Monday, January 27, 2020

Forever Strong (True Heroes, #6) by Piper J. Drake

Title: Forever Strong (True Heroes Book 6)
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: True Heroes (6) (Book 6)
Format: Paperback; 304 pages
Publisher: Forever (January 28, 2020)
ISBN-10: 1538759608
ISBN-13: 978-1538759608
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an ARC of the book from the publisher for review purposes. This is no way affected or compromised my review or rating.

Mere days ago, Jing Ying Yue had been plucked off the streets of Sinapore and kidnapped. She'd been knocked unconscious and woke up to find herself being held prisoner in a tiny cabin on a cargo ship crossing the Pacific Ocean. She doesn't know why she was kidnapped or who specifically did it. Yesterday she'd been rescued from her kidnappers. After spending the night in the hospital, she is going to be reunited with her father who has been doing business on the island of Oahu. She is being accompanied to the hotel where her father is staying by the man who rescued her, and she was eager to get back to her life. Only as they are pulling up to the hotel, the unthinkable happens...

He followed her gaze and took in the very obvious contingent of private security waiting at the top of the drive, a handful of men, all dressed in suits, each projecting an air of fit intimidation. Very impressive to most, Zu guessed. "Your father's security detail, I assume?"

She nodded in a jerky way, then shook her head side to side too fast. "He's one of them. One of my kidnappers. He's here."

They need to figure out who kidnapped Ying Yue and why or she will never be safe..

This is the sixth book of the True Heroes series by Piper J. Drake. You could probably get away with reading this one as a standalone, but I don't entirely recommend it. At the very least I recommend reading Chapter Twenty-Three of 'Fierce Justice,' the fifth book in the True Heroes series, first. It includes the moment Zu finds Ying Yue on the cargo ship. I wish the author had included it in a prologue for 'Forever Strong,'  but alas, she didn't. If, however, you want to learn how Search and Protect became intertwined with the Hawaiian government then I recommend you read 'Total Bravery,' the fourth True Heroes novel, followed by 'Fierce Justice' before reading 'Forever Strong.' The series centers around the Search and Protect organization--a privately owned contract organization with a specialized skill set. They are not mercenaries for hire, although they have the skill set to be ones if they wanted to be, but they don't. They work with canines trained for a specific type of search and rescue. They specialize in infiltrating difficult areas and extracting high-value hostages.

Azubuike Anyanwu, Zu to his friends, is the head of the Search and Protect. He and his team had been in charge of searching the Cargo ship which Ying Yue found herself on. They'd been hired by the Hawaiian government to spearhead a search for victims of human trafficking. The mission had been initiated by a task force sponsored by the Hawaiian government and was part of a larger campaign to stop human trafficking on the islands. From the moment he'd found Ying Yue he knew she was different. He found himself instantly attracted to the beautiful courageous young woman who showed strength and resourcefulness where others would have fallen apart. As the two are thrust together in an effort to protect Ying Yue from her kidnappers, the attraction that's been simmering between them comes to full boil. Zu, however, never gets involved with clients, especially not one he feels may be emotionally compromised after experiencing something as traumatic as a kidnapping. Ying Yue will have her work cut out for her in order to convince him she's not as vulnerable as he thinks.

Jing Ying Yue has a background in nonprofit capacity building and has a PhD in international tax law and policy. She'd been in Singapore for the past two years working with a few nonprofit organizations building their nonprofit capacity. Capacity building is an investment in the effectiveness and future sustainability of a nonprofit. When capacity building is successful, it strengthens and increases a nonprofit's ability to fulfill its mission over time, thereby increasing the nonprofit's ability to have a positive impact on lives and communities. While there may be a connection between her chosen profession and the kidnapping, her father is much more likely to be the reason. Her father is a wealthy and successful businessman and her kidnappers may have taken her to gain a ransom (although thus far no ransom demand had been made) for her or in an effort to gain some sort of leverage over her father. At this point, there are a lot of unknowns and it was anyone's guess as to why Ying Yue has been targeted. The fact that someone had gone to the trouble of infiltrating her father's security team, however, suggests they are serious in their attempts and not likely to give up any time soon. As it becomes clear the kidnappers are determined to get their hands on Ying Yue, she finds herself becoming more and more attracted to the man who's trying to save her. That's when things start getting interesting.

