Captive Hearts: Deviant Hearts Book 1, A.E. Ryecart

Captive Hearts (Deviant Hearts Book 1) by [Ryecart, A E]

Sometimes tragedy is just tragedy, other times, precious rare times, tragedy turns into salvation.  With no hope of being saved himself, Billy is willing to surrender his body and mind to evil incarnate for the ability to care for the woman who loved him, raised him.  And then Dashiell appeared.  Coming face to face with someone he wants but seeing no way to have him he realizes just how well and truly trapped he is.  It'll take everything Dashiell has in him to believe they'll both escape together.

Billy is in an incredibly difficult situation.  The beatings his body, self-esteem, mind, and heart have taken over the last couple years were his price to pay to give his grandmother the life she deserves whether she knows she's getting it or not.  He's found a way to be numb through it all.  But when Dashiell saves him from a violent encounter his eyes are suddenly open again.  Pain becomes fresh, awareness makes him sensitive in a whole new way.

Dashiell is in a tenuous situation.  Teetering between protecting Billy and feigning deference to Frankie, he's realizing very quickly that his hatred for the tyrant holding Billy's life and their fates in his hand is going to doom them if he can't find a way to get them both out.  The stunning man has suddenly become the center of his world.  They give in to the passion and tender feelings connecting them and when worse comes to worst it's Dashiell's surprising and unlikely ally that helps to freedom.

 Captive Hearts: Deviant Hearts Book 1, A.E. Ryecart

This was an intense ride with more than a little darkness.  The tenderness was there, though, and you can see their true selves shine through everything they do.  It's natural that they gravitate to one another and even more natural that they become one another's salvation.  Their honesty is truly touching.  I love that Dashiell didn't excuse all of Billy's snottiness, that he called him on it and made fun of it sometimes.  He was badass and yet so very kind.  His recklessness, however, made me roll my eyes at times because I just knew that it would get them in trouble.  The constant reaffirmation of his dislike for following rules got a bit tedious.  It did help move the plot along, but it doesn't mean I had to like it.

Billy was truly a brat sometimes and though he knew it he couldn't help it.  His life wasn't the kind that allowed for softness but Dashiell's heart shining on his face gave him the courage needed to apologize, make amends, and find moments of peace in the chaos that was his life.  He was incredibly emotional and I don't blame him for it, not in the least, but I was hoping for a moment where he found his spine, found his inner strength and became something more than he was in the beginning.  To become decisive and defiant if only in his mind until they could escape.  To use his resources and privileges to find solutions not involving Frankie with the support, love, and encouragement Dashiell freely gave.

Their ending was sweet and full of hope and also gave a great opening for Lee's story.  I'm definitely looking forward to more from this series.  Despite having tragedy, despair, abuse, and hopelessness the story was touching and all that darkness made their love and hope for the future so much brighter.

*$3.99 on Amazon or FREE on KU!
 Captive Hearts: Deviant Hearts Book 1, A.E. Ryecart

To New Beginnings, Corinne Mazille

To New Beginnings by [Mazille, Corinne]

All the best decisions are made with copious amounts of wine...until you wake up and have to face the consequences.  Mia is stuck with some of the best consequences, though, when you compare drunk texting with a couple weeks in paradise.  Except what she really doesn't expect is to find the rest of her forever.

Being fired, evicted, and catching her fiancé being ridden by another woman, Mia has every reason to take a break from life.  Her best friend has her back, that's for sure, and when Mia accidentally purchases a two-week vacation on ʻOʻahu it's that support that has her waking Mia up and packing for her before her flight at an ungodly hour the next morning.  A meet-cute followed by a bar encounter sets Mia up for the fall of a lifetime, she just doesn't know it yet.

Beau is running from grief and responsibility.  When his best friend and quasi-brother is killed along with his wife in an unfortunate accident he skips town and ends up on a plane soaring across the ocean.  And then a stunning redhead bumps into him at baggage claim.  A meeting that sends her fleeing in embarrassment intrigues him and when he sees her dancing and drinking at his hotel's bar?  He's unwilling to let her run away this time.

