Review: Hallowed Moon by Kelly Fox

Disclaimer: I received an electronic ARC of this novella from the author.

I had a lot of fun with this paranormal romance novella because it was a quick introduction to a fascinating new world with lots of possibilities. From the author’s note at the beginning, it’s obvious that Fox has close emotional ties with this particular setting, and her love of it shines through the intriguing paranormal world she has created with that inspiration. She also has a gift for dynamic characters who drag you into their lives, and Lazare is no exception. I thoroughly enjoyed the unique voice of his internal narrative, especially regarding his angst over a certain vampire.

Remy, on the other hand, is a pretty straightforward vampire character. He’s a bastion of the familiar in an urban fantasy setting on which Fox has set her unique spin. This characterization does not make him uninteresting in the slightest. Instead, he is almost the reader stand-in for how Lazare’s insertion in his life upends his current reality.

The fated mates trope is often a way for authors to justify “insta-love” between their characters. Fox twists the narrative so that this causes additional conflict between the characters on top of the circumstances in which they already find themselves. Though the happily ever after is inevitable for this genre, Fox doesn’t make the journey easy (she does, though, make it incredibly sexy). I can’t wait to see more of Lazare and Remy as a solid pairing throughout further stories set in this world and the larger scope of story already being hinted at.

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

Review: Breaking the Rules (Triskelion #1) by Jodi Payne & B. A. Tortuga

This book is the first I’ve read by either of these authors, and I immediately spent the next few days reading more of their work after finishing this one. I already knew going into this title that I enjoy romance that includes power dynamics and age gaps—the fact that this particular story is a “reverse” age gap was the initial appeal. I immediately fell a little in love with both Saul and Troy. In these two men and each of the secondary characters we meet along the way, Payne and Tortuga have created dynamic, fully fleshed characters who stand pretty strong on their own but are worth even more of the sum of their parts once they’re together.

The initial attraction between Saul and Troy slips into a lovely slow-burn romance that intertwines adorable “vanilla” dating with incorporating kinkier elements meant to enhance their relationship. The difference in their ages is regularly addressed but exists as more of a conflict than an actual barrier to their dynamic. Saul struggles with his lack of experience compared to the other members of Troy’s solidly established found family. In contrast, Troy has always existed slightly on the edge of this found family, indulging his needs outside the constraints of a “traditional” D/s relationship. Combined with Troy’s personal history, this status means that he and Saul end up discovering what works best for them together rather than one necessarily leading the other in either direction.

Their connection grows stronger on the heels of a health scare that might be the “dark moment” in a shallower romance. Instead, however, the true drama comes along with Saul and Troy finally understanding the reality of Troy’s connection with the above-mentioned found family and how their romance must support rather than supplant these already established relationships.

This book left me with a strong enough book hangover that I went to Twitter to demand to know that a sequel was in the works (since this book is advertised as the first in a series). Payne and Tortuga put me out of my misery, and I already can’t wait until October to find out what happens next with all of these amazing characters.

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

Review: Blood in the Water by Kate Hawthorne & E.M. Denning

Disclaimer: I received an electronic ARC of this book from the authors.

This reaction didn’t happen when I read the previous co-written books by these authors, but it turns out when you combine Hawthorne’s steamy angst with Denning’s sweet feels and add a healthy dose of supernatural…you get tears. Like, all the tears. They’re good tears, though, because Adrian and Chad are pure magic together. The connection between them is real and obvious, but the limitations of their circumstances mean they have to cram an entire lifetime into three nights.

This book is the first merman romance I’ve read, so I’m hesitant to critique much on that front other than thoroughly enjoying pretty much everything about Adrian. However, I do know my vampires. Hawthorne and Denning do an excellent job of picking which bits of vampire lore work best for the story and character they’ve created while remaining true to the heart of what readers expect from the trope. I especially love that Chad exists solidly within his human lifetime, putting him on equal footing with Adrian and still experiencing issues that haunted him before his “death.” The authors do something that I love even more here: They don’t shy away from the realities of Chad’s depression but do not glamorize the concept of a vampire who is done with “living” until someone comes along to save them.

Adrian absolutely does not save Chad. However, his brief presence does enough to upend Chad’s stagnant existence and give him something new to focus on. The sexy bits between these men are incredibly hot, but it’s the emotions they evoke in each other that will stay with me the longest. Chad is a precious disaster immortal, and Adrian is an optimistic bit of sunshine who indulges his ridiculous vampire’s biteyness. I certainly won’t spoil how they manage their happily ever after, but I promise that the ending makes up for the tears along the way.

