Review: Taken by the Russian, by Alexa Riley

Taken by the RussianTaken by the Russian by Alexa Riley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve finally read my first Alexa Riley book! I know I’m pretty late to the game…but it was good. I give it a solid 3.5 stars. I’m still trying to decide exactly how I feel about it, so my rating might change in the future.

I always struggle with how to rate quick, smutty reads like this one. I can’t rate it against other full-length books, because that isn’t the type of story that this is. Instead, my rating is based upon other comparable, short, smutty reads — if that makes any sense.

The story is very short and progresses quickly. There wasn’t a lot of character development and things just seemed to kind of happen without much build-up. That being said, I was surprised with the amount of development that was there, given the small number of pages.

Anya is a young girl, on the brink of her eighteenth birthday, at the onset of the story. She has been sheltered for most of her life, but is headed off to college. Her long-time bodyguard, Sasha, is supposed to deliver her to school, but he has other plans.

Sasha has worked for Anya’s father for several years. In exchange for bringing his family to America, he agreed to serve as Anya’s bodyguard for an agreed upon number of years. During that time, one of his primary responsibilities was making sure that she remained pure and untouched. That task proved to be almost unbearable for Sasha, who has lusted after her for years. Taking her to college is his last assigned duty before his time is up.

The huge age difference between Anya and Sasha definitely adds to the taboo nature of this story. Add to that the fact that Sasha had been fantasizing about Anya for years, since the time she was middle-school aged, and it is enough to make you pretty damn uncomfortable. Of course, that is the appeal.

Needless to say, Anya and Sasha eventually cross the line and their relationship morphs into something entirely new…and dirty. I’m pretty drawn to taboo and forbidden stories, but this was pretty over-the-top. I enjoyed it, but it was the kind of smutty entertainment that I just can’t take too seriously. Some of it was incredibly hot. Other parts were kind of disturbing.

All in all, I thought that it was a pretty good, smutty read. I can definitely see what the appeal is, now that I’ve read my first Alexa Riley book. Usually, I prefer a lot more build-up and development in my stories, but this is a great choice if you’re looking for a quick, dirty and hot type of read. This is definitely a “guilty pleasure” type of story.

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Review: Breach (Breach, #1), by K. I. Lynn

Breach (Breach, #1)Breach by K.I. Lynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is definitely one of those times when I find myself in the minority. Most of my friends loved ‘Breach’ and I, sadly, did not. I was really looking forward to reading this book and I was sure that it would be right up my alley after hearing about all of the steamy sex scenes that filled the pages. I love some smutty goodness, after all!

Unfortunately, there was little else but sex to fill the pages. From start to finish, this book was filled with pretty much nothing but sex scenes. I’m no prude, but they needed to give it a rest.

I’m the type of reader that needs a connection between characters — preferably before they jump into bed, but I can even work with a relationship that develops afterward. However, at some point they need to actually develop a strong connection. I need to be drawn into the story and feel a bond with the characters and their plight. Otherwise, the reading experience is more like being a bystander while two random strangers have lots of meaningless sex. It’s just pointless.

While some of the sex scenes had potential to be very hot, the lack of a connection to the characters and the storyline left me with a lackluster feeling. I just didn’t care. There was no build-up or anticipation. I never felt a strong connection with the characters and didn’t get the feeling that they ever felt a strong connection with each other. As a result, I never felt any type of emotional connection to the story and the “steamy” sex scenes fell flat for me.

I kept thinking that if the author spent half as much time on fleshing out the characters and the storyline as she did on the sex scenes that this story could be really good. Instead, every time I turned a page Delilah and Nathan were having sex again. Sex was the outcome of every single interaction these two had. Jealous? Have sex. Threatened? Have sex. Nervous? You guessed it – sex! It got to the point where it was tedious for me.

In the end, this book ended up being just mediocre for me. Some of the sex scenes were pretty good, but they were so gratuitous that even the good scenes induced eye-rolling. I listened to the Audible edition and found myself fast-forwarding through many sex scenes toward the end because I just couldn’t take anymore. I get it – they have LOTS of sex. I just needed more of a story to go along with it. That never happened.

The first book in the series, ‘Breach’ ends with a cliffhanger. Usually, that would send me diving right into the second book to see what happened. Although I’m in the minority with this one, I feel absolutely no desire to do so. Even with the “shocking” ending, I just couldn’t bring myself to care. All I felt was relief that finally something had happened that might make these two stop having sex and come up for air. Since I never felt anything for the main characters, I couldn’t bring myself to care where the story will lead. I’m glad so many friends have loved this one. It just didn’t work for me.

