Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Iona

Demonica book 1

In this dark and intriguing paranormal romance from New York Times bestselling author Larissa Ione, a forbidden romance turns deadly when a slayer is tasked with killing the demon who saved her life.

In a place where ecstasy can cost you your life . . .

She’s a demon-slayer who hungers for sensual pleasure-but fears it will always be denied her. Until Tayla Mancuso lands in a hospital run by demons in disguise, and the head doctor, Eidolon, makes her body burn with unslakable desire. But to prove her ultimate loyalty to her peers, she must betray the surgeon who saved her life.

Two lovers will dare to risk all.

Eidolon cannot resist this fiery, dangerous woman who fills him with both rage and passion. Not only is she his avowed enemy, but she could very well be the hunter who has been preying upon his people. Torn between his need for the truth and his quest to find his perfect mate before a horrific transformation claims him forever, Eidolon will dare the unthinkable-and let Tayla possess him, body and soul…

Content Warnings: Sexual content, blood/gore, violence, sexual harassment, sexual assault, murder, racism, noncon, dubcon, and ableist language.
Mention of: rape, child abuse, drug abuse/addiction, and witnessing a parent’s torture and murder.

The first time I read this book was years ago and with the cover re-issue of book 5 [Eternal Rider, also the first book in the Four Horsemen/Lords of Deliverance series] I decided I wanted to re-read this series.

When I originally read this story I thought it was such a sweet and passionate supernatural romance…after this second read though…not so much. Overall I still enjoyed the story and loved getting back into reading all the characters of Underworld General but I feel like I needed more to truly feel the connection between Tayla and Eidolon.

From the start, Tayla and Eidolon have a mutual physical attraction though they initially attempt to fight it since they should be enemies. Their first few sexual encounters aren’t completely consensual on both sides which gave me the ick.

Bit of a spoiler but something I feel is important to say…after witnessing the torture, rape, and murder of her mother Tayla has never been able to orgasm with a partner and even has difficulty reaching orgasm alone. When she tries having sex she usually has horrible flashbacks to her mother’s murder which prevents her, understandably, from reaching orgasm. Once she tells this to Eidolon he’s determined to help her reach orgasm and they have sex…in which she orgasms. I really would have loved more inner monologue from Tayla talking about how this conversation, vulnerability and trust in Eidolon to tell him, made her feel. The way it all goes down in the books it’s like…oh after years of unresolved trauma within minutes she’s now cured because of a man.

I feel that the story would have been better if more focus was spent on showing a growing connection between Tayla and Eidolon and less time spent on introducing so many other aspects of the world or they should have given us like 100 more pages or so to fully explore everything they threw at us. Getting to see so many POVs and meet so many characters is great but I feel like the main couple needed a little more focus for me to understand and feel their connection.

Incense and Sensibility by: Sonali Dev

The Rajes book 3

Yash Raje, California’s first serious Indian gubernatorial candidate, has always known exactly what he wants—and how to use his privileged background to get it. He attributes his success to a simple mantra: control your feelings and you can control the world.

But when a hate-fueled incident at a rally critically injures his friend, Yash’s easy life suddenly feels like a lie, his control an illusion. When he tries to get back on the campaign trail, he blacks out with panic.

Desperate to keep Yash’s condition from leaking to the media, his family turns to the one person they trust—his sister’s best friend, India Dashwood, California’s foremost stress management coach. Raised by a family of yoga teachers, India has helped San Francisco’s high strung overachievers for a decade without so much as altering her breath. But this man—with his boundless ambition, simmering intensity, and absolute faith in his political beliefs—is like no other. Yash has spent a lifetime repressing everything to succeed.

Including their one magical night ten years ago—a too brief, too bright passion that if rekindled threatens the life he’s crafted for himself. Exposing the secrets might be the only way to save him but it’s also guaranteed to destroy the dream he’s willingly shouldered for his family and community . . . until now.

Content Warnings: Gun violence, public shooting, blood/injury, racism, sexism, toxic masculinity, ableism, PTSD, and queerphobia.
Mention of: being drugged and raped, injury due to getting hit by a car, depression, mention of losing a loved one/partner, and anxiety.

