On His Knees

On His Knees by Laura Kaye: Review by Cupcake

Getting on his knees makes him question everything…and want even more…

Another failed relationship has lawyer Jamie Fielding confronting the truth—he’ll never be satisfied with any woman until he admits what he needs…to submit and to be used—hard. When a friend invites him to the exclusive Blasphemy club, Jamie is stunned to find everything he ever wanted—in the fierce, ruthless hands of a man.

Psychiatrist Alex McGarry will play with anyone who craves his rough brand of domination, but what he really wants is to settle down. Which makes the submissive male he meets at his club a bad idea—the man might be hot as hell but he’s also new to everything Alex has to offer. Except that doesn’t keep them from coming together again and again, sating every one of their darkest desires.

Master Alex sets Jamie’s whole world on fire and makes him question everything—and that’s good. Because Alex won’t tolerate hiding what they have for long and he wants much more than just having Jamie on his knees…

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 2 Stars

Wellllll this sucks.

I had high hopes going in since I’d read (and really liked) Kaye before plus kink! It’s glitterkink though which I should’ve picked up on from the blurb. My bad. Glitterkink is not my jam. The protocols and honorifics were tolerable and it wasn’t overly BDSM 101 but still… glitterkink. I like the subversiveness of the club being a former church, though. That made me titter. Blasphemy indeed.

There is one force play scene that was bad wrong in the best possible way. Many things are cursorily tried and/or mentioned kink-wise-D/s, spanking, CBT, face fucking and breath play, lite bondage and humiliation, forced orgasms with mentions of orgasm denial, electroplay and impact play-but none was very inspired or intense. There was nowhere near as much PAIN as I was hoping for from a book purportedly focused on SM.

The plot is straightforward new masochist and sub meets experienced sadist and dom who is 10 yrs his senior, their kinks align and they speed race to HEAsville. Like they were on an egg timer. Fans of instalove will be delighted by this story. I found it predictable, employing a standard romance algorithm.

It’s rushed which stymied my connection to both of these characters despite having access to both of their perspectives. BOOM! Jaime realizes he’s bisexual. His tattoo artist offhandedly calls him a masochist and offers to set him up with a friend who’s part owner of Blasphemy and BOOM! Jaime’s a card carrying masochist. Master Alex shows him around on his inaugural visit and BOOM! he’s ready for him to pound his virgin ass into submission. Then BOOM! Jaime’s taking a fat cock like champ in every orifice and even some monster dildos too.

You don’t want to maybe… take a breath first? I do. I need a minute. Fast forwarding through all those major life changing events not only felt unrealistic, but I felt like I was missing all the good stuff. Like development of… everything.

On His Knees is BDSM fantasy. Those who like their kink to be realistic are not going to like this. It’s a quick read that’s low on angst and can be read as a standalone with storytelling reminiscent of Cherise Sinclair, so if you’re a fan of hers you’ll probably like this.

Some positives are they have some sweet moments, I liked how tactile they were and they have chemistry, so I was leaning towards 3 stars until the conflict which was hellafuck juvenile and stupid. I can deal with some piss poor communication but this was NEXT LEVEL ridiculous, especially given that open communication is a pillar of BDSM.

Sadly, this was not super successful for me but I think the cat’s out of the bag that I’m a picky bitch. There are already a multitude of glowing reviews for it so feel free to ignore me.

Recommend to fans of glitterkink, instalove and Cherise Sinclair.

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Make Me Want

Make Me Want by Katee Robert: Review by Cupcake

Synopsis:

“I want everything.”

She’s taking control. And it’s driving him wild!

Lucy Baudin’s ex did a number on her self-esteem, but it’s time for her to regain control. In her job as a lawyer she’s bold, confident. But in the bedroom she needs inspiration to reawaken her inner seductress. Asking her friend Gideon Novak for help seems wrong…yet so deliciously right!

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3.5 Stars

Helllllooooooo Katee Robert.

Welcome! Glad to meet ya.

Sorry for the serenade but… THIS GIRL IS ON FIIIIIIIYYYYYYYYYAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! Still. While reading this I considered dialing a friend, because HHHHHAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLPPPPPPPPP!!!

