Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Cover Reveal – Neighbors by Stylo Fantôme

Things a good neighbor can do for you:

1. Give you a cup of sugar
2. Let you borrow his lawnmower
3. Water your plants while you're on vacation
4. Make your eyes roll back in your head with his tongue

Katya Tocci has never paid much attention to who lives next door – her career always kept her too busy. She's a good girl, working her way to becoming the most sought after cake designer in all of San Francisco.

But even a good girl's gotta cut loose once in a while, right? So one fake dating profile later, and she's ready to tarnish her squeaky clean image. Little does she know, her fun time is closer to home than she ever imagined.

Throw in a neighbor who wants to corrupt her, and another who just wants to own her, and her entire world is flipped upside down.

Who knew neighbors could be so helpful?

A Twin Estates Novel – This story contains scenes of a graphic sexual manner, multiple uses of coarse language, and one scene of violent cake destruction. Reader discretion is advised.

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Book 1
Releases September 27th

Crazy woman from a remote location in Alaska (where the need for a creative mind is a necessity!), I have been writing since... forever? Yeah, that sounds about right. I have been told that I remind people of Lucille Ball – I also see shades of Jennifer Saunders, and Denis Leary. So basically, I laugh a lot, I'm clumsy a lot, and I say the F-word A LOT.

I like dogs more than I like most people, and I don't trust anyone who doesn't drink. No, I do not live in an igloo, and no, the sun does not set for six months out of the year, there's your Alaska lesson for the day. I have mermaid hair – both a curse and a blessing – and most of the time I talk so fast, even I can't understand me.

Yeah. I think that about sums me up.

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Lord of a Thousand Steps by Tara Lain

To architecture student Ian Carney, family means everything. Taken in by his brother, Jim, when his father threw him out at eighteen for being gay, Ian yearns to create his own family with his boyfriend, Rico. But Rico’s in Mexico caring for a sick father, Ian hasn’t had sex in a month and a half, and his gorgeous boss, Braden Lord, CEO of the architectural firm Ian interns for, is looking better and better.

Braden’s life is chaos. Just out of the closet and going through an ugly divorce from his wife of fifteen years who’s trying to take custody of his two children, he desperately resolves not to succumb to a completely inappropriate attraction to Ian—even though his kids adore both the man and his crazy cat.

When Rico proves to be a snake in the grass and Ian exercises his powers of seduction, what starts as a “friends with benefits” fling turns into real life real fast. Can Ian give up his romantic dreams for an “old guy” who didn’t come out until he carried a mountain of baggage? It’ll only take a thousand steps.

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Book 4
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Dreamspinner Press

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

4 Angsty Stars.

A lonely college student/intern meets a lonely boss, mixed with a renegade/absentee boyfriend, a brother getting married, a greedy ex-wife-to-be, a precocious 5-year-old girl, an angsty teenage boy, and a big cat who likes to go to the beach. That's Lord of a Thousand Steps in a nutshell.

Ian is truly the Lord of a Thousand Steps, even if Braden Lord lives overlooking the Thousand Steps beach. Lonely, feeling ashamed and guilty for living off his brother and soon-to-be brother-in-law, Ian works hard at college and his architectural internship, dreaming of the day he and Rico make a home of their own – a family of their own. But for now, it's just Ian and Anderson Cooper.

Braden Lord is suffering through a painful divorce. After hiding in the closet until his mid-to-late-thirties, he's ready to live his own life, because he believes that would be best for the happiness of his own children. If Dad was happy, his kids would be happy. But his wife is money-hungry as a way to soothe her own bent pride after learning she was Braden's beard for over fifteen years. (Aside from her bad behavior through the book. C'mon, ladies! Look at your husbands/boyfriends. THAT HAS GOT TO STING! aka, be earth-shattering)

Why do I bring that up? I'd love to read a story where the wife is NOT the villainess. I get that we have to make the MC our hero, so he can do no wrong. But the guys are always using the women as a beard, blaming the women for their being miserable, then taking their children away after a lengthy custody battle to satisfy the need for a nuclear family for our new gay couple. (speaking of MANY books) Just once, I'd like to see the woman's emotions brought up, and how this behavior on the MAN's part is horrible to the woman.

It's all how it's written, right? The guy doesn't want to admit he's gay, so he uses a woman to hide. Then when he's comfortable to come out of the closet (be it months with her, or two decades), he destroys the woman he used. In context, it's gross, and I don't blame these women for going off the rails. That has got to change them on an emotional and mental level.

Anyway back to my review.

So that's the setup. The book is angsty, with both men pulling away from each other at one point or another, multiple times, for multiple reasons. There's miscommunication. There are outside forces pounding down on the couple. But the majority of the book is Ian and Braden getting in their own way.

I enjoyed Lord of a Thousand Steps, getting emotional a few times. Overall, I've enjoyed the series as a whole. Some books work for me, and others kind of work for me, but that's individual to my reading style (taste). Personally, I felt the story's pacing to be on the slow side, drawing to a crawl at some points, with too many pages to support so few storyline threads.

Heartwarming, funny, sweet, and a bit heartbreaking, a sign of a good book is when I want the next immediately. One with a slight pacing problem is when I want the next book while still reading the current storyline. Or that could mean I want Lain's words anyway I can get them, and I have a problem with instant gratification and patience.

