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Secret Maneuvers by Jessie Lane

Secret_Maneuvers_Ex_Ops_1_cover_proto_type_2


ORDER A COPY:   Secret Maneuvers (Ex Ops Series)

Publisher: self-published
Publishing Date: June 15, 2013
eBook: 239 pages

Rating: 5 stars


Some mistakes from the past haunt us forever… unless fate steps in with a second chance.

One ‘dear John’ letter haunts Bobby Baker’s every living moment. It’s the letter he stupidly wrote to his high school sweetheart, Belle, right after he left to join the Army. The letter that he told her that he wasn’t so sure if they were ready for forever yet. But before he can let her know that the letter, and his second thoughts, are nothing but a mistake, she up and disappears from the small Georgia town they were both raised in.

Fifteen years later, Belle unknowingly walks back into Bobby’s life when her job as an ATF Agent forces her to work with a group of men secretly headed by the CIA to help her track down whoever is involved in funneling black market weapons to a drug cartel in Mexico.

Bobby will use this mission to try and soothe Belle’s hurt feelings while proving to her that their love is still meant for forever. He’ll use every dirty trick he’s learned since he joined the Army to maneuver her back into his life for the long haul. But Belle’s not making it easy as she keeps him at arm’s length in the hopes that mistakes of her own never come to light.


Annabelle Smith was the girl from the trailer park, hardened by years with an alcoholic father. He might not have physically killed her mother, but the years with an abusive husband took their toll on her and she died when Belle was just a young girl, leaving her alone with a Dad who now took out his anger on her and who would rather spend his money on alcohol and smokes than food for his little girl. The only love Annabelle has ever known is from her best friend, Teagan.

So as a teenager, she is wary when the captain of the football team is following her around school, and trying to convince her to go out with him. Bobby Baker is smart, athletic and from a good, normal family. He could have any girl he wants so what would he want with Annabelle. They were together for two years and on the eve of his leaving for boot camp, they spend the night together making love under the stars, and discussing their unbreakable bond and their plans for the future once Bobby has finished his training.

It was thirteen weeks since Bobby left town and Belle hasn’t heard anything, but this last fight with her Dad has been too much. If she doesn’t get away from him now, he’ll probably kill her. Maybe Bobby’s parents will take her in? When she shows up at their door, his Mom has a letter for Belle which just arrived from Bobby. A letter which shatters Belle’s heart when the one person she thought could actually love someone like her, tells her that he doesn’t want that forever they always talked about.

Now fifteen years later, the ATF is looking for help with a dangerous drug cartel that is smuggling automatic riffles and drugs between the U.S. and Mexico, and they need to work with the Government’s EX opts division. Imagine Bobby Baker’s surprise when Belle walks in the door to brief his team introducing herself as Agent Annabelle Roberts…Roberts? Bobby has been searching for Belle since he was stupid enough to send a letter to the love of his life telling her they could not be together, but Annabelle had left town, left Georgia and no matter how many time he sent out a private investigator, they never returned with any information. It was like she dropped off the face of the earth, until she walked back into his life and looked right through him like he wasn’t even there.

Does she really think he’s going to let her walk away from him again after it has taken him 15 years to find her again? He needs her to know that he sent another letter begging her forgiveness. That he’s been searching frantically for her all these years. That he has never felt whole since she disappeared from his life.

Annabelle knows there will be no other love for her but Bobby, but she isn’t the same unwanted girl he left behind. Her life has changed since the day she read his letter, and after all the pain, lies and secrets, she’s not sure if there ever can be a Happily Ever After for them.

THOUGHTS:
This was a wonderful, emotional story with very realistic characters. I was absolutely heartbroken for Annabelle. She finally gave her fragile heart to someone who she believed was too good for an unloved girl from the trailer park, in a town where no one has a good word for her, and she was amazed that Bobby would actually want forever with her. Then she receives the letter which tells her that he doesn’t want forever with her anymore, that they were too young, haven’t experienced any of the world, and they shouldn’t be thinking of forever so soon.

