Review: Thirteen by Tia Fielding, Love By Numbers 3

TiaFieldingThirteen
Cover Art © 2020 Garrett Leigh http://www.blackjazzdesign.com

I would rate this 3.5 stars.

As the third book in the series, while you could skip the first one, I feel like you would need to read book two before this one. They function like a duology, being concurrent in the time line, layering in information that wasn’t focused on during Padraig’s and Emil’s POV. This book focuses on what happens from Mark’s and Francis’s POV. As a nurse, Francis is a caring person and aches that Mark that has no support system, but he has to go back to New Jersey to deal with the fallout from his job and make decisions about his own future. He’s certainly not going to out Mark. Seeing Francis’s remembrances of Marcus helps give some of the depth I wanted in the second book.

This shows Mark’s job with welfare checks, keeping an eye on the campgrounds, domestic violence, and helping at a fire for crowd control. Mark didn’t want to study criminal justice, but it was one of the only subjects his parents would pay for, so I am left wondering if he ever wanted to be a cop or even likes his job. Getting Mark’s POV was as awful as I thought it would be with his internalized homophobia. With Francis in the picture, he finally has a reason to try and work out his issues and starts talking informally to Evy, the town shrink. Of course the moment he starts doing the work to shake off his parent’s influence, the more support he has if he can allow himself to ask for it. It’s difficult to take a previously unliked character and make him sympathetic.

Francis has been in Acker before prior to Marcus’s death, so he knows the townspeople. While that’s convenient, by book three I should know and be more emotionally engaged with all the side characters than I was. Instead of building on that, eight new people get added to the mix, two of whom even knew Marcus and Padraig in N.J., but are still not as fleshed out as they could be. Charles and Henrietta are an older couple with health issues that live outside of town and need live-in help, creating a perfect job for Francis when he moves to the area. Thankfully, they are a welcome addition, adding some heartwarming moments.

Francis reads Mark in a way no one else has and takes charge. The loves scenes here are steamy, more frequent and more explicit than the previous books. With all of Mark’s issues, this level of trust and sexual openness is not realistic so soon. I’m of several minds about the light D/s explored here…it works in book three, but there wasn’t enough forshadowing so it looks like it wasn’t plotted out beforehand. This plotline allows Mark to not have to be in charge of his pleasure, which could be a copout for someone with toxic masculinity. I have to say if Francis didn’t make him give verbal consent the whole way, it wouldn’t have worked for me at all. When Mark inadvertently triggers Francis, we don’t get to see Francis work it out from his POV. I think this was to keep things low angst for the reader; it wasn’t good enough for me. Knowing what happened and seeing a character’s psychology are two different things. However, I was happy with the resolution of Mark’s relationship with his parents. This is a happily ever after for all the friends and while I should have “all the feels,” the same distance that keeps out the lows (angst), also keeps out the highs (joy).

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**This book was previously released by Dreamspinner Press and has been republished by the author. It is currently exclusive to Amazon.

Review: Asylum by Julian Burnes

I would rate this 4.5 stars.

Based on the blurb, this book wasn’t quite what I thought it would be, so I struggled to rate it and review it without spoilers. This is billed as a paranormal erotic romance, and while that is true, it is so much more. Tags are spoilers, so as per usual, I will only give them when I think stories could be triggering to people. This book contains multigenerational family trauma, sexual abuse, incest, attempted suicide in first person, suicide, bipolar and OCD mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, and ghosts thrown in with kinky sex. Since this is told in a single first person point of view, I got very attached to this character, but talking about him is a spoiler. This story is not told in linear time, so it might be difficult to get into the first two or three times it goes from the present to the past, but then it seems very natural as he shares his life through memories. The characters become complex and multifaceted the more the book goes on–one minute I might hate a character and the next I felt sorry for them even though that doesn’t absolve them of their awful choices.

