Review: The King’s Dragon (Fire and Valor #1) by W.M. Fawkes and Sam Burns

[This was one difficult for me to rate. I think I may have rated The Amulet Stone by Mason Thomas too low. If I had rated that one higher, I would likely have rated this one higher too. I been reading a lot of fantasy this year, so it’s difficult not to compare them all even though they are all very different.]

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

When King Edmund dies, Reynold becomes king. After several decades of peace and prosperity, this starts a cascade of events that will see the kingdom of Llangard in a more precarious position, and many uncertain who is friend or foe. Reynold’s cousin Tris is well respected at the castle, but hides his nature, afraid it will endanger his life. Bet, the king’s assassin, has his own secrets, and is a huge part of shaping the events at court with well done action scenes. As political machinations, ethics, and morals drive them apart, their long held attraction also pulls Tris and Bet together. Theirs is the main romance, if you can call it that. While the sex scenes are explicit, they are not titillating, just used for character and plot development. I would say the relationship is part of the book, not the point of the book. Tris is such a likeable, character with more depth as the book goes on. It’s quite the feat to make me feel sympathy and empathy for an assasin. For all the characters, their complex loyalties are twisted and tested until they find there is a difference between what is right, and what is honorable.

Since this is the start of a series with a full cast of characters and multiple points of view, it will require some attention to detail. While the various points of view help layer the world-building throughout the story, they also make it more difficult to get very attached to any one character. The heading for each chapter tells where the point of view starts, but be prepared for a change in points of view between scenes. Other important points of view besides Tris, Bet, and Reynold include: Reynold’s sister Gillian, Rhiannon and Hafgan as visitors to the castle, Sidonie as the King’s guard, and Prince Roland. As the Prince is nine, I am glad not too much time is spent with his point of view, but I did find it age appropriate.

Without giving too much away, relations between the dragons of the Mawrcraig Mountains and Llangard are contentious from a war fought long ago. Still, the kingdom relies on the dragons to turn back invaders from the north, and the dragons expect to be left alone. They want to improve their situation so a dragon goes to meet the new king. They may have been a threat to humans once upon a time, but they have no greed for human lands. Yet, dragonkind won’t stay hidden in the mountains forever. People of Tornheim are encroaching in the mountains. Usually a nation of tribes that don’t work together, something may be changing as they are growing bolder. The Torndals may also be creating intrigue to move against Llangard. While there is an elf in this story, the reader doesn’t know anything about the elves at all at this point. Too much care has been taken to set up this world and its politics for it not to have a much larger story arc coming. Even though this story, as it is, has a satisfying ending, there are four plot points left dangling to build upon.

If there was a stumble, I would say it’s in the development of the relationship between Sidonie and Rhiannon. They barely spend any time together at all and attraction alone between strangers wasn’t enough for me to believe how their plot point develops, even though the end is so, so good. The scene between Tris and Hafgan also seemed forced and too soon in their acquaintance for that level of exchange. There are dragons that are introduced near the end, but there was not enough done to make me intrigued by them. I would expect the next book to feature more about them and their culture; I welcome this as I would love to have their points of view too. I’m just saying dragons are written into relationships where time wasn’t taken to build them, or introduced briefly to position them for the future, rather than to add to the story already in play. This is an ambitious, action packed fantasy adventure that carries the reader merrily along. There is magic, elves, dragons, and plenty of historical lore, which may or may not be fact–every side has their own view of war, after all. My only concern is the next book will need a lot of world-building also and I hope there are more intimate scenes (like with Bet and Roland, or Tris and his mother) between the characters so I can check in with them more emotionally, rather than those getting lost in all the politics and plot twists that I intellectually enjoy. I look forward to the next book to see where everything goes, especially because the authors have made me a bit bloodthirsty and have proven they’re not afraid to surprise and delight.

Cover art © 2019 by Natasha Snow Designs. The cover is so striking with Tristram front and center, which is as it should be since he is the rallying point and glue that holds things together.

Order here:

Universal: http://mybook.to/thekingsdragon

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07XC67S95 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/47945724-the-king-s-dragon

Book Details: Kindle Edition, 295 pages
Published September 26th 2019
ASINB07XC67S95
Edition Language: English
Series: Fire and Valor

 

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: The King’s Dragon (Fire and Valor #1) by W.M. Fawkes and Sam Burns — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Arctic Heat by Annabeth Albert, Frozen Hearts 3

 

ArcticHeatcover
Cover art made by Carina Press.

