Review: Taken by the Russian, by Alexa Riley

Taken by the RussianTaken by the Russian by Alexa Riley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve finally read my first Alexa Riley book! I know I’m pretty late to the game…but it was good. I give it a solid 3.5 stars. I’m still trying to decide exactly how I feel about it, so my rating might change in the future.

I always struggle with how to rate quick, smutty reads like this one. I can’t rate it against other full-length books, because that isn’t the type of story that this is. Instead, my rating is based upon other comparable, short, smutty reads — if that makes any sense.

The story is very short and progresses quickly. There wasn’t a lot of character development and things just seemed to kind of happen without much build-up. That being said, I was surprised with the amount of development that was there, given the small number of pages.

Anya is a young girl, on the brink of her eighteenth birthday, at the onset of the story. She has been sheltered for most of her life, but is headed off to college. Her long-time bodyguard, Sasha, is supposed to deliver her to school, but he has other plans.

Sasha has worked for Anya’s father for several years. In exchange for bringing his family to America, he agreed to serve as Anya’s bodyguard for an agreed upon number of years. During that time, one of his primary responsibilities was making sure that she remained pure and untouched. That task proved to be almost unbearable for Sasha, who has lusted after her for years. Taking her to college is his last assigned duty before his time is up.

The huge age difference between Anya and Sasha definitely adds to the taboo nature of this story. Add to that the fact that Sasha had been fantasizing about Anya for years, since the time she was middle-school aged, and it is enough to make you pretty damn uncomfortable. Of course, that is the appeal.

Needless to say, Anya and Sasha eventually cross the line and their relationship morphs into something entirely new…and dirty. I’m pretty drawn to taboo and forbidden stories, but this was pretty over-the-top. I enjoyed it, but it was the kind of smutty entertainment that I just can’t take too seriously. Some of it was incredibly hot. Other parts were kind of disturbing.

All in all, I thought that it was a pretty good, smutty read. I can definitely see what the appeal is, now that I’ve read my first Alexa Riley book. Usually, I prefer a lot more build-up and development in my stories, but this is a great choice if you’re looking for a quick, dirty and hot type of read. This is definitely a “guilty pleasure” type of story.

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Review: Breach (Breach, #1), by K. I. Lynn

Breach (Breach, #1)Breach by K.I. Lynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is definitely one of those times when I find myself in the minority. Most of my friends loved ‘Breach’ and I, sadly, did not. I was really looking forward to reading this book and I was sure that it would be right up my alley after hearing about all of the steamy sex scenes that filled the pages. I love some smutty goodness, after all!

Unfortunately, there was little else but sex to fill the pages. From start to finish, this book was filled with pretty much nothing but sex scenes. I’m no prude, but they needed to give it a rest.

I’m the type of reader that needs a connection between characters — preferably before they jump into bed, but I can even work with a relationship that develops afterward. However, at some point they need to actually develop a strong connection. I need to be drawn into the story and feel a bond with the characters and their plight. Otherwise, the reading experience is more like being a bystander while two random strangers have lots of meaningless sex. It’s just pointless.

While some of the sex scenes had potential to be very hot, the lack of a connection to the characters and the storyline left me with a lackluster feeling. I just didn’t care. There was no build-up or anticipation. I never felt a strong connection with the characters and didn’t get the feeling that they ever felt a strong connection with each other. As a result, I never felt any type of emotional connection to the story and the “steamy” sex scenes fell flat for me.

I kept thinking that if the author spent half as much time on fleshing out the characters and the storyline as she did on the sex scenes that this story could be really good. Instead, every time I turned a page Delilah and Nathan were having sex again. Sex was the outcome of every single interaction these two had. Jealous? Have sex. Threatened? Have sex. Nervous? You guessed it – sex! It got to the point where it was tedious for me.

In the end, this book ended up being just mediocre for me. Some of the sex scenes were pretty good, but they were so gratuitous that even the good scenes induced eye-rolling. I listened to the Audible edition and found myself fast-forwarding through many sex scenes toward the end because I just couldn’t take anymore. I get it – they have LOTS of sex. I just needed more of a story to go along with it. That never happened.

