Come Unto These Yellow Sands by Josh Lanyon

Once a bad boy, the only lines Professor Sebastian Swift does these days are Browning, Frost and Cummings. When a student he helped to disappear becomes a suspect in a murder, he races to find the boy and convince him to give himself up before his police chief lover figures out he’s involved. 
Max likes being lied to even less than he likes sonnets. Yet his instincts–and his heart– tell him his lover is being played. Max can forgive lies and deception, but a dangerous enemy may not stop until Swift is heading up his own dead poet’s society

I’m not sure how I missed some of Josh Lanyon’s earlier books, but the fact that a lot of them are being re-released is helping me catch up. Come Unto These Yellow Sands is one of those books and although I wasn’t quite sure about it in the beginning, it didn’t take me long to get totally wrapped up in the suspense.

To be honest, part of what held me back in this one was Max. Sometimes getting just one character’s POV can skew a reader’s perspective. That’s not a bad thing, although it can be frustrating. Sometimes, even without the other characters POV you can still see things from that character that can clue you in to what the main character may not see. Not so with Max. Fair or not, I didn’t like him from the beginning and got caught up in Swift’s emotions about their relationship. Turns out we were both wrong – it took a while for him to redeem himself though, which just added to the suspense. Swift had no idea where he stood and for a while had no idea whether or not Max had his back.

There were a lot of twists and turns in Come Unto These Yellow Sands and a lot of players. It was hard to tell the good guys from the bad and in the end readers still aren’t sure that everyone was brought to justice. For the record, I love it when an author proves me wrong about my initial reaction to a character – and Josh Lanyon has done that more than once, so I shouldn’t have been surprised this time. I wouldn’t mind another story centered around this duo, which I most definitely didn’t see coming. 😉

Capture the Crown (Gargoyle Queen #1) by Jennifer Estep

Gemma Ripley has a reputation for being a pampered princess who is more interested in pretty gowns, sparkling jewelry, and other frivolous things than learning how to rule the kingdom of Andvari. But her carefully crafted persona is just an act to hide the fact that Gemma is a powerful mind magier—and a spy. 
Gemma is undercover, trying to figure out who is stealing large amounts of tearstone from one of the Ripley royal mines when she encounters Prince Leonidas Morricone of Morta—her mortal enemy. Gemma tries to steer clear of the handsome prince, but when she finds herself behind enemy lines, she reluctantly joins forces with Leo. Also coming to Gemma’s aid is Grimley, her beloved gargoyle.
Despite the fact that Andvari and Morta are old, bitter enemies, a dangerous attraction sparks between Gemma and Leo. Further complicating matters is Leo’s murderous family, especially Queen Maeven Morricone, the mastermind behind the infamous Seven Spire massacre.
The closer Gemma gets to the stolen tearstone, the more deadly plots she uncovers. Everyone is trying to capture the crown, but only one queen can sit on the throne… 

I have been a fan of Jennifer Estep since I first picked up Spider’s Bite way back in 2012. Since then I’ve read pretty much all of the Elemental Assassin books, including many of the short stories in between and a treasured autographed copy of Poison Promise. Yet, even though she’s written several other series, I haven’t strayed far from my favorite assassin. I’m pretty sure that’s about to change though because this first glimpse of Gemma and her world have definitely left me wanting more. 😉

Capture the Crown is the first book in the Gargoyle Queen series, but it’s set in the same world as the author’s Crown of Shards series. I’m speaking from experience when I say that you don’t have to read the previous series to enjoy Capture the Crown. Although the references to the Crown of Shards series have definitely piqued my interest.

Gemma wasn’t your average princess, at least not to those closest to her. She hid behind the “spoiled royal” facade well. Another secret that she’s kept well is how powerful she is, which should work to her advantage. The fact that she can’t really control that power is a frustration as well as a source of guilt. She’s never really recovered from the thought that if she had used it years before, she might have been able to save a lot of people that she cared about. She’s the only one that feels that she should carry that guilt though. She’s slowly coming to realize that the perspective of a very young girl may have been slightly skewed, especially when it comes to a certain young prince.

There were times during Capture the Crown that I wish readers could have gotten just a small glimpse of what was going on in Leo’s head. I also know that only getting Gemma’s POV made the story more intriguing and suspenseful. Still, there were times that I know that Leo was showing a side of himself that even Gemma didn’t pick up on. I really liked him, even when I was almost sure that I shouldn’t.

