Mystery Man, by Kristen Ashley

Mystery Man

Grade: B-

Doing it at: 44%

Catnip: Alpha Hero, Funny Heroine, Motorcycles, Shitty Siblings, Smoking Hot Ex-Military Guy, Kidnapping

Shame Scale: Low shame. This one has a great heroine with a backbone and a sense of humor, and a lot of solid plot.

Fantasy Cast:  Édgar Ramírez, Reese Witherspoon

Book Description:

Night time is the right time…

Gwendolyn Kidd has met the man of her dreams. He’s hot, he’s sexy, and what started as a no-names-exchanged night of passion has blossomed into a year and a half-long pleasure fest. Sure, it’s a little strange that he only appears in her bed at night, but Gwen is so sure he’s the one, she just can’t turn him away… 

Hawk Delgado knows more about Gwen than she could ever imagine. She’s gorgeous, headstrong, and skittish about relationships. But Hawk is facing his own demons, demons that keep him from connecting with anyone. Yet when Gwen is drawn into Denver’s lethal underground scene, Hawk’s protective nature comes out full force. The problem is, when Gwen gets a dose of Hawk’s Alpha attitude in the daylight, she’s not so sure he’s the one anymore….


This was my first Kristen Ashley book, I’d heard great things about her, but never got around to reading anything because her books were all always checked out of the library. I know, it’s a terrible excuse. But I’ve had Mystery Man on my wish list for over a year, and when C got a bajillion Amazon gift cards this summer, she went on a book buying spree and I put in a request for this one.

Because a mystery lover who sneaks into my room in the middle of the night and fucks me back to sleep is right up there on my fantasy list, along with having a 23 year old Dominican boyfriend, and being in the middle of a Tom Hardy/Matt Bomer sandwich.

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Axel, Corps Security #1, by Harper Sloan

axel

Grade: B-

Doing it at: 61%

Catnip: First Love; Alpha Hero; White Knight; Accidental Pregnancy; I Need a Soldier

Shame Scale: The dialog, talk of “weeping”parts, and super formulaic formula make this one pretty shame-tastic. But damn if I could quit it.

Fantasy Cast: Channing Tatum; Alessandro Ambrosio

Book Description:

Fate hasn’t always been friends with Isabelle West. In fact, fate has been a downright bitch.

Isabelle has learned the hard way how hard life can be when fate isn’t by your side. It can hand you dreams on silver platters, but it can snatch them right back and hand you nightmares. One thing Isabelle knew for sure fate was consistent with was taking away everything she ever loved.

For the last two years Isabelle has been slowly clearing the clouds of her past. Happiness is finally on the horizon. She has a thriving business, great friends, and her life back. All she has to do is jump over the last hurdle…her ex-husband.

When problems start causing her to fear her new life, and memories that are better left forgotten start rushing to the surface the last thing she needs is a ghost from her past to come knocking on her door.

Axel never thought he would look into the eyes of Isabelle West again, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to now. He’s carried his anger for so long he isn’t sure he can just turn it off, but when he is faced with protecting her and an unexpected desire to have her again, life gets a little more complicated.

How will Axel and Isabelle deal when all their cards are put on the table and everything they thought was true blows up in their faces?

Locke, book six in this series, was on sale for 99 cents on Amazon and I purchased it for the Family Library* last week. Because look at that cover guys.

locke

Mary messaged me to let me know she had the whole series in one collection already in there, and since I’m trying to be a good girl I thought I would go ahead and start with #1 and maybe just speed read through the entire series. Even though THIS was the Axel cover in the anthology:

axel2

The subtle difference in cover models make one look super hot, and one look like an ad for a bathhouse in San Fran where a bunch of guys can pee on you at once while you lie in a tub (that’s a real thing that happened at a bath house, not to me, and no shame in your game if that’s your thing).

Axel opens with a disclaimer about violence against women, I don’t need a trigger warning, but was glad it had been put in for other women who might. The opening scene between Izzy and her sociopath husband is brutal. He’s a controlling bastard whose violence towards Izzy has been escalating for six years. We meet her when it has reached fever pitch and he almost kills her for daring to go out and see her best friend, Dee, while he is at work. Luckily Dee has slipped Izzy a secret cell phone that she is able to use to call for help and Brandon doesn’t win that day.

