Post-Apocalyptic Feed

Ashwin (Gideon's Riders #1) by Kit Rocha

Gideonsriders1If you look through this blog you will find a half-dozen reviews for Kit Rocha's Beyond Series.  I have huge love for that series and was very pleased and satisfied with the way the series ended in Beyond Surrender

Bree Bridges and Donna Herren, who co-write as Kit Rocha, are moving on from Sector 4 and the bootlegging & orgiastic O'Kanes to a very different corner of their world. Although many of the characters might be familiar to long-time Kit Rocha readers, this is a great jump on point for new readers, as the status quo has radically changed in the Sectors and Kit Rocha doesn't assume you've spent several years reading their previous novels (like I have).

Ashwin Malhotra is a genetically modified super-soldier, one of the Makhai, brutally trained to act without emotion.  He is fearsome, solitary and has been growing increasingly unstable.  The source of his instability is his forbidden fixation on one of his former doctors, Kora Bellamy. Ashwin smuggled her away from their base and arranged for the O'Kanes to hide and protect her, even from himself.  Fearing he would harm her, he submitted himself to a tortuous process to rid himself of his fixation. Once again considered fit for duty his generals have sent him on a infiltration and reconnaissance mission into the heart of Sector One.

Sector One is run by the Rios Family, descendants of a powerful self-styled prophet, who built a powerful cult around himself. Gideon Rios, a grandson of the prophet is the political leader of Sector One, having given control of their church to his sister Isabela.   Despite this the religious devotion and loyalty of the residents of Sector One, still belong almost absolutely to Gideon, which troubles the Generals as the refugees fleeing Eden are walking straight to Rios Family-run temples for help. 

Kora Bellamy's whole life has been dedicated to caring and medicine. Trained for infancy by her his distant but over-protective father, she has never shied away from bucking authority and risking her life in order to make sure the people around get the help they need.  During the war she found refuge in Sector One with the Rios family, who helped her establish hospitals and accepted her as a sister. But she hasn't really considered it home, till Ashwin walks in after being missing for months. Seeing Ashwin again raises tons of questions for her and throws them both into turmoil.

This romance is all about conflicted loyalties, accepting unexpected welcome & forgiveness and like all Kit Rocha books, about chosen families.  Ashwin and Kora have a lot of secrets from each other, lots of fears and insecurities about their mental states, their feelings and their identities.  They have long been pawns in other people's grand schemes and they need to figure out who they are and what they want before they can fully claim each other.  They must satisfy their longing for each other while trying to unpack what they truly feel and then they will have to figure out how to keep each other safe from those who want to use them.

As Kit Rocha veteran, I am loving all the background political maneuverings and the exploration of the intersection between politics, power and religion in Sector One as the post-Eden world is reshaped. I love seeing this world from a different perspective and I can't wait to get to know the other Riders.

 

DISCLAIMER: I am unapologetic Kit Rocha fangirl. I pretty much dropped everything else I was reading when Bree emailed me this ARC.  I follow and chat with Bree on twitter all of time because I really respect her views of romance, writing and fandom. 


Beyond Surrender by Kit Rocha & Moonshadow by Thea Harrison

Make Love not War goes the 60’s refrain but that is not a choice the lovers in these two books can make. War is raging and they can’t retreat or escape it. Their choice is to make love and war.

51VepsJ+oeL._SY346_Beyond Surrender by Kit Rocha is the final book in their dystopian epic series about a band of free-loving bootlegging gangsters that were push too far and too long and refuse to roll-over and die.  They tried just carving a little piece of the world for themselves but the world wouldn’t leave them alone, so they had to make their world just a bit bigger.

Nessa in Beyond Surrender is everyone’s little sister, most especially Dallas’ . She has been with him since before there were any other O’kanes. Her skill at making Liquor is the heart of his operation. And no one is more aware of that than Nessa.  Life has taught her that only two kinds of men ever make a move on her, thoughtless lunks who don’t know enough to be scared of the O’kanes  and manipulative liars who see her as asset to be seduced away. Nessa has been waiting a long time to find someone who will hold her attention and who is worth her time. Ryder terrifies her. He is everything she wants, and she has absolutely no idea what he really wants.

Ryder doesn't either, he has been training and preparing for this war his whole life. The only person that has made him want to consider what comes after is Nessa.

I enjoyed the romance, and I love the dynamics of Nessa and Ryder’s relationship as they both try to figure out what they want and how much they want it. They are deliciously awkward at times and undeniably sexy. However the main draw for me in this book was seeing how Bree and Donna were going to wrap up this war, and series, keeping up the tension and stakes and not destroy a bunch of HEA’s in the process.  I was sucker punched at points and  just generally impressed at how they were able to really show the cost of this war on the O’kanes while not betraying romance expectations.  There was a cost and many tears and scars because to this war.  There are many storylines I am eager to follow into their new Gideon’s Riders series but I was also satisfied that I had read something that hung together as cohesive if expansive story.  The O’kanes and their struggle have always connected with me deeply and I think this was a good way to end their story. ( I received ARC of Beyond Surrender from Kit Rocha).