Beyond the danger and tense relationship between the two royals, what really drew me into Capture the Crown was the relationship between the characters. Their loyalty to each other was fierce and it went both ways. Gemma was just as dedicated to them as they were to her. And then there was Grimley. ❤ I’ve read a couple of stories that included gargoyles from other authors, but I’m pretty sure that this lovable creature is now one of my favorites.

Gemma and Leo’s story is far from over by the end of Capture the Crown. She’s still not sure exactly where his loyalty lies or exactly how she feels about him. Hopefully readers won’t have to wait long to find out what happens next. In the mean time, I might have to check out Kill the Queen to experience this world from the beginning. Stay tuned!

A Bargain of Blood & Gold (Midnight Guardians #1) by Kristin Jacques

A novice hunter with a mission. A five-hundred-year-old vampire with a strong sense of irony. A town plagued by creatures in need of saving.
When Johnathan Newman arrives in Cress Haven, the last thing he expects is for his life to be irrevocably changed. Sent by a clandestine league of vampire hunters to investigate a string of murders, signs point to a vampire lurking amid the townsfolk. Johnathan’s attempt to enlist the locals leads him to an unlikely partnership with Vic, the town’s most eligible, enigmatic bachelor.
As the pair work to solve the mystery, Vic’s secrets come back to bite him. Revealed, the vampire fights his attraction to a man trained to destroy him, while Johnathan’s emotions land him in the middle of forbidden desires. Even if Vic isn’t the murderer, how can Johnathan yearn for his natural enemy?
As Vic leads Johnathan into encounters with terrifying beings straight from children’s nightmares, Johnathan learns that not only is the world stranger than he knew, but that those he once trusted have far darker intentions that will place hunter and vampire at the center of a conflict between realms.
Cress Haven holds more sinister secrets than its resident vampire, a secret so great, it could unleash Hell itself.

So, historical fiction is not my go-to (hmm… for an eclectic reader, it seems I have a LOT of “non-go-to” genres, but that’s a conundrum for another day.) That being said, something has to pique my curiosity to make me pick one up, especially from a new to me author. In this case, it was the vampire vs. vampire hunter. With that combination, how could I resist. A Bargain of Blood and Gold turned out to be so much more than I expected. I love it when that happens 😉

Nothing about Johnathan’s first solo mission turned out to be what he expected. From the time he set foot in Cress Haven it seemed that the mission, as well as Johnathan, was doomed. The only bright spot in his arrival was Vic, but nothing that’s going on in the isolated town was exactly as it seemed and the experience was destined to turn Johnathan’s orderly life upside down.

There was plenty of action, mystery, danger and more to keep the pages turning. Add to that a strictly forbidden romance and the fact that it was hard to tell exactly where loyalties should lie, A Bargain of Blood and Gold was a hard book to put down. The adventure was far from over at the end, so it goes without saying that I can’t wait for the Midnight Guardians series to continue.

Finding the Wolf (The Dragon’s Hoard #1) by Mell Eight

When Prince Leon disappears, his people turn to the dragons for help. Nyle is the unlucky dragon tasked with finding Leon, a duty he dreads as it forces him into the confounding human world and far away from his collection of pretties.
Locating a missing prince should be a simple matter, but if Nyle has learned anything about humans since being forced among them, it’s that they needlessly complicate everything. When he finally locates the errant prince, however, what Nyle finds is a treasure worth all the complications—and worth protecting at any cost.

This isn’t my first book featuring dragons that I’ve read by Mell Eight. Just for the record, same author, totally different take on dragons. I adore the dragons in the Supernatural Consultant series. Its more contemporary setting is a modern take on young dragons and is a very family centered series. The Dragon’s Hoard has a more “old-world” feel and although Nyle is young by dragon standards, he’s been around for quite some time. The sense of family is totally different in Finding the Wolf as well. There’s a disconnect between the dragons which keeps them pretty much emotionally isolated. Which is one of the reasons why Leon becomes so important to Nyle. His hoard is full of his most treasured possessions and Leon quickly becomes the most treasured of all.

As in most of Mell Eight’s supernatural stories, there’s a mystery to be solved and evil to be conquered. I found myself getting wrapped up in the suspense even more than the growing romance between Leon and Nyle. Things are far from over by the end of Finding the Wolf. Leon and Nyle found their HEA, but readers are still left with questions about discoveries that were made. Since this is a series that’s been republished, we shouldn’t have to wait long for the next book in The Dragon’s Hoard series, Breaking the Shackles.

