Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

In Too Deep by Kimberly Kincaid

In Too Deep by Kimberly KincaidIn Too Deep by Kimberly Kincaid
Series: Station Seventeen #3
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing, Kimberly Kincaid Romance on October 17th 2017
Pages: 345
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As Station Seventeen’s rookie, Luke Slater knows his fire and EMS training will be both rigorous and risky, but he never imagined having to partner up with the one woman he wants to keep at arm’s length most of all. Quinn Copeland is as wide-open as Luke is reserved. He has no interest in letting the sweet and sexy paramedic rock his hard-earned control. But the need for composure becomes the need to survive when they find themselves in the crosshairs of a brutal gang leader on their first shift together.

Paramedic Quinn Copeland’s station mates aren’t just her friends. They’re her family. She’d do anything to keep them safe—including reluctantly trusting her impossible-to-read, impossibly gorgeous new partner with the one thing she holds close. As the passion between Luke and Quinn goes from a slow burn to a sizzle, their steps grow more and more dangerous, both in the fire house and out. Can they outwit a cold-blooded killer and face the fears that could cost them everything? Or are they in too deep?

Kimberly Kincaid’s Station Seventeen isn’t just a bunch of firefighting men who go out to battle the blazes, although the mention of bunker gear, sexy times involving dirty firemen and fire-heroics is probably enough for many readers. But Kincaid serves up a hefty dose of good ol’ romantic suspense where characters from law enforcement and emergency responders mingle and rally around each other to get the plot going. Not only is this right up my smelly, cat-littered alley, but I love it when a story surprises me…the good way.

‘In Too Deep’ just had one of those great combinations that did it for me: a solid, believable suspense plot, likeable protagonists who don’t cross TSTL lines and sufficient twists and turns that just ramp up the tension. It was thoroughly addictive as a result and I hadn’t expected to like Luke Slater and Quinn Copeland as much as I did along with the interaction of the secondary characters that helped pad out the narrative and shape both Luke’s and Quinn’s contrasting characters. Kincaid’s handling of these interactions was top-notch and it was balanced quite nicely with the unfolding drama that got more intense and riveting as the pages went on.

While I appreciated Kincaid not making light at all about the younger man (rookie) and the slightly older woman (an experienced paramedic), what impressed me most was the way Kincaid tried to level the characters by giving Luke the bigger, calmer voice of reason and Quinn, a character who in turn, didn’t use her age or professional experience to belittle him. I liked their similar backgrounds, their latent attraction and chemistry, which was why the short rift and the easy resolution between them at the end felt forced and written for the sake of creating conflict, when there was already plenty enough to go around.

Overall though, ‘In Too Deep’ exceeded my expectations once it was established that the plot wasn’t going to revolve around a decision that could have made Quinn look like a TSTL heroine. The book was absorbing enough that I didn’t want to put it down, which made me impatient by the end for what Kincaid already has up her sleeve for the next book in this series.


The Learning Hours by Sara Ney

The Learning Hours by Sara NeyThe Learning Hours by Sara Ney
Series: How to Date a Douchebag #3
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on September 26th 2017
Pages: 345
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He's not a douchebag; but that doesn't stop his friends from turning him into one.


So much so that they plastered my ugly mug all over campus, in bold printed letters:

Are you the lucky lady who's going to break our roommate's cherry?Him: socially awkward man with average-sized penis looking for willing sexual partner. You: must have a pulse. He will reciprakate with oral. Text him at: 555-254-5551

The morons can't even spell. And the texts I've been receiving are what wet dreams are made of. But I'm not like these douchebags, no matter how hard they try to turn me into one.


One text stands out from hundreds. One number I can't bring myself to block. She seems different. Hotter, even in black and white.

However, after seeing her in person, I know she's not the girl for me. But my friends won't let up--they just don't get it. Douchebags or not, there's one thing they'll never understand:

Especially her.

