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enemies to lovers

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:  An Unlikely Union by Shannon Farrington

REVIEW: An Unlikely Union by Shannon Farrington

The Doctor’s Wounded Heart

Union Army physician Evan Mackay runs his ward of the Baltimore military hospital with tremendous skill but no warmth. He will do his duty by the Confederate soldiers in his care, but sympathy and tenderness left him after the death of his brother, a Federal soldier. So why can’t he stop himself from warming to his beautiful, compassionate, unapologetically Southern nurse?

Two years of war have shown Emily Davis that the men on both sides of the war need all the comfort and care they can get. And that includes a stubborn, prickly Scottish doctor. As Evan opens his heart to Emily, she can only hope he’ll let her fill it with forgiveness…and love..

Dear Ms. Farrington,

Ever since reading the first book in this series “Her Rebel Heart” last year, I had kept you and the series in the back of my mind, hoping that it would be revisited. Several secondary characters were introduced and given unfinished backstories – something that tends to gnaw at me when I’ve enjoyed a world that an author has created. I was happy to see the next installment offered at Harlequin and hoped questions would be answered as their lives were explored.

An-Unlikely-UnionIt’s two years after the first book and the horrific battle of Gettysburg has flooded the city of Baltimore with the injured soldiers from both sides of the conflict. Emily Davis and her friends have worked at the military hospital for over a year, slowly earning the trust of the medical staff for their dedication to caring for whoever needs their help and for their growing skill as nurses. Only one doctor refuses to overlook the issue that none of the women signed the Oath of Allegiance without altering it. But then they’re Baltimore rebels as far as Evan Mackay is concerned and he doesn’t care that anyone knows it.

Evan lost his younger, soldier, brother to the conflict when the townspeople rioted against the Federal troops who were in the city in 1861 and then lost his wife to childbirth after he had volunteered to join the Army Medical Corps. He views his time in the city as being in prison with rebels, resents caring for the very men who have raised arms against their country – though his dedication to his profession ensures the care is the best he can offer – and loathes Baltimore and all its Belles.

Emily feels drawn to nurse those in need regardless of their allegiance though she’s honest in refusing to sign an Oath that would require her to potentially deny aid and succor to her childhood friends who fight for the South. Dr. Mackay might be the best surgeon at the hospital but his prickly bedside manner and coldness towards Southerners holds him back, in her opinion, from delivering the best care she knows he’s capable of. But she’s going to “soldier on” – forgive the pun – in killing him with kindness just to prove she can.

So we have another excellent conflict set-up that goes beyond any little misunderstandings. Evan views this city, its citizens and Southerners as the people who took his brother from him and are probably only a hair’s breath away from rebellion against their government. He’ll treat ‘em but he doesn’t have to be nice while doing it. Emily supports the US Constitution, abhors slavery but still resents the fact that Baltimore and Maryland are occupied and her people treated with suspicion.

I felt the issues were well laid out, pertinent, and compelling. But after a while, I got tired of being beaten over the head with Evan’s issues. He’d take a step forward and then a step back in resolving things. At the end of every scene, he’d still seethe with anger. At the slightest hint that his suspicions were correct, rage would continue to boil up inside him. Emily meanwhile made slow but steady forward progress. By increments she realized that she was viewing Evan unfairly, that God loves everyone even if we don’t, that her faith urged her to change in how she interacted with Evan – namely that she couldn’t just do lip service to praying for him, she needed to really mean it. I could see her gradual change while it took a “Saul on the road to Damascus” suddenness for Evan to change. I can understand and accept both speeds of change but having to watch Evan get mad, get (slightly) over it, get mad, rinse and repeat got repetitious.

The romance seemed to me to flow directly out of the change in the characters’ faith. As Emily tried to pray for Evan to be at peace, she began to see him as the man he was unencumbered by bitterness and grief. Her change in heart seemed a gradual shift over the course of the book while it took Evan a while to get beyond his viewpoint of her as a society Belle his grudging admiration for Emily’s nursing skills. Again, once he had, his change, acceptance and growing romantic feelings quickly blossomed.

I did enjoy seeing Sam and Julia again and the evidence of their happy life so far. Their inclusion here felt necessary to the main story at hand. A few other characters appeared and I hope that one couple in particular will feature in a future novel. The tension in occupied Baltimore still remains as well as the divided loyalties of this “neutral” state. I wish more of the story focused on the awful fact that the Emancipation Proclamation hadn’t freed the slaves of Maryland yet but perhaps that is for a future story. I’ll keep checking the offerings at Harlequin to find out. B-


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