Menace (Scarlet Scars #1) by J.M. Darhower

Series:
Narrator: Iggy Toma, Kasha Kensington
Source: Tantor Audio

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


Title: Menace by J.M. Darhower
Series: Scarlet Scars #1
Release Date: June 20, 2017
Format: Audiobook (11 hrs and 51 mins)
Genre: Dark Romance, Mafia Romance
Published By: Tantor Audio
Purchase Links: • Tantor Audio
 

three-stars

J.M. Darhower is my one of my favorite writers when it comes to Mob stories so I was so stoked when this audiobook was released. I may have had Sempre in the back of my mind, or something similar in plot. This was far from it and this one didn’t grip me like that story. J.M Darhower is a great storyteller so I knew if I hung in there, I would be rewarded.
The story starts with dancer/hooker Scarlet (Morgan Myer) selling herself for protection and information from powerful underworld bosses. I couldn’t figure out the significance of the information other than she was hiding from another boss. But it was clear most of her actions were motivated out of an extreme amount of fear.
The hero Lorenzo Gambino vacillated between being a sociopath to a moody/angry mobster. You can’t be unfeeling if you are in a constant state of rage. Just sayin’. Anyway, I am unclear of Scarlet really sought him out as a protector or just picked the pocket of the wrong dude. But that moment seemed to bind them and despite several attempts to pull away from each other, they always drawn back to the other. The sex scenes were definitely the best part of this book because they were steamy, fascinating and provocative.
I couldn’t decide if Lorenzo’s curiosity was based on the great sex or the Russian monster that scared Scarlet more than him. It was like a pissing contest because Lorenzo wanted to meet the Russian who thought he was thought his game was gangsta than Lorenzo’s.
Honestly, the author took her time in getting to the heart of the plot. I prefer faster paced stories or at least great character development to compensate for slower paced yet suspenseful accounts. I didn’t feel that the characters were fleshed out that well but the author did enough to get me to like them.
I was hoping the book would get better and the last two chapters were probably the best in the book and made everything make more sense. It made Scarlet make more sense to me and then I felt empathy for her plight. Lorenzo remains an enigma for me so the jury is out on his character. The writing and the narrators kept my attention and I really need book 2 to be released as this one ended on a cliff hanger.

Ezi

Love Lessons (Love Lessons #1) by Heidi Cullinan

Series:
Narrator: Iggy Toma
(Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)four-stars
Love Lessons Book Cover Love Lessons
Love Lessons #1
Heidi Cullinan
Gay Romance; Contemporary Romance
Samhain
October 1st 2013
audibook
379

Love doesn’t come with a syllabus.

Kelly Davidson has waited what seems like forever to graduate high school and get out of his small-minded, small town. But when he arrives at Hope University, he quickly realizes finding his Prince Charming isn’t so easy. Everyone here is already out. In fact, Kelly could be the only virgin on campus.

Worst of all, he’s landed the charming, handsome, gay campus Casanova as a roommate, whose bed might as well be equipped with a revolving door.

Walter Lucas doesn’t believe in storybook love. Everyone is better off having as much fun as possible with as many people as possible…except his shy, sad little sack of a roommate is seriously screwing up his world view.

As Walter sets out to lure Kelly out of his shell, staying just friends is harder than he anticipated. He discovers love is a crash course in determination. To make the grade, he’ll have to finally show up for class…and overcome his own private fear that love was never meant to last.

Warning: This story contains lingering glances, milder than usual sexual content for this author, and a steamy dance-floor kiss. Story has no dairy or egg content, but may contain almonds.

Kelly Davidson is an incoming freshman to Hope University and he’s petrified. First, he has some allergies that limit what dorm he can reside in as well as what foods he can eat. Plus, he is finally coming out as a gay young man. Imagine his surprise when he finds out at the very last minute that he has a roommate, Walter Lucas.

Walter Lucas, a junior, just wants to finish school while minimizing the stress of his family life. When he lands freshman Kelly for a roommate, it seems like it’s one more person he has to look out for. But Kelly just brings him joy. Being around Kelly is like seeing the world through fresh and untainted eyes. Kelly is sweet, thoughtful and just curious of life outside the little bubble his parents raised him in. No one to give him lessons like love-’em-and-leave-’em Walter. Except Walter doesn’t want to ruin Kelly’s views on love and sex. So the new best friends attempt to tiptoe around what’s going on between them.

