Review: Rebound (Overtime #1) by V.L. Locey

 

I would rate this 3.75 stars.

This is a spin-off starring characters introduced in V.L. Locey’s Point Shot Trilogy and again in Coach’s Challenge, Book 3 of the Cayuga Cougars series. You could read this on its own, but you wouldn’t love the main character as much as you need to for this story to shine. Victor, aka “The Venomous Pole” is the coach of an ice hockey team, married to the forward Dan, but when Dan gets sent up to the NHL, their settled life gets flipped upside down. This builds on all the trials they have faced as a couple and takes the story in difficult places, showing what many romances fail to–what happens after Happily Ever After. This is for those people that want to see what everyday love looks like, when two people repeatedly choose to stay together through thick and thin, blended family, health scares, separation, and alcoholism. I assume this will also be a trilogy also.

Because this book is told from Victor’s POV, expect rude, crass, angry and defeatist thinking. It’s also written in common vernacular. Besides having a traumatic childhood, he has brain damage from concussions and has named the worry wort voice in his head Igor. Victor is also in love with his husband, loves his 5 year old son, is working to forgive his dad, whilst also trying to maintain good relations with the mother of his son and her fiance. Sometimes he succeeds and sometimes Igor, or the cruel inner voice of his mother, wins instead and so he fails. One of the most difficult parts of the book is seeing him fall off the wagon. The other difficult part is feeling his worry over how to protect his genderqueer son from people’s meanness and judgment when Heather moves Jack to Louisiana. Jack is a huge part of this book with age appropriate dialogue.

While some of the decisions Vic made upset me, I understood why – because Dan, Heather, Brooks, and Gene all upset me more. There are hot, gritty sex scenes here, but I felt distant from Dan because Vic did. I didn’t like Dan’s response to Vic’s drinking. I also felt like this was just completely ignored afterwards. I applaud him for not participating in AA, as there are good science based programs out there, but he wasn’t participating in one of those either. I enjoyed his therapy sessions with Doc L and Professor T for the comic relief, rather than for seeing any actual type of support for Victor. He is still demoralized and depressed, although the book ends on an uplifting note of hope for him. It will be interesting to see Jack as he grows older, and that time when Dan (like all sports figures) can no longer play hockey–how will that change their relationship?

The cover design is by Meredith Russell. It communicates that is about hockey and shows a darkness I imagine Vic’s head is in.

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Rebound (Overtime #1) by V.L. Locey — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Starlight (Dark Space #3) by Lisa Henry

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

This is the third book in the series. While there is recapping through memories, I still think it would be difficult to start here. Without the emotional attachment to the characters built through books one and two, I don’t know why anyone would want to just jump into book three. Having said that, as much as I loved books one and two, this is really for those who wanted more closure than book two provided. The story drops the reader right into the action on Kai-Ren’s spaceship. The psychic connection is there between all the humans and Faceless onboard, but muted. All seven of the humans have been on the ship three months, sharing a room, and have still learned nothing about the Faceless. The ship is humid, damaging their equipment, their batteries are draining, and human food is running out. Just when I was wondering why this would be interesting, it got really interesting.

Chris and Brady have their moments of understanding. When disaster strikes, Chris really steps in as the leader here, which is understandable as he has always had an endgame, likely ordered by his superiors. Cam and Brady have their lovely intimate moments. Harry seems to spend the most time with Lucy, but I don’t feel like I know him any better. Andre is barely in this at all. Brady’s point of view is still fearful, angry, and anxious, but tempered from the previous books as he actively tries to be more grateful. His love for Cam and his growing belief in Cam’s love for him makes him less nihilistic. He wants to grow, to be a better role model for Lucy. His relationship with Doc has given him a father figure. He finally even has friends. This is a little repetitive, Brady’s thoughts looped into themselves and his existential crisis, his hatred of space, and his nostalgia. Still, if you are a Brady fan already, you should like this as he finally sees his own worth and what he brings to the table.