I would rate this 4.25 stars.

Although the third book in the series, this can be read as a standalone with no issue. Owen is a former investment banker. After a bout with cancer, he has decided to volunteer alongside park rangers in the Alaskan wilderness. There are little glimpses of his Asian family home life. His illness has made him less shallow, more willing to have fun and try new things. As a professional ranger Quill has no interest in a green city slicker volunteer but his best friend and partner Hattie has a new desk job and he can’t do his job alone. Quill hates change–set in his ways he is a private man. Owen is a people person and has the experience needed to slot into Quill’s work, and life, if Quill will let him. Owen needs to recognize some things might be more important than his bucket list. Even for people with a lot of snow experience, this is a dangerous job. If they can learn to trust each other, they can both have everything they didn’t know they wanted. This is a slow burn, opposites attract story that ratchets up the sexual tension over several months out in the wilderness together.

I like that Owen is a take charge, independent man who doesn’t take help because it’s easy, but will ask for help or listen when he needs it. I like that he is honest about how he feels and what he wants. I like that he is thoughtful, that he never takes charge in a way that would be taking advantage of Quill. Being privy to Quill’s past experiences is necessary as he doesn’t always communicate that with his words, whereas Owen will. Most of this book is about Owen battling his own wants and needs–confronting his own past traumas and unhealthy learned behaviors. Quill also accepts responsibility for his decisions, never blaming Owen for them.

This book focuses on the delicate dance of shared intimacy moving them forward, and different life experiences holding them back. The most difficult part is Quill battling the hyper-masculinity he was taught and learning to let Owen be a real partner and take charge when it’s the best thing to do instead of fighting it because he thinks he should. Owen’s cancer isn’t just mentioned once as a plot reason for this volunteer experience; it’s discussed naturally throughout the course of the book, both to explain its mental affect on Owen’s outlook, and as something a lover of his would need to know and understand. Every time I started to feel a little cabin fever, there is some emergency or situation with park visitors to break up that monotony. All the things that happen emphasize the effect of learning to live in the now and enjoying the ride. That’s when Owen’s POV is the most poignant, when he realizes this is not just fun and games to him, that things happen that can’t be planned for.

All three of the books in this series show how people think themselves into a box. I love it so much when they allow themselves to think their way out of the box too. I liked how even with the circumstances, things are not magically fixed, conflicts not glossed over. The sex scenes, always hot, ramp up as the intimacy turns them into something more. Yet, Quill’s eloquence was still a little too smooth all of the sudden, the epiphanies and big gesture a tiny over the top. Still, if that’s the only real fault I can find, that means this is a really well done, solid romance novel with likeable characters that I wanted to find happiness together.

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Review: Hearts Under Fire (New Amsterdam #1) by Kelly Wyre

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

When two Doms meet in a bar and are enamored with each other…someone has to submit or they need a third. There are plenty of books like either of those scenarios, but this is something more nuanced. Clark owns a Bar named Glow, but is also part owner of a BDSM club and has a nebulous side job working for Lucien that isn’t entirely explained. Daniel is a college professor and professional Dom. The awkward dance really begins as Clark tracks Daniel down and invites him to visit the club for a possible job and membership. When the characters start acting differently than the way that had already been established, the care given as both characters unfold in really unexpected ways, just because of each other, was great to read. The key is that their reactions to each other are different than their reactions to others, so this goes serious very quickly.

With the way their first night happens, they actually have to talk about it–still no one uses the words switch or vers. Not everything has to be labeled or put in a box. The answer for me is…Clark will refer to Daniel as Sir occasionally in this book, but Daniel never calls Clark that, so that’s all I need to know. Arguably there is very little D/s at this point in their relationship, but there are power dynamics that are fluid. They tend to naturally flow in and out of fairly mild “scenes.” There are several explicit, beautifully written sex scenes, but a tad too many “Oh, God” and “Nnngh” moans. These guys are vocal and they do like to talk during sex. The hurt/comfort trope is maximized here in a way that doesn’t seem forced or exploitative. Be aware there are flashbacks from Clark’s time in the service. Daniel has had his own trauma and loss. The story does switch points of view between them, however I noticed that it’s usually in the vulnerable POV during sex, yet not during the sharing of trauma with each other. The times when Daniel lets himself be taken care of are some of my favorite parts–him trusting Clark and relinquishing control doesn’t change who he is. They hold a safe space for each other.

