Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Sapphire Affair by Lauren Blakely


Bounty hunter Jake Harlowe knows how to track a criminal. So when a group of swindled shareholders hires him to trail their former CEO, Jake expects a quick trip to the Cayman Islands to close another case. Until a devastatingly beautiful woman gets in the way.

Steph Anderson is visiting the Caymans for a rock climbing and dive trip—or so she tells Jake. She’s really trying to find out whether or not her stepfather embezzled money from his company. The last thing Steph needs is the distraction of a sexy, charming man whose kisses drive her wild.

Soon, the pair discover they’re after the same target—and millions in jewels. While Jake can’t be certain Steph isn’t working for her stepfather, and Steph can’t be certain Jake isn’t after the diamonds for himself, they can agree the heat between them is intense, and neither can deny the passion for long.

But the morning after, Steph discovers that she just might have slept with the enemy, and now she’ll have to outwit him to get everything she needs…

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Book 1
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Ruthie☆☆☆☆
This is a hot, sexy, and mysterious read, with a good dose of humour and fun thrown in. Jake is without doubt a man that you can immediately picture as a delicious alpha male; with a military background; a family business that ensures his orphaned siblings get the best all the same; and a history of mixing business with pleasure that he never plans on repeating. Steph has also been burned when her ex ruined her business, and her ex-step-dad stole from her mother, so men are not in the agenda, until she sees Jake!

Of course they are both after the same man, and have to deal with a level of chemistry that is off the charts, their distrust of each other, and trying to solve the mystery of where the money is... I read a lot of mystery books, and this plot works well, especially given the underlying issues of passion and romance that feature large. I love the humour, which for me fitted the scenario of being in the holiday paradise of the Caymans.

I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series and seeing how things can move forward now.



Lauren Blakely writes sexy contemporary romance novels with heat, heart, and humor. She is the author of eight New York Times bestsellers and sixteen USA Today bestsellers. Her series include Sinful Nights, Seductive Nights, No Regrets, Caught Up in Love, and Fighting Fire, as well as stand-alone romances like 21 Stolen Kisses and Big Rock. She also writes for young adults under the name Daisy Whitney. Lauren believes life should be filled with family, laughter, and the kind of love that romantic songs promise. She lives in California with her husband, children, and dogs.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of The Sapphire Affair (Jewel #1) by Lauren Blakely to read and review.

Hat Trick by Meg Harding


Nathan Barres has always loved hockey before anything else. When a one-night stand with Felix Moore gives him emotions, he flees the scene. He's not expecting to see Felix ever again. So when an injury knocks him out of the game for several weeks, he's less than pleased to see the Winnipeg Wolves' newest trainer is none other than Felix.

Almost two years later, the feelings are still there. Nathan does his best to shove them to the back burner and ignore the temptation Felix presents. That is, until Felix makes him an offer that's just a little too tempting--with amazing results. He's a hockey player after all, and they're nothing if not superstitious. If Felix is his good-luck charm, who is he to resist?

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Loose  Id



Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Rachael☆☆☆☆
I have to say that I rather enjoyed this book. There was a lot of miscommunication, but in some situations (such as the one that these men find themselves in) this does happen. I thought it was sexy and fun.

I will say that I felt the hockey aspect was skimmed over as the games were so condensed and the way they were written, I found myself rather uninterested in most of them. However, the way it brought the two men together I did like.

The way the issues were resolved, I didn't particularly like, as I felt that it was not all that realistic. Men just don't act like that (the teammates). Or at least if things had been so obvious to them, there is no doubt that the other two men would've picked up on things. The fact that they both had this light bulb moment as soon as things were pointed out, just didn't really work to me.

However, other than that, I did like the story.


Ruthie☆☆☆☆
I am a big fan of sports romances, and MM, so I always enjoy a combination of the two. This one is particularly good, as it is somewhat understated and involves some really good friends sorting out two somewhat deluded men!

It is a short, sweet, and low stress book, which is very enjoyable. I think there could be some more stories from the team. Hint, hint Ms. Harding...



