Review: The Club (Colombian Cartel, #1), by Suzanne Steele

The Club (Colombian Cartel # 1)The Club by Suzanne Steele
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m having a hard time deciding how to rate/review this one. On the one hand, I liked that the author didn’t shy away from dark content. On the other, the author didn’t necessarily weave said content into the story in a logical manner.

Antonio Ramirez is a crime boss of sorts. He owns strip club(s) and rules them with an iron fist. Although the full extent of his criminal dealings isn’t really revealed, it is clear that he is a guy that is feared and respected. His brother is Ricardo Ramirez, an even scarier guy.

Roxanne is a cage fighter. Along with her best friend, she has profited from throwing matches. When they get caught trying to scam Ricardo, he takes the women as payment. Roxanne is shipped off to marry Antonio, a gift from his brother. Meanwhile, her best friend is forced to marry Ricardo.

Of course, Roxanne is a virgin and is extremely surprised to be attracted to Antonio. That explains the pleasure and orgasms that she has while enduring the gentlest rape in history. Did I mention that she’s a closet masochist that ends up enjoying his sadistic tastes? (Yes, I’m rolling my eyes.)

One night is all it takes and he’s in love. She holds out a little longer, but can’t fight the attraction that she feels for Antonio while trying to maintain her righteous hate for her new husband. Eventually, she admits what was apparent from the start and quits trying to escape Antonio…or his spankings.

More often than not, this story left me feeling confused and wondering if I’d missed a few pages somewhere to explain exactly how the story arrived at a certain point. The characters’ emotional responses seemed contrived, rushed and, at times, ridiculous given the situation. It was hard to connect with the story when you can’t believe the responses of the characters to the given situations.

For example, with little more than a flip of the page, the hero goes from loathing the heroine that has been forced upon him by his brother to being completely obsessed and in love with her. Hmm… A few more conversations between the two might’ve helped to sell that a little better. It just didn’t work for me.

The short length of this story is a large part of the problem. There was way to much going on to cover in a short novella. If this novella had been fleshed out and made into a full-length novel, it would have been much better and wouldn’t have felt so forced.

Captivity, forced marriages, dubious consent and other dark themes are amongst my favorites…but they take time to craft into a story that is believable. It takes a lot of build-up to illustrate the gradual evolution of those relationships in order to sell it to the reader. That didn’t happen with this story. Instead, it felt forced and a bit “smutty”, lacking the emotional depth and connection that a story like this usually evokes.

Overall, I give this one 2 1/2 stars. It had potential, but was poorly executed. Instead of being a dark captivity story that tugs at your heart and makes you squirm in your seat, this story will make your eyes roll and might even make you laugh.

I’m slightly curious about the best friend and brother’s story, but probably won’t go there because I’m worried it’ll end up being just like this one. Maybe I’ll try another one of this author’s works sometime in the future. For now, this author’s style just doesn’t seem to match up with my tastes.

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Review: There’s Something About Blaire (Blaire, #1.5), by Anita Gray

There's Something About Blaire (Blaire #1.5)There’s Something About Blaire by Anita Gray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After finishing ‘Blaire’, I was left wanting. Blaire and Charlie had fought so hard to get to where they were, but I felt like I didn’t get enough of their HEA to feel content. Although I’ll still have to wait a while for the sequel to be released, I did stumble across ‘There’s Something About Blaire’, which proved to be a tasty little “extra”.

‘There’s Something About Blaire’ is a retelling of the first chapter of ‘Blaire’, from Charlie’s POV. This super-short “extra” provides insight into Charlie’s thoughts and feelings as he plots his revenge against Maksim. It was kind of surprising to be in his head as he was first introduced to Blaire, honestly.

Although this was an incredibly quick read, it did shine a great deal of light on Charlie’s motivations. Even knowing what his original intentions were, having completed ‘Blaire’, I was a little taken aback by how cold and calculating Charlie came across. After all, he portrayed the polar opposite of that man in ‘Blaire’.

If you’ve read ‘Blaire’ and are dying for a little bit more to hold you over until the sequel is released, then ‘There’s Something About Blaire’ is a nice “extra”. Don’t expect a full story or book though, this is just a retelling of a single chapter. It is great bonus material, but not a story in and of itself.