Having been emotionally devastated and restored by the first two books in this series…I took my time getting around to book three. This was a book I’m pretty sure I pre-ordered and then left sitting on my shelf because I wasn’t prepared to deal with the emotions Sonali made me feel in the first two books.

I wouldn’t classify this book as a romance so much as adult fiction as the element of romance was so small in comparison to everything else the book dealt with.

The book starts with an attempt on Yash’s life when he’s set to speak at a political rally. His friend and bodyguard is critically injured when he tries to jump in the way of a bullet meant for Yash. Having his friend in the ICU with no idea if he’ll ever wake up, let alone recover, Yash is in shock. Yash has always been great in front of a crowd but after the shooting anytime he attempts to speak at a public gathering he’s overwhelmed with panic and anxiety.

Yash is close to 40 and has years of unresolved trauma that had deeply affected his life and the way he handles things. I really wish the book would have shown Yash getting professional help to process his trauma rather than just talking with India and mentioning that he’s set up an appointment. Trauma is such an important thing that needs to be addressed and I understand it taking years for him to come to terms with needing help…I just wish we were able to see him getting more help than just India.

We spend so much of the book seeing Yash acknowledge how much trauma has shaped and dictated his life and I just needed more of the after, if that makes sense. Maybe I’m just not in the right mood to be reading this book but I felt like there was so much sadness and although he does find love and he’s finally opening up to his family…I just felt like the negativity and sadness outweighed the happiness. I just needed to feel more of a win than what I felt.

The Laughing Corpse by: Laurell K. Hamilton

Anita Blake Vampire Hunter Novel #2

In The Laughing Corpse, a creature from beyond the grave is tearing a swath of murder through St. Louis. And Anita will learn that there are some secrets better left buried-and some people better off dead…

Content Warnings: Violence, blood/gore, body horror, gun violence, animal death, sexual harassment, sexism, sexual assault, ableism, xenophobia, racism, insensitivity towards mental health, and stigmatization of sex work.
Mention of domestic abuse, toxic relationship, torture, and rape.

It’s been interesting re-reading this series, that I originally read as a teen, roughly 20 years later. When I first read the series I accidentally picked up Narcissus in Chains [which is book 10] not realizing it was part of a series and then upon finishing I started requesting the earlier books from the library to binge through and catch up.

When I first read through this series, beginning around the age of 14, I loved Anita and thought she was such a badass and a model of how to be cool. As an adult, I find Anita somewhat annoying, feels like she’s trying too hard to pull the whole “not like other girls.” Maybe it’s just me but it really feels like she’s in competition with everyone she meets like she always needs to be better [mentally, physically, and even morally] than everyone else…which gives me the ick.

The crime scenes and police work, aside from all the “one of the boys” or “let me show I’m better than this guy” stuff, are deeply fascinating and I imagine that LKH put in a lot of time researching and talking with different types of law enforcement to get these scenes to feel so incredibly real.

I’m going to keep reading through all the books to see the evolution of Anita as she starts realizing she’s being too judgy and needs to be more open-minded about the world she’s so deeply involved in. It has been interesting seeing all the characters she meets early in the series that I know still play a role throughout the series.

A Duchess a Day by: Charis Michaels

USA Today bestselling author Charis Michaels enchants with her Awakened by a Kiss series, taking our favorite fairy tales’ forgotten characters and making them the hero of their own story.

An heiress with a plan…

Lady Helena Lark has spent years trying to escape her wedding to the vain and boring Duke of Lusk. She’s evaded, refused, even run away. When her family’s patience runs out, they pack her off to London to walk down the aisle. But Helena has another idea: find a more suitable bride to take her place, even if she must look for a replacement duchess every day.

A bodyguard with a job to do…

Declan Shaw, better known as “The Huntsman,” is a mercenary who can pick and choose his clientele. After his last job, escorting a young noblewoman to France, landed him in jail under false accusations, he wants nothing to do with aristocrats or women. But the law isn’t done with him, and if he agrees to babysit a duke’s errant fianc , the payout could make his legal troubles go away.

