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

Standalone Sunday: Sparrow by L.J. Shen

Standalone Sunday is a fun feature created by Megan at Bookslayerreads where each Sunday you feature a standalone book (not part of a series) that you loved or would recommend. There’s so much focus on books that are part of a series… she thought it’d be nice to focus on some standalone novels, too!

Feel free to join in on this weekly feature by creating your own Standalone Sunday post! And be sure to check out Megan’s very creative blog and leave a link in her Standalone Sunday comments section so she can add your blog to the list
My Standalone Pick this week is: Sparrow by L.J. Shen. 

BLURB:
Troy Brennan

Every southie in Boston knows that name. The son of a dead mobster. The heart throb with steel blue eyes. “The Fixer” who can make or break you in this city.

Oh, and my new husband.

Sparrow Raynes

That’s me. No one seemed to remember my name up until he barged into my life.
But then he caged me.
Kidnapped me.
And killed every chance I had to runaway from the place where we grew up.
Put simply, Troy Brennan clipped my wings.

I have dreams, big ones, but I doubt he’d ever let me chase them. I have no idea why he’d decided to take me as his wife. But I do know this: pissing off this man will not do me any good. At all.

Sparrow is a standalone, full-length novel. It contains graphic violence and adult situations some may find offensive.

ADD TO GOODREADS 

I’m currently listening to this audiobook narrated by Michael Pauley. I chose this book after discussions with Geybie at Geybies Book Blog and TJ at TJ Loves Books Blog . We both enjoy Mafia romances and people have been recommending this book to us. Have you read or listened to this book? Did you enjoy it?

Enjoy wonderful Mother’s Day with your loved ones 💕!

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.

Souls Unfractured (Hades Hangmen #3) by Tillie Cole

Souls Unfractured (Hades Hangmen #3) by Tillie ColeSeries: Hades Hangmen #3
on August 9th 2015
Pages: 463
AmazonNarrator: Douglas Berger, J. F. Harding, Violet Strong
"FOR FRACTURED SOULS ARE LIKE MAGNETS.
DRAWN TO COLLIDE INTO AN IMPOSSIBLE BLISS…"


Labeled a ‘Cursed’ woman of Eve from birth, Maddie has endured nothing but pain and repression at the hands of The Order’s most abusive elder, Moses. Now living with her sister in The Hangmen’s secluded compound, finally, Maddie, is free. Free from the suffocating faith she no longer believes in. Free from endless years of physical and mental torment.

Just… free…

At age twenty-one, the timid and shy Maddie is content to live within the confines of her new home—safe from the outside world, safe from harm and, strangely, protected by the Hangmen’s most volatile member; the heavily pierced and tattooed, Flame.

Flame.

The man who ceaselessly watches over her with his midnight dark and searing eyes. The man who protects her with a breath-taking intensity. And the man who stirs something deep within her numbed heart.

But when circumstances conspire for Flame to need HER help, Maddie bravely risks it all for the broken man who has captivated her fragile soul.

The Hangmen’s most infamous member, Flame, is ruled by one thing—anger. Plagued by haunting demons from his past, an all-consuming rage, and isolated by an abhorrent hatred of being touched, Flame's days are filled with suffocating darkness, pierced only by a single ray of light—Maddie. The shy, beautiful woman he cannot purge from his thoughts. The woman he has an overwhelming need to possess…
... the only person who has ever been able to touch him.

Flame’s mission in life is to protect Maddie, to keep her safe. Until a trigger from his troubled past sends him spiraling into madness, trapping him in the deepest recesses of his disturbed mind.

His Hangmen brothers fear that Flame is beyond saving.

His only hope of salvation: Maddie and her healing light.

Dark Contemporary Romance.
Contains explicit sexual situations, violence, disturbingly sensitive and taboo subjects, offensive language, and very mature topics.
Recommended for age 18 years and over.
four-half-stars

Holy Cow! If you want Angst, you have come to the right author. Tillie Cole totally dished anguish, torment and then that healing love.

