Review: Ten by Tia Fielding, Love By Numbers 1

TiaFieldingTen
Cover Art © 2019 Garrett Leigh

I would rate this 4 stars.

After ten years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Makai heads to Acker, Wisconsin to start his life over. There he meets Emil, still suffering his own PTSD from his ten day ordeal at the hands of drug traffickers. The hurt/comfort trope is high with this one as they stumble into a relationship while Emil’s father Kalle, the Sheriff, tries to keep them apart. We get to see both sides of law enforcement here, from Makai’s conviction for being brown, to an honest small town sheriff trying to protect his son from heartbreak and conquer his own prejudice (about excons, not because Makai’s a POC), and deputies Erin and Jason, who show Makai kindness. Unfortunately another deputy, Mark, is concerned with everyone’s sexuality and gender instead seeing them as people.

Watching Makai emotionally and mentally navigate being out of prison is sad. I am not usually a fan of so much inner musing, but with Makai fresh from prison and living alone in a sparsely populated area, it is appropriate to the story. Emil has trouble being around people too, so his POV is also self contained. Yet, when the dialogue happens it is real and pertinent, it helps paint a picture of their lives. Here the slow burn is entirely necessary; there is no other way for these men to interact. The bravery, the honesty they share is astonishing but in their excitement to have found someone who understands, they get too close too quick. As with all mental health issues, it’s a few steps forward, a few steps back. The sex is a natural extension of their relationship, but not eroticized for the reader. They are building a life together and that is just one small part of it as they struggle to be healthy.

The vet Doc, Emil’s shrink Evy, Emil’s mom Nora, the grocery store owner Mr. Miller, Joy/Joie and their mom Lotte–this is loaded with caring characters that feel real because they are described and their interactions with each other feel real. Joy/Joie is a wonderful 5 year old age appropriate character exploring their gender. It’s heartwarming to see the effort some of the town members take to welcome Makai, encouraging his integration–yes, some are bigots and homophobes, that’s just life. The small town feel is well written and surprisingly diverse. The whole town is invested in Emil because they had to share in his tragedy, so they want share in his happiness also. I do think Makai has to go above and beyond to prove to everyone, especially the sheriff, he is a “good guy” even though we was exonerated of the crime he committed and was unjustly convicted. This makes me wonder what kind of reception Kaos, Makai’s friend from prison, will get when he arrives for book two. Over all this is a well done, low angst for the subject matter, solid romance.

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**This book was previously published by Dreamspinner Press and has now been self-published by the author. I have an older edition of this book and it is exclusive to Amazon at this time.

Review: Forbidden Bond by Lee Colgin

I would rate this 3.25 stars

Historically enemies, there is now a peace treaty between vampires and shifters. As vampires push to announce their existence to humans in the face of technological advances in order to control the PR, many shifters disagree, threatening the peace. The real problem is that it’s just an armistice: there is no integration or friendship. Sinclair, a living vampire, has been accepted at a shifter college for graduate study, which is an historic opportunity. His father, who presides over the Vampire Council, is worried about his safety. He might be right as Sinclair is met with hostility and suspicion. The POV then switches to Mitchel, the Alpha on campus, whose uncle Marcus runs the Werewolf Council. Mitchel’s parents where killed by vampires, so he has no love of their kind. As Sinclair and Mitchel actually get to know each other, they become friends while they try to help maintain peace between their species. Others struggle to accept a world where vampire and werewolf date and humans know of their existence.

Each chapter is started by a news report updating the reader about the issues and fears in the supernatural community. I thought it was a little gimmicky. This is firmly in the new adult genre even though Mitchel is older. It has an enemies to lovers, slow burn vibe–fun, flirty, a little juvenile–at the beginning. Then, all of the sudden, their relationship is serious with sexy times and a violent, action packed plotline. The vampires are ruthless and bloodthirsty when threatened, while the wolves come off as more squeamish and less prepared for violence. Other supernatural species are mentioned in passing, but not focused on so they have no face. It was great to see Erika as a strong female Alpha wolf who takes charge in the crisis, yet none of the secondary characters are very detailed. This story is enjoyable even though it doesn’t break any new ground in this subgenre.

The cover art by Natasha Snow works well with the titles to convey much of the story.

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Forbidden Bond by Lee Colgin — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Hunter by J.V. Speyer, Hunted 1

 

Hunter cover
Cover design by Bad Doggie Designs

I would rate this 3.5 stars.

Luis is a federal agent, trained as a profiler, sent to Boston where he is assigned to work a murder case with a state police detective named Donovan. Donovan was his roommate and lover in college thirteen years before. Part of why they broke up was Donovan’s unwillingness to come out of the closet. Luis already faces discrimination for being Brazilian, so being gay is one more reason for his colleagues to dislike him; so he may as well be in their faces about it. Only Donovan knows Luis’s history and how people are unfairly judging him. For them to get their second chance, Donovan has to be honest about who he is and Luis has to value himself and stop pushing people away.

