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: Empires and Kings (A Mafia Series, #1), by A. C. Bextor

Empires and Kings (A Mafia Series Book 1)Empires and Kings by A.C. Bextor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you like Mafia-themed romances, then you’ll probably enjoy this one. It was one of the recommendations that popped up when browsing Kindle Unlimited, based upon my Amazon purchase history. In the past, I’ve not had much luck with the computer-generated “recommendations”. However, this time the computer finally got it right!

‘Empires and Kings’ is the first book in A. C. Bextor’s ‘A Mafia Series’. Right from the start, I was captivated by this story. The circumstances of these characters’ lives was brutal and tragic. This is certainly a romanticized account of organized crime, yet the author doesn’t entirely shy away from some of the hard truths.

As a young Vlad Zalesky rises through the ranks of his father’s criminal empire, he is forced to become a man of violence. The night that he kills tortures and orders his first kill, he can no longer hide from the darkness that lives within him. When he comes face to face with the young daughter of the traitor, he is forced to see himself through her innocent eyes.

Nonetheless, Vlad must stay the course. To send a message to any others that might dare to cross him or his organization, he decides to keep the girl. The traitor dies thinking that his daughter will be forced to spend her life working in one of the organizations’ many houses of prostitution.

Klara has lived with Vlad since that horrible night, when she stumbled upon the murder of her father as a young girl. Despite the fact that her father was a traitor, Vlad has allowed Klara to grow up in his mansion and have a privileged life. She is more like part of the family than a prisoner, babied by Vlad’s sister and a sort of sister to his son.

For the most part, Vlad has ignored the girl living under his roof. Of course, now that she is growing into a young woman he is having a harder time dismissing the beautiful Klara. He wants her badly, but doesn’t want to steal the last bit of innocence that she possesses.

Eventually, Vlad and Klara cross that line and their relationship changes. No surprise there. After all, if they didn’t find there way to each other there wouldn’t be much of a romance here.

Along the way, there is plenty of angst and drama. Vlad is a complete Alpha-male a**hole and I loved him for it. (I’m sick like that.) He does plenty of infuriating things along the way that will have you wanting to strangle him.

Klara is the stereotypical innocent virgin. Know that going into this story. If that trope irritates you, then you will be seriously peeved with this book. I happen to love it, as cliché as it may be. So this story worked for me.

There are plenty of disturbing scenarios presented as well. I read a lot of dark stories and didn’t find anything to be too graphic, but I have a high tolerance for dark content. If you are easily “triggered”, then I’d steer clear of this one.

I enjoyed the many layers that were presented in this book. The characters were complex and intriguing. I found myself completely absorbed in this story from start to finish.

My only complaint is that there were a few times when I thought the author tried to venture into “dark” territory, only to chicken out. That is a big peeve of mine. I think if an author is going to write a dark story they should embrace the dark side and not be afraid to take it all the way.

One scene, in particular, had the potential to be a really pivotal dark scene, but it ended up being underwhelming. The author did a spectacular job of building suspense and pulling emotions from readers, only to not carry out the scene, having Vlad fail to carry through with the threatened action against Klara. After waiting for what was bound to be an emotional and traumatic event, I was left feeling a little ripped off. Then, it was hard for me to buy all of the coldness and turmoil that followed when Vlad didn’t even do what he set out to do.

Overall, this was a great read for me. I will definitely be reading the next book in the series when it is released. There were a few things that I would’ve changed, but I couldn’t put it down until I finished it. If you like stories that have a little dark content, or if Mafia books are your thing, then you won’t be disappointed with this one.

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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 – Ghost, by A. Zavarelli

GHOST (Boston Underworld, #3)GHOST by A. Zavarelli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ever since reading ‘Crow’, I’ve been curious about Alexei, the mysterious and reclusive Russian friend of Lachlan. It was evident that there was far more beneath the surface and I was dying to hear his story. Finally, we get his story in ‘Ghost’ and it does not disappoint. I devoured this book!

Talia is a far cry from the young woman she was when she went missing. Betrayed by her “boyfriend” Dmitri and sold into sexual slavery, she’s suffered unimaginable horrors. Her only goal is to find a way to end her own life, freeing her from the hell of her daily existence.

When Alexei is asked to find Mack’s best friend, Talia, he does far more than he’s asked to. Seeing her picture, he becomes enamored with the missing lady. He decides, before ever meeting her, that this is the woman he will marry. He’s agreed to find her, but he has no intention of ever letting her go. He plans to rescue her from one prison and thrust her straight into another.

Alexei arranges to take Talia from her owner, Arman, as collateral for a deal that Arman failed to deliver on. Neither man has any intention of letting her go, but Alexei finally has her in his possession. With the help of his loyal house staff, Alexei begins to nurse Talia back to health while setting plans in place to make his “ownership” of her permanent.

For the first time in her life, Talia is important to someone. She finds a mother-figure in Magda, the woman who raised Alexei and now oversees his household. She is cared for and treated well. Yet, she still longs for the type of love that Alexei says he will never give.

Coerced into a marriage of convenience, Talia realizes that she is, yet again, enslaved to a man. Alexei might be nicer than the men before him, but like the others, he’s using her. She knows that he will never love her.

Marrying her was Alexei’s way of preventing his own arranged marriage to Katya, the daughter of another high-ranking member of the Russian Mafia. Despite her persistence, Alexei has no intention of ever being married to the woman that betrayed him with his own brother. However, Katya is not planning to let him go without a fight.

From start to finish, I did not want to put this book down. I have loved every book in this series, but I think this one has been my favorite. Alexei and Talia were so broken and yet, so perfect together. I love dark, twisted stories and their story just called to me.

Make no mistake, this story is a dark one. This story addresses the topics of rape, physical and psychological abuse, etc. If you’re put-off by stories that contain darker themes like these, then ‘Ghost’ will not be for you.

On the other hand, if you love darker reads like I do, ‘Ghost’ is a phenomenal choice! I loved every minute of this disturbing story! It’s a new favorite of mine.

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