Let’s start with the erotic romance, which I think worked very well. He meets a Dom named Devon in a club and everything goes sideways. Luckily another Dom named Mike helps him when he needs it, allowing the reader to get to know more about the main characters before any sex actually happens. The trust comes when the paranormal aspects are believed by everyone involved, which helps the romance move forward. I think this was effective. All the characters here are likeable and believable. The sex scenes are hot. With an 11 year age gap, the huge disparity in circumstances, and the added D/s aspect, there is plenty of the hurt/comfort trope in play. Devon ends up being compelling as a Dom and very endearing as a person.

There are so many great secondary characters in this book: Officer McBride, Devon’s sister-in-law Maya, Dom Mike, and the medium Maxine are the obvious favorites. There are also well written characters that evoked very negative emotions for me like Uncle Barry, Mom Dana, and Vern. Barry seemed confused about right and wrong without ever trying to figure it out. Dana deserves credit for doing the best she could at the time, she made an effort…but not enough of one to actually heal, so that saddened and frustrated me. She had plenty of opportunities to get help from mental health professionals, but just didn’t. That may seem like victim blaming to some, but she had children to raise and could have done better by them. As for Vern, I hate him. At its heart, this is the story of two brothers and their tragedy, as well as how everything got to this point–it’s a story of an American family tragedy.

As for the paranormal aspects, occultism is treated with respect here, not as a party trick. I believe in energy work, in cleansing, in the benefits of ceremony and feel like this is a really good idea for anyone who wants to find closure for grief and trauma…we have funerals for a reason. Often, the difference is at a funeral people focus on the good, forgetting the bad…and that might not help people find any sort of resolution, especially with the ridiculous notion of not “speaking ill of the dead,” which is just a whole layer of guilt people get wrapped up in. I don’t agree that intention matters most. For many, this will be a lot of woo but this is based in what some people actually practice, so either the author does believe or has done excellent research on the topic. It does walk a fine line…and then gets preachy at the end. I would have rated this higher, but I don’t like being prostalitized to. Also, evoking Robert Monroe and the Matrix Control System is strange in an LGBTQIA book because he believed one reason for his theory is because all mobiles are split into two genders, ever seeking reunion with each other. Ugh.

This book is a rare gem–entertaining and packs an emotional wallop without wallowing in emotional pornography. I like how the ideas of Platonic solids, sacred geometry, and reincarnation are synthesized together, yet the New Age ideas used to explain the phenomena were a bit offputting for me. There is a lot to unpack here, but I’m not going to get into spiritual arguments about an erotic fictional book. Finally, there is an epilogue about 4 years later than the main events of the book. I liked the range of reactions to what happened because in the end, people still choose how to process things. Having or creating an opportunity for closure doesn’t mean everyone will let go and move forward in a positive way. I’m glad theirs is psychological work with a therapist, rather than only relying on New Age ideas.

The cover design was made by Written Ink Designs | written-ink.com. At first I thought the images combined with the title were a bit misleading, but the more I think about it, I really like them for the metaphorical imagery. The main character is trapped until he gets to see the bigger picture and find his asylum, his safe place where he is free.

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Asylum by Julian Burnes — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Spare The Rod by Marie Sexton, The Heretic Doms Club 3

SpareTheRod
Cover art by Garrett Leigh of Black Jazz Design

 

I would rate this 4 stars.

This is the third book in the series and by now, I feel like they need to be read in order for the full emotional experience because much of the information about each of the doms is layered into each book, weaving a greater whole. This book focuses on Gray, who is way more interesting than I’ve seen previously, yet less time is spent with him. The majority of it feels like this is Avery’s story as a spoiled, ungrateful, selfish brat; his character development is forced as he is finally having to be responsible for himself, beholden to Gray instead of his parents. Even with what he’s seen as a veteran and working as a beat cop, Gray still has things to learn too–the age gap doesn’t seem all that large when gauged by emotional maturity. When his trying moments come, they are devastating. As they traverse the issue of trust between a masochist and a sadist, they learn the hardest parts are sharing more of themselves than just their bodies.