I want Rico's story – something tells me that's a little bit dark.

Highly recommended to fans of Tara Lain, the Love in Laguna series, and MM Romance, especially those who enjoy a warm, character-building storyline without a ton of shock-value or bells and whistles.

This book starts with Ian’s boyfriend, Rico, leaving for Mexico to help his sick dad. Happens all the time right? With technology these days we can call, text, email, etc., when we need to get ahold of people. Why the hell Ian didn’t CALL Rico to see what the hell was going on right away is beyond me. That was my biggest hang up about this book, Ian kept trying to text and wouldn’t call and when he did call Rico was a jerk. Braden, I fell in love with instantly and felt so bad for all the crap he was going through with his soon to be ex. The kids were a great addition to the story and of course so was the cat, Anderson Cooper. This book was full of emotions and some steamy sex. Another good addition to the series.

Characters: Well written and easy to relate to
Sex: Yes
Religious: No
Would I recommend to others: Yes
More than one book in the series: Yes
Genre: M/M Romance
Would I read more by this author: Yes

Also Available in the Love in Laguna Series

Book 3
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Dreamspinner Press

For reviews & more info, check out our Prince of the Playhouse post.

Tara Lain writes the Beautiful Boys of Romance in LGBT erotic romance novels that star her unique, charismatic heroes. Her first novel was published in January of 2011. Her best-selling novels have garnered awards for Best Series, Best Contemporary Romance, Best Ménage, Best LGBT Romance, Best Gay Characters, Best Erotic Romance, and Tara has been named Best Writer of the Year in the LRC Awards. In her other job, Tara owns an advertising and public relations firm. She often does workshops on both author promotion and writing craft. She lives with her soul-mate husband and her soul-mate dog in Laguna Beach, California, a pretty seaside town where she sets a lot of her books. Passionate about diversity, justice, and new experiences, Tara says on her tombstone it will say “Yes”!

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Lord of a Thousand Steps (Love in Laguna #4) by Tara Lain to read and review.

Unraveled by Jennifer Estep

After the shocking revelations of the previous book, Bitter Bite, the world of Ashland’s become even more sinister, and Gin Blanco (aka Ashland’s most fearsome assassin, the Spider) no longer knows who—or what—she can count on. Only one thing is for certain: danger and new enemies await Gin in Unraveled.

What could go wrong when you’re trying to unravel a decades-old conspiracy?

As the current queen of the Ashland underworld, you would think that I, Gin Blanco, would know all about some secret society controlling things from behind the scenes. I might be the Spider, the city’s most fearsome assassin, but all my Ice and Stone elemental magic hasn’t done me a lick of good in learning more about “the Circle”. Despite my continued investigations, the trail’s gone as cold as the coming winter.

So when Finnegan Lane, my foster brother, gets word of a surprising inheritance, we figure why not skip town for someplace less dangerous for a few days? That place: Bullet Pointe, a fancy hotel resort complex plus Old West theme park that Finn now owns lock, stock, and barrel. At first, all the struttin’ cowboys and sassy saloon girls are just hokey fun. But add in some shady coincidences and Circle assassins lurking all around, and vacationing becomes wilder—and deadlier—than any of us expected.

Good thing this assassin brought plenty of knives to the gunfight…

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Book 15
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

4 Adventurous Stars.

I won't deny I'm a fangirl of Jennifer Estep, so my review is obviously written with a favorable bent. Unraveled is the 15th installment of the Environmental Assassin series. Obviously Unraveled cannot be read as a standalone. With some Urban Fantasy series, you can jump right in if you'd missed a book or two, but not this one. Unraveled begins exactly where Bitter Bite ended. So, if you aren't caught up, back up and get to reading.

Finn receives an inheritance out of the blue, and this trips Gin's spidey-sense. An Old West theme park and hotel of all things. Our sarcastic badass assassin doesn't trust the situation, feeling it's a trap. Still leery of recent events, Gin goes with Finn, along with others, to check out the place. Which takes the group out of Ashland to Bullet Pointe.

To avoid spoilers, I won't rehash events because I want you to read them, and enjoy them, for yourself.

The Environmental Assassin series is one of the more consistent series I've read. The writing style doesn't change, but Estep does her best to keep the storyline fluidly moving forward and the premise fresh to avoid a wash-repeat feel. The author isn't phoning it in by writing yet another book in a long series. Each book truly is a vital part of the whole.

However, Unraveled had the feel of a turning point in the series, as it shifts in a new direction to keep the series ever-changing.

Entertaining, filled with magic and mayhem, Gin's still kicking butt and taking names after 15 novels and a long list of short stories. I had many unexpected laughs, as the setting was hilarious, especially for the daughter of a guy who is obsessed with the Wild West. Certain elements had me thinking of my own father, and laughing my butt off. But it didn't come off as cheesy. Gin is a serious assassin, after all. But the environment did lighten the darker air of the storyline.

My only complaint was the action – I'll use a video game analogy. The villains were like noobs, and Gin was born with a controller in her hand, able to beat the programmers at their own game. There were no heart-stopping moments where I feared for our beloved characters. But, on the flip side, it was semi-comforting, as I didn't feel frustrated or experience heart palpitations.