The book is broken into two parts. I felt like the romance was established enough in order for this next part to work. There is foreshadowing, but I was still shocked. It is one of my own worst nightmares, so it was very difficult to read. The reader will be in Daniel’s POV for a very traumatizing event. I appreciated the aftermath of the event being focused on, the other people affected by the violence, not just the relationship. I felt the action sequences were well done and believable. However, it’s also in the last quarter where it goes off the rails a bit for me. As Clark’s boss, friend, and one of the club’s co-owners, Lucian’s behavior towards Clark may make some sense, but it doesn’t make sense for Daniel, whom he had just met. It’s distracting because the reader knows Clark has known Lucian for years, but has not been shown that relationship for more than a few lines. I realize I might be in the minority about this, but with Daniel being a police insider and Clark heavily involved in elite politics…the privileged ending and special treatment was a bit off-putting to me instead of romantic. However, I think this book establishes a comfort level and trust for a real BDSM relationship to develop over time while they are an established couple in a way other books miss when they rush to play with equipment or just expect the sub to be vulnerable to a dom who has never reciprocated. This is a new to me author and I found this erotic romantic thriller to be more thought provoking than most in its genre.

The cover design was done by Natasha Snow. It’s a bit generic, but along with the title should let the reader know a bit of what to expect.

Sales Link:  Amazon

JMS Books

Book Details: ebook
Published January 17th 2018 by JMS Books (first published July 1st 2011)
ISBN139781684311729
Edition Language: English
Series: New Amsterdam

 

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Hearts Under Fire (New Amsterdam #1) by Kelly Wyre — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: The Witchstone Amulet by Mason Thomas

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

What helps makes this successful for me is that Hunter is well established as a character, and the reader is immersed in his POV, before anything extraordinary happens. Hunter’s choices, based on who he is as a person, lead him to another realm after he follows a thief stealing his mother’s brooch. This is a typical portal story of moving between worlds, but it’s very well written. Thrown into action in the enemy territory of the Heneran lands, a tense truce is formed between Hunter and the thief Dax as they try to survive. Once they are near out of enemy territory, Hunter meets the Rebellion forces–a ragtag band of people living in a camp in the wilderness and gets thrown into politics against the Crown. As the setting shifts to the capital city of Andreya, he learns more about his new world and how to survive in it. His world crumbles as he starts to question everything he thought he knew, including about his own mother. I felt like I was getting pulled in and figuring things out more quickly than Hunter, which is a clever way of getting the reader invested.

There are really only four main side characters that help the reader to more emotionally connect with the story and move in along in different ways. Glimpses of the rebel leader Quinnar are intriguing. Is he a good man? A good leader? Or does he just want power for himself? Because it’s Hunter’s POV, I was never really sure. It’s always welcome to have a strong, capable female character like Zinnuvial. Uri’s situation is played for sympathy, but I found it frustrating. Corrad at first comes off as a mean bully, but thankfully is a bit more nuanced than that in the end. The most interesting character is always Hunter. Because there isn’t another POV, and the story is focused on developing Hunter and the actual plot, I felt like I didn’t know Dax as well as I would have liked.

Hunter makes a good everyman; but he makes an even better hero. The character is written in such a way that there was always meant to be more for him, for his life. The author works hard at making this believable: that a modern man from Chicago could end up learning to flourish in a more difficult and brutal time without having grown up with the knowledge and skills everyone else would have. Hunter proves himself to be adaptable and able to listen and learn when under duress. The actions scenes are well written, helping to continually build the tension until the satisfying final confrontation. His relationship with Dax is a slow burn from enemies to lovers. Even after the sex, it only clicks into place when Hunter proves how clever, brave, and capable his is–making him a great match for Dax, someone Dax can really respect. It’s only when I thought back about the story that I realized in only takes place within a very short period of time, which lessens the believability. Then, there is the final chapter, which gives the happily ever after, whilst still leaving room for a new adventure as Dax and Hunter look to the future. It is clear there have been atrocities on both sides of this war and it will take time to right wrongs, so the story between the Humans of this world and the Henerans could go in many directions.