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Review: Captive Prince: Volume One (Captive Prince, #1), by C. S. Pacat

Captive Prince: Volume One (Captive Prince, #1)Captive Prince: Volume One by C.S. Pacat
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘Captive Prince’ has been on my radar for a long time now. I have seen a plethora of glowing reviews from friends that have loved this series. As curious as I was, I kept putting off reading this series because M/M reads aren’t really my thing. However, my curiosity finally got the best of me and I downloaded the first audiobook in the series.

The rest is history! I blew through all three audiobooks in a couple of days, listening to them back to back until I had devoured the entire series. This series was fantastic!

Since I finished all three books in the series before sitting down to write my reviews, I’ll do my best not to give any big spoilers. The specifics of where one book ended and the next began are a little hazy for me. However, they were all worthwhile and highly entertaining books.

‘Captive Prince: Volume One’, introduces us to Damen and Laurent. The two are princes from rival kingdoms, only Damen’s true identity is a secret to everyone in Laurent’s court. If his true identity were known, he would surely be executed. Damen is surrounded by enemies, betrayed by his half-brother and sold into slavery.

Although the two are enemies, Damen and Laurent have many things in common. Both princes have fallen prey to family members who want to seize their crowns. Damen had his rule usurped by his illegitimate half-brother, Kastor, while Laurent is at the mercy of his uncle, who rules in his stead until Laurent is old enough to claim his crown.

That being said, it is hard to envision Laurent in the role of a victim. From the first introduction, his manipulative, and often cruel, nature is apparent. His treatment of Damen is deplorable as he strives to assert his power over his new, wild and unbroken pleasure slave. Laurent is clearly a character that enjoys head games.

On the other hand, Damen is a character that has instant appeal. He is put in an unspeakable situation and betrayed by the brother that he looked up to. My heart went out to Damen. I wanted to see him prevail.

Upon Damen’s arrival in the Vere, he is thrown into a life of debauchery. The Verethian court is filled with hedonistic and taboo sexual activities. The members of the courts indulge in every depraved act you can imagine. Nothing is off-limits, with the exception of enjoying pleasure slaves of the opposite gender in an effort to prevent the conception of illegitimate children that would sully the Verethian bloodlines. Rape and pedophilia are a way of life.

Accordingly, this will not be a book for many readers. It is full of dark, controversial and offensive content. This is not a lovey dovey type of story AT ALL. You will be appalled.

In fact, that is a large part of the appeal of this story. There aren’t too many graphic sex acts depicted, but the constant lingering threat of rape gives this book a very ominous feeling. I spent the entire time on the edge of my seat, waiting for the assault that I knew was inevitable. The anticipation, and resulting anxiety, was immense.

For most of this book, Laurent portrays a spoiled, bratty and cruel prince. He treats Damen harshly and is extremely abusive. However, there are brief glimpses of another side of him. I have no doubt that there is far more to Laurent than meets the eye.

This book definitely had my rapt attention. It wasn’t like most of the books that I read, but I was completely hooked. Without missing a beat, I dived right into the second book to continue Damen and Laurent’s story.

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Review: The Bandit (The Stolen Duet, #1), by B. B. Reid

The Bandit (The Stolen Duet, #1)The Bandit by B.B. Reid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘The Bandit’ has been sitting on my TBR list for quite some time now. At last, I got around to reading it. It didn’t disappoint. This was one steamy read with plenty of push and pull between the main characters.

The heroine, Mian Ross, has known a lot of tragedy in her young life. She’s survived the death of her mother, only to be orphaned when her father is incarcerated for murder. To make matters worse, the man that her father killed was her father’s best friend and like a second father to her. His murder left Mian completely isolated from anyone that had ever cared about her.

With no other options, Mian is taken from the home where she had spent her adolescence being taken care of by the son of her father’s victim. She is sent to live with a distant aunt and uncle, that could care less about her welfare. This is made very clear when they throw her out after she becomes pregnant as a teenager, following another tragic event.

After losing her latest job waiting tables, Mian is desperate. She will do anything to keep her young baby fed, even if it means risking her own life. She decides to burglarize Angeles Knight, aka “Angel”, the boy that raised her. Only, Angel is no longer a boy. He has grown into a very dangerous man and has stepped up to take his father’s place at the head of his family’s criminal enterprise.

When Mian is caught stealing from Angel, he returns the favor. He spent his youth lusting after the forbidden, and much younger, Mian. Now, he finally has her where he wants her. He knows that she will do anything for her infant son. Angel takes her son and Mian plays right into his hand, just like he knew that she would.