Beyond Surrender ended a series but  Moonshadow opens one.

Moonshadow_Thea_Harrison_Moonshadow_HiRes_1575x2475-652x1024Moonshadow by Thea Harrison is the start of a new series in the Elder Races world.

 I took refuge in Thea Harrison’s Elder Races novels during the run up to the election. They were a fantastic escape, worth the hefty price tag. However unlike my experience  with the Beyond books, where I always wanted to see how things connected and check in with Dallas and Lex, I was way less interested in the political intrigue arcs and the central couple of Dragos and Pia. I wanted less of the meta story and more romance. In Moonshadow, Thea Harrison stays in the same world and mythos of her Elder Races novels but goes in more romance-heavy direction  (and much more reasonable price point).

Some things were very familiar, Nikolas, a soldier for Oberon’s Dark Court is powerful, dangerous and unreasonably attracted to the heroine. Despite being overmatched physically by the dark commanding hero, the heroine,  Sophie Ross,  tolerates zero BS and challenges the hero at every turn. There is tons of delicious bickering, some hate sex and lots of stomping around and trying to ignore inconvenient feelings.

Sophie is at a major crossroads in her life. She is recovering from a terrifying encounter that has left her unable to face returning to her old life as Witch-consultant with the LAPD, when she is offered a piece of her past and given chance to inherit an impregnable magical house, if she can break into it. On her way there she rescues a hurt creature that is not quite what he seems, bringing her to Nikolas’s attention. He and his ever-dwindling fighting brothers has been stranded and on the run for centuries and have almost forgotten what peace feels like. Sophie and her magical house, built on the site of their greatest defeat offers a glimmer of hope and her un-orthodox magical practices an edge they have never had before. Sophie and Nikolas must learn to fight side by side, even when it terrifies them. In the end  Sophie and Nikolas have to make a choice to treasure love despite inconvenient timing and their own doubts about their capacity love or give up before they have even gotten started.

I am hopeful of this new direction.  The romance still got  a bit lost in all the intense action of the last third of the book  but it was restored to its proper focus in the closing chapters. I am eager to spend more time in this corner of the Elder Races world. ( I received a ARC of Moonshadow from Thea Harrision via NetGalley).


Beyond Ruin by Kit Rocha

Beyondruin-400Beyond Ruin is the seventh book in the gritty and erotic post-apocalyptic romance series by Kit Rocha. I have an unapologetic love for this series, and I loved this book but you won't love it as much as I did  if you haven't invested in reading the previous books in the series. Luckily Bree Bridges and Donna Herren, the writing duo known as Kit Rocha have made it easy to catch up by offering discounted book bundles and fantastic website with a great character directory.

In Beyond Ruin all the seeds of conflict between Eden and the sectors that have been planted from the very beginning are bearing fruit. The tensions that rock  the central romance between Mad, Doc, Jade & Scarlet is inseparable from this conflict.

Mad, Adrian Maddox Rios, is the grandson of Prophet who built a powerful religious dynasty in Sector One.  He is somewhat estranged from his family, having fled to Sector Four and joined the O'Kanes, rather than taking up leadership there and face the suffocating love the of Prophet's followers, who would gladly give their lives for him, and wear his sainted mother's image on their bodies.  

Dylan "Doc" is a self-destructive pain-pill addict, who once was a sought after physician in Eden before he learned too many secrets and found himself a captive forced to oversee torture sessions. Dylan's family had sacrificed everything so he could get an education, but he became nothing but a tool to masters of Eden. He lost them and the position they had wanted for him and now he feels he has nothing left to lose. Once reckless and rootless, he has found some solace and comfort in Mad's embrace.

While Dylan and Mad are together they long for Jade and Scarlet, dreaming and fantasizing about them but unable to figure out how to approach them. They are caught in a tug of war of desire and fear, wanting and wishing but never quite acting on the flirtation, dancing frustrated circles around each other. 

Jade came to Sector 4, fragile and strung-out, after being betrayed by the Cerys the head of Sector Two.  She once used her training as an Orchid-trained prostitute to be serve as a spy, pleasing and manipulating powerful men in Eden with sex and submission.  When her patron discovered the truth, he nearly killed through drugs and abuse.  She has found comfort and love in Scarlet's arms but has not yet lowered the walls around her own heart enough to truly give and accept that love.

Scarlet is orphaned singer from the bombed-out Sector Three. She feels keenly out-classed by her lovers, never having lived in anything like the luxury and privilege they have all come from. They all adore her open-hearted embrace of life and sensation.

