Series Review: Hell Squad

Book CoverHell Squad by Anna Hackett
My Rating: 4-Stars
Genre: Sci-Fi Romance
Series Size: 20 books (#20 coming June 2020)
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Who knew that the apocalypse could be so sexy?

Aliens have come to Earth—and not in peace. Millions of humans died in the first few waves of attacks. Hidden deep in Australia’s fictional Blue Mountain Base, squads of fighters band together in the struggle for humanity.

Australian author Anna Hackett integrates elements of science fiction and action into all of her romance novels. Over the past five years, her “Hell Squad” series has followed a rotating cast of characters as they battle against the aliens—called the Gizzida—while discovering that even at the end of the world, there’s always someone to live for.

Yes, this means that in-between scenes of reconnaissance missions, firefights, helicopter chases, and more, these characters find time to fall in love. It’s a nice balance of intense action in the Gizzida-laden world above and intense passion in the beds (and showers, and gardens, and desks… etc) in the human’s hidden base below.

The series gets its name from Squad Six, known as the Hell Squad. Considered to be the toughest fighters in Blue Mountain Base, the Hell Squad is filled with former military who aren’t shy when it comes to kicking some Gizzida ass. This alien race is likened to “raptors” in the early books, and much of their demented creations, from space ships to mutated beasts, are dinosaur-like in appearance as well. Appearances can be misleading—and with the Gizzida, cunning and extreme intelligence lurks behind those red eyes.

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Each book follows one pair of characters who must best the aliens to accomplish the current mission, whether it be gathering vital information, stopping the Gizzida from their perverse experimentations, or sabotaging the aliens. As the series progresses, other squads such as Squad Nine (which is full of kickass women) and Squad Three (known as the berserker squad, filled with daredevil men of dubious backgrounds) are featured, with the various squads swooping in to lend support on the field.

The ultimate goal is to reclaim Earth for humanity, but an overarching storyline laced throughout “Hell Squad” reveals that the Gizzida has plans to eradicate all human life. Hackett’s series is now 19 books long—the most recent, Survivors, was released on Feb. 11. The situation has hit a crisis point for these survivors, and the outlook is grim. “Hell Squad” will wrap up when the squads (presumably) rid the Earth of alien scum in the final series book, Tane, which is scheduled for a June 2 release.

Hell Squad books 1-19 are available now in eBook and paperback formats. The first book in the series, Marcus, is free in eBook format, and the entire series is available for Kindle Unlimited subscribers as well.

This review originally appeared in the Feb. 21, 2020 issue of White Pine Press.

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Review: Scot Under the Covers

Book CoverScot Under the Covers by Suzanne Enoch
My Rating: 43 Stars
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: January 28, 2020
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Aden MacTaggert finds himself in London to fulfill an agreement between his parents that their sons all marry before their daughter. Miranda Harris, a close friend of Aden’s sister, returns to town and finds herself trapped by something she vehemently dislikes: a gambler. Miranda’s choices are limited and her future is at-risk, and Aden is drawn into helping her regain her freedom.

Both Miranda and Aden had personalities that shined through their actions. Aden’s gambler side is seen in the risks he takes, both with his standing in society and his pursuit of Miranda. A paragon of society herself, Miranda is seen wavering on the edges, deciding between when she can break from the ideals she’s held dearly and what’s more important: family standing in society or her future. While Aden doesn’t change much aside from his dedication to Miranda as he falls in love, Miranda evolves from a perfect miss to a woman who is strong and in-control of her wants.

The plot was enjoyable, if a bit long. One of Miranda’s lines that stuck with me the most was: “Then tell me what is going on, for God’s sake!”. I can’t agree more. The reader is left in the dark on Aden’s plans, usually not quite sure what his intent is in his actions, as he works to free Miranda. This gets frustrating and pulled me out of the plot every time I was left wondering about why Aden was doing XYZ this time or that.

Scot Under the Covers was engaging, however, thanks to these two characters. We see Aden and Miranda grow in love during their interactions. We seem them take on a shadowy figure haunting London. We see them both prove that love, family, and your future are important, and that it is possible to have it all.

Scot Under the Covers is out now and available in both eBook and paperback formats.

I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: The Duke’s Desire

Book CoverThe Duke’s Desire by Erica Ridley
My Rating: 4 Stars
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: December 24, 2019
Formats: eBook, Paperback

The Duke’s Desire is the eighth book in Erica Ridley’s 12 Dukes of Christmas series.

Lucien le Duc, former blacksmith in the town of Cressmouth, is eager to return home to France after years of hiding away due to the French revolution. Meg Church is happily free of her miserable childhood in France and loves the freedom that her spinster life offers. She’s admired Luc from afar, and he’s avoided everyone English since day one.