A most unexpected alliance…

When their worlds collide, Declan realizes that containing his new client is only slightly harder than keeping his hands off her. Helena senses an ally in her handsome new bodyguard and solicits his help. Together they must escape the forces that oppose them and fight for the fairy-tale love they desire.

Content Warnings: Ableism, sexual scenes, classism, sexism, sexual harassment, and false imprisonment.

Tropes/themes: Forbidden romance, falling for your bodyguard, forced proximity, every kiss is always “the last one”, grumpy sunshine.

When I first stumbled on the summary of book 3 [A Duchess by Midnight] and realized this series was inspired by lesser-known characters in some of our favorite fairytales…I knew I needed to dive in.

In this first book, we meet Declan, the “Huntsman”, who’s been falsely imprisoned, for murder, when one of his clients disappears without a trace. Knowing that he needs to find a way out of jail to care for his aging father and three younger sisters he reluctantly takes a job as a handler. How hard could it be to follow around a lady whose failed attempts at evading her betrothal have created a need for her to be under constant watch?

Although he said he’d never work for titled nobility again…his choice is to potentially return to prison or follow a lady around and earn enough money to care for his family for a good amount of time. Even knowing what his job entails, he struggles to stay on task when Helena slowly starts to enter his mind and heart constantly.

Helena has spent the last five years attempting to wiggle her way out of her betrothal to the Duke of Lusk…to no avail. Down to the wire, she’s determined to stay optimistic about finding a way out. With a new plan, to find a suitable replacement Duchess, she’s determined to find as many ladies as she can to try to sway the Duke. From the start, she believes Declan was hired to spy on her and keep her in line but something about him speaks to her and she turns to him for help.

Watching Helena remain full of sunshine, hope, and determination as grumpy Declan reluctantly places his trust in her was such a delight. Declan is clearly jaded towards nobility and the possibility of a happy future…all he cares about is ensuring an easier life for his family. Seeing someone so jaded fall for someone who brings unquestioning happiness and light into his life has me cheering for this couple from the start. 🥰

This was my first Charis Michaels read and I can’t wait to read more. Luckily for me, I already have a copy of book two [When You Wish Upon a Duke] on hand to dive into.

I’ll Never Be Your Crown Princess! [VOL 1] Art by: Natsu Kuroki Story by: Saki Tsukigami

In this sexy isekai romcom manga, a noblewoman loses her virginity to a mystery man to avoid marrying a prince–but he turns out to be the prince himself!

Liddy, who was Japanese in her previous life, is now the daughter of a duke and engaged to marry the gorgeous Crown Prince Friedrich. Sounds like a dream come true–except this is a world that practices polygamy, and Liddy refuses to marry a man with multiple wives. To sabotage the engagement, she loses her virginity to a stranger, but that plan is thwarted by a surprising revelation. What will happen to Liddy next in this hot fantasy romance?

Content Warnings: Sexually graphic scene/images

When I first stumbled on the summary of this manga I knew I needed to read it. Now before I ordered it I actually wasn’t paying attention so I didn’t realize that when it arrived it would come wrapped in plastic with an EXPLICIT CONTENT warning on the back. I’m so used to manga that is suggestive or FTB [fade to black] when it comes to sexual situations I hadn’t realized until I received it, that I’d officially ordered my first explicit manga.

From the start, I found Liddy interesting. Since she was a young girl she’s had memories of living another life, a life in which she remembers being a full-grown adult and experiencing everything. Knowing that in this life she lives in a world that practices polygamy Liddy is determined not to marry since she wants to have a monogamous relationship where her partner is solely dedicated to her and no one else.

Also wasn’t fold of [sorry this is somewhat spoilery] Freed disregarding Liddy’s plea for a contraceptive before penetration with an “I’ll take responsibility”…luckily you find out that Liddy did in fact take measures ahead of time just in case but still it’s not cool that he disregarded her wishes and in fact was thrilled at the idea that she could be pregnant.

