New Adult, New Adult Romance

My Review: The Risk (Briar-U #2): by Elle Kennedy

Publication Date: February 18th, 2019
Number of Pages: 432 Pages
Publisher: Elle Kennedy, Inc.
Genre(s): New Adult Romance

***Warning! This review may contain spoilers from the previous book in the series, so continue at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review of book #1 – The Chase – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

A kiss, at its very core, is an emotional experience. Or at least it is for me. Anyone can give me an orgasm, but not everyone can touch my soul. One kiss can make me fall in love with someone.”

– Elle Kennedy, “The Risk”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

A sexy standalone novel from New York Times and international bestselling author Elle Kennedy. THE RISK takes you back to the world of hot hockey players, feisty heroines, bro banter, and steamy scenes…

Everyone says I’m a bad girl. They’re only partly right—I don’t let fear rule me, and I certainly don’t care what people think. But I draw the line at sleeping with the enemy. As the daughter of Briar’s head hockey coach, I’d be vilified if I hooked up with a player from a rival team.

And that’s who Jake Connelly is. Harvard’s star forward is arrogant, annoying, and too attractive for his own good. But fate is cruel—I require his help to secure a much-coveted internship, and the sexy jerk isn’t making it easy for me.

I need Connelly to be my fake boyfriend.

For every fake date…he wants a real one.

Which means this bad girl is in big trouble. Nothing good can come from sneaking around with Jake Connelly. My father would kill me, my friends will revolt, and my post-college career is on the line. But while it’s getting harder and harder to resist Jake’s oozing sex appeal and cocky grin, I refuse to fall for him.

That’s the one risk I’m not willing to take.

~~~

Once again my love for fictional college hockey players in books written by Elle Kennedy is lit up like a spark on the Fourth of July because this book was another absolute hit for me!

I tend to switch back and forth between the Romance and Fantasy genres, hopefully both having a little steam to them too, but when I get done with a Fantasy book or series that’s so rich in worldbuilding, an intricately laced together plot, and lots of emotionally driven angst from both the characters and me as I’m reading it, switching from that to a lighter toned, easy read like these books are such a relaxing change of pace for me. they’re the kind of book I can enjoy at the beach now that the summer months are upon us where I’m located as I’m typing this, and they’re easier to put down and come back to several times in a day if needed. They don’t require my full attention in order to fully grasp everything, and that is seriously such a great thing all in it’s own! I certainly appreciate books like that just as much as my thicker and heavier and darker themed Fantasy books too.

Back to this story, this was another Elle Kennedy college romance story that I absolutely devoured, and was a title I enjoyed even more than the previous one! I really enjoyed the pace of it better, I think I related even more to the characters and the issues they faced this time around, and the romance was once again scorching and I couldn’t get enough of it!

This story revolved around Brenna Jensen, who is the daughter of the head coach for the Men’s Hockey Team at the fictional Briar University. She’s got an edge to her with confidence to spare, a mouth that has no qualms about telling someone off when it’s needed, and doesn’t follow orders very well. Hockey has always been in her life and is also one of her big passions that she wants to pursue in her own way.

Next there’s Jake Connelly, whose the captain of the Hockey team at Harvard, who also happens to be one of Briar U’s biggest rivals. He’s a senior who also already has a contract pretty much set up for the NHL once he graduates, so he takes his position very seriously. He plans to have his team go all the way and win the frozen four, and will do whatever it takes to make sure him and none of his teammates get distracted, least of all by girls on the side of the enemy who flirt with his teammates and is possibly gathering intel.

Brenna wants to become a sports broadcaster and has an interview for an internship that is an incredibly opportunity that could also really open some doors for her down the road. Unfortunately, her interviewer and possible future boss is a gigantic sexist pig who already questions her on how a woman has a place in the sports industry, like how much knowledge would a female have about Hockey anyway, right? Brenna does her best to not slap the bejeezus out of him and stay professional, because again this is the opportunity of a lifetime for her, but her hopes and dreams are starting to disappear until the guy admits he’s got his eye on a particular incoming rookie to the NHL, a particular captain of the Harvard hockey team named Jake Connelly. Since they’ve already been talking—well, he’s been warning her to stop distracting his teammates, not that she was really going to listen to him—and hatched a plan to put her even further into that door and lies that Jake and her are a couple and can have them meet! From there, the fake dating and enemies-to-lovers romance tropes commence!