This series is so rich in main characters, it doesn’t need much from its secondary characters. Information about Charlie has been building in each book and he will get his story soon. As the advice giver, peace maker, and heart of the group, his character is frequently the bridge that connects everyone. Avery’s friend Derik is a good mirror for Avery–the more he grows and changes from the way he was, the more he sees how shallow, vain, and cruel his life used to be. The author did set up situations that I felt deepened the friendships of all the men, and yes, that includes more shared sex scenes. The sex between Gray and Avery at the beginning and the sex at the end are completely different with the added intimacy gained on their journey.

Large parts of this are a huge indictment against social media and against people who don’t educate themselves so they are well rounded citizens. While it is couched in terms of Avery’s character development, and Gray’s upbringing, there are times when the pointed social commentary subsumed the narrative. I support the positive message, about building the world you want to have, even as I think the way the story all fell into place was too pat. That made this relationship less realistic to me than the ones in the previous books. I enjoyed Avery and Grey moving through their story together, I just felt like it wasn’t Avery who was meant to be learning the life lessons, but the reader and that made their love story take an occasional backseat to the larger themes.

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Marie Sexton’s Website

**The ebook is only on sale at Amazon at the time of this post. Amazon also is the only place the paperback is for sale, but book one and two are sold at Barnes and Noble as well as Book Depository, so you could check those later.

Review: Terms Of Service by Marie Sexton, The Heretic Doms Club 2

TermsOfService
Cover Art by Garrett Leigh of Black Jazz Design

I would rate this 4.5 stars.

Even though this is the second book in a series written in linear time, I feel like you could read this first and go back to learn more about Warren and Taylor’s story from book one. For maximum emotional impact, I feel they are best read in order. River is grieving over the break-up of his marriage and floundering through his days when he meets Phil in a professional confrontation at the hospital. River is naturally submissive and is drawn to Phil’s personality even though he doesn’t understand why, doesn’t really understand what he wants or needs. His husband works at the same hospital with his new boyfriend, but River hasn’t signed the divorce papers yet. Phil is set in his ways, his rigid control only serviced through one night stands or rentboys, yet he responds to River in a way that makes him want to try for a casual arrangement. As they work through the change from an arrangement to a real relationship, these two lonely men find they have more in common than they would have believed. Both men are lucky to have the support of Phil’s friends, in every regard and there is certainly sharing, so if you have to have a couple that has no sexual contact with others, this is not the series for you. The sex scenes are hot and explicit, but the confidence, care, and camaraderie throughout the book is even more appealing. I felt much more attached to the other characters in this series, as little details about Gray and Charlie are sprinkled throughout, than in the first book.

The first part of this book was a little difficult to get into because I felt Phil’s distance through the writing; the pay-off comes at the end when Phil is finally overtly emotionally engaged, rather than his usual suppression. Strangely, it’s the second half of the book that is easier to navigate as everything gets more complex professionally and personally for all the characters. When people have a personal epiphany, they can choose to ignore it and explain it away, or they can fall into the change it encourages. This requires taking a personal inventory. Both of them need to slough off the expectations of others, in different ways. Phil is dealing with his upbringing and ghosts of past expectations, while River is trying to find himself again after stuffing himself away to be what his husband wanted.

What I really like about this series is the sexual freedom the characters experience as they each do what is best for themselves, as they struggle to not be embarrassed or ashamed of what they individually need as it clashes with what society says relationships “should” be like–or even what other people in a BDSM lifestyle think. They are “heretics” for a reason. It’s also a good reminder that sometimes people need to let go of their own rules, that what served you in your twenties, might not be what serves you in your forties. I found this journey of self realization for both men very satisfying. Although my own bias is for Warren and Taylor, I enjoyed seeing River and Phil create the life they want. I am excited for Gray’s story next and hope to learn more about Charlie in book four.

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**Currently the ebook is only available from Amazon.

Review: One Man’s Trash by Marie Sexton, The Heretic Doms Club 1

OneMansTrash
Cover Art by Garrett Leigh of Black Jazz Design

 

I would rate this 4.75 stars.