Reading Make Me Want I more than once wished for a warning label and maybe my own personal freezer. Someone should put a blast chiller option on kindles. I needed one.

What prompted me to click the request button are:

(a) The dude on the cover kinda looks like Carter Dane so my first thought was, “why is CD on the cover of some MF smutticilicicousness?” which quickly segued into a brief episode of wish fulfillment along the lines of, “has CD decided to widen the playing field?” Then I expanded the photo and realized my mistake.

*epic sad face is epic*

Congrats, Alex Mecum!

*fake smile*
*grumbles*

(b) The main character’s name is Gideon!

What? I have a name kink. Don’t judge.

This Gideon is eerily reminiscent of another (also slightly Neanderthalish) Gideon I’ve lusted over read before and while Sylvia Day might take exception to the similarities, my thoughts are more akin to…

The story itself is not groundbreaking and rife with non/miscommunication with a heaping of martyr syndrome that I loathe. Lucy is up for a promotion at her good ole boys law firm and won’t get it unless someone puts a ring on it. Gideon’s a friend of her ex-fiancé and was once hers too, so that coupled with his reputation as a skilled headhunter, leads her to hire him to find her a suitable husband. His reputation as a sex gawd leads her to ask him for “lessons” on how to have the HILLY DILLY amazingly since her ex told her she was a bad lay. Can you say projecting, boys and girls?

Regardless, the boning is top-notch! On the couch, on a conference table AT A FANCY SCHMANCY CLUB, a naughty video chat, in a lingerie dressing room and they did make it to the bedroom a couple times. Gideon’s also on the bossy/toppy side too! I mean…

Seriously, this thing should come with a complimentary box of wipes, a pack of cigs and some Gatorade.

I will most definitely be reading the next in this series. One-handed, but still. Now that I know what I’m in for I will be prepared like the devoted Girl Scout I am to see Roman getting his swerve on!

Recommend to… hells bells, you know who you are.

An ARC was provided by NetGalley.

Break Down

He knows his place on the pitch, but in life, it’s a whole other game.
All his life, Liam Donnelly looked and wondered. Could he? Would he? And then, finally, he did. But when he sampled a taste of that forbidden fruit, his whole world came crashing down, his position with Dublin Rugby right along with it. When the chance to ply his trade in Edinburgh comes along, Liam jumps at the offer, knowing it could be his best opportunity to start fresh and get back to the man he once was. But one look at Chef Lachlan MacLeod-his knowing, whisky-colored eyes, the abrasive scruff dotting his jaw, and the colorful ink lining his forearms-and Liam’s wondering all over again. Can he? Will he? His heart says no, but his body says yes. Too bad love is never that simple.

He’s conquered his own demons; can he help another man do the same?
Out and proud Chef Lachlan MacLeod has no problem with who he is, except he has a history of hooking up with bi-curious straight men. He’s vowed never to go down that path again, but when Liam Donnelly shows up in his restaurant, his eyes filled with heat and secret longing, Lachlan can’t help himself. He knows the closeted rugby player is a terrible idea, but the man calls to him in a way no one ever has before. What started as a safe way for Liam to explore his sexuality quickly morphs into something much deeper, and now Lachlan wants more. But can his heart reconcile what his head already knows-that loving the gorgeous, broken athlete might actually mean letting him go?

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 Reviewed by Cupcake

 

3.5 Stars

The blurb tapped into my inner sports nut even though I know fuckall about rugby aside from that Friends episode when Ross thought he was going to impress his Brit girlfriend then squealed. Doesn’t matter though, sports romances are my kryptonite. Add in a chef and…

DONE!

This is the fourth book in what up to now has been a MF series but can be read as a standalone. Liam is a pro rugby player and is coming to terms with being bisexual. He had a drunken encounter then the guy turned around and blackmailed him. First manlove and the guy turns out to be a blackmailing dicknozzle! So when an offer to play for Edinburgh comes along it seems like a good time for a change of scenery thus he takes it and gets the hell out of Dodge, or in this case Dublin.

He soon meets acclaimed chef Lachlan and sparks fly. Liam has vowed to keep his head down and just play rugby but all the flirting and dancing around each other chips away at his resolve.

