Audiobook Review: Under Locke by Mariana Zapata

Narrator: Callie Dalton
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: Under Locke by Mariana Zapata
Release Date: January 19th, 2014
Format: Audiobook (16 hrs and 5 mins)
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Published By: Tantor Audio

He was my boss, my brother’s friend, a Widower, an ex-felon, and a man I’d seen casually with a handful of women. But he was everything that gripped me, both the good and the bad. Worst case scenario if things turned awkward between us, I could go somewhere else. I’d gotten over epic heartbreak before, one more wouldn’t kill me.

After moving to Austin following six months of unemployment back home, Iris Taylor knows she should be glad to have landed a job so quickly… even if the business is owned by a member of the same motorcycle club her estranged father used to belong to. Except Dex Locke might just be the biggest jerk she’s ever met. He’s rude, impatient and doesn’t know how to tell time.

And the last thing they ever expected was each other. But it was either the strip club or the tattoo shop… she should have chosen the strip club.

four-half-stars

If you have read Mariana Zapata, then you know you are in for a slow yet well developed romance. I haven’t read one that I didn’t enjoy and this book was no exception.

Iris “Ritz” Taylor lost her mom, and having no way to take care of herself, moved to Austin, Texas to live with her half brother Sonny. They shared a deadbeat dad who seemed to prefer getting in trouble than taking care of the kids he kept creating. Sonny worked a garage, but arranged for Ritz to work at a tattoo parlor owned by his friend named Declan “Dex” Locke. When Iris showed up, she met this Dex and it wasn’t love at first sight at all. Dex was definitely a douche and a naive Iris was the recipient of his constant venom.

This book detailed the journey as Iris and worked hard to rebuild her life and protect herself from the loan sharks her father But slowly, Iris showed her grit as she and Sonny tried to handle the loan sharks who decided to target them since they can’t find Iris’s dad. This required help from Dex and soon Sonny found herself living with Dex for protection. The two got to know each other and sparks flew.

Callie Dalton did a great job narrating this story. Her voice for Ritz had a youthful and hopeful note and her voice for Dex was gruffy, rude and bossy. The chemistry and angst was palpable that I was on pins and needles waiting for Dex to declare his feelings to Ritz.

Mariana Zapata has become one of my new favorites for a meaningful adult-ish romance (not overly sexy) with characters that are entertaining. I think this is my second favorite book from her so far.

Texas Thunder (Rebel Moonshine #1) by Kimberly Raye

Texas Thunder (Rebel Moonshine #1) by Kimberly RayeSeries: Rebel Moonshine #1
on September 1, 2015
Pages: 288
AmazonB&NNarrator: Rebecca Estrella
The most infamous moonshiners in Lone Star history, the Tuckers and the Sawyers have been feuding for over a hundred years. Sure, the days of buckshot and bloodshed are long gone, but it’s not over yet. To save the family business, Callie Tucker has to find the recipe for the legendary Texas Thunder moonshine. But first she’ll need to make a devil’s bargain—with a red-hot hellraiser named Brett Sawyer.

ROMANCE WITH A KICK

A Sawyer through and through, Brett was raised to never trust a Tucker—especially one as pretty as Callie. But desperate times call for desperate measures. With his ranch going bankrupt, Brett agrees to help Callie find the recipe, sell the rights, and split the profits. Of course, it won’t be easy for these two enemies to work together. But it’s even harder to ignore the sparks of attraction—when just one kiss delivers a kick stronger than any swig of moonshine
four-stars

Thanks to Tantor  for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Set deep in the heart of Texas, this book had all of the making to be a great read.  Two families, the Sawyers and the Tuckers have been feuding for generations.  After a fight between the two families, the Texas Thunder recipe was torn in half to be lost forever.

Fast forward to a decade later, Callie Tucker and Brett Sawyer begin dating in high school, which ends in disaster.  When Callie’s parents were killed in a tragic accident, Callie and her two sisters are dumped off with their grandfather.  Callie had to grow up fast since she was the oldest.  All grown up, Callie is still protecting her sisters but not doing much for herself.