What follows is a dark-ish story, with a lot of push and pull between the two main characters. Angel’s two best friends also play a crucial role in this book, as Angel shares a lot with his friends. Angel has to balance his desire for revenge with his lust for Mian. The result was a deliciously steamy and angsty read.

Despite the fact that I really enjoyed this story quite a bit, it wasn’t without problems. Mainly, the editing was horrendous. I mean, REALLY BAD. I was pretty surprised by that, since this book has been out for a long time and is pretty popular. Incorrect words and misspellings were frequent, as were elementary grammatical errors. For example, using the word “then” when it should have been “than”, etc.

Overall, I give this one 3.5 stars. It was still pretty good, but the editing needs some serious work. The number of mistakes was very distracting and did take away from the story. If you’re a stickler for editing, this one will drive you insane. If you can overlook some serious grammatical issues, then you might consider giving this one a try. I am still curious about where their story is headed, so I’ll be reading the next book immediately.

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Review: Four Strikes (The Game, #4), by L. P. Lovell and Stevie J. Cole

Four Strikes: A Dark Erotic Billionaire Menage Short (The Game Book 4)Four Strikes: A Dark Erotic Billionaire Menage Short by L.P. Lovell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just when you think it couldn’t get any more screwed up another player enters the game! It was clear from the earlier serials that there was somebody else pulling strings behind the scenes. Finally, this mysterious third player, “Number 3”, matriculates.

There is a shift in the mood that accompanies Number 3. Ella had just started getting used to the idea of her new arrangement with Tobias and Preston. Having a new, unknown player enter the game changes everything. The small amount of trust that had developed between her and the guys is put to the ultimate test.

While part of me wants to believe that Tobias wouldn’t let Ella get hurt, a part of me realizes that there is absolutely no reason to trust him. After all, he’s orchestrated some pretty messed up head games. Furthermore, it doesn’t seem that Tobias and Preston really trust Number 3 either. If they can’t trust him, then there is no way that Ella should.

Like earlier installments, Ella is faced with tests that push her limits and make her question the fabric of her very character. These tests keep getting more warped as the story progresses. What is right and what is wrong becomes increasingly unclear. There often is not a “right” choice, just a decision between the lesser of two evils.

Just as I start to lose faith in Tobias and Preston, Tobias does something that surprises me. I’m not sure what the hold is that Number 3 has over these two, but clearly he wields a lot of power. It seems that Ella may not be the only victim of this sordid game.

This series continues to build up to what is bound to be a huge twist. My suspicions are starting to grow as to the identity of Number 3, but time will tell. It’s on to the next one for me. I won’t stop until I’ve finished this entire series!

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Review: Three Players (The Game Series, #3), by L. P. Lovell and Stevie J. Cole

Three Players  (The Game Series, #3)Three Players by L.P. Lovell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

No doubt about it, this series is a total mindf*ck! It just keeps getting more screwed up with every installment. As Ella would say, she keeps falling farther down the rabbit hole.

This serial has Ella’s mental state all over the place. Whatever the purpose for this twisted game, Tobias and Preston are certainly having fun toying with Ella. Like Ella, I don’t know what to believe at this point.

Faced with the evidence of deception, Ella can’t make sense of her new reality. She questions her sanity and what she thinks she knows. Even her will to live is questionable as she faces another one of the twisted tests.

The resounding message of this third serial is “nothing is as it seems”. More than anything, I want to know what Tobias and Preston are up to and why Ella was chosen to play this disturbing game. It is increasingly clear that there is someone else pulling strings behind the scenes. But why? To what end?

I’m definitely pushing forward with this series. I’m completely consumed with this story. I just have to know what is going on. I can’t wait to have all the secrets unveiled.

Luckily, this serial, and the subsequent serials, are offered through Kindle Unlimited. With seven serials in total, the cost could get a little excessive otherwise.

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Review: One Contract (The Game Series, #1), by L. P. Lovell and Stevie J. Cole

One Contract (The Game Series, #1)One Contract by L.P. Lovell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, this serial was certainly intriguing! The first in a series of seven serials, ‘One Contract’ is attention grabbing and serves to set the stage for things yet to come. It has definitely got my attention. Although this story is just getting started, I’m very curious to see where it will lead. In fact, I know that I will be diving right into the next serial immediately.

The heroine, Ella Taylor, is really in a bad spot. After being dumped by her boyfriend for another woman, she is stuck in an expensive NYC apartment that she cannot afford. To make matters worse, she has lost her job. Facing certain homelessness, she is desperate.