Lachlan is out and the notion of returning to the closet is something he vowed never to do. He also swore off “straight” dudes too but he’s never been this drawn to another person, so he compromises himself to be with Liam on the DL. Naturally this causes conflict over time because who wants to be someone’s dirty little secret?

Every book I read I try to identify with the characters and something I’ve come to realize about myself with coming out books is I tend to need angst to really identify with the closeted character. Without it I find it’s just words on a page that rarely get my emotions involved. That was my biggest problem with Liam. His closetedness seemed like the standard cookie cutter athletes/pro sports aren’t LGBTQ friendly plot device without teeth. He tells himself once he’s hung up his cleats he’ll live life on his own terms but he soon realizes that’s not really fair to Lachlan. Expect lots of push/pull between them. Liam is a decent communicator though usually after he’s stuck his foot in it, but still. My other problem with him is he’s kind of an anger ball. I get that he’s supposed to be a badass on the pitch but don’t be a douche off the pitch. No one likes a douche.

Lachlan, on the other hand.. I liked being inside his head because he’s a good person. Plain and simple. I liked him. It didn’t hurt that he’s a chef and tattooed lumbersexual…

Their character development was mediocre with both never making it past 2D for me, but there are some sweet moments and the relationship development was good which is what ultimately won me over.

 

I needed him to touch me everywhere, and to keep on touching me and never stop.

The sex is kind of same same. They do have chemistry, are clearly into each other and Liam is a virgin so this should appeal to many. I’m probably jaded because at this point I’ve pretty much read everything on the sex spectrum so an author has to dig deeper than a little dirty talk, face fucking and rimming to blow my doors off. To be fair, as a frequent MM reader I’m probably more critical of verbiage and sex stuff than maybe others would be, though I will say, I had this reaction a few times…

But I believe this is the author’s first foray into MM and I’m excited by the fact that several traditionally MF writers are trying their hand at MM; makes me happy in my face. The MF bleeds through periodically but nothing too egregious. The narrative is somewhat clunky and would benefit from some polishing especially with regard to some of the crass language that got to be a little much at times. Maybe it tried too hard to convince me of their connection but the HEA is heartfelt, so I do hope she continues to write MM because I liked this more than I didn’t.

Lastly, there were an inordinate amount of editing issues that pulled me out of the story including continuity errors, extraneous words, the wrong name being used and repeated phrases. I don’t normally mention this kind of stuff so for me to mention it… I hope she finds a new editor or proofer soon.

Trigger for drug usage.

An ARC was provided by the publisher.

Brooklynaire

 

Reviewed by Cupcake

4 So, Cat tacos Stars!

O Fluff Queen! My Fluff Queen!

I’ve been waiting for this story since Rookie Move where Nate and Becca leapt off the page. Through the first three books their story has evolved but always maddeningly in the background. Until now.

“Everything worthwhile is complicated.”

If you’ve not read the first three, no worries! You’re probably better off than the rest of us, because much of this I already knew thus I found myself getting impatient for them to just be together already! Were there another 10-20 chapters after they got together, I would’ve been happy as a clam. I know they’ll show up in the rest of the series, but if there were to be another Nate and Becca book I would not be mad about that. At all.

Brooklynaire is a bit Cinderella with a dollop of opposites attract and a recurring fairy tale vibe.

Billionaire tech genius Nate Kattenberger has been pining for his office manager Rebecca Rowley for years! YEARS! She’s seemed oblivious and uninterested. Turns out she’s been sublimating her attraction. A head injury sets the wheels in motion triggering all of Nate’s protective instincts. Once he opens his heart and house to her in an effort to help her recover, he can’t seem to stuff everything back inside the box he’d put all his feelings.

I love love LOOOOOOOVVVVVVVVVVEEEEEEEEE Nate!! A geek who has a tendency to get lost in his own head, loves Sherlock and palindromes, he’s levelheaded, scary intelligent and generous. He’s a billionaire who hasn’t lost sight of what really matters, cares about his employees, is forthright and hasn’t lost the ability to identify with people far removed from his tax bracket. Is he too perfect?