Jake and Brenna quickly became one of my favorite couples that Elle Kennedy created for her books, and I can say I felt the sparks between them even back when they first met back in the previous book. Neither of them wanted to admit it, or maybe weren’t even aware of it at the time, but there was instantly something there! I loved their chemistry, and was a little surprised at how there were some reviews on Goodreads that said the opposite! Not to knock them or their opinion that doesn’t match mine, but you know that strange feeling you get when you feel so strong about something but someone has the complete opposite thought about it than you and you just can’t comprehend it? Well, to be fair, it almost felt like there was the possibility of setting Brenna up with Hollis, one of the Briar-U players who’s also a total comedic relief, but I liked her and Jake much better!

I am honestly starting to question evolution. We went from cavemen, to homo sapiens, to this incredible society of great minds—Alexander Graham Bell inventing telephones, Steve Jobs inventing…everything. And now we’re devolving. We’ve travelled back to cavemen, only nowadays we call them fuckboys.”

– Elle Kennedy, “The Risk”

What I Liked:

  1. The Romance Tropes! We’ve got fake dating, we’ve got unlikely allies, we’ve got sleeping with the enemy, forbidden love, and it all just makes this story so much fun to read!
  2. More Smut Than The Previous Book! Yes, The Chase was such a slow-burn with that you don’t get as many sexy scenes as you’d probably like, but this book had a lot more that might make a lot of fans of the author’s books happier in that regards. Brenna and Jake had some really good chemistry in my opinion, and the whole “sleeping with the enemy,” forbidden-ness of them being together certainly added some flair to the mix. These two were smoldering towards each other ever since they ran into each other in the first book, and it was only a matter of time before something erupted between them!
  3. The Comedy and the Banter! I mean, I think I point this factor out with literally every Elle Kennedy book review I’ve done by this point, but it’s seriously such a highlight for me everytime I open one of her books! The back-and-forths her characters have always have me chuckling on the side and also making me believe in the credibility in the romance between them. And Elle Kennedy also always has some running joke that continues throughout each book; this time it’s the….interesting relationship between Hollis and an incredibly extra freshman, Rupi. I didn’t hate their side relationship to the story, and it certainly made me laugh a few times, but it was a lot all at the same time.
  4. The Realistic Issues! The outer issues the characters face in the Briar-U series are so much better done and much more realistic than the ones in the Off-Campus series! Not that I didn’t love some of the drama back then, but I can admit that sometimes it got a little over the top. Once again Elle Kennedy tackles a heavier subject matter that a lot of women of all ages face: misogyny in the workplace. Brenna’s goal is to get an internship for her sports broadcasting dream career, but her boss is such a narrow minded prick when it comes to women and their roles in society, like part of me couldn’t even fathom that women all over actually get treated this way! This book also deals with the guilt one feels after a traumatic past experience that haunts them even years later, AKA survivors guilt. People make bad decisions all the time, and just because you love—or loved—someone at the time when they were making those bad life choices in no way should reflect upon you no matter what you may tell yourself. It’s an actual thing, and many people have probably suffered this in their lives over something, and I thought it was an inner issue that was handled well in this book, and sheds a light on a condition that honestly doesn’t get a whole lot of recognition but like I said, a lot of people have probably experienced it at some point in their lives and haven’t addressed about it as much as they’d have liked. The strained relationship between Brenna and her father was also another issue that was a great addition to the story, and the development of it throughout this story is something to take note of!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Jake’s Childhood Friend, Hazel…I just didn’t see much of a need to include her in the story to be honest. I thought there was a strange amount of emphasis put upon her when she came into the story, and part of me thought it meant that she was going to be a future love interest and/or main character for one of the future books. Luckily for me, that’s not the case, but all in all I just didn’t really care much for her addition to the story. I felt like she just added unnecessary conflict to the plot that could’ve done just as well without her.

Conclusion:

Yet another fun, hilarious, and sexy novel written by one of my favorite New Adult Romance authors, The Risk has everything you love about her books for those who are familiar with her work, but also is easy enough to jump into for those who are newer and just starting out with her as well!

These books are just such a nice change of pace sometimes from the darker and heavier themes I read in a lot of my Fantasy genre books, I’d just finished The Crown of Gilded Bones by Jennifer L. Armentrout as I’m typing this, and while I absolutely adored it, I have to admit I need a little space from Fantasy for at least like three books. I think I actually need a recovery from a book, and that is such a strange feeling for me!