Flame is the most tortured character in the Hades Hangmen. Before this book, I had no idea what broke him, but it was enough that he continued those self-destructive tendencies from book 1 to this book.
When Maddie hugged him and thanked him from rescuing the cursed sisters from the Order, a religious cult/commune that practiced the “lord’s sharing”. Maddie touched him and I knew Flame’s healing was coming. This book was hard to listen to because of the sheer amount of emotional, mental and physical pain. I kept thinking what is the deal with the number 11?
 photo number-11_zpsvd2gl2vn.jpg
Both Flame and Maddie suffered an extraordinary amount of abuse and this book elucidated their past and paved the way for them to help each other address the lies they had believed about themselves for so long. I don’t want to talk too much about the plot because it will give away things that have to be understood in the context of this story and series. But if you have read book 1 and 2, then you are familiar with the plot. This third book is just much more intense, raw and violent.
Tillie Cole is a gifted author. I normally can’t stomach these dark romances but the author manages to write such compelling characters that even though I cringe often, I am rooting so hard for the main characters. There are some seriously heavy issues here which are taboo and highly sensitive. But the author managed to keep the story gritty but encourage the anticipation for salvation though love.
I really ached for Flame and Maddie as individuals and as a couple. I was elated that by the end, there was positive change in Flame ability to relate with others. Maddie was able to trust more and Flame began to see himself in a new light. This book really pushed the boundaries of my comfort but it made the ending so satisfying.
I am very interested in how the author is planning on redeeming the prophet Cain. I liked him a little bit in book 1 because I felt he was misguided. But Cain has made very weak moves and continued to serve as a puppet. I trust this author so I will go on to book 4 to see how she will work her magic.

Sugar Daddy (Sugar Bowl #1) by Sawyer Bennett

Sugar Daddy (Sugar Bowl #1) by Sawyer BennettSeries: Sugar Bowl #1
on 2016-05-24
Pages: 227
AmazonB&NNarrator: Christian Fox, Lucy Rivers
In Sugar Daddy, the author of the Cold Fury series proves that vengeance is sweet—but seduction is to die for.

Sela Halstead lost her innocence in a way that no sixteen-year-old should ever have to endure. She’s spent years trying to forget that night even while wondering about the identities of the monsters who brutalized her—until a telltale tattoo flashes across Sela’s TV screen. The incriminating ink belongs to Jonathon Townsend, the millionaire founder of The Sugar Bowl, a website that matches rich older men with impressionable young women. Obsessed with revenge, Sela infiltrates Townsend’s world, only to come face-to-face with a tantalizing complication: Beckett North, his charismatic business partner.  The tech mastermind behind The Sugar Bowl, Beck always gets what he wants, in business and in bed. And yet, for a man who’s done every dirty thing imaginable, there’s something about the naïve, fresh-faced Sela that sparks his hottest fantasies. Because with her, it’s not just about sex. Beck opens up to her in ways he never has with other girls. So why does he get the feeling that she’s hiding something? In a world of pleasure and power, the shocking truth could turn them against each other—or bind them forever.   Note: Sugar Daddy ends on a cliffhanger. Sela and Beck’s story continues in Sugar Rush and Sugar Free!
three-half-stars

3.5 stars.
This book has a lot of potential. There is a good story here. But it’s almost like the author is doing a strip tease with the audience, slowing peeling of a layer at a time. Emphasis on slowly.

Selah Halstead is a 25 year old student working to complete her master’s degree when an interview with the CEO for a Sugar daddy site caught her eye. Not because she was looking for love but the actual man triggers memories from a horrible event when Selah was 16 years old. Her thirst for revenge led her to meeting the CEO Jonathan Townsend and his partner Beckett North. Now Selah is caught between her pursuit for retribution and her new relationship with Beck.

I enjoyed this story but I found the constant sexual interludes slowed the pace of this suspenseful drama. There was an injustice committed against Selah, but her quest for justice took a backseat to bedroom activities.