‘The Learning Hours’ is my first Sara Ney book, but I’m glad I chose to read this from the blurb, as I suspected that it had a very different kind of hero to grace the pages. Put a non-douchey jock who’s not good-looking, who calls out those who are superficial and douchey because he walks the straight and narrow? Now *that* is enough to make me moist with excitement.

It is easy to love Rhett Rabideaux from the start because he stands out as the only shining light of sensibility and integrity among the moral cesspit of the frat house and the rest of the athletes, though I felt so sorry for him for all the things he had to go through for just being himself. But considering it’s a book about arses, pricks and bitchy behaviour as well—pitched so perfectly that it’s easier to hate than like—so while it isn’t surprising to see all of it appearing as a thunderstorm over Rhett’s head, I questioned the sanity of Rhett’s pairing with a flighty, vain, mean-girl-type character whose depth resembles that of a roadside puddle.

Rhett’s straightforward cluelessness with Laurel after he got past his anger and her grovelling however, made me laugh; he’d won me over as a stalwart fan, so I enjoyed every moment of Laurel’s failure to play the dating and flirting game with him, as much as I relished how hard she had to work for his attention and friendship. Call it ‘character Schadenfreude’ or something, but the biting satire in some parts made those bits oh-so-satisfying when Laurel finally realises that Rhett is the real deal.

As much as I loved Rhett’s magnetic ability to change people because of his warmth and kind-heartedness, it did seem more important that the idea of physical attraction bring something that can grow on you even if the person isn’t blindingly modelesque good-looking came though (which Ney does show via Laurel’s stumbling journey towards enlightenment), maybe because that just isn’t emphasised enough in romantic fiction. That alone made a huge difference and while both Laurel and Rhett aren’t exactly on par with the likeability factor as protagonists, I can’t deny that I had an entertaining time with their story.


The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata

The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana ZapataThe Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on February 28th 2016
Pages: 403
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Vanessa Mazur knows she's doing the right thing. She shouldn't feel bad for quitting. Being an assistant/housekeeper/fairy godmother to the top defensive end in the National Football Organization was always supposed to be temporary. She has plans and none of them include washing extra-large underwear longer than necessary.

But when Aiden Graves shows up at her door wanting her to come back, she's beyond shocked.

For two years, the man known as The Wall of Winnipeg couldn't find it in him to tell her good morning or congratulate her on her birthday. Now? He's asking for the unthinkable.

What do you say to the man who is used to getting everything he wants?

I survived another Mariana Zapata book and am damned proud of it. The length of her stories are daunting, make no mistake, and to go through all near-500 pages of a wry, sometimes-neurotic, sometimes-hilarious female voice telling only her side of the story can and does take patience, though the experience isn’t necessarily a dull and colourless one. I do always think twice before embarking on a Zapata story however and length does play a significant role in this decision.

But honestly, I’m not too sure if this book could be shorter though and functioned just as well. The aloof, impersonal start of Van and Aiden and the gradual transformation of their relationship—years!—from trying-to-please PA to a begging Aiden (with a marriage of convenience thrown in after Van quits) rightly needed a slow burn and Zapata’s style of writing certainly suits this kind of plot line.

Instalove? Not in Zapata’s vocabulary. That bit is gratifying, particularly since there are too many gooseflesh-raising stories trying to sell the unbelievable with alpha, dirty-talking men falling hard inexplicably for a woman and want nothing but to ‘claim’ and ‘breed’ her.

In this case, (real) time is as always, Zapata’s solution to the answer for a relationship to turn, with gaps so painstakingly filled in, sometimes mundane, everyday scenes appear as though they’re randomly inserted that there’s no need for the byline ‘x number of years later’. That much I can appreciate, because the result is a multifaceted and real character (at least for Vanessa) that comes through the pages, though the single POV makes Aiden still somewhat of a closed-off ‘hero’ when all I can extrapolate of his brick-ish, stony personality is what Vanessa and other secondary characters say of him. Aiden/Van’s HEA is as well, unequivocally ironclad and that’s also a kudos to Zapata’s careful development of their relationship.

