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: Cheater (Curious Liaisons, #1), by Rachel Van Dyken

Cheater (Curious Liaisons, #1)Cheater by Rachel Van Dyken
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As the title implies, ‘Cheater’ features a hero that is quite the man-whore. Lucas Thorn is the type of guy that you immediately love to hate. He’s handsome, arrogant and used to bedding a different woman every night of the week. In fact, he has a schedule that allows him to do just that!

When Avery Black walks back into his life, his carefully planned out promiscuous life is thrown into a tailspin. The younger sister of his high school sweetheart, Avery is everything he has always wanted…but could never have. She is the epitome of forbidden fruit.

Forced to work for the man was once her best friend, and secret crush, Avery knows that she’s playing a dangerous game. Down on her luck, she needs this job desperately. She has no other options, unless she wants to move back into her parent’s home. That is an option that she’s not even willing to consider. So, she takes the job as Lucas’ assistant and bides her time.

Avery can’t deny the attraction that is still strong between them, but giving in to temptation would be unforgivable in the eyes of her family. After all, Lucas was engaged to her sister when he was caught sneaking out of her other sister’s bedroom right before the wedding. Worse yet, she had allowed herself to think that she was the only sister that Lucas was really in love with.

As Avery comes face to face with Lucas’ many “girlfriends”, she is disgusted. She has to face the fact that the boy she loved has grown into a philandering man that she can’t begin to recognize. At least now he seems to be upfront about his two-timing ways, with each of his women fully aware that they share him with a different woman every night of the week.

The more time these two spend together, the more their old feelings begin to resurface. However, a lack of trust is clearly a big issue. Both try to play off their feelings, denying what is so evident. Gradually, their flirtations lead to something more. Now, they just have to break the news to their families.

This was a quick, entertaining and humorous audiobook selection. It was cute and light-hearted. If you are unable to get past the manwhore ways of the hero, then this is a great choice. Despite all of his antics, I found Lucas growing on me.

Overall, this was a very entertaining story. It isn’t particularly original or unpredictable, but it was a sweet, fun read. If you’re looking for a “good girl reforms the bad boy” type of story, this is a great one. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a deep, emotional read, then keep moving. This was just pure, smutty goodness.

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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: 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 King (Masterpiece Duet, #1), by Skye Warren

The King (Masterpiece Duet, #1)The King by Skye Warren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have been dying to get my hands on Damon Scott’s story ever since he was introduced in ‘The Pawn’. He was just so sexy and dangerous that I couldn’t help but be drawn to his character. At the same time, it was clear that he wasn’t entirely “bad”. He had an underlying protective, even kind, nature that would sometimes shine through. When Penny was later introduced, the obvious tension and history between the two piqued my interests even more. I had to have this book.

Thankfully, I can say that this book did not disappoint. The Damon and Penny’s story was absolutely captivating. It was a story of youthful innocence against the backdrop of the city’s gritty criminal underbelly. It was also a story of innocence lost, addiction, betrayal and other unspeakable acts. There were so many facets of this story and I loved every single one.

Penny first meets Damon when she is a young girl. Living on the streets to try and escape his crazy father, a teenaged Damon grows fond of the bold little girl from the trailer park near the woods where he was camped. Left on their own as Penny’s father leaves her for days at a time to feed his gambling addiction, the two strike up an unlikely friendship. In many ways, Damon becomes an older brother type of figure in her life, although it is apparent that some of his feelings aren’t very brotherly.

Eventually, the two lose contact, but neither one forgets about the other. Penny grows into a teenager, struggling to make ends meet while her father continues to gamble away every bit of her money that she earned waiting tables. Meanwhile, Damon rises up from the back alleys to become a king of sorts in the criminal underground, his power surpassing even his own father’s.

When Penny’s father’s addiction places her in grave danger again, she finds herself in the crosshairs of Jonathan Scott. Knowing that his son cares about Penny only makes her an irresistible temptation for Damon’s deranged father. While Damon works hard to try and free Penny from the situation that her own father placed her in, Jonathan Scott sets out to harm Damon and he plans to use Penny as the tool to do so.

If you’ve read the ‘Endgame’ series, then you’re already aware of the outcome for Jonathan Scott and the state that Penny was left in. This book provides the backstory that was not provided in that series. It details the events leading up to Penny’s horrible attack and provides far more details about the events that followed. Some of the timeline overlaps with the ‘Endgame’ series, but most of it does not.

This book leaves off with a lot of questions unanswered, which is no big surprise since there is another book expected in this series. I am dying to see how Damon and Penny will move forward. I’m not even humoring the thought that they won’t be moving forward together at this point. It just isn’t going to happen. No way!

