Storm Gathering (Scorpius Syndrome #4) by Rebecca Zanetti

Storm GatheringBlurb: Even before surviving the Scorpius bacterium, Greyson Storm was a lone wolf navigating minefields. As a kid, he learned to take a hit and find safety. As an adult, he joined the military and quickly learned how to protect and defend. When the world ended, he created a mercenary camp with military precision, no entanglements, and a promise to avenge a fallen friend. As part of that vow, he kidnapped Maureen Shadow, but now that he has let her go, her blue eyes and intriguing mind keep haunting him…

As possibly the only Biotechnology Engineer still living, Maureen Shadow might be humanity’s one hope to survive the aftermath of Scorpius, making her frighteningly valuable to both allies and enemies. Even after sexual tension explodes with Greyson, she’s not sure which camp he belongs to—friend or foe? Worse yet, survival may mean thwarting his prime mission, putting her in even more peril. When danger and seduction collide, there is no safety in this new world. 

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Favorite Quotes

She really didn’t know him, but there was something honorable about letting a friend die in peace and then keeping a promise. Man, life had changed when hunting and killing made sense to a scientist like her. So much for holding out for a nice and peaceful, geeky guy.

Miss Julian gave me a foundation, but I was still damaged. Even when I found brothers in the military.” Greyson captured Moe’s chin between his thumb and forefinger. “With you, I feel whole. Like there’s hope somehow. I forgot that it even existed. In the apocalypse, you gave me hope.

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5 stars

I think this is my favorite book in this series so far.  Greyson is this ‘still waters run deep’ kinda guy.  And RZ gives him more depth than her previous male characters I think.  Or it might be that the stakes have risen so high in this series that it just seems that way. Either way, he’s my favorite.  His attention to detail in every aspect of his life is quite appealing to me.  His struggles keeping his group safe  while attempting to maintain a  precarious truce with other groups in the area was pretty impressive.  

And while I can’t say I felt the same for Maureen AKA Mo, I can still admire her spunk when it comes to being in between what she thinks is right and moral in a world where very little of that exist anymore.  She is faced with tough decisions about where her loyalties lie.  Rather than choosing which side she is on, she sees the big picture, and somehow convinces others to move past their individual agendas toward a more common goal.  And in the end I came to really like her gentleness and problem solving demeanor.  

One of the best things about this series is the fact that while I’m generally on the fence with alpha males,  but their reasoning for becoming possessive, dominant figures is written wonderfully.  Yes they are possessive, yes they are dominant and at times come off as chauvinistic.  But the post apocalyptic world doesn’t run on morals and vulnerability.  Those things can get you killed quickly and they know that while they have to be these hard men, they can also be vulnerable.  But only to those special people in their lives that they trust. It’s a constant push and pull between seemingly opposite views.  But RZ balances both traits in these men that makes them so attractive to me as to not even care about the alpha-ness that resides in them.  

That’s a unique talent in my opinion.  So go get you this series.  It is AWESOME. 

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The Way Back Home by Carmen Jenner

Blurb:
33119387August Cotton shouldn’t be here. When a tragic accident calls him home to Magnolia Springs, this returned Veteran adds his parents to the list of things he’s lost in recent years, right along with his IED detection dog and his left leg. As the sole guardian of his four-year-old sister, August must rely on his Marine training in raising a tiny hellion who’s as stubborn as he is. But the Corps could never prepare him for this. Nor could they prepare him for Olivia Anders, a woman who’ll stop at nothing to get her way.

As owner of Paws for Cause, Olivia is no stranger to the broken men and women who return home from war. She’s no stranger to broken dogs either. In fact, she’s made it her mission to pair the two and enrich both of their lives, but pairing ornery and aloof August Cotton will take some work. The last thing August wants is some pushy southern woman occupying his parents’ bed and breakfast and forcing him to open up about the hell he narrowly escaped, but that’s exactly what Olivia intends.

They complete one another, and yet they can’t stand to be in the same room.

Can Olivia make this hardened Marine feel again and finally show his heart the way back home?

*** Intended for a mature 18+ audience only. This book may contain triggers for some readers.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — OK, first things first, YAY to the author for putting the potential trigger warning!  I don’t actually experience triggers, but I kind of thought that this one might have potential (it does deal with the difficult subject of war, ptsd, and suicide).

OK, so wanna hear the weird thing about this one?  I LOVED so much of this book, but the one thing I was meh on?  The romance.  *rolls eyes*  Like seriously, isn’t that odd?  It’s kind of a romance book.  It’s not the whole point, but it’s kind of a main point.  *sigh*  I was going to leave that til the end like I’ve been doing lately, but how about we just get it out of the way and end on a high note?