For me, the fear (terror really) of the Faceless seemed removed. Even though plenty of horrifying things happen, I didn’t feel it like I did in the other two books. Because of the Faceless that were not part of the hive they share with Kai-Ren, there were few moments the humans were safe, yet everything here felt muted, like their psychic connection. I don’t want to spoil the plot at all. I will just say that traveling on an alien ship in the hopes of learning about the universe and finding some weakness out about the aliens to give humans any sort of chance to not be decimated…didn’t go to plan. By the time they figure out anything useful, the book has turned into a disaster movie in space. The point of this book seems to be to give humanity some sort of triumph and to allow Brady to be brave, in many ways, in a totally Brady way. As much has been made about Kai-Ren and his rape of Cam, I feel like I need to say that it almost happened again…and I am not sure how to feel about it. Some people expressed that after the slow build of book one, the ending seemed rushed for a forced HEA; one could level the same criticism at this book also. I think everything happened exactly the way it needed to for the ending it had, even if beating all the odds was completely unlikely. Kai-Ren doesn’t control or rule all Faceless; he also is obviously not the only Faceless curious about humanity, so I am unsure about the ending provided. I enjoyed the book, but this is the weakest of the three, like watching Return Of The Jedi after The Empire Strikes Back.

The cover art by Mayhem Cover Creations matches the other two covers in the trilogy.

Sales Links: Universal Link: https://books2read.com/darkspace-starlight

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 197 pages
Published December 1st 2019 by Self-Published
Original TitleStarlight
ASINB07YN2GHWP
Edition Language: English
Series: Dark Space

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Starlight (Dark Space #3) by Lisa Henry — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Captivating (Elite Protection Services #2) by Onley James

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

This is the second book in this bodyguard series, written like the first with alternating points of view for each chapter. You could read it as a standalone or read it first, and then go back and read the first one if you want to know more about Linc and Wyatt’s story, even though this happens afterward. Elijah is damaged by past abuse and a Hollywood stage mom. Luckily his grandfather helps shield him for a few years before his death. The studio hires the security agency to protect Elijah after he’s attacked by a fan at a red carpet event. Enter Shepard as Elijah’s new bodyguard.

The book has something to say about actors as commodities, powerful people who act above the law, and mental health–although please know Shep’s diagnosis as a sociopath is a fictionalized version and not true to life. A conversation between Mac and Shep really illustrates how wrong in the head Shep is…so is it bad that I am on team Shep? Both of them are actors trying to blend in for their own survival, but the key to knowing why they work is that Elijah is a narcissist and hates uncertainty; once they are together, Shep makes sure he is certain of everything and is the center of his attention. I liked that the reader is never allowed to forget Shep is a sociopath. His pretending to be normal is always there. Elijah is sometimes surprised to be reminded life isn’t all about him and his dramas. He’s lucky to have Wyatt and Charlie as friends, but I wonder how well they really know him.

What I liked the least was the premise that Shep had to extract information from Elijah in order to help him. They are already exploring their sexuality together to find out what they like and don’t like. There seemed no need to make up this type of scenario just for the sake of a kinky scene with a child victim of rape. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t super hot though. The secondary characters didn’t add much here except for Lucifer, who though used as a foil, could have been more nuanced. I would like to see more of Shep’s twin brother. What I liked the best was Elijah taking back his agency and moving on with his life, letting the expectations of others go to do what he wants to do. Be prepared that this security agency all of the sudden turns into a vigilante group, so if you like your heroes wearing white hats, this might not be the book for you. This sets up the couple needed for the next book. There are many tropes here to enjoy: age gap, voyeurism, first time, and hints of Daddy with some topping from the bottom. Really it’s more that Shep runs everything except the bedroom, which is left to Elijah. This is an entertaining, over the top, revenge story that has sexy, albeit dark moments.

The cover design by We Got You Covered Book Design matches the first in the series. It shares the shattered glass image, signaling the books are about damaged lead characters, but adds the film to be a representation of Elijah and the industry he works in. The colors are bright and eye-catching.

