ARC Review: The Lullaby Girl by Loreth Anne White

Format: E-bookthelullabygirl.png
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Series: Angie Pallorino, #2
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Hero: James Maddocks
Heroine: Angela Pallorino
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 14, 2017
Started On: May 14, 2018
Finished On: May 20, 2018

The Lullaby Girl by Loreth Anne White is the second book in the Angie Pallorino series, books centered around the lead female detective, aka Angela Pallorino (Angie). These are not standalone books, so if you want to immerse yourself in the ‘dark’ escape that this series provides, you will have to read the books in order. I say dark escape because Loreth’s books delve into the darker side of suspense with just enough romance going for it to suit readers like myself.

The Lullaby Girl begins two weeks or so after The Drowned Girls end, rather eventfully I must add. With Angie taking down a serial rapist turned killer (Spencer Adams) working her now life partner (of sorts), Sergeant James Maddocks, Angie’s life had considerably turned upside down since the hunt for Spencer had started. Angie, who had then being working sex crimes, had been partnered with James, the man she had tied to a motel bed and drowned herself in him on her way to oblivion – Angie’s method of escape from the voices that hound her.

Since then, Angie and Maddocks had managed to bust wide open a case that has all the elements that makes society gasp in indignation and fear. A rapist & killer who mutilated his victims, who had found easy pickings aboard a ‘pleasure vessel’ known as Amanda Rose, which had also exposed dirty politicians that had benefited from the operations.

While Angie had been placed on leave until the investigation into the culmination of the Spencer Adams angle in the case had ended, Maddocks meanwhile had continued the probe into the human trafficking of young girls and how far the tentacles of the case reaches.

Angie had in the meantime, started inquiries into her childhood, the lies which had pretty much defined her existence having come out into the open during the strenuous hours spent on the case. It is as Angie digs her heels into finding out more, that two detectives seek her out on a cold case of a DNA match with Angie’s, bringing home the possibility that Angie must have family somewhere that could possibly have been looking for her all these years.

With her position as a detective in the department at peril and placed in the social media division, Angie has no choice but to go along for the ride, if only for the ‘benefits’ being on the job would bring in the line of her own investigations. But resent the punishment, she definitely does.

So finds Angie going along with the investigations into her past, while Maddocks pursues the leads on his case, which takes on Russian organized crime amidst international human trafficking angle which brings takes the case to a whole new level. But it is when these two separate and distinct investigations collide that things take a turn which brings the whole house of cards tumbling down.

The Lullaby Girls proved to be just as engrossing a read as it’s predecessor. Angie’s character was just as thorny, perhaps more so owing to the different upheavals that her life has been subjected to along the way. Angie doesn’t see the destructive path she is on, though it is hard not to empathize with what she’s going through as well. She has had her whole world turned upside down, and to come to know that she had had a life that was vastly different from what she remembers to be her childhood, enables her to understand her affinity with crime solving and sex crimes in particular.

The inability to see the “difficult” side of her character prevents Angie from seeing the punishment she is given at the department for what it is; that it had been owing to her actions and behavior along with her strained relationships with her partners, and her lack of ability to follow orders while keeping a level head about it.

This of course makes Angie lash out, and lash out she does, which makes things pretty difficult for Maddocks. Because for Angie, there is nothing more vulnerable than letting someone into her life to a point where he would have the ability to destroy her whole world, if it ever comes to that. Angie likes control, well let’s be honest, who doesn’t. But then again, Angie’s need for control makes it almost impossible for her to see the damage she is doing to her own life, the relationships she forges with everyone around her, and her inability to connect with people long enough to forge meaningful relationships with them.

And then there is Maddocks. Whose own life has clearly not been a walk in the park. The case which forces him to return to his old haunts brings back the memories of a failed marriage, his idealistic views on what his life should have been like, his frayed relationship with his daughter, and most of all, his tendency to be attracted to the broken that needs fixing, which explains Angie and his need for her in his life.

Like I said in my review of the first book, if it were any other man but Maddocks, he would have washed his hands off of Angie and walked away a long while back. But there are reasons which makes Maddocks stay, reasons which I as the reader see for myself when I keep wading through the complexity that is Angie. There is that damaged side to her character which is hard not to empathize with, and there is that wonderful person she could be if there wasn’t so much darkness clouding her life, a person that peeks through from within the layers every once in a while that makes Maddocks’ patience worth it.

Angie coming full circle with her past and uncovering the roots of her beginnings was something to behold. I enjoyed every single minute of it, rooted for Angie with every fiber of my being, and held my breathe every single time things started heading south. But life holds little meaning, if it ain’t for the struggles which you triumph through.

Recommended for fans of thrillers and suspense novels that keeps you at the edge, because a book that doesn’t make you sweat for the characters you root for, ain’t a book worth reading.

Final Verdict: The Lullaby Girl delves deeper into the psyche of Angie and brings to the forefront the horrors of sex-trafficking, taking on the world of transnational organized crime, delivering a story as informative & unsettling as they come.

Favorite Quotes

People don’t understand the toll that job can take on a police officer or his family. They don’t know how we all have to tiptoe around the ugly side of the job, the mood swings, the depression, the drinking.