Obviously I recommend Unraveled to Estep fans. But, if you've come across my review and are curious if you should begin the series, I do highly recommend it if you're an Urban Fantasy fan. True Urban Fantasy. Not a romance or lusty story hiding beneath a UF premise. The Environmental Assassin series is classic Urban Fantasy, with a slight thread of romance and heat riding way beneath the surface, but it takes a backseat to the action, adventure, familial and friendship bond, and magic.

Also Available in the Elemental Assassin Series

Book 14.5
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For reviews & more info, check out our Unwanted post.

Jennifer Estep is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

Her Elemental Assassin series follows the life and times of Gin “the Spider” Blanco, a barbecue restaurant owner who also happens to be an assassin with magical control over the elements of Ice and Stone.

The Mythos Academy series focuses on Gwen Frost, a 17-year-old Gypsy girl who has the ability to know an object’s history just by touching it. She studies at Mythos Academy, a school for the descendants of ancient warriors.

Her Bigtime paranormal romance books feature sexy superheroes, evil ubervillains, and smart, sassy gals looking for love.

Estep’s new Black Blade series is about 17-year-old thief Lila Merriweather, who has a Talent for sight, along with the ability to take magic others used against her to boost her own powers. She tries not to get involved with the Families who control much of the town, but ends up in the middle of a potential turf war.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Unraveled (Elemental Assassin #15) by Jennifer Estep to read and review.

Starting New by S.C. Wynne

Life hasn’t been good to Francis Murphy. He’s survived twenty-one years of homelessness by hooking and taking handouts where he can find them. When the local shelter is vandalized, he’s forced to seek food at the Grace and Light Church, where he runs into the pastor’s son, Randy.

Randy Wright believes the best in others. He's immediately drawn to Francis, even though Francis is hardened and wary. When Francis is attacked by one of his johns, Randy and his family take him in and offer him temporary work. Randy always thought he was straight, but something about Francis has him yearning for more than just friendship, and realizing he might be bisexual.

Francis is attracted to Randy too, and Randy and his parents say they’ve always believed in gay rights. But talk is cheap. What are the odds that these Christian parents will remain open-minded when it's their own son in a relationship with another man?

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Riptide Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

S.C. Wynne is a new-to-me author.

I wasn't sure whether or not I would enjoy Starting New after reading the blurb, finding books with a religious bent to be hit or miss. But within half a page of Francis' narration, I was hooked. I even found myself laughing, when ordinarily anything meant to pull a chuckle from me, I find over the top. But there was a witty snarkiness to Francis that endeared him to me. I understood why he thought as he did, even if I didn't agree with it.

Then there is Randy, who learned how even the best of us are able to be hypocritical, along with his giving and caring family. How you can accept a lifestyle or mentality, but face a different reality when it enters your family. I thought this angle of the storyline was perfect for showing both sides of the equation.

Francis and Randy played off one another well, a push-pull banter, will-they-won't-they tension that absolutely addicts me time and time again. In this, Francis was being the responsible party, and I respected the author for showing how Randy was lost in what he wanted, not caring about consequences because he knew his family would stay by his side unconditionally.

As for the religious aspects, in this genre, they're usually the villain of the tale, when most of us know true, giving religious individuals who are here to serve, no matter what. In this book, Randy's family is the hope Francis needed, without asking him to accept their god or ask for anything in return.

Added to the mix, a stray dog named Francis, and you have the equation to melt my frozen heart. I truly enjoyed every page of the story, reading it ravenously.

Recommended to fans of MM contemporary romance, moderate heat level with a few lusty scenes, but great tension and buildup.

S.C. Wynne started writing m/m in 2013 and did look back once. She wanted to say that because it seems everyone’s bio says they never looked back and, well, S.C. Wynne is all about the joke. She loves writing m/m, and her characters are usually a little jaded, funny, and ultimately redeemed through love.

S.C. loves red wine, margaritas, and Seven and Sevens. Yes, apparently she is incredibly thirsty. She loves the rain and should really live in Seattle, but instead has landed in sunny, sunny, unbelievably sunny California. Writing is the best profession she could have chosen because she's a little bit of a control freak. To sit in her pajamas all day and pound the keys of her laptop, controlling the every thought and emotion of the characters she invents, is a dream come true.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Starting New by S.C. Wynne to read and review.

Salvatore by Natasha Knight


It all started with a contract signed by him, then by me, while our families watched. While my father sat silent, a man defeated, giving his daughter to the Benedetti monsters.

I obeyed. I played my part. I signed my name and gave away my life. I became their living, breathing trophy, a constant symbol of their power over us.

That was five years ago.

Then came the time for him to claim me. For Salvatore Benedetti to own me.
I had vowed vengeance. I had learned hate. And yet, nothing could have prepared me for the man who now ruled my life.

I expected a monster, one I would destroy. But nothing is ever black or white. No one is either good or evil. For all his darkness, I saw his light. For all his evil, I saw his good. As much as he made me hate him, a passion hotter than the fires of hell burned inside me.

I was his, and he was mine.

My very own monster.