Callie’s grandfather died and left the girls penniless.  Callie takes the family finances upon herself in attempts to save the family ranch.  Brett had to return back home to run his pappy’s ranch when Pappy was stricken with Alzheimer’s.  Callie was approached with a proposition and one that if carried out could save her family’s ranch.  This proposition will require that Callie and Brett work together.  Callie is not sure that she can go through with seeing Brett, especially when she is proud of her family roots.

All of the characters in Texas Thunder were heartfelt and prideful.  I liked Callie but wanted to smack her at times for letting her sisters walk all over her.  I did not like either one of her sisters as they were very disrespectful to Callie and treated her like she was expected to cover their backs.  I eventually began to like Brett.  He was not what he appeared to be at the beginning of the book.   There were also some unanswered questions at the end of the book that left me puzzled.  I have not listened to anything from Rebecca Estrella, but I will definitely look for more books that she has narrated.

 

 

To Tempt a Seal (Sin City Seals #1)

To Tempt a Seal (Sin City Seals #1)Series: Sin City Seals #1
on June 2015
Pages: 162
AmazonB&N
For the first time in her life, art therapist Lucia Lewis is ready to live. And the masquerade ball in Las Vegas is just the place to find a ridiculously hot guy to complete her wicked to-do list. The only rule? Her elegant Venetian mask-which conceals the scars that have always held her back from the life she deserves-stays on.

Navy SEAL Cade Daniels heads to Vegas on a mission to keep his best friend's little sister out of trouble. Except the woman he's sent to find is all heat and flame...and perfectly capable of handling herself. And him. But the moment Lucia's mask slips, the need to heal her, body and soul, is complete and absolute temptation.

But revealing himself could cost him the one thing he isn't willing to risk...his heart
three-half-stars

I went into this book with no expectations and actually read for a challenge.  The writing was very good as well as the storyline.  What I didn’t like was the cheesy ending.  The end of the book appeared to be hurried as if the author was trying to rush to complete.  The characters were well played and the sizzling heat between the two was unmistakable.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas is apparent for our two characters.  Lucia has been haunted by her past for years thanks to her foster father.  Her face is disfigured, and people tend to stare or run.  Lucia sees a perfect opportunity to attend a mascaraed ball in Vegas to look for a hot man to carry out her fantasies.  If she plays her cards right, she will have her fantasy week-end.  Lucia decides to tell her sister, which was her first mistake.

Cade is a Seal on vacation whose father just happens to live in Vegas.  Cade is given easy orders by Lucia’s sister, who just happens to be Cade’s best friend.  Since the girls rarely see each other, Lucia has no idea who Cade is when he attempts to pick her up at the ball.  This reader is not quite sure how Cade knew who Lucia was since she was wearing a mask to cover her scar.  Cade’s orders were strictly to locate Lucia and protect her for the week-end.  The hookup did not include sex with Lucia.  Cade is mesmerized by Lucia when her mask falls off while getting down to business.  Not only did Cade disobey orders, but he also fell for Lucia.  Cade knows what the military can do to relationships.  He has vowed never to fall In love, but after a passionate week-end with Lucia he begins to change his mind.

On the last day of their hot romance, Lucia overhears Cade on the phone with her sister.  Lucia is furious that both of them lied to her and flees home to Tennessee.  I felt that Lucia forgave both Cade and her sister too easily.  I also found in unbelievable that Cade could fall so fast in such a short time for someone that he barely knows.  Perhaps, Lucia has qualities that Cade finds in her sister.  Another unbelievable moment is that Lucia has no clue who her sister’s best friend is.  Even though the sisters live hundreds of miles apart, one would think that Cade’s name would eventually pop up.

I will continue with this series since I love reading Seal books.  I’m not sure how the story will go since the only other supporting character is Lucia’s sister.