Meg Harding is a graduate of UCF, and is completing a master’s program for Publishing. For as long as she can remember, writing has always been her passion, but she had an inability to ever actually finish anything. She’s immensely happy that her inability has fled and looks forward to where her mind will take her next. She’s a sucker for happy endings, the beach, and superheroes.  In her dream life she owns a wildlife conservation and is surrounded by puppies. She’s a film buff, voracious reader, and a massive geek.

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http://www.loose-id.com


Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Hat Trick by Meg Harding to read and review.

Butterball by Michelle King


For Travis, it was business as usual at the office of Wentwood Investments, other than the annoying task of finding a new account manager for his expanding department. Everything changed the moment Jeremy Roberson walked into the room for a job interview. The cuddly butterball was everything Travis liked in a partner…other than the closet locked around him.

The closet’s walls may have been cold, but the heat between Jeremy and Travis scorched. Nothing could stop the firestorm, not even the threat of a lawsuit or the disapproval of the dreaded HR department. They needed each other, emotionally and professionally. Unfortunately, fear held Jeremy. It was a fear Travis knew well.

If he was going to find paradise alongside Jeremy, it appeared he’d have to help his secret partner claim his homosexuality. It wouldn’t be much fun, no, but it wouldn’t be the first closet he’d stormed. And Jeremy was worth it.

Publisher's Note: Butterball was previously released by another publisher but it has been revised and re-edited in this version.

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Book 1
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Loose  Id



Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Ruthie☆☆☆
I have mixed feelings about this story – because if I ignore some of the stranger parts which do not seem consistent or logical, then there is a rather cute love story in there. But the strange bits do exist, and did have me slowing down and questioning what I had read already. I found the D/s references to be incongruous when in reference to Jeremy (D?) and his previous, female partner Annabel (s?). When Travis used them in reference to himself (D) and Jeremy (s), they made more sense, but still not entirely in a recognised manner. Sadly, there were other bits which distracted me, like Travis's PA being married to the senior partner, who was also Head of HR and his mentor...let alone JoBeth getting so involved.

Travis and Jeremy's times alone were much more enjoyable and interesting. Jeremy's issues with unemployment, the need for a job, and his desperation after getting bad news were built up effectively, and his loneliness was amplified in that scene.

Other than being so confused by the initial BDSM references, and the occasional leap of topic (visiting the LGBT centre, etc.), I did enjoy the underlying story.


Erica☆☆
I'm adding my thoughts as I read this novella, because the frustration and confusion is making my reading experience uncomfortable. I think if I read this book quickly, not getting stuck on "Anabel's BDSM Master" and the fact that I write this subject matter, I wouldn't be so nitpicky.

At the start, the reader is dropped into a conversation between Travis and his longtime friend, JoBeth, going straight into Jeremy's story. This conversation made me uncomfortable for many reasons. But the #1 reason, the TMI conversation between colleagues breached all rules and laws within the community. Right down to discussing how JoBeth waxes Anabel's private parts, when I thought her profession wasn't an esthetician.

Hearsay, a pair of friends are discussing a mutual friend, Anabel, whom the reader hasn't met. I highlighted passages that confused me. First: in a D/s relationship, it is built on trust, trust that you don't share the details that happen within a scene outside of it. Common sense. Anabel was upset about her relationship with her former master, to the point she told JoBeth, whom in turn is telling Travis all the juicy details, which is exactly why it is 'former' master. JoBeth, upset for Anabel, wants Travis to teach Jeremy a lesson...when JoBeth was a horrible submissive for sharing private, intimate details of their time together, which turned into a gossip version of the telephone game.

Another point of contention: Jeremy, Anabel's BDSM Master. (highlighted quotes direct from the book)

Jeremy? Anabel's BDSM Master?" ... "Their sex play often required Anabel to force him..." ... "He needed a beating, a bloody back, rulers across his palms, verbal scorn."... "Structurally, Jeremy could take his muscle and dominance. He didn't need to worry about bruising or breaking his partner. He also didn't need to feel like he was constantly wrestling for dominance."

BDSM Master = DOMINANT To be Anabel's BDSM Master, Jeremy would have to be the dominant, and Anabel the submissive.