Beyond Ruin is probably the most plot heavy book Kit Rocha have ever written. A hell of a lot stuff happens, both to the central quartet and to Eden and the sectors. There are attacks, rescue missions, assassinations and the steady build-up toward war, all while Jade, Scarlet, Mad and Dylan try to figure out if their coming together as foursome can be maintained. There are a lot of moving parts to their relationship and they have to figure out how they can be there for each other beyond wrecking themselves with pleasure in bed.  Kit Rocha excels at building toward some seriously dark wrenching relationship moments that are 100% earned and consistent to who the characters are.  The push and pull of their ambitions, self-protection and instinctual drives, come up against the desire to truly accept, trust and belong to each other.

The stars of the book for me where Jade and Mad because they both struggle so much and respond so differently to very similar situations.  I was fascinated by Jade's internal struggle to let herself be truly seen by her lovers and her agonizing sense of responsibility over all the girls from the pleasure houses in Sector Two. Raised from childhood to feign desire and pleasure, to mimic affection and care in order to manipulate and control, she constantly questions her reactions and responses, as she works to reclaim her authentic self.  I felt Mad's anxiety and claustrophobia in Sector One, and his desire for and fear of wielding power over others.  He is a true prophet in how clearly he saw his grandfather's corruption and is struggling with untangling his desire to protect, save from his grand-father's power-hungry appetites. His struggle is how to love and care without controlling and self-martyr-ship.

The sex in these books continues to be inventive, hot but most importantly emotionally meaningful. The storyline continues to build with great payoff for longtime readers and I am on the edge of my seat waiting  to see what the future holds for the O'Kanes as their world is shaken once more.

I received a review copy for Beyond Ruin from one of its authors and was happily immersed into it.


Reading in 2015: 12 Favorite Reads of 2015

My reading year has been pretty fabulous.  I read a lot of good books and I had the opportunity to talk about those books with other people on twitter, on blogs and in person. Talking about books even disagreeing about them is one of my favorite things. Thank you so much for being part of my reading community.

These are some of my favorite books I read this year.

  

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Party Lines by Emma Barry

Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

The Orphan Pearl by Erin Satie

Beyond Innocence by Kit Rocha

Serving Pleasure by Alisha Rai

The Brightest Day: A Juneteenth Historical Romance Anthology with stories by Lena Hart, Kianna Alexander, Piper Hugley & Alyssa Cole

The Spymaster Lady by Joanna Bourne

Giving it Up by Audra North

The Martian by Andy Weir

Seduced by Molly O'Keefe

Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron

 


Recent Reads, great books by Lauren Dane, Rachel Aaron & Kristen Ashley

Opening Up (Ink and Chrome #1) by Lauren Dane: I read Dane for her heroines. She also writes complex, sometimes heavy family relationships, hot & interesting heroes but her heroines are just amazing. PJ is the grand-daughter of a racing legend and the black-sheep of her car-parts selling family. At work she is marginalized by her sexist asshole father and managed by her siblings. PJ follows her heart out of the company and launches her own car customizing business. PJ might be young but she is smart, tenacious and knows what she wants, and she wants Asa. Asa is gorgeous and sexy. He respects her work and finds her delightful but doesn't want to saddle her with his demons (abandonment issues & hardscrabble childhood). There was relatively little relationship angst in this book after their initial dance around each other as PJ's family/work conflict dominates but the romance was sexy and satisfying. I can't wait to read more Ink and Chrome books,

Nice Dragons Finish Last (Heartstrikers 1) by Rachel Aaron. Julius's mother is a legendary and powerful dragon. She rules her large family through fear and manipulation. Impatient with Julius's lack of ambition, she drags him out of his room and away from his video games and drops him in the middle of the DFZ (Detroit Free Zone), without his powers and money and tells him he has a month to prove himself worthy of his family name or he dies.

Marci is almost a certified Mage, only a few week away from her degree when her father's vicious employer kills him and sets out to kill her too.

Both Marci and Julius are trying to stay alive in the DFZ and build a unlikely partnership as they team up to track down a runaway dragon.

This is the first book in a fun, imaginative and engaging Urban Fantasy series. I loved the whole thing, from Julius and Marci's fledgling flirtation to Julius large, dangerously unpredictable family.

Ride Steady (Chaos #3) by Kristen Ashley : I devoured this book. I think it is the best of the series so far. As a kid, Carson grew up learning how to take a hit, and keep his head down. He learned to plot, plan and keep his dreams to himself. Eight years after leaving town after one last confrontation with his father, Joker is where he wants to be. He is brother in Chaos, where he turns his art into customized bikes. He thinks he has left his past behind till he runs into his teenage crush Carissa on the side of the road.

