Author: Katee Robert

His Forbidden Desire by Katee Robert

His Forbidden Desire by Katee RobertHis Forbidden Desire by Katee Robert
Series: Island of Ys #1
Published by Trinkets and Tales LLC on 25th March 2019
Pages: 256
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two-stars

Princess Camilla Fitzcharles is willing to risk everything to escape her gilded cage of her life. She's secured an invitation to participate in the Wild Hunt, a deadly game hosted annually on the secretive Island of Ys.

This year's prize is the one thing that can set her free. Cami just has to survive long enough to win it.

Luca has spent the last fifteen years waiting for vengeance. Now the plans are in motion, and there's no going back. He couldn't have anticipated Cami, though. She's an innocent, a reminder of the life that was stolen from him. Something to be protected, not leveraged in this dangerous game.

This year the Wild Hunt has changed. For the first time since its inception, an outsider is named as the White Stag, the prey the rest of them hunt-Cami. She's on the run and in danger, and Luca will do anything to keep her safe.

The person she needs the most protection from?

Him.

‘His Forbidden Desire’ starts off as an odd cross between fictional European aristocratic romance and the Hunger Games series, where a princess thinks the latter is key to the gilded cage that she’s found herself in.

I’m unfamiliar with this particular aspect of Katee Robert’s writing; then again, Robert is an author who dabbles quite significantly in overlapping genres and I never quite know what I’ll get out of her next book. ‘His Forbidden Desire’ falls within the realm of speculative romantic fiction if labels are to be put on it, but then, I had a hard time getting past the feeling like I’d missed a big chunk of a back story that was never fully laid out.

Essentially, I went through the pages thinking that I barely knew anything by the end of the book: the four Horsemen—alternative identities laid out deliberately and elaborately by abuses children who banded together and now seek revenge—whose pasts are only hinted at, the wild scheme on an island off the African coast where cut-throat games are held for stakes higher than we know about, and a princess competitor who wants her freedom by winning the competition but exactly how that could be achieved isn’t quite told.
For this reason, I couldn’t get into Cami and Luca at all too. Hooking up during a hunt, pulled together and apart by competing agendas—it was quite a mess where emotions barely got a chance to ride out their full potential, busy as the protagonists were trying to avoid getting caught, and then the lust that somehow gets transformed into love by the time a betrayal is executed.
But in all, just too bizarre and frustrating to buy into the whole scheme.
Maybe I do prefer my stories more grounded in ‘reality’ so to speak as ‘His Forbidden Desire’ has taught me, where fictional countries and even odder but dangerous competitions stay as territory that I’ll only venture into when I’ve got nothing else lined up. Not the fault of Robert, obviously, just me.
two-stars

The Fearless king by Katee Robert

The Fearless king by Katee RobertThe Fearless King by Katee Robert
Series: The Kings, #2
Published by Forever on 5th February 2019
Pages: 368
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three-half-stars

Ultra-wealthy and super powerful, the King family is like royalty in Texas. But their secrets can be deadly.

Fake boyfriend. Real danger.Journey King is an expert at managing the family business. But when her father returns to Houston hell-bent on making a play for the company, Journey will do anything to stop him, even if that means going to Frank Evans for help. Frank deals in information, the dirtier the better. Rugged and rock solid, he's by far her best ally - and also the most dangerous.

Frank knows better than to get tangled up with the Kings. But something about Journey's rare vulnerability drags him deep into enemy territory... and into her darkest past. Pretending to be her boyfriend may be necessary for their plan to work, but Frank soon finds helping Journey is much more than just another job - and he'll do whatever it takes to keep her safe.

Reading ‘The Fearless King’ was sort of bizarre, because it felt like a very well-written drama that I wanted more of, but couldn’t understand because I was tossed straight into the middle of a series at say, episode 143 with a backlog of events that I’d already forgotten about having read the first book a long time ago. As a result, this hardly felt like a standalone with a sorely-lacking backstory that I had to spend quite a bit of time figuring out, right up until the halfway point of the book.

Pare down the layers however, and Frank and Journey’s story is relatively simple at the heart of it, minus the family drama taking place over corporate talk, hostile takeovers and real estate/business territory being muscled in on. He’s her white knight (sort of), she’s his protection project when her abusive father returns to overthrow all her family had worked for. Throw in a fake dating scenario until the emotions turn real, then pad it with even more complicated business and family networks and that’s what ’The Fearless King’ really is about. Basically, if you’re into romantic fiction that deals with corporate manoeuvring, manipulation and backstabbing, then this pretty much takes these themes and runs with them.