Sales Link: Amazon

Book Details: Kindle Edition
Published December 4th 2019
Original Title: Captivating
Series: Elite Protection Services

via A Chaps Moondrawn Review: Captivating (Elite Protection Services #2) by Onley James — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Unfettered by Kate Hawthorne

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Heath is a 39 year old Sub who has suffered past trauma with his Dom. When he meets 24 year old Beau on a dating app, they have more in common than he could have imagined. With their first date, the dynamics slot into place nicely. Having Heath’s point of view creates a nerve-wracking tension, while having Beau’s point of view cements his confidence and maturity. The author creates a nice push and pull. This gets intense on the second date with Heath telling Beau about his ex. Beau handles Health’s abuse well throughout the relationship. Once Heath finds out Beau is a student, and in a class he is subbing for, things get complicated. On the one hand it’s taboo sexy, on the other hand it’s wrong of Beau to put Heath in this position as his Dom. I think that is why the author makes it Heath’s decision to out them to a colleague Michael. But then it’s just dropped with no mention of the ethics of Heath grading Beau’s work at the end of the semester.

One focus is on Beau’s five half brothers and that family dynamic, yet I can’t figure out if this is only to try and give Beau more depth, or if they are added so the author can make this a series and give them their own books. Of all the brothers, Cameron keeps pushing for a relationship with Beau and I’m not really sure why. Heath’s sister and her wife are also included, but considering he speaks to her daily, she is still not not given a lot of life. Michael is given the least to do even though he unintentionally plays a pivotal part. There is a plot twist with a big reveal, but that too seems glossed over: there is more emotional resonance coming from the postscript by the author, than the story she fictionalized about it. For me, I enjoyed Beau’s top drop and his crisis of faith in himself, yet his real emotions weren’t explored. At this point I successfully felt Heath’s frustration with Beau not trusting his own judgment. The reader is not really privy to how Heath worked out how to trust his judgment after what happened with Mac.

This is an erotic romance that basically goes from one hot, graphic, explicit and messy sex scene to another. They do build a relationship, but the dialogue gets stuck on awkward talk of family or Health’s job. I enjoyed the sex and there were moments I really liked the characters: it’s just that after being privy to so much of their intimacy, I still don’t feel like I know them very well from their own points of view. For instance, what does Beau want to do after he graduates? I have no idea. Their collaring and planning their lives together is romantic, it just would have been even more so if I would have been more emotionally invested. Think of this as high on kinky sex, and low on plot and character development with suprisingly low angst for the subject matter.

The cover design by AmaiDesigns shows a scene from one of their dates.

Buy Link: AMAZON 

Book Details: Kindle Edition, 261 pages
Published November 21st 2019
ASINB081FZPXX1

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Unfettered by Kate Hawthorne — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Two Divided by Zero (Zero Rising #2) by Jackie Keswick

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

This is the second book of the Zero Rising series, which gives more background about Jack. The first book in the Zero Rising series is named The Power of Zero, which is also the name of the series that was written first, but takes place after these novellas. While these are enjoyable on their own, and I think you could read them even out of order and suss all the important details, for best emotional impact I would recommend reading the The Power of Zero series first and then reading the Zero Rising series as the prequels they are meant to be. I look at this series as a thank you to fans. If you haven’t read anything else, you could still pick up these novellas to see if you like the writing style before you read the longer novels.

This shows some of Jack and Gareth’s time in the service through Jack’s flashbacks. Guilt causes Jack to leave the British Army early without a plan about what to do next with his life. Anyone who has read The Power of Zero series knows Jack had PTSD before he went into the service. Jack is having a hard time adjusting to civilian life, heck regular life at all. He has always just been trying to survive from day to day. Almost the whole novella takes place in Jack’s thoughts, so there isn’t as much dialogue. This is like a slice of life showing how Jack came to be who he is, which is a hacker working for MI6 whilst trying to get his PhD. Jack’s personal mission is about being a vigilante against child molesters and pimps as well as human traffickers. He sticks up for those who can’t stick up for themselves. These stories are all about Jack finding his path and the life lessons he learns along the way. So, if you are new to these characters, you can read these to get a feel for them, and if you are already familiar with them, these are icing in the cake.