 

Dragonfly by Erica Hayes

Dragonfly by Erica Hayeson 2012-12-01
Pages: 338
AmazonB&N
Carrie Thatcher is a tough Imperial counter-terrorism agent. Her mission: pose as a sexy cyber-thief to entrap the notorious rebel Dragonfly, who's planning a heist on the space station Casa de Esperanza – an orbital casino on the fringe of Imperial space.And this assignment's personal: Dragonfly murdered her closest friend, and she's in no mood to show him mercy. Even getting stuck with the partner from hell—Malachite, her sociopathic ex-lover and the Empire's most dangerous agent—can't dampen her relish for the kill.With Carrie's expert weapons skills and penchant for cracking codes, insinuating herself into Dragonfly's confidence should be easy. But is he the ruthless killer she was led to believe? Or has her precious Empire deceived her? With Malachite watching her every move, the slightest flinch in loyalty means death.Carrie is soon racing to uncover an audacious treachery that will shock the Empire to its core ... if she can stay alive for long enough to expose it.
four-half-stars

The Empire’s Imperial war heats up personally for Axis counter-insurrection agent Carrie Thatcher, code name Aragon when she’s is called in from vacation to chase down one of the galaxy’s most audacious and skillful thieves, Dragonfly and stop him. Six years ago, Dragonfly was responsible for killing Carrie’s entire team including her fiancé. Now he’s rumored to be planning to derail an important Imperial negotiation.

But Carrie’s given an anchor for her ankle as the mission begins in the form of her ex, top Axis agent, Malachite. Unknown to Carrie, Malachite’s been given an additional directive. Adding more insult to her traumatic injuries, Carrie finds herself a major pawn in a power struggle between her vindictive boss and her boss’ psychotic opposite number in the Black Ops team.

Carrie is chemistry and she’s worth the time spent reading this book. Her scenes with Dragonfly and/or Malachite are hot the moment they have a scene before an action is taken or a word spoken. What’s a girl to do when faced with a charming psychopath and a sexy sociopath? Stay on mission as best she can of course!

Unfortunately, I’ve heard absolutely nothing about this exciting read that has opened an entirely new sub-genre for this reader. The futuristic surroundings and gadgets; the twisted multi-layered storyline had intrigue, crosses and double crosses; the complete world building and a female lead that deserves a following as rabid as Kate or Mercy are all highpoints.

Multi-dimensional characters, a complex storyline, and an interesting writing style keep this read on the straight and narrow. This medium paced sci-fi romance could easily be the foundation for a long running series, alas that doesn’t seem to be on the horizon as the ending tantalized enough for another good read.

Gypsy by Patricia A. Rasey

Gypsy by Patricia A. RaseySeries: Sons of Sangue #3
on 2015-04-27
Pages: 430
AmazonB&N
Grayson “Gypsy” Gabor loves the ladies. As a matter of fact, the more the merrier. Life is good. That is until a mishap with a sexy as hell redhead leaves them mated. The eldest of vampires, Vlad Tepes, gives him a choice: keep her or give her up for all eternity to his one-time best friend, Anton.

Tamera Cantrell sets her sights on the Vice President of the Sons of Sangue, Gypsy. One night gone wrong, and she finds herself in the middle of one vampire who hates her and one who adores her. She’s left with three months to prove to the one who despises her that he can’t live without her.

Add in one Mexican Cartel, a vindictive primordial vampire, and a rival MC out for blood, and Gypsy has his hands full with club business. When Tamera’s life becomes endangered, Gypsy must act quick or chance losing her forever.
four-half-stars

Grayson ‘Gypsy’ Gabor, Sons of Sangue MC VP, is bitter even nine months after Tamera Cantrell broke the rules, took his blood without permission, became his mate and changed his relationship with his best friend.

Gypsy has three months to decide if he is going accept the mating. Frustrating the situation is Vlad Tepes, the oldest vampire overseeing the deadline is met plus frenemy brother biker and roommate, Anton, is obviously and impatiently waiting to claim Tamera for his own. Anton, is as desirable as Gypsy is ‘a**holish’ for this outing, tries to keep a degree of pride throughout the read.

Tamera wanted Gypsy all to herself, all the time and always but she didn’t want him to hate her. She didn’t think he’d ignore her while his ex-best friend took care of Gypsy’s responsibilities toward her. Who knew a guy could be so pissy about not having two or more women at a time?!? Tamera couldn’t believe he was actually considering giving her away to said best friend. Well, absolutely not!

