Review: Sugar Daddies by Jade West

This book was another recommendation from a Facebook readers group. I prefer menage romances considered M/M/F rather than M/F/M, in which an equal relationship also exists between the two men rather than both focusing on the woman. In this case, two bisexual men in a gay relationship decide to invite a woman to become part of their lives but use a “sugar daddy” dating app rather than finding someone more organically. I enjoyed both Carl and Rick for their drastically different personalities and the evident love between them. I adored Katie as a character for her strength and independence; I’m always going to appreciate a woman who fights for her dreams, even if some might find her alternative methods distasteful. (I promise there is nothing offensive in this book, only incredibly sexy.)

However, this is a romance novel, so the characters don’t immediately get to ride off into the sunset together (I’m allowed to use that metaphor because Katie is very much a Horse Girl). The immediate wrench in the works is how Carl is already connected to one side of Katie’s family, in combination with how her estranged father manipulates her into working for his company. This puts Katie under Carl’s supervision, but I loved how this was not the cause of the book’s drama. Despite Katie’s young age, both characters are professional and mature about the situation. The involvement of Katie’s half-sister in this aspect of their lives does cause drama that poor Carl has to deal with, but he does his best by both Katie and her father because he cares for both of them. This novel’s external plot’s resolution was satisfying on multiple levels because “happily ever after” doesn’t always have to be specifically about a romantic relationship.

Though I’m not sure I will be jumping into any other Jade West books immediately, this stand-alone novel was enjoyable, engaging, and sexy in all the right ways. Highly recommended for readers in search of solid menage stories, especially if they are current or former Horse People themselves.

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: Werewolves of Chernobyl by K.A. Merikan & L.A. Witt

I enjoy both these authors and the recent miniseries about Chernobyl on HBO, so this book pinged my interest when I stumbled across it. While I lean toward vampires rather than werewolves in my paranormal romance tastes, the premise intrigued me immediately. The human character, Quinn, annoyed me at the beginning. He starts a bit of an idiot, but he grew on me throughout the narrative based on his care of the two men he’s fallen in with, Dima and Nazar. On the other hand, the authors do an excellent job of portraying the almost alien society of the Chernobyl “bodarks,” from how they interact with each other to how they connect with the outside world.

This is a book where potential readers should read the trigger warnings. However, as established in my previous reviews, I have no soul. While I side-eyed some elements of the developing relationship between Quinn, Dima, and Nazar, it makes complete sense based on the context developed by the authors for their version of werewolves. It also appears to have some interesting differences from the werewolf paranormal romances I’ve read previously. I found myself thoroughly enjoying the changes in the previous relationship shared by Dima and Nazar, from the stumbles in communication to the two men’s ensuing happiness. I did not enjoy, as much, the characters’ interactions with the rest of the bodarks, who were pretty much all cookie-cutter caricatures of “alpha-holes” with a side of rapey-ness.

The climax (no pun intended) of this book centers on the relationship dynamics rather than following through on the set-up of Dima and Nazar truly taking their futures into their own hands (paws?). The sudden happily-ever-after epilogue was a bit jarring but enjoyable nonetheless. I would enjoy a follow-up story or novella that explores more of Dima and Nazar growing into their independent identities outside of the bodark pack structure.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Author Interview with J.K. Knauss

One of the best things about being an “indie” author is having the ability to re-brand yourself or your works whenever necessary. Check out the gorgeous new cover for J.K. Knauss’ Seven Noble Knights in celebration of her relaunch with Encircle Publications! Below, I’ve also included an interview with the author that has previously been run on this blog, but I hope new readers check it out.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Spain, 974. Gonzalo, a brave but hotheaded knight, unwittingly provokes tragedy at his uncle’s wedding to beautiful young noblewoman Doña Lambra: the adored cousin of the bride dead, his teeth scattered across the riverbank. Coveting Gonzalo’s family’s wealth and power, Doña Lambra then sends Gonzalo’s father into enemy territory to be beheaded, unleashing a vengeance that devastates Castile for a generation.