Elle Kennedy’s college romance books are just lighter, easier, and remarkable in a way that’s way different from those other books, but I love them all the same and appreciate them in my life! For those who also read these, Hunter Davenport is the star of the next book in this series, and with his story arc so far in these books, it’ll certainly be interesting to see him center-stage and (of course) get his own little HEA.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Erotica

My Review: Priest (Priest #1): by Sierra Simone

Publish Date: June 18th, 2015
Number of Pages: 354 Pages
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing
Genre(s): Erotica

Total Star Rating: 2.75 Stars

I’ll admit that I was just in such a mood to read a smutty, erotic book when this book popped up into the bookstore one day. I’ve been reminiscing about books/series like the Crossfire series, the Beautiful Bastard series, and even the New Camelot Trilogy (that’s written by this very same author), and I just wanted to read something along the lines of those kinds of books again; it feels like it’s been awhile since I really have! I’ve been enjoying some new adult romance books by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy, and while those are incredibly fun, they’re not entirely in the same ballpark as the other series I’ve just mentioned. I just need some mindless smut, you know? Literally, sometimes a reader like me just needs pornography in the written word format, there’s nothing else to it!

The premise of this book immediately drew me in because I absolutely adored Sierra Simone’s New Camelot Trilogy, and I thought I’d hit another goldmine with this story, which is about a Catholic Priest breaking his sacred, religious vows with a woman. several times. As someone who loves to explore the darker and forbidden side like these sort of things, at least in literature, how can you not be immediately curious? Sure, figures in the church like the main character haven’t been cast in the best light over the years, but luckily this wasn’t as horrific of a tale like say, The Keepers (A Netflix true-crime documentary).

This book wasn’t terrible, but I can also say I was not as satisfied with the story overall as I was with her other trilogy I loved. I go more into detail about that further down in my review, but I can say I still thought it was pretty good book; the story wasn’t as strong as I’d hoped, but the sex scenes were still hot as hell and entertaining enough to that degree. It was more one of those kinds of reads that are mindless fun; you enjoy it more if you don’t really think about all the things wrong with it too much. I felt the exact same way with stories like 50 Shades of Grey and 365 Days; super hot stuff, but the forbidden factors don’t appeal to everyone, like if you sign a contract to be someone’s submissive, you get kidnapped by the mob, or in this case with a Catholic Priest falling for a woman and having a secret, torrid affair with her.

What It’s About:

This story revolves around 29-years old Tyler Anselm Bell, who’s also a priest in his small town. He has an incredibly personal reason for turning to the church since his past is questionable, but one day he has a run in with a sensuous voice in the confessional booth. He’s a man who’s sworn to walk the straight and narrow, to guide those who seek forgiveness and retribution, but meeting Poppy Danforth makes him question everything.

Poppy has moved into the small town, and meets Tyler during a private confession session, and despite them both trying to keep it professional, they can’t deny the sparks that fly between them, and of course, begin to have a torrid and secret affair.

What begins as a relationship that’s doomed from the start, their secret is constantly threatened to be exposed along with both seeking their true purpose in life as well as whether their relationship is strong enough to withstand all that it’s up against…but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to be having electric sex all while trying to figure it out!

What I Liked:

  1. It’s Certainly Taboo! I’m not someone who’s all that religious, and I would have to be an idiot to actually recommend this title to someone who’s heavily involved with the catholic church, and this book really brings up a controversial idea of what if a catholic priest falls in love? With the story involving someone involved in the Catholic church, where tradition and strict guidelines is the reputation, this story certainly falls on the forbidden and taboo subject matter that will definitely appeal to those who are looking for a spicy book that will make them ashamed to be caught reading in public! Sierra Simone really seems to be an author that loves to explore the forbidden and darker themed erotic fiction!
  2. The Sex Scenes Absolutely Sizzle! Just like when I read The New Camelot Trilogy by this author, I can say this book also has some seriously hot love scenes that fans of erotica, and even further justifies me recommending this author to anyone who’s looking for something to read within the erotic fiction genre. It’s even hotter when some of the scenes within this story take place right inside the church, even up on the dais

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Few Perspectives Told from Poppy’s POV…You don’t really get inside the head of the female main character except for a few quick instances with the author giving you a brief glimpse, but they’re horribly written and horribly edited because they’re, like, all run on sentences and also just feel very randomly put in. They could’ve been more consistently placed within the story in order to maybe feel more effective too.
