Review: Irreparable Damage (Irreparable, #1), by Sam Mariano

Irreparable Damage (Irreparable, #1)Irreparable Damage by Sam Mariano
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was dark, taboo and offensive. Accordingly, I thought that it was a fantastic read! Not the best dark captivity story out there, but definitely not the worst either. If you enjoy darker stories and don’t shy away from controversial subject matter, then ‘Irreparable Damage’ is worth a read.

The first in a series, this book tells the story of Willow Kensington. Willow is abducted right after her 18th birthday by sex traffickers. Her father is a powerful Mafioso and her captors think that they can use her to get at her father. Innocent Willow is caught in the crosshairs, despite having almost no interaction with her father.

While undercover trying to locate another missing girl, private investigator Ethan Wilde runs across another girl whose picture recently came his way. He hadn’t accepted Willow’s case yet, but fate has their paths crossing. Unfortunately, to maintain his cover he must harm Willow before he can save her.

Following Willow’s rescue, she struggles with the after-effects of her captive experience. Her healing is only made more difficult by the fact that she will not discuss everything that happened to her at the hands of her captors. She is torn by the fact that her rescuer was also the man who committed the worst crimes against her. She won’t condemn him, but she can’t cope either.

Returning to his wife and children, Ethan faces his own demons following his most recent case. He cannot stop thinking about the girl that he assaulted. He wonders how she is doing and whether she hates him. He waits to be held accountable for his crimes, but with each day that passes it becomes increasingly clear that Willow isn’t going to turn him in – no matter how much he deserves it.

Ethan’s guilt transforms into an obsession, masked as concern. Before long, he’s stalking the teen online and “checking up on her”. The lies begin to pile up and he is drifting away from his wife.

Of course, Ethan isn’t the only one that can’t get Willow’s trauma in captivity off their mind. Willow is finding that her nightmares surrounding her assault are turning increasingly erotic. Yep, she’s fantasizing about her assailant. (This is smutty, dark erotica, not non-fiction after all! Know that what you’re signing up for isn’t a harrowing, true-to-life account.)

Willow and Ethan begin meeting up to vent and discuss their feelings about what transpired. It seems that they are the only two people that can relate to one another. Admittedly, I rolled my eyes at the idea of the victim actually consoling the attacker and vice versa. However, even as I was rolling my eyes I was anxiously flipping pages to see where the story would go.

This story was pure, smutty goodness! It was definitely a “guilty pleasure” type of read for me. It was unbelievable, taboo and hot. Clearly, this isn’t a book that you choose for intellectual enlightenment. It was dirty, sexy and fun.

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Review: Here to Stay (The Fish Tales, #3), by Suanne Laqueur

Here to Stay (The Fish Tales, #3)Here to Stay by Suanne Laqueur
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The third book in ‘The Fish Tales’ series, ‘Here to Stay’ chronicles Erik and Daisy’s new beginning. After everything that they’ve been through and all the pain that they’ve inflicted on themselves and each other, they are finally trying to work things out. However, a past like theirs is not easily forgotten. It will take a lot of understanding and forgiveness to move past the hurt that they’ve hung onto for so long.

As happy as I was to see one of my new favorite couples find their way back to one another, they still had a lot of healing ahead of them. There was no way that they could ever pick up where they left off. Too much had happened. I’ve never seen a couple that caused each other so much pain, even as they loved each other so much.

Aside from repairing his relationship with Daisy, Erik also has to make amends with Will. For me, the disintegration of their friendship was just as heartbreaking. I was so glad to see them reunited and to have Erik acknowledge his mistreatment of Will.

While Erik and Daisy are navigating the new terms of their long-distance relationship, there are some expected insecurities on both of their parts. Understandably, Daisy fears abandonment. Erik has his own worries about his fertility and what that will mean for their future.

Along the way, Erik finally faces his past. He has allowed the actions of his father to model his future for too long. When a long lost relative reaches out to Erik, he and Daisy go on a journey of self-discovery. He uncovers family secrets that shed light on his father’s sudden disappearance. While he doesn’t get all of the answers that he was looking for, he gains a better understanding of the demons that haunted his father.

