Author: Dísir

Ocean Light by Nalini Singh

Ocean Light by Nalini SinghOcean Light by Nalini Singh
Published by Berkley on 12th June 2018
Pages: 416
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
four-stars

Security specialist Bowen Knight has come back from the dead. But there's a ticking time bomb in his head: a chip implanted to block telepathic interference that could fail at any moment--taking his brain along with it. With no time to waste, he should be back on land helping the Human Alliance. Instead, he's at the bottom of the ocean, consumed with an enigmatic changeling...

Kaia Luna may have traded in science for being a chef, but she won't hide the facts of Bo's condition from him or herself. She's suffered too much loss in her life to fall prey to the dangerous charm of a human who is a dead man walking. And she carries a devastating secret Bo could never imagine...

But when Kaia is taken by those who mean her deadly harm, all bets are off. Bo will do anything to get her back--even if it means striking a devil's bargain and giving up his mind to the enemy...

I’ve always had a soft spot for Bowen Knight, even loved his cause and his unwavering, determined fight for humanity in the Human Alliance (guess which one I belong to?)—the least of the three races it seems, in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling world. My heart sank when Bo went down hard in ‘Silver Silence’ and just as I thought all hope was lost, ‘Ocean Light’ became my own (and Bo’s) salvation. This was the book I’ve always wanted ever since Bowen burst onto the scene, from the moment I learned that he had an immovable but lethal chip in his head about to detonate any time.

That Singh chooses to introduce Blacksea using Bowen’s story is an obvious shift away from the Bear changelings in ‘Silver Silence’, a mysterious group hinted at in the closing books of Singh’s “season 1” of her Psy-Changeling novels that focused solely on the cats and the wolves. Here, Singh opens yet again new pathways and original insights into her massive world-building that continues now deep down in the sea, so compelling in ways that it’s hard to turn away from the myriad of sea creatures and their personalities that populate this book. Half the book however, after the intriguing setup, comprises Singh’s languid, thorough exploration of the world Bo has found himself in, not least the slow unfurling and the slow romance between him and Kaia, before the pace picks up frantically again towards the end.

Written into Kaia Luna’s and Bowen Knight’s attraction is a conflict that’s drawn up against these lines: the bad blood between the humans the Blacksea changelings rather than just a personal feud that Kaia sets up against Bowen for the losses in she feels keenly in her life. Enemies-to-lovers in this context, might just seem a little too dismissive after all, too small a view to take in the huge world that Singh has written, though this is still a trope nonetheless, in romantic fiction which I like a lot.

Yet Kaia, a scientist-turned-cook (with maternal instincts and a soft, easily hurt heart that’s prone more to pulling away) in the Ryujin BlackSea Station, is the last person I’d expect Singh to pair with the hard security chief, who is as ruthless and emotionless as the Psy themselves without the telekinetic power. Coupled with the (somewhat unbelievable) bit of instalove written into a strong attraction—cue bodies hardening, arousal flaring—that strikes the both of them at first glance is perhaps also an attempt to humanise the hard-nosed image of Bowen Knight who is more a man of flesh and emotions more similar to the other alpha changelings than we think. I would have loved a stronger, harder, a more sword-wielding-type mate for Bo—the type that would have stood for his fight in the Human Alliance by his side with a weapon— but clearly this is my personal preference speaking for such heroines to materialise every time.

‘Ocean Light’ is satisfying on many levels, but I particularly loved the introduction to the Blacksea changelings and Bowen’s Knights. The threads of this incredibly complex arc that Singh has written are far from tied up, nonetheless. There are still too many unrevealed secrets here—things that Singh doesn’t choose to reveal—that baby steps seem to be the only way in which this juggernaut of a story can move on, which is both as rewarding and as frustrating at times.

four-stars

Speakeasy by Sarina Bowen

Speakeasy by Sarina BowenSpeakeasy Series: True North #5
Published by Sarina Bowen on May 29th 2018
Pages: 235
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
two-stars

Sometimes you fall for Mr. Right. And sometimes for Mr. Right Now…

May
Did you hear the one about the girl who walks into a bar and catches her live-in lover kissing someone else? No? You’re the only one in town who missed it.
Luckily Alec is there to wrap me up in strong arms and carry me out the door before things get too ugly. And that’s not all Alec is good at. Our unexpected chemistry makes him the perfect rebound guy.

Alec
I should know better than to hook up with my rival’s little sister, but the fiery look in May’s eyes really turns my crank. She needs cheering up, and I’m just the guy for the job.

It’s not like I’ll fall in love. Not even after a string of scorching hot trysts, and the realization that we’re good at the same things: wild nights and familial disappointment. I don’t do love, never have, never will. So this is the perfect arrangement, for both of us.