With all that goes on, I had a problem really liking Bobby, first because even knowing Belle’s situation with her family and knowing that she has never experienced love before him, and after convincing her to trust him with her heart, he would send her this letter cutting out that heart and stomping all over it. He basically leaves her with nothing and no one, no future, no love and no hope. He couldn’t at least wait and do that face to face. Then he expects her to welcome him back with open arms because he tried to take back everything he said a few weeks later and has been looking for her for 15 years. He might have been desperate to find her, but she has spent the last 15 years thinking she was like gum on his shoe that he scraped off the first chance he got. Then he is forcing himself back into her life with no consideration for how much his betrayal hurt her and changed her life. Worse, once she starts hoping that things might work out for them, Bobby finds out some things about Belle and changes his tune from “you’re the love of my life” to “you’re a heartless, evil bitch” and once again stomping on her fragile heart.

Is there a HEA? Of course, but it is certainly hard won between the two of them.

**** SPOILERS SO JUMP DOWN TO STARS******

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Annabelle’s big secret that she was afraid to tell Bobby was that she was pregnant when she disappeared, since their last night together included no condom sex in a field which I think that pretty much guarantees any teenager getting knocked up. Although she didn’t know she was pregnant until weeks after she left, he still is really, really furious with her and suddenly she isn’t the love of his life that he needs to get back, she’s an evil bitch that hid his kid from him. Personally, I was behind Annabelle the whole time since Bobby kicked her out of his life by note. She didn’t keep the kid from him to punish him. She was just a kid and she thought would he even want them? Would he think she got pregnant on purpose to trap him? Would she ever know if he took her back just because of the baby? And years later, she was afraid to go back and find him there with a new family and he would then hate her more for bringing an unwanted past back into his face.

Saying that, I thought she should have told Bobby’s parents since they seemed to like her and didn’t hold her father’s alcoholism against her. They never gave any impression that they would have stolen the baby from her. Bobby might not have wanted Belle anymore, but the parents seemed upset that Bobby had sent that letter. She should have let them know they were grandparents.

I do have to say that I do love, love, love the son, Seth! He’s 14 and he is very mature for his age, and very “Mom and me against the world” kid. When Bobby gets in Annabelle’s face over not telling him, Seth is right there protecting his Mom from Bobby’s angry words. I was very “Yeah, someone is finally standing up for Annabelle!”

**********************

This is the second book that I have read from the very promising writing team of Melissa Pahl and Crystal Leo and this seems to be the start of a great new series.  What disappointed me in their last book was that there were chunks of the story that were fantastic, the writing was funny and the characters were great, then they deviated the story and the main characters started doing things that were uncharacteristic and annoying. I could see they had writing talent and I was disappointed when they deviated from their originally storyline which had been going great.

This is a much better representation of their talents, and although I wanted to jump into the story and slap Bobby around a little, good writing makes you feel even if that feeling is angry.  There were a lot a great characters in this story and a lot of potential for future stories.

It was an enjoyable and well written story and you should definitely give these new authors a try.

Received an ARC from the authors. Thank you.


Favorite Scene:

“Come on, Annabelle. Entertain me here. Better yet, tell me another story for my blackmail book.”

Declan quickly ducked backwards in his seat when bobby tried to hit him.

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”

“Come on, woman! I’m bored as shit back here.”

Bobby was studiously ignoring both of us by looking out of his passenger side window. What could it hurt? It wasn’t as if Bobby could hate me anymore than he already did. Maybe hearing some of the good times would remind him that it hadn’t always been bad between us.

“Ok, Declan, you’ll appreciate this one. See when Bobby joined our high school football team he had to go through an initiation, a hazing of sorts. What small town would be complete if they didn’t continue crazy rituals that would give all the gossipy, old, married ladies something to talk about all year long? So, anyways, all the seniors wrote embarrassing tasks to be completed, then threw them in a hat to be drawn out by the freshman.

“Bobby here was lucky enough to have to go through our local grocery store in nothing except a hot pink thong. They made him go through the checkout counter, buy a box of condoms and he couldn’t leave until he sang the school song at the register. All the while, the poor check out girl, who was sixteen, stood there staring at him with a river of drool coming out the side of her mouth because, even at fifteen, Bobby looked and was built like a Chippendale stripper.”