Carissa was a cheerleader and the quarterback's girlfriend, but she didn't play the mean girl games and always had a smile for Carson. While Joker's life has been in a upward trajectory, Carissa has fallen far from her high school glory. After the loss of her sister and her mother's death, all Carissa has ever wanted was to have a family. So she held on to her jerk boyfriend for dear life. Eight years later she has been dumped by her lawyer husband who has replaced her with an even younger fiancée, she is desperately trying to make ends meet, working overtime as grocery clerk, caring for her toddler son while trying to figure out how to hold on to custody. Her ex wants to scrape her from his life and take their son with him. While Carissa is initially wary of getting help from a biker, she soon recognizes what a good man Joker is, even if she doesn't realize, this beared, lean and shaggy haired man is her old crush, Carson.

There a great versions of familiar KA motifs, fun cameos by other KA characters, and a surprisingly mature and beautiful romance, where the hero and heroine solve problems and share concerns with each other. It is one of those rare books that at 640 pages I was left wanting more.


Spy Rom: Ripped by Edie Harris & Beyond Innocence by Kit Rocha

BloodMoneyRipped-189x300Ripped is the second book in Edie Harris's romantic suspense series "Blood Money" for Carina Press, continuing the romantic suspense plot from Blamed.

Tobias Faraday is the head of old, powerful, secretive and family-run Faraday Industries. Faraday Industries is huge power in military and intelligence circles, leveraging their inventions and innovations into political power and access for over 200 years.

But that power and access made one of their own a target. After Tobias's sister Beth was taken and tortured in Blamed in retribution for her involvement in assassination attempt gone wrong, he concentrates all his efforts into rescuing her and destroying those who hurt her.

Chandler McCallister knew too much and said too little. Trapped in a brutal undercover assignment, she didn't intervene and in fact assisted those who targeted Beth. The information she provided the Faradays almost came too late. Her career at MI6 is in tatters, and her life might soon be over.

 

Her only play is to help Tobias infiltrate the inner circles of Kedrov's organization so that he might exact his revenge. She trades her cooperation in what is likely a suicide mission for the chance to stand by her sister Pippa's side on her wedding weekend to ensure lurid secrets from their family's past don't derail the wedding.

Harris played with some of my favorite tropes, enemies to lovers & pretend relationship, when Tobias chooses to pose as Chandler's plus one at Pippa's wedding. Pretending to be lovers soon proves a dangerous temptation that has them both dangerously off balance.

I quite liked this book. The action was very intense but not as triggers as in Blamed, the connection, attraction and trust between Tobias and Chandler was fast but still believable. They are both professionally cold for a living, protective of their siblings and isolated. I loved how themes of atonement, forgiveness and sacrifice, some of my favorites, kept resurfacing in their relationship. However, this is only the second of an interconnected multi-book series, and there is a lot of time spent introducing secondary characters, and seeding future plots that are likely to bear fruit as the series progresses. While the characters are intriguing, some of the introductory scenes with these secondary characters bogged down the narrative. 

A review copy of Ripped was provided by Carina Press via NetGalley.

 

Beyondinnocence-400Beyond Innocence is the 6th full-length book in Kit Rocha's fantastic dystopian erotic romance series (there have also been 3 fantastic novellas). In this dark future, Eden is one of the few cities to survived a cataclysmic event. It is a oasis of wealth and luxury but personal freedom is scarce as city is run by a cabal of religious politicians who use strict morality rules to control the population in collusion with the military. Outside the closely monitored walls of Eden are the sectors, loosely governed regions that compete to supply and trade with Eden.

The O'Kanes run a Sector 4. Originally, the O'Kanes were a brawling & sexing bootlegging operation that controlled trade and provided security for Sector 4 merchants. They have become increasingly interested and involved in inter-sector politics and diplomacy due to increasing incursions and interference by opportunistic parties in Eden and rival sectors. As the series has progressed the O'Kanes have become more sophisticated and politically savvy and more of threat to those in power in Eden. More than ever the O'Kanes need information and intelligence rather than relying on their brawn to save the day. Beyond Innocence is a romance between two new and non-traditional O'Kane allies during a dangerous and pivotal moment for the O'Kanes.

Bree Bridges and Donna Herren (who jointly write as Kit Rocha) jokingly refer Beyond Innocence as their Duke/Spy book. Jared, the hero of Beyond Innocence is in some ways that archetype, wealthy, immaculately dressed, a huge contrast to the rough, scarred and tattooed O'Kane heroes that have dominated the series. But Jared gained all that wealth and access to highest echelons of Eden by working as whore, rising from a childhood on the streets to wealth and luxury by providing the repressed women of Eden a romantic fantasy and multiple orgasms at very high price. He has agreed to spy for the O'Kanes for a multitude of complicated reasons, but due to the covert nature of his work, he is still an outsider in the cozy O'Kane community.