The first book in the series, ‘Breach’ ends with a cliffhanger. Usually, that would send me diving right into the second book to see what happened. Although I’m in the minority with this one, I feel absolutely no desire to do so. Even with the “shocking” ending, I just couldn’t bring myself to care. All I felt was relief that finally something had happened that might make these two stop having sex and come up for air. Since I never felt anything for the main characters, I couldn’t bring myself to care where the story will lead. I’m glad so many friends have loved this one. It just didn’t work for me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Review: Wicked Abyss (Immortals After Dark, #18), by Kresley Cole

Wicked Abyss (Immortals After Dark, #18)Wicked Abyss by Kresley Cole
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The ‘Immortals After Dark’ series is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. The over-the-top Alphas that fill this supernatural world are perfect, in a very primal sort of way. Kresley Cole knows exactly how to hit the spot when creating this type of male. I know I should be appalled by their obsessive and controlling caveman antics, but I just can’t help myself.

I have listened to the Audible edition of all of the books in this series, except for ‘A Hunger Like No Other’. Despite the fact that I usually prefer to avoid explicit erotica selections in this format, it has always seemed to work for me with this series. Usually, I find it kind of creepy to have the narrators bringing intimate sexual acts to life as I’m sitting in traffic.

For some reason, that has never bothered me with this series. This probably has something to do with the fact that the series is already ridiculous in many ways, so having the narrator grunt and groan so animatedly doesn’t really detract from this series in any way. Just know that you will laugh out loud if you choose to listen to this series. Again, it definitely falls in the “guilty pleasure” category for me. You will get some strange, and amused, looks in traffic if you roll down your windows. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

That being said, I didn’t find myself enjoying this story as much as the others. I can’t really pinpoint why, but it just didn’t do it for me. I’m a moody reader, so maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind for this light-hearted, over-the-top smutty romance.

This book is the story of Abyssian “Sian” Infernas, the King of Hell, and Calliope “Lila” Barbot. Like other couples in this series, they have a very love/hate relationship. As expected there is plenty of sexual tension and rivalry in the beginning, which eventually gives way to some pretty passionate mating action. If you’ve followed this series, you know the drill.

Also like earlier books in the series, the meddling Valkyrie, Nix, is instrumental in the story. If you’re a fan of the super-crazy Nix, like I am, then you’ll enjoy her interference and manipulations. I can’t wait to read her story. One day soon, I hope we’ll get it.

Despite the fact that this couple wasn’t one of my favorites from this series, I did enjoy their story. The imagery was especially remarkable. I could picture the jade beaches like I was standing there, feeling the smooth green sand between my toes. I absolutely loved that part of the story.

I have to say that I don’t regret reading this one, even if the story wasn’t a big stand-out for me. I was definitely in the minority with this one among my friends. I still plan to continue the series and it remains one of my favorite guilty pleasure go-tos. In fact, I might even return to this one at a later date to see if it holds more appeal when I’m in a different frame of mind.

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Review: Irreparable Damage (Irreparable, #1), by Sam Mariano

Irreparable Damage (Irreparable, #1)Irreparable Damage by Sam Mariano
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was dark, taboo and offensive. Accordingly, I thought that it was a fantastic read! Not the best dark captivity story out there, but definitely not the worst either. If you enjoy darker stories and don’t shy away from controversial subject matter, then ‘Irreparable Damage’ is worth a read.

The first in a series, this book tells the story of Willow Kensington. Willow is abducted right after her 18th birthday by sex traffickers. Her father is a powerful Mafioso and her captors think that they can use her to get at her father. Innocent Willow is caught in the crosshairs, despite having almost no interaction with her father.

While undercover trying to locate another missing girl, private investigator Ethan Wilde runs across another girl whose picture recently came his way. He hadn’t accepted Willow’s case yet, but fate has their paths crossing. Unfortunately, to maintain his cover he must harm Willow before he can save her.

