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

Saint Boston Underworld, Book 4 by A. Zavarelli

Saint Boston Underworld, Book 4 by A. ZavarelliSeries:
Narrator: Tracy Marks
(Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Title: Saint by A, Zavarelli
Series: Boston Underworld
Release Date: January 13, 2017
Format: Audiobook (8 hrs and 19 mins)
Published By: A. Zavarelli
Purchase Links: AudibleAmazon USBarnes & Noble

Scarlett:

When going to war, there are three very simple rules one must abide by:
1. Know thy enemy
2. Be prepared to sacrifice.
3. Always wear good shoes

After all, revenge is a dish best served in stilettos. I’ve got an eye for it, and nothing’s going to stand in my way. Not even Rory ‘The Saint’ Brodrick. He’s a fool if he thinks he can change me. By the time I’m through with him, I’ll make his mafia look like child’s play.

Cross me, Mr. Brodrick? You better cross your heart and hope to die.

Rory:
I’m a fighter. A hustler. A mobster. I’ve seen a few things in my day. But I’ve never encountered anything like her.
She’s a beauty with a beast of a heart. The poison apple I just can’t resist. And in her trail she leaves a wake of men crawling on their knees. What she doesn’t know is that I like my women wild. It only makes it that much more fun to tame them.

**This is a DARK mafia romance. A full-length standalone novel with HEA and no cheating.**
three-stars
I don’t think I’ve heard this narrator before this series, but Tracy Marks hit this ball out of the park. Her Boston accent was authentic and her voice was engrossing and added to my enjoyment of this audiobook. However, for the first time in this series, I felt no chemistry between the couple. This fourth installment just wasn’t as emotive as the prior stories. I struggled to feel the passion between this couple.

We were given a sample of Scarlett and Rory “Saint” Brodrick in book 1, Crow. Scarlett had been introduced as one of Mac’s friends who sold herself at night to survive. In the last book, Ghost, it was revealed to Mack that Scarlett wasn’t a prostitute, but was hustling the johns. She was tricking them and stealing from them. It was plain to see why Rory was attracted to Scarlett. After all, she’s pretty, elusive and blasé about his interest in her. Her continual dismissal of his romantic overtures only fascinates him more.

Honestly, I just never connected with Scarlett. While I empathized with her for the pain and betrayal she experienced, Scarlet felt was more of mouse than the cat. She wasn’t as in control of the revenge plot as she thought she was. I didn’t find her as hard and lacking any feelings like she continually claimed. After all, anger led her to hunt men nightly. In addition, Scarlett’s past wasn’t illuminated well enough, her mother’s actions, the community she grew up. I still had a lot of questions that couldn’t be brushed aside with the ole “they just wanted to be in high society” theme. The author could have developed this area just a little more. Finally, there was a brief brush on Scarlett’s OCD. I expected this disorder to affect her life more and that didn’t seem to be woven in the story.

What I did love about this story was the hero. I enjoyed Rory because he was a really good guy. His actions were never overbearing and he was quite patient and forgiving with Scarlett. While this story fell short of my expectations, I highly recommend this series to all lovers of these sub-genre of romances.

Ezi

About A. Zavarelli

A. Zavarelli is a book junkie, cat lover, and traveler when plagued by intense cases of wanderlust. She likes all things chocolate, books that come with warnings, and putting her characters through hell.

Her tales have been known to flirt with darkness and sometimes court it unabashedly altogether. Revenge themes and tortured souls are her favorites to write and this gives her an excuse to watch bizarre and twisted documentaries in her spare time.

She is slightly obsessed with Theo James and funny animal memes. If you don’t mind these things, you should add her on facebook. Even better, make sure you don’t miss a new release by signing up for the newsletter below.

