The BookLikes companion to The Romance Evangelist (mharvey816.mh2.org).
Reviewer for Seductive Musings, Night Owl Reviews, and Romancing Rakes For the Love of Romance.
I live for the HEA/HFN and am decidedly pro-epilogue.
A copy of this book was provided by the authors for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.
I'm usually wary about reading anthologies for review, since I’ve often found them to be more work than pleasure, but when I heard MARKED included another visit to Kit Rocha’s Beyond series, I knew I had to have it. It also helped to have only three longer novellas included, instead of a dozen or more shorter stories. Although the stories take place in different authors’ book series, each ties into the motif implied by the anthology name by including at least one or more scenes regarding tattoos and the meaning they have for the characters in that world.
BEYOND TEMPTATION is the first novella in MARKED, and if any story belongs in an anthology about the meaning of tattoos, it’s one featuring the O’Kanes and their infamous ink. I’m not sure, though, if a new reader to the Beyond series would be able to get into it as quickly as someone more familiar with that world. (I actually went back and read the first three books again first, just to be sure, and let me tell you, those books more than hold up to a second read.)
We met Noah and Emma briefly back in BEYOND PAIN, when he was the only one with the technical savvy and connection to get vital data back to the O’Kanes from the other sectors not under the gang’s control. At that time, it was obvious that the history he and she had shared in Sector 5 went deeper than just his friendship with her now-late brother. But it’s only BEYOND TEMPTATION that we eventually learn what had brought them together before and what threatened to keep them permanently apart. Emma’s brother had been trapped by his own addictions fed by the evil in Sector 5, and that legacy lurks behind every moment of sorrow for Noah and Emma. But as a newly inked O’Kane woman, Emma has the strength and security to go after what she wants, and she won’t let the mistakes of the past keep her from the man she’s meant to be with. It may be shorter than the usual Kit Rocha story, but the extensive world-building already established in the previous Beyond books helps make BEYOND TEMPTATION a thoroughly enjoyable read and an essential installment in the series. 4.5 stars
After experiencing the joy of being back in Sector Four, I was a little concerned that the rest of MARKED couldn’t possibly live up to my now-lofty expectations. Little did I realize that the second story, ROCKY RIDE, would be just as good, if not a tiny bit better. This was my first Vivian Arend story, and it began with a (somewhat literal) bang. In that opening scene, Constable Anna Coleman meets up with her secret boyfriend and local biker dude Mitch Thompson, out on an isolated country road for some incredibly hot and heavy sexual fantasy fulfillment. When their amazing sex is over, Anna retreats behind her policewoman persona once again, leaving Mitch to wonder how a girl like her will ever be brave enough to go public with a guy like him. But as Vivian Arend then so perfectly shows, the two of them aren’t that different after all, when the facades (and clothing) are all stripped away. Even when it seems like they can’t make a real go of it, especially when so many other people are against them based on their prejudice against him, true motives and true love ultimately win out, making their reconciliation all the sweeter. ROCKY RIDE not only made me want to continue Vivian Arend’s new Thompson & Sons series, but to go back and check out her Rocky Mountain Heat series which preceded it. 5 stars
It’s a rare anthology where every reader loves every story, and Lauren Dane’s ALL THAT REMAINS was that one story in MARKED I did not love. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic version of Earth where a devastating virus has killed most of the women, and resulted in the birth of fewer female children being born to those who survived. This has resulted in a dramatically different society in which more people are in committed triads instead of couples, and where women and their sexuality are celebrated and protected from both censure and physical harm. Summer is a young woman living in Paradise Village somewhere in what sounds like it used to the northwest part of the United States. She has settled there in support of her sister Dulce, who lost her own two husbands and their shared children in a tragic train crash years earlier, and has never completely recovered from the loss. Summer has enjoyed intimate relationships with other men, but never been interested anything long term until she meets Charlie, a stranger to the area, and finds herself immediately attracted to him Charlie is looking for a woman to complete his own triad, and much to Summer’s surprise, the second man in the relationship turns out to be Hatch, the man who was Summer’s first true love and who broke her heart when he left her behind several years ago. Now he’s back and wants to her to join her and his beloved Charlie in a permanent commitment, but there can be only sex between them until Summer can learn to forgive and Hatch can learn to leave his itch for wandering behind.
It was difficult for me to connect with ALL THAT REMAINS, most likely due to it not having enough pages to contain all the back story details. In a full-length book, I could have discovered for myself what life was like for Summer when she was growing up on the New Earth commune and falling in love with Hatch. and what happened to Hatch when he was traveling west to follow her after she’d moved to Portland with her family. But because ALL THAT REMAINS is a novella, all of that was told instead of shown, and it left me searching for an emotional grounding that all the beautifully written sex scenes simply couldn’t provide. 3 stars