Midnight Surrender by Nikki Landis

Really hard hitting

This is now book two in the “Freedom Fighters” series and is just as dark, just as filled with graphic violence.

One thing I can’t deny is that it is a page turner. I just ended up flipping through pages, even when it became uncomfortable. Having read the first book, I had a better idea of what to expect, yet some scenes were still shocking and brutal, especially as most consider this a “romance”.

I also questioned the reactions of some of the characters at every turn. Alex was never truly honest with Lizzie, which led her to doubt him greatly. Lizzie makes many questionable decisions, partly because of this, partly because of her weakness of character in general.

Despite all this, mind, the majority of readers seemed to enjoy this. I can’t deny being pulled along as the story progressed, and annoyingly it means that I’m invested enough in the story arc that I want to read the next, the third book. Yet I still wish that all of these books came with the necessary warnings.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital ARC via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

Refugee Road by Nikki Landis

Too much violence

This book needs to come with warnings. There are really a few things that grate on me here, the first being the amount of domestic violence, which we have absolutely no warning about in the blurb. We are told that Darren is dangerous, but not how dangerous and violent he is. He also isn’t the only one, with another character injuring Lizzie for the fun of it as well. If you have any issues with any of this, best to walk away and stay away.

The next is that, after three years, two people suddenly seem to decide that they’re in love with Lizzie, and want to make their intentions known, just at the point she rediscovers the one she lost, who she fell in love with at 15. It’s damned confusing! Lizzie obviously chooses Alec, as the blurb indicates, but Darren appears to use his sudden increased interest as an excuse to dominate her, and physically punishes her, despite his declared feelings, for insubordination.

Then there’s the timeline. I misread it at first. I assumed that it was all supposed to be taking place around 1945-6, but then Lizzie’s home on the Militia base doesn’t add up to that – domestic appliances that wouldn’t have been available then. So I went back and reread the description: “It was nineteen forty-five, or similar enough.” The Militia movement has been going on since then, when Hitler apparently surrendered and WWIII started. So this war has been fighting for all those decades up until the modern era. The USA is in ruins, with the President firmly in charge of the Militia, who control everything. Except the Refugees. But they try. But this is the thing that gets me most: if they’re stuck in this time warp, how on Earth do they have mobile phones, modern appliances, etc.? They have antibiotics, modern medicines, sonograph. It’s extremely confusing. Yet they still apparently dress like it’s 1945, too.

The romance itself was great, but would have been so much better if it wasn’t for the distractions mentioned above. I was actually shocked by the domestic violence. Now I can cope with it if prewarned, but I don’t expect to be thrown into someone being abused. As I mentioned above, for those triggered by these sorts of scenes, there really needs to be some warnings.

Lizzie settles into domestic life quite easily, despite the fact that she used to train daily, keeping fit to a high level. But, of course, everything is far too easy…

Really, this needed a far more concrete background. All the scenes were descriptive, but those little niggles kept me from enjoying the story completely.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆ – Sort of liked/OK

*I received a free digital ARC via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

Secrets and Sorcery by Lori Whyte

When everything you believe in is wrong

Avery, a cat shifter, has grown up believing that her magic is rare and that she should hide it at any cost. When her brother is recruited by the so-called Dark Guards because of his strong gifted and inherited magic, Avery is forced out into the open, something which she’s always been terrified of. Can she keep her secrets, and her sanity?

Mike is initially drawn to Avery wanting to uncover what she’s hiding. But he doesn’t expect to be drawn to her in other ways, too. When Avery’s brother goes missing in a surprise attack, it takes some time for Avery to trust Mike, but before long, they’re not only sharing a mission, they’re sharing a bed.

The connection between Mike and Avery is sizzling! This story has a “Fated Mates” edge to it, which can be seen as the dynamic between the pair increases. Not that Avery really wants to believe, let alone have anything to do with that. She’s grown up as one of “Castor’s Kind”, aka “human”, and was always taught that she should never mingle with the rest of WaW (Witch and Warlock) society, as she would be caught and tortured.