 To New Beginnings, Corinne Mazille

The time they spend together in Hawaiʻi is passionate, fun, honest (to a point), and heartfelt.  They connect in a way they never realized was possible.  When Mia offers to help Beau when the news about Olivia is dropped on him he's reluctant to accept but she's determined to give him exactly what he needs.  Mia sees something in Beau that she yearns for but doesn't know if she can ask to keep him.  Beau feels the same but his life is in turmoil and with all the changes going on he's not sure if there's more in the cards for them beyond their island fling.

But fate isn't about to let them stay apart for long.  Mia can only avoid Beau for so long now that they're back in the same city and when he asks for her help it opens them up to take up right where they left off.  Their ups and downs are more cute and steamy than angst-ridden and chaotic.  I enjoyed seeing them fumble through the reconciliation despite the potential for misunderstandings and hurt.

When situations came up where they needed to be true to their feelings they were betrayed by their mouths and that actually helped them overcome what could have kept them from their happiness.  Thinking before speaking would have doomed them because of their insecurities and fears.  It was when they were thinking too hard that they got into trouble.

 To New Beginnings, Corinne Mazille

The drama surrounding their union and family was resolved pretty quickly and painlessly.  Well, except for the glass to the forehead and the knock to the back of the skull...  I liked the ending very much.  It was sweet, cute, hopeful, and very sexy.  Every character in the story was interesting, even the villains.  With a solid cast we're drawn in to their world far more than if this were just about a vacation fling and a fake marriage.  Meeting each person through their interactions with Mia and Beau builds affection for them as people and curiosity about who they'll end up with and how.  I'm absolutely in when the next story comes out!

*99¢ on Amazon!
 To New Beginnings, Corinne Mazille

Living in Your Hell: Shattered Lives Book 5, Barb Shuler

Living in Your Hell (Shattered Lives Series Book 5) by [Shuler, Barb]

Our childhood has a way of defining us as adults for better or worse.  When your nightmares revolve around your formative years how can you find a way to move on, to heal, to thrive?  Even with all the love and support in the world sometimes you still find yourself slowly descending into your own personal hell.

Shelby was given verbal abuse instead of food, pain instead of encouragement, scars instead of love.  When she finally finds success, love, and a home all it takes is a familiar face to threaten it all.  She thought she escaped her past but it turns out that her past has come back to show that her escape was an illusion.

Charlie loves Shelby with everything he has.  He also has a calling as a Sherriff's deputy.  When his two worlds collide he's willing to do everything he can to protect Shelby.  But how can he protect her from something he can't see?

I loved that Shelby was intelligent, determined, fierce, protective, and so full of love for her chosen family.  She was a kick-ass woman both literally and figuratively.  When there's something worth fighting for she's all in.  With an awesome cast to support her and love her through her trauma as it slowly comes to light she thrives.  Her confrontation with her past makes her fierce before she gives in to shock and fear.  The way she can keep her head in a crisis is both admirable and a surprise especially because the crippling fear that comes from a child is what she's struggled her whole life to get a handle on.

 Living in Your Hell: Shattered Lives Book 5, Barb Shuler

Her love and partner in Charlie is a great choice.  He's willing to help her through all the crazy as well as be there for her during the quiet.  His love for her is apparent in everything he does and he's a good man.  I do think he's a little hot under the collar when it comes to protecting Shelby, though, because he goes from level-headed to so heated that he would make terribly rash decisions if not for the control and guidance of some of his coworkers, family, and friends.

The entire cast was unfamiliar to me because I started with this book, book 5 in the series.  I'll definitely need to go back and read the rest to get to know each of these women and the community that accepts, supports, and loves them.  As for the drama in this book, I was glad that it was mostly streamlined.  It kept the story focused and allowed the progression to flow well.  The additions to their make-shift village were essential to the individual's growth and healing as well as the plot itself.  Each person played a role that was vital to the MC's situation and made for a much more cohesive story.  Overall it was an intense ride from start to finish and I'm looking forward to more.

*$2.99 on Amazon or FREE on KU!
 Living in Your Hell: Shattered Lives Book 5, Barb Shuler

Where I Am, Michelle Dare

Where I Am by [Dare, Michelle]

When what you see isn't what you thought you saw but you spend years angsting over it it's time to ask yourself if you can really believe your own eyes.  Astoria and Parker were deeply in love despite her being so young and one moment crushed it all.  Or so she thinks...  Astoria returns home to Arrow Falls after a four-year hiatus and runs into the man that broke her.  Their reunion is far from ideal but Parker is determined that Astoria will hear him, hear the truth.  Confession can't erase the past, but maybe it can give them a fresh start.