Many of Luis’s issues are his childhood trauma that he hasn’t dealt with. As a psychological professional, it is sad how mentally unhealthy Luis seems to be. His stressful work environment is not helping, and neither does he help himself. He is also dealing with racism at work–nothing overt, more like micro-agressions. Donovan’s family, also all police officers, are also not very accepting of Luis being brown, or gay. It takes awhile for Donovan to acknowledge he’s done anything wrong, or for him to admit he hasn’t ever recovered from their breakup either. Although I liked seeing flawed characters, it’s also difficult to not dislike them all at times throughout the book.

The writing is uneven. For example, Donovan is seemingly impressed with Luis being an FBI profiler at the beginning, but then he says it’s a pseudoscience and is disrespectful of Luis during the case. Then, he has an about-face defending him to Kevin, even citing Luis’s qualifications. Donovan belives in ghosts and psychics, but not psychology? Why is a police detective acting as an intermediary between FBI agents? At the point that Kevin and Luis are having issues, Donovan and Kevin are acting more like professional partners even though they don’t work for the same branch of law enforcement. Why does the FBI captain even listen to Donovan at all? The paranormal aspects of the case are only signaled by the cover. The entrance of paranormal activity is thrown abruptly into the middle of the story. I’m not sure it needed this aspect at all. I don’t think it added anything to what was already an interesting murder case. I think it took time away from character development and interpersonal communication that would have strengthened this book.

There are many things I liked about this book, and there are several parts I feel could have been better executed. By the time they have their HEA, everyone feels bad they were mean to poor Luis. At least in two sentences Luis acknowledges he needs to handle things better moving forward…but I wanted to see that as an actual realization. I wanted to see the work that would go into that, not to assume everything will magically be better after he gets out of the hospital and goes back to work, with his new boyfriend in tow.

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J.V. Speyer’s Website

Review: Benoit by RJ Scott and V.L Locey, Owatonna U Hockey 3

Benoit cover
Cover by Meredith Russell

I would rate this book 3.75 stars.

This is the third book in the series and would benefit from being read in order, but could be read as a standalone. This is a spin-off series (think second generation) of the Harrisburg Railers series. It focuses on the senior year of Ryker, Scott, and Benoit who play college hockey on a team known as the Eagles at Owatonna University. Ryker and Scott were paired off in the first two books, so this book is about Ben meeting Ethan Girard, the team’s new defensive consultant and famed Boston defenseman.

Ethan is 32 and possibly nearing the end of his career, while Benoit is just getting started, so besides the ten year age gap are their choices, their outlook, and their life experiences. Sure Benoit is a bit jealous of all his friends, but he just wants to focus on hockey and go skate for Edmonton. He is navigating a lot of pressure to help make it big and care for his family, keep his grades high and earn a degree he can use if he gets injured and can’t play anymore. He also needs to decide if coming out publicly is a good decision when he is already battling racism. Ethan can afford, in every sense of the word, to do what he wants. He got drafted right away and never went to college. If he retires, he won’t have to face as much blowback for his sexuality. I feel like I was told all of that instead of being shown.

I have to say this third book is somehow removed from the characters for the first half because it is busy sharing the story with everyone else. A lot of it takes place in Benoit’s (or Ethan’s) head, but weeks go by without anything happening. Although this makes sense because Ben is avoiding Ethan, it makes it difficult to get into the story until about 35% of the way in. Everything seems skimmed over though, without much detail. Thankfully everything snaps back into focus with a detailed description of the hotel dining room for a Railers dinner. The book comes alive, with Stan and Ten, when Ryker convinces Scott and Benoit to go to a Railers game and hangout with his dads after. You do not have to know or have read about these characters to read this book–it was like the authors didn’t have a focus for the writing itself until this scene, when the reader is finally given enough details to actually picture the surroundings.

Benoit’s story really clicks into place when he and Ethan are a couple, spending time together, and stops worrying about what everyone else is doing. This is the writing at its best. There is a plot point that gets shoved in the background and pulled back out later to be used as a source of conflict. All this did for me was really highlight the age differences between Benoit and Ethan, making a HEA less believable. I personally would call this an HFN because they are not on equal footing and Benoit’s lack of maturity shows in how he deals with conflict. Some of the best scenes in the book were the ice hockey games at the end; this also highlighted the other parts of the book that were supposed to be suspenseful, but weren’t. Overall this was a good trilogy featuring college players and this book was a way to tie up any lose ends for Benoit, Ryker, Jacob, Scott, and Haynes. It gave the authors new characters to mention later. The next phase seems to be a new series with Ryker playing for the Arizona Raptors with Aarni, the guy who hurt his father’s fiance, which will pull the reader back into the NHL.

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RJ Scott’s Website

V.L. Locey’s Website

*P.S. These authors are amazing at being non Amazon exclusive. They do a lot of work moving their books in and out of KU to allow their fans to buy from other platforms/formats. If you are reading this post way after it is written, the best way to know what books are on sale where, and for how long, is to subscribe to their newsletters.