I’ve always liked Katee Robert’s compelling writing and this book is just another reminder why.

But there were some things that nagged at me: the insertion of a secondary character’s POV added along with Frank’s and Journey’s that felt out of place, with the background of a family pitted against each other to the extent that some characters seemed as though they were cut out of a Disney villain storyboard. Essentially Robert writes about the scarred, ugly side of powerful families so screwed up and so hungry for power and so…redemption-less and that my reading flagged a little when I got to the middle of it.

Still, Robert’s protagonists surprised me at several turns; Frank/Journey don’t entirely conform to stereotypes even if they sort of stumble into accidental heroism, where it doesn’t take a mountain to recognise that unnamed emotion called love. I can’t quite guess where Robert’s going with this whole tangled mess but it’s looking to be quite a journey—pun unintended.

three-half-stars

The Last King by Katee Robert

The Last King by Katee RobertThe Last King by Katee Robert
Series: The Kings, #1
Published by Forever on April 3rd 2018
Pages: 384
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four-stars

THE MAN SHE HATES TO LOVE

Beckett King just inherited his father's fortune, his company-and all his enemies. If he's going to stay on top, he needs someone he can trust beside him. And though they've been rivals for years, there's no one he trusts more than Samara Mallick.

The rebel. That's how Samara has always thought of Beckett. And he's absolutely living up to his unpredictable ways when he strides into her office and asks for help. She can't help wondering if it's a legit request or just a ploy to get her into bed. Not that she'd mind either one. After all, she likes to live on the edge too.

But soon the threats to the King empire are mounting, and the two find family secrets darker than they ever imagined and dangerous enough to get them both killed.

Filthy rich family drama—tuned up several notches—lies at the heart of ‘The Last King’ as children pay for the bad blood that started decades before their time and work painfully through schisms because of one woman’s longstanding, poisonous resentment left to fester.

It isn’t often that I read such books (the constant bitching and underhanded manoeuvring can get headache-inducing), but Katee Robert’s writing is compelling enough to try. As I suspected, it was easy to get engrossed in the tale of bad blood, bitchy office politics and corporate espionage that sort of runs the boundary into the murderous, though it felt a little like an oncoming train wreck I couldn’t take my eyes off. Vile aunt vs. struggling nephew, the former of whom gets her comeuppance and the latter of whom finally gets what he deserves? How sweet the sound. Built into this first establishing story however, is also a very difficult generation transition with several burn marks to pay for getting rid of a vile villain you’d love to hate, and a rival-to-lovers tale that thankfully, doesn’t involve too many TSTL moments.

Robert does write Beckett King as a protagonist I could sympathise with, and Samara Mallick as a worthy other half for him. Apart from their chemistry scorching the sheets, I didn’t have problems seeing both of them as equals both in and out of bed and I actually liked how Robert wrote Samara’s eventual shift in loyalty towards Beckett instead of blindly following his vile aunt the whole way.

In fact, I expected to be exhausted by the end of ‘The Last King’. Instead, I was drawn in—admittedly a little slowly at first—, surprised at how Beckett and Samara stole the show for me, as did Robert’s secondary characters, making me anxious to get onto the other Kings’ stories, though a long, long wait is in order.

four-stars

The Hunting Grounds by Katee Robert

The Hunting Grounds by Katee RobertThe Hunting Grounds by Katee Robert
Series: Hidden Sins #2
Published by Montlake Romance on July 25th 2017
Pages: 318
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two-stars

Maggie Gaines used to be an FBI agent—top of her class and one of the bright, up-and-coming stars—until she spectacularly fell apart during her first high-profile case. That was eight years ago. Now she’s a ranger at Glacier National Park, and she’s found some measure of peace. But when the body of a murdered woman is discovered, she must finally put the past behind her and work with the one man she thought she’d never see again.

For months, Vic Sutherland has been hunting a killer who’s been targeting unsuspecting hikers in national parks—and now the predator has come to Glacier. Vic knows the case will bring him face-to-face with his former partner, yet nothing can prepare him for seeing Maggie again after all these years, or for the memories of passion it stirs in both of them.

As the investigation brings them closer together—and closer to the killer—Maggie and Vic fear they have only each other to trust. But even that might not be enough to make it out of Glacier alive.

I’ve been intrigued by Katee Robert’s move into the more hardcore romantic suspense/thriller-type reads. Since ‘The Devil’s Daughter’ didn’t seem to be a bad debut, ‘The Hunting Grounds’ looked even more enticing because of a serial killer hunting in national parks and how that brings a second-chance romance into play.