We flash two years into the future. Izzy is trying to heal; but this abusive marriage wasn’t the first awful thing to happen in her thirty years of life. Her parents were killed in a car accident when she was seventeen and her first love, Axel, went to boot camp and never came home. As far as she knows he is dead, and shortly after her parents died she miscarried their baby. So, emotionally she is kind of in rough shape. Dee has been her life coach, helping her find a new town and start a new life with the help of their friend, Greg Cage. Here is where I started having a few small issues. The gentlemen in this book had dialog that I just could not get on board with. No adverbs. So many egregious uses of the word girl; do straight ex-military men really affectionately refer to their female friends as “Girl” like a sassy gay BFF? My brain is determined that Greg is gay (I try to not be stereotyping but this wouldn’t shut off, like when my brain cast Weevil as Travis in Beautiful Disaster) so I may skip his book and move right along to number three.

It’s Izzy’s 30th birthday and Dee has convinced her to actually get a little crazy and go out with friends to drink and dance and be young. Until Izzy receives a package on her doorstep from Brandon who most definitely SHOULD NOT know where the girls live. Greg owns a security company staffed by men he knows from his time in the Marines. The man who ran the west coast branch has recently moved to Georgia and Greg thinks that this dude, Reid, should be the one to help track down Brandon and keep Izzy safe. Izzy is all “cool, whatever, someone keep me safe– lets go do that drinking we didn’t do yesterday I want to be numb now please.” The girls get very super drunk and then Greg’s hot friend/coworkers show up. They’re all giant, handsome, ex military dudes and Dee and Izzy are busy drooling. Until Reid shows up. And Izzy passes right on out. Because Reid is Axel and he is definitely not twelve years dead. Izzy has a major panic attack and has to be carried out of the club by Greg who is growling at Axel to stay the hell away from her.

Axel himself is pretty pissed. He has a whole different story in his head about what happened. He has no clue that Izzy thought he was dead, that she had been pregnant with his child, that she was almost beaten to death by her husband, and that she’s a walking nerve ending. The characters spend some time (but not much, this book is pretty short) getting their wires straightened out and falling back together. Its all fine. The story itself is formulaic but entertaining for what it is and the sex/story ratio is pretty balanced.

Now the complaint department. Axel calls Izzy ‘Princess’ and for whatever reason that annoys me. He isn’t even saying it in a sarcastic way, he’s really cloyingly calling her his princess. And so much points-deducting sex writing:

“Fuck baby, I can smell you from here. I bet your pussy is soaked, fucking sopping wet and ready for me.”

“…causes wetness to gush from my core.”

the tip of his generous cock hitting my cervix

He needs no help persuading me to guide him inside my seeping body.

Noping right out at gushing and seeping, guys.

Still, Axel gets a B- for being just as trashy as I wanted it to be, and being really fun to read. Reading is FUNdamental, yinz.

Also it has a new favorite line to add to the list:

Three boxes might be excessive for a normal man, but for me, that’s just making sure I’m prepared.

Three boxes of condoms if that wasn’t clear. He’s confident! And we like that in an Alpha.

*Have we mentioned that we share a kindle library? Its amazing, its the loveliest, most salacious collection of trashy books. And what happens in the family library STAYS in the family library. Its more secure than Fight Club

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Lawless in Leather, by Melanie Scott

Lawless in Leather

Grade: B

Doing it at: 49%

Catnip: Burlesque; Motorcycles; Smoking Hot Ex-Military Guy; Sports Stuff; Dead Ex-Girlfriend Issues; Mysterious Stalker; Dual Narrative; Not Xena

Shame Scale: Medium.

Fantasy Cast: Jay Ryan, Isla Fisher

Book Description:

SHE’S GOOD AT HER GAME.
Raina Easton never dreamed she’d end up playing ring master to a bunch of baseball cheerleaders. But when the New York Saints offers her a job to coach its new squad–the Fallen Angels–Raina can’t refuse. As the owner of a burlesque club, she can certainly show the girls more than a few good moves. But as for her new boss? That is, as they say, a whole ‘nother story. . . 

