Book Review: Ruthless by Gillian Archer

I always read the synopsis of a book before I request it, but by the time I open the book, I’ve forgotten what it’s about. I wasn’t expecting this to be a motorcycle club novel (I had billionaires in my head for some reason). But this book didn’t leave me much time to be disappointed, because it started out strong and kept me hooked the entire time.

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I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One-Sentence Synopsis
A biker gets involved with a woman and has to protect her when she unwittingly becomes the target of another biker. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Worst Date Ever
Right from the start, I really liked this couple, and I credit that with the damsel-in-distress meet-cute. Jessica is trying to end a really bad blind date when the date starts mauling her. Zag, a member of the True Brothers Motorcycle Club, steps in to pull the handsy guy away. Though he doesn’t plan to stick around, Jessica convinces him to let her buy him a drink as a thank you, and they end up in bed together. Though Jessica is interested from the start, it seems like just another one-night stand for Zag, so she doesn’t try to pursue anything.

My Bike is My Anti-Drug
Zag comes off as the cool guy who just goes with the flow and doesn’t really see the need to get involved. But then after their one night together, he can’t forget about Jessica and ends up contacting her to meet up again. Because cool guy or not, she obviously rocked his world.

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Zag and True Brothers club in general are fairly straightlaced as far as MCs go. All of the components of the MC are there, but the edgier and darker elements aren’t highlighted. What is highlighted is the fact that Zag will not, nor will he allow the club to, have any involvement with drugs. His youth was pretty jacked up because of a junkie mother, and he refuses to touch the stuff. When Jessica sees a drug deal go down between one of the True Brothers and a rival gang, she misinterprets what’s going on and tries to break it off with Zag, as drugs are a deal breaker. Instead, Zag ends up making her his old lady in order to protect her from the drug dealing brother who wants to silence her before she can testify against him.

Normal, but Not Boring
Zag is a very tame alpha male an a nice guy. Of course he comes across as a little volatile and hard ass when Jessica’s safety is compromised, but that just added to his appeal. As for Jessica, she might be the most normal heroine I’ve ever read. Her problems are pretty standard: an overbearing mother who wants her to get married and have babies; a friend who is in major disapproval of her choice in men; a job that she finds mediocre but brings in a paycheck. She actually has a cool dad (rare), and she’s pretty standard all around. You’d think she’d be boring, but she’s not. Instead, she’s relateable and likeable.

The Romance Factor
Zag is sweet and Jessica’s struggle with dating a bad boy was endearing rather than whiny and annoying. And when Jessica’s life is put in danger, the emotions from Zag were intense and passionate. 4/5

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The Steam Factor
The sexy times are hot, especially when Zag takes control. It never really gets into sub/dom territory, but there’s definitely a subtle aspect of that kind of play. 4/5

Final Thoughts
Jessica’s two friends have fairly important roles in the book. One I liked, one I didn’t, but I read that the next two books are about them, so I’m excited to see what happens (even with the friend who’s kind of a bitch). I enjoyed this book a lot. The writing was solid, the characters felt real, and the drama worked with the story without overshadowing the plot just to highlight how bad ass a biker and his club can be.

Book Review: Possession by Violetta Rand

I enjoyed the first book in this series, Persuasion, but I had some issues with the way it ended. I was a little unsure about this one, but I was hooked from the beginning, finding that I related to Tina and enjoyed the romance between her and Vincent to a much higher degree.

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I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One-Sentence Synopsis
A defense attorney tries to seduce a biker, despite his intentions of not getting involved with another woman after a previously failed marriage. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Unlikely Wedding Planners
The story picks up after Lang and Lily from the first book have gotten married and are on their honeymoon. Tina and Vincent haven’t seen each other in a few months, their last interaction being a hot makeout session after the wedding which they’d worked together to help plan. Though we saw a glimpse of their relationship before, there’s apparently a time frame where they spend a lot of time together, during which their attraction just grows stronger.

Destiny Via Creepy Guys
Tina is a confident career woman who does everything she can to get Vincent in bed, but he’s not having it. She decides to let it go, until a client starts creeping on her and she goes to the bike club’s clubhouse to be somewhere safe. This rekindles the spark between them, pushing Tina to try to jump Vincent while he continues to resist her. The woman is nothing if not persistent, and I got a kick out of all her innuendos when she was trying to goad him into bed.

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Once Bitten
Vincent has baggage, and he doesn’t think he wants another relationship. He has an ex-wife, two boys he doesn’t see very often, and club responsibilities, and he’s made it a point to keep his life ordered. Tina introduces a bit of wildness into his life that he doesn’t want to take her up on, and a huge part of that is he already has feelings for her. He knows that if he steps over that line into a physical relationship, he’s only one more step away from falling in love with her.

Vincent cracked me up as the ordered biker who was pretty rough and tough when it come to his job as club treasurer and president fill-in, yet he had this side of him that knew he’d fall in love with Tina way too easily. He wasn’t super scary, but he didn’t shy away from beating someone who deserved it either, and I really enjoyed the scenes where he handled club business like a boss.