This exciting installment has things heating up with war against the cartel, Rosalee still running amok, Vlad in town and rival MC, the Devils, deciding to expand their territory into Pleasant with a eye to having it all. They’re all playing for keeps with the Sons. When Tamera’s machinations put her in ultimate jeopardy, Gypsy might have to remove those thumbs and the boys get to flex their Alpha muscles.

This read is full with the Sons following through on their work with the DEA, keeping their territory free of rival MC’s and shades of the romantic triangle interfering so that the club members and mates take sides. This reader was not a fan of book two and left book three languishing in TBR land since its release date. What a mistake!

While not a cliffhanger, book two gave a great entry a better entry for this reader. Those repercussions began this installment with both threads vying for primary within a couple of pages alternately peaking and waning. Since each installment works as a series entry and stand alone so there could be more Sons on the way

Rapture In Death by J.D. Robb

Rapture In Death by J.D. RobbSeries: In Death #4
on 1996
Pages: 310
AmazonB&N
They died with smiles on their faces. Three apparent suicides: a brilliant engineer, an infamous lawyer, and a controversial politician. Three strangers with nothing in common - and no obvious reasons for killing themselves. Police lieutenenat Eve Dallas found the deaths suspicious. And her instincts paid off when autopsises revealed small burns on the brains of the victims. Was it a genetic abnormality or a high-tech method of murder? Eve's investigation turned to the provocative world of virtual reality games - where the same technique used to create joy and desire could also prompt the mind to become the weapon of its own destruction.
four-half-stars

Leave it to Eve to find work on her honeymoon. The delectable Roarke and Eve are winding down their three week off planet honeymoon when a resort employee is found dead and presumed a suicide. Back on Earth, more bodies with the same puzzling pattern turn up. Eve has a very short time to make her case as she falls into a shocking revelation affecting her relationship with Roarke.

With a mounting number of victims, no suspects and no clues, Eve really has to dance quickly to keep the case alive and chase her instincts to solve this new brand of elusive ‘serial’ killer. New characters are introduced, some more likable and some more smarmy than others and entertaining nonetheless. For this reader, the cleverness of the crime was a character as well.

This installment’s a very good entry to the series. There was a lot of sex, it was a fast paced case with snappy dialog and off the pages changes for Eve’s buddies. Mavis career is going strong as is her romance; Peabody’s been bumped to recurring status and gets to show off how closely she’s been watching Eve’s moves. This exciting rapid read wants desperately to be devoured in an hour!

Night Embrace By Sherrilyn Kenyon

Night Embrace By  Sherrilyn KenyonSeries: Dark-Hunter #2
on 12/31/2015
Pages: 416
AmazonB&NNarrator: Carrington MacDuffie
Setting: Modern New Orleans

"Night Embrace" spins the story of Talon, an ancient Celtic warrior who killed the son of the god Camulus.

Camulus cursed Talon, decreeing death for everyone he loved. Now a Dark-Hunter in modern-day New Orleans, Talon meets Sunshine, who is key to ending his curse once and for all. Not to mention helping him to save New Orleans from an ancient god bent on total destruction.
four-half-stars

This was a good story with a twisty ending.   There were some funny moments as well as some serious ones.  At times, the story did drag but picked back up.  Although I enjoyed learning more about this world, there were too many secondary characters that were difficult to keep up with and really didn’t add to the storyline.  I did enjoy the Greek mythology but also found that keeping up with who the different gods were became a little distracting.

I enjoyed both Talon’s and Sunshine’s character.  I found Sunshine to be quirky and her mother to be insanely funny.  Ms. Kenyon always does an excellent job in defining her primary characters especially in the case of Sunshine.  She is very forgetful, loves pink, and has a tendency to date bad men.  The flashbacks of Talon’s and Sunshine’s prior lives were both enriching and important to the storyline.   The sex scenes were drawn out early in this book, but later in the book the reader realizes why the connection between Talon and Sunshine was so strong.

I am looking forward to learning more about the other hunters in upcoming books, especially Zarek.  This book weaved shapeshifters, and vampire tendencies – the best of both worlds.  I thought that the ending was a little rushed and very unrealistic.  In any case, the reader is still left wanting more, which is an indication of a good start to a new series.   This reader is definitely looking forward to book 3 and hopes to get to it sooner than it took to get to this one!