I ended up giving this one 4 out 5 roses. It was a fast paced, intriguing, suspenseful, and an engaging read. I liked the chemistry between Ying Yue and Zu and the mystery surrounding her kidnapping. I also liked how Ms. Drake put a spotlight on a topic that until recently was not often breached--human trafficking. The only thing I wish the author had incorporated into the story was the fact that often times the people who are trafficked are not from elsewhere. Sometimes they're kidnapped, manipulated, and/or lured into the trade right here in the US. The statistics aren't pretty, especially here in Florida. A friend of mine was once approached by someone who tried to pose as a security guard from a store and wanted to separate her from her child not really explaining why. She absolutely refused and called her husband who was a police officer. While we'll never know for sure if the man was a sex trafficker, we do know he wasn't who he said he was. Sometimes traffickers can be subtle sometimes not so much. One things for sure, if you're a parent you should know some of the things to look for, and if something doesn't feel right go with your gut. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.

Notes to keep you in the know:
The following is a link to a blog article that I found it very informative. It is entitled 'Your child has already been targeted: 7 things you didn't know about human trafficking.'  Feel free to check it out:

Order of the True Heroes series:

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Almost Just Friends (Wildstone #4) by Jill Shalvis Blog Tour/Giveaway/Excerpt

Coming to a bookstore near you January 21, 2020:
Almost Just Friends by Jill Shalvis

Piper Manning’s about as tough as they come, she’s had to be. She raised her siblings and they’ve thankfully flown the coop. All she has to do is finish fixing up the lake house her grandparents left her, sell it, and then she’s free.

When a massive storm hits, she runs into a tall, dark and brooding stranger, Camden Reid. There’s a spark there, one that shocks her. Surprising her further, her sister and brother return, each of them holding their own secrets. The smart move would be for Piper to ignore them all but Cam unleashes emotions deep inside of her that she can’t deny, making her yearn for something she doesn’t understand. And her siblings…well, they need each other.

Only when the secrets come out, it changes everything Piper thinks she knows about her family, herself…and Cam. Can she find a way to outrun the demons? The answer is closer than she thinks—just as the new life she craves may have already begun.

The last time a woman had ordered Cam to strip had been a very different scene altogether, and it’d been a while. Generally speaking, he liked to be behind the wheel in most situations, but he’d never had any complaints about a woman driving in his bed. “Interesting bedside manner.”

“Okay,” she said. “How about strip, please.”

He laughed, and he realized that until tonight, it’d been a damn long time for that too. “Well, since you asked so nicely . . .” But still he hesitated.

“Trust me, I’ve seen it all before.”

He pulled off his shirt, wincing when the cotton stuck to the deepest slice across his chest.

Piper blinked, and for the first time all night, appeared short of words.

It was pretty damn cute, especially with the mud on her nose. “Thought you’ve seen it all before.” She bit her lower lip, eyes suddenly hooded, and he couldn’t resist teasing her. “So, how do I stack up?”

That got her, and she rolled her eyes. “Like you don’t know. Sit.”

The couch seemed too . . . personal, so he sat on her coffee table. She dropped to her knees at his side and doctored up first the cut on his left palm from where he’d nicked himself in his dad’s kitchen, and then the two slices on his left biceps, and then the biggest one across his chest, during which time he did his best to ignore the feel of her soft breath on his skin and failed.

When she’d finished, she looked down at his cargoes and saw the blood seeping through from his thigh. Rising to her feet, she stepped back, gesturing for him to lose the pants too.

“Seriously,” he said. “Doesn’t even have to be dinner. An appetizer would work.”

“If you’re real good, I’ll give you a sticker.”

“How about letting me look at your secret secret bucket list instead?”

Her eyes narrowed. “How about we stop talking now?”

“Wait.” He cocked his head. “Does this mean you also have a secret bucket list? And possibly a not-so- secret bucket list?”

She had hands on hips; a fresh, clean gauze in one hand, antibiotic ointment in the other, her expression dialed to Not Feeling Playful.

With a rough laugh, he stood and took the gauze and ointment from her. “I got this one, Doc.” And then he gestured for her to turn around.

She did with a smirk, and then spoke over her shoulder. “Didn’t peg you for the shy type.”

“Oh, I’m not shy.” He shoved his icy, muddy, wet cargoes to his thighs, and yeah, the cat had come within two inches of de-manning him. “Just didn’t want to have to fight you off.”