Yet I wasn’t pulled in as I thought I’d be, despite the theories that kept flying and the case of teenagers-turned adults who never quite managed to get their screw-ups resolved. I found that the juggling of two separate groups (loosely put) of characters—the protagonists who are also the romantic pair as well as a group of young adults whose lives are just still unsorted—broke the narrative too often, just as I was about to get into it. Maggie/Vic were more interesting than the potential victims (and perpetrators) and while complicated group dynamics always make for interesting reading, I felt that they were distracting instead, written in a way that drew the story out superfluously as it oddly and awkwardly straddled the New Adult genre at times with teenage-hormone-ridden drama peppering certain scenes.

Flashbacks tended to interrupt Maggie/Vic’s progress with the case, and it was difficult to try to get back on board after those, let alone feel any heat or chemistry between 2 people who actually have so much history together. There were tender moments between them, which I liked and that both Maggie and Vic pretty much ‘adulted’ through it all. With the focus on the suspense and the serial killing however, the developing romance wasn’t a drawn out one, just that Maggie/Vic played no games (perhaps because of the lack of time) and that everything happened fairly quickly in the span of a few days.

I’ll readily admit that authors can and do a difficult time getting that tricky mix of romance and suspense down, especially with readers who often prefer one over another. Having a healthy and equal mix of both is what I prefer though and ‘The Hunting Grounds’ doesn’t quite fulfil that. Coupled with an abrupt end—credits roll as people are bruised and recovering in hospital along with unexpected declarations of love thrown in—the story seemed to have ended on an unfinished note that left me wondering if I’d actually missed several pages.

two-stars

The Devil’s Daughter by Katee Robert

The Devil’s Daughter by Katee RobertThe Devil's Daughter by Katee Robert
Published by Montlake Romance on January 24th 2017
Pages: 301
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three-stars

Growing up in a small town isn’t easy, especially when you’re the daughter of a local cult leader. Ten years ago, Eden Collins left Clear Springs, Montana, and never once looked back. But when the bodies of murdered young women surface, their corpses violated and marked with tattoos worn by her mother’s followers, Eden, now an FBI agent, can’t turn a blind eye. To catch the killer, she’s going to have to return to the fold.
Sheriff Zach Owens isn’t comfortable putting Eden in danger, even if she is an elite agent. And he certainly wasn’t expecting to be so attracted to her. As calm and cool as she appears, he knows this can’t be a happy homecoming. Zach wants to protect her—from her mother, the cult, and the evil that lurks behind its locked gates. But Eden is his only key to the tight-lipped group, and she may just be closer to the killer than either one of them suspects…

Unlike Katee Robert’s other books that I’ve had the pleasure of reading, ‘The Devil’s Daughter’ is mystery-driven, set in the suffocating confines of a small-town that sits in the shade of a cult whose influence is larger than perceived. It’s a book that’s very different from what I’ve come to associate with Robert and not knowing what to expect, I find myself firmly caught between giving a 3- and 4-star review. There’s a guess-the perpetrator, whodunnit question throughout and the cult, built around the myth of Persephone and Demeter (combined weirdly with some Christian undertones), its proceedings and its shady people, act as the smokescreen concealing the truth from being discovered.

Not that the writing isn’t good (it is), or that the suspense isn’t sufficient (it is), but that the romance takes such a back seat to the story that it could have actually been superfluous because it felt like an addition only for the sake of bringing 2 leads together, even when their chemistry didn’t seem there at all. The romance could have not existed and the book would have worked; consequently, Eden’s and Zach’s pairing seemed forced, as both seemed rather snippy to each other—but not something I’d really mistake for sexual tension when it felt more like the case wearing on them—so the mild case of attraction that first bloomed into a kiss early on took me by surprise and disbelief, because both hadn’t moved past the ‘unwilling co-worker’ stage yet. The potential romantic interest, in short, barely came across and the later sex scene felt more like an obligatory prerequisite rather than a natural progression.

The ending almost mirrors the grim subject matter: an abrupt, a happy-for-now kind of resolution, like a scene in a crime movie when it end as with the police cruiser driving away while the good guys are left staring at the villain’s dead body on the ground. I think I had a problem with how rushed and incomplete it all felt—even when the big reveal came which wasn’t too hard to guess—even when it ended. If this is the start to a series, then I’m eager to see how it goes and how the arc set up here is going to end. But if it isn’t, then ‘The Devil’s Daughter’ might just be a tad bit disappointing.

three-stars

Fool Me Once by Katee Robert

Fool Me Once by Katee RobertFool Me Once by Katee Robert
Series: Foolproof Love #2
Published by Entangled Publishing on August 1st 2016
Pages: 154
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three-stars