  2. The Build Up…I get that it’s erotica and sex is the main focus of the story, but I swear that even some porno’s had a much better bridge into the lust and all that than this story. It’s like the first time the main character even hears her voice is when he’s having trouble controlling himself and his raging hard ons, and in reality, if you’re a pastor/priest/anyone heavily involved with the church, shouldn’t you have a little better self control than that? I think the story would’ve been a little stronger if there was a little more restraint at first, and hell, it would’ve been a well drawn out slow burn that readers would appreciate more!
  3. Poppy Danforth in General…I just was SO not sold on her in general…the author brings up her privileged upbringing and her college degrees, and constantly reminds us of how smart she is, but honestly I wasn’t buying it based off the choices the character made and just how she presented herself in general. Also, a classic case of show don’t tell would’ve made this aspect of the whole book a lot better too. Don’t tell us she’s smart, show us through her dialogue, her characterization, or even just the decisions she makes!

Conclusion:

Another sensuous, wicked, provocative piece of erotic fiction from Sierra Simone, but I have to say I wasn’t as sold on this title when compared to her New Camelot Trilogy that I really enjoyed! I think this story was actually one of her earlier works, so I can definitely see that being why I felt like this book wasn’t as strong of a story. The characters weren’t as memorable, but I can say how once again the author really explores the dark and forbidden side of human sexual attraction; this time with a Catholic Church Priest falling in love with a woman.

I recommend this book to those that enjoy these beachy, easy to read erotic tales that have absolutely scorching sex scenes with maybe not the greatest plot…I think fans of such things like 50 Shades of Grey and 365 Days on Netflix will enjoy this book the most!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

New Adult Romance, Romance

My Review: Birthday Girl: by Penelope Douglas

Publish Date: April 16th 2018
Number of Pages: 406 Pages
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Genre(s): Contemporary, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

This was the second book I’ve read by Penelope Douglas, and once again I found myself surprised at the impressive level of her craft was in terms of writing an interesting story and creating great characters. She has an ability to shed new light on the romance genre, and goes into unfamiliar territory and explores unorthodox plot ideas and situations that may not happen in more, how should I say it….traditional, conventionally published works?

I love how she goes towards the taboo subject matter that so many PC-advocators would get triggered at and therefore have her canceled; it doesn’t stop her, she is just like any other creator in this world and finds a way to put her creations out there. The controversial subject matter in this story is the fact that it’s a love story between a 19 year old young woman and a 38 year old man. Many look at that right off the bat and make assumptions, assume the worst, and predatory images of evil men preying on young, innocent girls come to mind; that’s not the case in this story. It’s a little unconventional, slightly controversial, but actually reading the story and seeing how it develops makes it not actually as bad as people will (obviously) write it off as.

Yes, the age difference may seem a little odd, but it’s not like we haven’t seen it before in the media…Does anyone remember when Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher were married? He was 25 and she was 41 when they started dating, which is a 16 years difference in age. Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively have an 11 year difference, Ellen Degeneres and Portia De Rossi have 15 years…

Here’s a link to an article on Harper’s Bazaar to prove my point, which is that a romantic relationship when there’s a 10+ age difference is not that unusual of a concept, and I hope people give it a shot before coming to their conclusions.

What It’s About:

Jordan and her boyfriend, Cole, are evicted from their apartment and have nowhere to go, so they go to live with his estranged father, Pike, who happened to be there to bust Cole out of jail and offered his place to live in. The funny thing is: Pike was the handsome, random stranger that Jordan met earlier that same night at a midnight showing at the local movie-theatre because she was killing time trying to wait for Cole to pick her up from work at the local dive bar like he was supposed to, but obviously forgot. Funny how life works sometimes, right? What are the odds…

So, the three of them are all moved into Pike’s incredibly nice home, and are trying to figure out how to make the new situation work; Jordan and Cole help out with chores, and cook a few meals a week while saving up for a new place of their own.

Pike had Cole when he was incredibly young, and his relationship with the mother is strained after she’d manipulated Cole over the years to cause tension, and while Pike wants to try and amend things, Cole wants hardly anything to do with it, and usually goes out and parties away his paychecks, while also leaving Jordan behind. This leads to her and Pike becoming closer, and they both develop forbidden feelings for each other that only escalates as time goes by, but never act on it because neither know about how the other feels, and Jordan is with his son.