Just look at that cover! Would you look at that cover? Don’t we all want that dude to be perfect? I admit it. I swooned. Sorry. Nope. Not sorry.

Rebecca, on the other hand, confused me. Through all three of the books she’s been sassy and fierce, but here she’s suddenly insecure and self-conscious about her body and her reputation within the company? Every woman I know struggles to some degree with body image issues so that felt authentic. However, she’s worked for Nate in some capacity for seven years. Seven years of proving herself invaluable, competent and reliable, so when she started freaking out about everyone assuming she’d slept her way to the top not only was a squinting but it just didn’t jive with the Becca I thought I knew. I still love her, her bubbliness and her ability to make everyone feel at ease. Ultimately she finds a way to make peace with her feelings and her reputation so it was a moot point.

Brooklynaire is sexy. My Fluff Queen is in a class by herself when it comes to bossy tops, so I should’ve anticipated it but I was still caught a little off-guard when the words started coming out of Nate’s mouth. He seemed so… sedate. Always the quiet ones, I tell ya.

There’s still a good bit of hockey happening since Brooklynaire overlaps Pipe Dreams. We learn how the playoffs actually went between Brooklyn and Dallas. The twist at the end kicked things up a notch and has me wondering if that’s going to crop up again in the future.

The secondary characters are fantastic, as always. I can’t even decide who I’d like to read about next. Castro? Heidi Jo? Silas? Stew?

Nate and Becca’s relationship is fluff magic and the last chapter plus epilogue were incandescent leaving me with a bad case of the feels and wanting more.

If you need some fluffy, swoony goodness in your life, look no further.

An ARC was provided by the publisher.

Headmaster

 

Reviewed by Cupcake

*2 Stars*

Bland

I’ve heard so many fantastic things about this author’s work that when this popped up on NetGalley I pounced. It’s not that this story is bad per se, it just wasn’t enough for me. Not enough kink. Not enough feels. Not enough zest. Not enough zhooshing.

The blurb does a good job of recapping the plot so I won’t go there. It’s a decent interpretation of fantasy rescue wish fulfillment. A little contrived, yes, but I can see the appeal.

Mariela was strike one for me. She is a dance instructor at the RACK (cute, huh?) Academy which is run by Lennox. Her crush on him predates his relationship with Winnie and they are friends, but her attitude toward him rubbed me the wrong way. I think she’s supposed to be portrayed as a sub with a spine but she comes across as a vitriolic anger ball. She antagonizes Lennox at every turn and I could muster up little to no sympathy for her cause. I get that she wants to be his submissive but her openly hostile/bratty behavior was very off-putting.

Strike number two is Lennox who’s prone to the ole martyr syndrome. Everything’s his fault, his responsibility.

Neither one of them are fully fleshed out instead relying on constructing both of their identities as “dominant” and “submissive”. I have issues with one’s entire personality construct being comprised of one thing, in this case their sexual proclivities. Even in real life if all anyone ever talks about is this one microcosm of their world they tend to come across one-dimensional and boring. At least to me they do.

The remainder of my issues are nitpicky:

1. it’s sugarkink and as hot as spanking can be, this was halfhearted at best. There’s no depth to the kink. It’s all labels, calisthenics positions and mediocre sex (dirty talk, anal, face-fucking, spanking, non-restraint bondage, mild orgasm denial).

2. Mariela gets into a fairly serious car accident and allegedly crushes her leg yet a few weeks later she’s at a BDSM club sceneing and only wears an ankle wrap?

It does have a nice HEA that is romantic and will be appealing to some. It probably would’ve been moreso for me had I liked either of the characters.

Unfortunately, I didn’t love it but sugarkink fans will probably enjoy it more than I.

An ARC was provided by NetGalley

Man Card

Review by Cupcake

3.75 Nothing ventured, nothing banged! Stars

There were some great one-liners in this one but it’s less lighthearted than Man Hands. Man Card picks up shortly after the conclusion of the first and involves the hard-nosed Ash and the guy who worships her, Braht. Who also just so happens to be her biggest rival at VanderMollen Realty.

Both of these characters have suffered hardships in their past and those hardships play large roles in the narrative. How their pasts intertwine was a clever twist that I wasn’t expecting but solidified them and their coupletry in my mind.