I 100% felt the lust and attraction between Olivia and August.  I did.  It made it a little frustrating that this ended up being a slow burn book, and that the author tended to rely heavily on the interruption to stop things from going in a physical direction (I can’t even tell you how many times they were about to kiss and someone/something interrupted them).  I don’t mind that in general, but if it’s multiple times, I tend to start rolling my eyes.  My problem was not in their physical chemistry, it was that I didn’t completely follow the development of their feelings and emotions.  I got some of it, but these two were just so ridiculously damaged that they were just not healthy with each other.  I mean, like I said to my husband, it was quite a bit of hate boinking (except I used a more colourful word that definitely won’t make it past the ‘zon’s approval process).  I know some people really enjoy those kinds of angsty relationships, and I honestly actually got how it made sense in some ways, given what they’d been through in each of their pasts, but it just kind of leaves me feeling icky and unsatisfied.  And it probably didn’t help that I didn’t understand the point where Olivia got fed up…it didn’t feel like it fit, I didn’t understand how she got to the end of her rope.  Oh well, sometimes I am dense.  And I *really* didn’t like how she handled the PTSD stuff with both August and Dalton.  Honestly, I was a bit surprised how often she made really silly mistakes, and then the author would excuse it away as she should know better…but for realz people, SHE DOES THIS FOR A LIVING.  She *should* know better.  I didn’t buy being distracted by her feelings for August.  It was just too much to watch her constantly putting herself in dangerous situations.

OK!  Now onto the fun stuff!!  Well, and heartbreak.  But the good heartbreak.  The elements that put this book up there for me are actually kind of diverse.  I actually thought Olivia was hilarious and sassy and in general she had an amazingly tender heart.  It’s kind of a strange mixture actually.  But I just fell in love with the way she took in strays, from animals to humans.  I loved the way she interacted with many of the strong secondary characters.  She was wonderful with Bettina (though can I just say I’m never a fan of writing out 4 year old dialogue with the lisps included?  Personal preference).  I was pleasantly surprised with the way her relationship with Josiah progressed, and my heart ached in that storyline (though I will admit I read another review that mentioned some race issues, and in the end I agree with that reviewer, even though my little white reader self didn’t completely ferret that out on my own).  I thought Josiah and Beau added to this full, hilarious household.  And, being an animal lover, I ADORED Betty, Zora, and the bit we saw of Xena.

And while I never really felt like I got to know August quite as much, and particularly not until the second half, I loved a lot of what I got to see in his story.  I felt for him with the Jude/Sav storyline.  But where he really shone was in watching him with his dogs (either Havoc or Zora).  I felt like I learned a LOT about Marine Working Dogs, and how that all works, and while heartbreaking at times, it was also fascinating and gave me EVEN MORE respect for both the animals and handlers.

So yeah.  It’s weird when you like characters on their own, but when they don’t bring out the best in each other.  Or at least not in my opinion.  So, needless to say, this book left me feeling very mixed.  The parts I loved I REALLY LOVED.  But if I can’t connect on a romance in a romance book, well…I don’t know.  It’s a bummer, at minimum.

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Pounding Skin by L.A. Witt

Blurb:
35101031A Skin Deep, Inc. Novel

Fighter pilot Jon Russell never sleeps with the same man twice. Known for his lack of shame when it comes to hooking up, Jon has no interest in commitment—even friends with benefits sounds like too much work.

Matt Huffman has slept with lots of women. He’s had loads of girlfriends. So why does the hot as hell pilot getting a tattoo as the result of a lost bet stop his breath? And how come he can’t stop thinking about him, even after he’s gone?

When Jon returns to Skin Deep the second time, he doesn’t want another tattoo. He wants to hook up with the gorgeous artist he spent hours agonizingly close to, and Matt wants to explore some curiosity about men. Fulfill the desire he can’t stop fantasizing over. And he wants to do it with Jon.

As their casual hook up becomes more than just skin deep, both Matt and Jon are faced with questions they don’t want to answer. Matt understands he’s bi—but are these feelings he has typical of hooking up with a man? Or is it only Jon that can make his heart pound? If Jon wanted nothing more than a fling, why does he find himself needing not just Matt’s body, but all of him? And can their relationship withstand the hardships that makes Jon avoid them in the first place?

The Skin Deep, Inc books can be read in any order—come enter a world where gorgeous tattoo artists and hot Navy men find passion, pleasure, and a happily ever after together.