Cover Art: Tiferet Design. Rich and interesting, it absolutely works for the story and character.

 

Sales Links:

Dreamspinner Press |   Amazon

Book Details: ebook, 293 pages
Expected publication: August 27th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
Original Title: The Witchstone Amulet
ISBN 139781644055311
Edition Language: English

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: The Witchstone Amulet by Mason Thomas — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Ignite (Unbreakable Bonds #7) by Jocelynn Drake and Rinda Elliott

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

In this series the first four are a unit with a shared plot, the fifth is a wedding, the sixth is a misstep adventure (in my opinion), and this one is more related to the spin-off, Ward Security. In fact, if you haven’t tried the spin-off series, this might make you want to as it highlights all the characters.

While everyone in the group of friends is getting married and starting families, this book focuses on Rowe and Noah’s relationship and what they want. They would know if they actually talked about it honestly. It takes an old Army buddy and former lover of Noah’s showing up for them to acknowledge all the things they don’t know about each other, which is a major source of tension in the book. I found the balance between the personal interactions and the action sequences really well done. The love scenes between Noah and Rowe are always hot, and as they deepen their relationship they get hotter. Although Rowe stews in his own jealousy juice, Noah never does anything to make him feel that way. This is not really about JB, he is just a catalyst for moving them forward.

The other source of tension is intrigue with mercenaries and government agencies linked back to a traitor during their time in the service. JB shows up after the other two guys in their unit are killed. With someone gunning for Noah and JB, Rowe wants to get to the bottom of who is behind the murders and why. He doesn’t want to lose Noah like he lost Mel. There is only so much vigilantism most people can take before the good guys are the bad guys, so this uses creative ways to walk that line, until there is very clear evidence and they are on a sanctioned mission. With all the gun violence in the news lately, it seems wrong to have fun while people are shooting each other and blowing things up…and the authors do acknowledge that, but anyone familiar with the series will be used to the gallows humor and coping mechanisms involved. Now that Rowe and his people are on the CIA’s radar, I wonder how Ward Security will change. Will Rowe be allowed to keep turning down Black Ops work as he has since Mel’s death? I’m not sure having everything just go away moving forward is believable. He has also mooted expanding Ward Security, possibly on the West Coast to work security for Hollywood types. These seem like two very different moves forward in different directions so I suspect another spin-off series.

This is classic Drake and Elliot in top form. I do feel like this was a Ward Security book rather than an Unbreakable Bonds book, but does it matter? No. This is a fun, sexy action adventure with likeable characters and a brief check-in on old favorites.

The cover art by Stephen Drake of Design by Drake. It is eye catching and matches the mood of the book. I am not sure what it has to do with the story. There are grenades and some bombs, a lot of fire power, but not in largely populated downtown areas like this photo.

Sales: Amazon

Book Details: Kindle Edition, 230 pages
Published July 26th 2019
ASINB07V4VYWCN
Series: Unbreakable Bonds

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Ignite (Unbreakable Bonds #7) by Jocelynn Drake and Rinda Elliott — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Intoxicating (Elite Protection Services #1) by Onley James

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

I like my erotic romances with some depth and this fit the bill. There are many triggers in this book so please pay attention to the tags: past and present abuse, off page rape, self harm, flashbacks, alcohol, drugs, and suicide attempts. Of course, this all means the hurt/comfort trope is quite strong. Wyatt is full of pain from parents who don’t know what love means; he is acting out recklessly in his hopelessness. Lincoln is hired by Wyatt’s father as a babysitter for him during the Senate reelection campaign.

Much of this story takes place in a fish bowl of forced proximity. The attraction is immediate for both of them and while a misunderstanding keeps them apart for a little while, once that is gone there is no stopping the lust from boiling over, even if it all seems like a horrible idea, bound for heartbreak all around. As an erotic romance, the sex scenes are plentiful and smoking hot if light Daddy play is your thing. My heart hurt for both of them pretty quickly. Linc’s usual scenes and after care haven’t prepared him for actually caring for a boy of his own. He is in denial about his PTSD from the service and glosses over his own childhood abuse. Wyatt’s never had a man care for him at all, in any capacity. This is completely dysfunctional, but at least Linc understands that. Linc is an intimate witness to Wyatt’s life without his consent; it is Linc’s choice to share his life with Wyatt in return. With this dynamic, I wonder if anyone who showed Wyatt affection would have sufficed. Still, the moment that it becomes less about play and more about making love, the sex is real including the fear, communication, and humor.