I’m not exactly an apologist for the excruciatingly long, slow burn, despite my defence of the justifiable length of ’The Wall of Winnipeg and Me’. I found myself absorbed for most part without my interest really slipping and for most part, it was so easy to like the characters in this book that it certainly wasn’t a pain to go on and on before the bed finally called to me.

It isn’t to say I wouldn’t take a deep breath before plunging into another Zapata book, because I will. I still look at the books by her that I’ve not yet read (there’s just one more that I want to tackle) and I still think that I don’t have the courage yet to take it on. But having just been brought on a satisfying journey with Van and Aiden, that day might be sooner rather than later.


Beautiful Beast by Aubrey Irons

Beautiful Beast by Aubrey IronsBeautiful Beast by Aubrey Irons
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on July 17th 2017
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Here’s the first thing you should know: this is not a fairytale. Happily-ever-afters are fables, and Prince Charming is a sweet little lie.I know all this because he taught me.Once upon a lifetime ago, the rich, arrogant, sinfully gorgeous, and tragically broken dark prince of the Hamptons was my tormentor. My darkness, my shameful attraction, my all-consuming, forbidden temptation.I hate Sebastian Crown because nine years ago, for one night, I was stupid enough to think I loved him. And I’ve been paying for it ever since.Except now, he needs me to help him save his empire.…And he’s not taking no for answer.


She’s my nemesis. My addiction. My weakness.My obsession.I used to tell myself I hated Anastasia Bell - for being poor, for not worshipping the ground I walked on, for looking at me like she pitied me for being me.When the rest of my world always told me yes, she was the ever-provoking no.She thinks I’m a monster - a tragic, fucked-up, broken beast.She doesn’t know the half of it.Because she can’t begin to know the crimes of my past, or imagine the things I’ve done to her behind the scenes since she left this place.Years ago, I thought breaking her would fix me.I was wrong.Now I’ve got her in my sights again, and this time, I won’t be letting her go. Even if it means we both go down in flames...

The warning does say it all: this isn’t a fairytale of a prince and an impoverished princess. Instead, be prepared to read about one of the most obsessive-compulsive, manipulative and biggest bastards of them all, which is safe to say is what slid me straight into objective, neutral territory as I read this twisted fairytale where the briar-covered HEA is lined with thorns and spikes.

To be fair, I had those trigger-warnings and I went straight into this knowing that I was going to read about characters and their so-called love story from a protracted distance that I don’t normally take with romance books. With this mindset, or this particular disconnect, rather, locked in place, it was easy to read on and on, which was also in part due to Aubrey Irons’s compelling writing that kept me glued to the story.

Because the characters sure as hell didn’t.

Sebastian Crown isn’t someone I could like at all, but what I couldn’t understand as well was Ana’s little resistance that crumbles so easily at his advances when all he’d done was to shatter her spirit and break her heart, even behind her back. She flops happily at his masterful puppeteering somehow, never gets her strings cut and generally goes too easy on him where I would have wielded a scythe and sent Bastian straight to the lowest levels of hell for eternity.

I finished the story, which, on its own, is easy to get lost in as it doesn’t go down without several twists and turns. But did I like it? Not exactly. Yet neither did I exactly dislike it, because I knew from the start how I was going to approach the book—with critical eyes and indifferent shrugs at 2 protagonists who can’t see beyond each other though they’re probably better off without each other, with no strings attached. It did come down to whether I could get invested in the characters and whether they were likeable enough for me to form any connection with them.

The answer is: no.

I found nothing redeemable about Sebastian , who seemed more like the antagonist rather than the protagonist throughout and I actually felt bloodthirsty, grim satisfaction and hard-won poetic justice when he hit rock bottom for all the fucking he did with Ana’s life.

The point here is that Irons simply provides an alternative definition of obsessive ‘love’ that has nothing self-sacrificial about it and how it’s in fact, given other names such as ‘addiction’ or ‘obsession’, with several generous servings of masochism and uncontainable lust.