Lili Fleming is a stranger in O'Kane lands, waking up from a long drug-numbed life. The daughter and wife of two recently deceased former sector leaders and O'Kane enemies, she fled her home in a bloody nightgown and a fur coat with pockets stuffed with pills. The O'Kanes have given her sanctuary and time to recover but the pills have finally run out and she now has to face the alarming landscape of Sector four and the O'Kane Compound without their numbing.

Lili was raised to be an ideal domestic trophy wife who served the needs of her powerful husband: decorating his arm, bearing his children, keeping his house and enduring any physical and emotional abuse with the aids of pills. Only knowing sex to be a scary obligation and relationships only a tool of control and abuse, she can't make sense or believe in the joy and pleasure the women of the O'Kane compound celebrate. In that sea of sex and leather she seeks out the familiar, the one un-inked painfully handsome man in a crisp dress shirt, Jared.

Jared and Lili's love story grows out their outsider-status. They are trying to sort out what it means to belong to the O'Kane. Neither of them have much experience belonging to someone else, or in trust others with their well-being. They are both remaking their life, finding ways to put old skills to new use.  Like recognizes Like, and they see past well practiced public masks they wear.  While there is plenty of sex in this story, their connection and intimacy is slowly developed, an innocent friendship to form first.  The trust they build with each other, makes their sexual exploration incredibly meaningful.  I just loved the moment when Jared makes sure they use condoms the first time they have PIV sex. In the Beyond world, condom sex is pretty rare since most people need fertility drugs to procreate and STD's are not a thing.  But Jared knows enough about Lili to care about how she might be at risk of pregnancy, and how that would complicate things dramatically for them.  Jared is similarly careful and considerate with delicate Lili through out their relationship even as he exposes to more and more O'Kane wantonness to that she might learn her own desires. In his relationship with Lili, serving as sexual tutor, he reclaims a part of his life that he had become alienated from, because he do it while being his genuine self.

The dynamic shifts in the second half of the book when Lili is the one who is reclaiming the skills that defined her as trophy wife. She is able to reclaim and re-purpose her love of cooking as way to contribute in the O'Kane camp, and connect with Jared.  She ends up using all relationships skills she honed as trophy to do what no other O'Kane is able to do when it matters most.  In the end their relationship matures to a true partnership, that makes them both stronger instead of diminishing them. 

There is wonderful balance between the over-arching plots and romantic relationship development time, even as new characters are introduced and we check in with prior couples. There is a wonderful pay off in having journeyed  this far into series and it was fun to see the O'Kane world through the eyes of outsiders who question and doubt the world they see.

I am always eager for more stories from Sector 4.

A review copy of Beyond Innocence was provided by the authors

 


Signal Boost (Off the Grid #2) by Alyssa Cole

Signal Boost is the second novel in Alyssa Cole's post-apocalyptic series Off the Grid for Carina Press.  A mysterious event has damaged  the world's or at least North America's electrical grid and crippled communication systems.  In Radio Silence, John leads his best friend Arden out of Rochester, NY to his family's well stocked remote cabin.  There John's big brother Gabe and Arden unexpectedly fall in love.  Signal Boost is John's story and a continuation of the post-apocalyptic plot.

Pre-Flare, John or Jang-wan as he known to his family was a happy gay man, studying computer science and sharing an apartment with Arden. Post-Flare, his life has become stifling and monotonous, he lives for his pre-dawn conversations with Arden before the rest of the family wakes.  The predictable routine of his Post-Flare life is upset when he tackles an intruder trying to pilfer tomatoes from their vegetable garden.

Mykhail was an astro-physics graduate student Pre-Flare, home on extended leave to take care of ailing relative. His Post-Flare life has been incredibly traumatic. He hasn't had any of the comforts the Seong family has enjoyed. He has experienced the horrible things since the Flare and has very little to live for. The one thing that keeps him going is the hope that if he find his way back to his former college campus he can  help get the grid up and running again. Mykhail is convinced his former professor and graduate adviser was one of the few people prepared to respond to this event.  

Jang-wan & Mykhail immediately hit it off.  Mykhail is funny, interesting and they connect over long conversations about the cosmos while stargazing. Jang-wan jumps at the opportunity to be of  use. His orienteering skills can get Mykhail to Burrell where his computer skills might be again be of use. 

On the road Jang-wan & Mykhail get to know each other a lot better and face perilous situations. Jang-wan learns all about Mykahail's complicated family, and the life choices.  The heightened emotional situations they experience on the road eventually breakdown Mykhail's resistance to his attraction and admiration for Jang-wan.  The story takes a big shift at this point, moving from trek-road-trip romance to romantic suspense. Many things don't seem right at Burrell College and  Mykhail's will to pursue their relationship is very quickly tested.

