Rules of Engagement by Lily White

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Unfortunately this wasn’t as dark as I thought it would be. It involved stalking, but half of the time that part of the story was shoved in the background. Both of the main characters had tragic things in their pasts, but neither of those things were as screwed up as I thought they’d be based on each of their unusual responses to their pasts.

Mia got a pink slip. She had no resources to fall back on aside from going to her parents whom made her miserable. A website dark realities popped up on her computer. It offered to make all kinds of dark fantasies become true. Since she was in desperate need of cash, she signed up to be stalked. The stalking did get creepy at times, as expected. It irritated me that Mia seemed so shocked at what was happening to her. Obviously she didn’t take the warnings on the website seriously or until that point in her life she had been seriously disillusioned as to what stalking really was like.

Donovan was the love interest. He was a reclusive rich guy who was mute by choice. I never liked him. He was meant to be an asshole in the beginning, but I never warmed to him like I was clearly supposed to. Although he improved by the end, the pushy asshole side of him remained too strong for my liking. Honestly I spent half of the book wondering why she didn’t tell him to get lost.

The suspense part of the story was okay. The mystery was who was behind the stalking. It appeared to be one character for most of the book. At the same time, it seemed way too obvious. I never figured out precisely who it was, but this book only had 5 characters. One was Mia and the other her friend. Clearly it wasn’t either of them, leaving only 3 possibilities. The end was okay, but I didn’t love it.

Thanks to Netgalley for giving me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

My rating ★★★

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Dual Reviews: Heart on Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #3)

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Shelly’s Review:

This is the final book in the Kingmaker Chronicles trilogy (well, I suspect there will be more books set in the same world, but it concludes the three-book arc). The book begins with a shocking betrayal before Cat and Griffin head off to find a potion to help her unlock her powers, since they haven’t been reliable.

I’m not quite sure how to even properly write this review because I love the world Amanda Bouchet created and using Greek/Roman gods and mythological creatures was fantastic! I love Griffin, Carver, Kato, and Flynn. I love Lycheron, the alpha centaur. I feel like the supporting characters didn’t have much to do in this one. It’s mainly Cat and Griffin.

We spend a LOT of time in Cat’s head, and to be honest, it took a lot away from my reading experience. Cat still has so many doubts, she blames herself for everything, she angsts, she doesn’t trust, she doesn’t believe in herself, etc. etc. And we hear about it. A LOT.

It felt like there was SO MUCH talking. There would be an awesome action scene and then twenty pages of talking. I felt like there were really only about three main scenes in the whole book, a couple love scenes, and the rest was talking.

The scenes with Cat’s mother, the mega villain, were great. But, on the other hand, the ending felt… anti-climactic. I suppose it was fitting, in its own way, but there was no epic battle. The previous books felt to me like there was going to be an epic battle.

“Little Bean” is Cat’s nickname for her unborn baby. I really appreciated that Cat wasn’t “benched” during the book because she was pregnant. She still fought and was in the thick of it all. So that was excellent. What I didn’t like is just that it was used SO MUCH (87 times, I checked).

Overall, I would still recommend this trilogy. Griffin is one of my favorite male leads in romantasy. There are still plenty of stories that could be told in this world – and I would read them! Personally, and unfortunately, I just didn’t love this final installment.

One other thing I would say is that the second love scene was very well done. It was sexy, yet intensely emotional and intimate. I would imagine it’s difficult to capture that balance between alpha and sensitive husband without making it seem cheesy.

My review for A Promise of Fire.★★★★★

My review for Breath of Fire.★★★★

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Kira’s Review:

Once again I have mixed feelings. Some things were so good. I love Cat, Griffin, and their friends and family. They didn’t get enough page time together, so it wasn’t as humorous as the other books. Lots of page time was spent in Cat’s head while she wallowed in endless self pity and tried to figure things out. In a way it’s a good thing that Cat doubts her worth because I’d probably hate her if she were the arrogant type. There was a little too much of it. How many amazing things did she have to do before beginning to realize her worth?

To wrap things up Cat had to spend time with some new characters or see old ones in a new way. I desperately missed Beta Team. They were there, but it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t really a group effort to do things; it was all about Cat. The good thing was she was making better decisions and wasn’t as reckless. The character growth was needed, some of which came from her interactions with different characters.

I adore Griffin. The guy is almost perfect, but therein lies the problem. Perfection isn’t always interesting and can be predictable. Griffin is a great character, an excellent book boyfriend, but it was so easy to figure out what he’d do next. He strove to do what was right and fair. That part of him being perfect I liked. It was his constant support of Cat that got on my nerves. When she did really stupid things I wish he wouldn’t have forgiven her so quickly. Sometimes someone other than Cat needed to call her out on her own bullshit.