Overall Man Card is what I would categorize as enemies to lovers lite. Yes, Ash “hates” him and puts up a decent front but she’s unconvincing in her hatred especially considering every two minutes she’s thinking about jumping on Braht’s brat. Granted, she views this as a character flaw but try as she might, she is unable to resist him. The thing is, she doesn’t trust herself anymore so she’s reinvented herself as a together, self-sufficient woman who is highly organized with her color coded… everything, planner with inspirational stickers and washi tape who absolutely, unequivocally is not interested in a relationship.

Underneath the Ash-kicker exterior though something in her seems to recognize that Braht is for her and that evidences itself in little ways that add up to everything. As they become closer over the course of the story she begins to trust him and seek him out when she needs comforting. She’s still take no prisoners when it comes to besting him in the real estate biz, but some part of her recognizes that Braht would never hurt her, never betray her.

Braht is one of those characters that’s hard to resist. He’s cocky, self-assured, charismatic and oozes confidence with his exceptional wardrobe, manscaping, excellent hygiene and constant usage of cheesy endearments. The thought that his honeybear a.k.a. Ash won’t be forever his some day never enters his mind. No matter how much she snubs him, he just keeps pounding at her gates. He is a force but he’s also intuitive particularly when it comes to her and I never expected to like him as much as I did.
 

Looking your best is 70% confidence, 20% raw material, 10% imported photographic lenses and 5% lighting. Pay no mind to the total of more than 100%, because in my case that’s what you’re getting. The poster is 105% awesome.

What these authors are really bringing to this series, aside from their chemistry, is the sexiness. If these two aren’t banging each other they’re thinking about banging each other. Braht even gets Ash’s office supplies in on the X-rated fun! If one were to fall into the judging a book by one’s cover category then one would probably believe that Braht with his penchant for spa days, mani/pedis, chick flicks and highbrow facial creams would be extra genteel when it came to visiting Pound Town for fear of mussing his hair or wrecking his manicure.

Exhibit A:

 

“I don’t like you very much,” she says in a small voice.
“You’ll like me better when I’ve tied you to the bed in your parents’ cottage.”
She makes a noise that’s half rage, half lust. Oh, I’ve got her number. I really do.
“I brought four neckties in preparation, Hermès, of course. Very silky.”

The defense rests.

He may be metrosexual but he’s also a “sex god in pastel”, so give that man a platinum man card! STAT!

As sexy as it is it does have more weight than the first in the series. It’s still captivating, not overly heavy and left me with the warm fuzzies, but I missed the levity of the first one. In addition to the evolution of Ash getting her HEA, Brynn and Sadie are still integral to the story as is Tom. There were also a couple of tertiary characters that really made an impact in Bramly and Hank. Hank who used the term “pancake sandwich” in reference to someone’s balls. Werd. Now, if that doesn’t leave an impression I don’t know what does.

I really hope Sadie’s story is next and that it’s not that far off, because that Earth mother needs some happy PRONTO! I *might* have a genuine conniption if it happens to be with Mr. Pancake Sandwich, because epic.

Recommend to enemies to lovers and contemporary romance fans who enjoy low-angst and fluffy reads.

An ARC was provided by the publisher.

Man Hands

Review by Cupcake

4 stars

FUNNNNEEEEEE!

SB is just an auto-read for me regardless of who she teams with but this Tanya Eby person has her own magic happening. The WAGs series is comedic but this has a bawdy silliness that I found refreshing. I laughed through an entire chapter and that hasn’t happened to me in a long, looooonnnnnnnngggggg time.

Brynn is a great character. She’s a little flighty, really honest, kind and has a tendency to accidentally verbalize her thoughts. Her ex wrecked her self-image by ignoring her, so she needs someone ANYONE to see her as a sexual being. Recently divorced, not supermodel thin, struggling to get her mojo back with two of the BEST GIRLFRIENDS! who refuse to let her wallow and who decide that she needs to stop falling for her “type”: the pseudodude. They decide she need to go for “A MAN” which probably sounds sexist (and is) but CHEESE AND RICE!!! did it play out in the most delightful way.