Nobody would approve, but nobody has to know…

A straight-out confession here: ‘Speakeasy’ isn’t my favourite in Sarina Bowen’s ‘True North’ series, unlike Jude’s and Sophie’s story that wore me to the ground.

I’m lukewarm about May and Alec—that is to say, I wasn’t invested very much in them for some reason—with the former’s issues getting me to shake my head while I winced at the latter’s lack of substance. May Shipley, however, was a more fleshed-out character than Alec Rossi and in turn, I felt that I could understand and appreciate her more than I could the easy-going party playboy who owned a bar and pretty much flailed at everything else. Alec’s lack of balls as he juggled May and his other hookup didn’t win him any points on my end however and I was still left by the end of things wondering why he’d picked May to signal the end of his commitment-free life.

But I’ll say this in defence of Sarina Bowen, who isn’t an author who shies away from the difficult topics while using the ‘softly softly’ approach. She handles all forms of sexuality/addiction with a confidence (and a lot of heart) that I admire and here, taking on the fluidity of this concept with May Shipley is yet another shining example of how she does it. Her characters are flesh-and-bone real and they far from have things together, yet ‘Speakeasy’ still manages to rank low on the angst scale, with the characters pretty much working themselves out without the high emotional spikes.

No book in this series has however, come close to how much I loved Bowen’s ‘Steadfast’, and I guess I’m still waiting for one to outdo that.

two-stars

Release Blitz: Burning Up by Jennifer Blackwood

 

Title: Burning Up
Series: Flirting with Fire #1
Author: Jennifer Blackwood
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Genre: Standalone Contemporary Romance
 Release Date: May 8, 2018

Blurb

USA Today bestselling
author Jennifer Blackwood fans the flames of desire in her smoking-hot series
about firefighters and the women who want them…
 
Unemployed schoolteacher Erin Jenkins is back in Portland, the town she
hasn’t called home for more than a decade. It’s not the way she wants to spend
her last days of summer: in between jobs and avoiding her mother’s snooping by
escaping to the ice-cream aisle. But when the opportunity arises for her to
accompany her brother’s best friend—her lifetime crush—to a wedding, summer
gets a whole lot more interesting.
 
Firefighter and single dad Jake Bennett has built a nice, safe wall
around his heart—no romance, no getting burned. That doesn’t mean he’s ruling
out a fling. Considering Erin’s visit is temporary, they’re the perfect fit for
a scorching no-strings one-night stand. Or two. Or five. Until the worst thing
happens: Erin and Jake are feeling more. Damn that four-letter word.
 
Now their hearts are on the line, and when their smoldering summer
comes to a close, it’s going to be harder than ever to put out the fire.
 
Read my review here!
Purchase Links
AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU 
Free in Kindle Unlimited
Author Bio
Jennifer is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary
romance. She lives in Oregon with her husband, son, and poorly behaved black
lab puppy. When not chasing after her kiddo, you can find her binge-watching
episodes of Gilmore Girls and Supernatural, and locking herself in her office
to write.

Author Links

In Bed with The Beast by Tara Sivec

In Bed with The Beast by Tara SivecIn Bed with the Beast by Tara Sivec
Series: , #2
Published by Swerve on 5th June 2018
Pages: 304
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
one-star

Living in her overprotective dad’s basement, shy Belle lives her life through books. Being a part of the Naughty Princess Club is the first adventure she’s ever had, plus she desperately needs the money to save one of her favorite places - the local library.

But when her new friends and new business gets her kicked out of her dad’s house, Belle is rescued by the surly Vincent “Beast” Adams who invites her to be his house guest until she gets back on her feet. Despite his attitude problem and long list of rules, Belle finds herself warming to the muscled man with a penchant for growling and starts seeing a gentle side to him that wasn’t there before.

Yet there’s a room that Beast keeps locked and Belle keeps getting hints that Beast is hiding something…can a nerdy librarian tame the beast or will their romance be over before it has a chance to blossom?

It’s hard to give the modern fairytale retelling a pass in my case—sucker that I am for all of spins and takes we can possibly have on them—which is why ‘In Bed with the Beast’ was one that I was eager to get my hands on.

In this case, it’s about a librarian and a bouncer, aka, Belle and the Beast, the supposedly shy librarian and the surly bouncer. Throw in the home stripping business that 3 women have started into the mix and I was beyond intrigued at this risqué proposition and take on the fairytale.

But this didn’t start off well for me, with characters generally behaving like hormonal tweens to the extent where I had to relook their ages. A smothered Belle, who was 25 and her father, who spoke like a man who’d regressed into childhood. Her friends, who didn’t behave much better, with exaggerated actions and reactions to every single thing you know can only appear in rom-coms and nowhere else.