Even Smart Women Have Dumb Moments
I liked Tina too, but she made me mad. I liked that she was independent and driven to get what she wanted, which in the context of the story was a promotion at her job and Vincent. But when she started being stalked by the creeper and his threats and actions became more serious, it drove me nuts that she wouldn’t do more about it, putting her chance at a higher career position before her own personal safety. She even knew she was doing it too, knew that she wasn’t doing what she’d tell any other woman to do (go to the police, stay safe, etc). Though I think that’s realistic in many women, I still wanted to rage at her.

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I liked that the stalking plot gave the story a bit of suspense, and even though Strong Tina was great, I enjoyed the dash of damsel-in-distress trope that emerged.

We Don’t Need a (Full) Resolution
One of the things I didn’t like about the first one was that things seem to resolve way to easily and completely. I didn’t have that problem with this one. While things for Tina still worked out well, it doesn’t come out of left field and feel forced. There’s also still a bit of conflict that hasn’t been resolved regarding Vincent’s family, and it felt more realistic to have things hanging than to have a full HEA for the characters.

The Romance Factor
Though not overly mushy, the romance between Vincent and Tina was solid. Vincent doesn’t pull too much alpha male with her, and when he does, it’s apparent that he just wants to keep her safe. There was a feel of reality and subtlety to the way their relationships developed that I found appealing. 4/5

The Steam Factor
The heat is high in this one. Between the foreplay that starts out between then and them and sexy times they have when they finally give in to each other, the story is a good blend of sweet and spicy. 4/5

Final Thoughts
I continue with my trend of liking the second in the series better than the first in the series, which is why unless I really hate the first, I know to give the second one a try regardless. This is a case where I’m really glad I did. I enjoyed the characters and even though the Sons of Odin is tamer than a lot of other motorcycle clubs I’ve read, it still has a nice rough edge.

Book Review: Partner Games by Jessica Clare

It took me way too long to get to this book, especially because this is one of the series I auto-buy. I was hooked on the Games series from the beginning. There’s something awesome about steamy romance happening during a reality game show.

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One-Sentence Synopsis
Sisters compete in reality TV game show and ally themselves with biker guys who they find different types of chemistry with. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Sisterly Love
I’ve been reading  a lot of books with less than likeable family members lately, so it was nice to read one about sisters who actually get along and love each other. They’ve decided to go on the World Race together, but from the beginning, nerdy Clementine knows something isn’t quite right with her normally confident model sister Georgie. Clem’s stress is only compounded by the strange chemistry she has with one of the guys from another team.

Teaming Up
Swift and Plate (biker names…no joke) are drawn to the sisters from the start. Swift has a thing for nerdy girls and finds Clementine adorable. Plate recognizes Georgie from her modeling work and has a huge crush on her, even though he’s not her type (he’s a big teddy bear of a guy and she’s used to dating male models).

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Nerdy Girl Gets the Guy
The dynamics between the two couples were different but still sweet. The romance and heat comes from Swift and Clementine. Clementine still has her v-card and it takes her awhile to believe that Swift genuinely likes her. It doesn’t help that they’re trying to win a million dollars, so  besides her lack of confidence, Clemmy is also dealing with being unsure of how much she can trust her allies.

Georgie and Plate are the friends of the story, but they’re super close and their relationship is adorable. Georgie is struggling with a traumatic thing that happened to her when she was modeling, and Plate has the knack for keeping her calm when she has a meltdown. They’re flirty, but Plate is the perfect gentleman, never taking advantage of Georgie and doing what he can to be supportive and kind to her.

Just Friends?
Major props to the author for being able to the tell the story of two different couples using a first person point of view from one character (Clementine) the whole time. She does add little blurbs at the beginning of each chapter which are segments of interviews the contestants gave for the show. Considering these are just short blurbs among a longer story, it was impressive that I still felt a whole range of emotion from all the characters.

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The Romance Factor
I’m a sucker for a nerdy heroine, and Clementine is perfect. She and Swift have good chemistry, and there is a ton of foreplay between them. On the other side of the story, Plate is the kind of guy who’s rough around the edges but he’s the perfect match for Georgie. And while a later romance between Plate and Georgie is only hinted at, the development of their relationship and their strong friendship is genuine. Luckily, the author released a holiday short story about those two on her blog, so I was able to get a little more bliss after I finished this book. 5/5

The Steam Factor
There’s a lot of stolen kisses between Clem and Swift throughout the book, and though there seemed to be a much lower level of sex in this one than in the previous Games books, when the hotel room started rocking, it was worth the wait. Probably for the characters too. 5/5

Final Thoughts
I really can’t get enough of this series, and I’m always a little bummed when I have to wait for another one to come out. The premise is simple, so you’d think eventually they’d start to get boring, but not yet and maybe not for me. I find the whole romance/reality TV combo thing to be quite pleasing.

Book Review: Hidden Heat by Carla Swafford

It’s been awhile since I’d read a motorcycle club novel. For some reason I’d been thinking this was going to be a baseball romance, so I was pleasantly surprised when the story kicks off with the heroine going into a biker bar with a baseball bat. Good times, right? This opening definitely hooked me into what turned out to be an enjoyable read with a hero who is much less alpha than most of the MC heroes I’ve read.