Out of nowhere, she receives an invitation to interview. Despite the unusual manner in which she received this unsolicited request for an interview, she is intrigued. The invitation comes from a well-known billionaire that made his fortune as a result of developing a new social media platform. Without a doubt, she has to land this job.

After a brief initial interview with the billionaire, Tobias Benton, Ella is invited to a second, more personal interview over dinner. What Ella discovers is far more than she bargained for. She’s offered an opportunity that she isn’t in any position to turn down, no matter how uncomfortable it makes her.

Ella is introduced to Preston Lucas, Tobias’ partner. The two men would like for her to play a game with them for the next seven days. If she wins, she’ll get more money than she could possibly earn in years, much less in a week. If she lasts the entire seven days, she’ll still get paid a significant amount. Only if she loses does she leave empty-handed. Sounds easy, right? Wrong.

The two men promise that Ella will not be harmed, but it is clear that there is far more to this game than a little kink. She is expected to submit to them completely. She also isn’t allowed to ask any questions. The only assurance she has is that she won’t be damaged irreparably and that she will be given pleasure beyond anything she’s ever known.

As expected, Ella accepts this unusual proposition after wrestling with her morals. One super-sexy scene, and I’m hooked. I’m dying to know what these two are really up to. It is clear that there is far more at play here than just a kinky sexual fantasy. I’m definitely jumping right into the next serial immediately.

If you’re looking for a quick, steamy, erotic read, then this is a great one. It can easily be read in one sitting. It is the first of seven, but all of the serials have been released so you won’t have to wait before diving into the next one. I enjoyed every minute of this ménage short.

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Review: Riot (Scarred Souls, #4), by Tillie Cole

Riot (Scarred Souls, #4)Riot by Tillie Cole
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

***I was provided an ARC of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley.com, in exchange for honest feedback.***

I love this series! Each one of the books in this series has grabbed my attention and left me craving more. I just cannot get enough of these tortured fighters and the women that tame them. It may sound ridiculous – and logically, it kind of is – but it just works so damn well.

There is something about the over-the-top, Alpha-male heroes in this series that appeals to me on a very primal level. In fact, much of the dialogue would be laughable in any other book, but Tillie Cole pulls it off flawlessly. The heroes are similar to those from Kresley Cole’s ‘Immortals After Dark’ series, in their overwhelming need to answer to their baser needs. Phrases like “my female” and other possessive, rudimentary speech patterns fill the pages, but it manages to be incredibly H-O-T.

In this fourth, and final (?), book, we meet “901”. He’s the Blood Pit’s undefeated champion fighter and he’s proved to be a challenge to Master Arziani, the head of the Arziani Georgian crime mob. It is clear that 901 fears nothing, including Master Arziani. This presents a tremendous problem for the crime boss, who needs to reign in his champion.

When Master Arziani shows off his new favorite pleasure slave, “152”, he finally finds the leverage he’s been searching for. Despite his attempts to hide his interest, 901 is taken aback by 152’s beauty. He’s never wanted for anything as much as he wants her.

The two are thrown together, as Master Arziani uses 152 as a tool to break 901. No matter how hard 901 fights his attraction, he ultimately must cede control in this regard. Master Arziani has finally found a way to control 901.

Meanwhile, Valentin is determined to rescue his sister, 152, from the life of slavery that he was able to escape. Along with Luka and Zaal, he plots to bring down Master Arziani once and for all. Their plans are daring and they know that they will either succeed or die trying.

From start to finish, this book kept me on the edge of my seat. The plight of 152 and 901 was desperate and heartbreaking at times. Arziani was sadistic and seriously unhinged, so I never knew what to expect from him.

Unlike earlier books in the series, which followed a predictable pattern of the hero’s escape/rescue from slavery and gradual acclimation to “normal” life on the outside, aided by the heroine, this book saves the rescue for last. In contrast to earlier books, this book is primarily set during the time of captivity. 901 and 152 are both slaves when they meet and fall in love. Only later, are they rescued.

This book was fantastic. I absolutely enjoyed every minute of it and could not put it down. Old and new characters come together and everything comes full-circle. We finally get the HEA that these characters deserve. I can only hope that there will be a spin-off series in the future. I loved it!

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Review: Avoiding Intimacy (Avoiding, #2.5), by K. A. Linde

Avoiding Intimacy (Avoiding, #2.5)Avoiding Intimacy by K.A. Linde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you’ve read the first two books in the ‘Avoiding’ series, then you probably love Lexi’s fiercely loyal best friend, Chyna, like I do. Every girl needs a Chyna in their corner. She’s been there to support her best friend through thick and thin, despite Lexi’s less than stellar choices.