Astoria was young when she met Parker.  She fell hard and fast and just before leaving for college she catches him doing something inconceivable.  With tears streaming down her face and shouting her pain she runs away.  The next four years at college give her experience, growth, and time away.  What it doesn't do is erase Parker from her heart.  She wants closure but her heart doesn't want to give up.

I like her despite her youth.  She's so stubborn that it seems like she wants to live with her grief and anger.  Her youth doesn't allow her perspective or patience to see that there's always two sides to the story.  It doesn't allow her hindsight to speak sense to what she's determined to believe.  Outside of that flaw she's kind, caring, forgiving, loving, and devoted.  I enjoy watching her show her true colors when she finally accepts the truth.  She's also very honest.  When she speaks up and gives Parker all of her, including sharing her thoughts and goals knowing that they might not be what he wants to her I'm impressed by her maturity.  She also doesn't pout or become stubborn to the point of not listening to his concerns or desires for their future.  She's determined to be a true partner to Parker.

 Where I Am, Michelle Dare

Parker is enchanted by Astoria.  He falls hard and fast for the young girl that almost side-swiped his expensive ride.  When his heart is torn in two directions the one most pressing is also the one that shattered his love.  Standing by what he had to do even if it cost him Astoria he strives to make a new life for himself.  Finding no woman to take her place in his life he makes do with a stream of women in his bed.  None bring him peace, happiness, or even a desire for a repeat.  And then he sees her.  Astoria is home and his new purpose is to make her hear the truth and to get her back.

I enjoyed his sincerity.  He struggled quite a lot after Astoria took off and I don't really blame him for the way he lived his life after that.  What I loved was that it was like it was completely over.  The time between meant nothing and there was no angst from the relationships either of them had in the interim.  From the moment he saw her in her car until they were back together there was no one but her.  His devotion to her was incredible and passionate and the forever kind.  He understood her need for space and time before they resumed what they had before the Big-Mis.  The way he also treated his friends was more than admirable.  I was expecting something to instill doubt but there was nothing.

That nothing was perfect for their relationship because it gave them absolutely no obstacles to taking all the steps necessary to build something new, clean, and deeper than ever before.  What did come at them, however, was a bigger drama than I expected.  I had no clue, none whatsoever, about what was coming for them and their friends.  It was incredibly intense and violent where I was only anticipating male/female conflict and angst.  There was some of that, for sure, but the external factor that initially caused it was what grew and took on a life of its own.  It pulled in everyone and threatened all of them.  Evil came for them all and met a bloody, horrific end.

Another thing I wasn't expecting was a lot of life after that point.  Where most novels would end with the huge dramatic event and an emotional descent where a heartening resolution brings the MC's together and gives hope for their HEA, we get a long way into Parker and Astoria's HEA.  We get to see the healing, the changes, the growth, the families, the love all get to a solid point before the words "The End."  I both liked it and found myself constantly checking to see how many pages I still had to read before the end.  It was also a bit over the top.  But one thing I will say about it, it gave a better picture of how family, love, and counseling are all essential to moving above and beyond tragedy and horror.  It was good, happy, passionate, sexy, uplifting; the kind of ending we all hope for.

*99¢ on Amazon!
 Where I Am, Michelle Dare

*Cy and Eve may be devoted now,
but they didn't start out that way.
Read their story in Where I End...
Where I End by [Dare, Michelle]
 Where I End, Michelle Dare
Pretentious. Arrogant. Condescending. Cruel.
All words I'd used to label him. Exactly what I’d always believed he was. All that changed one spring morning when I realized I didn't know the man behind the facade at all.

Angry. Desperate. Broken. Mine.
All words I'd use to define him after I interfered. Once our eyes locked, I was all in. There was no turning back. He tried to push me away, but I refused to let him go. I was determined to save him. What I didn't expect was that he would save me, too.

I was so close to ending my misery. Mere seconds away. Then she stumbled upon our argument, and I changed my plans. She wasn't supposed to be there. She knew too much. Even with my entire world burning down around me, she wouldn't walk away.

