Review: Roses of May (The Collector, #2), by Dot Hutchison

Roses of May (The Collector #2)Roses of May by Dot Hutchison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

‘Roses of May’ is the second book in ‘The Collector’ series, by Dot Hutchison. Although there are a few connections, through characters, between the two books, they are really not a major factor. This book could easily be read as a standalone.

This book is told from multiple POVs, but the majority of the book is told from the POV of Priya Sravasti. Year’s ago, Priya’s sister, Chavi, was murdered by a serial killer that has managed to evade capture for over a decade. Now it seems that she has become the murderer’s latest obsession.

Priya and her mother have moved all over the country trying to lay low and avoid Priya’s new stalker. With each new springtime murder, Priya receives flowers like the ones left on the victims. It is clear that they are coming from the murderer.

Meanwhile, three eager FBI agents work with Priya to try and find the killer before he strikes again. Some have a more personal stake in the manhunt and over the years they’ve formed a bond with Priya and her mother. Eventually they begin considering ways to use Priya to help them draw out the killer.

All in all, it was an okay type of read. I didn’t hate it, but I never really felt a strong connection to any of the characters either. It was pretty predictable and lacked the tension and anxiety that I would have expected for a suspense/thriller. It also seemed to have several long lulls, where I was waiting for something…anything…to happen. In my opinion, this follow-up wasn’t nearly as good as the first book.

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Review: The Iron Tiara, by Beth Flynn

The Iron TiaraThe Iron Tiara by Beth Flynn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved ‘Nine Minutes’. So, when I saw that Beth Flynn had published a spin-off, I was all over it. No way was I going to miss anything remotely related to Grizz and Ginny!

‘The Iron Tiara’ is the story of Anthony Bear and Christy Chapman. If you’ve read ‘Nine Minutes’, you’ll remember Anthony as the leader of the “rival” biker gang on Florida’s west coast and Grizz’s best friend. This book shows a softer side to the intimidating biker.

Like Grizz and Ginny, Anthony and Christy’s relationship began with an abduction and captivity by the leader of a dangerous biker gang. That is where the similarities end though. Christy was an adult at the time she was taken. Anthony’s motives were also much different than Grizz’s.

While Grizz stole Ginny because he wanted her and had every intention of claiming her as his woman, Anthony did not set out to possess Christy. In fact, he loathed her initially. Their relationship evolved as Anthony watched her and came to realize that his preconceived notions about who she was were entirely unfounded.

Anthony took Christy as leverage. Her step-father owed Anthony a lot of money and Anthony planned to hold her hostage until he paid up. Unfortunately, Christy wasn’t the cherished princess that Anthony had envisioned. In fact, her relationship with her step-father was probably worse than Anthony’s relationship with him was.

After Christy’s step-father, Van, skips town, Anthony continues to keep Christy as his prisoner. As the reality that he isn’t coming back begins to dawn on him, he decides to keep her for entirely different reasons. He wants her, whether he is ready to admit it to himself or not.

Meanwhile, it becomes evident that Anthony isn’t the only one looking for Christy. Her step-father’s careless spending placed her on the radar of some very dangerous people. It is then that her captor transitions to the role of protector.

Despite the captivity theme, the relationship between Anthony and Christy develops over time. Anthony woos Christy gradually, even though he recognizes his feelings pretty early-on. Don’t expect any type of sex slave scenarios to play out here.

I enjoyed the slow burn of their relationship. Likewise, the glimpses of Grizz and Ginny’s story, told from a new POV, were a nice touch. Seeing the worlds of these characters intersect and putting the pieces together to form a more robust history was really nice.

That being said, I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much as ‘Nine Minutes’. Don’t misunderstand me, it was great. ‘Nine Minutes’ is a tough act to follow.

In the end, I though that this was a wonderful spin-off. I enjoyed it quite a bit. I’m still dying to get my hands on the next book in the ‘Nine Minutes’ series and this book provided some extra background and paved the way for what is to come. I cannot wait!

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Review: Yasmeena’s Choice: A True Story of War, Rape, Courage and Survival, by Jean Sasson

Yasmeena's Choice: A True Story of War, Rape, Courage and SurvivalYasmeena’s Choice: A True Story of War, Rape, Courage and Survival by Jean Sasson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in Kuwait, ‘Yasmeena’s Choice’ is a graphic account of war crimes committed by Iraqi soldiers. The focus of Ms. Sasson’s work is the lives of women in the Middle East. Accordingly, this book is centered on the experience of Yasmeena, a young Lebanese woman that is in Kuwait at the time of the Iraqi invasion. After surviving a harrowing experience, she tells her story, bringing these atrocities to light.

Yasmeena is a flight attendant and it is only by chance that she finds herself in Kuwait on the day that Iraq invades it’s much smaller and more peaceful neighbor. She had agreed to trade shifts with a coworker. It’s funny how sometimes the small, seemingly mundane events in our lives often have the ability to set off a chain of events that is unforeseeable. This small act of kindness toward a coworker ends up being the most significant decision of Yasmeena’s life.

When the Iraqis invade, Yasmeena finds herself stranded in besieged country. She runs into a family friend, who invites her to stay with him and his family at their home while they wait out the Iraqis. At this point, everyone is sure that the invasion will be very short-term. Nobody could have predicted that the occupation would have gone on for so long before other nations intervened.

Stopped at a road block, Yasmeena is arrested and sent to a prison of sorts. However, this prison houses only female prisoners and their sole purpose is to satisfy the sexual urges of the Iraqi soldiers. Nothing was off-limits. When a soldier tired of his chosen victim, he just killed her and took another one. It was despicable.