Following Willow’s rescue, she struggles with the after-effects of her captive experience. Her healing is only made more difficult by the fact that she will not discuss everything that happened to her at the hands of her captors. She is torn by the fact that her rescuer was also the man who committed the worst crimes against her. She won’t condemn him, but she can’t cope either.

Returning to his wife and children, Ethan faces his own demons following his most recent case. He cannot stop thinking about the girl that he assaulted. He wonders how she is doing and whether she hates him. He waits to be held accountable for his crimes, but with each day that passes it becomes increasingly clear that Willow isn’t going to turn him in – no matter how much he deserves it.

Ethan’s guilt transforms into an obsession, masked as concern. Before long, he’s stalking the teen online and “checking up on her”. The lies begin to pile up and he is drifting away from his wife.

Of course, Ethan isn’t the only one that can’t get Willow’s trauma in captivity off their mind. Willow is finding that her nightmares surrounding her assault are turning increasingly erotic. Yep, she’s fantasizing about her assailant. (This is smutty, dark erotica, not non-fiction after all! Know that what you’re signing up for isn’t a harrowing, true-to-life account.)

Willow and Ethan begin meeting up to vent and discuss their feelings about what transpired. It seems that they are the only two people that can relate to one another. Admittedly, I rolled my eyes at the idea of the victim actually consoling the attacker and vice versa. However, even as I was rolling my eyes I was anxiously flipping pages to see where the story would go.

This story was pure, smutty goodness! It was definitely a “guilty pleasure” type of read for me. It was unbelievable, taboo and hot. Clearly, this isn’t a book that you choose for intellectual enlightenment. It was dirty, sexy and fun.

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Review: The Sheikh’s Forced Bride (Sharjah Sheikhs, #1), by Leslie North

The Sheikh's Forced Bride (Sharjah Sheikhs Book 1)The Sheikh’s Forced Bride by Leslie North
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I downloaded a copy of ‘The Sheikh’s Forced Bride’ as one of my Kindle Unlimited selections. As you can probably guess from the title, this is not a particularly “deep” story. I’m not knocking it, just being honest.

Sometimes, I like cheesy stories like this to help with my “recovery” after reading a really fantastic story that continues to occupy my mind. We’ve all been there. You’ve finished a phenomenal book and are suffering the dreaded book hangover. When I find myself in that situation, I look for something “lighter” to read. I know that whatever book I read next isn’t going to measure up, and usually, I’m not quite ready to lose myself completely to another consuming story. For lack of better words, I need a book that I can read without really having to “turn on” my brain completely.

Again, I’m not knocking this book. You just don’t have to think too much while reading it. It is a straightforward, cheesy romance. It doesn’t pretend to be anything else. You won’t find any deep emotional connection or any bigger meaning here. It was just pure, fun, smutty entertainment.

This story centers on the Sheikh Khalid Al-Qasimi, who is forced by his father to marry or else risk everything he knows – his title, wealth and prestige. In the midst of his arranged wedding, a reporter, Casey Connolly, barges in. She’s looking to score a big story, exposing this controversial tradition and the disregard for women’s rights in Khalid’s country.

When Casey is thrown into jail at Khalid’s father’s orders, she finds herself in a precarious situation. She is not in her home country and learns quickly that she doesn’t have the civil rights that she’s taken for granted in this new land. Luckily, Khalid makes her an offer that she can’t refuse.

To get out of jail, Casey must agree to pretend to be Khalid’s fiancée. Khalid is sure that this will be a win-win for both him and Casey. Surely, his father will not allow him to marry the outspoken reporter and will reconsider his decision to force Khalid to get married. In exchange, he will help Casey secure interviews in order to get the story that she wants so badly.

Of course, what starts off as a farce soon becomes entangled with reality. As Casey and Khalid spend more time together, they develop real feelings for one another. However, given the nature of their relationship’s beginning, it is difficult for the couple to trust one another’s intentions.