The cover art is by Garrett Leigh of Black Jazz Design. It matches the first story in the series and shows a lost and struggling Jack. I actually really like it. I think it conveys his past and the darkness he sees in his work as well as his regrets and struggle to find a future.

Sales Links:   Amazon | Barnes & Noble |  Kobo |

Book Details: ebook, 174 pages
Published October 20th 2019 (first published October 2019)
ASIN B07Z1X6HCJ
Edition Language: English
Series: Zero Rising

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review:Two Divided by Zero (Zero Rising #2) by Jackie Keswick — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Nuts (Ace’s Wild #2) by S.E. Jakes

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

This series takes place in the same town, though each book is by a different author. Jagger and Preston meet on the first day of junior year after Preston gets punished for flunking out of several private schools and sent to a rough Boston public school. Although Jagger is from a family that skirts the law, Preston sees more kindness in them than his own blue-blood family. After being disowned Preston feels his only way to make something of himself is to go into the service. On his last leave a year ago he kissed Jagger…and then ghosted him. Now that Preston is out of the service, they will have to deal with what is simmering beneath their friendship.

Jagger is bi, but Preston clings to the idea he’s straight: allowing a gay for you/bi for you/out for you trope. There is also a M/F scene in this book. This is has many firsts for Preston: first time with BDSM, first time with a man, etc. There is very slight dubcon in that Preston doesn’t want to admit what he wants–he wants to be tricked or forced into it, which he is when Jagger wins him in a card game. Of course, that is Jagger’s friends setting them up, and Preston finding a way to act out to get what he wants. I found this was one of those books where I just got so frustrated because no one is honest and they don’t communicate until the very end, but Preston finds a way to act out and finally get what he wants. I do find that the Green Beret manly-man realizing it doesn’t make him weak to be submissive, is getting to be an over-used trope lately.

The big mystery here is Preston’s family, but ultimately it’s about control…and, as the reader finds out later, something more. There are secrets and lies that bind Jagger and Preston closer than Preston knows. Jagger has always had his eye on the prize, an endgame. The villians here are supposed to be the good guys. In a way this does glorify a family with mob ties whilst trying to have it have its cake and eat it too, as Jagger tries to go legitimate. This one sentence is a spoiler: everyone is being investigated by various alphabet agencies, yet no one knows about Preston co-owning everything?! Is that even possible?

This has all the feels, but it’s slow to start, quick to resolve and then over the top after a quick 180. It’s enjoyable, hot, even romantic in its own way (ride or die), but it could have been even better if it had been longer, in order to allow more time for the story arc. Also, it tries to straddle that bad boy line whilst still trying to make Jaggar noble – to mixed success.

The cover art design is by Sleepy Fox Studio. It does pertain to the story, but it just shows Jagger, so for me it doesn’t show a partnership.

Buy Link:  Amazon |  http://bit.ly/NutsSEJakes

Book Details: Kindle Edition, 118 pages
Published October 1st 2019 by Stephanie Tyler LLC
ASINB07YF8ZVVF
Edition Language English
Series: Ace’s Wild #2

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Nuts (Ace’s Wild #2) by S.E. Jakes — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Drawing The Prince by Kim Fielding, Stars From Peril 3

 

DrawingThePrince
© 2019 Alexandria Corza http://www.seeingstatic.com/

I would rate this 3.75 stars.

This is the third book in the Stars From Peril series. Although there is mention of Jaxon Powers and Landry Bishop from book one and two, this works well as a standalone. Cal Walters is a 23 year old artist who knows the right people. His insecurities about whether people buy his art because he’s talented or because he’s trendy due to his friends, has given him a little chip on his shoulder. Due to a bet with his friend Merc, he has to go on three blind dates. Third time’s a charm when he meets 28 year old Teofilo Vabriga-Kastav, playboy prince of the tiny nation of Porvunia and passionate art lover. Teo has insecurities of his own, never knowing if people like him for himself, or just want to be with him because of his family. He just doesn’t tell Cal he’s a prince…