Release Day Review: A Deeper Blue (The Game #2) by S.E. Harmon

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5 

This is the second book in the series and should be read in order for maximum emotional impact. A year later, Blue is still basically in the closet. Happily ever afters are work.

So, I’m not going to lie: I was upset about Blue using a beard. Keeping this secret is destroying what they have. At the end of book one Blue had planned to come out and it was Kelly who stopped him. In this book, Blue has let the fear take over and Kelly is the one that wants to be part of a normal relationship where he can participate in Blue’s life like any of the other guys on the team and their wives/girlfriends. Blue was also supposedly the romantic one, yet it is Kelly that seems to be waiting for the big gesture while still not being all in. As a gay man, Kelly understands what Blue would face coming out publicly way better than Blue does. Fear of losing Blue when the discrimination starts, of Blue resenting him, makes him hold back a bit of himself. Even as annoyed as I was, this book sucked me right in.

Of course, Blue is good at pushing things away too–like thoughts of retirement and fear of injury. This time, I was glad to see more football. It was important to show more of Blue’s family as it lets the readers know that Kelly is not correct in blaming football for all of their problems. There were several moments when I wanted to strangle Blue, but I understood all too well why he is the person he is and wanted him to make better choices for his own happiness. Conner has been a good and supportive friend to Kelly, but it’s nice to see that Blue has friends who have his back also. There are some incredibly painful moments in this, but the author doesn’t wallow in them. Those big moments in life (wedding, birth, major illness, death, coming out) are when you find out who really cares for you, and it’s not always who you think, or even hope.

This worked really well as a duology and the epilogue was everything I wanted for these guys, where it was always going in between the bouts of mild angst. I enjoyed both of these books.

The cover art is by Kanaxa. I like the cover, and I supposed it is supposed to be Blue. Blue has new tattoos, as discussed in the book, but not as many as that, and of course, the tattoos are not the same as this model.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press |  Amazon
Book Details: ebook, 260 pages
Expected publication: October 30th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640808089
Edition Language: English
Series: The Game

via A Chaos Moondrawn Release Day Review: A Deeper Blue (The Game #2) by S.E. Harmon — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Release Day Review: Savior (415 Ink #2) by Rhys Ford

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

This is the second book in a series about five men who have forged a family and own a tattoo business. I would recommend reading these in order. Mace, a firefighter, has made himself Bear’s right hand man in helping raise the family, but it’s time he got some help, whether he asks for it or not.

We start by seeing 10 year old Mason, abandoned and locked in a closet by his father, being rescued by a firefighter. We understand why Mace becomes a firefighter, and why he always checks the closets while on the job and our hearts are already broken. It’s that crack that allows Rob, a tattoo artist at 415 Ink, to see a part of the real Mace. Being bossy, a tad controlling, and concentrating on the brothers’ personal lives is a way to keep the wolves at bay and maybe prove he deserves to be in this family. He still seems unsure, unable to ask for what he needs–afraid of what the answer will be. It’s ok though, because his brothers know and they have his back.

Rob’s best friend is Lilith, but we don’t get to see a lot of her. As with the first book, the tattoos are lovingly described. I can’t help but feel a little bit of a missed opportunity to learn more about tattoing since we get Rob’s POV as he’s learning while doing. In fact, I wish we knew a little bit more about everything. We get a little slice of Chinatown and the culture there. We get a slice of Rob’s disagreement with his father and his relationship with his family. We get slices of Ivo, but not with as much depth as our slice of Luke in the first book and that’s still just a slice. In the first book we see how close Luke and Gus are. Here we get that dynamic with Mace and Ivo, except Mace didn’t share with Ivo about, well, anything–not his father, not Rob, not his past. Actually, I am really starting to like Luke and he occupied all of two pages. The next book will likely be about Ivo and the cop he meets in the aftermath of Mace’s injuries.

There is more action in this one, although you would expect that due to his problems being in the present (which I won’t tell you about because of spoilers) rather than just past wounds, although those are also shown. You know that thing that should happen when you crack yourself open and show someone your scars? That actually happens here. That’s the best thing about this book: that moment you find your person. We get to see Rob and Mace fit together and weave their families together. And if it happens a little too easily, that Rob’s wealthy family just slot into Mace’s rough and tumble one, we need that after the horrors going on here because the abuse and violence don’t get glossed over. Mace certainly deserves some happiness and we do too.

There is a little nod to the Sinner’s series at a party that is nothing to worry about if you’ve not read them. Overall, this is a solid follow-up to the first book and I enjoyed it. I hope the author continues to layer in more depth to the world and all the characters with each new book.

The cover by Reece Notley is gorgeous, but this is not quite how I pictured Mace since he has some scars from childhood, as well as some minor gouges and burns from firefighting, however the abs are as described.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Expected publication: September 18th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640808614
Edition Language: English
Series: 415 Ink

via A Chaos Moondrawn Release Day Review: Savior (415 Ink #2) by Rhys Ford — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words