A new hero, Mudarra, rises out of the ashes of Gonzalo’s once great family. Raised as a warrior in the opulence of Muslim Córdoba, Mudarra must make a grueling journey and change his religion. Then, he chooses to take his jeweled sword to the throats of his family’s betrayers. But only when he strays from the path set for him does he find his true purpose in life.

Amazon | Goodreads


Spain is not a common location for European historical fiction, considering the proliferation of fiction set in medieval/renaissance England and France. What drew you to tell a story set there instead?

I’ve inexplicably loved Spain since I was about ten years old. The four years between that and when I was “allowed” to start learning Spanish were the longest of my life. Some people say I was born in the wrong country. Something about the beauty and uniqueness of Spain latched onto me and never let go. If I start talking about what’s great about Spain, I may never stop!

Continue reading “Author Interview with J.K. Knauss”

A Year in Reading: 2020

As usual, I set my Goodreads Reading Challenge for the year to 50 books. That’s about a book a week, and combined with novellas and graphic novels, I usually end up with a final tally of around 100 books. Not bad. Makes me feel like something in my life is productive, and reading will always be my first love.

Then 2020 happened.

According to Goodreads, I read 282 books (564% of my original goal). I have three main excuses for such a ridiculous number.

  • For a good chunk of this year, I experienced massive hives on my arms and legs. Reading was one of the few things to absorb enough of my focus that I didn’t feel the need to scratch myself raw.
  • I’ve been permanently working from home since March. Fewer days commuting means more reading time.
  • Um, it was 2020. I didn’t bake any bread, but I had to escape somehow.

However, even 282 books isn’t quite right. As mentioned above, some are short stories, graphic novels, collections/anthologies, and novellas. I also joined Kindle Unlimited, which means that I abandoned a lot more books than usual after starting them, but Goodreads still marks them as “read.” Let’s see how the final breakdown shakes out.

  • January: 10 (4 abandoned)
    • A solid start for the year!
  • February: 4 (1 abandoned)
    • This is the month I got back into playing World of Warcraft.
  • March: 7 (1 abandoned)
    • Still playing lots of WoW…
  • April: 24
    • I started reading Jordan L. Hawk‘s entire back catalog, which includes lots of shorter novels that are part of larger series.
  • May: 26 (1 abandoned)
    • Still reading lots of Hawk books, and the end of this month is when the hives kicked in.
  • June: 23 (4 abandoned)
    • Hey, if I’m going to be reading so much, I might as well join Kindle Unlimited!
  • July: 39 (1 abandoned)
    • This is where things start to go a little bonkers, though a good number of these were novellas. I had book reviews scheduled on the blog out through November at one point, which is when I started combining series into single posts.
  • August: 5
    • The hives got a bit better, I started writing another book, and WoW ate my brain again for a bit.
    • Let’s be real: This is when I watched The Old Guard, absolutely fell in love, and decided to read all of the fanfic.
  • September: 4
    • Still writing a book (and still reading lots of The Old Guard fanfic).
  • October: 27 (4 abandoned)
    • I’m back on my Kindle Unlimited shenanigans. So many romance novels to read! Which is good when the world doesn’t feel like it might get a happily ever after.
  • November: 41 (2 abandoned)
  • December: 48 (4 abandoned)
    • Ending the year with a bang, I suppose. If by bang you mean lots of romance novels. Aaaand we’re going to stop following that metaphor now.

So, the actual number of books read in 2020?

258

Still a bit (okay, a lot) ridiculous. Especially keeping in mind that I reviewed the majority of these on my blog as well. (Find the full list of reviews here.)

Want to track how much I’m not writing reading in 2021? Check in on my new Goodreads Challenge here.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, this Kindle Unlimited queue isn’t getting any shorter.

Review: Permanent Ink (Art & Soul #1) by Avon Gale & Piper Vaughn

I will admit to being tentative going into this book based on the back-cover description. An age gap between two consenting adults doesn’t bother me, but I didn’t want or need a lot of angst related to Poe being the son of Jericho’s best friend. Luckily, the perk to everyone being an adult is that healthy communication abounds once the secret is out. I also appreciate that Poe’s dad was more concerned about his son’s emotional health than about the relationship’s existence. Supportive parents are fantastic.