Scandal at the Salty Dog (Secrets & Scrabble #4) by Josh Lanyon

Mystery Stalks the Cobbled Streets of Pirate’s Cove.
Who or what is haunting elderly recluse Juliet Blackwell, what does it have to do with mysterious goings-on at the Salty Dog Pub–and why is any of it mystery bookshop owner Ellery Page’s problem? According to sometimes boyfriend Police Chief Jack Carson, it’s not Ellery’s problem, and Ellery should stop asking awkward questions before it’s too late.
Ellery couldn’t agree more, but it’s hard to say no when someone is as frightened as old Mrs. Blackwell. Mrs. Blackwell insists the ghost of long dead pirate Rufus Blackwell has come to avenge himself on the last member of his treacherous clan.
Before Ellery can say, “Yikes!” Mrs. Blackwell takes a tumble down the grand staircase of her spooky mansion, and it’s up to Ellery to find who is trying to kill his eccentric customer.

I’ve adored Ellery since the very first book in Secrets & Scrabble (Murder at Pirate’s Cove). He’s one of those sweet quirky characters that I love to find in cozy mysteries. Jack’s taken some getting used to, but that’s mainly because of the stand offish way he’s treated Ellery since that very first book. (I’m nothing if not loyal to my favorite characters. 😉 ) I have to admit that Jack’s growing on me though and seems to have come around. To be fair, he had his reasons, so he can now consider himself almost forgiven.

Scandal at the Salty Dog had a lot going on which in the beginning seemed totally unrelated. Much to Jack’s lament, Ellery has gained a reputation of being an amateur sleuth. To be honest, Ellery isn’t much happier about the title, but it’s hard to argue with a town full of eccentric characters like those who reside in Pirate’s Cove. Once again, Ellery finds himself in more than one dangerous situation and an exasperated Jack has to come to his rescue.

Secrets & Scrabble is full of humor, a touch (and sometimes more) of danger, off the page romance between two unlikely characters, suspense and good mysteries. All the perfect ingredients in a fun cozy mystery. I always look forward to the next installment. Speaking of which, Body at Buccaneer’s Bay is coming soon. 😉

The Summer of No Attachments (The Summer Friends #2) by Lori Foster

Summer flings with no strings mean nobody gets hurt.
At least, that was the plan…
 

After putting the brakes on her dead-end relationship, local veterinarian Ivey Anders is ready to soak up this summer on her own terms. The way she sees it, no dating means no disappointment. Why complicate life with anything long-term? But when she meets Corbin Meyer—and his troubled young son, Justin—Ivey’s no-strings strategy threatens to unravel before she can put it into practice
Trust doesn’t come easy for Ivey’s best friend, Hope Mage, a veterinary-clinic assistant who’s affected by an incident that’s colored every relationship she’s had. Though Hope’s happy for Ivey, she can’t quite open her own heart to the possibility of love. Not just yet… Maybe not ever. Soon, however, she’s faced with a dilemma—Corbin’s older brother, Lang. He’s charming, he’s kind…and he may just be the reason Hope needs to finally tear down her walls.
And as the sweet summer months unspool, the two friends discover love won’t give up on them so easily.

Even though I’m a self-proclaimed (and self-titled) eclectic reader, sweet romances aren’t my go-to when I’m looking for a new read. I do get in the mood for them from time to time and there’s absolutely no hesitation when they are written by authors I’ve grown to love. Lori Foster is one of those authors. I got hooked on her books with her Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor series when I picked up the 4th book, A Perfect Storm. It didn’t take me long to back track through the rest of the series and since then I’ve read a a lot of her suspense filled books. So, when I want a sweet, low drama read and see a book by Lori Foster offered, I know that I’ll be in for a good read. The Summer of No Attachments was no exception.

Readers met Ivey in the first book in the Summer Friends series, The Somerset Girls. Even though this is the second book in a series, it can definitely be read as a stand alone.

The Summer of No Attachments was a character driven story about two unlikely couples. Not because they weren’t perfect for each other, but because none of them were looking for romance, but fate had other plans. I know that a lot of readers see that a kid is involved in the plot of a romance and cringe. I’m the opposite because that’s a draw for me. Of course if the kid is simply used as a “prop” it can ruin the story, but Justin’s inclusion in The Summer of No Attachments was perfect. Of course he was the main focus of his father and his uncle, but the fact that both Ivey and Hope not only understood, but made him part of their focus as well said a lot for the future for both couples.

