Post-Apocalyptic Feed

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


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.

Salvation: A Defiance Novel by Stephanie Tyler

Salvation is the 3rd novel in the Defiance Series by Stephanie Tyler. I read the second book in the series, Redemption based on the recommendation of several folks in twitter.

The Defiance series is essentially a post-apocalyptic Motorcycle Club/New Adult novel. I enjoyed Redemption despite having the skipped the first book where I suspect most of the world-building for occurred.

Luna and Bishop were supporting characters in Redemption and I was eager for their story. Bishop and Mathias are blood brothers, who survived brutal childhoods together, escaped the military after the Chaos and are finding a place and maybe a home in Defiance.

In Redemption Bishop was also Mathias’s voice, speaking for him, since he only communicates through sign language forming a close relationship with Jessa. At the end of Redemption Bishop took Mattias place as a hostage in Keller’s compound. Keller is a mafioso, trading partner and occasional threat and rival to the Defiance MC. Luna is a legacy member of the Defiance MC who is scarred by the abuse and violence that was common there under the previous leaders. She had been ready to leave Defiance and take her chances in the outside world when Bishop arrived, so after waiting four months for his return she decides to follows Bishop to Keller's.

At Keller’s Luna finally lets Bishop claim her as his or have them both suffer the consequences of her impulsive and unsanctioned arrival. Keller’s compound is alluring mirage: freedom and excess on the surface and desperation and fear underneath. Bishop and Luna have to navigate treacherous relationships to stay alive, doubting every word they hear while projecting strength. I was disappointed by how little time Tyler spent deepening or building a romance for Bishop and Luna, with most of the story dedicated to the precarious political situation at Keller’s and reacting to outside threats by the LoV and the Government. Their relationship seemed to stall after a few chapters and boiled down to a lot of Bishop bossing her around and Luna liking it.

Declan one of Keller’s top men and Bishop’s assassination partner and Rebel, Luna’s best-friend and protector in Defiance however have a much more interesting relationship. Drawn together after Rebel traces Luna to Keller’s their relationship deepens beyond their initial intentions. They both live closeted lives, as their sexual orientation and S/M preferences are not acceptable to most the members in their rival organizations. Their relationship and growing attachment could be fascinating to read. I might give the next book a try to see if they can balance their conflicting loyalties to try unite their compounds survive the Government’s stepped up efforts at eradicating America’s undesirables.

The Defiance's politics are complex and well developed but I wish there had been less focus on the external conflicts.

3 out 5


A digital ARC of this novel was provided by the publisher, Carina Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.