I was really looking forward to this book. I enjoyed Radio Silence a great deal and the teaser chapter for Signal Boost was fantastic. But uneven pacing & world building issues tripped me up.  I liked the characters, but I liked the idea of them together more than I liked the execution of it.  Jang-Wan and Mykhail's lengthy conversations about the stars and astrophysics felt like they had been cribbed straight from Neil Degrasse Tyson's Cosmos series.  Jang-Wan & Mykhail's complex emotional and relationship issues  were abandoned in the last quarter of the novel, replaced by a larger set of issues. The action scenes and intrigues were exciting but I felt Mykhail & Jan-Wan's romantic arc suffered.  

 There was a lot of great potential in this story but it did not quite live up to my expectations.

I received a review copy of Signal Boost from Carina Press via NetGalley


Radio Silence by Alyssa Cole

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When the news turns ugly and I can't read anymore I often retreat to books. One of the books that has provided me with solace in the past month was Radio Silence. Radio Silence is an post-apocalyptic NA with diverse cast, set in Western New York. Arden, who is African American and her best friend and roommate John (Gay & Korean American) live in Rochester, NY (my current hometown). One day, with no warning an unknown event takes down the power grid and all communications devices & services. At first people are calm, waiting for some official response, for FEMA, or the Military to roll in. But no news is not good news. While at the beginning they shared their fridge food with neighbors, and joked about their shared plumbing issues,  soon the post-event calm dissipated, and people started seeking refuge behind locked doors, as suspicion and paranoia spread through the community. Cries, and fearsome sounds of looters or other raiders started filling the night. Convinced that whatever has happened isn’t going to be resolved anytime soon, John and Arden pack up their remaining food stuffs and choose to hike out of Rochester and head to John’s family cabin, 100 or so miles away which they know is better provisioned and likely safer than their city apartment. They are only miles from the cabin, with Arden taking a turn at navigating when they are attacked by desperate strangers and only survive due to Gabe’s John’s brother miraculous intervention.

Gabe hauls the unconscious John to the cabin, and does what he can to make him comfortable (Gabe was an emergency room doctor). Arden is torn. She has reached the destination they were fixed on but it doesn't really feel like a safe haven, as life in the cabin is not without fear and tension. Gabe and John’s parents are missing and Gabe has been unable to track them down and keep his teenage sister Maggie safe. Gabe is relieved to have John arrive but he takes an immediate dislike of Arden, who he blames for leading John off-track which lead to him being attacked on their way to the family cabin. While John recuperates from his head injury, Arden and Gabe frequently butt heads over big and small decisions. It is clear to everyone else that Gabe and Arden’s conflicts have a strong undercurrent of unspoken attraction and sexual tension. Gabe and Arden have to resolve their feelings for each other so they can survive in the cabin’s close-quarters.

 

“The better I got to know him, the more I wanted him. That wasn’t usually how things worked out for me, and it was new and frightening territory”

 

I really liked that Arden, while head-strong & bold in lots of way, is also vulnerable. She sometimes feels like an intruder in the Seong’s home. She feels deep guilt for being on the other side of the country from her aging and ailing parents. Guilt is something Gabe and Arden have in common. Gabe feels responsible for failing to protect or find his missing parents. He is trying to do too much & carry too much to compensate. I liked how Cole developed Arden and Gabe’s relationship, from their high-tension encounters, to the gradual thawing and eventual recognition of that they can depend on each other. I really liked that neither Arden or Gabe are perfect. They misjudge each other, they screw up. Neither of them is as competent or together as they want others to think they are.

My only real criticism of the book is that I felt some of the post-apocalyptic details were only lightly sketched in. Limited as we are by Arden’s deep POV, we only know as much as she does about what is happening in the rest of the world. It chafes that we know so little about what is happening. At a certain point I just had to admit to myself that I wasn't going to get satisfactory answers to all my questions at least in this book, and had choose to read on anyway for the sake of the characters and  romance, which I was enjoying immensely.  

 Also as a resident of Western NY, I also had to give up trying to figure out where exactly the Seong’s cabin was located, eventually deciding it must be some where up in the Adirondacks or Thousand Islands area (both areas that border Canada but not the Canadian border we first think of in this side of the state).  Maybe I am completely wrong with my guess, but once I mentally settled on a location I could relax and enjoy the book.

I am very eager to read the next book in the series. The excerpt in the back was great, and I can’t wait to read about John and the man he tackles raiding their garden, especially because he seems to have some knowledge about what did happen.

It was wonderful to read a interracial romance, where both the main characters were people of color in a mainstream line. I liked that Cole didn't shy away from the racial tensions but dealt with them honestly but in a non-exploitative manner.  I hope we see much more of that in the future.

 

A digital review copy of Radio Silence was provided by Carina Press via NetGalley.


Fall Reading

Between work conferences and family visits I have gotten too far ahead on my review reading and fallen behind on my review writing so  I had all these mini-reviews floating around in my head. These are some of the books I read and enjoyed reading in October and November that I haven't had a chance to post about.