I didn’t care much about Ianthe or Bellanca. They both popped up towards the end of the last book. Neither of them got enough page time for me to get an attachment to them. Neither of them played much of a pivotal role in the story either. It was weird to me how attached all of the characters were to these two. It made sense that Cat cared for Ianthe since she was her sister, but none of the other bonds seemed realistic.

Little Bean are two words I’d be happy to never hear again. Was it really necessary for a baby the size of a bean to be mentioned so much? The way the baby reacted to things was unusual. The baby didn’t do anything, but still had a strong presence. It was weird.

The end had no big surprises. There were a few bumps in the road on the way to getting there. There were some surprises but none of them feel truly shocking. They didn’t drastically alter what was already known. It’s the characters that made this series, which more than made up for the other areas where it was lacking. Overall, I’d definitely recommend reading this series.

My review for A Promise of Fire ★★★★★

My review for Breath of Fire ★★★★

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The Magpie Lord (A Charm of Magpies #1)

This is my first review in 2018! It was a buddy read with my MacHalo ladies (surprise surprise). This year, we are doing themes for our books of the month and January was paranormal romance. The Magpie Lord was the winner.

This book also fits one of the challenges in the 2018 Madcap MacHalo Fantabulous Bookish Challenge Extravaganza (MMFBCE™): Mystery and Mischief. One down, eleven to go!

The Magpie Lord is a paranormal mystery with romance. It’s about a man named Crane (or Lord Crane, as he has recently inherited an earldom) and a justiciar named Stephen Day, who is basically a magician or mage or whatever you would like to call it.

Someone is trying to kill Crane and they are using magic to do it. Dirty, dark magic. Warlocks.

The story is about Crane and Day trying to figure out who is doing it and why and during the investigation, sparks fly. The romance is a rather slow burn, but there is a steamy scene towards the end! But it works quite well because who needs all that angst and lovey-dovey stuff, anyway?!

The writing is great and set in a sort of slightly reimagined Victorian times, I believe. There are trains and such, but candles are still used for lighting.

This isn’t a very complex mystery, but I did enjoy the rather satanic warlocks and their grotesque methods of magicking. (What can I say, I like dark stuff.) I’d like to find out more world-building about the ether and how the magic in this world works, but this was solid start to a series (and actually much better than a lot of “first book in series” books).

Crane and Day are a great couple and complement each other well. They are very different, yet enough alike to be intriguing and sexy.

I’m in for book two for sure!

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The Vixen’s Lead (Kit Davenport #1) by Tate James – Four Stars!

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WARNING: Over the top, silly, fun, sexy brain candy ahead! The author’s debut, The Vixen’s Lead, is about Kit Davenport, an 18-year-old thief. She grew up in an abusive foster home before being adopted by a secretive “Daddy Warbucks” type (see, I told you it was over the top). She goes to a sort of posh high school with her best friend, Lucy (who grew up with her in the foster home). Lucy is a genius hacker type who assists Kit (known as “The Fox” when she is thieving).

Kit gets introduced to some smoking hot, tattooed, ripped guys who are investigating The Fox. Things get complicated and sexy. This is a true reverse harem for adults. It reads as urban fantasy/paranormal romance with a few smutty scenes. Fun!

I am a little on the fence about Kit. In a way, she does TSTL stuff, is your typical chick-lit female (there is a brief “fat-shaming” scene towards the beginning and Kit spends a lot of time thinking about guys and shoes). She has a complicated past (and there may be sexual triggers for some during a couple scenes since sexual violence is a part of her past and the plot), but she doesn’t seem to be affected much by it.

I think the character could be fleshed-out a bit more and given more depth, but since I had fun reading the book, I won’t judge too harshly. A couple times, Kit runs off stupidly by herself (which is a pet peeve), but it isn’t dragged out and she realizes quickly she was dumb to do it.

The guys are SUPER hot and sexy. My favorite is Cole, the huge, muscly, caveman MMA fighter guy with tats. Next, even those he’s such an asshole, I really like Austin. I am ready for some hate sex! River, the group’s leader, with a British accent who wears expensive suits and drives expensive cars is pretty sexy. Then, there is Caleb (Austin’s twin) and Wesley, the cute, geeky hacker.

Kit also has some “special” abilities: speed, strength, and healing, and part of the book deals with her trying to figure out what she is.

Not a perfect book, but fun escapism! I enjoyed it enough to jump right into book two!