The meet cute is actually, cute. I wasn’t sure about either character at first–Cal is standoffish and Teo is a bit too smooth–but their facades crumble fairly quickly. Seeing most of the book from Cal’s POV, at first he’s attracted to Teo, but not quit sure he likes him. Teo’s POV is used more sparingly to great affect. Seeing how Teo describes Cal and how Cal makes him feel hooked me into the story. He may be privileged and a bit spoiled, but he is actually a nice person and has a sincerity about him that’s surprising. Cal’s starting to develop that cynicism of living in California and being in the wealthy art scene, but he’s just a kid from Nebraska trying to protect himself. When Teo creates a painting competition in Porvunia in part to lure Cal there, they give in to their passions. Their intimate time is sexy, fun, and filled with laughter. Cal kids himself this is a one night stand, but they are already too taken with each other and he knows it’s more. Lying to yourself is difficult if you’re an honest person by nature. The dynamics here are fascinating as Cal’s in charge, even though he’s the commoner and younger. When his anxiety or fear gets the better of him in various circumstances, it’s Teo who steps in to help him relax or sort things out. They fit.

Teo’s family, his bodyguards, Cal’s friend Merc, Cal’s Gram, and other characters from the small town of Peril help move this along, but no one does more than Anita, his guide in the capital city of Velenik. She makes Porvunia feel more real with tours filled with fun historical stories. She is also loyal and proves herself to be truly caring of the prince and her royal family. This book is full of charming little details, whether of a foreign country, or of the Nebraska landscape, a thriving city or a small rural town. Still, it’s Nebraska that burns more brightly here when Con shares his home and all the people he grew up with, who have their own stories.

This really works through the opposites of being working class vs wealthy, an only child vs large family and having no father and absentee mother vs hundreds of years of extended family. Yet, their love of the arts united them. They have both had the benefit of fortunate fate and grew up having very little privacy albeit in very different fish bowls. When an emergency tears them apart, it would be easy to let life get in the way, to let it move them in different directions, but Teo is not having it. This is the point where, as farfetched as the story seems, it gets even more farfetched. For instance, Teo getting rid of his bodyguards when he should be worried about being kidnapped for ransom, or his rushing in and thinking he knows what a small town needs to “save” it. There is plenty of foreshadowing here to show the reader the way through. It’s sweet, and no matter how unlikely, I wanted it to happen just like that even if I didn’t know it at the time.

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Kim Fielding’s Website

Review: Hellion (415 Ink #3) by Rhys Ford

Rating:3.75 stars out of 5

This is the third book in the series featuring five brothers who own a tattoo shop together. The whole series has a strong theme of survival and friends as family, so they would have the best emotional impact if read in order, but there is so much recapping that it’s not necessary. This opposites attract story revolves around SFPD Detective Ruan Nicholls and tattoo artist Ivo Rogers. I have to admit I was looking forward to this pairing, so I enjoyed seeing how they first met. It’s not what happens plot wise that is the draw so much as exploring what happens when people put aside their learned behaviors of defense mechanisms and judgment.

While I like both of these characters, most of the words were spent re-weaving a world that was already built. A novel without a lot of plot could have really delved into getting to know Ruan’s partner Maite, or his friend and landlord Cranson, or his boss.

The prose is always beautiful and focused on observations: “There was a simple beauty in an older woman—a purity of the soul having settled down through life, a river-tumbled gemstone run smooth from its journey through the waters and over unforgiving rocks.” Yet, no one is explored with much depth, nor are any of the words used to layer in more information about the other brothers and move their story forward.

About 50% of the way in, it gets real as Ruan and Ivo connect, talking about their professions, which are their lives. Then it grabbed me by the throat and ripped my heart out. While this scene is powerfully emotional, it is a standout. Also, it is way too much, too early, for a couple barely dating who have seen each other a few times. It works because it’s what damaged people do: throw it all out there to see if the other person runs away. Ivo definitely gives Ruan one hell of a test when he shows up at the police station. My complaint is that Ruan don’t seem to lay himself bare as much as Ivo does, which means the reader doesn’t get to know him in the same way. Yes, the books are about the brotherhood, but the person each picks–their person–needs to be as fleshed out as they are. It gives you glimpses of Ivo’s and Ruan’s daily life and how they start to mesh them into one, but I didn’t live and breathe it.