Iggy Toma nailed this book. It was sweet, humorous and had that college angst that draws on the reader’s emotions. His narration was easy to follow, and he didn’t use overly dramatic voices for Walter and Kelly. His voice just flowed with the story and I was immersed in the college world.

Kelly and Walter were opposites and that’s why they worked so well as a couple. The effort the author made in developing the characters showed because their chemistry felt so real. For most of the story, there was a range of emotions.
I docked it a star because towards the latter part, the pace slowed down a lot and I just wanted to know how it concluded.
Even so, the writing and the plot was awesome. I look forward to book 2.

About Heidi Cullinan

Heidi grew up in love with story. She fell asleep listening to Disney long-playing records and read her Little House On The Prairie books until they fell apart. She ran through the woods inventing stories of witches and fairies and enchanted trees and spent hours beneath the lilac bush imagining the lives of the settlers who had inhabited the homestead log cabin and two-story late 1800s home on her family farm. She created epic storylines for her Barbies until it wasn’t satisfying enough to do so any longer (age ten), and then she started writing them down. Her first novel, The Life and Times of Michelle Matthews, was published when she was twelve in the school anthology and took up nearly half of it.

Though Heidi continued to write novels through high school (and still has the Rubbermaid tub full in her bedroom), she stopped in college, deciding it was time to grow up and do something meaningful with her life. When the specifics of that didn’t pan out, Heidi ended up in grad school to become a teacher, and through one of the courses rediscovered her love of romance novels. She began to write again on the side, continued to do so while she taught seventh grade language arts and reading, and when she quit teaching to have her daughter, she took up writing with more seriousness, both as a stress relief and as a potential means of bringing in money.

Many million pages later, Heidi has learned a lot about writing, more than she ever wanted to know about publishing, and most importantly, finally figured out that writing IS the meaningful something she wants to do with her life. A passionate advocate for LGBT rights, Heidi volunteered for One Iowa during the fight for marriage equality and donates with her husband as a monthly partner to the Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal. She encourages you to support your own local and national LGBT rights groups, too

Heidi enjoys reading, watching movies and TV with her family, and listening all kinds of music. She has a husband, a daughter, and too many cats. Heidi is an active social networker, and of course has good old-fashioned email.

Last Hope (Hitman #4) by Jessica Clare, Jen Frederick

Last Hope (Hitman #4) by Jessica Clare, Jen FrederickSeries: Hitman #4
on 2015-09-29
Pages: 336
AmazonNarrator: Iggy Toma, Kasha Kensington
In the explosive new Hitman novel from the bestselling authors of Last Kiss and Last Hit a jungle mercenary and a female target find love on the run...Mendoza: I grew up in the slums and lost everything I loved to poverty, illness, and death. I had only one skill to leverage myself out of my circumstances—violence. Being hired out as a mercenary hitman brought me money and built an empire. But all that I've fought for is in jeopardy. My next job: Steal secret information that could bring down world governments. Find my target. Destroy it. But then, I meet her.  Ava: Karma hates me. When my best friend Rose is kidnapped, I have no choice but to take a job as a mule for a pair of criminals intent on selling top-secret information to the highest bidder. I should have known that bad luck tends to cling, because the plane I'm on goes down. That I survived a crash-landing was a miracle. And so was being rescued by Rafe Mendoza—hot, sexy, dangerous. The thing is, he wants the information that I need to free Rose. I can't let him have it, but I need his help. And I need to fight this crazy attraction for this mercenary with hungry eyes. Rose is depending on me, and I won't let her down, no matter how appealing Rafe is.From the Trade Paperback edition.
four-stars

I need to start by saying I barely remember Rafe Mendoza from the prior books. He was a pretty minor character. I do not believe Ava was mentioned at all, and if she was, I missed it!

I found this last book to be the funniest in the series. I also found the writing to be a little different. Ava was a hand model who found herself trying to rescue her best friend from mob boss Duvall who is holding her hostage.

