Release Day Review: Checkmate: This is Effortless by Kennedy Fox

Checkmate: This is Effortless by Kennedy Fox
Series: The Checkmate Duet #4  (full reading order below)
Publication Date: April 25th 2017
Links: Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review

Courtney Bishop is as sugary sweet as her famous blueberry muffins.
Southern belle at heart, Cali girl by choice.
She barged into my life and easily became my best friend.
All was great as roommates and just friends, but then I fell for the girl who could chop firewood, deliver baby calves, and bail hay without breaking a sweat.
She’s the perfect mixture of sugar and spice, and I love her.

Being more than friends and trying to build our future isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Moving forward and creating memories is all I want for us, but when the past continues to come back and haunt me, I’m not so sure she’ll stay for the ride.

Loving her is easy, but losing her will break me. Burning passion combined with an undeniable chemistry constantly pushes and pulls us together. In the end, I’ll prove we’re worth the fight, even when the game is far from over.

Checkmate, sweetheart.

Checkmate: This is Effortless was a highly anticipated read of mine ever since I read that god-awful cliffhanger from This is Reckless. I needed to see how Drew and Courtney would deal with the bitch drama that is Mia. While I didn’t quite enjoy this one as much as I did Drewtney’s first book because of all the hectic, filler drama, I was still glad to have read this and finally get to see how Drewtney ended up. If you were a fan of the Checkmate Duet series, you will most likely love Drew and Courtney’s conclusion!

Mia has gone off her rails and is determined to ruin what Courtney and Drew have. This woman is CRAZY, thinking she and Drew still belong together. But Drewtney is as strong as ever, despite Mia’s antics to scare Courtney off. Courtney does get scared, but Drew, mister Deputy, is working hard to make her feel as safe as possible. Drew is as sweet as ever – I really enjoyed how he was trying to handle Mia all the while making sure Courtney knew how much he loved her. Courtney is relatable with her fears and struggles with Mia, although I did get frustrated at how she relied on Drew a little too much.

The main reason why I didn’t love this book was because of how the drama with Mia seemed to drag on forever. I felt like Drew and Courtney could have dealt with Mia so much sooner than they did, which would have cut down the book length. And when Drewtney weren’t worried about Mia, they were having sex. I love a good steamy scene, but all the sex seemed to hinder the story progression.

Still, the ending of the book was definitely my favorite part. I was happy to see how Drewtney’s relationship concluded, and I’m excited for more in the series! I love the girl group that is Viola, Courtney, and Kayla and can’t wait for the dog-lover of the group to get a book with her uniformed man!


lacey


Reading Order: The Checkmate Duet series

   

#1 ~ This is War: EbookPaperback • AudibleGoodreads
#2 ~ This is Love: EbookPaperback • AudibleGoodreads
#3 ~ This is Reckless: My Review • Ebook • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads
#4 ~ This is Effortless: Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads


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Release Day Review: Dirty Souls by Karina Halle

Dirty Souls by Karina Halle
Series: Sins Duet #2 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: March 20th 2017
Links: EbookGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review

From New York Times bestselling author Karina Halle comes DIRTY SOULS the much-anticipated, nail-biting CONCLUSION to the sexy and thrilling Black Hearts…”

Violet McQueen has always been a sensitive soul. Troubled and misunderstood, she never realized her place in the world, nor her true potential…until she met Vicente Bernal.

From birth, Vicente Bernal has always known his place in the world – he’s been groomed to be a ruthless king. Yet for a man whose soul has become morally bankrupt, it’s only through Violet he’s realizing the worth of someone’s heart.

But at what cost?

With a deadly game set in motion taking them from the stark deserts of California to the steamy jungles of Mexico, Violet and Vicente’s forbidden relationship will be put to the test. Boundaries will be pushed, lines will be crossed and souls will get very, very dirty.

Because how do you choose between blood and love when both might get you killed?

After the slightly disappointing first book in the Sins Duet, I was hoping that Dirty Souls would make up for what I didn’t feel in Black Hearts by actually making me grow invested in Vicente and Violet’s star-crossed romance. It didn’t, BUT I will say it was a hell of a conclusion to the McQueens’ and Bernals’ story. It’s nonstop action and insanely hot, filthy sex. It’s a no-holds-barred kind of read, which I admired. If you loved Black Hearts, you will most likely love Dirty Souls just as much!