Not surprisingly, this was an incredibly difficult story to read. The author did not hold back. This book is meant to upset and outrage readers and it certainly hit it’s mark. Yasmeena’s accounts of life as a female prisoner for her and the other girls under the Iraqi soldiers was horrifying.

This book serves to raise awareness and shine a light on one of the brutal realities of war — the crimes against women and children. The torture and rape of civilians, particularly women and children, is not something unique to Iraqi soldiers or this particular war. Yet, it is a topic that few dare to address. It is the worst kept “dirty little secret” of war that nobody wants to discuss. However, if it continues to be hidden away and ignored, then there is no hope for change.

Despite the brutality of this story, I think that it was an important book. It is a call to action, forcing readers to think about the plight of women in this war-torn region of the world. More importantly, it exposes the human side of these crimes and the emotional impact on the victims, making it harder to dehumanize them. Books like this one are painful, but necessary.

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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: Undeserving (Undeniable, #5), by Madeline Sheehan

Undeserving (Undeniable, #5)Undeserving by Madeline Sheehan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Madeline Sheehan has done it again! If you’re like me, you’ve been waiting a long time for the next book in the ‘Undeniable’ series. This series is probably my favorite biker series of all of them, and there are plenty of them to choose from. And let me tell you, this book was worth the wait!

When I first saw that the book was going to center on Preacher, I have to admit that I didn’t expect to love it. After all, he was Eva’s father and was already kind of old in ‘Undeniable’. For some reason, I had envisioned a present-day romance with an elderly Preacher and some new love interest. Before you succumb to the fit of nausea those thoughts will leave you with, know that I was completely wrong. Thank God for that!

Although the story does feature a present-day Preacher, along with Eva and other characters that we’ve grown to love over the course of this series, the actual love story takes place in the past. Dying, Preacher finally opens up to Eva about his one true love. He has plenty of secrets to share and the truth about her mother will shatter Eva’s ideas about who her mother was.

Everything that Preacher told Eva about her mother, was a lie. She wasn’t a junkie. She didn’t walk out on Eva…at least not in the way that she thought. These were all lies. The truth was so much more – more beautiful, more loving, and far more painful. Sometimes it is too hard to face the truth.

Preacher’s love story was heartfelt and incredibly tragic. I could not put this book down. Start to finish, I was hooked.

He first meets Eva’s mom, Debbie Reynolds, aka “Wheels”, when she tries to steal his wallet. From that point forward, the two form an unlikely friendship. Preacher is fresh out of prison and uncertain about the direction of his life, especially where his father’s motorcycle club is concerned. He recognizes the desperation and resilience in the beautiful, young runaway that tries to best him.

This book is a beautiful and highly emotional. Your heart will melt, and it will break. This story made me feel elated and also completely devastated. There was so much tragedy in Preacher’s past, but also so much love and happiness.

I won’t give too much away, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. I’ll just say that this is one book that you don’t want to miss if you’re a fan of this series. It is phenomenal!

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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: The Marsh King’s Daughter, by Karen Dionne

The Marsh King's DaughterThe Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lately, I’ve been reading a little more suspense/thriller. ‘The Marsh King’s Daughter’ is the most recent book in this genre to catch my attention. It certainly lived up to my expectations for a creepy, edge of my seat story.

The story centers on Helena, a woman with a secret past. While she lives her “normal” life as a mother, occupied with mundane daily issues, there is far more going on beneath the surface. She is always looking over her shoulder, never quite able to settle down or rest easy.

What Helena hasn’t told anyone is that her father is the notorious “Marsh King”. He abducted her mother when she was a young girl, holding her captive for many years and forcing her to be his wife. Helena is a product of her mother’s abuse at the hands of her abductor.

Of course, Helena did not know this for much of her youth. She was raised in a cabin in an isolated marsh. She grew up hunting and learning to survive off of the land. Truth be told, she loved it. She didn’t know of any other way.

Looking back, she can see that her childhood wasn’t without hardship. Her father’s rule was supreme. If she or her mother dared to cross him, they were punished swiftly and harshly. As a child, she didn’t have a basis for comparison. Now, it is clear to her that his actions were abusive.

Helena has long since come to terms with the fact that her father is a narcissistic psychopath. Everything in their lives revolved around keeping him happy. They lived in constant fear of setting him off, knowing that he could turn into a cruel, sadistic monster with the flip of a switch.

When Helena receives word that her father has escaped from prison, she has no doubt that he will be coming for her. After all, she knows that she was to blame for his eventual arrest. A man like her father doesn’t forget and he doesn’t forgive.

Her worst fears are proved true when a series of gruesome clues begins to pile up. It seems that her father is taunting her and trying to draw her back into a game that they used to play when she was little…only this time, she is hunting him. Sometimes, the hunter becomes the hunted though.

As Helena trekked through the wilderness in search of her father, I had chills. An eerie feeling pervaded this story from start to finish. All I can say is that it was creepy…very creepy.

Despite my enjoyment, I have to admit that I had a difficult time connecting with Helena. I admired her strength and the fact that she stood out from other heroines. However, I couldn’t really relate to her much. It made it a little more difficult for me to connect with the story, but eventually I did.

Once this story got warmed up, it had my complete attention. As Helena’s past was revealed through flashbacks, I began to piece together the entirety of the her life’s story. Her father, who seemed harmless at first, was gradually shown to be a truly cruel man as the violence he bestowed upon his family increased over the years.

This was a great book. It kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time I was listening. There is something to be said for a book that can still make you want to check under your bed for monsters. If you’re in the mood for something creepy and disconcerting, this is the one.

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