Why is Jeremy being dominated by his submissive, added on top of that masochism? Anabel wouldn't be trained in offering these things, nor of the correct nature to administer it. Pages later, when Travis and Jeremy meet face-to-face, Travis' inner monologue has Jeremy as a submissive, cuddly butterball. Sweet. Excuse me? The author just told the reader Jeremy was not only a dominant personality, but one trained to be a BDSM MASTER.

The story is basically about two middle-age dominant males – #1 Hot and successful, #2 Not and unemployed – with #1 treating #2 as a submissive, yet this trained dominant male submits without issue. To clear this up, it would have been better to state that Anabel was the BDSM Master, and Jeremy was her submissive. Because nowhere in the rest of the book, does Jeremy exhibit any dominant tendencies. In fact, insecurity is attributed to being submissive, as if that doesn't universally plague most people.

I need to also add, being dominant doesn't mean you treat others as if they are beneath you. An A$$hole, in thought and in action. Also, being male doesn't mean you're dominant, and female submissive. Going by what was told vs shown, it would have made more sense for Anabel to be the dominant and Jeremy the submissive from the get-go (even still, she shouldn't be spreading their private information around).

After reading the blurb, thinking I'd find an empowering story where a larger man comes to terms with who he truly is, instead it's a BDSM story with conflicting tenets of the lifestyle, where the hotter guy makes the insecure guy feel worse about himself. What I took away from it, "You're a butterball, so you're the submissive one, even if you're a trained BDSM Master." Fat = submissive.

Thrown in there are abusive pasts, horrible parents, half-owning a gay club, BDSM, closeted dominant (submissive?!?), volunteering at a LGBTQ group... and then some. Just too much without truly developing (researching) solid plot devices.

I was hoping for a realistic book about how body size isn't an indicator on beauty. Size is measurable, beauty is not. To bring a meme into this that I saw last week. "I'm Fat." "No, you're beautiful." "Did I say I was ugly?" Fat doesn't equate ugly, and I had hoped this book would draw that to light. Instead it hammered home the fact that it was indeed pitiable. The butterball character was written in an ugly fashion, and I don't mean his weight. Scenes where he was spineless, gluttonous, and lazy. It's hard to like a character who comes off as pitiful.

I have other thoughts, but those were mirrored in other reviews I read. Such as how bottoming doesn't equate submission, just as topping doesn't equate dominance. Some gay men don't do penetrative sex. Sex isn't a BDSM activity, even when it's used in conjunction with kink. There are many BDSM practices that are nonsexual in nature, so to equate the sexual position one takes...

Yes, I am slightly overweight, and know many overweight people, all of which deserve love, are in solid relationships, are physically beautiful, and successful in life. Just as I've known many thinner people who don't have their lives together. Neither is better or worse than the other, which is what I thought the book would be about, instead of harmful stereotypes.



Long known as a bookseller and reviewer under moniker of Mystique Books, author Michelle King finally put her side projects aside, picked up a pen, and set about writing the books she loves. Her talent is the ability to cross genre lines and hybridize romance novels. Her passion is FF&P romance novels, specifically futuristic romance. The idea of exploring how we are and how we love while dancing among the stars is something she finds endlessly fascinating.

A graduate of Seton Hill’s MFA program of Writing Popular Fiction, Michelle is often found typing away on her keyboard while surrounded by the beauty and glory of the Pacific Northwest. She also spends time supporting her fellow SHU and Amber Quill alumni as well as her local writing chapters and aspiring authors. She is caretaker of a cabal of monstrously spoiled cats.

Connect with Michelle

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http://www.loose-id.com


Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Butterball (Portland's Men #1) by Michelle King to read and review.

Yellow Streak by Susan Laine


Yancy Bell, a book geek with a bladder problem, saved the life of suicidal gay jock Curt Donovan. But when Curt returns to college after the Christmas holidays pretending he doesn’t know Yancy, warning bells go off.

Has a frightened Curt decided the safety of the closet is preferable to coming out? A remorseful Curt comes knocking on Yancy’s door in the dead of the night. Yancy wants to help Curt find the courage to proudly be himself and pursue his dreams, but first Curt needs to come to terms with his past acts. Yancy can only hope their reunion ends in light, not darkness.