The pacing is fast due to the feeling of racing against the clock. This has an expiration date, not just because of the senator’s campaign, but because this bubble is not sustainable. There are thankfully some interesting supporting characters involved: Linc’s boss and former service buddy Jackson, Graciela the housekeeper, Charlemagne or Charlie as Wyatt’s best friend, and Wyatt’s grandmother Violet. Charlie has the largest, much needed role as support for Wyatt when he can’t support himself. Some might criticize her for not doing more, but I think she did what she could whilst not humiliating and outing Wyatt against his will. When he makes the choice to change his circumstances, she protects them all. I admit Linc and his sister’s circumstances make no sense to me: caring for someone who hurt, neglected and abandoned them over someone Linc is falling in love with seems like a fake box to put him in. Neither does Wyatt’s situation make a lot of sense: if at 22, Wyatt is so abused and mentally screwed up that he can’t get out of the situation with his father, then he is not fit to be anyone’s partner. There are two scenes where Wyatt shows he can be supportive of Linc also–enough to give me some hope. With all the angst I had to wade through, I would have liked to see the epilogue expanded to show more of the happiness a romance brings to the table. Their kinks and childhood traumas match enough for them to bond, but I do wish there had been a bit more as to why they would work as a couple in real world circumstances for a more believable HEA.

The cover design is by We Got You Covered Book Design. This doesn’t have anything to do with the story. This model is a bit more built than I pictured Wyatt and less built than I pictured Linc. The tagline makes this seem more about discipline or BDSM, which doesn’t match the flavor of this book at all.

Sales Links: Amazon | Universal Link 

Book Details: ebook
Published July 12th 2019 (first published July 8th 2019)
Original Title: Intoxicating
Edition Language: English
Series: Elite Protection Services

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Intoxicating (Elite Protection Services #1) by Onley James — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Enough by Matthew J Metzger

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Jesse is a firefighter with a huge lack of self-esteem. He seems to think the only thing he has to offer is sex. His first boyfriend is a teacher named Ezra. They’ve been together for 8 months and he is meeting Ezra’s conservative, Catholic family for the first time. Then, he meets Ezra’s ex-boyfriend and things start to go really wrong.

This book is more about Jesse’s journey battling his past demons and fears while learning to trust Ezra and himself. Erza has his own family issues. If Ezra’s mom is awful, Ezra’s sister is a true horror. At least Ezra’s mom has a moment in here where she redeems herself in the hospital. I don’t want to give you more of a spoiler than that, but while the book blurb tells you the whole plot, it also doesn’t give you the depth of what you are getting into here. The family issues are not magically solved with everyone an accepting happy clappy group at the end. I found this very realistic.

One issue that is used well at the beginning as a plot point is Ezra’s ex-boyfriend Liam. He is a foil and catalyst for some of their most conflicted moments as a couple. Yet, at the end, he is just dropped. I am of two minds about that. On the one hand, he is finally relegated to where he actually belongs in regards to his importance in their lives. On the other hand…did he just give up? If so, why did he give up? Did he finally back off because Ezra actually has a boyfriend, or was it something else? Did he no longer want Ezra? That would make him the biggest douchebag of all time under the circumstances, and contradicts how Ezra describes him.

Most of this is about those moments when dating turns into love and now the couple have to rip themselves open to each other to let that someone in. Seeing behind the curtain to see if they can be a real couple that shares the good and bad is part of the battle. Jesse learning his worth is a major part of the plot, but I was not totally happy with his epiphany moment. For me, there could have been some tweaking to let the reader know Jesse understood his value as a man: not just a firefighter or because Ezra loves him, and not just because he stayed. Still, the scenes between them are sexy and meaningful. There is never a doubt that Ezra is his whole world. It’s touching when he finally sees and believes that he is Ezra’s whole world too. There is a lot of time that passes in this novella so the reader gets to see when Jesse trusts himself to be himself, and trusts what Ezra tells him. I have to say I am starting to really like this author.