Of course, a romance novel’s whole point is that getting to the relationship stage isn’t easy. In this book, I enjoyed the multiple stages of the journey. Attraction exists between Poe and Jericho on a physical level because they are each other’s “types.” Still, neither man is inclined to act on that attraction until they establish an actual sort of friendship. Jericho also does his best to maintain a professional distance due to his role as Poe’s mentor in the tattoo business, but this is still a romance novel, so the sexy bits win out over time. However, Gale and Vaughn have done such an excellent job with their character creation that the relationship’s strong basis implies a lack of trouble later.

Though this book’s premise treats Poe as a “kid,” and Jericho sees him that way due to their age differences, Poe is still very much an adult. He is also very much an adult of contemporary America, where the “traditional” routes to economic freedom no longer exist and using art as a path to success is not appreciated in a capitalistic society. Tattooing provides Poe with an opportunity for structure and success, but it’s not his passion. That’s okay because it’s Jericho’s passion, and relationships should not consist of matched sets.

I’m bummed that there are not yet any other books in this series, but I have a feeling I know who the next pairing will be. I look forward to reading that book when it is released.

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: Say You’ll Be Nine by Lucy Lennox

Like most people in the United States who don’t have a crafty bone in their body, HGTV is basically crack to me. No surprise, then, that I would dive into a contemporary romance featuring a fake relationship and a renovations YouTube channel (also, my parents are doing work on their house and I’m tired of looking at paint samples and pictures of lighting fixtures). Even better, I immediately fell in love with Cooper and Nine, even before they recognized that they had feelings for each other. Luckily, this book is light on the angst as Cooper and Nine quickly get their acts together in an excellent duo dynamic that I wish I could be following on Instagram for real.

I have previously complained in reviews that authors fear describing their characters outside the three obvious (gay, bisexual, and straight). I was delighted that Lennox broke this trend, as Nine discovers and identifies with demisexual and graysexual. And Nine is as far as you can imagine from a modern hipster kid who lives on Tumblr, which leads to excellent conflict within the story as Nine commits to his relationship with Cooper despite pushback from the well-meaning people in his life.

Nine is nearly too good to be true, and Cooper is both aware of this fact and appreciates it. Usually, the settled “gay” character in these friends-to-lovers romance variations doesn’t do much character development. However, Lennox shows us via Cooper how dreams don’t always jive with reality and that goals can always change and allow them to live their best lives.

This book is an excellent stand-alone romance with the perfect amount of angst, wonderful characters I wish I could befriend in real life (or at least follow on social media), and a perfect happily ever after. (I don’t even mind how cute the dog is.)

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

December Wrap-Up & January Goals

Hey, we did it! If you’re reading this, we survived the train wreck that was 2020. I sincerely hope that your loved ones fared as well, and that we all do much better in 2021. I’m keeping expectations low and assuming that I’m in for another year doing a lot of reading and playing video games from home, especially since I don’t expect to be in line for a vaccine anytime soon. We’re not out of the woods yet, so let’s ease into January quietly, with no sudden movements.

The final TARDIS haul for this year (Christmas and birthday) was thanks to my “Secret Santa” from the larger family exchange. However, my favorite gift of the season, hand’s down, is the Scythian labrys designed and 3D-printed by my spouse (with the help of coworkers) in the style of The Old Guard. It’s only about the length of my hand, so it’s proudly displayed on my desk rather than added to the sword collection. When I showed it off on Twitter, using the movie’s hashtag, Gina Prince-Bythewood (the director of the movie) liked my tweet!


December Wrap-Up

  • My original plan was to add at least another 10k words to Steel Legacy, but that didn’t happen. Oops?
  • The house project mostly got completed, though! (The last bit is up to my husband, so there’s little I can control there.)

January Goals

  1. Let’s try again for that 10k words to Steel Legacy!
  2. I also have revisions to make on book 6, Steel Justice, to return to my editor!

In Case You Missed It

Book Reviews


Poor Alex. Always on the naughty list.

Review: Wrecked Series by Kelly Fox

Sanctuary (Book 1)

I’m a former military brat and current military spouse. I spent over a decade as a medical editor in rehabilitation, which included a focus on prosthetics. I hesitated over reading Sanctuary because I know I can be picky about books with either of those themes, much less combined. I’m so glad I decided to dive in; I ended up binge-reading this entire series in a single weekend.