They say opposites attract, but this is just ridiculous.
Aubry Kaiser doesn’t like people—actually, that’s not right. She loathes people. With her crippling anxiety, there’s no way she can demo her favorite video game at a convention with five thousand other people. Maybe if she brings someone to act as a shield…
But the only person available is the sexy cowboy she can’t stand.
Quinn Baldwyn is in a mess of his own. He’s been dodging his wealthy family’s matchmaking attempts—and life advice—for years, but with his sister’s wedding on the horizon, he needs of a shield of his own.
He and Aubry can barely hold down a civil conversation, but in bed…fireworks. And the closer they get to Quinn’s sister’s wedding, the more he realizes that he might actually like Aubry.
Now it’s up to him to convince her she might actually like him, too.

Quinn’s and Aubry’s story is a classic enemies-to-lovers one but I was still surprised to learn that their mutual dislike for each other wasn’t a front for attraction or love in the guise of hate. And it’d taken very special circumstances for these two to get together to resolve their own deeply entrenched personal biases and issues.

As polar opposites, there’s very little to go on between them apart from lust and it’s refreshing that both the lead characters readily admit this much, to the extent where they convince themselves that what’s between them is merely surface deep. But therein lies the conflict as well and perhaps the cliché as well will be the ultimate deciding factor of their compatibility and the conscious decision to find common ground together towards the end.

But if Katee Robert explored a fair bit of Aubry’s rather insane social phobias and her anxieties, I felt as though I’d been left hanging with Quinn’s own unresolved burdens: we’re told about his beef with personal relationships but not given the exact circumstances why, to start with. I also felt that his personal struggles with his sister and his best friend’s death could have been expanded on, the details of which could have shaped him out to be a more multifaceted and sympathetic leading character to match an already complicated female lead.

The devil in the details aside, ‘Fool me Once’ is a very easy read and it’s mostly an enjoyable ride (throw in all the cowboy sex jokes here, because there’s nothing there that the story doesn’t already use) without too much angst or unnecessary drama for a story this short. Quinn and Aubry acted the way I fully expected them to, and as extreme as the latter can get at times, I mostly thought this unusual couple was memorable because of how different they were without pretending to be anything else other than what they could be.

three-stars

Foolproof Love by Katee Robert

Foolproof Love by Katee RobertFoolproof Love by Katee Robert
Series: Foolproof Love, #1
Published by Entangled: Brazen on June 6th 2016
Pages: 164
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three-stars

Bull rider Adam Meyer put Devil’s Falls in his rearview mirror years ago and hasn’t stopped running since. Now he’s back—temporarily, if he has any say about it. Restless, he finds himself kissing the sexiest girl in town…and agreeing to be the fake boyfriend in her little revenge scheme.
Jules Rodrigez isn’t interested in the role of town spinster. Being seen with a hell raiser like Adam is the perfect way to scandalize the residents, make her ex jealous, and prove she’s a sexy, desirable woman. And if their plan includes ridiculously hot sex—in public, of course—all the better.
But this thing between them has an expiration date. Putting down roots isn’t in Adam’s blood, and Jules’s roots in Devil’s Falls are bedrock deep. He’ll leave, even if it rips out his heart. But this time, he’s not sure he’ll survive it…

Katee Roberts had me hooked the moment I saw the words ‘cat cafe’ – it’s an unfair advantage over me if anyone cares to know, especially when cats come into the equation.

There and then, I was convinced that the woman who owns it can do no wrong even before really starting the book. On a side-note, the man didn’t seem too bad either, once the fake relationship started getting on. Jules Rodriguez proved a standout character for me: her sunny optimism, the unfailing love for her small town and friends rendering her a very likeable character along with her anti-social best friend whose combative set up with Quinn already promises an intriguing sequel. Adam Meyer, on the other hand, isn’t too much of a slouch either, even if his restless wanderlust can’t seem to be conquered by anything else other than a large, bucking creature as wild as him.

For all its quirky characters and small-town antics, ‘Foolproof Love’ isn’t an unpredictable read. It begins with an impulsive act, a fake relationship with the town’s tumbleweed to toss off the tosser of an ex, heads towards the disaster you know it will become and how it will eventually end. I did take issue with the really quick turnaround after Jules’s and Adam’s falling out, but it’s a story that still managed to work beyond the frame of their relationship. A distinct highlight of the book is its well-crafted supporting characters that step in and out as mouthpieces and flashes of the past and ‘Foolproof Love’ does it well enough to make me want the next few books in the series immediately.

three-stars