This entry in the Dukes of Christmas series offers the organic romance I’ve been looking for in these stories. The book is still fast-paced, but the passage of time allows us to experience Meg and Luc’s friendship⁠—and love⁠—as the two grow closer together. There’s still plenty of humor (Meg especially is outrageously hilarious) despite the fact that both characters have high personal burdens to overcome.

Meg and Luc grew up in the shadows of their respective family histories. They need to figure out what they’re willing to risk to hold onto—or shed—those pasts.

The Duke’s Desire is out now and available in both eBook and paperback formats.

I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: The Duke’s Embrace (with excerpt)

Book CoverThe Duke’s Embrace by Erica Ridley
My Rating: 3 Stars
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: December 3, 2019
Formats: eBook, Paperback

The Duke’s Embrace is the seventh book in Erica Ridley’s 12 Dukes of Christmas series. Sébastien le Duc, one of the local blacksmiths in the town of Cressmouth, is eager to return to his home country of France now that the family debt is paid off. Eve Shelling aspires to be a journalist whose stories are more than just fluff, yet finds it hard to be taken seriously in a world ruled by men. When the le Duc men decide to sell the blacksmithy in order to fund their voyage home, Eve is right there, telling their story.

I really enjoyed Eve’s ambitions in a world that did not favor women’s independence. She’s strong-willed and pushes the boundaries, trying to grow the Cressmouth Gazette into a true newspaper, even as her father circumvents her ideas. You won’t find Eve without her bullmastiff, who seems to be enamored by the le Duc’s pig, Chef.

Sébastien is still a bit of a mystery to me even with him being a point of view character. It might be that his current concerns were so limited in scope that we didn’t get a deep dive into who he is as a person. I did enjoy that we got both de Luc brothers interacting often in this story, especially as Lucien was quite a mystery after book six.

The Duke’s Embrace sheds a bit of the overly-witty banter found in the 12 Dukes series, which is a refreshing change and kept me more engaged in the story. It was a bit surprising that no one specifically named Sébastien as a “duke,” breaking the consistency from previous books in the series (though book six points out that all three le Duc siblings are “dukes” of Cressmouth). The village remains as charming as ever, regardless, though we see less of its inhabitants this time around.

The 12 Dukes books are all fast reads, but this one in particular would have benefited from a bit more development with their relationship. I still wasn’t sure why the couple fell for each other by the end, other than attraction. The conflict between the two was also too quickly resolved, as if both were willing to just forget the hurtful words they tossed around without at least talking out their problems.

This is a fun read that can be easily squeezed into a busy holiday week. What excites me the most about The Duke’s Embrace is the anticipation it creates for Lucien’s story, which will come in book eight.


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An excerpt from The Duke’s Embrace: Continue reading “Review: The Duke’s Embrace (with excerpt)”

Review: Forever and a Duke

Book CoverForever and a Duke by Olivia Drake
My Rating: 3.5-Stars
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: December 31, 2019
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Natalie Fanshawe has traveled from America to England with a singular purpose: to safely deliver an orphaned boy, Leo, to his grandfather. Leo has a penchant for mischief, and while searching for Leo during a travel stop, Natalie crosses paths with Hadrian Ames, the Duke of Clayton. Hadrian is on his way to meet a potential future bride, and doesn’t need any Americans disrupting his day.

She’s been raised to dislike the English aristocracy. He needs the perfect English bride. They’re both about to get what they absolutely didn’t expect.

Hadrian is portrayed as haughty, yet from the moment you dive into his point of view, you see that he’s a caring individual hiding behind a shell that his glittering world expects to see. He’s reluctant to get involved in Natalie and Leo’s lives, but he does the right thing.

In time, Hadrian begins breaking down all the prejudices that Natalie has regarding the aristocracy. Her knowledge was tainted by her father’s less-than-stellar life experiences, but she discovers that regardless of rank, there are people worthy of her respect. And as for the rest—they don’t need to accept her, she needs to accept them. To Natalie, that’s the meaning of being free. Equal. American.

This is a story of two people from opposite worlds coming together. The romance itself grows naturally and we see both characters evolve to accept their differences, similarities, and ultimately each other.

I would have rated this at four stars had the subplot involving Richard and his money troubles not dragged the story down a notch. It was predictable and didn’t add anything to a story already rife with its own conflict. Another reason for the downgrade in rating is that Leo is so centric to the plot… but (MINOR SPOILER, HIGHLIGHT TO SEE:) we never find out the resolution to his story.

Forever and a Duke is a charming tale of strong leads finding a way to make their differences work for each other. As it releases on December 31, it would be an enjoyable read to welcome in the new year.

 

I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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