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Review: Blaire (Blaire, #1), by Anita Gray

BlaireBlaire by Anita Gray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I read the blurb for ‘Blaire’, I was intrigued. I love nothing like a deliciously dark story that pushes my boundaries and makes me wriggle in nervous anticipation of what will come with the next turn of the page. Luckily for me, ‘Blaire’ did not disappoint. This book held my attention from start to finish.

Blaire was taken at a young age and subjected to horrific abuse. She was brainwashed and conditioned, both physically and mentally, to be the a slave for Maksim. Over time, she became his fiercest protector and most treasured possession. Despite her petite frame, she is more lethal than men twice her size.

When a rival crime boss, Charlie, enters the scene, it is clear that he is different. He doesn’t fear Maksim the way that others do. In fact, Maksim seems to be afraid of this newcomer. Their actions hint at a complicated history and it seems that Maksim may have betrayed Charlie in the past.

As repayment for past transgressions, Charlie asks to borrow Blaire from Maksim. He is in need of her expert hacking skills for a job that he has planned. Although, his keen interest in Blaire makes it clear that he is interested in far more than her computer skills.

To Blaire’s astonishment, Maksim agrees to Charile’s terms. Before she can voice her protest, she is drugged and taken to be Charlie’s captive. Soon, she is forced to feel things that she’s never experienced before and everything she knows is called into question.

Little by little, Blaire and Charlie’s relationship evolves into something entirely new to Blaire. Charlie treats her with kindness, which she had never experienced before. She battles between the feelings that she has and those that her conditioning tell her that she should have. She is beginning to fall for Charlie, but knows that this is the ultimate betrayal of Maksim, the man she has been groomed to protect and cherish.

Eventually, Blaire and Charlie must face the light. Blaire’s time with Charlie comes to an end. Betrayals and their consequences come to pass. Things go from bad to worse in the blink of an eye.

Reading Blaire’s story, I found myself enjoying this atypical captivity story quite a bit. Blaire wasn’t weak or even innocent, by any stretch of the imagination. She was a conditioned, hardened killer. Yet, she was vulnerable at the same time.

If dark stories with abuse do not appeal to you, then this is one that you’ll want to steer clear of. There are graphic accounts of sexual, physical and mental abuse in this book. Heed the warning in the book’s disclaimer.

If you enjoy dark stories, like I do, then ‘Blaire’ might prove to be just the book that you’re looking for. It is different from the plethora of other captivity-themed books out there. I enjoyed it quite a lot and will be reading the next book in the series when it is released.

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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: Raze (Scarred Souls, #1), by Tillie Cole

Raze (Scarred Souls, #1)Raze by Tillie Cole
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Raw, Gritty, Story Of Revenge And Love

Holy hell! This was an intense and amazing story! I devoured this book. I was completely consumed by this story from the first paragraph, to the last. It was gruesome, sad, tragic, and at the same time, it was brutally beautiful. Surrounded by unspeakable acts of violence, an incredible love story unfolds.

I won’t be able to provide a better overview than what is already provided in the author’s blurb, so I’m not going to try. Read it. It will give you a good idea of what the book is about and won’t leave you to “go in blind” as many blurbs do.

I will say, that I was in no way prepared to fall in love with Raze like I did. That Ms. Cole could make a man with over 600 kills and interpersonal skills that were brutish, at best, invoke compassion from readers, is a testament to her exceptional storytelling skills. He may be a killer, but I just wanted to cuddle this poor, lost, sexy man.

The connection between Raze and Kisa was undeniable. Their attraction seemed feral, possessive and animalistic. Yet, there was also an unmistakable tenderness and protectiveness in Raze’s actions. I could not get enough of these two!

Loved it, loved it, loved it!

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Review: Reap (Scarred Souls, #2), by Tillie Cole

Reap (Scarred Souls, #2)Reap by Tillie Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Taboo And Sexy!

I love forbidden, taboo love stories and ‘Reap’ did not disappoint! Centered on the love story of Zaal and Talia, two lovers from rival Mafia families, there was plenty of angst and conflict to go around. Add in the fact that Zaal has spent the greater part of his life being drugged and forced to fight as a slave, and you have a gripping story.