I’ve always been on my own. No one had ever fought for me before. Why should anyone start now? But she did, no matter how much I tried to stop her. I knew I was nothing, unworthy of her, but she was persistent. Once she got under my skin, I couldn't let her go, because where I end, she begins.

The Jaguar's Romance: The Apex Shifters Book 2, Emilia Hartley

The Jaguar's Romance (The Apex Shifter Book 2) by [Hartley, Emilia ]

The nature of a cat and the nature of a bear are not too different, according to Oscar who shares the soul of a jaguar, and he's about to entice Sally to believe the same thing.  He's determined to draw out her innate sensuality himself.  And maybe find a way to keep her out of trouble with the law at the same time.

Sally is confused, frustrated, and frightened by the situation in which she finds herself.  Turned into a were-bear by a murdering, sadistic, insane grizzly out to ruin them all for unknown reasons, she's struggling to make peace between her and her bear.  With Thorn as a mentor she feels awkward and very like a burden.  Her crush on him makes her dependence on him bittersweet.  Sweet because he can understand her dilemma and she gets to ogle his hotness, but intensely more bitter because his lover and mate, Felicity, is never far away and her presence reminds her that she'll never have a chance with him.

Their situation is made infinitely more complicated by the fact that her sire is in the wind and his control over her might lead to Thorn's demise.  They need help to solve the mystery and Oscar is more than willing to help Sally in every way he can.

They have great chemistry and I like that the player in him can see what Sally has inside of her.  Not just her enticing curves, but her intelligence and goodness.  There's potential between them because her innocent curiosity and need to be desired for herself are drawing her to Oscar, not just the sexy facade, but the real man inside.  She breaks down his walls and opens his heart to more than just physical pleasure, something he didn't think existed.

Sally and her bear needed more assistance in accepting one another as well as honing her skills.  Her "jaunt" in the woods was kind of a hot mess and unsatisfying to say the least.  The romance was better, thank goodness, and I liked Oscar's explanation of why he accepted monogamy with Sally.  Hearing his thoughts about other women was slightly off-putting but actually not too bad because we knew from The Bear's Home and from the beginning of this story that he is quite the libertine and he had his own evolution to go through.

There's a ton of drama in this one.  With a number of plot points to cover in this relatively short story I was fairly impressed by how everything came together.  I did think it was a bit over the top at some moments and the resolution was slightly unsatisfying.  Yes, we didn't want Oscar to be like their nemesis but I'm really not sure human law enforcement is enough.  And unless the next story comes from Iwalani or The Vet, this just doesn't seem like a fitting end.  Whether the series continues or not, we'll see.  I'm hoping so because I'd like to get to know these other characters (I have my suspicions about The Vet) and I'd also like to see all the loose ends get tied up.

*99¢ on Amazon or FREE on KU!
 The Jaguar's Romance: The Apex Shifters Book 2, Emilia Hartley

*Meet Sally and Oscar before they find one another
in The Bear's Home and find out
how they get involved with the murderous interloper.
The Bear's Home by [Hartley, Emilia]
 The Bear's Home: The Apex Shifters Book 1, Emilia Hartley

Being the largest shifter in the area, Thorn had plenty of responsibilities. Unfortunately, there were only two things Thorn cared about. Fighting, and sex. This made Ripple, Oregon an easy target for other Apex Shifters. Especially of the sly female variety. Thorn could spot her a mile away. The sexy, confident blonde definitely didn't belong here. Not that it mattered... he was just interested in getting in her pants.

The small town was Felicity's next playground to tear apart. With plans to commercialize it with skyscrapers and malls, she could already feel the money in her hands. To make matters easier, the current Apex was a dumb brute named Thorn. Taking over this town was going to be easier than she'd originally thought, all she had to do was convince Thorn... and she knew exactly how.

Stealing A Cowboy's Heart: The Omegas of Sweet Water, Texas Book 3, Beau Brown

Stealing A Cowboy's Heart: The Omegas of Sweet Water, Texas Book 3 by [Brown, Beau]

Accepting that you need help is one thing, but actually accepting that help is a whole other can of worms.  Griff doesn't trust easily, especially not a cocky, attractive alpha.  That's what got him into his current situation.  And when Tex doesn't do anything but offer him a room, food, clothes, safety, and genuine warmth in return for trying to steal his truck and snarking at him each time he opens his mouth?  There's got to be an ulterior motive, he just knows it.  But as he softens he realizes that he wants those ulterior motives except as more time that passes he's slowly seeing that Tex might just not have those.  Who would want a snarky omega pregnant with another alpha's kid?