He caressed the line of her jaw with his thumb. And something fierce and angry erupted inside her—a desperation to burn down her own insecurities, to kill the pain, to blind herself to the fear of what her own memories might reveal, the realities that she might have to face about what had happened to her in childhood. She grabbed his tie and yanked him closer. Drawing his head down, she reached herself up and pressed her mouth hungrily to his. His lips were cold from outside. He hesitated a nanosecond before suddenly cupping her buttocks and jerking her hips tightly up against his pelvis. His mouth bore down on hers, forcing her lips open. He slid his tongue inside, met hers. Lust blinded Angie as she felt his erection stiffening against her belly.

His eyes, intense, held hers as he allowed her to pin his wrists above his head against the floor. Angie straddled his hips and slid the crotch of her skimpy panties aside. Widening her knees, parting her thighs, she sank down onto the hot, hard length of him. With a bliss-filled sigh she spread her thighs farther, making him go deep, deeper. And she began to rock her hips, creating friction deep inside the core of her body. Her breaths came fast, faster. She rocked harder. She became slick around his erection. Her body began to tingle. A hot, raw anger exploded, ripping through her gut, driving her wilder. She closed her eyes, put her head back, mouth open wide, panting, her skin going damp. And she rode him hard and fast and half-clothed, forcing her mind back, mentally reliving that very first night she’d spent with him at the Foxy Motel. She gasped suddenly, froze, then cried out as muscle contractions slammed through her in rolling waves, taking control of her body.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

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ARC Review: My Roommate’s Girl by Julianna Keyes

Format: E-bookmyroommatesgirl
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: New Adult
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Aidan Shannon Shaw
Heroine: Aster
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: June 12, 2017
Started On: May 04, 2018
Finished On: May 08, 2018

I have been a fan of Julianna Keyes ever since I discovered her from one of those chance reads I took on Netgalley. Julianna has a way of writing that delivers stories that maintain a realistic edge, and at the same fulfill the yearnings of the romance reader for the angst-ridden and sexy reads that make our day. Plus, Julianna always has a unique tangent to her writing, with twists to existing tropes that makes her books so worth your while.

My Roommate’s Girl toting a gorgeous cover, is written in the first person, told from both Aidan Shannon Shaw, the hero’s, and Aster, the heroine’s point of views. Aidan meets Aster through Jerry, his roommate, whose girlfriend turns out to be none other than Aster. From the moment Aidan lays eyes on Aster, he wants to have her for himself, he needs to have her. But there is of course that little pesky problem of the boyfriend who stands in his way. So sets Aidan on the course that would deliver Aster into his arms, as conniving and manipulative as it sounds.

What unfolds next was not by any means predictable. One would think it would be, given where the story was headed, but the way Julianna peeled back the layers to both Aidan and Aster was truly masterful.

Aidan’s character is easier to figure out in a way; the troublesome background, the way it had been easier for him to fall in with a bad crowd and lose his way. Until a judge had seen through his belligerence and decided to give him the chance to clean up, or else. But like a tweet I came across just today, “the devil works hard but peer pressure works harder”, and that is exactly the case with Aidan as well.

Now Aster, she is the true gem of the story. Her character managed to surprise me at every single turn, and that is no mean feat for someone who reads through so many romance novels and can often predict character behavior from a mile away. But damn, Aster certainly managed to shake my preconceived notions and then some. I felt proud of her for identifying with what had happened, and even fighting back just as dirty to get even. But then again, Aster did not take into account how seductive it is to be stripped bare of all the fronts she has put up, and to be seen exactly for who she is; not the image of perfection that she presents to the rest of the world, but a woman with faults and flaws of her own, someone who learnt from her past and aims to never go down that path again.

Like every single hero I have read from Julianna, Aidan is sexy personified. From his dirty blond hair and that raw physique of his, to the way he wants Aster with every fiber of his being; all that and more made him pretty alluring. Even though the only way Aidan knows to get what he wants is to fight dirty, with Aster, he finds that his conscience doesn’t allow him to be half the douche bag he could really be. For him, Aster is the woman that makes it all matter; she makes him want to stand steadfast on the path of the straight and narrow.

I loved Aster just as much. The fact that she had been able to leave a difficult past behind and clean up her act, that spoke volumes when it comes to the strength of her character and the kind of person she is. And she proves to be just that, honest and kind where it matters. I loved the ending, the way it all came together and how everything worked out. There is nothing better than a happily ever after for a couple you root for from the very beginning, even when that beginning might be the furthest thing from perfect.

Recommended for fans of romances that deliver unusual twists and turns that makes the book that much more worth it.

Final Verdict: My Roommate’s Girl delivers a succulent tale that is trademark Julianna Keyes, with characters that are relatable, and a happily ever after that I rooted for from the very beginning!

Favorite Quotes

I kiss her.
I don’t even think about it, I’m just acting on instinct. The hand on her hip slips around to the outside of her arm, up to her shoulder, her neck, fingers curling into her nape. She doesn’t move, doesn’t look away from my mouth, and the soft flutter of her lashes is the last thing I see before my lips touch hers.
She makes a tiny sound when our mouths meet, and I feel a tremor roll through her, like a frisson of energy arcing from her body into mine. I fumble behind me to stick the spoonful of melting ice cream back into the carton, only fifty percent sure I manage the task, a hundred percent sure I don’t care.
I cup her face with both hands, feel her silky hair teasing my fingers, the softness of her mouth, her breasts pressed against my chest. The tip of her tongue touches my bottom lip at the same moment her hand comes up to stroke my cheek, and I leap away like I’ve been electrocuted.