In short, what I suspect was supposed to have been the book’s selling point—the craziness of the 3 good friends—grated on and fell flat for me. The humour and the liberal use of capital letters in the storytelling just made it feel a lot more juvenile than it should have been for characters well into their twenties: Belle’s hyperbolic inner monologues, the shrill petulance of her reactions, the spouting random facts just didn’t make me laugh at all; neither did the unbelievable antics of her 2 other friends which involved a bit of slapstick stuff and the overly dramatic behaviour that was more eye-rolling than funny.

In the end, I couldn’t find myself interested in these characters at all and only the mysterious, gruff Vincent Adams and his secret locked door kept me trudging (or skimming) on. But seeing as I couldn’t wait to get this over with, it’s clearly not the read for me.

one-star

A Matter of Justice by Christy Reece

A Matter of Justice by Christy ReeceA Matter Of Justice by Christy Reece
Series: Grey Justice, #4
Published by Christy Reece on 17th April 2018
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
four-stars

Their past is complicated, their future is deadly.

She came from nothing and was no one until an evil man formed her into the perfect weapon, a beautiful creature of destruction. Capturing her prey held few challenges, until her target and her heart collided, and then the world came down around her. Irelyn Raine has worked hard to bury her past, but escape isn’t always possible, especially when the one man she trusts above all others throws her back into the hell she swore she’d never revisit. Now Irelyn has no choice but to face down her demons.

Grey Justice lives by a standard few would approve or understand. Gaining justice for victims can be a messy business, and the outcome isn’t always pretty. One woman knows all his secrets—the one woman who could break him. Irelyn Raine is his weakness and his strength, his shame and his redemption.

Someone else knows all their secrets, all their sins, and he’ll use everything within his power to destroy what they’ve built together.

Surviving alone isn’t possible, but can they find their way back to each other in time? Or will one of them be left behind? This time, forever?

No one escapes justice.

‘A Matter of Justice’ closes Christy Reece’s ‘Grey Justice’ series and is a gratifying read given that it finally uncovers the odd relationship between Irelyn and Grey, who have only always been each other’s. In this aspect ‘A Matter of Justice’ is unusual for a romance, seeing as Irelyn/Grey is never a pairing in question even as the book starts after a time of personal conflict and separation. For this reason, there’s little emotional angst when Irelyn and Grey simply talk to get their problems sorted then move forward as a pair, the driving force of the plot coming instead from an external source in Irelyn’s past that they can’t quite outrun.

So much of Grey/Irelyn’s relationship has been shrouded in vague terms, with bits of their history floating in and out of Reece’s previous books that it can be difficult to put together this weird relationship that ranges the entire spectrum from love to hate. In any case, reconstructing their relationship from my perspective was an exercise in frustration, even when I was one-thirds through the book. With all the hints that Reece has been dropping about them having spent so much time together, having hurt each other so brutally, I needed the details. Their story is finally told in the later parts of the book but I still found too many gaps in Grey/Irelyn’s history—the intricacies of how they got to where the are now—that I wanted to know, which I felt Reece glossed over or didn’t address.

In fact, the main failing of the story is that there were many things that Reece expected us to take at face value, which I found I couldn’t. Battling implausibility has always been the largest obstacle in romantic suspense anyway, as it takes this part of the brain to switch off each time I watch an action/thriller film, and as always, some more so than others. Maybe a flashback or 2 in the beginning would have helped, otherwise, their history felt more like recounting/telling rather than the immersive experience that I was hoping for.

That said, it’s a pretty good end to the series, even it probably doesn’t work too well as a standalone—Reece gives a lock-and-loaded type situation, with a journey that hops all over the globe (exotic locations seem par for the course) and one that finally puts Grey Justice in action. That Grey/Justice’s HEA is done before the climax is yet another unusual thing for this story, but Reece can do the unexpected while providing the fairytale-ish ending…which is always a pleasant surprise.

four-stars

Bro Code by Kendall Ryan

Bro Code by Kendall RyanBro Code by Kendall Ryan
Published by CreateSpace on 1st May 2018
Pages: 183
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
three-half-stars

There’s pretty much only one rule when you’re a guy.

Don’t be a douche.

Turns out, the fastest way to break that rule is to fall for your best friend’s sister.

Ava’s brilliant, sharp-tongued, gorgeous, and five years younger than me.

She’s the sexual equivalent of running with scissors. In a word, she’s dangerous. And completely off-limits.

Falling for her could ruin everything.

Yet I can’t seem to stop, even when her company is threatened by a lawsuit, and my promotion hinges on representing the opposing client—and winning.

I can’t see a way out of this mess that doesn’t end in a broken friendship, a broken heart, or a ruined career.