There is enough drama along the way to keep it entertaining, but not enough to become all-consuming. It was sweet, fun and smutty. Eventually, the two get their happily ever after.

It was good, but not the type of story that will hang with me. It wasn’t long enough or well-developed enough to feel any type of strong connection to the characters or the storyline. However, it isn’t intended to be that kind of story. An okay way to pass a couple of hours, it served it’s purpose.

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Review: Slade (Walk of Shame, #1), by Victoria Ashley

Slade (Walk of Shame, #1)Slade by Victoria Ashley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hmm…Where do I even start with this one? It definitely wasn’t what I expected. Totally my fault, by the way. For some unknown reason, I had it in my head that this was a biker romance. Clearly, I didn’t read the blurb. Again, totally my fault. Instead, ‘Slade’ tells the story of a male stripper that is super-slutty. I didn’t see that coming! LOL.

Although I was able to adjust to the unexpected storyline pretty quickly, I found this short read to be mediocre at best. There was a huge dose of insta-lust and not enough time to actually make the supposed emotional attachment between the two main characters seem genuine.

Essentially, Slade is a manwhore that “falls in love” with his new roommate, Aspen. The attraction is instantaneous, followed by some roommate rivalry. He wants in her pants. She wants to deny her attraction because he is such a slut. His sluttiness is really the result of ineffective coping, using sex to avoid dealing with his tragic past. She has her own secret reasons for not wanting to get involved with the sex machine under the same roof. Eventually, he reforms himself for her.

As you can see, this is similar to a thousand others in this trope. However, the short length of ‘Slade’ resulted in this story being unbelievable and having a rushed feel. It takes time to make readers feel a real connection to the characters. That never happened with this one.

I love a steamy love story as much as the next girl, but I need to have some “meat” in my stories. This one was a little smutty for my taste. The sex was plentiful, even gratuitous, but it lacked appeal because I felt no connection to the characters at all.

Overall, ‘Slade’ is a 2 1/2 star read for me. If you’re in the mood for something quick and very smutty, then you might enjoy this one. I needed more of an actual story and I didn’t find it with this one.

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Review: Ink Inspired (Montgomery Ink, #0.5), by Carrie Ann Ryan

Ink Inspired (Montgomery Ink, #0.5)Ink Inspired by Carrie Ann Ryan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

At roughly 2 1/2 hours, this was an incredibly short audiobook. Not surprisingly, this audio novella failed to foster the type of deep connection with main characters that I crave. It was a quick, smutty listen with a lot of insta-love and a HEA. If you’re in the mood for something that is sweet and cheesy, with a dirty-talking tattoo artist, this may be a good choice for you. Just don’t expect any depth to this story. It just isn’t that kind of story.

The heroine, Shea Little, wants to break out of her conservative, straight-laced mold. She has led a life of a debutante. Familial obligations had her going through the motions of her life, maintaining appearances. She’s spent years trying to appease a frigid mother whose only interest in her revolves around strategically marrying her off in order to enhance their family’s social standing.

Deciding to be spontaneous, Shea sets her mind on getting a tattoo. She’s every bit as nervous as she is determined. It is the first time she’s really rebelled in her life.

When Shepard Montgomery runs into the gorgeous Shea, he has no idea that she’ll be in his shop moments later. Shaking like a leaf, she’s obviously terrified of getting a tattoo. He’s intrigued by this woman, who is so clearly out of her element standing in a tattoo shop.

Telling Shea that he needs to get to know her before tattooing her, Shepard uses the opportunity to date her while simultaneously stopping her from making a big mistake by getting a meaningless image permanently placed on her skin. In no time at all, the two are head over heels.

Overall, this was an “okay” audiobook. It was fast-paced and relatively entertaining. I can’t say that I feel compelled to continue this series, but it was an alright way to pass a little time. I didn’t expect too much, being that the entire story was about 2 1/2 hours long and I wasn’t surprised. Maybe if I had already read other books in the series I would have gotten more out of this, but I haven’t.

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