“Aidan,” she moans again.
“What…do…you…need?” I grunt out. Sensation is rocketing up and down my body, from the top of my head to the tips of my toes, things I’ve never felt before and don’t know what to do with.
When I first saw Aster, first thought of fucking her, I didn’t think it would be like this. I thought she’d be prim and proper, maybe ride me like a dainty cowgirl. I thought I’d dirty her up, scandalize her a bit.
Now I don’t think I could scandalize Aster if I tried. She fucks like it’s the most natural thing in the world, like my hands pulling her hair is the thing she likes most. Like my mouth on her nipples and my cock plowing into her is something she lives for. I want to earn those responses. I want to hear them. I want to taste them.

When I first arrived at Holsom, I was terrified. It was new and strange and even among thousands of students, I felt hopelessly alone. Meeting Jerry helped, but I never truly relaxed. Never felt like I belonged. I thought I might, one day, but even after a year of dating I knew that deep down, he never really knew me because I never really let him.
Aidan knows me. I only let him know me because I thought I’d never see him again, but here we are, out in the middle of nowhere, and I don’t feel alone at all. I feel like he sees me and he’s totally okay with what he sees. Scars and all.

At long last I’m seated, his cock buried inside, taking a moment to adjust to the aching fullness. I grind my forehead into his shoulder, feeling him, feeling everything, and he lets me take my time, no pressure, no hurry.
I shift so my lips find his neck, his racing pulse betraying his laidback demeanor. I flex my thighs and lift up slightly, then slide back down, finding an easy, unhurried rhythm that makes everything inside me go soft and molten.

Aidan drops his hands from my hair and I see him digging his fingers into the sand at his sides, trying to hold on. Trying to wait for me.
That’s what sends me over. The sight of this man, weak but still so strong. Hard, solid, tough, sweet. A study in contradictions.
I come with a soft cry, stifling the sound in the curve of his neck, tasting his sweat on my tongue. My body spasms in long, slow waves for what feels like an eternity, and when the orgasm ebbs away Aidan jerks beneath me, hips pushing into mine as he anchors me with his hands on my waist, holding me in place while he takes what he needs.
My limbs feel like jelly, like there’s no earthly way I can stand, no possible way I’ll be able to hike back. I lift my head and absorb the quiet forest, the pristine lake, the boundless sky. This is the farthest from civilization I’ve ever been, but out here, with just me and Aidan, I’ve never felt closer to home.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iTunes

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ARC Review: A Cold Dark Promise by Toni Anderson

Format: E-bookacolddarkpromise.jpg
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novella
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Cold Justice, #8.5
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Alex Parker
Heroine: Mallory Rooney
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: November 14, 2017
Started On: November 15, 2017
Finished On: November 24, 2017

A Cold Dark Promise by Toni Anderson is a novella that fans of the Cold Justice series would adore. One reason being that this novella brings to readers the wedding of Alex Parker and FBI Agent Mallory Rooney, the main protagonists from the debut book of the series.

Alex’s character was one of the main reasons why I fell in love with the Cold Justice series initially. Toni Anderson’s way of putting a story together is another, and there was ruthless edge to the story that made me think of Anne Stuart’s books as well, which I obviously adored. Having come a long way since, A Cold Dark Promise takes place with a 27 week pregnant Mallory, getting ready to tie the knot with Alex, in order to celebrate their love, and make things official before the baby were to arrive.

However, a member from Alex’s dark past comes calling, and even though Alex wants to turn away from the plea put forth by a grieving mother, he finds that he is not as ruthless as he thinks himself to be, which is how Alex finds himself in the south of France, where a mission that he had thought would be simple, turns out to be anything but.

I absolutely adored this novella. I am mostly never a fan of short length novels, because though they rarely serve their purpose, and they usually fail to deliver just enough to satisfy readers. But I had no such complains with this little number and I believe that Toni has done a remarkably impressive job out of delivering a well rounded story that readers can sink their teeth into.

I loved Alex and Mallory’s shared moments as described in the story. There is a normalcy to their whole relationship that makes their love that much more real and relatable. There is no dramatic flair to it, but yet it is deep and as meaningful as they come, which is why I adored the bits of their lives that Toni brought to light in this story.

Moments of truth like Mallory grappling with the fact that she doesn’t particularly like it when Alex might be in the line of danger while she herself wants the independence to put herself on the line when it comes to her work as an FBI agent; those are the things that struck me the most in the story.

I also enjoy how Toni brings together the cast from various other stories in the series. I sometimes have a problem with how some authors seem to have too many cooks spoiling the broth so to say, when too many protagonists from other stories seem to become the centre stage of the story. Toni also does an impressive job of portraying male friendships; rather than making them sappy in a way some authors tend to do, or go overboard trying to generate the whole “bro” vibe, I think Toni’s understated way of handling things works beautifully.

The mini secondary romance tucked into the story was just the icing on the cake – Reilly being a wonderful, wonderful hero that I fell in love with, just as hard and just as fast.

Definitely looking forward to more in the series. Toni sometimes describes her imagination as being dark – but I love just how dark it can get, with the possibility of there always been more.