I need to figure out how to keep this forever. Her, me, the open desert. I don’t fucking need anything else. I may be young but I know enough that sometimes you don’t need the world. You just need that one person to rule the world with.

Violet and Vicente are on the run from their parents. Violet has found out that her whole life and family has been a lie, and Vicente is trying to protect her from the people who want to harm her – his father and his men. But try as they might to make their world just the two of them, reality comes crashing down and both are taken by Javier to Mexico. Can Vicente and Violet’s love withstand the test of time, or will Javier succeed in breaking the both of them?

I love her with my dark and dangerous heart. I love her with my wicked and dirty soul.
I love her enough to raze the world around me to the very ground, just so we can be together.

I enjoyed Vicente and Violet’s characters more in this sequel, mainly because they didn’t feel as naive as they did in the first book. I loved the way they were around each other, but I have to admit I started skimming the sex scenes when I was deeper in the story because, even though they were hot, they started to feel like filler. Still, Karina Halle knows how to write erotic scenes filled with chemistry, but I just grew a little tired of them when there seemed to be too many scenes of them.

We get a lot more of Ellie and Javier’s POVs in this book. I liked the contrast between them and their children, the fact that their children are what they could have been if it weren’t for the lies. But then the book felt like it was focused too much on the parents’ past and story rather than Violet and Vicente’s, which was what I really wanted. That’s one of the main reasons I couldn’t love this series more, because I really wanted more of the main characters rather than their parents. But it was still nice to see beloved characters again, even if one of them (*cough* Javier) become a little unlikable.

The Sins Duet might not be a favorite of mine from Karina Halle, but it’s a dark, gritty read that had me on the edge of my seat. It was a crazy, intense ride, and while I didn’t love it, I’m still glad to have read it. If you love the author, you should definitely check this series out – especially if you love the Artists Trilogy or Dirty Angels series!


lacey

Quotes are taken from the arc and are subject to change in the final version.


Reading Order: Sins Duet series

 

#1 ~ Black Hearts: My Review • Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads
#2 ~ Dirty Souls: EbookGoodreads

The Sins Duet is a standalone spinoff series of The Artists Trilogy and the Dirty Angels series. Here are the reading orders for both series (which you don’t need to read before starting Black Hearts).

Reading Order: The Artists Trilogy

   

#0.5 ~ On Every Street: EbookAudible • Goodreads
#1 ~ Sins & Needles: My Review • EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#2 ~ Shooting Scars: My Review •  EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#3 ~ Bold Tricks: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads

Reading Order: Dirty Angels series

Dirty Angels by Karina Halle Dirty Deeds by Karina Halle Dirty Promises by Karina Halle

#1 ~ Dirty Angels: EbookPaperbackGoodreads
#2 ~ Dirty Deeds: EbookPaperbackGoodreads
#3 ~ Dirty Promises: EbookPaperback • Goodreads


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Review: Black Hearts by Karina Halle

Black Hearts by Karina Halle
Series: Sins Duet #1 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: February 19th 2017
Links: Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review

I wasn’t supposed to know about her. I never should have found her. And I sure as hell shouldn’t have taken her…

From a New York Times bestselling author comes a BRAND NEW smoldering romantic suspense that will get your pulse racing, your thighs clenching and the pages turning.

For Vicente Bernal, truth is all he’s known. The son of an infamous drug lord, Vicente was born to help run the family business, which means he’s been raised on a throne of sordid pasts and dirty laundry, violence and pride. But when Vicente stumbles across someone he’s not supposed to know about – a woman from his father’s checkered past – he sets out to California to find her behind his father’s back.

What Vicente doesn’t expect to find in San Francisco is Violet McQueen, the woman’s twenty-year old daughter. Beautiful and edgy with a vulnerability he can’t resist, Violet tempts Vicente from afar and though he promised himself he’d stay away from her, curiosity and lust are powerful forces. Besides, Vicente has always gotten everything he wants – why shouldn’t he have Violet too?