Beneath the Scars by Melanie Moreland

Beneath the Scars by Melanie Morelandon October 8th, 2014
Pages: 262 pages
Amazon
The sound of the ocean, the crash of the waves as they kick up against the sand and rocks—these are the only sounds Megan Greene wants to hear. She wants to leave the rest of the world behind, and find some peace.

The offer of a private house on the beach, set in a small town in Maine, is perfect. Time to think—to be by herself. It’s all she wants. It’s the escape she needs.

Until she stumbles across the painting that seems to echo her own chaotic mindset.

Until she meets the unfriendly artist behind the stormy painting and discovers his secrets.

All Zachary Adams wants is to be left alone. His canvases, and the unending scope of the ocean and sand, are his life. They direct him—fill his hours. Bring him focus.

Until she enters his life.

She dredges up memories of the past—the haunting images he has hidden for years; the fears he has never shared.

A story he keeps buried below the surface.

Can she make him see what he is missing? Can he trust her enough to believe?

Together they embark on a journey where their pasts collide and threaten to tear them apart.

Will their fragile bond hold or wash away with the ebbing tide?
three-stars

A cute, yet predictable about novel about love, forgiveness and healing. I liked the story and I liked the characters, but I found the novel as a whole lacking in both plot and character development. Megan Greene and Zachary Adams were two wounded souls looking to hide from the world while healing from betrayal. Megan’s trust was abused by a trusted friend, so she sought refuge away from prying eyes. Her friend had a secluded place on a beach in a town called Cliff’s Edge and she offered to Megan . On the beach, she ran into the reclusive artist named Zachary and he was really rude. The mean he was, the nice Megan reacted until Megan’s kindness eventually wore down the cankerous neighbor. That’s when the story revealed why each person sought refuge at the Ocean front.

The theme and plot had a lot of promise, but it fell a little short as the author wasn’t able to really infuse the plot with the necessary emotion to make it angsty. It was also rather predictable so I wasn’t shocked when there was a huge misunderstanding leading to a separation. I didn’t feel like I was given sufficient information to draw my own conclusion about the character of both. No real foundation was lain about them. However, it was a sweet story about redemption and second chances. I always love those because it usually means that the characters have evolved and matured by the end of the book.

Bliss by Lisa Henry and Heidi Belleau

Bliss by Lisa Henry and Heidi Belleauon 2014-08-18
Pages: 244
Amazonthree-stars

Rory James just got a job working with Judge Lowell in the peaceful town of Beulah. He is excited to move from Tophet to Beluah because for the past 10 years, Beluah has had no crime and no pollution. It is supposed to be this utopian society and Rory just needs some peace.

His first day in Beluah and Rory gets punched in the face by Tate Patterson, whose also from Tophet. Rory is rushed to the hospital and Tate is arrested. Beluah deeals with criminals by placing them in a Rehabilitation through Restitution program. The perpetrator works for the victim for 7 years, instead of going to jail. The idea is to humanize the victim, and make the criminal see the first hand effects of their assault.

Each criminal called a “Rezzie” is fitted with a GPS chip that allows the officials to locate them but it’s also a behavior modifier. Tate is now Rory’s Rezzie, and begins his rehabilitation by living and working for Rory. Then we begin to see how the “rehabilitation” truly works and that Beluah isn’t the safe haven it’s being portrayed as. First of all, Tate is almost weirdly happy to be at Rory’s beckon call. Then this criminal seems to have no will of his own. What’s up with this program? Rory begins to investigate how this chip affects the rezzies and he is flabbergasted to find out the real deal with the program.

I started reading this one with excitement. That rehabilitation through restitution sounded like a great idea. I did think 7 years was excessive for just a punch, but some people have died from punch, so I went with it. The lack of investigation by surrounding towns or even lack of scrutiny was baffling to me, and I wonder if they knew what was going on in Belulah. I mean, you would think every town would want a non-crime statistic, right? Well this town was full of bad secrets and once you began peeling this onion, it made my eyes water with each peel.