Audiobook Review: Deathless & Divided (The Chicago War, #1) by Bethany-Kris

Audiobook Review: Deathless & Divided (The Chicago War, #1) by Bethany-KrisSeries:
Narrator: Roberto Scarlato
(Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)Source: IndieSage PR

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: Deathless & Divided by Bethany-Kris
Series: The Chicago War, #1
Release Date: September 7th, 2015
Pages: 245 • Format: Audiobook (10 hrs and 24 mins)
Published By: Bethany-Kris  
Purchase Links:  Amazon USAudibleBarnes & Noble Author’s Page

Lies and love. This is how a war starts.

A life for a life. That’s the mafia way. Damian Rossi owes his life to a man who is ready to collect. That payment comes in the form of an arranged marriage to the daughter of another leading family in the Chicago Outfit. He’s ready to follow through, even if that means making sure Lily knows she’s his.

Lily DeLuca isn’t being given a choice. Forced home to marry a man she doesn’t know and back into a life she’d rather forget, her world is full of half-truths, buried pain, and uncertainty. But Damian is nothing like she expects. His motives aren’t clear. Her beliefs are being tested.

When it comes to this world, no man can be trusted. Someone is ready to flip the Chicago Outfit on its side all for the promise of something better. But no one runs a clean game and these men play for keeps. When blood begins to paint Chicago red, four families will be divided by loyalty, hatred, and revenge. There is no hiding. There is no safety.

No one is deathless.

No one.

goodreads-badge-add-38pxfour-stars

This was one of the lowest angst Mafia romance stories I’ve listened to in a while. The plot was just as front and center as the romance. Bethany-Kris did a really good at intertwining the character’s plight with the Outfit (the mafia) with the love story. The narrator Robert Scarlato did a great job with the various voices. His accent and intonation was authentic and entertaining. I felt eased into the story by the way he chronicled the character’s journey.
Lily DeLuca had been kept out of the mafia spotlight by her brothers Dino and Theo. Unfortunately, Lily was born into the family and eventually had to take her place as a mafia princess. Lily was so resentful when she discovered that her brother Dino has arranged for her to marry The Outfit’s enforcer Damian Rossi.

Damien was an orphan like Lily, but his allegiance was to the outfit. This marriage was just another task he was willing to accomplish for the outfit…or was it?
I liked Damian the most in the story. He worked and kept his head down. He wasn’t overly ambitious and he was loyal. Though he was a deadly assassin, he had a soft spot that was hidden to almost all. He was sexy, faithful and steadfast.

I love that the author allowed Damian to win Lily’s heart. He didn’t just go all alpha male and insist Lily will marry him to fulfill the contract. Bethany-Kris added a layer of cultivation to Damian by making him appear more compassionate about Lily’s reservations. They were a well-suited couple and I enjoyed how they were able to bond to each other outside of mafia politics and hidden agendas.
The mafia side of the plot was also very intriguing. This book had the usual crime, murder, takeovers and betrayals we have come to expect in such novels. I found myself trying to figure out the puppet master and their game. I am hoping audiobook 2 will be available soon.

*Special Thanks to IndieSage PR for the audiobook given in exchange for an honest review.

Ezi

About Bethany-Kris

Bethany-Kris is a Canadian author, lover of much, and mother to three young sons, one cat, and two dogs. A small town in Eastern Canada where she was born and raised is where she has always called home. With her boys under her feet, snuggling cat, barking dogs, and a hubby calling over his shoulder, she is nearly always writing something … when she can find the time.

A Sinner Born (Brooklyn Sinners, Book 3) by Avril Ashton

A Sinner Born (Brooklyn Sinners, Book 3) by Avril AshtonSeries: Brooklyn Sinners #3
on 2013-06-19
Pages: 215
AmazonNarrator: Renard Pasquale
Book three in the Brooklyn Sinners series. Syren Rua is at war. He battles painful childhood demons and his intense need for the first person who makes him feel. As Faro, Syren makes deals with the worst while taking the steps necessary to bring his family's killer to justice. He isn't one to indulge in selfish needs, but he'll make the time in this instance. Syren has been watching Kane Ashby, craving the grieving man for his own. He's always stayed away from temptation, but that's about to change. Kane isn't over the death of his longtime partner. He's certainly not ready for a relationship, sexual or otherwise, but Syren isn't a man who takes no for an answer. The unpredictable Syren offers nothing but secrets and brings with him memories so dark, they could wipe out any chance the two might ever have. Syren brings Kane's heart back to life. But it is also Syren who could inflict the most damage. Inside Scoop: One of our heroes has a panty fetish. And it's hot. This book also contains brief references to rape and child abuse. A Romantica(r) gay male/male erotic romance from Ellora's Ca
four-stars