Ultimately though, Ana/Bastian’s flimsy representation of love is not quite the romantic ideal I subscribe to. It’s a version of romance that I can’t exactly calibrate with the kind of escapist fantasy that I want to get lost in, nor with the sort of characters I want to read about, so it’s most likely back to the straight and narrow for me.


Tied by Carian Cole

Tied by Carian ColeTied by Carian Cole
Series: Devils Wolves #2
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on June 26th 2017
Pages: 280
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He was the myth and the legend of our small town. But no one knew the truth... except me.

Me My childhood was stolen by a monster. I've forgotten what love feels like. What happiness feels like. What hope feels like. I am numb.

Him He's possibly as damaged as I am. Maybe even more. Scarred just as much on the inside as the outside. Just like me. He doesn't speak. He doesn't smile. He hides in the woods like an animal. I should be scared of him. But I'm not. He's the only one that has ever made me feel. And I want to make him feel, too. Everything...

Carian Cole’s ‘Tied’ is so different from its predecessor that I don’t quite know how to rate and review this.

If Tor and Kenzi were a couple with deliciously forbidden ties, Tyler and Holly are a different breed altogether: scarred, damaged and so screwed up in the head that I thought it would take a mountain of trying just to get them together. In fact, both Tyler and Holly have issues upon issues, years of festering guilt and self-doubt and put together, their combined baggage weight would break an elephant’s back.

But like an oncoming train wreck, I couldn’t look away. The pages kept turning and the slow burn kept burning, especially when it took that long a time to get trust (and by extension, touch and intimacy) to build between 2 scarred people. Cole is quite painstakingly thorough with this process, which I could definitely appreciate and the hiccups they faced along the way seemed sufficiently realistic for me to believe. Tyler/Holly is a pairing that had me sceptical at first, but Cole does convince, to an extent, that healing can come in many forms and sometimes, that comes from another person who is as equally damaged as you.

It’s in short, a completely unexpected read, intensely emotional and bordering on the dramatic at times, but different enough that I’ll probably look at what else Cole has in store for this series.


True Hearts by Jeannine Allison

True Hearts by Jeannine AllisonPure Hearts by Jeannine Allison
Published by Amazon Digital Services on June 22nd 2017
Pages: 391
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She gave me her kidney. I gave her my heart...

Nicholas Blake learned a long time ago that nobody does anything for free. He’s felt the pain of lies and manipulations enough times to know that people only look out for themselves, and that all good deeds come with a price. So when he wakes up from a near deadly car accident and finds out a stranger is offering to donate her kidney, he’s immediately suspicious of her intentions.

What he doesn’t expect is Iris Chamberlain, a beautiful woman with a big smile and an even bigger heart, claiming she just wants to help. The more time Nick spends with Iris, the more he starts to believe in what he always thought was impossible: a pure heart.

But betrayal leaves a bitter mark. Will Nick be able to let go of his past and let Iris in? And will Iris be able to show him what it truly means to have a pure heart?

’True Hearts’ is a very much a feel good type of read, with a kind of New Adult-ish introspective vibe about the cynic who is inclined call everyone’s action out as self-serving until proven otherwise who goes up against a someone who wholly (or at least habitually) believes in human goodness and sincerity.

And that was where my reservations slid in.

Call that my own cynical self talking here, especially when it begins with the donation of a kidney after what appears like a paranormal ‘sign’ that fates are intertwined—with no expectations thrown into the mix. I found it difficult to accept the very selfless and positive Iris Chamberlain when it was way easier to sympathise with Nick and his understandable behaviour traits knowing what he’d gone through. Iris was, well, surreal in her giving selflessness, when the way she chose to see nothing but good made her more like a saint about to be canonised than a flawed character. But Jeannine Allison makes Iris out to be the exact kind of person that Nick actually needs—at least, a person who is determined to wear down his cynicism—though she stumbled where it really mattered most, or at least where I needed her not to.