I owned the DeMarco Mafia Princess. She belonged to me now. We had won, and they had lost. And what better way to teach a lesson than to take from them that which is most precious? Most beloved?

I was the boy who would be king. Next in line to rule the Benedetti Family. Lucia DeMarco was the spoils of war. Mine to do with as I pleased.

It was my duty to break her. To make her life a living hell. My soul was dark, I was hell bound. And there was no way out, not for either of us. Because the Benedetti family never lost, and in our wake, we left destruction. It’s how it had always been. How I believed it would always be.

Until Lucia.

Author’s Note: Salvatore and Lucia’s story is a steamy standalone romance with a happily-ever-after. No cliffhanger and no cheating. It is intended for mature readers.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

I found myself hooked within the first few pages of Salvatore. I couldn't get enough of these families.

The Benedetti and DeMarco families are at odds. They are both Italian mafia families fighting over the streets of New Jersey. People have lost their lives over these wars and to keep himself alive, DeMarco signed over his daughter, Lucia, to Franco Benedetti. Contracts were signed and Franco's son, Salvatore, who was next in line to take over the family, would take possession of Lucia after her completion of high school and college.

Lucia DeMarco accepts her fate even though she feels nothing but hate for the Benedetti family, especially Franco. He was the reason she was in this predicament. He humiliated her just for the sake of doing it and would at every turn given the chance. Lucia's pigheaded and not one to just bow down to the life she was thrust into. She's not going down without a fight, but her fear can't always be contained.

"Maybe I like you a little scared, Lucia."

Salvatore Benedetti has played his father's puppet for years. Franco yells and Salvatore acts. Salvatore is biding his time until he stands at the head of the family. He's doing what he has to do. Lucia isn't quite what he expected. Salvatore needs to show his father he is in charge of her, but she refuses to give in. Disobeying will always have consequences.

"Obedience is what I will have...I don't mind teaching it to you."

Secrets are exposed. Alliances will be tested. What side will they be standing on when the dust settles?

I loved the fast pace of this book. It kept you on your toes. Not wanting it to end but needing to find out what happens. It's not what I would call dark by any means, but it's also not a fluffy love story. I loved Salvatore's character, he's a complete asshole but in the best way possible.

This was my first introduction to Natasha Knight or any book that's categorized as a "Dark Mafia Romance," but I figured you never know until you try. I really enjoyed Kight's writing and I thought the story was nicely paced for such a quick read. Also, I loved being able to read from both Lucia and Salvatore's points of view. I always love when authors give us more than one point of view because I feel like it gives a deeper connection with the characters.

Lucia DeMarco was just sixteen when she signed a contract that basically allowed Salvatore Benedetti to own her. She was the spoils of war and would spend the next five years in an all-girls Catholic school before coming to live with Salvatore, where she would be a living trophy of his family's triumph over the DeMarco family. The only problem is Lucia has spent the past five years thinking of Salvatore as a monster, but now she's suddenly seeing him in a whole new light. Things are less black and white than they seemed.

I have to say that I had some mixed feelings at first because it seemed a little too Stockholm Syndrome for me, but I think it kind of grew on me. Lucia was such a strong female character that refused to let the Benedetti family break her. Although, I'm not sure if I'm sold on reading more mafia romance books, but I would be interested in reading more from this author. Luckily, it seemed like Salvatore ended on a note that could allow for the potential for a spin-off, but if not, it ended perfect for a standalone as well. I'd give it 3.5 stars!

USA Today Bestselling author Natasha Knight writes dark romance as well as spanking romance in a variety of genres including contemporary, paranormal, post-apocalyptic, science-fiction and fantasy. She is a #1 Amazon Bestseller in multiple categories forever searching in every story for that single most important element of love. All of her stories contain at least one kinky Alpha male, lots of dirty talk and a well-deserved happily ever after.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Salvatore by Natasha Knight to read and review.

Claimed by the Mountain Man by Amelia Smarts

Times are hard in Montana in the mid-1800s, and when Nettie finds herself impoverished, desperate, and alone after the death of her husband, she flees the town of Helena to escape the clutches of the local saloon owner. But living off the land quickly proves much more difficult than she’d hoped, and after days without food she resorts to stealing from Jack Abrams, a gruff mountain man and trapper who lives a secluded, uncomplicated life in the woods.

Jack doesn’t take kindly to being stolen from and when he catches her red-handed, Nettie ends up lying naked over his knee for a long, hard spanking. To her surprise, however, after her punishment Jack offers her food and shelter in return for cooking, cleaning, and doing as she is told. But Nettie is determined to never rely on a man again, and with a belly full of food and renewed determination, she abandons him to take another shot at living in the woods on her own.

Jack knows the headstrong girl won’t survive without his help, especially when she chooses a grizzly’s winter cave as her shelter, and he can’t stand by and idly watch her demise. When his irritation with her foolish pride boils over, he decides it is time to show her how thoroughly a man can dominate a woman silly enough to venture into the woods alone. Jack’s stern chastisement and bold mastery of her body leave Nettie begging for more, but is she truly ready to give up her freedom to be claimed by the mountain man?