Soon his wants turn into a sexual obsession, one that sweeps Violet into his games as they fall madly, deeply in love with each other, the type of first love that can drive a person mad.

In a world of hot sex, raw love and damaging lies, these forbidden and star-crossed lovers are going to have to fight tooth and nail for their happy ending.

Our families would die before they ever let us be together.

I was SO excited when I heard that Karina Halle would be writing this series. I was a huge fan of the Artists Trilogy when it first came out, and though I still haven’t read the Dirty Angels series, it’s been on my tbr because of none other than Javier! Now we finally get Ellie and Camden’s, and Javier and Luisa’s children’s story. This is a star-crossed lovers romance like no other. Violet McQueen’s mother and Vicente Bernal’s father were lovers turned enemies, and now their children get the chance at a love that could have been.

Vicente Bernal has known his drug lord father to be the ruthless, dangerous, insane, almost-cruel man he’s been all his life. But when he finds letters written by his father from a time when he was actually sane and possibly with a heart, he’s determined to find the woman who brought out the man Javier Bernal used to be – Ellie Watt, now Ellie McQueen. When he arrives in America with a fake identity, Vicente isn’t sure of the path that will get him to Ellie, but when her daughter, Violet, appears in front of him, it seems as if fate was deciding which path he should take.

“You’re everything I’ve ever needed,” he says through a lustful groan. He bites his lip, the corded muscles of his neck straining. “I was famished, starved, for you. For this.”

Violet McQueen doesn’t know why, but she’s always felt like her family was just a little bit… off. Her parents are hiding something, and when she finds out about a grandfather who was supposed to be dead her whole life had died only recently, she sets out to uncover the lies told by her parents. Along the way she meets the gorgeous, mysterious Vicente – the passion and lust between them is fierce, and it isn’t long before she finds herself falling and trusting him. But what will happen when she finds out that another person she loves has been lying to her?

“You’re mine, Violet,” I murmur roughly against her mouth, my fingers pressing into her cheekbones. “I don’t care how that sounds, but it’s all truth. You belong to me.”

I had high expectations for Black Hearts, but it fell a little flatter than I expected. I never connected with either of the main characters – Violet was too naive and trusting and Vicente felt wishy washy and immature. I never really BELIEVED in the love that grew between them. It seemed like one minute they were in lust and the next minute they were in love. I get that they were in moments of action so it would be hard for them to have any down time, but I would’ve liked to see the romance bloom more genuinely. I actually started disliking the parents too, which was a disappointment because I loved them in their own books. Much of the book was just a little too boring and aggravating, and I just couldn’t find it in myself to care that much about all the problems going on in the book. However, these feelings could entirely be just me, so if you were a fan of either of the original series, please don’t let this review stop you from giving Black hearts and the Sins Duet a try! Hopefully you’ll enjoy it more than I did!


lacey

Quotes are taken from the arc and are subject to change in the final version.


Reading Order: Sins Duet series

 

#1 ~ Black Hearts: Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads
#2 ~ Dirty Souls: My Review • EbookGoodreads

The Sins Duet is a standalone spinoff series of The Artists Trilogy and the Dirty Angels series. Here are the reading orders for both series (which you don’t need to read before starting Black Hearts).

Reading Order: The Artists Trilogy

   

#0.5 ~ On Every Street: EbookAudible • Goodreads
#1 ~ Sins & Needles: My Review • EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#2 ~ Shooting Scars: My Review •  EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#3 ~ Bold Tricks: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads

Reading Order: Dirty Angels series

Dirty Angels by Karina Halle Dirty Deeds by Karina Halle Dirty Promises by Karina Halle

#1 ~ Dirty Angels: EbookPaperbackGoodreads
#2 ~ Dirty Deeds: EbookPaperbackGoodreads
#3 ~ Dirty Promises: EbookPaperback • Goodreads


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Audiobook Review: The Architect of Song by A.G. Howard

The Architect of Song by A.G. Howard
Series: Haunted Hearts Legacy #1 (full reading order below)
Audiobook Publication Date: October 11th 2016
Length: 12 hours and 45 minutes
Narrated by: Gemma Dawson
Links: Audible • Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads
Source: I received an audiobook in exchange for an honest review

A lady imprisoned by deafness, an architect imprisoned by his past, and a ghost imprisoned within the petals of a flower – intertwine in this love story that transcends life and death.