Throughout the book, I felt mostly caught between Iris and Nick, never quite able to step out of Nick’s more ‘realistic’ way of perceiving the world as opposed to Iris’s steadfast one-woman stand against Nick’s fatalistic pessimism. In fact, I found myself repetitively questioning Iris’s naïveté, the appalling behaviour of her relatives, and how the characters did nothing but try to turn Nick into a happier version of himself without acknowledging too much that his own perception of the world had merit. That they’d tried to defend their own behaviour, implicitly putting the fault mostly on Nick’s door was quite the last straw for me.

I think the long and short of it is that ‘True Hearts’ is a rose-tinted affirmation of the goodness left in humanity, though it’s a simplistic ideal here that I can’t quite buy into.


Hemi by Anna Hackett

Hemi by Anna HackettHemi by Anna Hackett
Series: Hell Squad #13
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing, Anna Hackett on May 30th 2017
Pages: 115
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In the middle of an alien invasion, a big, tough, tattooed former mercenary is finally going to chase down his woman.

Camryn McNab knows love is a lie. Okay, maybe not for everybody--her fellow soldiers on Squad Nine have managed to fall in love in the middle of a vicious alien attack. But it's not for her. She comes from two people incapable of love. For now, her life is about survival, fighting to protect others, and kicking some alien raptor butt. What she doesn't need is a certain wild, bearded, tattoo-covered soldier always underfoot, messing with her things, and driving her crazy. But no matter how hard she tries to outrun Hemi Rahia, she can't seem to shake him, and a terrified part of doesn't even want to...

A member of the Squad Three berserkers, Hemi knows his squad has a reputation for not following the rules and being a little wild. Former bikers, mercenaries, and...other less savory things, they fight hard and party harder. But Hemi has known for a while now that there is only one woman for him. One courageous, sexy, attitude-filled woman he wants to claim as his own. But he has to catch her first.

Tasked with a top-secret mission deep in alien creeper territory, Hemi and Cam will fight side-by-side to achieve their dangerous goal. Their chemistry is off the charts, but persistent Hemi wants more than Cam's body...he wants her heart and soul as well. As their battle with the aliens turns deadly, they will have to fight not only for their love, but for their very survival.

‘Hemi’ officially ushers in the Berserker squad and I’m glad we’ve come a way with this particular group of wild and rough-riding people. When they first appeared, they seemed to be a bunch of hairy things closer to grunting apes than humans who rode souped-up motorcycles that were used as mini-weapon-launching platforms to combat the aliens; which is sort of cool, but probably not quite the swashbuckling type of heroes I could envision. But Anna Hackett’s development of the squad is quite remarkable and I’ve come, over time, to see them fleshed out as individuals with even rougher and questionable pasts that are erased when the alien apocalypse happens.

Hemi Rahia’s and Camryn McNab’s story has been building for a while and make no mistake, that tension there beneath the pranks finally comes to fruition here. For every couple that Hackett focuses on, there is also a new, vile alien development that is specific to their getting together and it’s no different here. Hemi’s determination to win over Cam is as strong as her need to run away from him and this push-pull finally gives when forces bigger than them (read: disgusting alien parts that act as incubators) eventually show that couple disputes are more petty in the light of the fact that dying can happen any time. In the spirit of carpe diem, the action and the way the characters throw themselves into the fray, is fun with many shades of wild, rodeo-riding antics and good partying times.

As much as I enjoyed how fast-paced the action is, I thought that there’s also a bit more focus on Hemi/Cam’s personal drama here with several repetitive—and perhaps sweeping—lines about how men and women pretty much were into casual sex as a sign of the times, up until the point where they find the one they’re ‘meant’ for. While I did like Hemi/Cam and every little alien discovery the teams make, I think I would also have liked to see more of the big-picture, or at least some reference to a larger story arc that would show how war with the aliens is progressing and if there is an end (or some kind of HEA wrap-up for all involved), no matter how distant, in sight.