Jordan, meanwhile, continues to work at the bar, making good tips but not enough as she’d like, especially for student loans when classes start in the fall (I totally feel the pain of that currently), and is contemplating whether she should turn to alternative means in order to make more money. Her sister works at a strip joint and makes a lot more, but Jordan has no interest in shaking her assets around for the locals in order to benefit her financial needs. Add that to the fact that Cole is doing absolutely nothing to help their new living situation: is out all the time partying, breaking promises, and saving little to no money…plus her secret attraction to his dad…it’s a lot to handle.

Both Pike and Jordan have feelings for each other, but never act on it, even as they do everything to help each other. When Cole isn’t around to help out as an extra hand at Pike’s construction company, she steps up. She cooks, she cleans, he builds her a garden and makes her feel noticed, beautiful, important, and more special than anyone has ever done before. How can she deny how he makes her feel?

What I Liked:

  1. The Slow-Burn! The author does an amazing job of slowly building the attraction between the characters to the point of eruption, and I mean that with both them and you as the reader. At a certain point, the sexual tension is so freakin’ high, you just want to grab them out of the pages and shake them to “Just kiss already!” After what seems like forever, it all comes together so nicely and leaves you satisfied that they will have their happily ever after. There’s something so frustrating, yet so satisfying about a slow burn romance. For those looking for a quick fix or a book just filled with smut every other chapter, this book was not that, because there’s an actual story there. The attraction between the two main characters is immediately lit like a match that will slowly build until it finally blazes an entire bonfire, but it’s grown actually realistically between two people in secret when life brings them together to live in an enclosed space together for a period of time.
  2. The Forbidden-ness of the Romance! What really drew me in was the initial taboo, forbidden aspect of the story; I’d never really read anything where the age difference is an obvious factor to the story, and was curious to see how it would play out. I was wondering how the author was going to show us this kind of story, and surprisingly there wasn’t a whole loft of angst or smuttiness to it. Cole, Pike’s son, is a piece of shit, so it makes it easier to see where Jordan comes from in terms of “Should I be into him? But i’m seeing somebody?” mentality through the earlier parts of the story.
  3. The Two Main Characters! I’ve gotta admit, Penelope Douglas did an amazing job fleshing out two characters that while both being in different parts of their lives, they were extremely likeable and able to get behind. Both are incredibly hard working, strong, driven individuals who want the best for themselves and what they can provide for the ones they care about. They both had their own lives, goals, and fears in their own stories besides just the fact that they are unexpectedly falling for each other.
  4. The Age Difference is Challenged! The difference in their age was challenged throughout, including by the two main characters themselves. They keep telling themselves, convincing themselves that it isn’t right, it can’t be real, it’s not worth it, I’m going to burn in hell, all of it, and when the plot thickens and others question it too; I just found it to be an interesting take on humanity and how we make decisions and if we act on our wants and needs that ultimately could affect our own personal happiness based on society and the judgement of others, holding us back and keeping us from acting on our urges.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Clear Cut Path…Again, the premise of the story going in was thinking, this girl is with a guy, but falls for his father, how does that happen? Part of me was disappointed that there wasn’t as much angst or exploration of the cliché love triangle. It’d certainly bring a new light into it, the father and son both fighting for the love of a young woman, but as the story develops, you realize that Cole, Jordan’s boyfriend, is completely lazy, unreliable, and not all that worthy of a human being, and that it makes the decision almost too easy for Jordan to want to split up and then have the story end with her and Pike. You’re supposed to root for Pike from the get go, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, I was maybe hoping the author would up the stakes a little bit more? Although…I’m not a fan of cheating, as I hope no one is, and it’s hard to get readers behind a story of a girl who cheats on her boyfriend with his dad. It wouldn’t have had to go that far, but I was hoping there’d be a little more angst on the subject. The trigger points in this title are abandonment, underage drinking, talk of physical abuse, death of a friend, past abusive relationships, and cheating (no one actually physically cheats though, it’s being attracted to someone else while being in a relationship).

Conclusion:

This story is great for readers who want to read something a little different, a little more unorthodox, and forbidden in terms of a contemporary, new-adult romance. It’s not erotica, so there’s no red rooms of torture/pain, no tying up and hanging from chandeliers while Beyoncé sings about how love makes her look crazy, but it’s still got it’s sexier moments in the story that’s packed with plenty of heat. The main thing I’d ask possible readers to consider is to keep an open mind, especially those who scoff and write it off because they’re bothered by the age difference. It’s 2019, and we all know that love comes in all kinds of forms within the broad spectrum of sexual attraction, and this story is nothing too deviant, perverted, dirty, or wrong.