Enter BFFs Ash and Sadie who make her go to a party so she can… jump back on the horse, so to speak. I don’t think they meant it literally but no one can say Brynn can’t follow direction! The story flips between their points of view so when she literally carped the gardener I was choking on my own spit but when it flipped to Tom and his first thought was:

And then I look into her green eyes and everything goes into slow motion. They’re a beautiful color. Like Benjamin Moore’s Clearspring Green.

I lost my shit. Like, I had to put it down because I couldn’t see or breathe.

Not only did I find this hilariously unexpected it also turned out to be a really great way to succinctly convey exactly who Tom is and that stayed consistent throughout the story.

Tom (not merely a gardener) is one of those HGTV renovator dudes who’s just come off a horrific and humiliating breakup that sent him spiraling into 9 mos of celibacy and meditation in Michigan at the advice of his BFF, Braht. Yes, Braht. Like a bratwurst.

So when he sees Brynn with her Clearspring Green eyes and huge rack charging him at the party, all systems are GOOOOOOOOOOOOO! They find themselves in the boathouse and banging ensues.

Completely subsumed by the sex fog that they missed the dicknozzle filming them…

*cue montage of their friends and random strangers making a version of the big eyes face while looking at their devices*

A little thing like a viral sex tape isn’t enough to keep these two down, though! In an effort to right the ship they decide to follow the advice of Tom’s publicist and fake an engagement. They carpe diem the bejeezus out of their “fake relationship” and in a twist that should surprise no one realize how perfect they are for each other. Crazy hot for each other, she can’t get enough of his calloused man hands, bulging… everything and power tools and he can’t get enough of her boobs and quirky underwear and unwrapping her from her ever-present wrap dress. I love it when couples can have fun while they’re shilly shallying.

At times I thought Tom’s dick being anthropomorphized was silly but I have to admit his exuberance for Brynn made me giggle. I really enjoyed how easy their relationship developed without dramatics. They both have backstories with depth and some pain but it just is what it is and neither dwell. Brynn is slightly insecure about her weight but in the face of Tom’s (and his dick’s) relentless appetite for her those body image issues didn’t stand a chance. The added bonus of this book was all the cooking since Brynn is a food blogger who loves a good ball. Or something on a stick that pairs so well with a dip and… alright, I’ll stop before I get voted off the island.

Great secondary characters. Great banging. Great writing chemistry. Great fun. Great start to a series. I’ll be rolling right into the next one to see what Ash did with Braht’s brat in that pantry besides rolling it in flour.

Enquiring minds wanna know.

Recommend to fans of fluff, comedic romance and low angst reads.

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Juniper Unraveling

Review by Cupcake

3.5 Stars

First, let me get a couple of caveats out of the way. I don’t do zombies. They gross me out and I don’t like them. Though Ragers aren’t labeled as such, that’s what they are. I also don’t like motorcycle men/clubs/whatever. They aren’t my jam. Guess what’s also in this book? I got about 2% in when I figured out what was what and you should’ve seen the look on my face when I realized I’d chosen a %^&%$# zombie book! Fit to be tied, I was. God damn cover being all intriguing and whatnot.

Now, having said all that it’s a miracle I even finished this thing much less enjoyed it, but I did. I didn’t LOVE it, but there’s a lot to like about it, so bear the caveats in mind if you’re at all interested in reading it.

Keri Lake is a new to me author and she has a writing style that draws you in. There were times when I thought the pacing dragged, but the overall story arc was engaging and kept my attention despite the zombies and motorcycles, owing mostly to the strong worldbuilding.

I don’t want to get a whole lot into the plot because of spoiling but I will say the romance reminded me a lot of The Notebook only set in a post-apocalyptic dystopia that’s 14 different kinds of fucked up and you could legit have your face eaten off at any second. But, details. Anyhoo, remember how cute they were when they first meet? They’re always together just hanging out and doing nothing? I had those feels except these two like to bone. I’m not mad about that either. For some reason I liked the first half of the book better than the second half, though I can’t really pinpoint why exactly. However, the heart of the romance is one that should speak to the inner squishy marshmallow of all romance readers.