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Book 2
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Dreamspinner Press



Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Ruthie☆☆☆
This short second episode of Yancy and Curt's story, follows on directly from the last book. Yancy has returned from the Christmas break, and is waiting to see how Curt's holidays went. It is a pleasing storyline, but that you should find out for yourself.

What I would like to say is that there are times when I have a momentary pause to reflect on the level of flowery prose that Yancy uses. However, he is an English Lit major and it does fit his character really well. Curt is much shorter in his conversational tone, but honest in his progress as he reveals his true self.

Looking forward to the next instalment. There is a hint at the end of the book, but I decided I would rather wait and read it in full!


Also Available in the Heroes at Heart Series

Book 1
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Dreamspinner Press

For reviews & more info, check out our Yellowbelly Hero post.


Book 3
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Dreamspinner Press


Book 4
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Dreamspinner Press



SUSAN LAINE, an award-winning, multi-published author of LGBTQ erotic romance and a Finnish native, was raised by the best mother in the world, who told her daughter time and again that she could be whatever she wanted to be. The spark for serious writing and publishing kindled when Susan discovered the gay erotic romance genre. One of her books, Monsters Under the Bed, won the 2014 Rainbow Award for Best Gay Paranormal Romance.

Anthropology is Susan’s formal education, but she has set her long-term sights on becoming a full-time writer. Susan enjoys hanging out with her sister, two nieces, and friends in movie theaters, bookstores, and parks. Her favorite pastimes include pop music, action flicks, chocolate, and doing the dishes, while a few of her dislikes are sweating hot summer days, tobacco smoke, and purposeful prejudice.

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https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com


Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Yellow Streak (Heroes at Heart #2) by Susan Laine to read and review.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Boy Next Door by Kate McMurray


Life is full of surprises and, with luck, second chances.

After his father’s death, Lowell leaves the big city to help his sick mother in the conservative small town where he grew up. He’s shocked to find himself living next to none other than his childhood friend Jase. Lowell always had a crush on Jase, and the man has only gotten more attractive with age. Unfortunately Jase is straight, now divorced, and raising his six-year-old daughter. It’s nice to reconnect, but Lowell doesn’t see a chance for anything beyond friendship.

Until a night out together changes everything.

Jase can’t fight his growing feelings for Lowell, and he doesn’t want to give up the happy future they could have. But his ex-wife issues an ultimatum: he must keep his homosexuality secret or she’ll revoke his custody of their daughter, Layla. Now Jase faces an impossible choice: Lowell and the love he’s always wanted, or his daughter.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Erica☆☆☆
Katie McMurray is a new-to-me author, and I found the writing style enjoyable to read, but found a few scenes redundant in nature, slowing the pacing down to a crawl at a few parts.

Lowell buys a new home in his hometown to be near his ailing mother, only to discover he inadvertently moved in next door to his childhood friend. Lowell and Jase’s friendship had fallen apart in junior high, with Jase moving toward being jock and Lowell coming out and turning into the town’s pariah.

Fast-forward many years, Lowell feels safe to come home now that his abusive, alcoholic father has passed, only to find his old friend a divorcee with a six-year-old little girl.

For the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed the story, but there were a few things that were off-putting. Lowell was a good narrator, with a strong characterization that never floundered. However, I felt Jase to be a weak character, as his personality wavered as the story flowed, so I never truly felt I knew him, even when I was inside his head. Most of the things he said or did were irrational, sounding more like a flighty woman who blamed all of their issues on everyone, while giving themselves permission to dwell in their problems – when the only issue Jase has is himself. The only thing in the way of Jase’s happiness is Jase. No actual issues to be had, aside from boundaries with his ex-wife. Jase whined about his life but did nothing to change it, actually enabling the problems to continue and fester by apologizing for who he is.

