Haven by Rebekah Weatherspoon

34745311A week-long getaway…

City girl Claudia Cade’s carefree life is plunged into chaos when a camping trip with her brother in the national forests of Northern California turns into a deadly dash for her survival.

A solitary world turned upside down…

Nature photographer Shepard Olsen has resigned himself to a quiet existence, with only his dog by his side, until a woman in need of his protection shows up on his doorstep and throws his universe into disarray.

Two lives linked by tragedy…

Claudia is desperate to heal from her traumatic loss, but can’t stop thinking about her run-in with evil….or the grizzled mountain man whose quick thinking and good aim saved her life. When she shows up on Shep’s doorstep again, she finds she isn’t the only one who can’t move on.

…saved by bliss.

The two begin an intense, passionate relationship of Dominance and submission, pleasure and pain, but with dark memories haunting them and decisions about the future rapidly approaching, Claudia can’t help but wonder…how long can they be each other’s haven?

*** WARNING: This book contains a sexual relationship between a fashionista and a cranky mountain man who are dealing with physical and emotional trauma. And a very big, cuddly dog.***

 +++ Image and blurb from Goodreads+++

Net Galley ARC received from the author herself for an honest review

 3 Beardy Man and Fluffy Dog Stars

Once again, I’ll need to open my post with honesty, I requested Haven from Net Galley without registering the series title ‘Beards and Bondage’. Whilst I do enjoy a well-appointed beard, I have never been interested in the bondage and Dom/Sub romance novels. Not even the Fifty Shades hype sparked my desire to explore this sub-genre. But as I requested the novel, and the blurb is fascinating, I decided to test the waters – and decided I enjoyed the foray but it hasn’t convinced me to explore further.

The novel has a hugely dramatic opening. Shepherd ‘Shep’ Olsen (bearded mountain man) finds Claudia Cade (witty city-bred fashionista) battered and bloody on his doorstep with her attacker close on her heels. Forced to kill the attacker, Shep rushes Claudia to the hospital, and they manage to form a bond through shared experience. Claudia is left to grieve for her brother who was killed as she escaped, and Shep must face the reoccurring nightmares of killing a man.

You would think that after Claudia returns to her Manhattan home she would never want to set foot in the mountains that had taken so much from her. But after struggling to restart her old life she is drawn back to Shep, the man she cannot stop thinking about and returns to not only say thank you but offer him a proposition. She wants to heal, and the only peace she had was in his arms in the hospital bed, and in her mind, the best way to work through the grief is numerous bouts of sex with the studly mountain man. Shep agrees so long as she agrees to his sexual preferences of Dom/Sub and bondage.

The characters were highly engaging and had wonderful character development which did not have a heavy dependence on each other – which is refreshing. Shep and Claudia had to exclusively conquer demons and acknowledge grief, as both experienced different traumas. The dual POV really helped their development, as they were either in different cities or different headspaces. Also, the dual POV allowed Shep and Claudia to have different levels of commitment and confusion to the relationship.

Shep’s caring introverted ways perfectly juxtaposed Claudia’s wise-cracking, chatty nature – which made them an intriguing couple. Even with the alluring plot and characters, the sex distanced me from the narrative. Strangely not at first, but as more of the bondage culture came into play I became more detached. I think this is all down to personal preference, whilst I didn’t find the leather straps and public exposure aspects of their relationship engaging, I still enjoyed watching their relationship bloom.

AND, how could I forget Titus, the adorable giant fluffy pooch – he was an excellent companion for Shep and comforter of Claudia.

Overall, I am happy I ventured out of my comfort zone and tried this romance sub-genre, but I will check out any other non-bondage novels by Rebekah Weatherspoon.

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R is for Rebel by Megan Mulry

This is not your run-of-the-mill contemporary romance – ‘R is for Rebel’ brings a fresh view of the modern heroine against the confines of an out-dated hero. Not to scare anyone off, the romance is electric and the drama makes it well-worth the read.