L.A. Witt also writes under the name Lauren Gallagher.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

I finished this one last night, but was just so freaking tired I just sort of stream of consciousnessed out some thoughts before going to bed.  Now I need to figure out what I wrote and make it make sense.  All of which I really didn’t need to include in this review, but in case I miss something and it sounds jumbled, that would be why.

This was a solid read, definitely leaning more towards the erotica end of the spectrum…  I can never figure out what the line in the sand is for when a romance is labeled an erotica.  Like, this book definitely had romance, but there is a LOT of sex in it.  I actually forgot just how much sex was in the first book, so it caught me off guard in the beginning of this book.  And funny story, I always bring my Kindle everywhere, and when I was on the bus taking me to the football game on Friday, I pulled it out, but forgot I was in the middle of a sex scene and I had to keep tilting it away from the guy beside me.  I took a picture to show my hubby (because he was standing near the back), and he laughed and told me if they peak over my shoulder, they get what they get!  And what they would get is a LOT of c*ck!!  ROFL.  OK, enough of these asides…

Let’s talk characters!!  I felt a stronger connection to Matt than Jon in this particular story.  I did feel like we jumped into his story at a weird point, I almost wish we’d actually seen the scene where he has the threesome, instead of seeing him ponder it.  Even if it was a flashback.  Then again, maybe not.  It just felt like we jumped into the middle of a story sometimes.  BUT!  I loved how Ms. Witt portrayed Matt’s struggle with coming to terms with his newly discovered bisexuality.  I loved the way his past played into him being in the closet for so long, and being so genuinely surprised when he figured it out.  I loved the discussion about how his father’s toxic masculinity really influenced him heavily.  I also liked that they addressed how his constant vehement denial could hurt people (like Troy).  I will say I was not too keen on the fact that it seemed no one was surprised when he came out.  Not that that isn’t necessarily realistic, but we never really find out what exactly gave it away for them.  Having SOMEONE be surprised would have been nice.  Or at least not sitting there saying “we were just waiting for you to say something.”

I felt like Matt’s financial struggles were added in at the beginning, and then didn’t really go anywhere.  Like the story got too cluttered, so that thread just got dropped unsatisfactorily.  I really hate that, because I was interested in seeing how it was going to be resolved because it seemed to be building up to something, but then it just…fizzled, I guess.  So then why was it there at all?

On to Jon!  Jon was harder to warm up to.  I never could figure out where he got his negative view on relationships.  I guess some people just are that way, but in books it’s nicer to read them having some incidence that leads to it (a rough childhood, divorced parents, no good role models, bad early breakup, SOMETHING).  So that was a bummer.  However, I loved that he was so confident in his sexuality, and very forthright about what he wanted, and very comfortable in his own skin.  I loved that he was very good at his job and loved it, and they conveyed how smart he was.  I also loved seeing some of the interactions with his squadron, but that fizzled a bit too…would have liked even more.

And Matt and Jon had amazing chemistry, and the steamy scenes were spot on (if prolific).  I really did feel their connection and insatiability in the bedroom.  But not at the expense of other connections.  I felt friendship, and even romance too.  I liked that we got to see their relationship slowly developing over time.  You could tell they cared about each other.  Frankly, it made the constant talk of casualness really grating on this romance reader.  I think that was the point, but it’s not something that this reader enjoys.  I get it was the whole conflict of the book leading up to the climax, but it got tiring.  And the turnaround in the end was a mite quick.

As for side stories, the subplot with Nate and his husband really broke my heart.  It kind of threw off my mood, and if you know me as a reader at all, you know I HATE cheating.  So it was hard to see it happening to a secondary character that was so important to one of our heroes.  I get now that it was setup for book 3 though.

I liked getting glimpses of Colin and Daniel, but still wish we knew what happened to Daniel’s family (particularly his relationship with his sisters).  I guess nothing.  That’s the impression we’re given.  And I hated how they made Daniel sound like he was always so calm and cool and there for Colin, when often I felt like he was oblivious to Colin’s problems.  But that’s a problem with a different story in the end.

All in all a solid romance that leans more towards the erotica end.  I think the relationship was more satisfying than Colin and Daniel’s from book one, but I enjoyed the extra elements in the first book’s story a wee bit more, so they kind of balance out in the end.  I will say I’m looking forward to the next book in the series though!  That sneak peak was tantalizing!