Any and all conflict in the story was due to Jase not dealing with his ex-wife, whom I felt was written one way while Jase’s narration showed conflicting arguments on her as a person. Responsible. Irresponsible. Good mother. Bad mother. Good friend and wife. Bad friend and wife. Human nature dictates that you can’t be both at the same time. So I felt the author needed to find a middle ground by making sure the characterization wasn’t conflicting – contradictory. Mentally disturbed, when prior she was shown to not have any such mental illnesses. Pre-divorce, Jase’s narrative states his wife was a good wife and mother, attentive and loving. She divorced him, yet is written to be the spurned wife? Now she is a deadbeat, flighty, homophobic, rash actions, which Jase blames Lowell instead, who doesn’t stick up for himself by telling Jase he’s acting irrational.

The major conflict, I didn’t enjoy because of the contradiction and the fact that I felt there was never any true closure. The ex-wife went ‘away’, but the problems were never dealt with, as the problem wasn’t the ex-wife but how Jase kowtowed to her – actually agreed with her, blaming Lowell instead of himself, or his ex, or no one because no one was to blame. Why does anyone have to be blamed for the ‘core’ issue? He never apologized, and Lowell didn’t stand up for himself. Yes, Jase was scared, but that doesn’t give a person license to say what was said – you’re at your basest when angry or drunk, those words were meant, and Lowell shouldn’t be with someone so disillusioned and irrational if they truly believed them. By book’s end, I wanted Jase to own who he was, and he didn’t. It just ended.

”If you hadn’t moved here…

How about take ownership in your own choices? Whether Lowell moved back to their hometown or not, the situation was still the same – the actions belong to the person committing them, and I didn’t like how that was portrayed, influencing readers to not take responsibility for their own actions or to stand up for themselves. An abused boy grew up to be treated disrespectfully by his partner, as the author wrote it. Jase was no better than his ex-wife. Actually, the ex-wife took responsibility for her actions, while Jase never did.

For such a short novel, there were many redundant scenes, with many being between the sheets action. A few I felt took away from the emotional impact that was being written on the pages, lessening it. I skimmed all these scenes after the halfway mark, completely skipping one that occurred within a paragraph after an important fight. It was the wrong time, not only unnecessary, it brought nothing to the story except to lessen the emotional impact. It was in that scene, instead of sex, when the issues I outlined above should have been addressed, when the guys were having a ‘moment.’

Issues aside, I do recommend this title to MM romance fans, (I must apologize, because I read a book like an editor, not a reader – wish that wasn’t the case). I’d be willing to give the author another try to see if it was the plot of this book (Jase the character) or the writing style that isn’t my cup of tea. Sometimes a plot or character and the reader just don’t mix – hit or miss – but that doesn’t mean the author isn’t a good writer or the book worthy of being read.


Shannan☆☆☆☆
Lowell loves living in the city but has to move back to his home town to care for his mom after his father's death. The town is very small and conservative, not extremely gay friendly. The house he buys just happens to be next to his childhood friend and crush.

Jase married his college sweetheart because he thought that's what was required of him as a man. After having a daughter and trying to make the marriage work, he couldn't fake it anymore. He refused to think of himself as gay, but he's known he has an attraction to men. His ex-wife grants him custody of his daughter with the stipulation that he will keep his attraction and any relationship away from his daughter.

Jase is happy to see Lowell again. They were once the closest of friends until they grew apart as teenagers. Lowell is out and has been for years. Jase has always kept his one night stands away from his town and his house, until he can't control his attraction to Lowell. Can he make the only relationship that's every felt right work? Or will his ex-wife use his attraction to Lowell to keep his daughter away from him?

Ms. McMurray is a new to me author. I enjoyed The Boy Next Door, it was an enjoyable quick read. I look forward to reading more from this author.



Kate McMurray is an award-winning author of gay romance and an unabashed romance fan. When she’s not writing, she works as a nonfiction editor, dabbles in various crafts, and is maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball. She has served as President of Rainbow Romance Writers, the LGBT romance chapter of Romance Writers of America. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Connect with Kate

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https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com


Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of The Boy Next Door by Kate McMurray to read and review.

Going Down Easy by Carly Phillips Blog Tour


Meet Kaden Barnes.

Alpha-licious in the most unexpected ways, Kaden Barnes always gets what he wants.

Enigmatic and exacting, he's unable to keep an assistant for long. Until Lexie Parker arrives. She's no-nonsense, efficient and all business… She’s also hot as sin and soon starring in Kaden's dirtiest fantasies.