Little does he know Tex really does have desires for Griff.  He just wants him to feel safe, protected, clean, warm, and fed more than he wants to get him in bed.  He's had his share of omegas but hasn't had any that inspired him to keep them.  No one before has brought out his protective instinct or inflamed his desire the way this scraggly omega on the run has.  The more time he spends getting to know him the more he realizes he just might like him, might want to make his stay more permanent.

Tex had a lot to offer Griff and Griff could have been just the fiery companion Tex needs to keep him in line and interested.  When their rough edges are worn down by their prolonged proximity we see new sides to both of them that give us a more complete picture of who these men are, why they are the way they are, and just how great they could be together.

I was frustrated by their inability to communicate.  They talked around all the important feelings stuff and it made for misunderstandings, bitterness, and hurt.  And the bar scene when Tex knows what Griff is to him, no matter how prickly Griff is, was just wrong.  Totally wanted to smack him for saying and doing what he did.  I get why Griff holds back but to be so vehemently against claiming and making sure Tex knows that but to be upset when Tex respects him isn't okay either.  I think that the relationship angst was a bit too high for such a short story, especially when there's other drama threatening to separate them and endangering Griff and his daughter.

And when it came to the external drama it was like fireworks.  Big boom only to instantly fade.  The confrontations were both sudden and intense only to be dealt with quickly.  While that could have been comforting, it didn't feel right for the story either.  A guy who has a history of abusing omegas isn't really a flash-in-the-pan kind of guy and I was expecting a bit more from that plot point.

The story overall was good, though, because the writing was clear and gave us a great picture of the two men.  Passion was present and very intense.  Their claiming scene was hot but with the angsting before and especially after I was disappointed in the men.  By the time we get to their confessions I had mixed feelings of their compatibility but can't deny that I'm a lover of honest hearts.  With a slightly longer story and a more streamlined plot I think this could have been a great story.  As is it was a nice story with great chemistry, humorous bickering (to a point), a surprising amount of angst, and an awesome mom and friends to carry both men through and make them see beyond themselves.

*$2.99 on Amazon!
 Stealing A Cowboy's Heart: The Omegas of Sweet Water, Texas Book 3, Beau Brown

Sweet Crazy Song: Kings of Crown Creek Book 1, Vivian Lux

Sweet Crazy Song: A Small Town Rockstar Romance (Kings of Crown Creek Book 1) by [Lux, Vivian]

When a second look provides clarity.  When a kiss opens doors.  When grief opens the heart.  When the arms you least suspected become the ones you can't live without.  Jonah and Ruby are devastated by the death of a loved one and while they don't seek one another out, fate has a way of bringing them into their lives a way neither expected.  But without the courage to keep each other close and to change dreams of the future and what success looks like, they could lose the very thing that will heal them and make them fly.

I actually quite liked these characters.  They were flawed and didn't give either of one another any quarter when it came to fear and responsibility.  Together they brought one another solace, healing, passion, and love.  It breathed life into Jonah's creativity and gave Ruby the companionship she never really had despite her close relationship with her girlfriends.  Each of them possessed the something the other person needed.

Ruby was defensive at times but what came out of her mouth directed to Jonah was spot-on.  It gave him the fuel and fodder for making good, real change.  The kind that fundamentally changes a person and their relationships.  Because of her he could heal the rifts between him and his siblings.  It also brought him peace.  Something he wasn't sure he'd ever really feel again.

Jonah was damaged and childish without a rudder in the storm that was of his own making.  Feeling lost and abandoned he didn't know where to turn.  And then he ran right into the little spitfire that was Ruby.  With her compassion, empathy, and kick in the butt, he could finally breathe, grow.

I enjoyed the ride but could have used more of the foundation aspects of relationship-building instead of relying on bickering, passion, and a snowstorm to bind them together.  They weren't really friends as children so there wasn't that to bolster their romance either.  Despite that, tenderness, grief, togetherness, healing, redemption, and love; this story had all of that and more.

*$3.95 on Amazon!
 Sweet Crazy Song: Kings of Crown Creek Book 1, Vivian Lux