The cover art by Erin Dameron-Hill. I have to say I like the color choices. The hoodie is even reminiscent of fire gear and the blackened room shows Jesse’s nightmare landscape. I did picture him a bit bulkier due to the size difference with Ezra.

Salels Links: Pride Publishing | Amazon

Book Details: Kindle Edition, 192 pages
Published July 9th 2019 by Pride Publishing (first published May 22nd 2014)
ASINB07S7HXDXK
Edition Language: English

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Enough by Matthew J Metzger — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Craving’s Creek by Mel Bossa

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

The blurb to this book really captured my attention. The story, seen through Ryde’s point of view, takes place over 15 years and is broken down into three main parts. The first part shows Ryde’s intense attraction and focus on his neighbor Alastair. The reader gets to see the juxtaposition of Ryde’s supportive, though neglectful family and Alastair’s strange and scary religious upbringing. Then, this gut wrenching tragedy happens taking away all their youthful hopes and dreams. The second part shows Ryde’s life fourteen years later. Surveying the landscape is bleak as Ryde hits rock bottom when his selfishness, pain, and grief become more important than his love for anyone, even Alistair. Meanwhile, seeing Ryde again makes Alastair realizes his life is not what he thinks it is. The third part of the story deals with them both trying to put their demons to rest and move forward. This is where most of the hurt/comfort trope plays out.

For this 2019 edition, the author has mentioned she “really toned down the drama” from the 2015 version, which boggles my mind since I cried several times while reading it. This book has a very high angst level with themes of rape, sexual abuse, mental illness, PTSD, addiction, religious fervor, and betrayal. It is stark in its depiction of what Ryde’s whole family has lost. Ryde’s best friend Sheryl is fighting her own battle since she made the decision to let Ryde drag her down with him.

I am of two minds about this book. Obviously, it was well written enough to affect me so deeply. There is so much nuance here to complex issues like religion versus spirituality and coping mechanisms. Watching Father Masson wrestling with his own conscience about what is best for Alastair is compelling. Father Cornwell, as Alastair’s spiritual advisor, shows the bad side of the Church in wanting to control the situation, or save his soul, rather than do what may be best for Alastair’s mental health. There is certainly a compelling argument that he should not have been allowed to take his vows. Through it all, Alastair never losses his Faith in God, even when he loses faith in the Church.

I think the main flaw of this book is the subtle implication, even after apparent rewrites, that love can cure mental illness, trauma, and stop alcoholism. Ryde’s sobriety is nearly instantaneous. Alastair almost never shows any sign that it isn’t all about him except for asking about Ryde’s nightmares. Their one attempt at sexual intimacy ends disastrously. He warns Ryde he may never be able to have sex, but I’m not sure Ryde actually thinks that might be true–his focus on the physical rather than the mental issues here is astounding. A lifetime of trauma can’t be solved in a few months of once a week therapy or even after one huge breakthrough. Going back to Craving’s Creek seems just thrown in for the dramatic affect.

Shared history and trauma are important components to their relationship, but in the end it can’t be the only thing that keeps them together. There is not much here to convince me they can live together on a daily basis and navigate normal life yet, so I would argue this is a HFN rather than a HEA. Still, the book ends on a hopeful note of catharsis as they move towards their futures, finally together, with Ryde much more able to cope with the reality of Alastair than his 17 year old self would have been.

The cover design was done by Written Ink Designs. This is not how I pictured Alastair at all. The picture does signal that religion will be a main theme and shows the place that is ground zero for what happens to them.

Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble |  Kobo

Book Details: ebook, 224 pages
Published June 29th 2019 by JMS Books LLC (first published August 18th 2015)
ISBN 139781634869560
Edition Language: English

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Craving’s Creek by Mel Bossa — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Warm Heart by Amy Lane, Seach And Rescue 1

warm-heart-search-and-rescue-1-by-amy-lane-
Cover Art © 2019 Alexandria Corza http://www.seeingstatic.com/

I would rate this 4.25 stars.

This is not a typical full length Amy Lane novel; it is part of the Dreamspun Desires line and has to fit into those parameters. This is like reading those romances with the red covers when I was younger–you know, the ones with blazing heat you can get a subscription for and can read in about four hours? My rating is for what it is, rather than what it isn’t. Mallory is the finance guy hired by Tevyn’s grandmother Missy five years ago to take care of his financial future for when he retires or gets injured. Tevyn is a professional Olympian level snowboader. He’s young and has fun with whatever guy or gal catches his eye. With Tevyn being a client as well as a bit of a player, what chance does a ten years older, built for monogamy guy like Mal, have? Turns out, he has a really good chance and maybe Tevyn has only been biding time until he can have the man he really wants. Of course, now Tevyn has his own reputation to overcome. As Missy lays dying and a snow storm rolls in, their lives will change forever.