For most of her life, Juliet Emerline has subsisted – isolated by deafness – making hats in the solitude of her home. Now, she’s at risk to lose her sanctuary to Lord Nicolas Thornton, a mysterious and eccentric architect with designs on her humble estate. When she secretly witnesses him raging beside a grave, Juliet investigates, finding the name “Hawk” on the headstone and an unusual flower at the base. The moment Juliet touches the petals, a young English nobleman appears in ghostly form, singing a song only her deaf ears can hear. The ghost remembers nothing of his identity or death, other than the one name that haunts his afterlife: Thornton.

To avenge her ghostly companion and save her estate, Juliet pushes aside her fear of society and travels to Lord Thornton’s secluded holiday resort, posing as a hat maker in one of his boutiques. There, she finds herself questioning who to trust: the architect of flesh and bones who can relate to her through romantic gestures, heartfelt notes, and sensual touches … or the specter who serenades her with beautiful songs and ardent words, touching her mind and soul like no other man ever can. As sinister truths behind Lord Thornton’s interest in her estate and his tie to Hawk come to light, Juliet is lured into a web of secrets. But it’s too late for escape, and the tragic love taking seed in her heart will alter her silent world forever.

International and NYT bestselling author, A.G. Howard, brings her darkly magical and visual/visceral storytelling to Victorian England. The Architect of Song is the first installment in her lush and romantic Haunted Hearts Legacy series, a four book New Adult gothic saga following the generations of one family as – haunted by both literal and figurative ghosts – they search for self-acceptance, love, and happiness.

I’ve only read one other book of A.G. Howard’s and that was her YA novel, but the premise of The Architect of Song sounded promising, and I’ve been super in NA fantasy lately so I decided to give it a try. This is more paranormal than fantasy though, but anything in the NA genre that wasn’t contemporary was still right in my boat. Here we have a story about nineteen-year-old Juliet whose deafness has caused her to live a life of isolation. But when her home is at risk of being seized, she is unknowingly thrust into a web of secrets and lies… and even ghosts.

Listening to this audiobook was a strange experience, to say the least. Usually I don’t have a hard time following a story when I listen, but this wasn’t the case with The Architect of Song. I felt like too many things were happening at the same time, and the story was too tame to really hook me in. I wanted more romance, especially between Juliet and her ghost, because I wanted to see how that would work out. The mystery surrounding the ghost Hawk and Lord Thornton, who was the one trying to take away her estate, was a bit too convoluted for me. I’m sure if I read this instead of listened, I would’ve understood more, but the audiobook just wasn’t working too well for me.

This is the first time that I’ve listened to a narrator with an English accent though, which was wonderful and lovely. I really enjoyed Gemma Dawson’s accent and voice and would definitely listen to her again. Her narration was what made listening to The Architect of Song a little more enjoyable, so it wasn’t a complete bust. I’d say if you’re a fan of mysteries and love stories, you should give this a try! Hopefully it’ll keep you hooked more than it did for me.

THE ARCHITECT OF SONG is now available on Audible: http://amzn.to/2jxKfCC

3 hearts
lacey


Reading Order: Haunted Hearts Legacy series

#1 ~ The Architect of Song: Ebook • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads
#2 ~ The Hummingbird Heart: Goodreads (out Aug. 2017)
#3 ~ The Glass Butterfly: Goodreads (out Aug. 2018)
#4 ~ The Artisan of Light: Goodreads (out Aug. 2019)

Here’s an audio excerpt from The Architect of Song!


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Audiobook Review: Sweet Fall by Tillie Cole

Sweet Fall by Tillie Cole

Sweet Fall by Tillie Cole
Series: Sweet Home #2 (full reading order below)
Audiobook Publication Date: October 4th 2016
Length: 10 hours and 40 minutes
Narrated by: Stephanie Bentley
Links: Audible • EbookPaperback • Goodreads
Source: I received an audiobook in exchange for an honest review

From the USA Today best-selling Sweet Home series, comes Sweet Fall; a tale of heartache, beating the odds, and finding strength in the most unlikeliest of places.

