The Innocent ( The Cowboy Gangster, #7)

Review of The Innocent (The Cowboy Gangster, #7) by C. J. Bishop

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“When Clint and the boys “clean house” after discovering a small dangerous operation of child sex traffickers, they find themselves pulled into a nightmare of unparalleled proportions where children are nothing but “merchandise” and the depth of depravity and abuse reaches beyond human comprehension.” ~ C. J. Bishop

** 5 unequivocal stars for this latest Bishop installment **

Having read now 31 novels by Bishop, all revolving around the Phoenix Club or its associates, I can easily state that this is another knockout. I personally have never found another series to be able to compete with the level of what these novels offer. There is so much contrast between the black and white, but the gray area these novels include is phenomenal. The dichotomy of all the layers to each character is outstanding. If you are like me, and have followed these books from the beginning, you can easily continue to follow along with the characters and their personalities. That being said, if you have never read any of the Phoenix books or the Cowboy Gangster novels, it would be best to start from the beginning. Each book picks up right where the last book left off, with almost no review of previous events; these are not standalone novels and the primary characters have already been introduced. There are several POV’s shifts from several different couples and individuals.

Ok, wow. Where to even start on this one. I was actually a little leery of reading it because I had heard it was even darker and more intense than the previous CG novels, plus the length needed time for reading. And this book did not disappoint. This was spectacularly gritty, and dark and very intense. I haven’t cried that many times in one reading of any book, ever. Usually I cry at the end or at the climax, when the tension is highest. I pretty much cried on and off throughout this whole read. And not only because of the horrific events, but also because, in the same novel, there is so much LOVE. These characters are deep, emotional, raw, and complex and the story just brings that out of the characters effortlessly. These characters are so human. They see the good/bad, light/dark in everything they do. It’s so utterly relatable as a reader (circumstances notwithstanding), and as a human being. To try to be a good person, try to find love that you are worthy of, try to accept yourself with all your faults and successes. There are not many novels out there that can incorporate such depth of feeling and emotion, to such varying degrees. Heartbreak and extreme depravity, seamlessly woven together with love and family.

I don’t feel the need to touch on the actual plot points or events. Those are what they are and can be taken with a grain of salt. This is a work of fiction. As such I expect liberties and allowances to be made. For me this whole series is really about love, acceptance, family, trust, understanding and all the inner-workings thereof. Yes, it’s extremely gritty, and the themes are dark, probably not a read for the faint of heart, but if you can handle all that and want to read a story about the love that binds couples and the families you choose, this is a must read.

Deal Maker

Review of Deal Maker by Lily Morton

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Jude is a highly successful model with obligations and secrets. He’s resigned himself to a life of hook-ups and no feelings. When he needs to find a temporary place to live for the summer, he meets Asa. Asa is a former movie star who’s taken time away to raise his young son. He’s larger than life with a warm personality and an inviting air that draws people in. Asa agrees to let Jude stay with them in exchange for his help as his PA. The men make a deal that will last the summer. But when hearts and feelings become involved, what will happen when the summer is over? Jude can’t ever have a relationship and Asa has been burned too many times.

“But a deal’s a deal and they said it was just for the summer. What can Asa do with a man who has forever in his eyes and goodbye on his lips?” ~ Lily Morton 

*** 5 AMAZING STARS ***

OMG, this is everything!

I don’t even know where to begin… Not only was the story so incredibly good but it was hilarious!! I haven’t laughed so hard from a book in a long time! I couldn’t go to sleep that night because I kept laughing and just wanted to keep reading. I’m snickering right now even just remembering some of the scenes. LOL!

Wow, both Jude and Asa were fantastic characters, but of course, Billy was such a scene stealer as well. So much comedy can come from the innocent mouths of children and air-headed models who count calories. It was just the perfect combination of warm loveable characters, lighthearted humor, and steamy romance (throw in a puppy rescue and you can guarantee we’ll have hearts in our eyes). I loved the way Asa was so trusting of Jude with Billy as if Jude was just a part of the family. And Jude was amazing! I could totally see this book being picked up as a movie. It had the perfect setting and cast of secondary characters as well. I loved the tender nature and loyalty of Peggy, and the doom and gloom, glass is always half empty attitude of Amos. They rounded out the leads and added the perfect compliments to the family dynamic. There were also several appearances from Dylan and Gabe from Rule Breaker as well. This is definitely going to be added to my list of favorite books to reread.

 

** Green Eyed Monsters ** (A Jude and Asa short story – takes place between the end of the book and the epilogue)

Can be found at http://lilymortonauthor.com/extras/

I gave this 4 stars. After reading such a fantastic story, I was a little let down and frankly, this made me uncomfortable. I didn’t like the implication or thought of someone coming between Jude and Asa. I loathed Hayden. He was vile and I hated him for trying to separate the perfect couple. Maybe this was still a well written short, but it just left a bitter taste in my mouth. I didn’t find it to be so much about jealousy as someone purposely trying to break them up. I might have liked it better if it was simply a case of misplaced jealousy. But in Hayden’s case, he actually was delusional in thinking Asa still might want him, so he was planting doubt in Jude’s mind. I was hurt on his behalf for what he went through. I didn’t mind Malachi so much since he was fairly innocuous. But what a coincidence that they both had an ex at the same place and the same time. That part of the story was a bit more tolerable for me.

Heart2Heart: A Charity Anthology

Review of Heart2Heart: A Charity Anthology

Authors include: May Archer, Charlie Cochet, Poppy Dennison, Alison Hendricks, Sloane Kennedy, Lucy Lennox, Ruthie Luhnow, Lily Morton, Chris Owen, Hailey Turner, A .E. Wasp

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When 11 amazing authors get together to celebrate Valentine’s Day: Imagine a new dating app that promises to find you your perfect other half. What happens when the app’s algorithms miscalculate just before Valentine’s day and pair up the least likely matches? Will the couple’s dates end in disaster or will fate intervene?

