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REVIEW:  Under Locke by Mariana Zapata

REVIEW: Under Locke by Mariana Zapata

Note: I wrote this review back in January and it is just now cycling up for posting. Previously, I had recommended it to friends on Twitter, Goodreads and Facebook. It’s been brought to my attention that this book may contain similarities to other books such as the Artist’s Trilogy by Karina Halle (which I’ve not read).

The main initial conflict of the heroine overhearing the hero, Dex, speak poorly about the heroine reminded me distinctly of the first meeting between Tate and Lauren in Sweet Dreams by Kristen Ashley. There is another scene in the book where the heroine goes to the villain and the villain obtains a kiss from her that causes conflict between the main couple later. This is a similar conflict between Brooke/Remy in Real by Katy Evans.

Karina Halle’s Experiment in Terror series contains a heroine who is a prodigal daughter returning home with no options and a hero named “Dex” and her Artists’ Trilogy has a tattoo parlor named “Sins & Needles” and Under Locke has a hero named “Dex” who owns a tattoo parlor “Pins & Needles”. Under Locke has a MC called Reapers which is the name of the MC group written by Joanna Wylde.

I emailed the author herself and she informed me she has not read any author named above but Kristen Ashley.

I didn’t see any line by line copying but similarities in plot points and characters. I thought a lot about whether to post this review but I figured I would, as I’d been vocal about it before but that I would add the note at the top so that readers could make their own judgment about it.


Under Locke by Mariana Zapata

Dear Ms. Zapata:

This book, like so many recent motorcycle books, draws heavily on the writing of Kristen Ashley. There are entire scenes and conflicts that are reminiscent particularly of Sweet Dreams and the main protagonists, Lauren and Tate. And like Kristen Ashley, this book is rather long. The Amazon entry says it is 900 pages and it’s more like 140,000 words or so. It could have been reduced by about 40,000 words and been a tighter, more readable, and less repetitive story.

Still, I enjoyed it even though there were problems with both the editing and the characterizations.   Iris Taylor moves to Austin after six months of unemployment, after her mother loses her fight with cancer and moves in with her brother Sonny.

Sonny is part of the Widowmakers Motorcycle Club (“Widows” for short) a lifestyle that her mother and father had warned her against for years. But he’s the only one who is offering a helping hand. Sonny also arranges a receptionist / officer manager job at a tattoo shop run by Dex Locke, another member of the Widows.

Her new world is imperiled when an outlaw MC decides that she and Sonny could pay for their father’s debts. Iris is drawn into the Widowmakers MC against her better judgment but finds that it is full of both drama and family.

Dex treats Iris with contempt and Iris overhears Dex calling her stupid to someone on the phone. This scene was pretty much Lauren and Tate’s initial interaction in Sweet Dreams. After Iris has worked for Dex for some time, he eventually apologizes after explaining to Iris that he has a foul temper and a worse mouth. Iris spends chapters not forgiving Dex, even after he apologizes repeatedly. I think the grudge was designed to keep up the conflict between the two but it went on far too long for my taste. Iris also engages in some really eye popping stupid behavior which she acknowledges in the text is stupid (but doesn’t refrain from doing it) and there’s an issue with her past medical history that implies she is somehow unattractive to the opposite sex which I found to be a fairly worthless storyline.

You can’t help but like Iris though. She sticks up for herself and tries hard.  Because the story is told from Iris’ point of view, Dex is somewhat of a mystery. He’s surly at first but he makes a concerted effort to win Iris over even if she is somewhat dense about his advances. It’s not entirely clear why Dex is so rude to Iris in the first place other than he believes her to be spoiled. Because we know that Iris is not spoiled and has a good heart, this misunderstanding of her intentions only serves to make us sympathize with Iris.

Iris and Dex’s story is a slow burn. For the first twenty-five percent, Iris really does not like Dex. She acknowledges he is attractive but he’s mean and she’s just not attracted to mean people. I liked that about her. I also enjoyed the relationship between Iris and her brother Sonny.  For instance, when Iris revealed how Dex had made her feel stupid, Sonny calls Dex up and chews him out. 