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

September Wrap-Up & October Goals

Everyone should have a home away from home, and mine is apparently at my friends’ house near Atlanta, Georgia. Which means another road trip in the TARDIS! The spouse and I are down south again for few quiet days before a weekend at a fancy lakeside cabin with friends and board games (and alcohol). I could be at a convention this weekend, but the world is still *wild gesture* so this is a nice alternative. So, quick report this month before I return to my spot on a couch with my Kindle and a snuggly pupper who does not belong to me.

An attempt was made.

September Wrap-Up

  • Writing 50k words in September actually turned into writing about 10k words and reading a lot of books and building some LEGO. That’s still more words than I managed in the summer months combined, so I’m not mad about it.

October Goals

  1. Return safely home from lakeside cabin adventure.
  2. Write more words.
  3. Read more books.

In Case You Missed It

On the Website

Book Reviews

  • Hell’s Bedroom Series by Tanya Chris
    • Kitchen Sink Dom (#1) (5*)
    • Chicken Soup Dom (#2) (4*)
    • Upsy-Daisy Dom (#3) (5*)
  • Aster Valley Series by Lucy Lennox
    • Winter Waites (#0.5) (4*)
    • Right as Raine (#1) (5*)
    • Sweet as Honey (#2) (5*)
    • Hot as Heller (#3) (5*)
  • Only Colorado Series by J. D. Chambers
    • Only With You (#1) (4.5*)
    • Only See You (#2) (5*)
    • Only Need You (#3) (5*)
    • Only Keep You (#4) (4.5*)
    • Only Love You (#5) (4*)
    • Only For Us (#6) (4.5*)
  • Love Me Whole by Nicky James (5*)
  • Auctioned Series by Cara Dee
    • Auctioned (#1) (5*)
    • Stranded (#2) (5*)
    • Deserted (#3) (5*)
    • The Job (#3.5) (5*)
    • Played (#4) (5*)
    • Finished (#5) (5*)
  • Sparrow (Rebel Sky Ranch #2) by Kelly Fox (5*)
  • White House Men Series by Nora Phoenix
    • Press (#1) (5*)
    • Friends (#2) (5*)
    • Click (#3) (5*)
    • Serve (#4) (5*)
    • Care (#5) (5*)
    • Puzzle (#6) (5*)
  • “Sanguine” by Sierra Simone (5*)
  • Dual Surrender (Duality #2) by Kate Hawthorne (5*)
  • Spare Time (Trouble With Triads #3) by E.M. Denning (4.5*)
  • Head Games (Wages of Sin #3) by Onley James & Neve Wilder (5*)
  • Subtle Blood (Will Darling Adventures #3) by K. J. Charles (5*)
  • This is Not a Horror Movie by Sara Dobie Bauer (5*)
  • Aftermath Series by Cara Dee
    • Aftermath (#1) (5*)
    • Outcome (#2) (5*)

Alex has no concept of personal space.

Review: Aftermath Series by Cara Dee

This post includes reviews of the books in the Aftermath series:

  • Aftermath (#1)
  • Outcome (#2)

Aftermath (Book 1)

Dee once again emotionally wrecks her readers in all the best ways with this story about two men who never would have met under “normal” circumstances. Instead, they are thrown together as cellmates when kidnapped by a truly insane man and come to rely on each other physically and mentally through the ordeal. They find that this need to be close continues after they reach freedom, and what starts as a typical trauma bond resulting from their experience turns into something more.

We meet Austin and Cam after their kidnapping experience is over, but flashbacks (usually in conjunction with their PTSD-related flashbacks) cut into the story show glimpses of their prior experience together. In the present day, it seems like everyone around them is doing all the right things and that Austin especially has a perfect life to get back to. It turns out that his life might not have been so perfect after all, which makes how he gets closer to Cam relatively understandable compared to what the book description implies.

The focus of this story is very much on Austin and Cam and their relationship and not about their experiences while kidnapped. Any curiosity I felt in that regard was put on the back-burner in the face of the excellent romance arc. While I would never have wished their experience on them or anyone, at least they found each other in the aftermath.