I instantly fell in love with Nick and Elijah, along with the fantastic cast of supporting characters that ensure the central pairing doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There’s nothing better than found family, especially when everyone is open and supportive about their own and others’ sexualities.

A very different sort of sparks flew at this couple’s initial meeting. This usually means a roller-coaster of a ride to get to the happily ever after, and this book was no exception to that rule. I could quibble about the lack of communication between the men at certain points in their relationship, but both had reasons to hold back until external elements forced them into full honesty.

Even better, the ending isn’t really an ending because I still get to check in on these characters throughout the rest of the series. I wish I could be a client at Wrecked, and not just because of all the hot guys! Not only is the romance in this book heartwarming, but also the gym’s excellent vibe that comes across so clearly in Fox’s writing

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.


Surrender (Book 2)

It’s fun to meet two characters on a collision course in one book and then get to watch the dramatics right away in the sequel. While I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about Jean-Pierre as a romantic hero, I knew I would adore sexy, snarky Jake. (If I could be a client at Wrecked, I’d definitely be more into yoga with him as the teacher.)

This pairing might be a match made in heaven, but both characters have gone through hell. Each man experiences post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) based on events in their pasts, which means getting together in all the ways they’d prefer for their relationship is a metaphorical minefield of potential triggers. The road to their happily ever after is fraught in all the best ways because Jake and Jean-Pierre desperately want to do right by each other, but even when it’s sexy as hell, it’s not easy. (I’d probably also have stuck with talk therapy if I could visit Jake’s therapist.)

Side note: Fox reveals in her author’s note at the end of the book that she also experiences PTSD and wanted to explore that in her characters. As an author who tortures my own fictional babies by inflicting my anxiety disorder on them, I am fully aware of the strength that can take. I appreciate all authors who share my efforts to de-stigmatize mental illness through their work.

The exciting finale might come as a bit of a surprise to the type of series Wrecked is purported to be, but it more than fits with the full cast of characters Fox has created in her world. It also connects this book with her slightly more hardcore spin-off series—so much so that I powered through the rest of these books so that I could get to it! I look forward to seeing Jake in both series as they move forward.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.


Crash (Book 2.5)

Note: At the time of writing this review, this story is available as a free download from the author’s website.

Most of this book depicts a scene from Surrender, but from a different point of view. It’s just as amusing and sexy and romantic. I’m not one for “insta-love” stories, but Ivan and Benning are absolutely delightful, so I rolled with it. The ending made me laugh out loud, and while I’d happily read a longer-form version of this story, it’s also perfect as this deliciously sexy short.

Do I also definitely want a story about Ivan’s three roommates? Yes, please.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Goodreads.


Shameless (Book 3)

Most of the time, relationships aren’t easy. They wouldn’t be nearly as much fun to read about if they were. In this book, Roly and Heath have the added baggage of a contentious and adversarial relationship in high school. Roly’s efforts to befriend Heath as an adult would be adorable if it weren’t also poignant and incredibly flawed. However, the resulting shenanigans (especially the inevitable hate sex) are hilarious and embarrassing for everyone involved.

Both protagonists of this book have a steep learning curve for accepting each other into their lives. Heath must learn to see past the harm Roly did to him as a teenager and get that Roly has changed—for the better. However, “better” is always a work in progress, and Roly is not the shining paragon of virtue he could be. He continues to run from his past through vaguely self-destructive methods, despite how much his found family encourages him to take care of himself first.

When Roly’s past suddenly arrives to beat some sense into him (literally), Fox once again shows the worst of military service’s aftereffects with care and sensitivity. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often go hand-in-hand. Fox also does not shy away from depicting Roly’s past rather than merely telling the reader what he experienced. That level of visceral storytelling makes the happily ever after for both men so much more worth it.

Side note: I’ve been reading M/M romance fairly regularly for close to 4 years. Shameless is only the second contemporary romance in all that time to feature characters on PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) to prevent HIV. I’m passionate about this topic due to my day job, and I encourage all authors and readers of this genre to learn more about PrEP at the CDC’s website on PrEP.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.