 

Intrusion by Charlotte Stein:

 Noah and Beth are both survivors of violence. They have been deeply traumatized by the torture they endured, Noah at the hands of serial killer who he once profiled and Beth at the hands of stalker turn rapist. Told from Beth's point of view in Stein’s fantastically absorbing first-person style, their love story is highly unconventional.

The novel is a story of repression and an ode to anticipation and dirty talking. Stein does a fantastic job building tension as Beth, who questions everything tries to figure out if the attraction she feels for Noah is one sided and Noah, who fears his own desires and wants, is affecting detachment and distance while radiating need. If you like your heroes tortured and vulnerable and your heroines determined and courageous, you will want to read this. Never have fingers grazing meant so much.

I am grateful for the review copy of Intrusion published by Avon I received directly from the author, Charlotte Stein.

4.5 stars

 

Think of England by KJ Charles:

Curtis is a man’s man in the early 20th century England, raised by his bachelor uncles and the British boarding school system, he is now a former soldier recently returned from war, maimed. Lost and aimless for the first time in his life, Curtis is determined to find out the truth about the possible sabotage that destroyed his battalion and cost him most of the fingers of his right hand. His quest brings him to house party at an isolated country estate, whose secrets purposes are more sinister than Curtis could have ever imagined. He must ally himself with the slimiest of snakes, Daniel DaSilva, a effete poet, whose modern ideas, tight clothing and ultra-sophisticated manner un-nerve and and unsettle Curtis.

This novel was amazing, told from Curtis’s point of view is was fantastic to see how his perception of the people around him and himself shift as he falls in love with DaSilva. This book is a treat for anyone fond of early-20th century country house mysteries and novels. The characters were perfect, the romance breathtaking and the writing was delicious. I am so glad I read it, and I can’t wait to start Charles’ fantasy-romance series, A Charm of Magpies next month.

5 stars

 

 

Beyond Possession by Kit Rocha:

 Tatiana is a survivor. She has learned everything she has needed about know about life in Sector 4, through surviving her father’s abusive dictatorial rule and destruction of his empire by Dallas O’Kane. At great personal cost Tatiana has built for herself a growing business and shepherded her sister into adulthood pampered, sheltered and un-scathed. The lessons she learned in those early days, when she had nothing made her incredibly determined to be independent and self-reliant.

Zan is one of Dallas O’Kane’s men, and while he has long admired and wanted to be closer to Tatiana, his loyalty to O’Kane and his awareness of the power dynamics of being an O’Kane in Sector 4, has meant that he restrained himself to casual conversations and friendly visits, so as not to even unintentionally coerce Tatiana into a relationship with him. But the political landscape in Sector 4 is in danger of changing  once again, when a dangerous rabble-rouser seduces Tatiana’s sister as part of play for power and Zan must try to figure out a way, where he can secure Tatiana’s support for the O’Kanes without ending any chance they might have at building a relationship.

I really liked how much time this book spent on Tatiana. We really got to know how she thought, and why she thought they way she did. Her concerns are not trivial ones, and while Zan, Lex and Dallas upend her expectations by behaving in ways she could not anticipate based on her life experience, we never see her as wrong-headed. I particularly liked how the ending continued to show how much the O’Kane world is changing.

 I am grateful for the review copy of Beyond Possession I received from the authors.

 4 stars

 

 

Her Holiday Man by Shannon Stacey:

 Will ran away from his life after his pregnant wife was killed in a car accident. He has been drifting ever since working short-term contracts all around the country. After his father's unexpected death and with the holidays coming, he packs up all his gear and head back home to be there for his mom. But home has changed since he left. His mother is not as lonely as he expects her to be. She has taken under her wing, Christina and Nathaniel,  a divorced mother and son, who live across the street. As his initial suspicious reaction to Christina and Nathaniel fade, he becomes uncomfortably aware of his strong attraction to her. Christina is new to town, having relocated there after her ex-husband bankrupted them when his financial pyramid scheme collapsed. Without family and friends to depend on she has fallen a long way from society wife to convenience store attendant. It is has been a very long time since she has felt the pull of attraction too but the last thing she wants is to get involved with a man that might pick up and leave when things get tough.

Over multiple encounters Christina and Will try to ignore their attraction before eventually they settle one of my favorite tropes, the “we both know this is going nowhere but” secret sexual relationship. Will’s grief and Christina’s trust issues mean they both are scared of getting involved again but can’t help getting attached. Of course Christina’s son Nathaniel and Will’s mom Gail are not oblivious to what is really going on and Christina and Will might hope.

I cried buckets reading this book. Stacey did a wonderful job presenting Will’s grief and the underlying fears he is struggling with. I thought their big conflict was incredibly believable, it sounded like a real fight, and I believed their emotions.  And after putting me through the wringer it had a wonderful resolution that still makes me smile.