Publisher’s Note: Claimed by the Mountain Man is an erotic romance novel that contains sexual scenes and spankings. If such material offends you, please don’t buy this book.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Nettie is a headstrong and naive girl left to fend for herself after the death of her husband. After struggling with society, she decides to leave town and head for the woods.

Jack is an all-around mountain man. He likes his peaceful and quiet life that he has in the wilderness.

When Jack sets a trap to catch the creature after his chickens, he never expects to catch a woman. He quickly finds that she is strong willed and he knows just what to do about it.

This was a nice, quick, and entertaining read for me and I would recommend it to romance fans.

This book was okay and a quick read. It follows Nettie, who is down on her luck, trying her best to survive after the death of her husband. She steals from Trapper Jack and he catches her. This is where the story really begins.

The characters are likeable enough, however I felt there was a little too much spanking and a little less of everything else. I would have liked more of a backstory for the characters.

I had one major issue though. Some of words used didn't sit right with a historical romance book, they were modern words that threw me off a little.

If you want a quick read, it's good for that.

#1 Amazon Bestseller in Historical Erotica and Erotic Westerns!

I'm an author of romance novels featuring domestic discipline in the form of spanking. Usually my stories involve a cowboy, and they always involve a man's firm hand connecting with a woman's naughty backside. It's important to me that I tell a good story in addition to portraying hot sex and discipline scenes. I write complex, flawed heroes and heroines who struggle and succeed in their journey to love and happiness.

I hold graduate and undergraduate degrees in creative writing and English, and I love the written word. If you'd like to talk books with me, feel free to drop me a note at Happy reading!

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Claimed by the Mountain Man by Amelia Smarts to read and review.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

My Fair Princess by Vanessa Kelly Blog Tour

First, Vanessa Kelly brought readers The Renegade Royals. Now, in a delightfully witty new series, she introduces The Improper Princesses—three young women descended from royalty, each bound for her own thrilling adventure...

Despite being the illegitimate daughter of a prince, Gillian Dryden is happily ignorant of all social graces. After growing up wild in Italy, Gillian has been ordered home to England to find a suitable husband. And Charles Valentine Penley, the excessively proper, distractingly handsome Duke of Leverton, has agreed to help transform her from a willful tomboy to a blushing debutante.

Powerful and sophisticated, Charles can make or break reputations with a well-placed word. But his new protégée, with her habit of hunting bandits and punching earls, is a walking scandal. The ton is aghast...but Charles is thoroughly intrigued. Tasked with taking the hoyden in hand, he longs to take her in his arms instead. Can such an outrageous attraction possibly lead to a fairytale ending?

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Book 1
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“Letitia, I’m the one who should be insulted. You rejected me once, and now you’re propositioning me in the middle of a ballroom. Did you really believe I would fall for your tricks again?”

She struggled to control her temper and made a credible job of it. “Poor Charles, you always were a fool. That, I see, has not changed.”

“Well, now that we’ve exchanged a sufficient number of insults, I think—”

Before he could finish, Jack materialized from behind a nearby pillar. “Excuse the interruption,” he said brusquely, “but I need to borrow Leverton.”

Letitia sneered. “You may have him. He’s quite as rude as you are, Lendale, which I had not thought possible.”

Jack laughed. “Up to the old game again, eh, Letitia?” He looked at Charles. “She tried it on me a few weeks ago, if you can believe it.”

Her pale blue gaze brimmed with hatred. “You are no gentleman.”

“And you are no lady, so we’re even,” Jack said in a cheerful voice.

Charles thought she would choke on the spot. And he thought he would choke on the laugh he decided to swallow. “I suppose I should be annoyed that I was her second choice. Again.”

“Consider yourself lucky,” Jack replied. “But enough of this nonsense, old boy. You need to rejoin your party immediately.”

The vague anxiety that had been lurking around the edges of Charles’s consciousness sprang into sharp definition.

“Dear me,” Letitia said in a catty voice. “There is a commotion on the other side of the dance floor, and I believe I see your protégé, Your Grace. She seems to be engaged in some kind of dispute with my husband and Lord Andover.”

When Charles took a hasty step toward the dance floor, Letitia grasped his arm. “Are you sure you want to do that? You know how much you hate scandal, my dear Charles.”

“Letitia, what did you do?” he asked.

She shrugged her beautiful white shoulders. She’d almost destroyed him years ago, and now she’d apparently decided to do it to Gillian.

“Why?” he demanded.

“Because she decided she wanted you, old son,” Lendale said. “And she clearly thought Miss Dryden was an impediment.”

“I don’t have time for this,” Charles said, disgusted. He stalked away, trying to ignore Letitia’s mocking laugh. He wove his way through the crowd, moving as quickly as he could without knocking anyone over.

“Why the hell weren’t you keeping on eye on Gillian?” Charles snapped when Lendale caught up with him.

“I’d just gone off to get some refreshments, for God’s sake. I’d snagged a footman with a tray of drinks when I saw that Letitia had trapped you in her evil snare.”

“You shouldn’t have left Gillian on her own, Jack.”

“She’s your damn responsibility, not mine. Besides, she was with her grandmother the last time I saw her. How the hell was I supposed to know she would get into an argument with one of the greatest morons in London?”