I may have broken the bro code when I fell for Ava. But do I have the balls to handle what comes next?

Sometimes I forget how satisfying it can be to read a straightforward, mutual-want-with-lust story, big brother’s sister or not.

In truth, I don’t understand the ‘bro code’ that’s laid out like the holy grail in romance—why shouldn’t the brother’s best friend or the best friend’s brother or some other permutation like this be off-limits, particularly he’s a decent guy? The only reason I can see this being frowned upon is if the man in question is a degenerate, senseless moron, in which case, merely reflects badly on the person who’s laid out the code in the first place, for even calling said moron a friend.

But that’s the only gripe I have for Kendall Ryan’s ‘Bro Code’. Bewildered as I was by all the sneaking around, Barrett felt like a decent protagonist who had a tiny bit of admiration for his best friend’s sister, who wants him back. Despite their divergent lives, the development of their relationship from awkward door greeting to the bed seemed believable as well, with a level-headed heroine who did seem to know what she was doing despite being 5 years younger. (This age difference doesn’t even register on my scale)

The clichéd big penis business (condom have to be mail ordered because normal ones won’t fit) that made the book more porn-y however, made me wince. Playing to the bigger is better stereotype, this was probably one of those times that wasn’t necessary—I didn’t need convincing about Barrett’s ding dong and Ava’s waxing lyrical over it.

In all, a decent easy read, low on the angst, perfect for a lazy afternoon.

three-half-stars

Total Control by Jackie Ashenden

Total Control by Jackie AshendenTotal Control by Jackie Ashenden
Series: 11th Hour #2
on 26th June 2018
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
two-stars


Once they were soldiers. Now they answer only to honor . . .

 
The 11th Hour is made up of men and women who are no longer deemed fit to serve their country, but still need to fight a war. They work in shadows, keep their secrets—and follow their hearts . . . 

Helicopter pilot Kellan Blake has always hated being told what to do, so being discharged from the army for insubordination doesn't come as much of a surprise.

What does surprise him is that when he joins up with the elite, underground 11th Hour squad instead, they send him straight home. The nest of vipers that calls itself his family is the next target for the team’s tech unit, so he’ll either have to brave their traps and deceptions himself—or watch his sweet, shy friend Sabrina walk into them alone . . .  

Sabrina’s no femme fatale, but since there's no one else with the tech skills to get the info they need, she’ll put on a party dress and take one for the team. But whoever decided she should pretend to be Kellan’s new fiancée hit a little too close to home. How can she concentrate on a dangerous mission when she's worried about giving away what she really feels for her loyal, passionate, smoking hot partner? At least she isn’t likely to blow their cover. Until she’s in the line of fire, and neither Kellan's demons nor his heart are hers to tame . . .  

‘Total Control’ started out fantastically, I have to say. The conflict was established early on, as Kellan Blake went all out to prove his father’s innocence when the 11th Hour crew had all but deemed his guilty of crimes too horrific to imagine. But it was the undercover mission involving him and fellow operative and best friend Sabrina however, that had things going completely awry for me, along with a set of revelations and corresponding behaviour that made me think twice about rooting for this pairing.

Combining the unrequited love, best friends-to-lovers trope here, Jackie Ashenden focuses less on the action and more on the drama surrounding both Kellan and Sabrina, though it’s the former’s intrusive past that has been brought to light in a very unpleasant way, overshadowing the original mission. And that was what spoiled the broth for me, so to speak. I wanted to see how Ashenden addressed his inability to see Sabrina for who she was given she was under his nose all these years, but this didn’t happen; instead, all I got was more of Kellan bulldozing his way through to proclaim Sabrina was what he wanted after 2 weeks undercover and several nights of hot sex.

In fact, I’d be hard-pressed to find a more emotionally-manipulative and controlling ‘hero’ than Kellan, who uses every weapon in his arsenal to get his way (that includes sex) to railroad his best friend under the guise of wanting to protect her. His inability to see her as an operative, his unquestioning acceptance of the his sudden but inexplicable attraction to her despite the fixation on anything and everything else but her didn’t make him a protagonist deserving of a woman who was insecure enough in measuring her self-worth in terms of usefulness to him and whose only crime was to stupidly let herself be controlled by him.

The constant repetition of what Kellan did years ago grated on me—a character who made her presence felt without appearing nonetheless—made the story like a lopsided love triangle when that became the focus at the end instead of the mission that we started out with. The result was an ending scene that became an emotional mess and both Sabrina and Kellan tried different ways to rationalise what they’d done…until I failed to see any logic in their arguments.

In essence, the direction the story took was immensely disappointing, particularly after the pretty cool build-up from the start. And more’s the pity, because ‘Total Control’ could have gone down so differently for me but ultimately didn’t.

two-stars