An emergency can draw people closer and tell you who they really are; Missy’s decline and the crash are just catalysts that allow them to be real about the things that matter. The reader knows right away they are in love with each other. In fact, everyone may know but them. With the author’s writing style, having both points of view enhances the story. Tevyn knows snow and emergency training from working at resorts. Mallory is the sensible, dependable one who is used to calculating risk so even though completely out of his depth, he is an asset to the team as they try and survive. Tevyn stepped up to show he is not a kid and can be a mature partner for Mal. Even though he is older, Mal lets Tevyn take the lead and as this dynamic kicks into place, so does their relationship.

The other great character here is the pilot Damien, who is badly injured when their helicopter goes down. Damien is former military and now works for a rescue outfit. Having Damien there adds a layer of depth that keeps this story grounded, ensuring that the crash is not an excuse for them to just be alone together or focus on sex. Don’t worry, there will be some steamy sex also but this is heartwarming and romantic. After such a traumatic event Mal’s business partner and friend, Charlie, tries to be the voice of reason about Tevyn, but the reader already knows there is no need. Still, it’s good he has someone in his corner.

Amy Lane is known for a bit of angst, but in this shorter format, I didn’t feel it. Even with the harrowing circumstances and the grief, the overwhelming notes here are of life and love. After five days where the survival details sounded plausible–the way they are rescued is not. I will say the end got a little too saccharine for my tastes, almost to make up for any of the actual realism. I really did enjoy this though and hope Damien gets his own story soon.

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Review: Arctic Wild by Annabeth Albert, Frozen Hearts 2

Arctic Wild Cover
Cover made by Carina Press

I would rate this 4.25 stars.

This is the second book in this series, but can be read as a standalone without any issues. Rueben’s best friend Craig, the spouse of a colleague at his law firm, has talked him into finally taking a vacation for his 48th birthday. Unfortunately, his friends cancel, leaving him alone with his guide. This trip wasn’t his idea and he doesn’t want to be in Alaska. It takes time for the scenery and companionship to grow on him. After Rueben unplugs from his phone and laptop, he is grudgingly starting to have a good time, and flirt with his guide. Tobias may be a smooth talker, but he has hidden depths behind his charming personality and quick smile. He also digs out his ethics and doesn’t sleep with his client when he has the chance. By the time the plane crash happens, I was already hooked on both these characters. Tobias is devastated his injuries might keep him from helping his sisters and his dad. He has little choice but to accept help from Reuben while he recuperates. The crash mades Rueben question his future and what he wants out of it. He vows to spend more time with his 14 year old daughter Amelia. What could go wrong with renting a house for the summer for all three of them?

For a relationship guy like Rueben, who likes to care for people, to agree to a summer fling is rare. For a hookup guy like Tobias to be friends with, and basically live with someone he’s having sex with, is equally unusual. I liked watching them both learn more about themselves. It’s not the age gap coming into play so much as the fact that this is Tobias’s first real relationship; he is not used to dealing with sharing his feelings or burdens. It’s also the first time he has prioritized something he wants for himself. Tobias’s father is such a large influence on him and his thought processes, that it takes him time to navigate through his inner conflict. Rueben hasn’t had the best luck at relationships, learning to put his job first because it gave him most of his sense of self worth. He has to work through breaking old habits–relearning to prioritize his daughter over his job, his life over his work.

This had all of the great writing, depth, and hot love scenes I would expect from this author. This book had an expansion of characters without making them flat or sacrificing any of the love story for the main characters. I thought the interactions with their respective family members all rang authentic. As a long novel, this really takes its time to immerse the reader in details about the activities, scenery, and characters. I found the plane crash to be realistically described while actually adding to the character development, rather than only as an excuse to trap the MCs together. This has some great tropes: opposites attract, fish out of water, age gap, slow burn, hurt/comfort and second chances. I would recommend reading both of these and look forward to the third one.

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