Of course, nothing comes easy for Daisy and Erik. Just when you think that they’re going to ride off into the sunset and live their happily ever after, tragedy strikes. I swear, they just can’t catch a break.

Old habits die hard and the couple must overcome the desire to slip back into old coping strategies. This time around, they are more mature and better able to help each other heal. I was very glad to see that they were able to work through this upset together and come out stronger as a couple because of it.

‘Here to Stay’ was a wonderful finale to Erik and Daisy’s story. I have loved every minute of this series and the vibrant characters that Ms. Laqueur has brought to life. I highly recommend this series. I listened to the Audible version and the narration was fabulous as well.

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Review: Give Me Your Answer True (The Fish Tales, #2), by Suanne Laqueur

Give Me Your Answer True (The Fish Tales, #2)Give Me Your Answer True by Suanne Laqueur
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I started reading, or rather, listening to, ‘Give Me Your Answer True’ immediately after finishing ‘The Man I Love’. I fell in love with Erik, Daisy and the full cast of supporting characters in the first book, but I want more. I need to hear each of their unique perspectives. I cannot get enough of this story!

‘Give Me Your Answer True’ provides Daisy’s account of events. Erik’s perspective was provided in the first book and my heart broke alongside his. However, I needed to hear Daisy’s point of view. I had to know what the hell she was thinking and why she did what she did.

This book gave me the answers I had been craving. While I can’t say that I was satisfied with Daisy’s reasons, it is what it is. The truth is that she did something thoughtless and hurtful and had to live with the consequences of her actions for many years to come. I am still angry with Daisy. (Yes, I get angry with fictional characters!) However, nobody could be more disappointed in her than she was in herself. I had to remind myself that she was only human and, like everyone, she makes mistakes.

That being said, I was completely on-board with Erik’s total abandonment of Daisy. I know that most of my friends were like, “that’s harsh”, but not me. Nothing bothers me more than having a character that really screws up and then is forgiven with little more than an apology, like what they did wasn’t absolutely devastating. Nope! I expect for them to suffer and live with the emotional pain that they caused [me] when they screwed up. I expect some serious groveling before forgiveness is granted. Thankfully, that is exactly what I got with this book. Grovel away, Daisy!

Not surprisingly, Daisy’s story was heartbreaking. She definitely had to hit bottom before she could start to piece her life together again. While I felt for her, I never forgot that her pain was self-inflicted. She made her bed and was forced to sleep in it.

The same goes for David and John “Opie” Quillis. They may have wanted Daisy and even cared about her in their own way, but they knew whom her heart belonged to. I understood their motivations, but couldn’t really sympathize with them too much.

I guess I can be kind of harsh when it comes to any interference between the “original” love interests. I always want the first couple that I fall in love with to end up together. In this case, that would be Erik and Daisy. Rarely, do I ever come around to accepting a subsequent relationship for the hero or heroine of a story. Accordingly, I never got the least bit attached to Erik’s wife or any of Daisy’s boyfriends during the years that they were apart. They were just meaningless place-holders to me.

Although I continue to love this series, I can’t deny that I didn’t like this book quite as much as the first one. That is probably due to the fact that I was not as sympathetic toward Daisy as I was toward Erik. However, that isn’t to say that this book wasn’t fantastic. It was terrific!

I will definitely be continuing this series. I’m diving right into the third book and cannot wait to see what the future holds for Erik and Daisy. Finally, it seems as if they might get things back on track. I am also hopeful that Erik can repair the damage done to his friendship with Will. If his break-up with Daisy was her fault, only he is to blame for the rift in his friendship with Will.

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Review: Six (Men by Numbers, #2), by Ker Dukey

Six (Men by Numbers, #2)Six by Ker Dukey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The second book in the ‘Men by Numbers’ series, ‘Six’ had many of the characteristics of a terrific, dark story. There was plenty of danger and Ker Dukey certainly doesn’t shy away from graphic, disturbing content like many authors do. I applaud her for that. If you’re going to write a dark story, I think you need to take that dive and not toe the line.

This is the story of Taylor Jake, aka “Six”. As a teenager, Six was bounced between foster homes before eventually ending up on the streets. His only family consisted of the gang he belonged to and Hayley, another kid on the streets that Six took under his wing.