Recommended!

Final Verdict: Warm fuzzies is not what I would normally associate with a Toni Anderson, but this little number does it!

Favorite Quotes

Licks of pleasure spiraled into a cyclone of lust. His fingers dipped between her thighs and she moaned. Finding her ready, he turned her away from him, arranging a pillow beneath her baby bump and another cushioning her head. This was her favorite position now she was pregnant and he knew it. Alex moved behind her and slid deep inside and she came with a deep shudder. He leaned up, squeezed her nipple even as he thrust slowly in and out. She could lie like this for hours, days, it felt so good. She shook with pleasure, and she couldn’t bear for it to change but…
“More, Alex. Deeper.” It was a private joke between them, but the hoarseness of her voice took her by surprise. He got to her every single time.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iTunes

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ARC Review: Seeing Red by Sandra Brown

Format: E-bookseeingred
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hero: John Trapper
Heroine: Kerra Bailey
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: August 15, 2017
Started On: July 02, 2017
Finished On: July 25, 2017

“Two minutes after you knocked on the door of my office, I was fantasizing your mouth taking me.”

Seeing Red, the latest novel by Sandra Brown was amazing in so many ways. From start to finish, Seeing Red delivered a story of the kind that is rare in the genre today. Ms. Brown has always been an author that pushed the boundaries of “convention” that many authors safely stick to when writing their books. So it is not surprising that when a new novel from Ms. Brown hits the stand, I am always eager to get my hands on it.

Seeing Red tells the story of John Trapper, ex ATF agent, whose mundane existence of a life starts to unravel the minute television journalist Kerra Bailey comes seeking him for an interview to do with his father. Trapper had been just 11 years old when his father, Major Franklin Trapper had become a hero in the eyes of the country owing to his daring rescue of victims of a hotel bombing that had shocked the nation. Trapper’s life had changed drastically, so had Kerra’s, and it is only when their lives entwine at this point that everything starts to unravel.

Seeing Red starts off with an introductory chapter that blows one’s mind, and it does not let up from that point onwards. Taking the reader to the days since before the event and then beyond, Seeing Red delivers a story that goes deep into understanding the lengths to which a cult-like society would go to in order to protect an age old secret. From one harrowing experience to another, Ms. Brown does an amazing job of weaving the multiple threads of the story together to deliver a story that was mind blowing in all the good ways.

Trapper, oh dear Trapper; he is the kind of hero that Ms. Brown has perfected along the years of writing romance novels. I have always been a fan of her hard-edged heroes who do not conform to the standards of behavior as is expected by majority of readers of the genre nowadays. This is exactly one reason why I adore Ms. Brown’s books. Because they never fail to deliver a hero that is delicious, sexy as they come, and can talk dirty like the best of them that makes you quiver on the inside.

Trapper has his own vulnerabilities and scars that he hides. However the ingenuity in the buildup of his character lies in the fact that he hasn’t grown bitter throughout what life had dealt him with. Taking second stage in his father’s life from a tender age had definitely left its mark, so had how his career had turned out, all because Trapper had not given up on pursuing what he had felt was right.

When his path crosses that with Kerra’s, for the first time in a long while, he starts to give a damn, which of course makes him irritable and then some. However, Kerra’s unrelenting nature and her way of standing up for herself means that for Trapper walking away was no longer an option. Nor was standing on the sidelines and watching Kerra get hurt in the aftermath of the can of worms that she had opened up with her interview.

The sexual tension between Kerra and Trapper was off the charts, and Ms. Brown delivered on that exceptionally well. On the suspense side, with all the twists and turns that came, the ending and the revelations were explosive enough to make me go “oh my god” every couple of pages. Yes, it was that good!

Definitely and absolutely recommended!

Final Verdict: Seeing Red is Sandra Brown at her exceptional best. A good Sandra Brown goes a long way towards curing all reading woes.

Favorite Quotes

“I’m not him. I’m not noble, not a gentleman, not a hero, understand?”
“That wasn’t so hard to deduce.”
She thought the putdown would anger him, but he retaliated by gently placing his palm against her cold cheek. He brushed his thumb across her beauty mark.
“I noticed this right off, and the whole time you were sitting there in my shabby office, wearing your city get-up, acting all sassy and know-it-all, you want to know what was going on in my mind?” He ceased the stroking motion of his thumb, stopping it right on the small mole. His mouth lowered to within a hair’s-breadth of hers and he whispered, “Figure it out.”

“Why do you ask? Do you know him?”
“By reputation only. Everything I’ve read about him says he’s secretive. Keeps his business private. Shuns media attention.”
“All true. I had to finagle him.”
His eyes narrowed to slits. “That sounds like really dirty foreplay.”
She laughed, but stopped laughing when he slid his hand under her hair at the nape of her neck and turned them until her back was to the door. Leaning in, his lips skimmed her beauty mark on their way to her ear, where he whispered, “I’d like for you to finagle me.”
She didn’t speak a word, didn’t move, didn’t do anything except give herself over to his body heat and largeness and maleness and sexiness, the blend of which seeped into her like a potent restorative.