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Back Piece by L.A. Witt

Blurb:
34442289Colin Spencer is a tattoo artist with a past he’d prefer to keep a secret. Actually, he has a few secrets that he’d rather people didn’t know about, which is why Colin doesn’t do commitment. But when a shy sailor approaches him at the gym, Colin finds this guy pushing all his buttons.

Growing up in a conservative family, then escaping with the Navy, Daniel Moore is an unsure virgin who feels like he can’t share his true self with anyone. Seeing Colin—and his tattoos—at the gym are the sign Daniel needs to finally get those tattoos he’s always wanted, and maybe try his hand at flirting.

As Colin and Daniel spend more time together, their awkward hesitations turn into a deep passion neither expected. But with both men harboring secrets, will their relationship be able to survive their insecurities and become something beautiful?

Back Piece is a sexy, emotional journey of two people learning to love and finding acceptance for who they really are.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

I have lots of mixed feelings about this one.  I honestly finished it and was just completely uncertain how I felt.  And not necessarily in a bad way, there was so much I genuinely enjoyed.  I just knew there was another part of me that was hankering for a bit more.  But I think the things I enjoyed outweighed my nitpicks this time so I’m totally rounding up.

This book dealt with a crapload of odd and intriguing issues.  You have Daniel, shy, sweet, and incredibly naive.  A virgin in SO MANY ways, occasionally his naivete would make me a bit skeptical, but at other times I felt like it was intriguing and refreshing.  I could really feel his panic and worry about not knowing what to do.  It wasn’t the sex naivete that threw me off, I totally got that and thought it was handled really well.  It was the relationship stuff.  It was so odd that he felt so unsure about how relationships worked.  I’m not entirely sure I buy into that, but I can’t completely convince myself that it couldn’t happen with the way he was brought up…that he would somehow assume that gay relationships would work any other way than every other romantic relationship.

I really appreciated the struggles he went through with his parents, and that the author showed that just because they were homophobic didn’t mean they didn’t have great qualities.  And inevitably Daniel had to make the decision about what was important to him.  I thought that was handled rather well.

And I even enjoyed his introduction to sex, and the strange amount of detail we got as a result (about pitfalls of bottoming or topping for the first time).  To be frank, there was a LOT of sex in this book, but I didn’t mind that so much as that I wanted a bit more on the relationship side.  The steamy scenes were quite delicious, and the chemistry between Daniel and Colin was awesome.  I just found myself occasionally puzzled about the relationship progression, and why some choices were made, and even if I guessed the reasons, why did they not ever discuss it and any hangups they might have had?  I needed some more depth there.

And then there’s Colin.  I can’t decide if I want to spoil the “secret” or not, I’m not sure if it really affects the enjoyment of the book to know here…you find out pretty early on (or at least there’s hints from the first chapter).  So if you don’t want to be spoiled, skip to the next paragraph in this review.  Still with me?  OK, I LOVED that Colin struggled with an eating disorder.  I felt like it was given so much authenticity and realism, and I could really FEEL his struggle.  I thought it was respectful, and I appreciated its addition to the story.  I also LOVED that his being a former porn star wasn’t some horrible shameful thing.  It added a strange layer onto the story.  I will say that while I LOVED Daniel’s reactions to learning these secrets, I kind of wished he considered Colin’s struggles more often.  I know he was overwhelmed with his own issues, but Colin was there for him with his family and thinking about him, why didn’t Daniel give more thought to how he could help Colin cope?  I wanted some development there that I didn’t get.

There were the occasional parts where some of their conversations got a little repetitive.  I’d be thinking “didn’t they have a similar conversation” (like Daniel comparing Colin’s situation to friends who came home with PTSD), and I get that that happens in real life especially with important stuff, but in romance books it feels kind of odd and unnecessary.

I enjoyed the tattoo stuff, and the meanings behind the back piece.  I would love to see it, even as I understand it doesn’t exist in real life.

My only other nitpick is that I would have liked to see more of an epilogue.  I was totally anticipating seeing how things fell out with Daniel’s family, and particularly the sister and maybe other siblings.  I’m not sure if the next book will be Daniel and Colin again or other characters.  If it’s other characters, then I definitely wish we’d gotten that bit more since the ending came kind of quickly.

So yeah.  It was a mixed bag, but definitely more to love.  Will be intrigued to see what’s next in the Skin Deep Inc series.

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The Vixen and the Vet by Katy Regnery

Blurb:
22888713In this modern-retelling of “Beauty and the Beast,” Savannah Carmichael, betrayed by an unreliable source, returns to her hometown of Danvers, Virginia with her once-promising journalism career in ruins. Given the opportunity to get back in the game by writing a patriotic human interest piece, Savannah turns her attention to the town hermit, Asher Lee, a wounded veteran who returned to Danvers eight years ago, and hasn’t been seen since.

