Review: The Rivalry by Beth Bolden

Book Cover © 2019 AngstyG Book Cover & Media Design

I would rate this 4.25 stars.

Although there is a previous book (The Rainbow Clause), I can say with absolute confidence this can be read as a standalone, since I had no idea. This is the story of Heath and Sam, NFL quarterbacks on different teams at different points in their careers, who end up on the same team after a holiday fling that left them both wanting more. Moving from opposites attract to frenemies to love, as they navigate both their personal and professional issues, the book also changes from erotic romance to something more interesting and nuanced as the psychology of the characters is touched upon. I would describe it more as tension-filled rather than full of angst, since past trauma isn’t dwelt upon just addressed so that the leads can have a believable HEA.

That tension is stretched taunt at several points–the longing, that breathless feeling, the fear of discovery–all of which are palpable. I like how the author also breaks the tension, with some fun at Heath’s expense. Heath is endearing in his awkwardness; knowing his thoughts is crucial to liking him. Sam is actually the more emotionally mature of the two in some ways, even though he is younger. As much as Heath watches football film to find tells for rival plays, Sam studies Heath for his tells, finding ways to break down the walls Heath has spent a lifetime fortifying. Heath is the mind of the book, while Sam is supposed to be the heart; but Sam, while nice and fun, only becomes more three dimensional to me when he starts to play football. Their miscommunications are very realistic, as is their using past experiences to “fill in the blanks” and decide what the other is thinking. I really liked that Heath allowed himself to explore his sexuality and realize his need to see a mental health professional.

This may only be me, but for the first five chapters it was difficult for me to keep Frankie and Felicity straight when the POV flipped between Heath and Sam–maybe because they weren’t real to me yet as they hadn’t been introduced as characters. I still wish the best friends of the main characters hadn’t had similar names. I also found that even though the book changes POV between Sam and Heath, the book seems more skewed towards Heath, explaining him to create empathy for him and show his character development. Sam’s bits tend to be more geared to how his personal development helps his career development. So, it felt a bit uneven. Also, I know we sometimes want that big gesture, but here I felt it detracted from the team and their achievement–not a way to win over your teammates. Overall, I enjoyed this immensely. With interesting lead characters, heartfelt emotions, steamy sex scenes, and a good supporting cast of friends, this was an entertaining read with the right amount of football for fans and non fans alike.

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

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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Review: The Case of the Arms Dealers (Kanaan & Tilney #1) by Jenna Rose and Katey Hawthorne

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

This is urban fantasy with Elementals, Beasts, Psychogenics, Necromorphs, and Terrans living alongside humans without them knowing. John Tilney is an author wanting to shadow the PI, Lowell Kanaan, for help with research for a book. Lowell is willing to have a free office assistant, but is slow to let John really be involved with his cases.

Although told Lowell has “gritty, noir-detective glory,” he wasn’t actually physically described for awhile, so he was difficult to picture in the beginning. There is a good description of John as Lowell meets him, but not one of Lowell when the POV is switched. John is guileless, honest, and in some ways socially awkward, but certainly not shy. His directness and persistence seem to usually get him what he wants. He finally figures out he wants Lowell. Although self described as demisexual, he jumped right into sexual attraction with Lowell. The sex scenes are smoking hot. In fact, early on the plot was thin and with those scenes I thought it was just going to be erotic romance. Then, the actual cases start to be interesting.

A man reports his neighbor missing. As they look into his whereabouts, they notice others missing as well. The (supernatural) police aren’t looking into it. In fact, their other client is a women being stalked and the police don’t seem to care about her case either. Lowell is the real hero here, working hard once it’s clear there is something wrong, whether he gets paid or not. As the suspect list gets longer, this is no longer about John writing a book, but finding a killer. John and Lowell have fallen into a work relationship and a romantic relationship easily. When John’s life gets threatened and Lowell gets overprotective, the easy camaraderie falls apart. John’s contacts have helped with the case, but he’s not a PI. Lowell, as a former cop, is now unsure how to make this work. They use actual words to work it out–yay for communication!

The side characters aren’t really fleshed out yet: like John’s mother or his neighbor Macy, and Lowell’s friend Mina. The Zombie Mafia boss Tony was interesting, as was his right hand person, Serafina. There is also very little made of the fact Lowell is a Beast (lupine) and John is a Psychogenic (pyrokinetic). I’m hoping the next book expands these characters and shows us more about the praeternatural factions. I ended up enjoying this and wanted to know more about everything. This is a very good first book in a series and the guys are adorable together.