He moved his hand up from her nape to cup the back of her head and held it in place while their mouths opened to each other. During the deep and greedy kiss he worked his free hand under her top and into the elastic waistband of the baggy pants. He lightly ground the heel of his hand against her hipbone while his fingers curved around the slope below her waist. He drew her hips forward. She gladly went along with his subtle invitation, and their parts fit together perfectly on the first attempted connection.
He groaned, “Christ, Kerra. Please tell me I’m gonna get to fuck you.”

“You never asked what I was thinking.”
“When?”
“In my office while you were sitting across the desk from me looking all prissy and disapproving. Did you ever figure out what was going through my mind?”
Sounding prissy and disapproving, she said, “I didn’t want to know.”
He grinned. “I was thinking about your beauty mark.”
“That’s it?”
“Disappointed?”
“Surprised. I thought it would be something crude.”
“No. I was focused on your beauty mark, thinking it looked like a speck of dark chocolate and wondering if it would melt against my tongue.” He dabbed his tongue against it now, then a second time. “Hmm. Still there. Guess I’ll just have to keep testing it.”

“I might’ve been thinking about more than just your beauty mark,” he whispered. He shifted closer, covering half of her, and used his nose to nudge aside the collar of the tracksuit jacket so he could nibble her neck, then lowered his head and nuzzled her breast, rubbing his open mouth against the hard tip, taking love bites of it through her t-shirt, pushing at it with his tongue.
“You’d blush to know all the places my wandering mind has taken me. I’ve touched you, tasted you…” He wedged his hand down between them and cupped her sex. “…everywhere.”

“I want to take you like that,” he whispered as he dragged his open mouth down her neck to her collarbone, then lowered his head and rubbed his face against her breasts.
“I haven’t forgotten how you feel inside. I want to be there. In you deep.” His voice was rough and low, his lips aggressive against her raised nipple under her t-shirt. “It may never happen, but the mere thought of any other man being on you, in you…I’d want to kill him.”

Taking her face between his hands, he fused his mouth to hers, pressing his tongue deep, thrilling to the way she hummed her pleasure. He might have gone on forever just kissing her if not for a greater hunger that he must gratify or die.
He worked her top up over her breasts. Her bra was lacy and sheer and only half there to start with. The cups were easily lowered. He took a moment to cradle a breast in each hand. “I freakin’ love that,” he murmured.
“What?”
That they get so hard so fast.
The words were in his mind, but he didn’t say them aloud because by the time he thought them through he was already taking one nipple into his mouth and toying with the other, deriving pleasure from the pleasure he was giving her.

He dipped his head and sucked her nipples in turn, causing her to whimper.
Even during this love play, he didn’t stop pumping into her. He probably had been this hard before, probably as strained and blood-infused and lust-mad and unable to command the instinctual mating movement of his hips.
But if so, he didn’t recall it, because this was the only time that mattered. He wanted this time to be an exorcism and possession at once. Doom and salvation. He wanted it to be both carnal and sacred.
He wanted this to be the fuck Kerra would remember for the rest of her life.

His voice low, Trapper said, “It felt good, Kerra.”
“It did,” she whispered back.
It was simple, but, in its way, profound. He wasn’t one to make romantic declarations, and if she said anything now, it would be more than he would want to hear.
She was perilously close to letting this evolve into something that would leave her heartbroken. She was perilously close to becoming like Marianne. But she wouldn’t take back having made love to him. Not for the world.

He took her hands and stretched her arms above her head. Fitting her palms into his, he linked their fingers and began to stroke her inside. As before, he wanted her to remember this, because it would be engraved on his memory: the feel of her around him, the way she hugged his hips with her thighs, the sexy undulation of her belly against his, the sight of his chest hair dusting the hard tips of her breasts.
The kiss.
He kissed her, and, of all the other mind-blowing sensations, it was that of her mouth so greedily taking his tongue that caused his control to burst. When it did, she arched up and ground against his straining pelvis and brought on another soul-rending orgasm.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBook

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ARC Review: Cold Malice by Toni Anderson

Format: E-bookcoldmalice.jpg
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Cold Justice, #8
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Steve McKenzie
Heroine: Theresa Jane Hines
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: September 12, 2017
Started On: September 07, 2017
Finished On: September 13, 2017

The Cold Justice series is well into its 8th book, with Toni Anderson hitting the mark with each single installment in the series. That is what I call well researched books that keeps the pages turning and the readers coming back for more. And I have definitely been coming back for more.

Cold Malice, just like every other book in this series, takes on a prominent issue in current society. The rise of white supremacist movements in countries like the United States, putting into peril years of painstaking work into building more inclusive societies. Toni’s insight and the way she handles sensitive issues of this nature continues to amaze me in every single one of her books and Cold Malice was no exception.

Theresa Jane (Tess) is the one surviving daughter of the infamous Hines family, notorious for its extremist right wing philosophies that had turned deadly. With her younger brother Cole, Tess had found refuge in the kind woman that had adopted them, and had grown up trying to run from a past that seems to be catching up with her in a way that leaves her cold on the inside.

When Assistant Special Agent in Charge Steve McKenzie (Mac) comes back into Tess’s life, it is as if a ghost from her past has come calling, a ghost that she had clearly thought and believed to be dead in the events that had taken place that fateful night when the lives of the Hines family had met its ultimate deadly conclusion. A string of hate crimes is what brings Mac to the scene, an FBI agent who had slowly risen through the ranks to prove himself capable and beyond the trashy background from which he had emerged. For Mac, his career comes first and foremost, and if Tess still reminds him of that little girl he had failed to protect all those years ago, he would just have to deal with it.