Despite being a conditioned killer, Zaal had an extremely vulnerable side that I found endearing. With his Alpha-male protectiveness, I found him to be irresistibly as a main character. I came to think of him as a kind of gentle giant. He was tough as nails, but also sweet and tender with Talia.

Talia was also a fantastic character. She was strong-minded and kept things interesting with her rebellious antics. Tired of being under the thumb of her powerful Mafia family, she took every chance that she could to live for herself. At the same time, she was realistic about the world that she was born into.

The history between their two families is tragic and cannot be changed. Actions taken years before either of them were born continue to impact their present reality. When the nature of their relationship is brought to light, their love is put to the test.

I enjoyed every minute of this story. The characters were engaging and the story flows easily from where the first book left off, transitioning smoothly and tying up loose ends. The connection between Zaal and Talia was almost tangible it was so strong. I would have liked more of their story, but only because I’m greedy.

The sneak-peek into the next book in the series has me very excited as well. It will certainly be a game-changer for Zaal, in a good way. I am looking forward to reading it ASAP.

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Review: Ravage (Scarred Souls, #3), by Tillie Cole

Ravage (Scarred Souls, #3)Ravage by Tillie Cole
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dark, Gritty And Captivating

I love this series! Despite the similarities between the books in this series, Tillie Cole continues to hold my attention with these rough around the edges, tortured heroes. The third book in the series, ‘Ravage’ introduces fans to, yet another, captive male and the woman that breaks through his intimidating veneer. I am 100% hooked on this series!

Valentin, aka “194”, was stolen as a young boy from an orphanage. Along with his younger sister, he was taken as a slave and subjected to unimaginable horrors. Trained to be a ruthless assassin, Valentin is forced to carry out the orders of his mistress, or his sister will pay the price. Although he hasn’t seen her, in person, in years, he still holds out hope that he’ll be able to rescue her from their hell one day.

Zoya has spent years in hiding, on the run from the criminal group that murdered her entire family, leaving her for dead as a child. She is overwhelmed with joy upon hearing that her beloved brother, Zaal, is alive and well. Nervous to see him after all these years, she lurks outside his home trying to get the nerve to go to the door and announce herself.

Before she gets the chance, she is taken. Valentin spots Zoya hanging around the outside of Zaal’s home and knows that she is important to his latest target. He plans to use Zoya to gain information about Zaal, by any means necessary. His sister’s fate is on the line.

Despite the brutality of his treatment of her, Zoya soon finds herself softening toward her scarred captor. It is apparent that he is not in control of himself, the mysterious collar around his neck somehow triggering his rages. In spite of her situation, she falls for Valentin.

In so many ways, this book is just like it’s predecessors. Drugged, enslaved male. Beautiful, “untouchable” female. Interconnected organized crime families. There are a lot of commonalities here…but it works. Who cares if the books are very similar, as long as they’re good, right?

I loved every minute of this story. I could not put it down and found myself thinking about it long after I’d read the last page. Thankfully, there will be more books to come in this series. Hopefully, I won’t have to wait too long to get my next fix.

There are some darker scenes. After all, Valentin did torture Zoya to try and get information about Zaal. This may be a problem if you’re strongly opposed to stories with dark content. Personally, this was exactly the type of story I love. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.

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Review: Chained (Caged, #2), by D. H. Sidebottom

Chained (Caged #2)Chained by D.H. Sidebottom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had been anxiously awaiting this book since the moment I finished ‘Caged’ and this book did not disappoint! Let me just say “thank you” to the author for not keeping me waiting for too long. I’m not sure I would have kept my sanity if I’d had to wait much longer.

‘Chained’ picks up right where ‘Caged’ left off. Immediately, the reader is plunged back into the screwed up pasts of Anderson and Kloe. Forcing Kloe to confront the memories that haunt her, Anderson is still out for revenge and plans to use Kloe as the means to exact that revenge on his father.

I went back and forth over whether this was a 4-star or 5-star read for me. Maybe I’m being petty, but I’m just still too pissed with Anderson over his treatment of Kloe to give it a full 5-stars. I really expect for my heroes to have to do some serious groveling when they screw up and that didn’t happen here. Kloe continued to be a doormat where Anderson was concerned.

