talking about “surplus”, I couldn’t stop laughing. Tessa Dare is really good at bringing the humor and for such a short story, she packed it real nicely into this one.

I hear you about the reading slump. 2020 has really kicked my ass so I’m happy to finally be reading again and the quality of this one made me super happy. I liked that both Sebastian and Mary had a history together and that they genuinely cared about each other so it made everything we find out, everything going on make sense.

What did you think about Mary’s little shenanigans?

Ames: Ok, usually I wouldn’t like shenanigans like Mary’s, but her and Sebastian were so good together, I didn’t mind. I mean, she didn’t keep it a secret forever right? And he wanted her. I think if this had a been a full length novel, I would not have cared for her actions. I don’t know, I’m not explaining myself well. But Mary didn’t act out of malice, so it was ok.

What did you think?

Rowena: Same. I think because by the time they were married and already well into the first couple days of their marriage, we know that Sebastian was madly in love with Mary but had that not been the case, I think I would have been more mad. I also liked that we got to see Sebastian run the gamut of emotions over her actions and it wasn’t slipped under the rug. They dealt with it and they moved on from it and I respected that.

I really liked both Sebastian and Mary. Their shared love for Henry (Mary’s brother) was sweet and their friendship was even sweeter. I loved that they bickered and they laughed with each other and I really liked that they were both in love with each other from the jump. Gah, what a sweet story.

This was such a short romance but it really packed a wallop of a story and I was here for all of it. I would have liked a longer story but I didn’t feel like it really suffered without it. This is one of the better novellas that I’ve read and I’d give it 4.25 out of 5 stars. What about you?

Ames: I’m giving this one a 4.25 out of 5 as well. It was a feel good story in these dark times. The humor was spot on and the characters were great. I felt their chemistry and loved their back-story.

Final Grades

Ames: 4.25 out of 5
Rowena: 4.25 out of 5

four-stars


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