Buddy read with my reverse-harem-loving MacHalos!

“Academy of Assassins” by Stacey Brutger – 4 stars

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Morgan has no memory of her life before 10 years of age. She was found and raised by a powerful man named The Macgregor, leader of a coven of witches. The witches tortured and bullied Morgan because she has no magic, only she really does. It’s leashed by a magical torque she wears around her neck and she has no idea how she got it or what it’s true purpose is.

The Macgregor taught her to hunt and she is spectacular at it. She calls herself a mutt, but she is faster, stronger, than humans, and can heal. So she is something more, but we don’t know for most of the book.

Morgan finds herself at an academy, where she will train with other hunters. Since she trained so hard for so many years, it’s not surprising she finds herself on an elite team. Ryder, the shifter. Kincade, the leader, who is something unusual and smells of stone. Draven, the siren. Atlas, the fae.

There is someone else named Ascher too, but I won’t go into him because spoilers.

This reads like an urban fantasy with romance. It’s described as a slow burn reverse harem and that is accurate. There is bonding and kissing, but no sex. I really like all Morgan’s guys.

The world is interesting. The witches view everyone else as “less” and beneath them. They are the ones who can open and close portals and must be protected by the hunters. They get to “claim” shifters, who are treated as second-class citizens.

In this one, there is a murder mystery. Someone is killing women and carving runes onto their bodies, trying to perform a ritual, but failing. Part of the reason Morgan goes to the academy is to find out who the killer is. She ends up finally finding a place where she belongs.

There is a lot going on in this book and it could use a better editing job. But I liked the story and characters enough that the errors didn’t bother me.

I thought even though Morgan did some dumb things, it was acceptable because of her background. She has to learn to rely on other people and work as a team and trust does not come easy to her for good reason. But there is a lot of growth and I liked her.

I liked the supporting characters and even though the villains ended up being a bit predictable, I still thought this was a very solid and enjoyable first book in a series. I can’t wait to read the next one and see what happens with Morgan and her guys!

Buddy read with my reverse-harem-loving MacHalo girls!

Romance Freebies!

There have been a lot of good kindle freebies lately. I thought I’d share with you some I’ve found that actually seem like they’re worth reading. I’ve had my eye on some of these for a while and have been waiting for a price drop. These may not be free for long so grab them while you can!

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Series: Dollar #1  Genre: dark romance Get it here.

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Series: Twin Estates #1 Genre: contemporary romance Get it here.

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Series: Sophie Shields #1 Genre: romantic suspense Get it here.

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Series: Stay #2 Genre: dark romance Get it here.

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Series: Shattered Secrets #1 Genre: dark romance Get it here.

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Series: Enamorado #1 Genre: contemporary romance Get it here.

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Series: Deliver #1 Genre: dark romance Get it here.

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Series: The Games Duet #1 Genre: BDSM romance Get it here.

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Series: Freakn’ Shifters #1 Genre: paranormal romance Get it here.

Freaky Friday – The Reverse Harem Trope

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So, this one isn’t really freaky, but some people might consider it weird and “not for them.” The reverse harem: one female with multiple males. Now, this trope is found in several Young Adult novels/series, so of course there is no sex. It’s just the female having her own small pack of boys who worships the ground she walks on. She might have a special bond with them, magical or otherwise, they may kiss, but there’s really no smut… because, YA.

The “grown up” version usually refers to books like this as ménage and classifies it as erotica because there is plenty of smut.

The term seems to have originated with Japanese anime.

This is a trope I am LOVING right now, so I thought I would share a few books with you that feature it. First, on the Young Adult side:

The Seraph Black series and Curse of the Gods, both by Jane Washington, have a female main character bonded to four young men. They are fantastic!

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The Academy series by C.L. Stone. I have not read this one yet, but it supposedly features a reverse harem.

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Finding My Pack by Lane Whitt. This one supposedly is a bit more mature. I have yet to read this one either, but looking forward to trying it out.

On the definitely-for-adults-only side:

Pretty much anything by Kaitlyn O’Connor. Her books have cyborgs and aliens, so strap on your sci-fi belts!

The Merry Gentry series by Laurell K. Hamilton. I LOVED this and it does have tons of sex in it, but I also loved the characters and world-building. Yes, there is actual plot, although Merry does have a lot of men. I love them all too!

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If you’re curious and looking for more recs, there is a list dedicated to nothing but reverse harem books at Goodreads (both adult and YA)!

Until next time, try something new, be weird, and remember: most of these books are available on Kindle, so you can hide the covers and no one will know you are reading about harems or alien sex!

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