Declan was roaring with laughter in the back seat. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Bobby’s cheeks turn pink as he blushed.

“But don’t feel too bad for Bobby. My best friend Teagan had it much worse. You see she was the team’s punter and the only girl in the whole state of Georgia on a high school football team. Her initiation task was to streak through the school grounds while school was being dismissed. None of the guys thought she would do it and that it would be the quickest way to get a girl off their championship winning team, but they underestimated Teagan; like most people did. The entire school got to see her naked itty bits and I drove the getaway car she dove in when she was done streaking around the school. Lord, she couldn’t get any of the guys at school to stop hitting on her after that, no matter how many times she kicked them in the nuts.”

Declan was laughing so hard that tears rolled down his cheeks and he struggled to breathe. He promised through the entire tirade to spread the story to everyone they knew between his choking gasps for breath.

Big Bad Bite Gets a Makeover!

BBB potential 1b

I received an e-mail from the authors behind Big Bad Bite letting me know that their story has undergone a makeover and a review from a new editor, and they asked me to share that with our readers.


“We’re excited to announce that Big Bad Bite had a makeover! Inside and out! We have a sexy new cover featuring our favorite Wolf, Adam, AND Big Bad Bite was sent off and edited by the amazing girls at C&D Editing. Some might wonder, “Has the story changed?” The answer to that would be yes and no. No, because the story line is still the same. Yes, because it no longer has those pesky grammatical errors, info dumps were cut down, inconsistencies were caught, and best of all, a tiny scene was added! Overall, it’s a better story, but still has a kick ass, snarky heroine Jenna, and the snarly, but lovable, Adam who wants her.

So, if you haven’t picked up your copy of Big Bad Bite yet, then go get it today!”

Big Bad Bite Info:
Goodreads page: Goodreads
Website Page: Website
Buy links:
Amazon: Big Bad Bite
Barnes & Noble: B&N
All Romance/Omni Lit: All Romance/Omni
Smashwords: Smashwords

Book Blurb:
What would it be like to live in a world where you are considered abnormal to those who are above the norm?

Jenna O’ Conner has been taught her whole life to hide from everyone. Never to let anyone to close enough to know that she would prefer a shotgun for her birthday over of a bouquet of roses. She’s been smothered by her over protective family so that no one learns what she truly is. Which is not human. Nor, is she considered the norm for the supernatural Other community that is benevolent enough to share this world with the humans.

In a desperate attempt to live her own life away from the small town she was raised in, Jenna obtains her dream job as the newest member on the Wilmington Police Department’s SWAT Team. What she didn’t predict was that she would run into trouble her first day on the job, in the form of a deadly, mouthwatering man named Adam McPhee. Who is also not human, but more like a wolf walking around in human skin. He’s determined to figure out exactly what Jenna is, which unbeknownst to him, could very well put her life in danger. He’s also determined to have her all to himself.

As if that wasn’t enough for Jenna to deal with, bad news blows into town. A group of extremist Shifters who think humans are cattle and factions of Others worldwide should stay within their own species – never to intermingle. Chaos ensues. Jenna has to find a way to shut them down, but in the process of trying to do that, discovers things about herself that even she never thought was possible.

Who said the wolf was what you had to worry about? Welcome to the real world.


Tomorrow we’ll have a bonus – Chapter 1

Big Bad Bite by Jessie Lane

Big Bad Bite (Big Bad Bite, #1)


Author Jessie Lane (also known as the writing team of Melissa Pahl and Crystal Leo) are here talking about their top 10 favorite shifters. Stop by and say Hi!


ORDER A COPY: Big Bad Bite

Publisher: self-pub
Publishing Date: January 28, 2013
eBook: 271 pages

Rating: 3 stars


What would it be like to live in a world where you are considered abnormal to those who are above the norm?

Jenna O’ Conner has been taught her whole life to hide from everyone. Never to let anyone to close enough to know that she would prefer a shotgun for her birthday over of a bouquet of roses. She’s been smothered by her over protective family so that no one learns what she truly is. Which is not human. Nor, is she considered the norm for the supernatural Other community that is benevolent enough to share this world with the humans.