Hayley was the “good” in Six’s life. They lived together and had a non-exclusive sexual relationship. However, more than anything, they were the closest of friends.

When Six falls in love with the member of a rival gang, it is Hayley that ends up paying the price for Six’s actions. She is brutally gang-raped and tortured. No longer is she the bright-eyed girl that Six strived to shelter. Her life is forever changed.

Six makes it his mission to seek vengeance for Hayley. Out of prison after killing some of the men involved in Hayley’s attack, he has set up a life for himself in a new town. He owns a bar and tattoo shop, biding his time until he can finish what he started.

When Misty first sets foot inside of Six’s bar, he wants to have sex with her as much as he wants to rescue her. She is clearly down on her luck and in need of some help. He gives her a job and the sexual tension is thick between the two.

Despite Six’s initial resistance, the two eventually end up getting romantically involved. Things only get more complicated when Hayley makes a reappearance in Six’s life, with a suspicious new friend in-tow. Shortly thereafter, things hit the fan.

There were many things that I really loved about this book. I love the fact that the author is not afraid to tell a dark story and embrace the shocking elements that many others dance around. I also thought that the story itself was entertaining and emotional. I enjoyed the story and felt connected to the characters.

The reason that this story got a 3-star rating, instead of a 4-star rating, is because there were some pretty big editing oversights. Maybe I’m being snobby, but I kind of feel like the author should know how they want to spell the names of their main characters and then stick to it. One of the major players in this book had two different spellings of their name. On one page it was spelled “Jordon”, only to be spelled “Jordan” further in. It was distracting and I found myself flipping back to be sure that this wasn’t a different “Jordon/Jordan” and to double-check the spelling. I’m OCD that way.

Another thing that irked me was that there were several instances of incorrect word usage. It wasn’t the worst I’ve encountered, but it was noticeable and distracting. The example that stands out with me is the usage of the word “mount” when the author clearly was referring to a woman’s “mound”. I don’t even want to think of what must be going on in her undies if her mound can be quantified as a “mount”, but I’d get a plastic surgeon on that problem. Not sexy!

Lastly, M/M isn’t really my thing. I don’t absolutely hate it and I did enjoy this story. However, Six flipping back and forth between male and female partners didn’t really appeal to me. This is just a reflection of my personal preferences, so this may not be an issue at all for others.

Overall, I give this one 3 stars. If the editing oversights were corrected, it’d be a 4-star read for me. If you can overlook those types of mistakes, I’d say that this is a great choice if you’re looking for a dark read. If not, it might drive you crazy.

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Review: Jake Undone (Jake, #1), by Penelope Ward

Jake Undone (Jake, #1)Jake Undone by Penelope Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘Jake Undone’ is one of those books that I’ve had sitting on my Audible shelf for quite some time, but never got around to listening to. After finishing a couple of great dark books, I was looking for something a little “lighter”. While this book ended up having some pretty emotional twists, it certainly was uplifting enough to balance out some of my recent dark, gory reads.

Admittedly, I was a little worried that I wouldn’t like it since my tastes have changed a bit. Lately, I’m finding that many of the college-aged, YA-type books just aren’t doing it for me. I was worried that this book would be one of those irritatingly immature romances that have started to lose their appeal for me. Luckily, ‘Jake Undone’ ended up being just right.

Nina Kennedy meets Jake Green when she moves into the apartment that he shares with a childhood friend of hers. Only, when Nina shows up she gets more than she bargained for. What better way to meet your new roommate for the first time than to eavesdrop on his steamy one night stand, right? Talk about awkward.

As Nina struggles to adjust to life in a new city, Jake becomes her primary source of support and comfort. The two become fast friends and the sexual tension is thick between the two. Jake becomes her math tutor and a life coach of sorts, helping Nina conquer the irrational fears that plague her daily life.

Little by little, Nina comes out of her shell. Jake helps her to face her fears and she is able to make it through her days without suffering from crippling anxiety. The two are practically inseparable, with the exception of the weekends when Jake has to return back to his hometown of Boston.

Jake is standoffish at times and avoids taking his relationship with Nina to the next level. They want each other, but his repeated brush-offs leave Nina feeling unwanted. That couldn’t be farther from the truth where Jake is concerned.