From her first appearance in this series, I’ve wanted to know more about this mysterious lady. She plays the part of the spoiled, rich “princess” when it suits her, but it is clear that there is far more beneath the surface. This is Chyna’s story. It was raw. It was painful at times, but it was everything that I wanted.

Chyna yearns for intimacy and connection. Mostly, she just wants to feel wanted…to be someone that somebody else cannot live without. She needs to be needed and loved. This is in stark contrast to the “tough girl” facade that she tries to project.

Like the other books in this series, ‘Avoiding Intimacy’ bounces back and forth between past and present, slowly revealing all pertinent details to readers little by little. While this can be a bit confusing at times, I think it works well for this series. In fact, it kind of became the signature-style of this series – a calling card of sorts.

As such, much of this story takes place during the same time period covered in earlier books in the series…just from Chyna’s perspective. For much of this time, she was in Italy modeling, and away from Lexi. So, if you’re expecting Lexi, and/or Jack, to be a central focus, then you will be disappointed. Lexi has a few appearances, but this book is not centered on her like the others have been.

Before reading this book I liked Chyna. After reading it, I loved her. This is one strong-willed, tough lady. Her story goes to show that money doesn’t buy happiness. For a girl that seemed to have everything at the tips of her fingers, she was incredibly lonely. I gained a whole new respect for the “pretty little rich girl” after reading this book.

That being said, Chyna isn’t perfect by any means. She is her own worst enemy. More often than not, she sabotages her relationships before she can get too close. As much as she craved connection, she feared it in equal measure.

As expected, Adam plays a significant role in this book. However, a new man is introduced that ends up being a major player as well. Marco is vastly different from Adam, but his relationship with Chyna proves to be equally important in Chyna’s life.

One man is what she needs. The other is the embodiment of her darkest desires. Both want to claim her as their own.

Overall, I thought that this was another great addition to the ‘Avoiding’ series. Granted, I didn’t love it as much as Lexi’s story, but I did enjoy it quite a bit. I probably should have seen Lexi’s books through to the end before diving into Chyna’s vs. reading them in chronological order. I found myself rushing to get through this one, not because I wasn’t enjoying it, but because I was dying to see what would become of the Lexi/Jack/Ramsey fiasco. I recommend reading books 1, 2, 1.5 and 3 before coming back to this one. Then, you’ll know how things work out for Lexi and her guys and can savor Chyna’s story.

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Review: Dark Notes, by Pam Godwin

Dark NotesDark Notes by Pam Godwin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At seventeen years old, Ivory Westbrook has experienced enough tragedy for a thousand lifetimes. Since her father died years ago, she has lived a life of despair and pain. With a mother and brother that have lost themselves to their drug addictions, she’s had to bear the brunt of the household responsibilities, selling the only thing she has to keep the bills paid.v

When Emeric Marceaux is hired as a teacher at Ivory’s prestigious high school, she knows that her future is up in the air. She had worked with the previous instructor for years and was promised her endorsement for a spot at the most coveted performing arts college in the nation. Without the wealth of the other students, it is essential that Ivory secure the scholarship in order to achieve her dreams of a performing career. She knows that everything she has worked so tirelessly for is in peril.

At first glance, Emeric Marceaux knows that his attraction to his busty young student is asking for trouble. She isn’t like the other rich kids at the school and his dominating and protective instincts are calling to him. With every moment that he spends with her, he finds himself venturing further into forbidden territory.

Despite the fact that they both know that any type of sexual relationship between them could be disastrous, they repeatedly succumb to temptation. Tentative at first, they soon embark on a sordid journey of sexual exploration and self discovery. Emeric wants to protect Ivory from everyone but himself it seems.

From start to finish, this book held my rapt attention. Ms. Godwin weaves a taboo, erotic tale that is utterly breathtaking. This book elicits such powerful, raw emotions that at times I hated it as much as I loved it.

It is an extremely well-written, dark story. Brace yourself for some tough topics, like child abuse (emotional, physical and sexual), rape, dubious consent and a forbidden student/teacher relationship. Ms. Godwin is not afraid to address these topics and does not skirt around these issues, which I appreciated, but others may find difficult to deal with.

This is a standalone book that will not leave you hanging. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I was left feeling quite contented. If you love a book that makes you question your morality and face tough topics, this is for you. If you are looking for a love story that will move you, this is it. I absolutely loved this story and I wholeheartedly recommend it!

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