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

Outcome (Book 2)

Aftermath is a book that doesn’t need a sequel, but I loved how Dee gives a check-in with how Cam and Austin are faring three years later while also giving closure to another man who shared their experience. Chase did not bond with his cellmate during the kidnapping, but he’s doing well enough in life, finally opening his own bar. But the past slams back into his life when he encounters Remy. Remy was not a kidnapping victim but was still a victim, of a sort, of the same man (Remy’s older half-brother) who took Austin, Cam, and Chase. Though unwarranted, Remy burdens himself with a share of the guilt for what the men went through. When that guilt is compounded with another personal tragedy, his downward spiral is nothing short of spectacular.

Luckily, he has good friends who do their best for him, and circumstance leads Chase to also desire to help the younger man. There is a slight self-serving purpose to it, as Chase is still seeking certain answers about his abduction. But he and Remy bond nonetheless, both emotionally and physically. They share complementary, if not similar, roads to recovery and both men struggle with understanding that they don’t need to bear their burdens alone.

Dee is a master at emotional ties, whether romantic or in the found family sense. As usual, her characters are dynamic and strong, even those relegated to more supporting roles. This is not a world that needs to be revisited a third time, but I highly recommend this duology to other fans of Dee’s writing and those looking for an excellent example of the “hurt/comfort” trope done right.

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

Review: This is Not a Horror Movie by Sara Dobie Bauer

Disclaimer: I am friends with the author; however, I purchased this book for full price.

I happen to know that the author spends time every year in Longboat Key, Florida. Her love for this place shines through the pages of this entertaining book, filled to the brim with sweetness, humor, and just enough touches of horror to appeal to horror and non-horror fans alike. I’m one of the latter, so part of me (like any good skeptic character) kept waiting for the realistic “truth” to come out. No spoilers here, but the actual truth is both perfect for the story told and just ridiculous enough to appeal to a vast cross-section of readers.

The same can also be said for the romance side of this book. Emory and Connor are adorable, both separately and together, and Bauer does an excellent job of building in their history so that the eventual relationship feels natural rather than like a rushed summer fling. Like Longboat Key, the actual secondary characters in this book are also incredibly dynamic and fleshed out enough to add genuine interest rather than serving as caricatures.

Bauer seeds this book with plenty of horror references and relies on obvious tropes to tell this story, then also completely subverts them. The surprises within take these tropes as inspiration but make them all the more delightful for the reader. I highly recommend this book to all fans of Bauer’s previous work, and while it made for fun summer reading for me, it would also be a treat for Halloween or any time of the year.

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

Review: Subtle Blood (Will Darling Adventures #3) by K. J. Charles

Read my reviews of the previous books in the Will Darling Adventures series:

In most series in the suspense/thriller realm, even as a subgenre, the overall sense of danger starts small and then grows larger to encompass a threat to more people. Charles subverts this pattern for the Will Darling Adventures, in which our heroes race to keep the blueprint for a deadly plague out of criminal hands in the first book but fight threats on a more personal level in the conclusion to this trilogy. In this author’s talented hands, the threat against a faceless mass becomes more personal as Will and his partner Kim end up fighting for their very future together. Narrowing in on this focus doesn’t diminish the excitement of this book but rather enhances how this reader cares about the relationship between our two heroes.

Speaking of our heroes, Kim and Will are just as ridiculous and sexy together here as they have been so far. Even more so, perhaps, as they have settled into a sort of relationship (as much as they can have in the book’s setting) that works for both of them. In true Kim fashion, of course, he has to throw a wrench into the works. Again, Charles plays with expectation by having said wrench not be another incident of Kim lying, either intentionally or by omission, but by speaking the truth we’ve been looking forward to all along. Unfortunately, this is where Will comes up against a wall. Our solid, unflappable hero for two books finally undergoes some long-delayed character development of his own when faced with a future that has nothing to do with war and bloodshed. This doesn’t sound terribly dreamy, but Charles is adept at pairing romantic heroes whose jagged edges fit together perfectly. While this book didn’t bring me to tears, I did have to resist the temptation to highlight so many beautifully written passages that evoked such a visceral response that I couldn’t help but care for these two lovely, flawed men.

Along the way toward their happily ever after, Will and Kim are dragged back into the dregs of a secret society they thought they’d vanquished. On the downside, this involves unfortunate proximity with Kim’s mostly estranged family and Will on the run from the police. On the excellently flip side, the lovely Phoebe and Maisie make a triumphant return to London to do what they do best – solve all the biggest problems while looking fashionable and enjoying a cocktail.