As a first volume, I was entertained and intrigued and look forward to seeing Liddy and Freed’s relationship progress. Not a huge fan of Freed already declaring love, when it’s [feeling like] just a case of infatuation and lust. Felt a little weird that Freed seemed to shame the kingdom for the way they traditionally go about having sex and forming sexual attachments…also [obviously] it’s archaic that the magic required to form a bond between a royal pair requires the woman to be a virgin. Still, I look forward to seeing what future volumes bring as I’m sure Liddy will be woo-ed by her future husband and hopefully the pair will help each other grow.

In the Shadow Garden by: Liz Parker

Releases September 13th, 2022

I received an ARC of this book, ahead of release, through the Forever Publishing influencer program. All thoughts are my own.

There’s something magical about Yarrow, Kentucky. The three empathic witches of the Haywood family are known for their shadow garden–from strawberries that taste like chocolate to cherry tomatoes imbued with the flavors of basil and oregano. Their magic can cure any heartache, and the fruits of their garden bring a special quality to the local bourbon distillery. On one day every year, a shot of Bonner bourbon will make your worst memory disappear. But the Haywoods will never forget the Bonners’ bitter betrayal.

Twenty years ago, the town gave up more than one memory; they forgot an entire summer. One person died. One person disappeared. And no one has any recollection of either.

As events from that fateful summer start to come to light, there must be a reckoning between the rival Haywood and Bonner families. But untangling the deep roots of this town’s terrible secrets will expose more than they could ever anticipate about love, treachery, and the true nature of their power.

Content Warnings:
Mention of: trauma, PTSD, infidelity, loss of loved one, child abuse [physical and emotional], an alcoholic parent, and feelings of inadequacy.

This is such a beautiful story! I’m so glad I was able to get my hands on an ARC so I can tell you all you’re really going to want to pre-order this one! I remember reading the summary of this book and thinking…this might just hit me in the feels. There’s just something about books/movies that have generational magic that’s tied to the earth that just feeds my soul.

I love that we get to bounce between multiple perspectives as we slowly learn more about the town, the magic, and what exactly happened in the summer that the town chose to forget.

We also get to see three strong generations of Haywood women who are all so different but deeply connected to each other and the town. Though they’ve each gone through their ups and downs they’ve been able to rely on the strength of their family to keep them going.

Since I don’t want to give away any spoilers or too much information just know that this book is going to have you feeling so many emotions but will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy. If you’re in the market for a book with small-town charm, family feuds, generational magic, and a town mystery…look no further! September is the perfect time for its release so you can get your blankets and hot tea ready to snuggle down as you enjoy this magical read.

A Galaxy Next Door Vol 2 by: Gido Amagakure

The new sweet and wild romantic comedy from the creator of the hit manga and anime about food and family, Sweetness & Lightning! A desperate manga artist, called on to support his two young siblings, meets a new art assistant. But her arrival isn’t just a small step, it’s a giant leap…

Since his parents died, manga artist Ichiro has barely scraped by, forced to support his two younger siblings on just a middle school education. He doesn’t even have time to learn how to use a computer, which forces him to keep wrestling with pen and paper. When his art assistants quit to strike out on their own, on top of juggling deadlines, family, and the constant fear of losing his job, Ichiro feel close to a total breakdown. But then a new assistant pops into Ichiro’s life, and his prospects immediately start to brighten! She’s an incredible artist, she always finishes on time, and she’s beautiful, to boot! But she also seems to know an awful lot about him, and, soon, she makes a confession that bends Ichiro’s mind beyond the confines of Earth…

Content Warnings: The only thing I’d really bring up is that they visit the grave of Ichiro’s dad so the topic of losing a parent and some grief are brought up.

A cute second volume where we get to see Ichiro and Shiori as they start to officially date. I adore how nervous and timid they both are about ensuring the others’ feelings are looked after.

What I love about this story is seeing how Shiori knows how important Ichiro’s younger siblings are to him and wants to ensure she never seems like she’s trying to steal him or monopolize his time. She tries really hard to ensure she never oversteps and it’s Ichiro’s younger siblings that are like…no please spend more time with us and our brother.

Overall just a really sweet volume and I look forward to seeing more development between Shiori and Ichiro’s family. I look forward to a time when they know each other so well they’re no longer so nervous or scared to be fully open with each other as they form closer bonds and truly turn into a little family.

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