The blurb here tells you the whole plot. Warren is ex-military, with survivor’s guilt, and has created a life for himself many would feel was unconventional. He helps people in his own way, but isn’t terribly happy. Taylor is a rent boy with past demons whose moments of fleeting happiness aren’t enough to give him a life raft. When these two damaged people meet, it’s a case of them finding the right puzzle piece–they match in the way they both most need. I’m not talking about love conquers all, but rather hope giving them each the chance to make changes, make different decisions to increase their happiness. I loved both these characters. I always felt like they were real people. For me, there is a HEA, but I feel like they are both out there, stuggling to continue to make the best choices for them.

This novel goes to some dark places, so pay attention to the tags. I will highlight two things because, frankly, this book is awesome and I don’t want people leaving bad reviews just because it isn’t their cup of tea. There is humiliation. There is urination. Although a flogger and BDSM eqipment is used, it’s not really the focus of this book. The author concentrates on the psychology of the characters and their daily lives. There is no “play.” Also, Taylor is a whore and has sex with multiple people in this book. There is no cheating because there is no expectation of monogamy at the time, but I know some people don’t like that. I felt like this was all very realistic and well written without feeling full of tropes. Yes, there is an age gap and plenty of hurt/comfort, with a power exchange–they are there because they are real for this couple, not just to have a list of buzzwords to attract readers. In other words, things aren’t just there to be salacious, not that they aren’t intriguing, just that it is all very heartbreaking and heartwarming in turns.

If I have any small complaint, it’s that I wanted to see more of Warren’s friends and have them be as real also. They all get books, so I will have my wish, but it would have made this even more compelling. I don’t feel like I know Warren’s friend Charlie as well as Taylor’s friend Riley, for instance. Then again, everyone’s life is very bleak already, so focusing on this bubble of happiness that Warren and Riley fight hard to create by being truthful and brave…that is everything and it is more than enough.

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**As an ebook, this is only available at Amazon, so I purchased a paperback copy.

Review: Unveiled (Master Chronicles #2) by Jamie Craig

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Gideon and Jesse work together as private investigators and after years of friendship, become an established couple in book one. This isn’t difficult to follow if you haven’t read the first book, but your understanding of the characters will be very different. The case investigated here revolves around a missing young woman found killed after an exclusive party. Right after leaving a hideous crime scene where Jesse is emotionally devastated, Jesse and Gideon go to the vampire club Sangre where they participate in a gang bang that involves other vampires and a lot of blood. Why this isn’t traumatic for Jesse after the way the woman was killed, is a mystery to me. While there they rescue an empath named Emma who can sense and transmit the feelings of others.

The world building never had a hint of anything else paranormal except vampires, so it felt abrupt to have an empath thrown in to this world. The vampires must know Gideon works with the police. Why would they do anything illegal like sell him a human slave? They were able to rescue Emma because no one already “owned” her, so if she had already been bought, they wouldn’t have helped her? The author seems to skirt the line, maybe not wanting to go into non consensual territory, but that’s too little too late with these characters. Clearly there are limits and rules as to when they are the good guys. In book one, Gideon is not always shown in the best light so it felt like here, Emma was used to reassure the audience (and Michelle and Jesse) that he really is a good guy. I’m not sure why this is actually necessary since the audience can have more of Gideon’s POV any time the author chooses to write more of it. Both main characters seem pansexual so adding Emma into their mix wouldn’t be too unexpected if it were just sex, but laying the groundwork to add her to their relationship was unexpected. In this book, she is just used for titillation–a will they, won’t they–that could be expanded upon in later books.

Emma is also utilized to give them a lead on the case; she was taken while trying to find her sister, who went missing after dating a vampire. I didn’t like when a scene suddenly switched to Emma’s point of view for a very short time. The usual POV is Jesse’s. However, once Gideon and Jesse go undercover, Emma goes to help Michelle and there needed to be another point of view as action happens in different places. As the only other established character, I am unclear why this couldn’t have been Michelle’s POV. My concern is that because she’s a lesbian, and therefore will not be having sex with Jesse or Gideon, her POV is considered unimportant. For me, this seemed like a lost opportunity.