With Mac in charge of the investigating team, it is one harrowing experience after another that pits Tess and Mac together, each having to rely on the other to get through. Trust comes hard for both of them, especially Tess who has always had to isolate herself from the rest of the world lest the truth of her background emerge and harm her prospects for a life of normalcy that she strives so hard for. For Mac, even though he is 99% certain that Tess has not one prejudiced bone in her body, it is that 1% that makes it hard for him to trust her on a level that he should, given the way he reacts to her at every molecular level of his being.

A killer with an agenda that targets the awakening of the slumbering beast, Mac finds himself running a race against time in trying to put everything together. In the midst of it all lies the searing passion that he shares with a woman he may never have forgotten, a woman who stirs his very soul and makes him think of a future other than that of one filled with ambition to further his career.

I loved Cold Malice, just like I have loved reading every other book Toni has written. Toni’s books come bearing interesting tidbits of information about what law enforcement itself is like at its heart, how painstaking it is to go through tons of evidence, especially in light of the world of information exchange that we inhabit today. Furthermore, the concept of “ghost skins” that I came across in this book was one that fascinated me. Extremist movements such as the white supremacists, going through the ranks of government service, embedding themselves deep within the system, until the time comes for them to rise and act on their twisted agendas. It is a concept that makes shivers run up and down my spine, the kind of meticulous and painstaking planning and patience that it would take for a group of people filled with so much hatred for anything that they do not agree with.

The tidbit on child marriages still being allowed in most parts of the US, more so than most people think also gave me a pause. We are all quick to judge when the lesser developed countries have archaic laws that allows these marriages to take place, that violates a girl in so many ways that it does not even bear thinking. Yet, the country that sits at the position of the leader of the free world itself has festering within, the kind of policies and laws that should have been done away with a long time ago, to protect the rights of every child. Perhaps it is a significant fact that even though the US ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1995, it failed to implement the terms of CRC at home, owing to contentious politics within.

I loved both Mac and Tess. As a hero, Mac is a specimen worth salivating over. There is a vulnerability to him that he hides, and he hides it well. A failed marriage that has left its mark, a childhood that drives him to be the person he is. Labeled a sex god by Tess, he is very well worthy of the term as he takes the straitlaced Tess and teaches her how fun, and oh so good sex with the right person can be. Tess is a mass of contradictions unto herself. Yearning for the kind of closeness and love that she believes are possible only in Disney fairy tales, she never thinks for a moment that the man from her past that she had fallen in love as a child would be the person who would change it all. I felt every single scar on Tess’s soul deep within. It is amazing how Toni can craft characters that are deep and multifaceted as Tess. I loved her

Cold Malice is a novel done well, delivering a story that would stay with the reader for a long while. The subject matter alone is reason enough.

Recommended!

Final Verdict: There is no running from a past hellbent on playing catch up. Toni delivers an unputdownable read in Cold Malice!

Favorite Quotes

Instead of backing away, he lifted her up until both her legs wrapped around his waist and he positioned himself against her entrance. Then he held both her hands against the door and stared deep into her eyes as he pushed slowly inside. Her head went back as she cried out and her back arched.
She went blind as pleasure rushed through her.
He dropped her hands and grabbed her ass. She gripped his shoulders as he eased farther inside. Sweat beaded on his brow and ran down his temple. She tasted it on her tongue.

After a few seconds, she deliberately clenched her muscles around him again and he growled his approval. He started moving then, pumping in and out of her in long, deep strokes.
Dear Lord. It felt like Heaven. She whimpered at the pleasure that was flooding her senses. Every muscle in her body was trembling with need to race to that sharp edge of completion, but she wanted it to last, too. She wanted to go slow. And fast. And everywhere in-between. Mac changed his stance and she felt him inside her, touching a place that made her insane with want.
“Oh, God.” Her nails raked his shoulders as her body clenched around him. She wanted to be the girl from her fantasies, the one who asked for and got what she wanted. “More.”
“Is this what you wanted?” He drove into her over and over, holding onto her and thrusting deep at the same time.
“Yes.” She gasped. “This is what I want. You inside me. It’s perfect. You’re perfect.”

When her eyes closed he took over, gripping her hips, grinding her against him, gathering a handful of her hair in his fist and rearing up, trying to get even deeper inside. And he was the one in charge, in control, right up to the moment she put a twist into the way she rode him and he was gone. She cried out as his world turned black.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

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ARC Review: Kimjongilia by Victor Fox

Format: E-bookkimjongilia
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Standalone
Publisher: CreateSpace
Hero: –
Heroine: –
Sensuality: NA
Date of Publication: May 29, 2015
Started On: September 10, 2016
Finished On: September 12, 2016

Kimjonglia is a story that should interest anyone that has an avid curiosity when it comes to the ultra secretive regime that is North Korea. When one considers the recent events of volatility involving its current leader and the current US President, the North Korean leadership now into its third generation since the reign of the Dear Leader, its history is of vital importance if one is to understand where the regime and its ideology stems from. I believe that Kimjonglia offers vital insight into the regime’s very fragile beginnings which was orchestrated in a very large and significant way by both China and Soviet Union at the time. Stalin’s notoriety as a despotic leader and his regime’s dark influence is seen in the mechanisms that were used by the North Korean regime in the early years to subjugate the masses, which saw entire families “disloyal” to the regime sent to gulags, killed, or worse. Stories of the abject horror that the residents of these gulags are subjected to emerge and trickle down from prisoners who risk their lives to escape. But this is not what Kimjonglia is about.