Covert (Book 3.5)

Note: At the time of writing this review, this story is available as a free gift for signing up for the author’s newsletter.

Enough clues are scattered through this series’ main books that I was not surprised by this one’s premise. Morris is a cantankerous jerk, but this story humanizes him with its peek into his backstory.

I don’t want to spoil too much with my review, but I love how the reveal came about. I also appreciated the reminder that the ability for people on the queer spectrum to live their authentic lives is still a relatively recent development in the United States (and still fraught for many).

However, Morris and his Maggie are living their happily ever after, and it’s lovely. I highly encourage readers who enjoy the main series to get their hands on this supplemental novella.

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5) stars.

Review: Pendulum (Kingdom of Night #1) by Joel Abernathy

I made it a goal to read more M/M books written by male-presenting authors, and this trilogy looked like a great choice that featured lots of my favorite things in the paranormal romance genre. On the plus side, this book was well-written, and it was easy enough to get swept along in the plot. However, certain less-than-realistic elements continued to jerk me out of the story. (The term “realistic” can be contrary to the genre, but even a book with werewolves who run a BDSM club can suspend a reader’s disbelief through world-building. And basic research can tell anyone that the weather in Washington State is significantly different on opposite sides of the Cascade Mountains.)

Setting aside the overwhelming ridiculousness of a club exclusively for gay men that draws a crowd of hundreds from a small college town, even Remus’ own life gave me cause for side-eye. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed him as a character and protagonist. But even after ridding himself of an abusive, controlling relationship, he continues to fall into the same patterns with Sebastian and Victor. I understand that change is difficult, but Remus’s interactions with his two supposed love interests made me sigh more in frustration than swooniness.

I thought that the conflict regarding Remus and his two werewolves would involve a bit less “which one will he choose??” That’s on me as a reader and not a mark against the author’s storytelling. However, this story’s final climactic moments were so epic that returning to drama between the two brothers afterward was less than appealing. When Remus does evolve as a character, I found that I’d rather follow his adventures without the romantic elements.

Plenty of readers would probably enjoy the world-building and relationship drama established in the first book of this trilogy. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them.

Rating: 3 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.


At this time, I have no plan to read the other two books in this trilogy.

Holiday Letter 2020

December 2020

Dear Family & Friends,

Hanna, Erik, and the three cats have successfully managed to stay healthy throughout the shenanigans brought by 2020. We are fortunate that both of our jobs ensured continued employment, and while Erik continues to work in-person on his military base, Hanna has been working full-time from home since March. We keep all of you in our thoughts and hope you never hesitate to reach out if there’s anything we can help with.

Hanna still works with [redacted], where she is a medical editor focusing on HIV and LGBT healthcare. Working from home has meant an increase in dying her hair fun colors. This past summer, she published a revised version of her first novel (Steel Victory) with additional bonus features and a special hardcover edition. After a single local convention last February, all other in-person events were canceled, but Hanna participated as a panelist for multiple virtual events. She looks forward to when she can travel again for both of her jobs, but for now, she happily spends her extra time reading and playing video games.

Erik continues to take classes towards his Bachelor’s degree in Networking and Cybersecurity with [redacted] online program. He works full-time at his National Guard base in IT infrastructure. Last February, he testified before the Maryland state legislature to support tuition assistance for all Maryland Guardsmen. Along with video games in his free time, Erik tries to watch every possible rocket launch online, especially SpaceX launches. With his social circle limited to coworkers, he has helped them with multiple home projects, including renovating an entire kitchen.

We welcomed a new member of the family last summer in the form of a Tesla Model Y. This is Hanna’s primary vehicle, aptly named the TARDIS. A brand-new car soon after release has brought its share of problems, but we love being a fully electric household. Both of the Teslas live in our newly finished garage (paint, cabinets, epoxy flooring), the major household project for 2020.

The cats are a happy and healthy 11 years old, and we were fortunate to have another year with no health issues. For regular cat pictures and to stay up-to-date on Hanna’s writing news, sign up for her monthly email newsletter. We’re looking forward to spending the holidays at home in Maryland, along with a safe and happy 2021.

Love,
Hanna & Erik