This story featured Syren Rua (the man with many identities) and his quest for revenge and reclamation of his true self. We learned in the prior books that Syren was working as a double/triple agent against his employer, Ricardo De la Torre, who murdered his family and sold him to slavery. As Syren worked as Faro, he had come into contact with Federal Agent Kane Ashby (brother of Gabe Ashby). Kane was still mending from the death of his partner. But the both of them shared an attraction that they couldn’t deny. Once again, this series pits two men who are on the opposite sides of the law with each other, and like the prior couples, Syren and Kane work.

Out of all the books I have listened to so far, this was the most pain-filled by far. A lot of people were hurting, from Isa, Syren, Kane, heck even Marshal Jack who made an appearance. What I love is the author gives each couple a unique journey to their HEA, and makes it enjoyable for us to follow.

My only complaint was the narrator’s Syren’s voice wasn’t good at all. I realized he was trying to give Syren a whimsical, almost effeminate voice, but it didn’t work for me. But I loved his personality, his fetish and his flight or fight responses to Kane. The chemistry was there, the story was entertaining and I am so glad I discovered this series this month.

Review: Mexican Heat (Crimes & Cocktails, Book 1) by by Laura Baumbach & Josh Lanyon

Review: Mexican Heat (Crimes & Cocktails, Book 1) by by Laura Baumbach & Josh LanyonSeries: Crimes & Cocktails #1
on October 26th, 2008
Pages: 272 pages
Amazon • (Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)
A new romantic crime series from the combined talents of popular award winning authors Laura Baumbach and Josh Lanyon. Tough, street-smart SFPD Detective Gabriel Sandalini is willing to do whatever it takes to bring down West Coast crime boss Ricco Botelli -- including a dangerous, deep undercover gig as one of Botelli's hired guns. But Gabriel's best laid plans may come crashing down around him when he falls hard for the sexy, suave lieutenant of a rival Mexican drug lord. Turns out his new love interest may have a few secrets of his own: secrets that could destroy both men and the fragile bond between them.
three-half-stars

I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. There were some pacing issues for me. Also, I liked the characters, well I liked Lorenzo, and I am ambivalent about Sandalini.

This book featured an SFPD detective, Gabriel Sandalini, and an FBI agent, Antonio Lorenzo who went deep undercover to bust a mexican drug cartel. From the beginning, Lorenzo & Sandlini were drawn to each other, but they were unaware that the other was one of the good guys.
So they fought their attraction because 1) it was disturbing being attracted to such a bad character and 2) there would be no future as betrayal and arrests were inevitable.
Unfortunately, one of them got their cover blown. Now they are in the fight of their lives. It’s hard to even focus on love, when you have to watch your back against everyone.

I never connected with Sandalini. He was a reckless smart mouth kid. He wasn’t as tough as he thought he was. He was annoying. then I didn’t understand how a hardened agent like Lorenzo could be so sensitive when he comes to Sandalini. I like them together but something was missing for me. I think it was the writing. It was too sterile for me. the only real show of emotion from Sandalini was a prelude to sex or during sex or post sex. Whereas Lorenzo wore his heart on his sleeve. I don’t know how the heck Lorenzo made it as an FBI undercover agent. He is too nice. I would have liked him to be vocal with Gabriel. I will read book 2 to see they are progressing.

Ezi

About Josh Lanyon

Bestselling author of over sixty titles of classic Male/Male fiction featuring twisty mystery, kickass adventure and unapologetic man-on-man romance, JOSH LANYON has been called “arguably the single most influential voice in m/m romance today.” Granted, that was yesterday.