This story felt much more realistic than the other title I read by her, Punk 57, and both have their own perks, but I feel like other fans of her work may not consider this their favorite of hers. I personally enjoyed this title by the author, I stayed up late two nights in a row in order to finish it, so that always tells me that it has my seal of approval! I continue to be impressed by their craft, and my appreciation of their work continues to grow and make me want to keep reading more!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Erotica, LGBT, Romance

My Review: American Queen (New Camelot Trilogy #1): by Sierra Simone

Publish Date: October 5th, 2016
Number of pages: 392 pages
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Genre(s): Romance, Erotica, Political Drama

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

To keep my vocabulary clean and proper, I just want to point out that holy shit you guys… this book was an experience to say the least! This book was FIRE; It was intense, it was kind of dark and twisted, and was absolutely eyebrow raising amongst all the other Romance/Erotica titles that I’ve read or want to read.

There’s actually a lot I’d want to reveal about the story, but most of it will spoil the book, so I have to stay somewhat kind of vague. Part of the experience of the book is the shocking discovery of certain things, seeing how things develop and reveal themselves, so why would I ruin it for any new readers?

The very first scene is a wedding, and it starts out pretty light and innocent, but then the author starts to point certain things out that normally would go unnoticed, like a dirty little secret amongst only the select few who know, giving you a little tease of what’s to come…

It’s unorthodox, spellbinding, seductive, wicked, forbidden, and a completely different kind of fairytale than the ones you’ve ever read before…

What It’s About:

Recent college grad and literary professor, Greer Galloway, has always been around the political circuit for as long as she could remember. Her parents died when she was much younger, so her grandfather became her legal guardian, and he also just happened to be the Vice President of the United States at the time. Going with him to special events and galas, she became well versed in politics and how to read people based off facial expressions, body language, what is said and how people say it. Her grandfather noticed, and used her perceptiveness to his advantage.

Through most of her childhood, she’d run into one of her grandfather’s best friends, Merlin Rhys. Cold and aloof, he’d leave Greer with not much more than a few warnings and then disappear, leaving her to wonder if maybe he lives up to the magical being he’s named after?

The real story begins years later when Greer is 15 and meets Maxen Ashley Colchester, or “Ash” for short. They meet at a party in London, and sparks instantly arouse, but they know it’s forbidden because she’s so young, and he’s a 26 year old War Lieutenant. Despite it all, they share her first kiss, not knowing their lives will be forever changed. Their meeting brings a new life into her, and so after he’s off fighting in the war, she writes him letters. She reveals things that she’d never told anyone else, along with her intense, growing attraction to him. Unfortunately, she never heard back from him.

Six years later, at Merlin Rhys’s birthday celebration on a rooftop in Chicago, Greer coincidentally runs into Maxen yet again; this time he’s come back and is considered a huge war hero. She discovers that they are both still attracted to each other, but he’s engaged to another woman. Devastated, Greer leaves the party and meets Embry Moore, a charismatic and charming military comrade of Maxens. They hit it off, both trying to get over lost love, but discover that they may have feelings for each other too, so Greer decided to act on it, and thus loses her virginity to him. The next morning, she leaves Embry with the promise of more should he contact her again, but again she’s left out in the cold

Now in present time, Greer is visited once again by Embry, but now he’s Vice President under Maxen, who was elected as a Third party contender. Maxen sent him to come find her, and what happens after that is an epic love story between a woman and the two most powerful men in the country thats told from past and present times. Its an unconventional story of lust, jealousy, sex, forbidden love, political intrigue, scandal, deceit, and danger.

This book is told from the view of Greer, and the next two books will be told from the perspectives of Embry and Maxen.

What I Liked:

  1. (Most of) The Characters! There’s Greer who’s smart, kind hearted, determined, submissive but strong. There’s Embry who’s charming, reckless, intense, conflicted, arrogant, and aloof. Maxen is commanding, heroic, powerful, manipulative, and honorable. Mixing them together drives the story forward as Greer internally battles herself on the fact that she’s in love with both men for different reasons, and who should she end up with in the end. Personally, there were times I wasn’t a big fan of Maxen, but I dive into that later. The author keeps you wondering, and makes you feel for the characters and worry about them, hoping they all get their happily ever after.