AND HE’S GOT IT BAD.
Army veteran, biker, and all-around tough guy, Malachi Coulter isn’t your typical sports-team owner. For one thing, he doesn’t think cheerleaders belong on the baseball field. Another: he can’t seem to separate business and pleasure when he meets his somewhat scandalous new employee. Seems the major-league bad boy has met his match in the gorgeous, feisty Raina. All’s fair in love and baseball…could it be that, after all this time, Malachi is playing to win?

We recently got our hands on a bunch of ARC’s (Advanced Reader Copy), making us Shame Girls feel verrrry professional and pleased with ourselves. Luckily the first few have been pretty good so we don’t have to say mean things, or lie and feel like we’re compromising our “Journalistic Integrity.”

Lawless in Leather is the third book in the New York Saints series. I’ve been wanting to check one of these out (because I like the covers. Faceless buns, bulge, and abs. #sorrynotsorry) and I was thrilled to have a chance to read this one for zero dollars. Also, when I was googling this book to get an image of the cover to use in this review, this was what came up:

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 6.16.04 PM

So excellent. 🙂

Raina is a dancer who has been hired to choreograph a cheerleading squad for the NY Saints, a baseball team recently purchased by Malachi (love that name – it’s NOT too Children of the Corn, you guys) and his friends – the heroes in the previous two books. Raina and Malachi are both looking to settle down and do adult things, but both of them look at the other and see capital “T” Trouble: A curvy burlesque dancer with fiery red hair, versus a broody guy on a motorcycle, wrapped up in a leather jacket.

“Would you believe me if I said it’s not you, it’s me?” Dark brows lifted. “I might. If you explain it more.” “It… it sounds silly. But I just don’t trust my instincts with men anymore. Too many mistakes. So when my instincts say This one, I’m forced to consider if it’s more sensible to do the exact opposite.” He frowned. “Did someone hurt you?” “I’m thirty. It would be a little strange if I hadn’t had my heart broken by now.”

They spend a good bit of time letting the chemistry simmer and bubble, before they realize that it might not be the worst idea ever to explore the obvious attraction between them. Add in a mysterious someone who is messing with Raina, and Mal’s protective instincts, and it’s a pretty enjoyable read. Also, Raina’s cat is named after Wash in Firefly, so I’m sure Melanie Scott and I would be friends IRL.

I loved the characters in this. Raina is confident and mature, knows what she wants and is extremely direct about it. There’s no cliched misunderstandings that insult the reader’s intelligence. The drama between Raina and Mal feels real and satisfying. And this book manages to strike a good balance between giving us that protective alpha male we want, and the feminist hero we want to be. Take these excerpts for example.

“I don’t need to lock you up.” Her face went pensive. “Not literally. That would be weird. And really creepy and I’d have to call the cops on your ass. But there are things I want to do in my life. And some of them aren’t the safest things on earth. I want to learn to ski and maybe bungee-jump and some other stuff that I never got to do when I was dancing because I couldn’t afford to injure myself. I don’t life my life within the lines. Not all the time.” He sucked in a breath. “I know that.” “Yeah, but can you live with it? Because my choices are mine. No one else gets to choose for me. Or control what I do. So if you already know that the answer is no, we should cut our losses. Before anyone gets hurt.”

************

“Her definition of handling it was apparently different from his. But he remember what she’d said. About not wanting to be controlled. So he couldn’t just take over and do things his way. Not if he wanted to keep waking up next to her. He took a breath. Pushed back the worry and anger. She was safe. And she had told him. She’d given him that much. He could respect her boundaries in return. “Okay.” He nodded once. “Okay. Let’s see what happens.”

See that! He’s protective, she’s not meek, he agrees to compromise. Cleone and I first started throwing around the idea of blogging about romance novels when we realized that we were two educated feminist women, DEVOURING books about men that are borderline abusive. Controlling in the name of overprotectiveness. Truth: we LOVE those books. But we also love it even more when we find a book with characters we can relate to. Who do things we can see ourselves doing in real life. I’m giving this one a B, because I loved it, but I think it could have used a little more drama. I feel like if you’re going to add a stalker, there should be a little more danger or excitement than there was in this one.

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Hard As You Can, by Laura Kaye

Hard As You Can

Grade: C+

Doing it at: 87%

Catnip: Smoking Hot Ex-Military Guy; Tattoos; Girl With A Hard Knock Life; Stripper With A Heart Of Gold; Human Trafficking; Organized Crime; Dangerous Criminal Villain; Alpha Hero; Dual Narrative

Shame scale: Tease shame. I expected shame, I wanted shame, but in the end, I could see my dad reading this one.