After an IED explosion in Afghanistan took Asher’s hand and disfigured half of his face, he’s lived a quiet life on the outskirts of Danvers where the locals respect his privacy…that is, until Savannah Carmichael comes calling in a borrowed sundress with a plate of homemade brownies. When Asher agrees to be interviewed by Savannah, he starts feeling things for the beautiful reporter that he hasn’t felt in years.

Misfits in small-town Danvers, Savannah and Asher create a bond right away, touching each other’s hearts in ways neither thought possible. When a terrible mistake threatens to drive them apart, they’ll have to decide if the love they found in one another’s arms is strong enough to fight for their hard-won happily ever after.

** Contemporary Romance. Due to profanity, realistically depicted scenes of war and very strong sexual content, this book is not intended for readers under the age of 18.**

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My Review:
3 stars — I thought now would be the perfect time to finally read Ms. Regnery’s Beauty and the Beast retelling, what with the new movie out…and crap on a cracker, it just didn’t work for me.  It’s so weird, b/c I really enjoy her Blueberry Lane books, but this is now the second of her wildly popular Modern Fairytale stories that I just didn’t connect with.  Quite frankly, this book left me extremely underwhelmed, especially given how outrageously popular it is.

It was so odd, b/c I started this book before bed one night, and just really wasn’t sucked in right away.  I wasn’t too sure about Savannah, and I really wasn’t enamoured with her sister Scarlet, so I put it down and went to sleep.  Then the next day I was reading while exercising, and I was wholly sucked in!!  I was just super excited and thinking “OH!!!  This is what they were talking about!”  I loved the beginnings of Savannah’s relationship with Asher, and how they met, and there was just some magic in their developing friendship and more.  I even highlighted things!  And then I had to do real life things, and when I got back to it today, I was bored.  Like wth?  I can admit that there might be a small mood component to my enjoyment, because I was having a really hard time articulating (even in my own head) what exactly went wrong.  But I’ll give it a try.

On the surface, I really enjoyed the way Ms. Regnery’s chose to portray our Belle and Beast.  I could totally see a reporter from a small town not fitting in, and a veteran with terrible disfigurements feeling ostracized by that same small town.  But I’m not sure I fully bought into their roles…more Savannah than Asher.  I could actually really understand Asher’s backstory and what he went through and how he came to be who he was, and I really felt like he stayed true to his character for much of the book.  And while his actions at the climax were harsh, I could kind of get it even if it made me disappointed.  But Savannah really did NOT act like a reporter.  It was like a character trait that she was just supposed to have that kind of facilitated the plot, but I don’t really feel like I understood much of her.  She uses her past betrayal and disgrace in so many aspects of the story, but I just didn’t know much about what happened, and I just didn’t really feel anything towards her and the decisions she made.  I didn’t empathize with her character nearly as much as I needed to.  I needed something more for me to understand why she would make such a big mistake at the climax, b/c she really came off as selfish, self-serving, and really not very in touch with people’s emotions.  So to say I was disappointed in my Belle would be a bit of an understatement.

And while I enjoyed their initial chemistry and found that spark and magic quite exciting, somewhere along the way I got really bored with it, and wasn’t feeling the steamy scenes…I honestly thought “oh, here they go again.”  I enjoy steamy scenes, but apparently there wasn’t enough keeping me interested in these ones, but that honestly could have been just me.

So the other thing that really didn’t work for me had a lot to do with how this “Southern” town was portrayed.  Are they really like that?  It felt like a stereotype was taken as fact and embellished upon.  It’s not that I don’t understand elements, but I wanted a bit more nuance I guess.  This is not the first time I’ve been insulted by the portrayal of a region that I don’t even live in, so perhaps *I’m* the one who has it wrong.  I don’t know.  But it influenced how I enjoyed Miss Potts (which was sometimes I did, sometimes I really didn’t).  It influenced how little I enjoyed Savannah’s sister Scarlet.  Though honestly, there were many more problems with her.  Both she and her fiance Trent were downright mean.  And I just did NOT buy the turnaround.  I’m glad it was there, I wanted to buy it, but I needed an apology and some humility I guess.  And don’t get me started on the Lance business, and dealing with it in a Southern way.  NOT a fan of that tiny side plot at all, and how it played out.