The adventure between Ava and Rafe reminded me of Six Days, Seven Nights with Anne Heche and Harrison Ford. It was survival in the jungle, where romance also bloomed. Ava wasn’t as prima donna as I expected but I loved the jokes about Rafe’s male member. It was just too funny. Godzilla, the monster etc. Hilarious.

The plot was okay, but the gradual relationship between Ava and Rafe, where they were able to provide a new lease of life for each other was a clincher for me. I like how the authors made each book different. Each heroine had their own quirks, their own personality and I never felt like I was reading the same book again. In addition, I appreciate it when authors don’t add gratuitous sex scenes. Even though there was a good amount of sex talk, it worked for the book.

The adventure, sex, and eventual defeat of Duvall’s cartel made this series one of the more enjoyable Romantic suspense series I have read in a long time.

*Special Thanks to Tantor Audio for the audiobook given in exchange for an honest review.

Last Kiss (Hitman #3) by Jessica Clare & Jen Frederick

Last Kiss (Hitman #3) by Jessica Clare & Jen FrederickSeries: Hitman #3
on May 5th 2015
Pages: 346
AmazonNarrator: Iggy Toma, Kasha Kensington
Naomi: When I was kidnapped I thought only of survival. I don’t thrive well in chaos. That’s why I gave my captors exactly what they wanted: my skill with computers. Making millions for a crime lord who kept me imprisoned in his basement compound kept my family safe. When he was taken out, I thought my ticket to freedom had arrived. Wrong. I traded one keeper for another. This time I’m in the hands of a scarred, dark, demanding Russian who happens to be the head of the Bratva, a Russian crime organization. He wants my brain and my body. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intrigued, but I can’t be a prisoner forever...no matter how good he makes me feel.

Vasily: At a young age, I was taught that a man without power is a puppet for all. I’ve clawed—and killed—my way to the top so that it is my heel on their necks. But to unify the fractured organization into an undefeatable machine, I need a technological genius to help me steal one particular artifact. That she is breathtaking, determined, and vulnerable is making her more dangerous than all of my enemies combined. But only I can keep her safe from the world that she now inhabits. Soon, I must choose between Naomi and Bratva law. But with every day that passes, this becomes a more impossible choice.
four-stars

What a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t sure I’d like this one because Naomi (aka the emperor) was quite discombobulated in book 2 when her brother Daniel finally found her. I wasn’t sure how she would work with the ruthless Vasily. But the author did it! I enjoyed them just as much as the other stories.

Naomi (Daniel’s younger sister) has Asperger’s syndrome and it renders her social inept.

According to Wikipedia: Asperger syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests

The person is usually socially inept and get fixated or obsessive about certain issues and Naomi certainly had her quirks.

Vasily came to Daniel’s aid in book 2, only to take Naomi because she was one of the best cyber hackers they knew. Here in Book 3, Vasily was trying to institute himself as the new leader of the Petrovich. Bratva, and needed to prove his mettle as the top dog by finding a specific painting as required by the other Bratva members. Vasily had an idea of where it was but he needed the emperor’s hacking skills to pin point the exact location.

These two began searching all these den of iniquities to find the painting that would hand Vasily rule over the Bratva. Vasily and Naomi just worked! They were both quirky individuals and he seemed to take her OCD issues like a champ. I found their chemistry to be hot and really enjoyable. Naomi’s lack of filter cracked me up. She said things exactly as they were and from a detached literal perspective! Vasily was ruthless but he wasn’t without boundaries. He had a vision for a more progressive Bratva. I liked both characters individually and as a duo. The unconditional acceptance of each other, flaws and all, made this read so enjoyable.

I could have done without the donkey scene, but Naomi telling her brother Daniel about it was one of the funniest things I’ve read! I like that Naomi may have Asperger’s but she was so smart and resourceful. She made a great partner in crime for the Russian mobster.

The narrators did a great job making the characters endearing. Their voices allowed Vasily and Naomi to shine within the plot. I actually liked this book better than the one preceding it. Bravo! The author did it! I enjoyed them just as much as the other stories. The author really elevated her game with this installment. Now it’s time for book 4.

*Special Thanks to Tantor audio for the audiobook given in exchange for an honest review.