When their passion for each other reaches a boiling point, Kaden may think he’s calling the shots, but for this billionaire bad boy, going down easy has never felt so good.

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Book 1
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B&N  ~  Google Play  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo



Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Lee’Anne☆☆☆☆☆
I loved this short, steamy read!

Kaden Barnes is quirky businessman who can’t seem to get an assistant to stick around longer than a few days. Then his business partners hire him Lexie Parker. Lexie deals with way more than she should have to, her twin sister and mother both suffer from severe depression and Lexie has deemed herself caretaker of her sister – which is why she really needs to keep this job as an assistant. The attraction between the two is immediate, but Kaden hasn’t had good luck with woman and struggles to trust. The two start to get close until Kaden accidently spills a secret to Lexie, then requires her to sign an NDA ruining the relationship they’d started to develop. Until Kaden sees Lexie with another man and decides to take what he wants.

This is a super fast-paced read that I couldn’t put down and read in one sitting. I love Lexie’s character, she’s a take charge kinda gal and I really enjoyed reading about her. I also love Kaden’s character, he’s a no-nonsense businessman in the office, but outside the office he’s a total sweetheart and I really love the balance. Definitely a well written book and I look forward to reading Carly Phillips next book in this series!




After a successful fifteen-year career with various New York publishing houses, and over 40 sexy contemporary romance novels published, N.Y. Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Carly Phillips is now an Indie author who writes to her own expectations and that of her readers. She continues the tradition of hot men and strong women and plans to publish many more sizzling stories. Carly lives in Purchase, NY with her family, two nearly adult daughters and two crazy dogs who star on her Facebook Fan Page and website. She's a writer, a knitter of sorts, a wife, and a mom. In addition, she's a Twitter and Internet junkie and is always around to interact with her readers.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Going Down Easy (Billionaire Bad Boys #1) by Carly Phillips to read and review for this tour.

Cadence Falls by Beth D. Carter


On the hunt for a criminal, Everett will find the love he walked away from.

Amanda, Cooper and Everett were the best of friends, and after an intimate encounter at Cadence Falls, Amanda believed they’d be together forever. But when Everett leaves without a word, her heart breaks and she pulls away from Cooper too.

Years later, a dangerous felon has escaped from prison. When he disappears into the vast Montana mountains, the US Marshalls come to town and they bring along a Shadow Wolf tracker—Everett. For Everett, it’s the one place he really doesn’t wish to return to, since he knows the long-lost love of his life, Amanda, still lives there with his once best friend, Cooper.

For Cooper, Everett’s appearance brings up remembered love and pain, creating more discord between the three of them. When they’re forced to work together to help capture the criminal, will they be able to get over past hurts and reconcile, or will they forget about their time at Cadence Falls forever?

Publisher's Note: This book has previously been released as part of the Boots, Chaps and Cowboy Hats anthology with Totally Bound Publishing.

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Totally Bound



Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Ruthie☆☆☆
This is a short story with a good plot and a hot and steamy outcome. An unplanned return to his home town brings back a lot of memories for Everett. Little did he expect to find the two people he still loves, living apart. In few words and pages, Ms. Carter (who is a very good writer of trios) gives us three leads that should be back together – enabling a short story to be satisfying and believable.



I like writing about the very ordinary girl thrust into extraordinary circumstances, so my heroines will probably never be lawyers, doctors or corporate high rollers. I try to write characters who aren't cookie cutters and push myself to write complicated situations that I have no idea how to resolve, forcing me to think outside the box. I love writing characters who are real, complex and full of flaws, heroes and heroines who find redemption through love.

I’ve been pretty fortunate in life to experience some amazing things. I’ve lived in France, traveled throughout Europe, Australia and New Zealand. I am a mom to an amazing little boy. I’m surrounded by friends and family. And although I love holding a book in my hand, I absolutely adore my ereader, which I’ve named Ruby. I love to hear from readers so I’ve made it really easy to find me on the web.

Connect with Beth

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https://www.totallybound.com


Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Cadence Falls by Beth D. Carter to read and review.