We all have secrets.

Secrets well buried.

Until we find the one soul who makes the burden of such secrets just that little bit easier to bear.

Lexington “Lexi” Hart is a senior at the University of Alabama. Surrounded by her best friends, her loving family, and having fulfilled her life-long dream of making the Crimson Tide cheer squad, everything is going exactly as she always dreamed it would. But beneath her happy exterior, demons lurk, threatening to jeopardize everything Lexi has worked to achieve.

When events in her life become too much to cope with, Lexi finds herself spiraling down into the realm of her biggest fear. Lexi falls hard, victim once again to the only thing that can destroy her and, on the way, finds herself falling straight into the dangerous tattooed arms of a guy from the wrong side of the tracks.

Austin Carillo, starting Wide Receiver for the Alabama Crimson Tide, must get picked in this year’s NFL draft. He needs it. His brothers need it. Most importantly, his mother desperately needs it. Brought up in a world where the poor are forgotten, the sick are left to fend for themselves, and no hero miraculously appears to pull you out of hell, Austin had no other choice but to make a living on the wrong side of the law – until football offered Austin the break to get his life back on track.

But when a family tragedy drags him back into the clutches of the gang he believed he had left far behind, Austin finds himself falling. Falling back into criminal ways and falling deep into a suffocating darkness. Until a troubled yet kindred spirit stumbles across his path, where Austin quickly finds he is falling for a young woman – a young woman who might just have the power to save him from his worst enemy: himself.

Can two troubled souls find a lasting peace together? Or will they finally succumb to the demons threatening to destroy them?

Tillie Cole knows how to write intense, emotional romances with broken characters. While I didn’t love Sweet Fall, it was an experience listening to this audiobook. If you were a fan of the previous books in the Sweet Home series, you’ll definitely want to pick up Sweet Fall. The story has a similar vibe to Molly and Rome’s, if a little darker, and it’s got that unique NA college feel that Tillie Cole writes. Plus, the narrator, Stephanie Bentley, is my favorite so far of the series!

Lexi Hart and Austin Carillo appear to have the perfect college lives, but beneath the surface is something much more dark and painful. Lexi has been battling her eating disorder, which nearly cost her her life, for years, and just when she thought she’d made it, the voice in her head telling her she’s pathetic and worthless rises up again. Austin is the wide receiver for the Crimson Tide, but he’s mainly doing football for his family. His mother is on her deathbed and his brothers have been picked up by a dangerous gang, and he needs to be picked up by the NFL to save them. Lexi and Austin are hanging on by a thread, but by some miracle, they manage to find and lean on each other. They find solace in each other but can they have a lasting relationship when both are fighting demons in their heads?

This was not the easiest book to listen to, but I was definitely hooked onto Austin and Lexi’s story. I felt for their pain and the struggles that they go through. While I couldn’t connect that well, my heart went out to these characters. It gets a little depressing at times, which is not my thing, and Austin’s story involving the gang got frustrating at times, which is why I can’t give this a higher rating. I will say that the narration was perfect – it was my first time listening to Stephanie Bentley but it definitely won’t be my last! She did a fantastic job at narrating and I had no problems with her Southern accent.

Angsty, romantic, and intense, Sweet Fall isn’t for the light-hearted listeners, but if you’ve enjoyed Tillie Cole’s other books, then you’ll probably enjoy Sweet Fall too.

SWEET FALL is now available on Audible: http://amzn.to/2eAHrhe

3 hearts
lacey


Reading Order: Sweet Home series

Sweet Home by Tillie Cole Sweet Rome by Tillie Cole
Sweet Fall by Tillie Cole Sweet Hope by Tillie Cole Sweet Soul by Tillie Cole

#1 ~ Sweet Home: My Review • EbookPaperback • Audible • Goodreads
#1.5 ~ Sweet Rome: My Review • Ebook • PaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#2 ~ Sweet Fall: EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#3 ~ Sweet Hope: Ebook • PaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#4 ~ Sweet Soul: My Review • Ebook • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads

Here’s an audio excerpt from Sweet Fall!


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