If there is a weak point in the narrative it’s these characters. They don’t really pop off the page. I didn’t love any of them nor do I feel like I know them like I feel I should. They seem mostly cookie cutter post apocalyptic/trying to survive/general badassery… think Katniss. The rest of the cast is made up of caricaturish villains and an alpha to top all the alphas in all the land and there were any number of alphas. I would’ve liked to have had his POV or maybe just to have understood his mindset better, though.

Let’s talk a minute about the violence, because there is a lot of it. Trigger warnings for off page rape, child abuse/neglect and a whole lot of gross monsters doing gross things. Some of it I thought veered towards gratuitous, but I can’t say that I didn’t get the Danger, Will Robinson! Danger! message and lest you forget I am a delicate flower so, grain of salt. I would caution anyone who is squeamish to know your limitations. Also if you’re a stickler for your protags being upstanding and moral… errrm, this might not be the book for you? Heed the dark tag warning!

The sex is fairly frequent and rough with some breath play. Some of it’s hot, some of it’s fair to middling and none of it changed my life.

What Lake does that spoke to me was subtext. This world she’s created is built on lies and illusions that led me down the yellow brick road to a comparison with contemporary society. She also has great insight into human nature that speaks to an inherent compassion that resonated.

You see the world as it is. I see the world as it isn’t. But what we see individually is molded by our past, our experiences, and our hopes of what’s to come. Always remember that everyone has a story, and you’ll never know hate for another human being as long as you live.

I pray, in time, your generation will heal from our mistakes. Perhaps you’ll come to know the truth that somehow escaped us along the way- there isn’t a vaccine in creation that can cure hatred and indifference to human suffering. They are the most virulent diseases in existence.

Preachy perhaps, but I liked it. These sentiments seem to be fitted into the narrative in organic ways rather than shoehorned in to make a point.

Recommended to zombie, post apocalyptic, dystopian and romance fans. Just watch out for that violence; it’s a killer.

Review copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Van

 

Review by Cupcake

4 stars

After picking this solely on the “A-hole” reference in blurb coupled with hockey divided by liking the dude’s face on the cover, my expectations weren’t super high cuz my picker has been on the fritz lately.

Boy, am I ever glad I was wrong! Right? Whatever. What I’m saying is this was gooooooooooooodddddddd. I was getting pretty happy with the banter and the thrill of the chase then I got to the first sex scene and was all…

WHO THE HELL IS THIS AUTHOR???????

Then I went to look and saw she was a NYT bestselling author! I’m always the last to know. I tell you what those New Yorkers know WTF is up, you get me?

In addition to the sex being rough, slightly kinky (more of that could’ve made it on page) and scorching, the two MCs are well-developed and *gasp* likable.

Van is kind of a lone wolf onaccounta his baggage. He’s taciturn and stoic because the baggage is significant and it’s created his persona in many ways. He’s SUPER bad at social niceties which I found pretty charming actually, but the bottom line is he really doesn’t know how to be any other way.

Simone is his opposite. She’s sassy, extroverted and in need of a place to crash since she’s dropped out of Dartmouth so she ends up on her brother Lucas’ doorstep. She’s smart, funny, sex positive and a little bratty but insightful AF. I maybe identified with her being lost as to what to do with her life. Been there. Done that. Got a closet full of t-shirts. I also liked that there weren’t easy answers for her on that front.

What is an easy decision for her is Van. She takes one eyefucking look at him and decides she wants him then proceeds to relentlessly pursue him. He pushes her away multiple times and is kinda mean about it occasionally, but she is having none of it.

I loved it and I loved her.

The story of how Van and Simone become a “they” is not a new one nor is it unique, but how honest they both are with themselves as well as each other was refreshing. There is of course one exception, but it needed to happen that way. Their transition from sex to love was a gradual one and that rang authentic. I love it when couples are good for each other and maybe Simone is winning in that department but I believe the scales will even out the longer they’re together. Once Simone uncovers his secret how much I respected her response to him cannot be put into words; the whole thing gave me #feelings. Their alternating POVs tell this slice of life romance and go a long way towards character development. There’s little drama or angst but there is a healthy heaping of tongue slap your brains out sex! I would throw down a quote right about now but all of ’em are long so I’ll leave you with this gif that approximates my reactions.