To be fair, I have been really thinking hard about why I’m a little disappointed because I know fans of this series will love this. While I don’t like to compare books, it’s difficult when I just read Ramen Assassin by the same author and it’s just so much more entertaining. This gives a nice, romantic ending that I think will please everyone. There is a bit at the end dealing with James, so the audience knows whose romance is up next.

The cover art is by Reece Notley (reece@vitaenoir.com). The covers of the series are eye-catching with great models and have a unified look. This isn’t quite how I picture Ivo because of the hair.

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details: ebook, First, 240 pages
Expected publication: September 17th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781644056301
Edition Language: English
Series: 415 Ink

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Hellion (415 Ink #3) by Rhys Ford — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Repeat Offense by Jackie Keswick

Repeat Offence
COVER ART © 2019 Pavelle Art

I would rate this 3.75 stars.

Some of the ideas in this novella seem similar to the Dornost series by the same author. This starts with Taz’s first person POV after his death when he learns of his penance for dying before his and Hiro’s assigned time. I am using he/him even though I am not sure of Taz’s gender. They have to live out their lives apart–one as Human, the other as Guardian–until they can figure out how to be together at the moment of death. This is told through a series of vignettes that describe many of their deaths in heart wrenching detail. They learn what they are allowed and not allowed to do through trial and error. Hundreds of years of life changes them, but they find ways to keep each other from falling into despair. Hiro becomes more involved with each life, while Taz finds he prefers when he is the Guardian. I am still not sure if theirs is a romantic or platonic love. Life, even afterlife, is what happens while they are making other plans. The entire story is entertaining, focused solely on the two men. The hiccup, for me, was at the end. While I enjoyed this…I saw nothing of the Judges to make me believe this ending was plausible.

Jackie Keswick’s Website

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Review: Love Is All: Volume 2 edited by Xio Axelrod

LoveIsAllVol2
Copyright © 2019 by Xio Axelrod LLC

I would rate this whole collection 3.75 stars.

This is a charity anthology, so I tend to think of the stories as a thank you for donating money. All anthologies are a mixed bag and people will like different stories than I do, but here are a few of my favorites from this collection. There is a variety of combinations (M/M, F/F, M/M/F, M/F) with bisexual, trans, and ace represented. They are all contemporary except for the one historical, paranormal romance. The foreword by Roan Parrish is quite eloquent.

R.L. Merrill, Pinups and Puppies (F/F, 4 stars)

This is told from the first person POV of Marianne, who is struggling with grief and reintegration after her retirement from the Air Force. She owns a vintage plane and volunteers to transport dogs to help shelters who find them homes. That’s how she meets Dinah, who co-owns the shelter. They both seem to have great support systems filled with family and friends. With great chemistry, their lives and interests slot nicely together, making them a cute couple.

Susan Scott Shelley, Sugar Crush (Bliss Bakery Series) (M/M, 4.5 stars)

Jack, a horror novelist, gets to know a baker named Gabriel when he joins a softball team to help his friend Shane. This has an opposites attract trope with great sexual tension and friends as extended family. This is about fitting into someone’s life and making room for them to fit into yours–giving each other a safe space and carving out shared time, while still having their own interests. Also, not letting fear or the past get in the way of the future.

Xio Axelrod When Frankie Meets Johnny (M/M, 4.25 stars)

DJ meets contractor/teacher in this hurt/comfort tale with an age gap. This story is what you make it. I highly recommend listening to all the songs that he plays for a hell of a good time. If an artist is mentioned, but not a song, pick one that has a title that fits the scene. I would have rated this higher, but I couldn’t tell if this was Johnny’s first time with a man or he was demisexual? There is certainly a misunderstanding I think could have been handled better, but the story is charming.

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