In a desperate attempt to live her own life away from the small town she was raised in, Jenna obtains her dream job as the newest member on the Wilmington Police Department’s SWAT Team. What she didn’t predict was that she would run into trouble her first day on the job, in the form of a deadly, mouthwatering man named Adam McPhee. Who is also not human, but more like a wolf walking around in human skin. He’s determined to figure out exactly what Jenna is, which unbeknownst to him, could very well put her life in danger. He’s also determined to have her all to himself.

As if that wasn’t enough for Jenna to deal with, bad news blows into town. A group of extremist Shifters who think humans are cattle and factions of Others worldwide should stay within their own species – never to intermingle. Chaos ensues. Jenna has to find a way to shut them down, but in the process of trying to do that, discovers things about herself that even she never thought was possible.

Who said the wolf was what you had to worry about?
Welcome to the real world.


Jenna O’Conner was always told by her mother and her Uncle Owen to keep out of sight, never call attention to herself and never, never let a shifter know what she was. Shifters as a general rule aren’t too happy when a shifter mates with a human and creates a half shifter/half human child. Even worse for Jenna, she’s half shifter/half…not human. Which makes her a walking target for Others.

But Jenna’s had enough of hiding, after five years of working as an officer for her small Town Sheriff’s Department for her Uncle Rick, Jenna has transferred to the Wilmington Police Department and is the newest member of the SWAT team. Everything is going well on her first day, including taking down a dangerous criminal, until she runs directly into the path of a shifter and not just any shifter, but the local Alpha. Adam knows with one sniff that something’s not right about Jenna, and he plans to find out just what she’s hiding.

When her next assignment brings even more danger in the form of terrorist shifters, Jenna can’t help being dragged into the world of the Others and after years of hiding, she just isn’t prepared. As if a new job, new town, new partner, terrorist shifters and coming out of the proverbial “Other” closet isn’t enough stress for Jenna, Adam has decided that Jenna will be his perfect mate and he isn’t going to stop until he makes her his.

THOUGHTS (W/ TINY SPOILERS):

There were many parts of this story that I enjoyed.    We start out on Jenna’s first assigned with the SWAT team.  She starts off with a bang, she know what she is doing, and she ends up with a new partner.  There was great banter between her and the partner.  There was also a great scene when they go interview someone and considering shifters don’t age, Grandma walks in, who is still all hot and sexy, and she’s looks at Jenna’s partner and she gets all flirty, and they are all like “Eww, Grandma stop.”    (See favorite scene below for part of that scene.)

Unfortunately, this story tried to do too much and it started to feel like I was reading more than one book. We quickly deviate from the fact that Jenna is a member of the SWAT team and we loose that great banter with her partner.

The characters kept flip-flopping: one moment Jenna is a kick-ass, in-your-face cop/woman, but the next she’s like an insecure teenager. When she was tough, she was more interesting and the difference in character was such a swing, it was like two different characters.

As we start the story, Jenna makes some really stupid decisions with regard to Adam, that after a lifetime of “beware of shifters” she does a complete 180 listening to whatever Adam says. If we weren’t told in the description that Adam was our romantic hero, he could have easily been the slick-talking, archvillian here. He convinces Jenna to get to know him, his sister and his best friend by meeting them in a shifter bar…maybe not a safest place if you are trying to hide from shifters, and then Jenna goes off the next day to have a run with the sister (that she just met) on private shifter land. HEY, DANGER WILL ROBINSON. I could have easily seen her as a naïve girl being conned into stepping onto guarded shifter land and ending up chained in a basement at the orders of the Alpha with no one ever knowing where she disappeared to. It seemed a little off for an experienced police officer, raised to be afraid of other shifters to just go trotting off to be surrounded by them. There is a difference between wanting to give them a chance to show they are not dangerous and being an idiot.

Shifters in general are portrayed as sexy and sensual. Adam is no exception, but it’s almost like they are trying too hard and when, after about 4 days with very little conversation between them yet one hot and heavy make out session, Adam decides he has to have Jenna as his lifelong mate, the only thing keeping us from thinking Dangerous Stalker is the fact that he is our “hero” here. When her friends and family find out Adam’s desire to mate with Jenna, they are actually angry with her for not agreeing to it right away and making Adam “suffer” even though they have just met. 