The interaction between law enforcement and the private investigators is really lacking. The world is built with humans knowing about vampires, but this is another situation where the author seems to hedge and not commit to that. Why are the police not asking Gideon for help on vampire cases? Why do the police only raid the party when Gideon says so? This is written as Gideon being the only vampire who actually cares about humans, but then the author has Rina, who was friends with the murdered woman, and promptly dismisses her of being capable of being a complex person.

While the use of humans, alive or dead, to entertain the wealthy is not an original idea, the “art” created by Jesse and Gideon with Emma’s help sounded interesting. Sadly, it wasn’t described in a way that came alive as scenery, it was used as a means to an end. The other artists and their creations weren’t shown, even though the story was Gideon’s POV at that point. Then, the final confrontation with the killer(s) fizzled out. In the end, I felt like I was left with many sex scenes, some more successful than others, without an intriguing enough plot or emotional connection to the characters to hold them all together.

The cover design is by Written Ink Designs (written-ink.com) with image(s) used under a Standard Royalty-Free License. It shows Jesse and elements of the art exhibits mentioned in the book.

Sales Link:  JMS Books LLC |   Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 176 pages, JMS Books LLC
Published: (first published August 1st 2007)
Original Title: Unveiled (Book II of The Master Chronicles)
ASINB001JMFBPW

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Unveiled (Master Chronicles #2) by Jamie Craig — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Earthquakes (New Amsterdam #4) by Kelly Wyre

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

This is the fourth book in the series focusing on Ellis and his crush on one of his customers from the firing range named Bryndon. Previously Ellis seemed enamored with Clark; there is definitely still hero worship involved, complicated by doing BDSM scenes with Clark and his husband, but Ellis knows the difference between what he has and what he wants. He’s decided that he wants Bryn.

I was irritated when Ellis “realizes” he’s in love with Bryn, even though he’s only spoken a few sentences with the guy. Having said that, in the same conversation Daniel was talking to Ellis about Clark, which I loved. So, while the recapping will let you read this as a standalone, it has more emotional impact if you’ve read book one, story 1.1, and book three. Once Clark, Daniel, and Lucien try to help Ellis get noticed by Bryn, their worlds crash together. Bryn’s friend Medea is annoying, but she is also a force of nature as she helps play matchmaker. It’s also nice to have wealthy friends Ellis can borrow a plane from whenever he wants. While this widens the friends as family cast, the focus is on the two main characters. The alternating points of view between Ellis and Bryn actually made me worry for both of them.

Bryn is a ballet dancer with mental health issues. The creepy parts of this are him being haunted by someone who’s dead. He keeps everyone at arm’s length, but Ellis sneaks into his thoughts…and then Ellis ignores all Bryn’s boundaries. Even though he is the submissive, it is Ellis that pushes this whole thing forward. The more the author reveals about Bryn, the less likeable he is to me. At the same time, I see why Ellis wants to save him. His mother has been emotionally abusive his whole life so it’s not any different when Bryn goes home for his father’s funeral, Ellis in tow. Unfortunately, most of this is about Bryn’s revenge on his Mom and a plot twist that seems to have been written to heal Bryn. For me, it all comes down to this: how can Ellis trust Bryn to tie him up, to hurt him? Ellis is basically a saint, but I thought he had a somewhat healthy view of the situation until he agreed to a scene when Bryn was angry, under stress and emotional duress, and had been drinking. This was just a big turn-off for me. I was not convinced that the cathartic release was worth more than having this be safe and sane.

While love will not cure mental illness, it can give a person hope and support. If that had been the focus, I would have enjoyed this more. Complex PTSD would make sense for this character, but the author chose to have Bryn be on antipsychotics. My understanding is that hallucinations can be suppressed, not cured–even his epiphany, his closure, wouldn’t stop real hallucinations that require antipsychotics. In the end, even though there is a happily ever after, it didn’t seem realistic to me. There was no follow-up about the state of Bryn’s mental health, no therapy, no mention of Ellis meeting Bryn’s therapist, no way to know if Bryn was still having hallucinations or still taking medication…the whole thing is just dropped out of the plot. I know this is fiction, and I applaud having mental health issues being represented, but it does a disservice to people if it’s not portrayed accurately or just used as a plot device until it’s no longer needed.