But the true secrets come out, turning Avery’s world upside down. Because, as it turns out, she’s not the only shifter around…

What I also found great about this book was the glossary at the back. I bookmarked it, and referenced it several times. Even though the terms are explained as the story goes along, having a list of them all in one place definitely helps if you forget a little! The entire story is based in the modern world with elements of Greek mythology thrown in. Everyone in the WaW world is gifted a magic by one of the Greek gods, and inherits a second, weaker, magic from one of their parents. Quite an interesting concept!

Although I must admit the ending disappointed me. It was weaker than the rest of the story. I understood that it was a lead-in to the next book, but I wasn’t so enamoured on it. However, it will be interesting following the stories of the other characters, definitely, and this book was more than enough to want me to read further.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital ARC via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

Ogre King by Chera Zade and Fanny Mills

No time for monstering

As should be expected from the Zade/Mills combo, this is a very short short story. Although I should have reigned in my expectations, I still expected more from this.

The book is split into two parts, where we first hear the Ogre King Ugrort’s POV, who deliberately gets himself captured, and then the Princess Eleta’s POV, who had already been fantasising about “green monsters” before she even heard that there were ogres in the dungeon.

This ends on a cliffhanger, so obviously set up for the next book in the series. But, in this first part, the two lovers-to-be (as it’s obviously going to go that way) don’t even meet! It is all steamy enough in what does actually happen, including a consensual sexual “treatment” that the princess receives from the court physician. But far more is needed, and the second book isn’t even available as of yet!

I would have been much happier for a complete story, instead of these bits, but considering that the book isn’t published anymore, I doubt that we’ll ever get a conclusion.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆ – Sort of liked/OK

*I received a free digital ARC via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

Fangs For All by Laura Greenwood and Arizona Tape

Awesome ending

Ha! What a conclusion! Considering I’d been following the series from book one (which is best, as otherwise it’s impossible to keep up), there are certainly some things I didn’t see coming.

So, we learn more about the Blood Slave auctions and, of course, Lucy and her band are still hot on the tail to try to stop them, at any cost. Yet, what will it cost them? For Lucy, it costs her more than she would have wanted at the beginning of her journey into the dark side of vampire high society. Yet, when stepping into her inheritance appears to be the answer to almost all of her aims and questions, she finally does it, and with flourish.

Mika. Now, I wouldn’t have expected that to be the real background story! Yet, with all her strangeness, it does make perfect sense. Despite everything, she proves quite an ally.

But that damned cat! When will we finally understand what’s going on with him?!

And then there’s Lucy and her men… Not quite a complete HEA, yet things appear to definitely be working out for her! Not that her mother would approve, but hey – isn’t she one of the ones supporting keeping the Blood Slaves…?

With her grandmother somehow speaking from beyond her Sleep, all the clues have been right under Lucy’s nose the entire time.

Final rating: ★★★★★ – Loved it/couldn’t put it down

*I received a free digital ARC via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

Forgotten Gods: The Complete Series by Laura Greenwood

Ups and downs

This is a series based on Egyptian Gods coping with living in the modern world. Each book in this box set is reviewed individually below.

Book 1: Protectors of Poison
Serket has been hiding for years, pretending to be the human, Sera. She moves around a lot, so not to create suspicion on the fact that she ages extremely slowly. She’s quite happy to have left her old life behind, despite her waning power, but nothing lasts forever.

Serket just happens to be the God of Poisons, her animal form being a scorpion. She’s quite far away from her many scorpions, when it appears someone is not only trying to wipe her out, but has managed to use her scorpions to fix a crime onto her…

This, unfortunately, ended with no full conclusion. I was a bit stumped by the ending. The story itself was full of lots of promise, which didn’t pan out fully. I still enjoyed it overall, though, just not as much as if it were complete.

Rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

Book 1.5: Priestess of Truth
I actually read and rated this book before, which can be found here. Unfortunately, the reread didn’t make me feel any better about the book.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ – Sort of liked/OK

Book 2: Daughter of the Sun
Sekhmet is the Goddess of Vengeance. She has been cursed by her father, Sun God Ra, and has been trapped inside a sphinx for millennia. Yet, her father wants to find her again, not to apologise for the years she’s been trapped, but to gain her help in stopping the God of Chaos, Seth. Yet, her freedom has a caveat – no blood-blind vengeance…

She is encouraged, throughout the story, to embrace her alter-ego, Bastet. A surprise romance somehow manages to calm her fiery side, bringing her closer to peace than she’s been in many years.

And, of course, she finds out the truth about the curse and why she has been “disabled”…

Unfortunately, this is another story with no true progression or resolution. It was enjoyable, but the ending left me disappointed again.

Rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

Book 3: Servant of Chaos
This story follows Rhodopis, one of Seth’s slaves. It is loosely based on the legend, which is a kind of Cinderella story (and, according to Wikipedia, the earliest known variant of this). She has some power within the household, yet is unable to escape – anyone caught escaping is brutally beaten, even killed. Anyone even daring to anger Seth in even the smallest way can be subject to this fate. As the God of Chaos he, of course, likes nothing better than upsetting people and causing mayhem. Yet Rhodopis tries to keep the peace as much as possible, encouraging the other slave girls to follow the rules and not stand out. Unfortunately, she cannot save them all…

Rhodopis herself is saved when she attracts the attention of one of the party of a visiting dignitary. Yet she knows that any brief moment of escape will only make the following years of torture worse.

This has a loose ending and no true resolution. Rhodopis knows she’ll never be free from Seth, so how is that an ending, trying to “pretend” that everything will be OK? Or, at least, that’s how it seemed.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ – Sort of liked/OK

Conclusion:
What’s most annoying about these books is that they don’t actually follow on from each other. There are snippets that you believe should, with hints of things to come in the previous books, yet there’s no story arch at all! I had expected at least some reference between books two and three, at the most, considering this one defining factor is mentioned. Yet, there is nothing. It’s a real shame, as each story has such an incomplete ending, that it would have been so much better if the stories were linked in some way. I should be rating the series lower than the average of 3.5, but I’ll round it up as it was still good in places.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital ARC via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

Valkyrie’s Choice by Arizona Tape

Resolution, but no resolution

Yes, we get a resolution to everything that happened in the previous book! The true characters all come out! Bryn finally stands up to her grandmother, in several ways, managing to impress her as much as piss her off! And Bryn finds out what she truly wants to be as well. But…

Yes, there’s always a “but”. The ending left me quite disappointed. We have here a slow-burn romance, which doesn’t fully resolve. Everything is building up to something that doesn’t quite happen. Maybe in the main series, we’ll get to see how that develops, but unfortunately it doesn’t happen here. I believe that that was the biggest let down of the two books, knowing that there could have been so much more.

What I liked most, however, was the deeper digging into the mythology, as Bryn travels through the afterlife on her own, discovering other lines in the mythology belonging to some of the other beings, which she in turns relates back to these other beings in the living world.

All in all, it isn’t bad. Bryn learning “BSL” (in this instance, Banshee Sign Language instead of British Sign Language) is an interesting one, along with why they use the sign language. Along with other little quirks, it makes it an interesting story.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital ARC via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

Valkyrie’s Oath by Arizona Tape

Well…

My ambiguous title is due to my mixed impressions. I was so confused when I started the book that I hated the first couple of chapters. Well, hate might be a bit strong, but I disliked it. Even up to the point of the MC becoming attracted to a new teacher. Eurgh! It just wasn’t for me at that moment.

But then, something happened. I left it a day and, when I restarted, I just had to read further. I went from “dislike” to “intrigue”. I don’t believe that it had anything to do with the writing per se, just that I’d come from reading a book with a completely different style. Besides, I usually like this author’s works, so maybe coming back with a fresh head meant that I could actually invest myself in this story.

Although I do believe that the beginning didn’t help any. I haven’t read any of the sister series, although that shouldn’t have an effect, as the first book wasn’t published that long before this one. But it felt like being thrown into the deep end without a lifesaver ring, no explanations, surrounded by laughing, warring, teenagers.