Fantasy casting: Timothy Olyphant, Isla Fisher

Book Description:

Ever since hard-bodied, drop-dead-charming Shane McCallan strolled into the dance club where Crystal Dean works, he’s shown a knack for getting beneath her defenses. For her little sister’s sake, Crystal can’t get too close. Until her job and Shane’s mission intersect, and he reveals talents that go deeper than she could have guessed. 

Shane would never turn his back on a friend in need, especially a former Special Forces teammate running a dangerous, off-the-books operation. Nor can he walk away from Crystal. The gorgeous waitress is hiding secrets she doesn’t want him to uncover. Too bad. He’s exactly the man she needs to protect her sister, her life, and her heart. All he has to do is convince her that when something feels this good, you hold on as hard as you can–and never let go.

This is the second book in Laura Kaye’s Hard Ink series. There is an overarching plot to this series that should be read in order. This book picks up immediately after Hard As It Gets, from the perspective of Shane and Crystal – a stripper who helped them out during the climax of the first book. Crystal is a waitress at a strip club, with a scary abusive mobster boyfriend, who she sees as the lesser of two evils: she’s basically an indentured servant, paying off debts incurred by her late father – as a waitress at the club and Bruno’s girlfriend, rather than as a BDSM slave. She’s also shouldering the burden of this life to protect her sister, a college student with expensive epilepsy meds.

Enter Shane, who met Crystal during the rescue scene at the end of the first book. He is worried about the woman he saw, wonders if she’s alright, and decides to check up on her under the guise of seeing if she’ll help them out in their mission to solve the mystery of how he and the other Smoking Hot Ex-Military guys were all kicked out of the marines. It’s a long story. It’s basically your standard girl needs a hero, guy wants to be her hero story, with a pretty solid solve the mystery, defeat the bad guys plot.

I liked Crystal. She’s working in a strip club and staying with an abusive monster, but she’s not a victim. She’s managing an no-win situation, and methodically planning her exit strategy. With so many of my beloved Shame Books celebrating the billionaire fighter who claims his woman, slays her dragons, and pays her rent, I found this immensely refreshing:

“And Her gut told her that the man with the gray eyes was a savior. Just not hers. No, when she found a way out of this mess-and she would, for both her and Jenna-it was going to be because Crystal got them out. No such thing as white knights or Prince Charmings or caped crusaders in her life, that was for damn sure.”

And Shane. He is an Alpha Hero, who desperately wants to step in and bully Crystal and her sister to safety, but ultimately respects her autonomy, and allows her to accept or reject the help he is offering.

So here’s the rub. That cover makes you think Shameful Romance Book with so much sex. It even uses the word HARD in the title, you guys. In fact, every book in this series has a hot naked torso, entwined with a similarly clad woman, and a Hard something or other title. From the description: “Until her job and Shane’s mission intersect, and he reveals talents that go deeper than she could have guessed ….  All he has to do is convince her that when something feels this good, you hold on as hard as you can.” So obviously, one would think: this is the kind of book you don’t read in public. Aka a Shame Book. Aka Our Favorite Books.

There is no sex in this book until 87%. There is a tiny bit of outercourse at 55%, but at Mybookshame, Cleone and I are sticklers about the P in the V. So if one picked up this book hoping for a shame read, they would be sorely disappointed. It has about as much sex as the detective books my dad reads. This book is the epitome of a Tease Book. It’s the kind of book that tests our Scientific and Mathy Ratings Matrix. It screams sex on the outside but might as well be the DaVinci code. When I have to hide the cover I deserve to read something worth hiding. I deserve something that can go in the spank bank. I at least have earned something that might make a nun blush. A cover like this should deliver on the promise of a book I wouldn’t want to read aloud to my mother.

That’s really my big complaint about this book, because other than that, it’s pretty good. I enjoyed it a lot. The writing is great, I loved the characters, the plot is engaging, and other than being a big fat Tease, I don’t have anything mean to say about it. I’ll definitely be continuing to read this series, and I might even recommend it to my dad.

Amazon