ARC Review: Last Kiss by Jessica Clare and Jen Frederick

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Naomi: When I was kidnapped I thought only of survival. I don’t thrive well in chaos. That’s why I gave my captors exactly what they wanted: my skill with computers. Making millions for a crime lord who kept me imprisoned in his basement compound kept my family safe. When he was taken out, I thought my ticket to freedom had arrived. Wrong. I traded one keeper for another. This time I’m in the hands of a scarred, dark, demanding Russian who happens to be the head of the Bratva, a Russian crime organization. He wants my brain and my body. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intrigued, but I can’t be a prisoner forever...no matter how good he makes me feel.

Vasily: At a young age, I was taught that a man without power is a puppet for all. I’ve clawed—and killed—my way to the top so that it is my heel on their necks. But to unify the fractured organization into an undefeatable machine, I need a technological genius to help me steal one particular artifact. That she is breathtaking, determined, and vulnerable is making her more dangerous than all of my enemies combined. But only I can keep her safe from the world that she now inhabits. Soon, I must choose between Naomi and Bratva law. But with every day that passes, this becomes a more impossible choice.

As a huge fan of this series, I was wicked excited to get my hands on the newest edition. A hacker and mafia god, who wouldn’t want to sink deep into their journey? 

Although, I liked Vasily and Naomi it wasn’t enough to fall in love with them. I enjoyed both of them a lot as individuals. However, as a couple, my enjoyment was touch and go. I did find they brought some great idiosyncrasies and aspects to the game making this story line a quick unique read. I’d say, if you can let yourself get past all the extra, unneeded drama, you’ll see they are pretty refreshing and fun. I adored how over time they seemed to connect like two puzzle pieces, their extreme quirks eventually balancing each other out. I loved that the authors didn’t draw out the uncomfortable introduction to their relationship, allowing them to adjust to each other at a realistic speed. Naomi and Vasily’s dynamic was interesting, yet in the same sense it could also often be exhausting. 

At times, the connection as well as the chemistry came across as extremely stilted and impersonal. Part of that disconnect, in my opinion, was due to so much going on within the plot line. This made it very hard to connect with the protagonists, especially since they already had their own underlying issues. Naomi had Asperger’s syndrome and Vasily wasn’t very far off with his depersonalization, emotional detachment, and mechanical type personality. These eccentricities along with the kidnapping and the past/current mafia history should have been enough to keep the reader’s attention. It definitely would have been more than enough to keep mine. I seriously could have done without all the extra-contrived drama. I know the painting had a reason for being a big part of the story, but it seriously became overwhelming with everything else centering around it and then to add Naomi’s extreme OCD that ruled the scenes more often than not, BDSM, major kink, sex clubs, awkward conversations, and crude bestiality; it seriously went above and beyond. With all this going on, I often lost focus of the romance building between them. 

I would like to be able to tell you the sexy times helped make up for my lack of interest; however, it didn’t even come close. Each moment felt so clinical and Naomi made it that way. Every time Vasily would set the sheets on fire, Naomi would shut it right down with her obsession about germs, bodily functions, and where they were getting it on at. I get she has certain peculiarities that come with being an Aspie, but I really just wanted to see her let go and enjoy the spontaneity. And when she finally did it felt very out of character. Those moments certainly took me back and made me shake my head in confusion. 

Having a child on the Spectrum I am familiar with Asperger’s, except now they call it Pervasive Developmental Disorder, some of the things Naomi did or suggested felt rather off to me compared to the rest of her character. I felt as though the authors where over pushing the whole disorder, taking it to an extreme. Not sure if that makes sense, but I can’t really put my finger on it to explain it properly. In addition, while Aspie’s can come across as cold and unemotional that is not the case at all. I really struggled with the authors’ take this aspect of the syndrome. Naomi repeatedly told us she doesn’t ever feel and she also tells Vasily she is emotionless. I just kept thinking to myself I can’t imagine a child with Asperger’s actually telling people that. While my child is not fond of the whole touchy feely thing or expressing his emotions, he does show us plenty of love in his own ways. Not to mention, he would never tell you he doesn’t feel or he is emotionless. This was just one of the ways I was turned off by the writing of this character. To further explain her out of character actions, Naomi was huge on no major touching, she was a germ-a-phobic, and hated anything that didn’t fit into her neat little world. At one point, she was discussing with Vasily about shoving a dildo filled with little knives inside her vagina and walking around with it for him. Now, I am no prude, not by a long stretch, but some of her conversations and actions made me squirm in my seat, and not in a good way. Hence not fitting within character. 

Sadly, I felt as if the story were being read to me. I really hate that feeling; I am one of those readers’ who loves when I can become so far rooted into the characters’ lives, as though I am right there amongst them, the proverbial fly on the wall per se. I really missed that with Vasily and Naomi. Without being able to connect with them on a deeper emotional level, they left me feeling as if I was an insider looking through a window into two stranger’s lives. 