The group at the tattoo shop were a real family and each character, even though they only had a few scenes on the page, were well drawn. I loved reading about their interaction and their love for tattooing.

There were a few writing tics that drug down the story in places. She’d have the heroine spout off a spontaneous joke after about ten paragraphs of setup which undermined the moment. Further, the that’s what she said joke became old after the second use. It was the only joke Iris knew and she used that line repeatedly. In the book, everyone laughs uproariously whenever she says which caused me to roll my eyes. 

Overall if a reader enjoys a) a slow burn b) piercing and tattooing c) protective males and d) MC books then I think this would be a recommended read so long as she can overlook a few writing quirks and some irritating heroine behavior. C+

Best regards,



If other authors want to share their similarities

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REVIEW:  Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod

REVIEW: Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod


A love story in the vein of Almost French and Lunch in Paris, Paris Letters is a joyful romp through the City of Light, and an inspiring look at what can happen when we dare to create the life we want.

“How much money does it take to change your life?”

Unfulfilled at her job and unsuccessful in the dating department, Janice MacLeod doodled this question at her desk. Then she decided to make it a challenge. Over the next few months, with a little math and a lot of determination, she saved up enough to buy two years of freedom in Europe.

But she had only been in Paris for a few days when she met a handsome butcher (with a striking resemblance to Daniel Craig)—and never went home again.

A Valentine to love, art and new beginnings, Paris Letters is for anyone who has ever dreamed of leaving it all behind (or finding a Daniel Craig look-alike of her own).

I wasn’t sure just what to expect when I read the blurb for this book. A self help, a romance or a Paris travelogue? All of the above? But it did sound interesting and like a nice getaway from reality so I requested it from netgalley and got started.

Upon starting it I was reminded that the longest journeys begin with small steps. Janice has to set out what her life was like to begin with and why she wanted a change. After several soul sucking years in marketing – Americans, you can thank her and her colleagues for much of the junk mail you get every day – she began to reimage her life. But how to change? Keeping a journal and a blog to be accountable got her going and helped free her from what was keeping her from dreaming.

Once she had a goal in mind, it was hard work and a process of sliming her life and her belongings down to what would fit in one suitcase while saving every penny towards her goal of being able to say “take this job and shove it.” While I’m not ready to ditch everything I own, I found myself pondering what I could cut back on or down in my own life to get me closer to my goals.

With her job behind her, she began living her dream of traveling through Europe with the first stop in Paris. Egged on by a new friend, she ventured out of her shell to strike up a casual friendship with a handsome guy while discovering the joys and drawbacks of living in Paris. Ah, yes, it’s not all wonderful and should I ever visit the City of Light I’ll be a bit more prepared to dodge the pickpockets as I see the sights.

A bit more traveling behind her, Janice decides to return to her handsome guy and, as he invites her to, “see how it goes.” Before, she was just visiting but now she’s settling in and actually living in the city of her dreams with a guy who sounds almost too good to be true. Parisianophiles and romantics will probably enjoy this part best as through Janice’s letters to friends and subscribers, as well as her writings, we can discover the delights she finds there.

The decision to raise her living expenses by sending out subscription letters – her illustrated “Paris Letters” – is a dandy way to earn funds and one I would have never thought of. But it’s genius and a wonderful use of her creative writing and artistic talents. It’s also lovely to watch her burgeoning relationship with the delicious Christophe who picks the perfect time and place to propose to her.

Their struggles to get all their relevant paperwork together – first for Janice’s changed visa and then for their marriage is like watching a red tape bureaucratic horror movie. But as she says, someone’s got to provide a reason for all those government jobs and they did – finally – get all the appropriate stamps and translations to make everyone happy. I also learned that there are a lot of “Highlander” fans in France.

What I took away from reading “Paris Letters” is not really anything dramatically new. Follow your heart and dare to live your dreams but prepare for them first and yes, that means you must have enough money on hand so you don’t starve. Even if this just means cutting the cable TV cord – something I recently did myself – or if it entails dusting off your passport and heading to parts unknown, think about it, plan it and then do it. And if you choose Paris to go to, there are some great recommendations here to get you started. B-


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