Trigger warning: There are themes of sex and abuse that, while not blatantly rape, ride the line very closely.

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I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One-Sentence Synopsis
A woman trying to save her brother puts her trust in a member of the motorcycle club she swore she’d never trust. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Talk First, Think Later
Cassidy is a firecracker, and while she’s not always smart about it, I really liked her no fear attitude. Of course, it has repercussions, especially when she mouths off to the president of the motorcycle club that has her brother under their thumb. Thorn is the bartender and MC member who ends up protecting her from the president’s dirty inclinations. What Cassidy doesn’t know at first is that Thorn has a secret of his own, and that there’s more to him than just a member of a sketchy club.

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For Her Own Good
Thorn and Cassidy have a lot of chemistry from the beginning, and that alone is enough to up the conflict level. Cassidy’s father was a big name in the motorcycle club, and after he killed her mother, she swore she’d never be anyone’s old lady. Unfortunately, after she fails to use her filter when yelling at the current president (who makes no secret that he wants to know her carnally), the only way Thorn can keep her safe is to brand her as his.

Family Dynamics
There is a ton of drama in this novel. For me, it was like a mix of Sons of Anarchy and a soap opera I watched when I was a kid (partly because of the names of some of the characters, like Thorn, Wolf, and Storm). Besides the gritty MC stuff, there’s also alot of twists and turns involving the families of Cassidy and Thorn, because even though Thorn is a “good guy,” he comes from a family of criminals. And they’re proud to be criminals.

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Who to Trust
While most of the side characters were horrible, they were also perfect in the context of the story and gave the plot its intrigue and adrenaline. There are also those who were questionable, and I liked having that factor of not knowing if they were a good guy or a bad guy.

The Romance Factor
I loved the romance between Cassidy and Thorn. Thorn is so not a super-alpha male, but he’s still strong and protective. Cassidy resists him initially, but realizes quickly that he’s different, and though once in awhile she doubts his intentions, she lets herself trust him. Also, the fact that they both know their time together is limited (for reasons), makes those times even sweeter and more intense. 5/5

The Steam Factor
This one is spicy, with several detailed and we’ll paced sex scenes, including one where they only pretend to have sex. Granted, the context of that scene is a little disturbing, but the scene itself was definitely hot. 5/5

Final Thoughts
I really enjoyed this book and was pleasantly surprised at the fun and disturbing mix of the plot. It had good characters, an entertaining story, and comeuppance for some of the villains while still leaving it open and not fully resolved so we can have more of this world in future books. I hope this author brings it with the next ones in the series as well.

Book Review: Persuasion by Violetta Rand

I’ve been so split on my opinions of motorcycle club novels, and I feel like I tend to be a little over critical of them. Yet I keep reading them because at this point, even though I’m not even sure if this is my genre of choice, I feel like they hold a special kind of reading crack that has drawn me in.

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I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One-Sentence Synopsis
A guidance counselor moves to Texas where she meets the president of a local motorcycle club, and despite her views on MCs, she finds herself drawn to the president. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Friendship Factor
Lily spends a lot of time with her best friend, and this friendship was one of my favorite things. I liked the support they gave each other and their dialogue. There was a good contrast between Lily and Tina, with Tina being the party girl of the two. I’m hoping the next book in the series is about her and one of the other MC members.

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Tell Me About It, Stud
At one point, Lily seems to be changing to fit Lang’s lifestyle, something that reminded me of the ending of the movie Grease. That made me wary, because while I love that movie, I’m not a huge fan of someone overhauling who they are for someone who can’t accept them for who they are. However, it never got that extreme. It’s more that Lily had a wild side that she’d kept hidden, and Lang allowed her to feel comfortable about exploring it.

Conflicting Personalities
I had a hard time really pinning down the characters. When it came to Lang, I felt the confusion worked because he was the MC president in one life but he also to take on the guardian role to his younger sisters. He was possessive of Lily, which fit with the general biker novel vibe, but then there were times when you felt he was way less intense than other characters in this genre.

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Lily, on the other hand, was really hard for me to connect with. At times she seemed to be naive and shy. Other times she was forward with her feminist views, and her work persona was also different. It wasn’t that I didn’t like her, because I did. It was more that I never really settled on a personality for her.

 

The Romance Factor
The romance is sweet and believable, but it has a fairly low angst, and it’s obvious way before the end that both characters love each other and aren’t playing the “I don’t know how to love” game. What I enjoyed about this low-angst relationship was that Lang and Lily were supportive of each other when it came to outside conflict. 4/5

The Steam Factor
Where this novel shines is in the sexy times and the dirty dirty talk, a subject of which Lang seems to have majored in. While the sex scenes didn’t overpower the plot, they were super potent when they happened. 5/5

Final Thoughts
Though the book definitely had some grit to it, the opposites attract romance was well-paced and believable. I feel like things wrapped up a little too happily, but overall, I think this was a well-written, fast read.