They have chemistry galore and when Van takes the lid off his restraint they are explosive. It’s no holds barred and nothing is off limits. It was a thing of beauty, I tell ya. Blew my doors clean off, it did.

I wish there had been more hockey but what was there for team dynamics were good. Their story seems to overlap with Lucas’ but this can be read as a standalone.

This was my first Sawyer Bennett but will not be my last.

Recommend to romance fans who like their romance without dramatics.

An ARC was provided by NetGalley.

Sledgehammer

 

Reviewed by Cupcake

2.5 stars

Talk about a bell shaped read. I had to sit on this one a few days to really think about it. There are things that I liked about it, but the beginning and the end were rough.

Hard to Love is an apropos series title in more ways than one if you catch my drift which made my relationship with Amber… complicated. She’s all bark and no bite, but she has a good heart and she keeps her head in *most* crises. I understand her defense mechanism is to be abrasive and she hides behind it but that does not change the fact that she annoyed me. Often. My annoyance went supernova at the end but I’m getting ahead of myself.

So, we meet Amber in the clink after she’s been arrested for setting her ex’s parents house on fire accidentally, meaning Amber’s a wee bit impulsive. Ethan Vaughn comes to her rescue at the behest of Cam and Cal, who I’m assuming were the MCs of book one with Cam being Amber’s BFF. Almost immediately it was necessary for me to suspend disbelief because the judge makes a stipulation of her release that she live with Ethan.

Alright. Whatever. Pressing on.

Ethan is old money and there’s definitely a Cinderella undercurrent happening that appealed to me. What we get of Ethan I liked, but he is a little cookie cutter, perfect male specimen and whatnot.

Amber narrates this story and she is funny. There were moments when I lol’d at her antics, sayings, nicknames for Ethan and general attitude. The “hot pocket/corn dog” scene made my sides hurt. She’s gaga over Ethan and they begin to engage in the cat and mouse game of taunting each other. They banter. They’re witty. They kind of drive each other crazy. The tension builds. They become friends. He introduces her to his family and p.s. the grandma is a hoot! Their relationship is well developed. It’s good stuff. It had 4 stars in the bag at this point.

It was pretty clear to me that Ethan is head over heels over her even without his POV, so when he suggests they become friends with bennies I was taken aback. I struggled with why he didn’t lay his cards on the table, but the more I pondered his decision the more it made sense. He didn’t think he had another option. All’s fair in love and war and all that jazz.

Why, you ask, did he feel that way? BECAUSE OF HER! And this is where it started to fall apart.

My first issue, which is petty of me and I totally recognize that, is as the tension builds and builds until over 70%, all that time she’s talking about what she wants to do to him, that the things she would do to him are illegal in most states. I gotta tell you I was getting primed for some epic Bone Zone shenanigans. So when there was a little dirty talk from him, a few thrusts, an ass grab and then the big O I was flabbergasted. Where’d the dirty, naughty girl go? Where’d the girl that was going to rock his world go? It’s not like I was expecting her to dom out on him or anything, but I at least thought she’d give as good as she got. I also expected it to be hot. A couple of thrusts does not a hot scene make. For me.

Between the lame sex and the antics at the end this thing was dead in the water before I knew it. SPOILERISH He makes a mistake, there’s no doubt about that, but her reaction is so ridiculous I don’t even have words. One of my pet peeves is people who don’t take responsibility for their own actions and Amber created this shit storm with her game playing and deceit, leaving him with few options. At least he apologized and owned his shit though, whereas she plays victim and freezes him out.

For someone seemingly so intelligent to be so obtuse not to mention intractable was too much for me. The OTT cheesy AF ending was the cherry on top of my what the efff sundae.

Lastly, I hope there was a thorough once over before it was officially released because there were A LOT of mistakes. I also thought she was too young for some of the movie references, though she is an actor so… possibly?

Anyone interested in reading this I would encourage to look at other reviews because I’m definitely in the minority. There are things that the author really excelled at but the drawbacks are leaving me confused as to whether or not I’d be interested in trying her again.

A review copy was provided by NetGalley.