It’s unfortunate to say, but this is my least favorite of the series. I am still a Daniel girl all the way and loved, loved, loved that we were able to revisit him throughout the book.

Thank you, Intermix Romances/Berkeley/Penguin, for the complimentary copy of Last Kiss.

Last Hit (Hitman #1)

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Nikolai: I have been a contract killer since I was a boy. For years I savored the fear caused by my name, the trembling at the sight of my tattoos. The stars on my knees, the marks on my fingers, the dagger in my neck, all bespoke of danger. If you saw my eyes, it was the last vision you’d have. I have ever been the hunter, never the prey. With her, I am the mark and I am ready to lie down and let her capture me. Opening my small scarred heart to her brings out my enemies. I will carry out one last hit, but if they hurt her, I will bring the world down around their ears.

Daisy: I've been sheltered from the outside world all my life. Home-schooled and farm-raised, I’m so naive that my best friend calls me Pollyanna. I like to believe the best in people. Nikolai is part of this new life, and he’s terrifying to me. Not because his eyes are cold or my friend warns me away from him, but because he’s the only man that has ever seen the real me beneath the awkwardness. With him, my heart is at risk... and also, my life.

Last Hit: Reloaded (Hitman #2.5)

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There was a time when Nick loved the fear he instilled in his enemies. His tattoos alone promised danger, but it was the look in his eyes that delivered on it. A contract killer since he was just a boy, Nick has now forged a new life and a new identity with the woman who followed him, captured him, and changed him.

He terrified Daisy. Once. But she couldn't resist, and she ignored every warning. It paid off. Now she's part of a new beginning, a fresh start in America helping him to leave behind a reckless and violent past as a professional killer. But the past is never easy to outrun, especially when so much of it thrives on revenge.

A new threat has emerged from the shadows, and now Nick and Daisy have no choice but to rely on Nick's killer skills to protect them from everything they've tried so hard to escape.

Last Breath (Hitman #2)
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Regan: I never really knew what misery was until the day I was kidnapped and sold for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Two months later, I'm at a brothel in Rio when I meet Daniel Hays. He says he's here to save me, but can I trust him? All I know of him are his sarcastic retorts and his tendency to solve every dispute with his gun. He's also the only safe thing in my world, and I know it's wrong to fall in love with him, but I can't seem to help myself. He says he’ll protect me until his last breath but I don’t know if I should believe him or even if I can. 

Daniel: For the last eighteen months, I’ve had one goal: to find my kidnapped sister. I’ve left the Army, turned paid hit man, and have befriended criminals all across the globe. In every brothel I raid or every human trafficking truck I stop, her face is the one I’m desperate to see. In Rio, I find Regan Porter, bruised but not broken and still sane despite her weeks in hell. I should leave her behind or send her home because the last thing either of us needs is to get involved. But with every passing minute, I find I can’t let her go. 

Last Hope (Hitman #4)

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Mendoza: I grew up in the slums and lost everything I loved to poverty, illness, and death. I had only one skill to leverage myself out of my circumstances—violence. Being hired out as a mercenary hitman brought me money and built an empire. But all that I've fought for is in jeopardy. My next job: Steal secret information that could bring down world governments. Find my target. Destroy it. But then, I meet her.

Ava: Karma hates me. When my best friend Rose is kidnapped, I have no choice but to take a job as a mule for a pair of criminals intent on selling top-secret information to the highest bidder. I should have known that bad luck tends to cling, because the plane I'm on goes down. That I survived a crash-landing was a miracle. And so was being rescued by Rafe Mendoza—hot, sexy, dangerous. The thing is, he wants the information that I need to free Rose. I can't let him have it, but I need his help. And I need to fight this crazy attraction for this mercenary with hungry eyes. Rose is depending on me, and I won't let her down, no matter how appealing Rafe is.
Jen Frederick

Bestselling author Jen Frederick lives with her husband, child, and one rambunctious dog. She's been reading stories all her life but never imagined writing one of her own. Jen loves to hear from readers so drop her a line at jensfrederick@gmail.com.

Jessica Clare

This is a pen name for Jill Myles.

Jill Myles has been an incurable romantic since childhood. She reads all the 'naughty parts' of books first, looks for a dirty joke in just about everything, and thinks to this day that the Little House on the Prairie books should have been steamier.

After devouring hundreds of paperback romances, mythology books, and archaeological tomes, she decided to write a few books of her own - stories with a wild adventure, sharp banter, and lots of super-sexy situations. She prefers her heroes alpha and half-dressed, her heroines witty, and she loves nothing more than watching them overcome adversity to fall into bed together.


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