Today Josh’s work has been translated into nine languages. The FBI thriller Fair Game was the first male/male title to be published by Harlequin Mondari, the largest romance publisher in Italy. The Adrien English series was awarded the 2nd Annual All Time Favorite Male Male Couple by the Goodreads M/M Group. Josh is an Eppie Award winner, a four-time Lambda Literary Award finalist for Gay Mystery, and the first ever recipient of the Goodreads Favorite M/M Author Lifetime Achievement award.

Josh is married and lives in Southern California.

Review: A Casual Weekend Thing by A.J. Thomas

Review: A Casual Weekend Thing  by A.J. Thomason May 13th, 2013
Pages: 310 pages
(Website, Blog, Goodreads)
Doug Heavy Runner left the life of an openly gay Miami police officer and returned to his home on the Salish-Kootenai Indian Reservation when his mother got sick. In the two years since she passed, he’s carved out an empty life as a small-town deputy, relying on out-of-town one-night stands to keep him sane. Then he meets Detective Christopher Hayes, and they share a wild night so incredible Doug breaks his own rule and allows a one-night stand to grow into a weekend of amazing sex.

When Christopher travels from San Diego to Montana to deal with his abusive brother’s suicide, he doesn’t expect to find the man he spent the weekend with to be handling his brother’s case. He certainly doesn’t mind spending more time with Doug—but then an arsonist destroys the house Christopher inherited from his brother, and Christopher and Doug discover they are the primary suspects.

As they investigate, they discover Christopher’s dead brother has set them on the trail of a psychotic pedophile who will stop at nothing to silence his last victim. However, the search for the victim goes horribly wrong, leaving Doug hospitalized and Christopher at the mercy of the killer

Published by Dreamspinner Press

This book was suspenseful. I knew there would be a HEA/HFN, but unraveling the mystery kept me glued to my kindle.

Detective Christopher Hayes of the San Diego PD was recovering from a gunshot wound when he got news that his brother was dead. As the next of kin, Hayes travelled to Montana to make the necessary arrangements to bury his brother. There he meets a local officer named Doug Heavy Runner, and the two of them connected immediately. The only problem was that Heavy Runner is still in the closet as Elkins, Montana is such a small community AND Heavy Runner felt like his Native American heritage was a big enough battle to fight, without adding on homosexuality.
When the investigation into death of Hayes’ brother revealed issues of pedophilia and murder, the detective had to stick around, and ended up getting more involved with Heavy Runner. As the past began to come to light, a casual weekend fling turned into more.

This was a good mystery. It was dark and gritty, but it wasn’t predictable. The optimist in me kept hoping for some happier resolution, but the author kept it real and authentic. It was a good blend of a love story and a good thriller. I enjoyed the writing. It wasn’t sappy, but it still made me smile at certain parts. I wished the author gave us a little more concerning Hayes’ older brother AND Heavy Runner’s past. He never quite discussed it with Hayes, so I suspect there will be a sequel in this story. I certainly hope so as I was fascinated by the story in this novel.

Ezi

About A.J. Thomas

A.J. Thomas is an award-winning author of m/m romantic suspense. A.J. Thomas writes romantic suspense. She’s earned a Bachelor’s degree in Literature from the University of Montana and worked in a half-dozen different jobs from law enforcement officer to librarian before settling down. Life as a military spouse has tossed her around the country so many times she doesn’t know how to answer when people ask her where she’s from, but she delights in living as a perpetual tourist, visiting new places and discovering amazing things. Her time is divided between taking care of her three young children, experimenting with cooking and baking projects that rarely explode these days, and embarrassing her husband with dirty jokes. When she’s not writing, she hikes, gardens, researches every random idea that comes into her head, and develops complicated philosophical arguments about why a clean house is highly overrated. Her work has won multiple awards, including the 2013 AMB Ovation Award for Best LGBT Inter-racial Romance, and the 2014 Rainbow Award for Best Gay Contemporary Fiction.