** Overall I would give this anthology 5 stars!! **

I loved the idea of this anthology and that all proceeds will go to the charities of the authors choosing:

The Trevor Project https://www.thetrevorproject.org

Bisexual Resource Centre http://biresource.org/

one-n-ten http://onenten.org/

I was familiar with a few of the authors that took part in the collection, but there were also several authors that I had never read before. These stories were sweet, hot and so cute. I loved that some of them were insta-love and others were a definite slow burn. Most of the stories were opposites attract situations and eventually ended up with a HEA or HFN. I don’t plan to review every story, but I will at least include the titles and my star ratings.

The Magician and the Mortician by A. E. Wasp  *5 Stars*

The Professional Gamer and the Paranormal Photographer by Alison Hendricks  *4 Stars*

The Assassin and the Dog Walker by Charlie Cochet  *4 Stars*

The Criminal and the Sommelier by Chris Owen  *4 Stars*

The Superhero and the NSA Agent by Hailey Turner  *4 Stars*

The Tattoo Artist and the Writer by Lily Morton  *5 Stars*

The Uber Driver and the Phone Sex Operator by Lucy Lennox  *5 Stars*

The Baker and the SEAL by May Archer  *5 Stars*

The Event Planner and the Electrician by Poppy Dennison  *4 Stars*

The Lawyer and the Lobsterman Ruthie Luhnow  *4 Stars*

The Florist and the Lawyer by Sloane Kennedy  *5 Stars*

Rocky Mountain Refuge

Review of Rocky Mountain Refuge by Nicky James

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Aspen is a wildlife biologist studying the grizzly population in the northern territory of Canada. He stumbles across a seemingly deserted cabin in the area he and his students are studying. Only to find the cabin is not as deserted as he originally thought.

Huxley suffers from paranoid personality disorder. When he witnessed his husbands’ murder years earlier, Huxley ran and secluded himself in the wilderness to hide away from all the people who mean to blame him.

When a chance encounter deep in the wild causes these men to cross paths, Aspen becomes curious about the mountain man who seems familiar somehow and Huxley is terrified that Aspen has been sent to collect him for a crime he didn’t commit. Convinced there are spies in the trees and everyone is watching him, Huxley cannot believe Aspen when the man says he merely wants to be his friend. Will Aspen be able to help Huxley understand the world isn’t out to get him? Can Huxley trust Aspen even when all his instincts tell him not to?

** Absolutely 5 stars!!! The writing was fantastic, the story was fantastic, the whole thing was amazing. Another knock out from Nicky James! The way she studies the characters and their traits then delivers them to us, is just phenomenal. I am blown away by how well thought out every scene is and how the characters come to life, the depth of feeling and emotion, the struggle and frustration, it’s all handled so beautifully. The way James takes something like a mental disorder and portrays how real and complex it is, for the one suffering and for those who love them, is really a triumph. I am definitely on board the Nicky James train!

The prologue was ingenious. What a brilliant way to start the novel. We were immediately in the world of both Huxley and Aspen, without even entering the story yet. I was already gripped by the emotionally charged setting of the court and the trial before really even meeting the characters in full. Definitely set the stage for how their worlds would collide.

The body of the novel was complicated and intricate and delicate. The depth of planning and research really showed throughout the book’s entirety. Every scene with the research team and the scent sites was well thought out and descriptive. Every moment with Huxley and his wild, frantic thoughts was just so well done. Aspen’s frustration and willingness to persist was palpable.

I loved that when they returned home, everything was not just roses. There were lots of trails and time spent apart. Both men needed to figure out what they wanted and how they could become what the other needed. They both had to decide if the things they needed were things they could give of themselves as well. I did think it was just a little too coincidental that they ended up back in the cabin, but it certainly made my heart all warm and fuzzy that they did. It really did make the ending for me. Both men needed that.

Beautiful, complex, detailed and emotional. Thank you, Nicky James, for telling this story.

Until the End of Time

Review of Until the End of Time by Nicky James

Simon Stockley is a Magistrate and judge in training in 1827, England. While commencing trial and sentencing one afternoon, Simon’s entire world is thrown for a loop. One glance at James Hansen changes everything for the Magistrate. He himself has worked his entire life to hide his true nature and inclination, yet here is James with his life hanging in the balance for the very same crimes Simon could be accused of. What is it in those few moments, staring into those eyes so filled with rage, that has Simon questioning his decisions from that moment on?

** Definitely 5 stars from me. Maybe I’m turning into a bit of a historical romance lover, but this book was so well done. I really appreciated the modern lead in that set the groundwork for the tale to be told, making the story feel more like a memory than just a novel set in time.

Nicky James put so much detail and thought into every page of this story. The prose was so poetic and seamless, it was such a joy to read. This book was flawless and we sometimes forget, as readers, all the hard work and research that goes into a work of this quality. The terminology and references of a time long gone, gave the reader a concrete setting and headspace. Though I am not a history buff, the details of the setting and world building, immediately transported me back to a time where I could easily envision the everyday life of the characters. The struggle Simon and James faced was a very real part of their daily life and every decision they made. It hurts to know there was a time when these events would have been commonplace and to think there are places like this still; such a tragedy.

There were so many emotions being processed throughout this reading (by me and the characters). I laughed, I cried, I was pissed, my heart broke, and I loved it all! This was a story I won’t soon forget. It’s so nice when you find a story to measure other stories against. They remind you why you are so frugal with your highest praise and what it takes to measure up. This was only my second Nicky James novel, but I can assure you, there will be more to follow.