“You have no idea how many ways that blasted girl can get into trouble,” Charles said. “And speaking of Lady Marbury, where is she?”

“There she is,” Jack said, all but pushing a corpulent earl out of their way. They ignored his protests as they hurried to join her.

“Charles, there you are,” she said in a relieved voice. “I stepped away to the retiring room, and I came back to this. You must make Lord Andover go away before Gillian does something dreadful.”

“I intend to,” he said in a grim voice. Unfortunately, he was still several feet away when he saw Gillian’s lips curve up in a smile that made it clear mayhem was about to occur.

By the time he got clear of a gaggle of excited debutantes, Gillian was practically standing on Andover’s toes, saying something that Charles couldn’t hear over the din of the crowd. A moment later, she delivered an outstanding right hook that caught Andover under the chin.

Since the earl was well-known at Gentleman Jackson’s for having a glass jaw, the effect was both predictable and profound. He toppled like a felled tree, straight into a cluster of bystanders, including a footman carrying a tray of champagne goblets. The poor footman tumbled into a middle-aged matron possessed of a well-padded figure, and both went crashing down to the floor, along with the champagne.

“What a nice, flush hit,” Jack said in an admiring voice.

“Do not tell her that,” Charles growled as he elbowed past a pair of girls who were shrieking and fanning themselves in a dramatic fashion.

Jack shot a sly grin at Charles. “I don’t mean to interfere, old boy, but you might want to drop a word in Miss Dryden’s ear that boxing isn’t usually the done thing in the middle of a ballroom.”

“Thank you for that extremely helpful bit of advice, you idiot,” Charles said in a blighting tone.

Jack simply laughed.

Charles stalked up to Gillian, who stood over Andover, flexing her hand. When she glanced up at him, she let out a sigh. At least he thought she sighed, since it was hard to hear anything in the growing pandemonium.

Gillian clasped her hands at her waist and patiently waited, a picture of serene beauty in the midst of chaos.

“Well, Miss Dryden,” Charles said, “now that you’ve provided the main entertainment for the evening, what have you planned for an encore?”

She flicked a glance around the crowded ballroom that seethed with excitement and gossip. Then she looked back at him and shrugged. “I hadn’t thought that far ahead, Your Grace. I am, however, entirely open to suggestion.”

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

5 Stars for the beginning portion.
2-3 Stars for the rest.
3.5 Stars in total

Vanessa Kelly is a new-to-me author, and I found the writing style to be fluid, rapid, without any unnecessary detailing or purple prose. The storyline is slightly different than what I usually find within this genre, but eventually devolved.

As a prince's by-blow, Gillian is a bloodthirsty, vengeance-seeking heroine who most definitely isn't a damsel in distress. However, I had to suspend a great deal of belief in order to go with the flow on how a murderer is treated with respect by her peers – peers who knew her to kill bandits. In an era where if a young woman spoke out of turn, if she was no longer innocent she was treated as if she had a disease, I found it unimaginable how Gillian's murderous behavior was just written away as justified. In my opinion, Gillian was no different than the very men she hunted and killed. Her relatives and the duke never seemed to find a 22-year-old woman murdering people to be a questionable activity while they strove to teach her how to curtsy properly.

Gillian was way past learning how to speak about the weather with upper society – Yes, it was the storyline, but...

Gillian's family wishes for her to enter London's polite society, which is a difficult prospect with her behavior and the fact that she was the product of her mother's out-of-wedlock affair. Her mother is treated poorly, even though she had married and is now a widow. Like mother, like daughter. Gillian is treated disrespectfully, as the ton waits for her fall, assuming the daughter of a woman who made a mistake would do the same.

In one regard, I adored Gillian for pointing out the hypocrisy, as no one blames the men in these types of affairs, or finds it gross how men and women alike enjoy gossiping about another's downfall, even if they are innocent. It's the young woman's mark of shame for life, her family's shame, and her children's shame, while the men just go about their business as usual. It's gross, and still generally how it is today, even if the girl was preyed upon.

Gillian doesn't care, but she does. So her family goes to a distant relation to make her a proper young woman. Charles is a stuffy, proper gentleman who wishes to teach Gillian about polite society. Heads butt, banter is made, intensity and connection are felt.

I know it's the storyline, but personally, I wasn't sure why anyone gave a hoot about fitting into the ton. Why? Gillian didn't want to be there, they wanted to use her as an exhibit, so why bother? Go about your life and be happy. (I always wonder how we can fall in love with the characters when every character in the ton in every historical romance is filled with vapid, villainous, or ridiculously insipid characters – ones who usually are later narrators that don't notice the hypocrisy until it's their book)

I enjoyed Gillian, and even though it doesn't sound like it, I found the by-blow princess assassin badass angle highly entertaining, but found her difficult to swallow. At times she was more mature than her age, pretending to allow the gossip to wash right off her back, while secretly feeling shame over her roots. That was the Gillian I respected. But at other times, she was reckless, not caring if she put others in danger, single-minded in an immature way without ramifications or consequences, and I couldn't respect this version of our heroine. I felt as if she had multiple personalities.

Charles was a gentleman, but as his infatuation with Gillian grew, he started to behave in the same fashion as those he felt were beneath him. I mean this in a moral way, not meaningless rules of society.