“Don’t worry,” she said. “I always get verbal consent first. And I bet you didn’t want me to see your tighty-whities.”

He gritted his teeth as he cleaned out the cut. Son of a bitch, that cat had gone deep. “They’re not tight and they’re not white.”

“Batman undies?”

“Commando,” he said, and that shut her up. When he’d finished and pulled his pants back up, he lifted his head and found her facing him. His brows went up. “See anything you like?”

Instead of answering, she blushed. And he grinned because, yeah. She’d definitely seen something she liked.

From Almost Just Friends by Jill Shalvis, published by William Morrow. Copyright © 2020 by Jill Shalvis. Reprinted courtesy of HarperCollinsPublishers

Connect with Jill Shalvis:
Facebook: @JillShalvis
Twitter: @JillShalvis

New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit her website,, for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

Title: Almost Just Friends: A Novel
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Format: Paperback; 384 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (January 21, 2020)
ISBN-10: 0062897802
ISBN-13: 978-0062897800
Author's Website:
Notes:  I received an eARC loan from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way affected by review or rating.

"You're the one always fixing everyone's life, everyone's but your own, of course. But even the Fixer needs help sometimes."

Piper Manning has just turned thirty and she isn't anywhere near where she wanted to be at this time of her life. She's had to put everything on hold--her hopes and dreams--to keep her family together. Her parents followed by her grandparents had passed away, and it was left up to her to keep what was left of her family together. Now, with both her siblings out of the house, she plans to make her dream of becoming a physician's assistant a reality. She just needs to sell the family lake house to make it happen. When her siblings come home unexpectedly, however, she'll find things may be more complicated than she imagined...

It's been three months since Camden 'Cam' Reid lost his brother, Rowan, in a car accident. He is suffering from a bad case of survivor's guilt. His plan was to come to Wildstone to check up on his father and then get back to his work on the East coast, but when he arrives he finds his father isn't in the best of conditions. He starts to wonder if an extended stay may be necessary...

As both Piper and Camden know, life doesn't always go as planned, and as they shall soon find out plans are sometimes meant to be broken. Sometimes for the better, and sometimes someone who could almost just be a friend can turn out to be something more...
This is the fourth book of the Wildstone series and it was written to be a standalone book. Each book in the series is a separate entity from the others with only an occasional character or two loosely overlapping in the stories. The town of Wildstone is the glue that binds of this series together. It's the place where each novel in the series takes place. If you haven't read one of these novels you're in for real a treat. The novels tackle some serious issues with heart, love, and compassion. The books leave you with the feeling that love, family, and good friends can conquer all or at least lighten the sting life can have.

At thirty, Piper is the family Matriarch. She has always appeared strong and tough on the outside because she's had to, but even she has her soft spots. For years she's put her own needs on hold. She's an EMT who is quick thinking and used to being the first to take charge of a bad situation. She's a little anal about keeping lists because they'd saved her neck more than once. One of the things on her list of 'Life Rules' is to 'never, ever, EVER, under any circumstances fall in love.' She's loved and she's lost a lot in her short life and that admission reveals a lot about her.

Cam is DEA agent and is on the reserve list for the Coast Guard. His relationship with his dad isn't what he'd like it to be, but he was raised by his mother after his parents divorced while his brother had been raised by his father. Cam lived with his mother on the East coast while Rowan and his dad had lived on the West. The two brothers had only recently established a close bond when Rowan had died.

Cam hasn't been in many romantic relationships over the years because most women can't handle his not being able to talk specifics about his job. It's literally his job, at times, to keep certain things secret. As he gets to know Piper he realizes she's not like other women. Being that she's an EMT she understands and gets what his job requires. In her he starts to see something he's never let himself see before--a future.

If I had to sum this story up in one sentence it would be the following: This is a story about two perfectly imperfect families who come together to form one perfectly perfect family. The quote which I feel exemplifies the story is:

"It's okay to be broken. Broken can be fixed."

I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. The story was engaging from the very first page. The heat between Cam and Piper was sizzling hot from the moment they met. I adored seeing these two people who thought they would never find love find it with each other. I also loved that the vibe 'we're family and family sticks together and supports each other no matter what' permeated the story even though it wasn't ever stated. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.This is a story I HIGHLY recommend. I loved it.

Order of the Wildstone series:

Novella associated with the series:
(Should be read after 'Lost and Found Sisters' but before 'Rainy Day Friends')

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