Starla’s April 2021 Recommendations & Reviews

Contemporary Romance

When the Lights Go Out
(The Lights Series Book 1)

By Jackie Mojica

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Genre: Contemporary Rockstar romance, BDSM romance
Triggers: Bondage, S&M, Stalking (not by main characters)
POV: 1st Person with a single perspective, current tense

This is not your typical tale of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll in the fast lane. Rain meets the lead singer of her favourite band after seeing them perform. Damen approaches Rain, captivated by her curvaceous beauty, and when they get talking, chemistry sparks between them. But she doesn’t become a groupie and get caught up in the lifestyle. Damen has outgrown that phase of his life, but neither of them are looking for love. They have both been burned by it. So Damen suggests a no-strings arrangement with an expiry date. What happens when their feelings start to grow?

The beauty of this story lies in the complexity of the relationship and the obstacles the characters must overcome to reach their HEA. I recommend this book to all romance readers who can handle a little heat.

Heat Gauge:

This is not as hot as some might expect for a BDSM story. The kinky scenes are quite sensible and realistic.

(Hades #2)

By Tate James

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Genre: Contemporary dark romance, reverse harem
Triggers: Violence, drug use, cliff-hangers
POV: 1st person with multiple perspectives, past tense

This novel gave me the biggest book hangover I’ve had in a long time. Way to make me fall in love and then rip out my heart Tate James! Anyway, I don’t want to spoil too much, so I won’t linger on the shocking ending. If you enjoyed 7th Circle, the first instalment of the Hades series, I guarantee you’ll love the way the characters develop and the twisty turns the plot travels along.

The relationships Hades has with each of her men provide a contrast to each other and to the world of gang violence and bloodshed surrounding them. The sweet romance with Lucas brings out her tender side, the steamy tension building with her best friend Zed is fun and playful, while the sizzling heat she shares with Cas packs one hell of a punch. It took a little while to warm up to the broody alpha, but by the end of this book I was totally team Cas!

I highly recommend the Hades series to all lovers of dark romance. Just prepared for an emotional rollercoaster and mind-blowing cliff-hangers.

Heat Gauge:

The author turned up the thermostat in this book. Phew! I’m still reeling from some of the Cas scenes.

Beneath the Hood
(Sugarlake #3)

By Emily McIntire

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Genre: Contemporary romance, forbidden love, age-gap
Triggers: Mental illness issues including an eating disorder
POV: 1st person with alternating perspectives, present tense

If you haven’t already fallen in love with Jackson Rhoades after reading the first two books of the Sugarlake series, I guarantee you will in this, his own story. Jax is the tragic hero, broken by unrequited love and abandoned by his best friend. Attempting to move on with his life, he moves to Los Angeles to focus on his career. Enter Blakley: entitled Hollywood princess and royal pain in Jackson’s backside. But there is more to her than first appearances and the more her gets to know her, the more he wants to be with her. Problem is, she’s the boss’ daughter, the forbidden fruit, and far too young for him. How are they supposed to keep such an affair secret with the Paparazzi breathing down their necks?

As with McIntire’s previous books, this one is a beautiful blend of steamy scenes and sweet romance. The characters come to life and the story evokes a multitude of emotions. The author is skilled in her use of language, painting pictures that capture the reader’s imagination. I highly recommend the Sugarlake series.

Heat Gauge:

McIntire never shies away from explicit sexual content in her books.

Paranormal Romance & Fantasy

Protecting His Windflower
(Spirit Hunters #1)

By Temperance Dawn

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Genre: Paranormal romance
Triggers: Scary spooks
POV: 3rd person, past tense

Emily has been haunted by something dark and oppressive her whole life. The possessive shadow man never let her be truly happy. When she moves to a new city and meets Liam, a paranormal investigator, they feel sparks. As their instalove unfolds, Emily becomes determined to deal with the evil entity once and for all. But there is much more to Liam and Emily’s connection than either of them realise at first.

This story is a brilliant blend of scary, sweet, and sexy. Temperance Dawn’s take on paranormal romance appealed to my fascination with all things gothic and sublime, along with my love of steamy romance. It is rare for a PNR book to spook me, but this one did, and I loved it. The sense of foreboding starts to build from the get-go, as does the chemistry when the main characters meet. I even found myself checking the shadows on my way to bed at night after reading parts of this novel. It wasn’t just the eerie ghost story that captured my imagination, however. The romance arc is sweet and titillating, especially the scene where the main characters consummate their love. Phew, I’m fanning myself here now just thinking about it. While I am never one to shy away from high heat books, I often find my eyes glazing over when they get gratuitous because too much choreography can bore me. Protecting His Windflower does not suffer from this problem. The bedroom scenes were few and extremely well written, which I find far more gratifying.

If you can handle a little scare and enjoy reading romance, I highly recommend this book, even if you do need to sleep with the lights on for a week.

Heat Gauge:

There are not many sex scenes, but the sexual tension keeps the thermostat well into the red and when the main characters do make love, things get intense.

Cedric: The Demonic Knight (Cedric #1)
By Valerie Willis

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Genre: Historic fantasy, paranormal romance
Triggers: Violence and dark themes
POV: 3rd person, past tense

Let me preface this review by saying this book reads more like an epic fantasy saga than a romance novel. Yes, there is the relationship that builds between Angeline and Cedric throughout their time together and it’s not like it takes a back seat either. But the narrative style focussed more on the action, adventure and battles with monsters than on the characters and their dialogue. While I found it a fun and entertaining read, I did struggle to relate to the main characters because I never really had a chance to get inside their heads properly. But like with any book that I keep reading past chapter three, I adjusted my perspective and learned to appreciate the book for what it is: a fascinating tale with a dazzling mix of mythology.

Cedric is an immortal demon hybrid: half incubus, half vampire (sort of). His bloodlines are at odds with each other, and he struggles to keep his darker urges in check, especially when he takes Angeline as his bride. He didn’t intend to fall for his wife when he won her in a tournament. He figured she would only be useful as bait when hunting, but then they discover her hidden talents and everything changes.

This is one I recommend to fantasy readers who appreciate epic sagas and historical fiction buffs with a love of mythology.

Heat Gauge:

Most of the sex scenes faded to black, but there was some heat to a lot of the other interactions thanks to Cedric’s incubus blood.

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