Even though there was little or no suspense, there was just enough drama to keep the pages turning. There were some heartbreaking moments surrounding both Hope and Justin, but the way that the other characters handled those situations made me love all of them even more.

So, if you’re in the mood for a sweet summer romance that includes a troubled kid who finds the family he deserves, an adorable dog and her puppies, supportive friends and a fair amount of healing, The Summer of No Attachments is the perfect choice.

Rare Vigilance (Whitethorn Agency #1) by M.A. Grant

Former marine Atlas Kinkaid knows not to ask questions about the clients he protects at the behest of the elite Whitethorn security agency. Just like he doesn’t like anyone asking about his scars—scars left by a mysterious attack that haunts his every waking moment.
Consumed by the need to find out what happened to him, Atlas takes a job providing security to Cristian Slava, the indolent—and gorgeous—son of a notorious businessman. Cristian seems to be just another entitled client, but when nights at the club turn into secret meetings and people start going missing, Atlas realizes there’s more to Cristian—and to protecting him—than meets the eye.
But the same people who are after Cristian have something Atlas desperately craves: they know exactly what happened the fateful night he was attacked—and are willing to tell him everything…
For a price.

I love it when the author of a series I loved comes out with a brand new series. M.A. Grant first showed up on my TBR list with the first book in her Darkest Court series, Prince of Air and Darkness. As much as I grew to love that series, I have to say if Rare Vigilance is any indication, I’m going to love the Whitethorn Agency even more.

Atlas Kinkaid was the kind of broken character that it was hard to not sympathize with. He had been through a horrific ordeal that was so crazy he soon learned to be careful who he shared the details with. His sister was his rock though and she believed him, but she couldn’t keep the haunting terror away. All she could do was be there for him, including giving him a job with the security agency that she ran.

His newest assisignment wasn’t an easy one, mainly because the man he was in charge of protecting had run off most of the other agents assigned to him. Atlas was determined though and he found ways to out maneuver Cristian and his seemingly childish antics – most of the time. Nothing was quite what it seemed though and soon Atlas had to decide if keeping his job was worth losing himself.

There were a lot of twists and turns, danger, suspense and at times it was hard to sift out the good guys from the bad. Atlas had to figure out who to put his trust in, which wasn’t always easy.

One word of warning, if you’re not a fan of cliff hangers, prepare yourself. The final chapter is a jaw dropper – but it also left me smiling. Needless to say, I can’t wait until the Whitethorn Agency continues.

Constellations of Scars by Melissa Eskue Ousley

Not all gifts are a blessing. Some are a curse.
When Amelia turned 12, she began growing pearls. Every month, a crop of beautiful pearls bursts from the skin on her back. Her mother, Denise, believes her daughter is blessed, and sells the pearls to put food on the table. Amelia sees her condition as a curse. As the pearls form, her body aches and her skin grows feverish. The harvest of pearls brings temporary relief from the pain, but leaves her back marred by scars. Denise hides Amelia away from the world, worried that Amelia’s gift will be discovered and she will be abducted for the wealth she can provide. Now a young woman, Amelia realizes she has become her mother’s captive, and plans her escape. When she runs away from home, she finds a new family in a troupe of performers at a museum of human oddities. She soon discovers the world is much more dangerous than her mother feared.

I’m kind of proud of the fact that I’m not a “judge a book by its cover” kind of reader, so I never pick a book by the cover alone. That doesn’t mean that I can ignore a beautiful cover when I see it, it’s just not the total draw in my decision to pick up a book. In the case of Constellations of Scars, I’m not ashamed to admit that the cover definitely grabbed my attention. The description pulled me in enough to make it hard to resist. I love it when the inside of a book is as beautiful as the outside. ❤

This is my first read by Melissa Eskue Ousley and it was well worth taking a chance on a new to me author. I have to admit that it wasn’t at all what I expected, but that’s not a bad thing. Constellations of Scars is much more than it seems on the surface. It’s a book where the real monsters are disguised and not everything is as it seems. There are also a lot of twists and turns and some things that I never saw coming. As much as I’d love to wax poetic about what I truly loved about this story, I don’t want to give anything away.