The author kept dropping crumb after crumb to give the audience a hint of the flavor but it wasn’t enough of a bite to truly get satisfied. I am intrigued enough to get book two but I need the pace of the story to pick and less sex.

Pros: Main characters, Selah and Beck are interesting characters individually and collectively. my curiosity about their background is strong. The writing was solid enough to keep the reader completely engaged. There was a good mixture of dark behavior and positive hopefulness.

Cons: Very little character background so I am waiting for the character development to improve. Plot moving at a slower pace. Very little information on the antagonist but the whole Rich sociopath trope is common.

I look forward to the sequel because I am rooting for Selah as well as her relationship.

*Special Thanks to LoveSwept via Netgalley for the e-arc given in exchange for an honest review.

Lawless (King, Book 3) by T. M. Frazier

Lawless (King, Book 3) by T. M. FrazierSeries: King #3
on December 6th 2015)
Pages: 276 pages
AmazonB&NNarrator: Molly Glenmore, Rob Shapiro
Thia is prim and proper.
Bear is leather and lawless.
It will never work between them.
It's a lie they almost believe...

*It is necessary to first read King and Tyrant to fully enjoy Lawless.
three-half-stars

Cynthia “Thia” Andrew was a 10 yr old watching her aunt’s convenient store when a biker gang came in to rob the place. When a biker threatened the young girl, Abel aka Bear protected her. He gave her his biker ring as well a promise to help her in the future.

7yrs later, Thia came to collect the boon after she had a terrible incident at her home. Except Bear isn’t with the MC anymore but soon Bear and Thia are reunited. Bear treats her with suspicion but there is a connection they both deny and soon they can’t fight the pull.

I didn’t love this book and I tried to really understand the characters. The characters weren’t fully developed and I didn’t fully grasp the why of the tragedies. This book was more sensationalism than substance and I wanted more depth. The writing was not as engaging as The Dark Light of Day|18278129. That story was more compelling and had more hope and redemption than I got in this book. There wasn’t enough background given for Bear and Chopper’s relationship. I did like Thia a lot because of her sheer grit and determination. I do like them as a couple better than King and Re even though I enjoyed seeing RE and King. They seem to have settled down now with their family so there was less drama.

I would like to know what happens with Chopper’s MC and Bear but this book ended in a cliffhanger. I am hoping that Book 4, Soulless will provide more insight.


*Special Thanks to Tantor Audio for the copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

Black Lies by Alessandra Torre

Black Lies by Alessandra Torreon 2014-08-24
Pages: 279
Amazon
Brant: Became a tech billionaire by his twentieth birthday. Has been in a relationship with me for 3 years. Has proposed 4 times. Been rejected 4 times.

Lee: Cuts grass when he's not banging housewives. Good with his hands, his mouth, and his body. Has been pursued relentlessly by me for almost 2 years, whether he knows it or not.

Go ahead. Judge me. You have no idea what my love entails. If you think you've heard this story before, trust me - you haven't.
two-half-stars

*Sigh* I guess I missed what was so tintillating about the “twist”. The hottest thing about this book was the palm on the butt on the cover. Yes there was a lot of sex, but hot sex doesn’t a great book make. I felt like the author was trying to hard to be provocative and edgy. I don’t know how in depth her research into the subject matter but I wasn’t impressed.

We have a rich girl Layana, whose parents groomed her to be a stepford wife, but she rebelled. She met handsome rich Brent and they have a great combustible sex. But soon into their relationship, they both discover the other is hiding a secret and they both set out to uncover the other’s secret. Throw  ruffneck Lee in the mix and we have a clusterf**k in this one. Jillian was the character who seemed to have the most meat, but I don’t feel like she was done well. She didn’t have to be one-dimensional.

The author makes the secret appear to be tawdry and scandalous, but it really wasn’t that big of deal to me. In fact, I had to give her the side eye for the attempt to be sensational. It made the 2nd half of the book anti-climatic once I figured out where she was going with it.

It wasn’t enjoyable, I didn’t like any of the characters, so I am just disappointed with this story.

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