OK, enough complaining Lenore.  Let’s end with a high note.  I really enjoyed Savannah’s Mother, and the story she told of her relationship with Asher’s Mother.  I really thought it added to the story, and gave depth.  I know she had her own elements of caricature, but I didn’t mind them…maybe because she was kind.  I needed that kindness.

And I really thought the description of Asher’s injuries, and the bits of detail that we saw on how he coped with only one hand, and the look into things that could help him were well placed and added to the story.  It was a really good read for my diversity challenge in that way.

So yeah.  I’m bummed.  I take it really hard when I don’t enjoy a book that’s so highly recommended.  But apparently I’m a special snowflake that just can’t conform.  Oh well.  I’m going to at least give her Hansel and Gretel retelling a try, and if that one doesn’t work either, I’m totally calling it a flatline and sticking with her other series.  Sometimes we’re just not a match.

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Justice Ascending (The Scorpius Syndrome #3) by Rebecca Zanetti

justice-ascendingBlurb: Before surviving the Scorpius bacterium, Tace Justice was a good ole Texas cowboy who served his country and loved his mama. After Scorpius, the world became dark, dangerous, and deadly… and so did he. The Vanguard medic is stronger, faster, and smarter than before, but he’s lost the line between right and wrong. His passion is absolute, and when he focuses it on one woman, there’s no turning back for either of them.

Sami Steel has been fighting to survive right alongside Tace, convincing the Vanguard soldiers she’s one of them. In truth, Sami is a former hacker turned government agent who worked at The Bunker, where scientists stored both contaminants and cures. Only she knows the location, and she’s not telling. Yet when sexual fire explodes between her and Tace, she’ll face even that hell again to save him.

 

scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg This book is a pre-order, available Jan 31, 2017!

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5 stars

I’m so happy with this series!  I have received them ALL through Netgalley and I can’t wait to get the next one. But I’m conflicted!  I was expecting this to be a trilogy.  But it looks like there will be more books in this series since the sociopathic president and the VP aren’t dead yet and they so need to die. I’m happy I get to keep reading the series but dammit I really wanted him to die!

This is my fave book in the series so far and I’ll tell you why. 🙂 This is not a story of a soldier finding his love with a civilian – which has been the progression of the characters so far.  She switches it up in this one with both MC’s being soldier.  And it was a totally different paradigm than her previous books in the series and I love it.

First off, Texan Tace Justice is smexy! Super smexy! Super duper smexy! I really loved how self aware he was.  He knew he had OCD and he was obsessing about Sami.  He was very mush internally conflicted because of it.  He knew it wasn’t normal.  He was one of those guys you could always depend on and he enjoyed being that person.  He was proud of his long family line of texas rangers and couldn’t wait to be a part of that legacy.  Watching him struggle and come to terms with the fact it will never happen formed a soft spot in my heart for him.

Sami seemed to have a bit more dimension for me.  In the beginning she seemed a hardcore hand to hand combat expert with a background in law enforcement.  As the story progresses we get to see her feelings start to shine through.  And the dynamic of having a female soldier and how she is treated different but equal at the same time.  It’s written quite beautifully.

There was a lot more action and sex in this book.  Their chemistry was instant and escalated quickly.  It gave me tummy warmth to read it.  The solidarity exhibited by this new militant group is quite heart warming.  The trust is there and when someone fucks up it’s dealt with swiftly and not used against them at a later time.  They are a family and all that that entails.  They are flawed and forgiving.  And I love that about these characters.

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Welcome Home for Christmas by Annie Rains

Blurb:
31349355The bestselling Hero’s Welcome series continues with a juicy Christmas romance, a short novel set in Seaside, North Carolina, where the bustling military base keeps this small town stocked with dedicated, lovable heroes.

Three-hundred-and-sixty-four days a year, Allison Carmichael doesn’t mind being single. It sure beats dating another loser, and it keeps her heart safe. Then there’s that three-hundred-and-sixty-fifth day: Christmas Eve, the traditional time her entire family gathers together—and gangs up on her, demanding to know when she’s going to get married. This year, she swears, is going be different. And that’s why, at a charity auction she’s throwing on-base, she buys herself a man.

Sergeant Troy Matthews insists that he’s not for sale. His time is, though, and he’s happy to donate it. Happier still when he learns the identity of the winning bidder: the redhead with the killer good looks and smart mouth who runs the veteran’s center. Allison needs Troy’s help to fool her family into believing they’re an item, and he’s all too happy to indulge her. But by the time Christmas Eve rolls around, their little charade is working a little too well . . . because Troy’s falling head over heels.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

This was a good Christmas romance, but for me personally it was just missing something to give it that extra punch.  I think I just wasn’t that drawn in by either Allison or Troy.  Allison felt kind of stiff, and I tend to be more attracted to heroines with a bit of sass.  She just felt kind of dry or something.  And could be a little…uppity? or something.  I don’t know, she just occasionally rubbed me the wrong way with her reactions and things.