Kimjonglia, according to the author of the book, is a flower that is named after Kim Jong. Story begins when Peter Chang, whose heroic role in defeating the Japanese forces in China is entrusted with protection of Kim Jong-Suk, wife of Kim Song-ju, the man who was being groomed to become the leader of North Korea. Kim Song-ju’s description in the book needs no further explanation which I will quote here.

“Kim Song-ju was born in 1912, the oldest of three brothers. His father was a Presbyterian minister, kicked out of the church for stealing funds. Even though Kim never fought in a guerrilla war, many stories about him circulate on the Korean Peninsula. No one really knows how these stories came to light, but there is strong evidence that Soviet leaders, desperately looking for a Korean ally, might have been behind the tales. In reality, Kim Song is an insecure man who loves to spend his time with loose women rather than with men of respect and honor. He loves to tell family stories to impress people, and often misrepresents his real family background. Many people in Korea, China, and the Soviet Union believe that he is a God-loving Christian man, but in point of fact Kim Song is an atheist who believes in aliens. He loves astrology and often makes absurd claims, such as seeing aliens and meeting them in his home. He believes firmly that he was born an exceptional man who is destined to rule the world. The Soviet Union and China know about his weaknesses but support him because he is the most gullible Korean public figure available. Both countries believe that Kim Song-ju will be easily controlled, and they use his incapacities to their advantage. An unspoken war is in progress between the two countries to get full control of Kim Song-ju, and unfortunately, from the Chinese point of view, our position is weakening and deteriorating. Kim Song is getting closer to the Kremlin and has even adopted his new name, Kim ll-Sung. We don’t know why the Soviet Union convinced him to change his name, but we think it was to hide his military records. Lately we have confirmed that he has become a big consumer of vodka and drinks heavily in the evenings. Our source also tells us that alcohol consumption is having a terrible effect on his health, and some Soviet doctors are trying to stop him from drinking too much. He also suffers from numerous sexual diseases. While the Soviets were busy throwing beautiful women at him, we arranged for him to marry one of our finest agents.”

Though born as a Korean, Kim Jong-Suk had been brought up loyal to China and the Communist Party of China (CPC). In the end, afraid that the Soviet’s influence on Kim Song-ju was growing too rapidly, China had been “forced” to convince Kim Song-ju to take Kim Jong-Suk as his wife. However, Kim Song-ju had proven to be far difficult and unpredictable a man to control as CPC had initially thought. Which is how Peter is sent as a live in household staff at Kim Song-ju’s residence.

At first, I did not believe that I would be as fascinated with the story as I was in the end. I didn’t expect myself to be thoroughly captivated by the tale that unfolded, but the story is told in such a way that the elite founding members of the dictatorial and autocratic regime that is North Korea appears in a more human light. I wouldn’t use the word humane on a leader who laid down the foundations of depraved cruelty for his people, but nevertheless he is discussed in a light that sheds insight into the man he became later on. A man who is as much flesh and blood as you and me. A man driven by his baser desires of drinking and need for women that he could never get enough of, and the wife that he kept at home, who turned to another man for comfort which brings forth with it scandalous secrets of the kind that could shake the very foundations of the regime itself.

Kimjonglia also shows the Chinese and Russian machinations that went on behind Kim Song-ju’s back. The Chinese and Russians trying to outdo each other in the influence both wielded on Kim. How the Chinese planted spies loyal to the CPC within Kim’s inner circles, and how the Russians cultivated enough personal information on the offspring of Kim that could have literally broken him into pieces. The hostility that North Korean regime shows towards the US, Japan and the South Korea is a dynamic that interests foreign policy enthusiasts. So does its close ties with Russia and China which has continued up till today. 

Kimjonglia is passed off as written by one of the earliest Generals of Kim’s army, one of Chinese origin, who worked as a spy for the Russians, but eventually found himself in cahoots with the Chinese in order to protect their assets on the Pyongyang ground. Utter barbaric cruelty of the Kim Jong even as a child is displayed in the book, one that barely hints at the savagery he would later wield over his people once he took over from his father. 

Tales of love, lust, betrayal, and treachery lines the lives of the family, and makes for a fascinating read that remains highly plausible once you do more reading on the characters that appear in the book as it unfolds. What happened to Kim’s first wife, mother of Kim Jong and her lover and father of her two kids remains a mystery, conveniently explained by the North Korean regime as having being killed in child birth. Because of the secrecy that shrouds the members of a regime that has become increasingly paranoid over time, what you read and garner between the lines is just as captivating. I just wish that there was more of it!

Final Verdict: Focusing on the personal lives & ties that bind, Kimjonglia tells a tale that is irresistible to anyone interested in the North Korean regime.