So, as I said, maybe that was it – the complete change of pace and style from the book I’d just finished. Although I would have been happy with a few more explanations, once I did finally get into the book, everything was fine!

I should have expected that ending, really. A cliffhanger, but none of Bryn’s supposed “friends” really felt like friends, anyway, especially with their attitude. At least one felt more like a hanger on. Considering how she’s an heir, you can expect that she’d have a hoard of frenemies in place of real friends, those who pretend to look after her but are really just waiting for her to slip up.

Anyway, my complete turnaround meant that I was invested in the story by the end, quite happily so, which came as a real surprise to me. So soon on with the next it is!

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital ARC via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

The Infamous Duke by Allyson Jeleyne

Great sequel!

Of course, we know from the beginning how this has to turn out – it is a HEA in planning! And we’ve already met both Wade and Cassie in the previous book, and this book starts with repeating the garden party, but from their POVs.

There is an almost instant attraction that goes on here, but Wade starts as the pursuer, with Cassie being convinced. Although, due to her delicate health and having been told that her “women’s troubles” will prevent her from marriage, she tries to push him away, subtly, in the beginning, just like she has done with many suitors, although she does make sure to enjoy the attention whilst it lasts.

Cassie’s oldest sister, Octavia, tries to convince her to not let Wade get too close, as he’s a known womaniser and cad. She doesn’t listen, knowing that it could be the one chance to enjoy such attention from someone of his position, before she returns to her confirmed spinsterhood.

Cassie believes firmly that Wade won’t be interested in her once he learns of her health problems, yet he is so enamoured with her as a person, that he doesn’t let this get in the way. In fact, he is ready to prove himself reformed, just for her, just to keep her. And so, with her refusing marriage, Wade tries to convince her to join him at his stately home in Cornwall, as his mistress.

Will Cassie accept this proposal? And will the two find their way through the complications of health, station, and reputation?

We have to wait right until the end of the book to meet up with Simon and Octavia again, who not only wish to check on Cassie, but are also ready to share their happy news. Oh, and they learn of what Honoria’s been up to – via an article in the Times!

Now I should comment on the setting. It should have clicked sooner with me, Wadebridge and Cornwall, as I’ve actually been to Wadebridge! It’s not just a small fishing village now, with the tourists lining the streets during the summer. There’s a Camel Trail, which runs between Padstow and Wadebridge, an old disused railway line that has been converted into a cycle path that runs alongside the Camel estuary. It is a beautiful route, but what should be noted is that Wadebridge lies at the mouth of the estuary, and not directly by the sea, as insinuated in this book. Some liberties have been taken with regards to the Duchy, also, as there is a Duchy of Cornwall, but not Wadebridge (Wadebridge would have been too small to host a Duchy, anyway, historically).

Anyway, despite my niggles, it was an enjoyable book all in all! Both MCs prove to have such heart that you can’t help but adore them.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital ARC via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

In the Viscount’s Arms by Allyson Jeleyne

Addictive

The beginning was a bit bland, especially as we know exactly what we’re getting into after reading the title and description – the story can only go in one direction. The exciting part is how we get there.

There is an obvious attraction between our two main characters, Octavia Staunton and Viscount Althorne (Lord Simon Caswell). Octavia impresses his Lordship right from the very start with her gentle manner in trying to instruct his obnoxious niece, despite all the tantrums and refusals. Somehow the three of them form a tenuous bond that can only grow over time.

We hear about how Simon’s niece, Leah, tragically lost both of her parents. Yet, despite the start where the Staunton sisters are just coming out of mourning for their parents, who died a year previously, we hear nothing of what caused their deaths. This could have been a point of conversation, yet the only thing we hear about them, aside from their deaths, is about their scandalous marriage. It might seem morbid, but it bugged me to not get the full picture of what happened.

That aside, once I got into the pace of the book, I could barely put it down. The last few chapters and pages just breezed by, as the romance heightened. It was quite beautifully done, although we have to wait to the next book for any nuptials. Luckily I already have it ready to go!

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital ARC via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*