The cover was designed by Aisha Akeju. It’s striking and a clever play on “pounding the pavement” to look for clues, noirish but with color. The zombie hand made me laugh.

Sales Links:  Less Than Three Press | Amazon

Book Details: Kindle Edition, 204 pages
Published January 15th 2019 by Less Than Three Press, LLC (first published October 27th 2015)
Edition Language: English
Series: Kanaan & Tilney

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: The Case of the Arms Dealers (Kanaan & Tilney #1) by Jenna Rose and Katey Hawthorne — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: It’s Witchcraft by Cole McCade, Criminal Intentions Season 1 Episode 5

It's Witchcraft Cover
Cover Artist: Cole McCade Cover Design Template: Les Solot


I would rate this 4.25 stars.

This time the murder victim is named Logan, killed in a ritualistic murder. This is so guesome and sad. People who are lonely sometimes put themselves in unsafe situations. I can’t even tell you how disgusting and senseless it is. In this episode, the crime itself is still off center stage somehow. The episode moves foward in so many other ways with twists and slow reveals. We’re at episode five and already it’s so hard to review these without spoilers, I don’t know what to write.

Malcolm and Gabrielle wake up to a very angry Seong-jae staring at them. I have to say it is very difficult to not love Gabrielle. She really does know who Malcolm is. Since Malcolm has been on desk work, he has to have a physical assessment before going back on full duty. Seong-jae is taking this as seriously as everything else, but it’s an excellent opportunity to get some aggression out. Malcolm is a member of the same gym as Jason Huang, so the inevitable going a few rounds happens. As ever, Malcolm wants what he wants, while being obtuse about everyone else.

This is still mostly brushed shoulder, arm leaning, and some hugging, but emotionally Seong-jae and Malcolm connect. That connection will continue to be the most important thing. They open up to each other, but in a strange way that only makes sense for them. It seems quick, but it’s already such a dark, intense thing, I don’t see any other way for it to go. There should not really been too many surprises here because the author is good at foreshadowing and everything slots together nicely.

Malcolm’s one night stand stalker is back with an extra weird little scene which is only makes sense if he is Sila, or a red herring. This continues to be the weakest plot point in my opinion, but I know I’ll get sucked in and just have to suspend disbelief further down the line in the story. For this author, I have reason to have faith although, I would not be surprised if some of the first episodes have minor tweaks in Kindle later to iron out some out some bumps.

This is a pivotal episode in that it moves the plots forward with Lillienne Wellington, Jason Huang, Sade, and Edmund Bishop. There are two big reveals here: one was a surprise for me and one was something I was just waiting for confirmation on. We now know the lay of the land better, although I expect more details later about how we got here. The nuances that make shades of gray within all the characters are what makes this so interesting. I’m still really enjoying this series.

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Review: Changing Faces by Cole McCade, Criminal Intentions Season 1 Episode 4

Cover Artist: Cole McCade Cover Design Template: Les Solot

I would rate this 3.75 stars.

This is episode four and starts in the vile mind of Tim Mitchell, who is then killed. Good riddance. This is a domestic violence case. The break-up between Anjulie and Anya was coming, and it was up close and personal. Then, it picks back up from the last episode with Seong-Jae in the hospital with Malcolm when Malcolm’s ex-wife Gabrielle comes in…and then moves in with him to help him while he’s injured. Oh boy. Anjulie and Gabrielle went to law school together. It’s good to see the coroner Cara make friendship overtures to Seong-Jae. This case really tests Seong-Jae’s ethics, and shows us more of who he is. The weird thing haunting him is here, along with another crime scene clue. We finally have a name to go with what is happening, Sila. Seong-Jae testifies aginst his old partner, causing his face to go nationwide, and the police in the BPD finally know who he is.

This episode is strange. Beside the UST, which is ever present, the episode lacked a lot of Malcolm, making me miss the dynamic between them while working a case. It allows the audience to get to know Seong-Jae better, but that might not be a good thing as he is much less likeable than Malcolm, and this didn’t give me anything to change my mind. Seong-Jae’s overarching plot that doesn’t yet involve Malcolm, moved forward, but to what end? What is happening, before seemed like mental illness, now seems like a real person. The issue is unless this goes paranormal (please no), I don’t think having a real someone leaving all these clues at difference crime scenes is possible. This was not my favorite episode, but it did forward a few plot points.

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