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Abigail Heyworth is getting back on her feet after ending a long relationship with her girlfriend, by has been hiding out in her brother’s country house. It is at her other brother’s wedding that she meets the self-made multi-millionaire Elliot Cranbrook, and she cannot help but feel drawn to his charm and wit. I did enjoy the fact that they had been just keeping the relationship platonic and friendly for six months, before they decided on taking it further on an island beach. The intimacy is intense and moving along a lot faster than Abigail had planned for, but she was enjoying the glamour and wealth of Elliot’s world (even if she was a rebel child of a wealthy family of the English peerage).

Elliot’s intensity becomes too much for Abigail, and she decides to push away the relationship as she is not ready to take the step back into relationship (and her inner rebel wanted to disappoint her mother’s sudden hope at her involvement with Elliot). Even though, I thought she poorly communicated her feelings, it was a very rational fear that any woman would be feeling (unless you were in it for the money and sex). Elliot’s dominance and possession of her felt out-dated in the contemporary context, and really grated my nerves.

The year time lapse was unexpected, and you find little has changed between the characters. Abigail found stability in her life through family and work, and Elliot had become irritated and controlling at work and suddenly has a fiancé to mask his disappointment. As the two leads makes themselves more and more depressed, some family back story is added that slowed the narrative down and felt unnecessary. The revelation that this novel is fourth in a series did clear up some interest in the surrounding characters relationships, and gives the back story more relevance but not clarity.

Of course, they are going to meet again when Elliot is questioning his engagement and Abigail is looking for diversion at Fashion Week in Paris. However, all it took was a look, a few words, and a passionate kiss and ‘Presto!’ They are back together, very much in love, all the history and baggage forgotten, and lots and lots of sex to make up for. In the meantime, Elliot’s fiancé happens to find a really nice guy at the airport and decides to spend a weekend with him and his family in England (also Abigail family and Elliot is her guest). All ends well when everyone gets an explanation and very drunk.

‘R is for Rebel’ definitely rebels against any contemporary romance with some factors, but others fall short of the mark and my expectation, but it will keep you reading until the last page.

Ashes and Alchemy by Cindy Spencer Pape

‘Ashes and Alchemy’ was an advance reader copy I was given and being a lover of historic fantasy, especially steampunk, I jumped at the chance to read this novella. It opens with Minerva Shaw struggling through a toxic London fog, searching desperately for a doctor. Instead she collapses on the doorstep of the intimidating Sebastian Brown, Police detective and her stoic saviour. (For some reason I do like a coupling of two strong willed leads). He aids Minnie who is searching for the decent Dr Grant (Brown’s neighbour) as her daughter, Ivy, is suffering from a deadly fever. Minnie and Sebastian return to her lodging to find that her friend and neighbour Jane has been murdered and the rooms turned up. Luckily, little Ivy was hiding behind the washstand.

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Minnie and Ivy stay in Sebastian’s home while they are seen by the doctor and Sebastian investigates the murder of Jane and why Ivy was targeted. Whilst under “Police” custody, Minnie and Sebastian quickly develop feelings for each other, but the attraction is pushed aside amid the murder investigation and Ivy’s miraculous recovery. Their romance slowly burns as they have developed fears from past lovers, but their steady comfort to each other’s nightmares leads to a more revealing affection.

The supernatural elements in the series were barely hinted at due to neither leads having any powers, but did not seem out of place in the world constructed. (Finding out that it was the sixth installment in series made a lot more sense to the surrounding characters and their powers.) The same can be said for the steam machinery that was in the domestic and transport sectors(mainly), it did not have lengthy explanation but readily associated to modern technology.

Some of the revelations in this book happened at such a speed that it almost seemed out of sync with the rest of the narrative, and I can see that it was due to a larger narrative being compressed into the novella form. The revelations did not detract from my enjoyment of the other all narrative, just made it awkward and predictable. Regardless, ‘Ashes and Alchemy’ is a great quick read for anyone in need of a bit a steampunk romance, but keep in mind that it is a novella.