Just know that parts of Amelia’s story isn’t easy to read, but it’s totally worth the heartbreak. There were characters that I adored and characters that I most definitely didn’t. There were times that I didn’t even like Amelia all that much – at least not some of the decisions that she made, but regardless of her uniqueness, she was still only human – flaws and all. There were even some lessons to be learned in Constellations of Scars – which ironically brings us right back to that “judging a book by its cover” thing. ❤

Hard Sell (Jade Harbour Capital #1) by Hudson Lin

One night wasn’t enough.
Danny Yip walks into every boardroom with a plan. His plan for struggling tech company WesTec is to acquire it, shut it down, and squeeze the last remaining revenue out of it for his Jade Harbour Capital portfolio. But he didn’t expect his best friend’s younger brother—the hottest one-night stand he ever had—to be there.
Tobin Lok has always thought the world of Danny. He’s funny, warm, attractive—and totally out of Tobin’s league. Now, pitted against Danny at work, Tobin might finally get a chance to prove he’s more than just Wei’s little brother.
It takes a lot to get under Danny’s skin, but Tobin is all grown up in a way Danny can’t ignore. Now, with a promising patent on the line and the stakes higher than ever, all he can think about is getting Tobin back into his bed—and into his life for good.
If only explaining their relationship to Wei could be so easy

An surprisingly sweet couple, but what I’ve come to expect from an offering from Carina Adores. 😉

Before I started Hard Sell, I wasn’t expecting Danny to be the character that I sympathized with most. I loved both Danny and Tobin, but Danny really tugged at my heartstrings. It may have been because his personality away from his job seemed to be polar opposite of the man he was on the job. That clash was beginning to weigh on him even before he ran into Tobin again.

Tobin had a lot to prove, mainly to himself. He was tired of being considered the baby of the family that everyone had to look out for. Danny didn’t see him that way at all. And that was a problem – at least Danny thought it was. What Danny wanted most in his life was a family and as much as he wanted Tobin in his life, he couldn’t risk losing the closest thing he had to a family in the process.

I loved Danny and Tobin’s story, even through the tears. ❤ I loved the family interactions, even the tense ones. I adored the scenes with Danny and Wei’s kids. All of this together made Tobin and Danny’s hard won HEA even sweeter.

All Fired Up (Ashes & Dust #1) by Jenn Burke

Once bitten. Twice burned. Forever bonded.
Paranormals are dying. All over the city, with no explanation and only one thing in common: their magic is missing.
Vampire and private investigator Evan Fournier isn’t supposed to be taking on paranormal cases, but when the murderer hits close to home, he agrees to look into it. The last thing he expects is to become a target himself—and then to become irrevocably bonded to the man who just tried to kill him.

With his memory gone and his soul bonded to a stranger, former firefighter Colin Zhang wants to be anywhere else. He doesn’t have a damn clue why he just tried to kill Evan, and he didn’t even know about magic until just now. The sooner he can get back to his real life, the better.
But every time either of them tries to leave, pure agony stops them short. Forced to work with Evan or suffer the consequences, Colin must excavate the secrets buried in his missing memories while battling two rising threats: the conspiracy behind the murder, and his mutual attraction to the bond mate he never wanted.

I was one of those readers that was not at all happy with the fact that Jenn Burke’s Not Dead Yet series had come to an end. I may have even voiced that opinion in my review of Graveyard Shift. Although I felt that Wes and Hudson’s story came to a satisfying, yet bittersweet end, there were still things that needed to be resolved. Namely, the way things were left for Evan. For that reason alone, you can imagine how happy I was to find out that not only were things not quite over, Evan was getting his own story. 🙂

You can read All Fired Up without reading the Not Dead Yet series first, but there’s a lot of back story in the previous series that Ashes & Dust builds off. Wes and Hudson make a few well timed appearances and so do other familiar characters. This is most definitely Evan and Colin’s story though and it was a great start to their series.

Both Evan and Colin are broken characters. Evan suffered a devastating loss and still battles with emotional scars he suffered in his past. Colin has to come to terms with the fact that the life he thought he had is over. He “woke up” to a world he had no idea existed – one that he’s now a part of whether he likes it or not.

The tenuous relationship between Colin and Evan is only part of the story. There’s a new threat to paranormals the evil behind it needs to be stopped. Colin may not understand what’s going on, but he’s at the center of the conspiracy and once Evan gets him away, they both end up with targets on their back. Needless to say, I can’t wait for this series to continue. House on Fire is next and it can’t come soon enough. 😉