I liked Rory and I even liked Tate. I like how the authors humanized Tate. I don’t condone what he did to Rory, but it’s interesting that he wasn’t a criminal like I initally thought. If something is too good to be true, it often is.

I had been warned that the book had non-consensual sex, but I jumped in anyway. It was very uncomfortable for me to read. There was an Happy for now (HFN) so at least that was a good ending. But if you are squeamish lack of consent issues, think twice about this one.

*Special Thanks to Riptide Publishing via Netgalley

Review: If It Drives (Market Garden, Book 7) by L.A. Witt & Aleksandr Voinov

Review: If It Drives (Market Garden, Book 7) by L.A. Witt & Aleksandr VoinovSeries: Market Garden #7
on March 31st, 2014
Pages: 222
Amazon • (Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)
If it flies, drives, or fornicates, it's cheaper to rent it.

After driving James Harcourt, his wealthy banker boss, around for a year and a half, Cal isn’t surprised by much anymore. Not even James’s regular trips to Market Garden, London’s most elite gay brothel.

But when James leaves the Garden alone one night and turns to Cal instead, Cal’s floored. After crushing on his boss for ages, it’s his wet dream come true . . . until the awkward morning after. Cal still has a job to do, but he wants to offer more. Yet James doesn’t take him up on it; he keeps Cal at arm’s length and continues his chauffeured jaunts to Market Garden.

As Cal learns what James needs from the rentboys, he tries to fill that need himself. But there’s more to James’s penchant for rentboys than Cal realizes, and it may be one role that Cal can’t fill without overstepping his duty
four-stars

Initially I wanted to rate this book was around 3-3..5 stars because it felt kind of rough and unpolished. The two heroes were just bumbling their way through their interactions.
Upon further reflection, I realized that it was awkward because James and Callum had stumbles on their road to a relationship. The book really captured that feeling of roughing it through until they found their rhythm and became synchronized. That’s the difference between average writers and great writers, the great ones make you “feel” the mood and experience the emotions with the characters. So Bravo Witt & Voinov

James Harcourt was an executive in the financial sector and the last couple of years had been very stressful for him. He had work pressures as well as separation from his wife and child to increase his anxiety levels. In order to cope, he would have his driver Callum Bryant drive him to Market Garden to get a rent boy. James enjoyed being dominated, but at the same time, he had difficulty giving up the control. So he needed an experienced hand like Nick. If you remember in book 4, Nick decided to just teach seminars/class so he isn’t available as a rent boy any longer, so James no longer had that outlet. Callum has had a crush on his boss for the past 18 months that he worked for James, and so when James made a pass at him, Callum seized the opportunity. But now Callum has a dilemma, how will this relationship work with James being his boss, and what exactly do they expect from each other both now and in the future? Is this just sex or is it a relationship?

James and Callum’s relationship had some really awkward moments, and I blame James. Callum seemed to know what he wanted. He was gay and wanted something concrete with his boss James. James was more indecisive or maybe he wasn’t even sure what he wanted because he really gave mixed signals to Callum. I really liked Callum, and so I found James to be frustrating. If you love the writing in the series, expect the same. If you are wanting a lot of hot sex scenes, sorry for ya! This one was more plot driven and so it wasn’t like book 6, but I actually prefer these lengthier novels because it allows me to engage with characters more. It was nice to have cameos from old favorites like Nick & Spencer and Frank & Brandon. I look forward to catching up with James and Callum when they have spent more time together as an official couple. I am curious to see if James would be more expressive and communicative

**Thank you to Riptide Publishing via Netgalley for the e-arc**

About L.A. Witt

L.A. Witt is an abnormal M/M romance writer who has finally been released from the purgatorial corn maze of Omaha, Nebraska, and now spends her time on the southwestern coast of Spain. In between wondering how she didn’t lose her mind in Omaha, she explores the country with her husband, several clairvoyant hamsters, and an ever-growing herd of rabid plot bunnies.

She also has substantially more time on her hands these days, as she has recruited a small army of mercenaries to search South America for her nemesis, romance author Lauren Gallagher, but don’t tell Lauren. And definitely don’t tell Lori A. Witt or Ann Gallagher. Neither of those twits can keep their mouths shut…