 I am grateful for the review copy of Her Holiday Man I received from Carina Press via NetGalley.

 4.5 stars

 

 

One in a Million by Jill Shalvis

 With this book Jill Shalvis’ Lucky Harbor series is drawing to a close, and I will miss Lucky Harbor and its slightly kooky residents. Lucille has been a geriatric pest throughout the series, and while occasionally she has pulled too much time and attention from the main characters with her antics, she appears just the right amount in this book despite the fact that it is Lucille’s unpredictable antics that has brought Callie to Lucky Harbor. Callie is Lucille’s grand-daughter and her busy parents have sent her to check up on her grandmother. Callie grew up in Lucky Harbor and left after she was jilted by her fiancee. She turned her heartbreak into a successful virtual wedding planning business, and even though she never got her big day, she ensures other brides’s days go off without a hitch without ever having to leaving her her apartment. Relocating to Lucky Harbor to check up on her grandmother is not without its perks. The biggest is being able to watch Tanner swim in the bay from her window. She used to have a huge unrequited crush on Tanner. Tanner is not as oblivious to it as she thought then and he has certainly noticed her looking now. Tanner like Callie has heartbreak in his past. He gave up college scholarship and married young to provided for his girlfriend and their unplanned son Troy. He served in Navy, and then worked on the oil rigs, providing them financially but failing to be there physically and emotionally. He feels like a failure as father and husband and hasn’t gotten seriously involved with anyone since.

There was a lot going on in this book, but I enjoyed it. Everything from Callie slowly realizing she is full of shit when she says she doesn’t believe in love or want it, to Tanner working to reconnect with his teenage son Troy and not let Callie slip away. Their flirting was fun, and I enjoyed reading about them .

 I am grateful for the review copy of One in a Million I received from Grand Central via NetGalley

 4 stars


Beyond Addiction by Kit Rocha

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Kit Rocha’s (Bree Bridges & Donna Herren) amazing dystopian erotic romance Beyond series is well known for its scorching sex scenes and intense action but in it I have also found a consistently intriguing exploration of what it means to belong, believe and love. Beyond Addiction particularly focuses how redemption and sacrifice play out in this world.

Finn hasn’t had a reason to live since Tracy OD’ed four years ago. He goes through the motions of living and trying to do the less evil thing he can as Sector Five head, Mac Fleming’s enforcer. Every day it seems there is less good he can accomplish, and he feels in his bones that he is nothing more than ruiner and destroyer. Four years ago, Trix fled Sector Five with a cache of drugs and broken-heart. Rather than allow Mac Fleming to use her as an instrument of destruction against Finn, she left him behind, eventually taking on a new name and a new life in Sector Four. When Trix is captured by Fleming and brought back to Sector Five, Finn doesn’t hesitate to endanger his life to make sure Trix makes it back home to the O’Kanes. However Trix wants more than that from him. She wants him to embrace a life and future together with the O’Kanes. Finn doesn’t think he can do that when his very presence in Sector Four endangers everything the O’Kanes live for.

In the Beyond Series, the sectors surround the city of Eden, the one city to survive the Flares unscathed. Meant to be a self-sustaining city, it was not on the grid when the Flares hit and fried the rest of the world. The city religious character was usurped early on by those who would use it to control the residents. A rigid moral code keeps the pampered but repressed citizens compliant, the threat of expulsion out Eden into the harsh Sectors essentially a death sentence. In Sector Four, Dallas O’Kane, has built a seeming Utopia that at first Finn has a hard time understanding and believing in. For Trix’s sake he strives to make friends, take his lumps and give it a chance. The O’Kane’s vision of redemption eventually becomes incredibly appealing to Finn:

 

“They were all filthy in their own ways. Without shame and without judgment, and it was the most intoxicating fucking thing he’d ever seen. You couldn’t bottle the high that came with loving acceptance. You couldn’t buy it.

You had to earn it.” (Chapter 18)

 

Through the whole book Finn struggles with the weight of Trix’s love and forgiveness, a grace he doesn’t understand or feels that he in anyway deserves. In his eyes, he is only a man that didn’t save her when she needed saving, who didn’t find the strength to rescue her when he need to. The works-righteousness of the O’Kanes is something that he can understand and reach for. He endangers his life for the sake of the O’Kanes, for the home they have given Trix and the hope they have given him. But his willingness to sacrifice himself for the O’Kanes breaks something in Trix. Trix wants something more from him than sacrifice, and Finn will need to figure out how to give it to her. Their relationship requires a different kind of restoration.

I highlighted the heck of out the second of half of this novel. There is just so much thought in the conflicts Finn and Trix face. It really made me think hard of how Christians traditionaly view and portray redemption stories and how Rocha complicated the dynamic in their world and book, doing a fantastic job with portraying the incredible attractiveness of works-righteousness, and the deeply uncomfortable weight of Grace.