And Troy may have had a bit more sparkle to his personality, but I couldn’t always get a handle on who he was.  He’s supposed to be this playboy, but I’m not sure I really felt it.  It felt like I was told that he broke a lot of hearts, but I didn’t really get why.

It wasn’t all humdrum.  I enjoyed some of the memory sharing they did about their pasts, and Troy’s reluctance to go home for Christmas was a pretty good side story.  And the chemistry was pretty good between them.  *sigh*  I guess it was all just good, not great you know?

So yeah.  It was entertaining, but left me a little underwhelmed at the end.

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Maybe This Kiss by Jennifer Snow

Blurb:
31560190Love is always worth the risk . . .

Neil Healy was happy to be promoted to Air Force Lieutenant, but he’s less than thrilled that the new job has brought him back to his hometown. The memories alone could kill a man, to say nothing of actually seeing the woman he never got over. Neil knew avoiding Becky Westmore would be impossible, but he didn’t expect the chemistry between them to be as strong as ever.

All Becky wants this holiday season is to get through the month of December with her sanity intact. Not helping? Her ex-boyfriend’s return to Glenwood Falls. Even after a decade apart, Neil still makes her feel in ways no other man has. But Christmas is a time for miracles, and maybe Becky’s will be a second chance at first love.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

Well hmmm…so this one didn’t hit it out of the park with me.  I’m still trying to figure out why.  I think I just wasn’t totally enamoured with the characters, you know?  Like on paper they were both good characters, but I didn’t feel that connection with them at the start.  And so it was slow to hook me in.  I think I wasn’t big on how frazzled Becky was, but how she wouldn’t ask for help…she made me feel tired.  I was missing some sass there too.  It’s not a bad thing, it’s just something that is a guaranteed love thing for me personally as a reader, and I wasn’t feeling it.  I thought her daughter was pretty hilarious, and her brothers intrigued me, but she was missing some sparkle.  And unfortunately my opinion of her went down before it went up.  I wasn’t really impressed with how she dealt with her relationship with Neil in the past, I couldn’t understand what drew them together if they were so very different.

It was kind of the same for Neil.  He didn’t get my book boyfriend juices going at the beginning.  He was kind of blah.  He didn’t seem to like Colorado or the snow at all, and as a Northern girl who has to deal with people complaining about the weather all the time, I often wonder why they don’t just move.  So I wasn’t sure why he came back, unless he didn’t have a choice in where he was based out of?

And even their initial chemistry…I mean, I felt some of it, but it was sooo…reluctant?  So much past clouding over, that I couldn’t hop on the train you know?  Which is not a bad thing, just not a thing that this particular reader enjoys as much.

BUT.  But.  The book picked up.  I started to see more dimension in both characters.  I got some sweet moments.  I got to see more expansion on what drew them together.  And the steamy scenes drew me in more.  There was still conflict, but I was ok with how that all played out in the end — not too much unnecessary drama or dragging things out.  It ended a bit abruptly (there’s a teaser for the next book at the end, so be warned it ends sooner than you think), and I would have ideally liked an epilogue or something, but I was still happy with how things played out.  I was worried it was going to go one way, but it didn’t.

So yeah.  It ended stronger than it started for me.  And I will say that reading the teaser of the next book, I think I might enjoy those characters more…I was already more intrigued.  Good thing I have that ARC burning a hole in my pocket as well!!  I’m going to be hard pressed not to move on to it right away…I have to decide now.

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Letters to Love by Soraya Lane

letters-to-loveBlurb: When her sister Lila and brother-in-law Gray are killed in a tragic accident, Bella is named as guardian to her two young nephews. Then she discovers that she’s expected to co-parent with Gray’s best friend, and grief turns to shock. Noah has always driven her crazy, and Bella’s sure the arrogant, handsome Navy SEAL is the last person she wants to share a life with.

Just as it seems they’ll never see eye to eye, letters from Lila start to arrive—letters she wrote in case they ever ended up in this situation. And so the reluctant couple follows her instructions, spending ever more time together as part of their unexpected, unconventional family.

Forced into an impossible situation, will these letters from the past bring them together?