The cover design is by Natasha Snow. It matches the rest of the series with the city view, but this one shows Bryn–dancing, but to me also wrestling with his darkness

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

Book Details: Kindle Edition, 228 pages
Published September 28th 2019 by JMS Books LLC (first published February 29th 2016)
Original Title: Earthquakes
ASIN B07Y3TL7XB
Series: New Amsterdam

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

Review: First Rodeo by Jodi Payne and BA Tortuga, The Cowboy And The Dom 1

first_rodeo
Cover illustration by AJ Corza http://www.seeingstatic.com/

I would rate this book 3.25 stars.

This is the first book in a trilogy and as such is the introduction to the romance of Sam and Thomas. It’s not a cliffhanger, so the reader can just read this and be content, or read the second book coming out soon for a continuation of their relationship. When Sam’s brother James gets murdered in New York, the family sends Sam to take care of his apartment and send back his things. Both his mother and older brother Bowie put a lot of unreasonable pressure on Sam to also find James’s killer. This is supposed to be a suspense element, but it’s not the focus and stays on the back burner. When Sam meets his brother’s lover, Thomas, neither of them are expecting to need each other. Thomas is missing James and feeling the pull to help Sam, but he’s smart enough to worry the grief could lead to something unhealthy.

Sam is floundering and needs direction; he’s also too busy trying to please everyone else, he can’t seem to get his own life together. They were getting to know each other, and then suddenly Thomas is using what he’s learned about human psychology as a dom, to help Sam. I felt the transition could have been smoother, especially the part about Thomas finding out Sam is also gay. The way Sam learns about his brother James being a sub was an easy way for Sam to understand who Thomas is, who James was. The book seemed to flounder with introducing some of James’s friends, coworkers, and neighbors. No one is fleshed out, and I assume these are meant to give the reader suspects to James’s murderer? There were more jarring moments like his job interview when all of the sudden Angel, someone he met at the BDSM club, is also at the biker bar and helps him home. This seems like too huge coincidence. The main point here seems to be BDSM is healthier than bar fights. This all happens a bit too fast for me, there is still an element of Thomas taking advantage of Sam, his naivete, or even them using each other to escape processing their shared grief.

James and Sam are somewhat alike, they were brothers, but they are also different enough and those differences are never forgotten. The writing here is deftly handled so James doesn’t feel forgotten, but they are not constantly compared–rather Thomas struggles to learn how to be what Sam needs. For the subject matter, there is surprisingly low angst and guilt which seems at odds with the way the book was set up. Sam has always felt he was was supposed to stay in Emory, help with the ranch, have babies, and die there. Yet he suddenly throws off the expectations of his family quite easily and dives into a relationship with his brother’s lover. It’s good that Tommy is not an all seeing, all knowing dom. I like that he makes mistakes and recognizes them. I like that he realizes that where James fit into what he wanted, his style, Sam is much for challenging, taking him out of his comfort zone. They build their relationship and trust scene by scene, yet this is a bit messy–not just the emotions of the characters, but the writing. The sex scenes are always hot, it’s moving the characters around to get them there that seems to not flow well.

I like both these characters, so I’m a bit frustrated that the whole book isn’t as smooth as the parts are or I would have rated it much higher. With more time and effort, this could have had so much more depth, but maybe that’s just what I wanted and not where the authors wanted to take it. I’d like to see more of Sam and James, but this was all too easy, so I’d like to see more about the conflict with Sam’s family. Also, there is nothing about Thomas’s family at all. There is a little intrigue about James having different characters or roles he fulfilled for different people; I definitely would like to see more about that. For right now, James doesn’t seem like a real person, so I don’t care who killed him. I hope the second book takes more time to draw the audience into that part of the plot.

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BA Tortuga’s Website

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