I will certainly be reading the next book as soon as it is released. There is no way that I would miss it. If you are a fan of the ‘Endgame’ series, you don’t want to miss this spin-off series. If you haven’t read the ‘Endgame’ series, I would recommend that you start there. You could certainly read this series as a standalone, but you’ll miss a lot of the backstory and details that are provided in that series. They’re both wonderful though, so enjoy!

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Review: The Knight (The Stolen Duet, #2), by B. B. Reid

The Knight (Stolen Duet #2)The Knight by B.B. Reid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Much like the first book in the series, ‘The Knight’ continues to provide plenty of emotional turmoil and action. While ‘The Bandit’ draws you into the mysterious workings of Angel’s crime family and leaves you with plenty to ponder, ‘The Knight’ is full of revelations — about both the criminal organization and the personal lives of the characters.

When the extent of Angel’s duplicity is revealed, Mian must face the fact that she never really knew the man that she thought she loved at all. Even I was surprised by the lengths that he had gone to and just how deceptive he had been. Suddenly, I had to look at all of his subsequent actions through a new lens. No longer did he even have the slightest claim to being a victim.

While there was a tremendous shift in the overall “feel” of the book that followed some of these shocking revelations, it still proved to be a captivating read. It was every bit as sexy as the first book, with plenty of tension between characters. Despite his horrible actions, Mian couldn’t completely freeze Angel out.

Thankfully, Mian actually makes Angel pay for his crimes. There is nothing that I hate more than when a heroine forgives the hero after he does something atrocious with little more than an insincere apology. The need to make the hero suffer a little for his crimes is something that this author understands well. While Angel doesn’t come off as weak or sappy, he definitely has to pay for his crimes and work hard to try and win Mian over again.

My only major complaint about this book is that, like the first book, the editing was horrible. This book is littered with simple grammatical mistakes that will drive many readers nuts. These errors were frequent and should have been caught easily, because they were so “basic”. Sometimes there were multiple errors on a single page. I frequently found myself having to stop and re-read a sentence, making the corrections in my mind for what should have been written. It wasn’t so bad that you couldn’t figure out what the author meant to say, but it disrupted the flow of the story in a big way. This was a huge draw back and did take away from the reading experience.

That being said, the story itself was still pretty good. It had just enough mystery to keep me wondering about what would be around the next corner. Meanwhile, it was very erotic and even emotional at times.

If there is an audiobook version available, that might be a better way to experience this story. A lot of times the narrator will “fix” many of these editing errors as they read the story, in my experience. Otherwise, I’d only recommend this series to individuals that have a great deal of patience when it comes to these types of errors.

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Review: Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia, by Jean Sasson

Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi ArabiaPrincess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia by Jean Sasson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Every once in a while I try to read something that is “deeper” than my usual smutty romance selections. This was one of those books. I listened to the Audible version and I could not pull myself away from the plight of Princess Sultana Al Sa’ud and the other women from this story.

Her story offered a poignant look at what life is like for women in Saudi Arabia. Even the wealthiest and most “privileged” women are not spared the cruelty of the misogynistic and oppressive culture. Women are treated as property to be “owned” and managed by men. They are traded like cattle and punished for perceived infractions in cruel ways.

From birth, girls are treated as second-class citizens, a disappointment to their family and inferior to all males. This was highlighted by Princess Sultana’s accounts of growing up with a spoiled and sadistic younger brother. No matter what he did, she would always be wrong. Time and time again, she was forced to be subservient to him, no matter how egregious his behavior was.

Sexual abuse is also rampant in the world that Princess Sultana described. Young girls are forced to marry much older men, while older wives are forced to take a backseat while their husbands forsake them for their younger brides. Young or old, there is no bright side for the wives.

While the girls “virtue” is fiercely guarded — their body sacred until such time as their father or other male guardian decides to gift it to another — the boys and men engage in a variety of depraved sexual acts. One especially disturbing scene tells the story of a trip to Egypt where Sultana’s brother and other men commit acts of extreme sexual violence. It was absolutely heartbreaking and terrifying.

More than anything, I couldn’t get past the unfairness of the situation. These women had no power or control in their lives. It is so far removed from the life I’m luck enough to lead that it was unfathomable to me.

The indifference and cruelty of the men also took me aback. The often barbaric punishments they doled out seemed to be the norm. The life of the females was valued so little that they could be extinguished with scant more concern than one would have when swatting a fly. It was unimaginable to me.

Not surprisingly, this book was pretty depressing. The life lead by these women was grim, even as they tried to make the most of the little joy they could find in the absence of the men. Much of the content was upsetting and discouraging.

That being said, I still think that this is a book that everyone should read. It will anger and sadden you. However, turning a blind eye to atrocities like the ones that play out on the pages of this book does not make the reality go away. Raising awareness is important in order to facilitate change — and change is necessary. Yet again, I am reminded of how blessed I am for the life I was born into.

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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: 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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