So I found the characterization to be inconsistent, even if their reactions/actions propelled the storyline.

While I enjoyed the books itself, there were many moments where I had to suspend belief. I found it bizarre after spending the book trying to save Gillian's reputation about her virtue, but no one seemed to care she was a serial killer. We find out she was a fallen woman just the same. So much for learning lessons from her mother, after being treated poorly for her mother's mistakes. That element just didn't make sense. It screams we don't have freewill and will repeat mistakes over and over again because we can't help it – are powerless against it. That women, young women, and girls are too stupid to resist a charmer who is preying upon you. The Gillian characterized wouldn't have fallen to a man's charms, not at 16 when she was at the height of her mother's (and should have been her father's) shameful past. This revelation, which was hinted out along the way, wasn't much of a surprise, even if I felt it out-of-character for Gillian when she always had her guard up and was too busy stalking, hunting, and killing men to fit in a scandalous love affair leading to her ruination.

Recommended to Vanessa Kelly fans.

Vanessa Kelly is an award-winning author who was named by Booklist, the review journal of the American Library Association, as one of the “New Stars of Historical Romance.” Her Regency-set historical romances have been nominated for awards in a number of contests, and her second book, Sex and The Single Earl, won the prestigious Maggie Medallion for Best Historical Romance. Her current series, The Renegade Royals is a national bestseller. Vanessa also writes USA Today bestselling contemporary romance with her husband, under the pen name of VK Sykes.

Connect with Vanessa

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Shadow Falling by Rebecca Zanetti Blog Tour

Before the Scorpius Syndrome tore through North America and nearly wiped out the population, Vivienne Kennedy was the FBI’s best profiler. The bacteria got her anyway. But she survived. She recovered. And when she woke up from a drug-nightmare of captivity, her skills as a hunter of men had gone from merely brilliant to full-on uncanny. Her mysterious rescuer wants her to put them to the test. But no matter how tempting he is, with his angel’s eyes and devil’s tongue, Vinnie knows she shouldn’t trust him.

If the FBI were still around they would rate Raze Shadow as one of the bad guys. His military training can’t wipe out his association with the Mercenaries, the most feared gang in a thousand miles. His loyalties are compromised. He won’t even tell Vinnie his real name. But there’s no FBI in the new America of fear and firepower, only instinct and risk. And the way his arms wrap around her tells its own story. Whatever else Raze is concealing, he can’t hide his desire...

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Book 2
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Vinnie closed her eyes and tried to even out her breath and fall asleep, but the hard body enfolding her held too much intrigue. And he was hard. Smooth muscle, powerful lines, sinewed and strong. While many bodies had grown streamlined and become more powerful after surviving Scorpius, Raze was all man, perfectly uninfected.

She’d seen pictures in sports magazines of bodies like his, but she’d never had one wrapped around her before.

For once, she managed to keep her mouth closed and didn’t ask him all the questions roaring through her damaged brain. He breathed softly against her hair, relaxed in sleep and yet still somehow on alert.

She could feel his concentration, lumbering beneath the surface of slumber.

He hadn’t wanted to comfort her, and she had felt his hesitation. But something good lived in Raze Shadow, and he’d been unable to turn away from a woman in pain.

Oh, a conflicting force drove Raze, and he hid it well. But at some point, his true agenda would become clear.

See if you can read his mind.

Vinnie’s eyelids slid open to see Lucinda perching cross-legged at the edge of the bed. Shoot. She’d hoped somehow Raze’s presence would keep the hallucinations at bay for the night. “No,” she mouthed.

Lucinda shook long blond hair, and her dark blue eyes seemed to deepen. “You can read minds now,” she said, voicing one of Vinnie’s unspoken fears.

“No, I can’t,” Vinnie mouthed back, careful not to make a sound. If Raze awoke and saw her talking to imaginary people, he’d tell Jax, and then she wouldn’t get to work in headquarters and be around people. “Go away.”

Lucinda pursed her lips. “I read minds my whole life.”

“You were schizophrenic,” Vinnie mouthed back. “It wasn’t real.”

“Now who’s seeing people who aren’t real?” Lucinda returned, smoothing down her long velvet skirt. “Your father’s people hail from mystic gypsies, and you know it.”

Vinnie rolled her eyes. “We’re from Sweden.”

Her step-mother shook her head again. “No. Your Great Grandma Vinilula was a gypsy. My ancestors were gypsies, too. That’s why your dad and I were drawn together.”

“You imagined that gypsy connection. Now go away.” Vinnie closed her eyes. Lucinda had died ten years ago in a mental hospital, when Vinnie was in her early twenties. “You can bother me after I get some sleep.” She yawned, and her jaw cracked.

“I’m not leaving until you try to read his mind. He’s sexy. I bet he’s dreaming about—”

“Fine.” Vinnie clenched her jaw. “I’ll try.” She deepened her breath and tried to focus on Raze’s mind.

Nothing. No sights, no sounds, no images.

Relief washed through her, and she opened her eyes. “His mind is a steel trap.” There was no way she could read minds. All the images and thoughts lately that weren’t her own were a byproduct of the truth serum drugs and not a new ability. Thank goodness.

