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: Kings Rising (Captive Prince, #3), by C. S. Pacat

Kings Rising (Captive Prince, #3)Kings Rising by C.S. Pacat
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like earlier books in this series, ‘Kings Rising’ had my rapt attention from beginning to end. This book was action-packed and full of emotion. It broke my heart, only to piece it back together slowly. I loved every minute!

This book sees both Damen and Laurent fighting to reclaim their kingdoms. Despite their differences, the two are forced into a tenuous alliance. They need one another, if either of them hopes to succeed. This makes for plenty of emotional highs and lows along the way as the two attempt to navigate through their new realities. In many ways, the tables have turned. At the same time, so much remains unchanged.

Finally, all of Damen’s secrets are out in the open. No longer does he live in fear of what will happen when Laurent finds out who he really is. Instead, he now lives with his wrath. If he thought that Laurent would be angry, he was right.

To say that I found this a little hypocritical is putting it mildly. I kept thinking, “where does Laurent get off?” After all, Damen was his slave by force. Of course he would keep a secret like that. What did he expect him to do, tell his captor his true identity and face certain death?

That feeling only grew stronger as Laurent revealed some secrets of his own. I mean, where did he get off being so self-righteous? It seemed to me that Damen was played, yet again. If anything, Laurent proved, once again, to be one of the most manipulative characters that I’ve ever encountered.

Even so, I cannot deny that I absolutely loved this book. Every interaction between Damen and Laurent was like a delicious little drop of heaven for me. I spent the moments between their encounters holding my breath, waiting for their next interaction. It was pathetic really, but I have no shame.

In the end, I was left feeling quite satisfied. I wasn’t sure that these two would ever get there, but they eventually get some peace. I’m not a big fan of M/M romances generally, but I absolutely loved this series. It was heartfelt and sexy, with plenty of action along the way. The characters and storyline were well-developed and engaging. I would definitely recommend this series to others.

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Review: Prince’s Gambit (Captive Prince, #2), by C. S. Pacat

Prince's Gambit (Captive Prince, #2)Prince’s Gambit by C.S. Pacat
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As the ‘Captive Prince’ series progresses, I find myself completely lost in the story of Damen and Laurent. Talk about a slow-burn, I have been dying for something to happen between these two. The anticipation was absolutely killing me.

While the first book primarily focused on the hedonistic indulgences and cruelty of Laurent’s court, this second book shows more of the inner workings. Many of the pieces are beginning to fall into place. There is far more to Laurent’s situation than meets the eye. In many ways, he is every bit the captive that Damen is.

The nearer Laurent gets to the day that he will claim his throne, the more underhanded his uncle becomes. It is evident that he has no intention of ever relinquishing the power of being King. He does everything within his power to discredit and undermine his nephew at every turn.

Unfortunately for Laurent’s uncle, his own manipulations end up being unexpectedly counterproductive. He coerces Laurent into serving near the border, anticipating that he and the substandard group of soldiers that he sent him with will end up being killed off. The assassins that he sends will surely finish off the job if the poor state of the group does not manage to die of their own accord.

Instead, Laurent and Damen form an unlikely alliance. Their tenuous relationship grows much stronger, even becoming the best of friends. Damen often finds himself in the position of a trusted confidante for Laurent. Before long, the two are practically inseparable.

At last, it is evident that there is far more going on between Laurent and Damen than meets the eye. Of course, there is a pervasive ominous feeling to this book. Damen’s identity is still a secret at this point. The looming threat of discovery lingers, tainting his interactions with Laurent. The more he grows to care for Laurent, the more Damen fears that his betrayal will come to light.

I enjoyed every minute of this book. I was taken in by the evolution of Damen and Laurent’s relationship from enemies to friends to lovers. I want things to work out for them so badly, even as I know that disaster is lurking around the corner. So many secrets. So many feelings. My heart is breaking for these two.

Needless to say, I thought that this was a wonderful book. I will dive into the third book immediately. I absolutely must know how things work out for Damen and Laurent. Despite the fact that M/M is not my usual preferred genre, I have absolutely fallen in love with this story. I want Damen and Laurent to get the HEA so badly.

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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: Seven Days (The Game Series, #7), by L. P. Lovell and Stevie J. Cole

Seven Days  (The Game Series, #7)Seven Days by L.P. Lovell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The final installment in the series, ‘Seven Days’ gives the answers that I’ve been craving. I have been completely consumed with these short serials, reading the entire series in a single day. Each one has kept me on the edge of my seat and none more so than this final serial.

While I had guessed the identity of Number 3 fairly early on, I was pretty shocked by his motivations. Talk about whiplash! I’m not sure exactly what these guys were thinking, but this was one seriously messed up game that they were playing.

Although I finally got the answers I wanted, I found myself left with new questions that I hadn’t pondered earlier on. Now that I know who was behind the game and why, I can’t help but want to know more. When did this game get started? Were the players always the same? Why on earth would anyone continue to play?

Nobody left me with more questions than Ella herself. After everything, I was perplexed by her final actions in this series. I had a serious WTF moment at the end.

That being said, this series was one hell of a ride. It was suspenseful, mysterious and erotic as hell. I never knew what was going to happen next. Even now, I wonder what the future has in store for Ella, Tobias and Preston. I anticipate that there will be a spin-off series to address those issues. I will definitely be reading it if that comes to pass.

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Review: Six Zeros (The Game Series, #6), by L. P. Lovell and Stevie J. Cole

Six Zeros  (The Game Series, #6)Six Zeros by L.P. Lovell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow! Finally all of the debauchery comes to a peak. All of the earlier installments were building up to this point in this twisted story. I don’t even know what to say!

If Ella was courting danger before, she marries it in this serial. I was on the edge of my seat as the events in this serial played out. It was sick, disturbing and completely addicting!

I don’t want to give anything away in this sixth installment. I’ll just say that I was completely blown away by the direction that the game went in. The dynamics of the game are more complex than I ever could have imagined at the start of this series.

Whether or not Ella can recover from the events that unfolded in this serial is yet to be seen. I had my suspicions and it looks like some were spot-on. Nonetheless, I need answers. I need to know exactly how everything fits and why Ella was drawn into this perverse game. One more serial to go and I won’t come up for air until I have the answers that I want.

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Review: Five Rules (The Game Series, #5), by Stevie J. Cole and L. P. Lovell

Five Rules  (The Game Series, #5)Five Rules by L.P. Lovell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Keeping with the suspenseful mood of earlier serials in this series, ‘Five Rules’ continues to build up the intrigue. Just when I think that Tobias and Preston couldn’t get much more twisted, they take their “game” to a new level. Time and time again, they test Ella’s self-control and integrity.

Ella is no longer sure of how she feels or what her limits are. She is initially haunted by the possibilities of what might have occurred during her night with Number 3 while she was drugged and completely oblivious to her surroundings. The only thing that frightens her more than wondering what might have happened, is the knowledge that Tobias and Preston may not care for her as much as they proclaim.

Despite everything, these two manage to endear themselves to Ella once again. She sees a softer side of them, while subsequently facing her darkest side. It is becoming clear that she is far less innocent and pure of heart than originally thought.

This installment also details tremendous growth in their unusual three-way relationship. Their interactions are becoming increasingly intimate and caring. The forbidden, steamy nature of their encounters is still there, but there is a newfound softness.

I continue to devour this series. I am not usually a fan of ménage erotica, but on occasion I find one that holds a great deal of appeal. This is one of those times. I am fascinated by this trio and the mysterious game that is unfolding. Without a doubt, I will be continuing this series.

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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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