Favorite Quotes

“Do you know Kim ll-Sung?”
Peter thought momentarily. “The Korean?”
Hands clasped behind his back, Shao nodded gravely, his jaws tense.
“I’ve heard about him, but never met him in person.”
“How about Kim Jong Suk?”
“Yes, I know her,” Peter said.
“How do you know her?”
“I’ve seen her at the headquarters once or twice.” Several Koreans had fought the Japanese alongside the Chinese. “She is his wife, right?”
“True. You know more than I thought.”
“I’m not a fool. Who doesn’t know the Korean? People say he is full of shit and a coward. How can a man like him become important?”
“Don’t pay attention to gossips. Nobody is perfect,” Shao waved his finger. “Our job is to do what’s good for China. And he is good enough.”
“What if he is bad for his own people?”
“We can’t carry the burden of others. Our concern is only for the CPC.”

Purchase Links: Amazon

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ARC Review: Too Wild to Tame by Tessa Bailey

Format: E-booktoowildtotame
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Romancing the Clarksons, #2
Publisher: Forever
Hero: Aaron Clarkson
Heroine: Grace Pendleton
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: September 06, 2016
Started On: August 31, 2016
Finished On: September 09, 2016

The second installment of Romancing the Clarksons by Tessa Bailey brings us the story of Aaron Clarkson, the driven and ambitious in the family, the one who wants to make a name for himself within the elite political circles. Aaron has to work doubly hard because of the bungling up he had done in the recent past, and this time around nothing was going to stand in his way. Not even the unexpectedly fierce desire he feels for Grace Pendleton, more complication than he currently has the time for.

Grace is a woman who has lived under the shadow of her father’s political career basically her entire life. Hiding in the shadows is what is required of her, and she does a good job of it, that is until Aaron draws her out of the shadows and makes her come alive for the first time in a long while. The scars she carries in her soul runs deep, however, that does not stop her from seeing Aaron for who he can be.

Aaron is a deeply conflicted character as well. There is of course the family dynamics and his complex relationship with his brother Belmont (whose story I am waiting ever so impatiently to read, which I believe is the case for most readers of this series), and there is the ambition that has brought Aaron to this point, something that he simply cannot turn away from. But Grace tests his resolve more than anyone he has ever met, and it was wonderful seeing both of them come together so explosively and tenderly when all was said and done.

I did not really expect to enjoy Aaron’s story as much as I did. In fact, I was pouting with the knowledge that most likely, fans of the series would have to wait for Belmont’s story for a long while. Aaron was in my opinion a paltry substitute for what I wanted. But I was so very wrong as Aaron proved to be a mighty fine hero on his own, giving me something to think about a time or two and of course I loved the way everything turned out in the end. Grace’s backstory was one that was painful to read, something that made me wonder how if ever, would you heal from something of that sort.

Recommended for fans of the series and those who love steamy contemporary romances. I loved the sex scenes in Too Wild to Tame. So wonderfully well done.

Final Verdict: Wonderful storytelling from start to finish. Loved Grace and Aaron!

Favorite Quotes

With a thready apology, Grace shot forward and up, locking her mouth with Aaron’s, memorizing the way his stiffness melted in one big deluge. The way he gave a rough exhale through his nose. That gruff sound that drummed from his throat, a split second before his lips opened, tongue teasing in to taste hers. Just some. The most perfect, slick greeting. The two of them hung there, mouths open, lips wet and fitted together, breath racing, kitchen clamoring behind them.

“I wanted to hold your hand in the woods, too. But this is better. Better. I’m going to…”
“Christ. Do it. Go on, Grace. Fill up my palm with the best you’ve got.” Aaron ducked his head to suck a trail up the side of Grace’s neck, unable to resist a bite beneath her earlobe. Another one. “Girls who get so wet from kissing shouldn’t leave the house without underwear, should they? No. And they definitely shouldn’t leave the house with someone like me. I don’t hold hands. I shouldn’t be allowed within ten feet of you.” He spoke the words angrily into her neck. “This is what I do. I return you home with a dirty secret.”

Aaron’s tether broke. Recapturing Grace’s mouth with an obscene amount of tongue, he backed them toward the bed, satisfaction rippling in his middle when she went down beneath him, her legs falling open in welcome. He draped his body over Grace’s slighter one, eager grunts leaving his mouth as he positioned himself over her pussy and bore down with his erection. Their groans were pain-filled, reaching every corner of the cabin, breaking off when Aaron got back to kissing that addictive mouth, yanking the oversized sweater up, up to her belly, so he could rock against her sex with only his pants and her tights as obstructions.
“Aaron.”
“You were warned,” he reminded her with a strangled shout, delivered into the space above her head. “Three times, Grace. That’s three times more than I’d give anyone else.”

Aaron reached up, fisting the back of Grace’s hair and guiding her down to his mouth, the ensuing kiss voracious, her grinding glides up and down his cock turning into something else. The head of his cock squeezed, followed by his full, aching length…and then he rammed into the back of her pussy. “No…” Aaron growled through the inescapable euphoria of being joined with Grace, nothing between them, but somehow responsibility found a way to grip him around the neck, his words forceful but slurred. “Need a condom. Can’t have y’like this.”
Didn’t matter that he was clean. This…Jesus, this was one privilege no amount of atoning for his past, present, and future could earn. No matter how fucking terrible it would feel to pull out of warm, safe…home. The home he could never live in, but would dream about for the rest of his pathetic life.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | eBookMall

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