Just like ‘Caged’, this book will take your blow your mind and play with your emotions. There were so many twists and turns that I didn’t see coming…and a few that I did. I don’t want to spoil anything. This is one that you need to experience firsthand. Prepare to be shocked and left with an uneasy, disturbed feeling. If you’re a fan of dark, erotic stories, this series is a must read!

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Review: Maybe This Time (Maybe, #1), by Chantal Fernando

Maybe This Time (Maybe, #1)Maybe This Time by Chantal Fernando
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve had this book on my TBR for a long time. The Audible version was on sale recently, so I thought, “why not?”. It’s been a few days now and I’m still trying to decide how I feel about this one. I loved parts of this story and hated others. I’m left feeling torn over how to rate this one. Finally, I settled on 3 stars.

The story begins with a 19 year-old Summer, our heroine, moving in with her 18 year-old brother, Xander, after picking him up from jail. Her mother had recently died, leaving Summer to reach out to her estranged father and her half-brother for help. It was apparent that there were some strained family relations. Summer hadn’t been previously allowed to have a relationship with Xander, as he was the product of their father’s extramarital affair and Summer’s mother forbade it.

To say the least, there were some very interesting dynamics in the beginning. As they got to know each other, I kept having to remind myself that Xander was actually the younger sibling. He was fiercely protective of Summer and made sure that all of his friends knew that she was “off limits”. Any man that messed with her would have to contend with Xander and their father, the leader of their MC.

Of course, the fact that she was forbidden fruit only served to make her more desirable. In no time, Summer has set her sights on Reid Knox. Honestly, I didn’t get it for most of the book.

Reid Knox is the resident bad-boy. He was moody, inconsiderate and just a royal a**hole. Now that I think of it, that was his appeal. He was all over the place. One minute he was warning Summer off. The next minute, he’d be snuggling up with her. He was an Alpha-male, domineering, jerk…but that’s why I loved him.

There was plenty of angst and drama in this story, holding my attention from start to finish. I loved Xander’s twin brother, Ryan, who becomes Summer’s best friend. He was the type of fun-loving sidekick that every story needs. There is also a crazy ex-girlfriend that keeps things interesting…because what story would be complete without a crazy ex to stir up trouble?

So, why only 3-stars? One word — GROVELING. If you follow my reviews, you know that I demand groveling. It is one of my biggest pet peeves to have a hero that screws up royally, breaking the heroine’s heart, only to be forgiven with very little effort on his part to make up for his actions. It really irks me. If I have to suffer through the heartache, I demand that he suffer as well. Otherwise, all of the pain that the heroine supposedly felt seems insincere and invalid.

That is exactly what happened in this book. It was no big surprise that Reid would screw up…big time. However, Summer became some insecure, weak-willed heroine that let him off with little more than a half-assed apology. No! Just, no! Thus, the 3-star rating. Otherwise, it would’ve been a 4-star read for me.

Overall, it was a good story. I am still a little peeved at how easily Summer forgave Reid, but I’ll get over it eventually. I am looking forward to reading the stories of some of the other characters that were introduced. I will be starting the next book immediately.

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Review: Caged, by D. H. Sidebottom

Caged (Caged, #1)Caged by D.H. Sidebottom
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Whew! It’s been a few days since I finished this book and I still cannot get it out of my mind. This book was hands-down one of the best books I’ve read this year! I read it to pass some time between the new releases I was waiting for. Honestly, I didn’t expect much. Man, was I ever wrong! This book blew me away!

I’m not going to provide a summary this time around, because I don’t want to give anything away. The blurb provides a quick glimpse of the very basic components of the story. However, don’t let the blurb fool you, this book is about so much more than a brutal MMA fighting ring. In fact, the MMA aspects of the story are not a major component at all.

This book is dark, twisted, and everything that I love in a story. Nothing is what it seems. I thought I had everything figured out, but I didn’t know anything.

If you like a story that will take you on a suspenseful, disturbing journey, this one is a fantastic choice. This book elicited such raw emotion that my head was spinning. I cringed. I cried. I fell in love with the characters and I hated them.

This is one of those books that will hang with you. It does end with a huge twist, but the next book is due out in July, so the wait isn’t supposed to be too long. Without a doubt, I will one-click that baby the minute it’s available!

I don’t want to give anything away. Just read this book!

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