Lucinda crossed her arms over a fluffy peasant blouse. “Try again.”

“No.” Vinnie closed her eyes and wished the hallucination away. She knew she should be worried about her tenuous mental state, but for the moment, she just felt too warm and too good with the dangerous soldier holding her close. Life sucked right now, so why not take a pleasurable moment and enjoy it?

“If you’re going to sleep with that man, you should really wax your legs,” Lucinda whispered.

“I’m not going to sleep with him,” Vinnie mumbled.

“You’re sleeping with him now. I was talking about sleeping, and you were thinking about sex. Interesting,” Lucinda stage whispered.

Vinnie cringed and then remembered Raze couldn’t hear Lucinda. She couldn’t even hear her step-mom since the woman didn’t exist. God, life had gotten confusing. Besides, sex was off the table. “He hasn’t been infected,” Vinnie mumbled.

“He will be.”

Vinnie’s eyelids opened again, but the end of the bed was now empty. Well, it had been empty the entire time, but at least she’d stopped seeing dead people. For now.

I see dead people. The line from a famous movie whispered through her mind, and she chuckled just like an insane person would.

Raze murmured and pulled her even closer into his warmth, his long length bracketing her. She wiggled a bit and then stopped as her rear end brushed across a definite erection.


“Don’t worry about it,” Raze mumbled sleepily. “I’m too tired to do anything, so stop talking to yourself and go to sleep.” His breathing instantly leveled out.

She hadn’t exactly been talking to herself. Well, she had, but not really. Right? “I’m crazy,” she whispered into the night.

For once, the night didn’t answer.

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

3.5 Stars.

Rebecca Zanetti is a new-to-me author, and I found her writing style enjoyable and entertaining. Shadow Falling is the second book in a new Urban Fantasy series, Scorpius Syndrome, which has a post-apocalyptic-based storyline, rather than one paranormal in nature.

I will admit, I began this book first, not realizing it was the second in the series. My bad, but it didn't affect my overall enjoyment, as it wasn't confusing in the least, just a sense I was missing the finer details in the backstory. The feeling I was 'missing' a book, had me double-checking to make sure I wasn't being daft, or I accidentally read the review books out of order.

Yup, it was all me. LOL. Erica was being scatterbrained again. My bad.

Zanetti built a virus-ravaged world, with a fluid flow of information that never delved too deep into info-dumpage territory. While the reader is given little information at the start, there is no confusion to be had while reading. (Because said information was given in the previous book, no doubt. But, hey, no waste of page-space giving a replay of events. Win-win!)

Those of you who aren't crazy like me (I swear I'm not infected with the Scorpius virus), know who Vivienne and Raze are, right? Vinnie was rescued in the previous book by Raze and was a member of the BAU. (Any Criminal Minds fans? Yeah, it popped in my head every single time I read BAU).

Vivienne became a psychologist because her aunt committed suicide when she was 5, yet there seemed to be a long list of insanity in her family after the fact, being that her dead step-mother was schizophrenic. After getting her education, she quickly rose in the ranks because of her near-psychic ability to locate serial killers/sociopaths.

I will say, while I enjoyed Vinnie, I felt it off that she was so romance-focused on Raze, instead of on her situation. So while reading, I will give the heads up that those who are expecting Urban Fantasy, where the romance is generally underlying, or Romance, where the romance is the main focus, the storyline and romance seemed to be dead-even in importance.

Anyway, for an educated woman who was just held hostage by the insane PotUS, suffering night-terrors and PTSD, while worried she was infected and going crazy, I felt Vinnie's ruminations, insult, and annoyance at Raze not acting lusty after her to be out of place. Just my opinion, but I felt human-nature-wise, Vinnie's first thought would be on survival. But during Vinnie's narration, when Raze was on-scene, her only thoughts were of a lusty nature, and I felt this lessened the impact of the storyline.

Without giving the storyline away, there's a ton of angst surrounding the romance portion of the book. Truth be told, as the story progressed, I would have enjoyed more time spent on the storyline, instead of vapid thoughts on how Vinnie needed to wax her legs if she was going to sleep with Raze, when getting food and surviving should have been the utmost importance. It wasn't as noticeable in the beginning as it was the further along in the story I read. The educated woman needed some depth.

Recommended to those who want a romance under the guise of Urban Fantasy, post-apocalyptic, dystopian genre, where there is more romance than extensive world-building. I will admit, that it made for a quick, light, sexy read.

Also Available in the Scorpius Syndrome Series

Book 1
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New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Zanetti has worked as an art curator, Senate aide, lawyer, college professor, and a hearing examiner—only to culminate it all in stories about Alpha males and the women who claim them. She is a member of RWA, has won awards for her works throughout the industry, and has a journalism degree with a poly sci emphasis from Pepperdine University as well as a Juris Doctorate from the University of Idaho.

Growing up amid the glorious backdrops and winter wonderlands of the Pacific Northwest has given Rebecca fantastic scenery and adventures to weave into her stories. She resides in the wild north with her husband, children, and extended family who inspire her every day—or at the very least give her plenty of characters to write about.

Connect with Rebecca

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Shadow Falling (Scorpius Syndrome #2) by Rebecca Zanetti to read and review for this tour.