Adam jumps back and forth from being an understanding sweetheart to over-possessive jerk as quickly as Jenna switches gears.

Male shifters in this story are referred to by Jenna as “man whores” always looking for the next piece of ass, which at first was very funny, but then was continuously harped on and many references such as “if an Other could get an STD…” was so overused and overemphasized, it became annoying.

Having your characters do things that don’t make sense bothers me a lot in a story. If your vampire can turn into a bat, I’ll work with you. If your werewolf shifts back with all his clothes on…okay then. But in this case, things that don’t make sense includes Adam buying Jenna an outfit to go out to all Other club (remember the man whores) which is mainly just a leather bustier, a leather micro-miniskirt and F-me leather boots, then he freaks out at Jenna because some horny vampire is trying to pick her up. Well, DUH! Put your girlfriend’s goodies on display in a horndog factory and what do you expect and why is it her fault, you dressed her like that!!!

There is also a big internal shifter matter which takes Jenna away from her brand new job after only two days, and although it introduces us to many interesting characters, I don’t feel like we learned anything with all the investigating. 

It started off well and had a lot of potential, but then it tried to do too much, it tried to be sexy but came off as desperate and very in your face, and it had very funny moments, but you can’t just keep repeating the same jokes. I would have liked it better if they stuck with the SWAT aspect of the story and kept Jenna’s character in her bad-ass mode. She could be snarky and I love the snarky heroines. This book sets up for the next story and leaves us hanging for answers to all our questions.  With the next book focusing on new characters, I am hoping we won’t be distracted by the flip-flopping attitudes. 

For the $2.99 pricetag, it wasn’t a bad story.  The problem was it tried too hard to be really hot and sexy and it us took away from the better storyline and the great banter.  

Received ARC from the authors. Thank you.


Favorite Scene:

“Privyet Babushka. Did my little brother bring you out to have a good time?”

Gage slapped his brother on the back of the head after their grandmother was done hugging him. “Just because you’re ten minutes older than me doesn’t mean you’re a big brother.”

Gage’s brother slugged him playfully in the arm. “That’s precisely what it means little brother. Besides, that’s not the only way I’m bigger than you. For one, I’m taller than you by two inches, and for two, according to the last little morsel we played with together, I’m also bigger where it counts.” The blond fighter shot her a lascivious look. “Is this our new morsel brother?”

Gage smirked. “She doesn’t seem to play well with others, so we better leave that one alone. No, this is Kent’s lovely new partner, Jenna. They’ve come to ask a few questions we might be able to answer. Jenna, this is my brother Alec.”

Jenna held her hand out to Alec to shake. Alec took her hand in his, but ignored the concept of shaking it. He brought the back of her hand up to his lips and kissed it instead. When he let go, she brought her hand back to the top of the table in front of her before leaning across the space to get closer to the randy tiger.

“Charming. Really. But you can give up all of your attempts to get into my undies because it’s not going to happen. I see you for what you are; a card carrying member of those determined to prove that it is possible for men of the supernatural species to get STD’s. I’m just not sure who’s President of the club yet, you or Kent. Not to mention that I’ve discovered I’m basically allergic to you, and at least all other tiger shifters, if not feline shifters in general. Frankly, I don’t feel like taking an allergy pill just so I can see this big dick you claim to carry. It’s nice to meet you though. Really.”

Alec’s mouth hung open in shock while Gage shook his head and Vera laughed her ass off at her grandson getting a verbal smack down. Gage finally patted his brother on the back and murmured, “I tried to tell you that she didn’t play well with others. Besides, Kent mentioned something about that Alpha McPhee. Better luck next time through bro.”

Alec finally closed his mouth, and then shrugged his shoulders as he looked at Gage. “Oh well, can’t blame a guy for trying. She is hot.” The white tiger looked around them, “You said Kent’s here. Where is he?”

Jenna used her thumb to point over her shoulder at where Kent had one of the waitresses in the corner, and wandering hands were roaming freely on both sides. “He’s over there providing a fabulous example of why he should be President of that club I mentioned.”

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