Overall, I adored this Gilded Age romantic suspense trilogy. Charles creates a brilliant ensemble cast that captured me from the beginning and stayed true to the era while also sneaking in some excellent nods to characters we’ve loved before. If you enjoyed the previous books in this trilogy, you shouldn’t miss the epic finale. If you’ve enjoyed other books by Charles, you definitely don’t want to miss this latest addition to her excellent body of work.

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

New Steel Victory fan art!

In his journey to finish his degree, the Spouse is currently taking a Photoshop course as an elective. One of the projects was to create an original book cover, and I demanded asked that he do one for one of my books!

I helped by selecting the images of Lauren Cohan (my fan cast choice for the character of Toria Connor), the stock photos of lightning that he incorporated, and the font choice for the title and author name. It might not be professional quality for publication, but it’s not bad for something pulled together on the due date. (Don’t tell the professor that bit.)

  • See the actual Steel Victory cover, along with full book info and buy links.

Review: Head Games (Wages of Sin #3) by Onley James & Neve Wilder

Read my reviews of the previous books in the Wages of Sin series:

A psychologist willing to act as a relationship counselor for a pair of self-proclaimed psychopaths is already an intriguing character to me, so I was hooked on Dr. Tobias Eastman from his first appearance in Play Dirty. Despite his client list, he was still way too chill with the events in that book, so I was thrilled to dive into his point of view here. Tobias may have started as a secondary character with a role to fulfill in the plot, but his encounter with Madigan and Azreal awakened him to an entirely new world. Some names on his client list are irredeemable, in his professional opinion, and he might as well do something about it. For the greater good, of course. (The fact that in another world, Tobias might be on his own client list is another matter entirely.)

This decision to act rather than passively listen puts him on a collision course with Madigan’s mentor Soren, drawn out of retirement by the events set into motion earlier in the series. Though Soren originally views Tobias as a slightly intriguing obstacle, Tobias’ first attempt at vigilantism offends his professionalism. After a bloody encounter, Soren finds himself with an amateur killer to educate while also keeping said baby killer safe from the local mob.

In direct contrast to the tight grip Tobias keeps on every aspect of his life, Soren is so laid back he might as well be horizontal. The romance arc here draws on multiple genre tropes, from opposites attract to forced proximity. But ultimately, Soren and Tobias are merely another pair of kindred souls who find themselves free to finally be their whole selves in front of another person without censure or judgment. Soren mentors Tobias in all sorts of new subjects (yes, that means sex) as they tackle their lists of names to cross off while also trying to figure out who has Tobias in their crosshairs (and why).

My favorite murder husbands, Madi and Az, make an excellent appearance toward the end of the book because Wilder and James have created a delicious greater found murder family in this series. It’s important to note that Soren may risk his life to rescue Tobias, and Tobias may be a novice killer, but he’s still quite skilled in other areas. Their relationship isn’t necessarily a pairing that makes sense on the outside, but it works for them, and the authors pack enough punch via both emotions and conflict to make the ride entirely worth it. I highly recommend this entire series to readers who love morally gray characters who show their love in unique ways (even when sometimes that means at the tip of a knife).

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

Review: Spare Time (Trouble With Triads #3) by E.M. Denning

Read my reviews of the previous books in the Trouble With Triads series:

Disclaimer: I received an advanced electronic review copy of this book from the author.

Denning saved the best for last in her trio of unique poly romances. Once again, she also presents a new arc within the context of this trope. This time, Ethan, Lucas, and Connor have never met each other before the events of this story, which means that each of them starts on equal footing as their relationships develop. None of them are looking for a boyfriend but are up for different levels of fun, so it’s fitting that love sneaks up on all three, and they end up with two boyfriends for the price of one.

One of my favorite elements of this book is that no time is spent on any angst or drama about the poly nature of their relationship, either internally or with any of the secondary characters. Denning also does an excellent job of balancing the conflict within each character’s life (especially for Lucas and Ethan) so that the seriousness is not brushed off, but the overall story doesn’t drown in angst. I actually got a kick out of how the youngest of the three, Connor, is the one whose life is the most “sorted” as Lucas deals with work issues and Ethan works his way through the aftermath of two unhealthy relationships.

I usually hate complaining that a book needs to be longer, but in this particular case, my only minor quibble is that I never had a good sense of the time progression between scenes (whether days or weeks). Denning likely wanted to keep the story focus on the triad, but I would have appreciated more context to see the three individual relationships between the men develop.

Overall, I had an excellent time with the individual stand-alone stories in this trilogy. Denning is always an author to turn to when you’re in the mood for nontraditional character dynamics and a delicious combination of heat and feels.

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