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Favorite Quote: 

Her big, tough-as-nails, amazing military dad; a man who never cried, never complained, never asked anyone for anything. And now he was sitting as still as a statue, body shuddering with emotion as she touched him.

4 stars

I got this book from my Kindle for Samsung app.  You get a free book every month if you have it, so if you have a Samsung phone and like free books, I’d download this puppy.

This book was exactly what I expected it to be. A heartbreaking love story.  I cried a few times throughout.  The grief that Bella and Noah experience is genuine and the author was able to relate those intense -+–feelings quite flawlessly.

I loved how Noah stood up to Bella about the co-parenting request.  He knows he won’t be around as much but he still demands to be as much a part of their lives as he is able.  He has commitment issues and abandonment issues up the wazoo, but all those seem to take a back seat whenever he is around the kids.  He shows a great capacity for love and at the same time seems to be terrified of it.

Bella is headstrong and a bit controlling.  Contradicting Noah’s more laid back attitude. She adored her sister and her nephews and is still trying to navigate her life post death of her sister.  She is a great guardian and has a wonderful support system.  But, its hard for her to let go and just roll with it. Especially after her previous carefree life with no one depending on her.  I think she has a hard time not having a committed partner and that’s what scares her.  The two fears each MC exhibit contrast nicely in this book, giving the book a great conflict that is easy to follow.

I really enjoyed the military background this book covered.  It added another layer to the story.  Noah’s commitment to his brothers in arms was admirable, even though it took him away from his family.

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Hallowed Ground by Rebecca Yarros

Blurb:
26201118There are some debts you can’t repay.

Josh Walker is loyal, reckless, and every girl’s dream. But he only has eyes for December Howard, the girl he’s craved since his high school hockey days. Together they have survived grief, the military, distance, and time as they’ve fought for stolen weekends between his post at Ft. Rucker and her college at Vanderbilt. Now that Josh is a medevac pilot and Ember is headed toward graduation, they’re moving on—and in—together.

Ember never wanted the Army life, but loving Josh means accepting whatever the army dictates—even when that means saying goodbye as Josh heads to Afghanistan, a country that nearly killed him once before and that took her father. But filling their last days together with love, passion, and plans for their future doesn’t temper Ember’s fear, and if there’s one thing she’s learned from her father’s death, it’s that there are some obstacles even love can’t conquer.

Flight school is over.
This is war.

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My Review:
4 stars — I will preface this review by saying that I think my enjoyment was marred slightly by having to set this book aside for a few days while I went on a roadtrip, and then since I was already out of the story, I also fulfilled an ARC read that I had on my plate.  I hate doing stopping a book partway, but I just had no choice in this case.  I’m not sure if it affects my opinion of the book on a whole, but I wouldn’t doubt I would feel better about my rating if I’d been able to read straight through.

Now, with that personal crap out of the way, on to the actual review!!  I absolutely loved Josh and Ember’s love story from Full Measures, and so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel knowing that they were going to likely be going through more crap.  And oh boy howdy, did they.  It was definitely an emotional journey that had me crying on multiple occasions (heck almost right at the prologue).  Ms. Yarros knows how to get you right in the feels and really see what the life of a military family can be like.  I can’t imagine it, and I can wholeheartedly say that I would not be strong enough to endure it, so I admire them all the more.

I loved all the good moments that we did get in this novel (Jagger and Paisley on the side, Will being a part of the group, the final weekend before deployment for Josh, and obviously the ending).  But this was not a book full of a lot of sweet moments.  This was a book featuring a couple truly struggling to keep it together.  And that was almost a bit more heartbreak than I could take.  And while it was epically realistic in so many ways, my literary heart had a hard time watching them have the same argument over and over again…watching Josh not learn anything over and over again.  It’s hard to be a reader and see people making obviously bad choices and yet they don’t see the same thing.  And I just wanted something to finally take, for something to finally get through to the two of them.  And like I said, this is honestly how it happens in real life with many couples, but as a reader it was hard to read about over and over with little reward.  Not to say there wasn’t a great reward, but it was starting to be too much.  Hence the 4 stars instead of the 4.5 stars I could see this book getting from me if that hadn’t been the case. (which tells you that this story was still amazing, just a bit harder for me than the first 2 books)

So definitely a strong conclusion to the series.  A tiny part of me wanted a bit more Jagger time, but that’s just because I’m drawn to that character and I’m greedy.  If you like emotionally impactful romances with complex characters, then I highly recommend you check out this series and fall in love.  Can’t wait to see what Ms. Yarros has in store for us next.

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