There is a huge part of Jake’s life that he hasn’t been upfront with Nina about. He doesn’t know how to tell her everything. The longer he waits, the more he fears losing her and the harder it gets to explain why he hasn’t already told her everything. Eventually, it all comes crashing down.

Even though I guessed the twist before it was revealed, it didn’t make it any less emotional or upsetting. I felt Nina’s pain. All the while, I felt Jake’s also. It was so easy to understand and to relate to each of their viewpoints. I was angry. I was heartbroken. Yet, I also felt compassion for Jake while admiring his loyalty and strength.

This was not a couple that came across their HEA easily. They had to fight for it, but eventually persevered. Although this story was heartbreaking at times, it was beautiful and worth the pain. I am glad that I finally made it a point to listen to this one. Overall, it was a great choice.

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Review: An Exaltation of Larks, by Suanne Laqueur

An Exaltation of LarksAn Exaltation of Larks by Suanne Laqueur
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was absolutely spectacular! I am in awe of this author’s abilities. ‘An Exaltation of Larks’ was the first book I’ve read by Ms. Suanne Laqueur, but it certainly will not be the last. I’ll be adding all of her books to my TBR list ASAP!

From the opening lines, I knew that this was going to be a story that would stick with me…and it has. The writing is flawless and incredibly poetic. I could not pull myself away from this story, even falling asleep with my propped up on my chest at night. I was entirely consumed with the fascinating lives of these characters.

This story was so rich with history and emotion that I am still digesting everything I read days later. I loved the way that Ms. Laqueur was able to weave fact and fiction together so seamlessly. The end result was a superb story that ended up being enlightening and deeply touching, as well as highly entertaining.

At the onset of the book, I was sure that I knew what direction the story would head in. It had the ominous feel of danger, as a young Alejandro Penda hides in his parents closet in the days following the overthrow of Chile’s government by a military coup on September 11, 1973. The air was thick with the fear of Chile’s citizens, as many are rounded up and taken away, never to be seen again. His own parents had been taken, leaving a young Alejandro to fend for himself.

After days of being left alone, Alejandro’s father returns. He is able to get safe passage for Alejandro to the United States, to stay with an uncle. However, he cannot go with Alejandro. He decides to stay behind to search for his wife, who is pregnant with their second child. Alejandro watches his father walk away from the U. S. Embassy, never to see his parents again.

Although Alejandro can never completely move on, haunted by the unknown, he quickly assimilates himself into his new life. Going by the name of “Alex”, he is befriended by the children of his uncle’s friends, the Larks. Their son, Roger, becomes Alex’s best friend. One of their daughters, Valerie, becomes the object of his affections. They all grow up together in the peaceful community of Guelisten, NY, where the Lark family is practically a legend.

When Alex’s uncle dies several years later, the Lark family assumes guardianship of Alex. He is older, but still in school and too young to live independently. The dynamics of his relationship with Val change drastically, but the attraction is still there, just below the surface.

This book spans decades, from the time that Alex is a young child, well into his adult life. The story follows the characters through their childhoods, chronicles their struggles as college students and young adults, and later as adults with families of their own. This book sees the rise and collapse of governments as the political climate changes across the globe. In one word, this story is “epic”.

Along the way, we are introduced to Javier, a young man terribly abused and cast out by his own family. Forced as a teenager to make his own way on the streets of New York City, he is eventually introduced to work as an escort. Under the tutelage of his mentor, Gloria, he quickly rises through the ranks, becoming one of the most sought after male escorts in the city.

At first, I didn’t understand where Ms. Laqueur was going with Jav’s story. He seemed to be introduced out of nowhere, pulling me away from Alex and Val’s story. However, fate has plans for all of them. Soon all of their lives will intersect in life-changing ways.

I don’t want to give too much away, or spoil this story for anyone. It is a story that deserves to be read and savored individually. If you’re sitting on the fence with this one, read it.

This was a beautiful, multifaceted story. It is just the type of thought-provoking story that I needed to start my year off right. It was breathtaking and so much more than I had ever hoped it would be. I highly recommend this book. It is absolutely spectacular!

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