  2. The Exploration of Sexual Attraction! One thing that I’m starting to notice about self/indie published romance books is that they are starting to really dig further in terms of exploring the spectrum of sexual attraction of human beings. It’s become so broad in today’s world, and yes, it’s no longer just about being gay or straight. While this book stays within the realm of those two orientations, it shows forbidden fantasies and if we were to allow ourselves to explore our curiosities, no matter how devious, perverted, or explicit they may be seen as. Sexual orientations are never straight out said within the story, and the author never tries to justify if a character is gay or bisexual; it was done in the “show, don’t tell” method, as it should.
  3. The Romance! It will drive you nuts! The author creates aching sexual tension, and is slow and methodical in the buildup between the pages. The love scenes are so incredibly intense and well written that I actually had to stop, blink, and catch my breath a couple times.
  4. The Sudden Cliffhanger Ending! The ending just happens so abruptly, and I went back and wondered, did someone rip out the last page?… Nope, it’s just a really big cliffhanger that excites as much as it frustrates. I get it; it’s the perfect ploy for any sort of drama to get people to want to read the next book ASAP, and (oh god) does it work, but at least I’m not waiting a whole year for the next title, I already have the next book on my shelf because I had a hunch I was going to need it *wink wink*
  5. The Author’s Writing Style! Grab your vibrating toys ladies, gents, and non-binaries, because this author can freakin’ write! It was probably one of the most intense romance/erotic novels that I’d ever read in my life, and I’m not even talking entirely about the sex scenes. The author weaved a complex story as a great base for everything, and her prose were actually incredibly beautiful! Sierra Simone paints a pretty impressive picture, check this little snippet out:

I’m nothing, I’m everything, I’m the light and the dark and the air and the void. Strong force, weak force, gravity, electricity, magnetism are all pinning me underneath this violent, tragic soldier.

– Sierra Simone, “American Queen”

Pretty hot stuff, right?

(Side note: this isn’t even one of the best written lines in the whole book, but it certainly makes a strong case, am I right? *nudge nudge*)

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Maxen’s Dark Side…So big surprise (not really though), the lead Male has a tragic past, and is into some dark, kinky stuff… Yes, I do mean BDSM. Nothing most of us haven’t read before…but there’s a scene that gets more graphic about it in the story, and I just found that it’s probably the part I liked the least in the whole book. I’m not too familiar or all that informed with the BDSM lifestyle choice, but I still find it a bit off when someone loves someone deeply, but still wants to whip them too? For me personally, it’s not going to be my cup of tea, but I also noticed how controlling Maxen gets throughout the story. He’d go from 0 to 100 real quick, at least during the love scenes, and it felt almost dictator-ish how Embry and Greer would sometimes look down and stay silent and be like, “Don’t do or say anything to upset him,” and while there are plenty of hot moments in the book, this controlling side of him was something I’m not particularly fond of.
  2. The Presidential Factor…While it would be absolutely amazing to have two incredibly gorgeous men in their thirties be the President and Vice President of our country. It’d certainly make me more interested in politics, but it felt a little far fetched in terms of realism and believability. Maxen becomes president by being a war hero, similar to Dwight Eisenhower back during WWII, but it felt like this aspect was added only because Greer had been around politics her whole life. Him and Embry could’ve just stayed Military men, and the story wouldn’t have had to change all that much…
  3. The Cliché Romance Male Lead…I complain about clichés a lot on here…but no apologies, so get over it. Anyways, the whole “Dark haired, light eyed, masculine male who’s in a position of power, has lots of money and a tragic backstory, and now has a dark sexual appetite” is SOOOO played out, I feel like it’s every other male character you’d read in any of the Romance/Erotica novels/series out there nowadays. WE GET IT…If we hate the 50 Shades of Grey crap on paper so much, why do we still go back to it?

(Side note 2: this trilogy along with others like the Crossfire series, are like 50 Shades, but SO much better written.)

Conclusion:

I found myself enjoying this title a lot, and I can say that despite a few clichés that will probably not go away anytime soon, it is something enjoyable that really sticks out amongst other titles. I recommend to anyone who loves intense, erotic romance and is into sexual exploration. I certainly have become a fan of the author after this title, and will continue to read her other works should they interest me. Anyone who like the 50 Shades-esque stories with gorgeous men with a secret dark side and lots of money and power will love it, and that cliffhanger is a doozy, so watch out!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell