Review: Like A Dervish by Olivette Devaux, Disorderly Elementals 7

dervish
Cover Art © 2019 Pavelle Art

I would rate this 3 stars.

The blurb said it could read as a standalone, but I would recommend reading them in order. Obviously, there will be spoilers otherwise, so I was surprised about many things like the truce with Brian and the polyamory between Cooper, Ash, and Sigmund. I have missed three books and there wasn’t always enough recapping about who people were. Also, Brian’s part in this (past actions) plays a huge role in the dynamic between Sigmund and David–they both worked for him and he’s had an effect on their trust of one another. Brian suggests Sig and David go to Las Vegas in order to practice with their powers out in the desert in an unpopulated area. While they obviously don’t trust Brian, they agree to help track down his missing cousin.

Some of this plot didn’t make sense to me. Who are they worried about kidnapping them? Who is chasing or tracking them now? Who is Lynn? Brian is supposedly looking for his cousin Zack who has disappeared, yet he’s a big time illusionist in Vegas and Brian has his own people there who spy for him. I didn’t understand Sig and David going back into a casino or populated areas where everything is being videoed/monitored if they are afraid of being found. They end up camping in the desert and practice working on their control over their elements. David’s wind element seems way more interesting to me in this book than Sig’s fire, but I am assuming that has been covered more in previous books.

Zack is an interesting character that isn’t full fleshed out even though he has the third largest role in the book. The POV switches between David and Sig except at one point where Sig’s POV seems to accidentally switch into Zach’s POV for a few paragraphs. There is also some of Cooper’s POV near the end that didn’t really add anything to the story. I understand lust and being touch starved, but I didn’t like the insta-love that David and Sig have with the introduction of Zack. The sex scenes are somewhat explicit, but not that steamy. I do think the dynamic worked as it helped take away David’s awkwardness about never having been with a man before due to Zack’s lack of experience also, but I thought David’s established jealousy melting away seemed unrealistic. As for secondary characters, Joe is more real than Celeste or Gianna. While this may signal Joe will pop up again in another book, making all the characters realistic would have added depth. Also, it’s a shame two powerful women characters aren’t better utilized. When the book ends abruptly, I am left wondering if the two triads will merge, with Sig as the bridge. While Sig seems to take a step back from Cooper and Ash when they go back to Pittsburgh, I wasn’t emotionally invested in their relationship since I have missed reading previous books. Also, if/when Zach comes to Pittsburgh…Sig being in love with four other men is a bit much for me. With a murky plot, lukewarm sex, and a ton of questions I am not sure I care about answering, this just didn’t work for me.

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Olivette Devaux’s Website

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

 

I would rate this 3.75 stars.

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

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

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

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

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

Review: 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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Marie Sexton’s website

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

Review : A Fluid State by Rob Browatzke

I would rate this 4 stars.

In the beginning, Patrick is seeing his son Peter for the first time in two years after coming home from Afghanistan. Patrick’s ex-wife Christy really drop kicks Patrick into the deep end, and expects him to adapt and act appropriately without any frame of previous reference for how to deal with his new gender bending, vegetarian, 11 year old son who loves Saturday morning Drag Queen Storytelling at the local library. Of course, the idea that Patrick’s ex is a POC, that he acknowledges the issue for his son, was the only thing that made me give him the benefit of the doubt. Then, it switches to Andrew’s POV: he is lonely and having trouble dating. At first most of his personality is funny and snarky asides, which come from his drag persona Ann. When they meet while Andrew is out of drag, Patrick realizes maybe it’s a good idea to get to know who his son spends time with. If this keeps him from looking like a bigot, then all the better.

Being inside Patrick’s head and listening to what is coming out of his mouth at the beginning is cringeworthy. All anyone has is what they are taught until they know better, then they need to do better, and he does. Patrick’s most important consideration seems to be for Peter be happy, but Peter is still figuring things out and the effects of bullying are difficult to read. I’m not a huge fan of babies or kids in books, but Peter is a huge part of why this all works rather than just an excuse for Andrew and Patrick to get together. I like that Patrick likes Andrew, and isn’t just attracted to Ann. Although that can be hot too when written right, the author is clear that Patrick isn’t ever pretending Andrew is Ann or fetishizing Ann in any way. In many ways Andrew is too good to be true: always patient, kind, understanding, good with kids, and good natured in general.

The timeframe is a bit too short to believe the 180 Patrick does from the beginning of the book to the end because there’s nothing gradual about this, but I remember seeing an episode of a show called Faking It on Channel 4 in the UK in 2002. It was about people who have a complete career change in four weeks and a heterosexual ex-navy officer learns to be a drag queen. Not that Patrick goes that far (lol), but that someone really can learn to have empathy, respect, and integrate into a new way a thinking, a new community, if they make the effort.

As for the bi for you and first time tropes, Patrick reads demisexual to me, having only been in two prior relationships, one of which was his wife. This is a heartwarming story of a father who discovers who he is and what he wants for himself later in life. While it has all the feels and hot love scenes, it’s because I wanted the fairytale, rather than it was entirely realistically fleshed out–it’s an easy read with surprisingly low angst. But, sometimes life does slot into place just like it ought to and those times are magical whether real or on the page.

The cover design is by Alexandria Corza. I think it’s striking, but it doesn’t show the family aspect of the story.

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review :A Fluid State by Rob Browatzke — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Snowstorms And Second Chances by Brigham Vaughn

Snowstorms
Cover design by Brigham Vaughn. Cover Images: © Africa Studio/AdobeStock © theartofphoto/AdobeStock © janecocoa/AdobeStock © LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/AdobeStock

I would rate this 3.5 stars.

On Christmas Eve, Erik is stuck in an airport bar on a business trip to Buffalo when he meets a travel writer named Seth. This is a week after Erik’s twenty year marriage has ended. After a mix-up in their accommodation they end up being roommates. Erik’s company owns the inn. I was a little worried at first since Erik is not the nicest guy and stress seems to make him worse. Their odd conversations turns strangely sexual. The awkward flirting continues as Erik wrestles with being attracted to Seth, but it sounds like Seth has been the only person he’s been attracted to for over a decade so he just…goes with it. Seth is a little too good to be true. The intimacy and trust, since they are both open and honest people, makes the sex more than just physical. What’s great about this is they actually communicate about their hopes and fears. This happen fast yet had moments that were sweet and hot. However, I felt a little removed from it like it engaged my head rather than my heart.

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Brigham Vaughn’s Website

Review: The Rise Of Virginie by Katey Hawthorne

Virginie
Cover designed by Natasha Snow

I would rate this 4 stars.

Stefan is homeless, couchsurfing from friend to friend. Whilst staying with Megan, they decide to start a new band. Since she had a previous bad experience dating her bandmade Deanna, they make a vow to not have sex within the band. Sounds simple, yet Stefan’s fear that no one will want him around without sex highlights what his life has been like since leaving home. When he meets Han, who works at the library, they eventually bond over poetry and music. Han is one of the only POC in this small town in West Virginia. Being the reverend’s adopted son, he’s set up as a good boy; a virgin who sings in the church choir. This alternates between the first person point of view of Stefan and Han as they grow closer. Once they add Deanna as the base player, the four of them form a queer punk band named Virginie.

Stefan and Han are writing original songs together in between working at their jobs and practicing covers with the band. I liked the song lyrics in this, the poetry. The no sex rule actually allows Stefan to get to know Han without falling into his default of meaningless sex or friends with benefits. Once they start having sex (because of course they do) everything is playful; Han gets to experiment and learn from a friend. Things start moving forward for them when they get noticed by a promoter and talent agent. Of course, that’s went everything implodes, both with jealousies within the band, and Stefan’s mother Angela, who is a drug addict in an abusive relationship.

What I really liked about this was the things I expected to be a big deal (e.g. Han coming out, premarital sex, religion) weren’t. Addiction is a major storyline in this book, so petty dramas fall by the wayside. Most of the conflict comes due to Stefan’s past abuse and trauma. This book also tackles many issues through the music: Big Pharma, the opioid problem, and condescension towards the poor and Southerners. I did wonder if the difference in upbringing between Stefan and Han would be too huge a crevasse to bridge, but Han works hard to educate himself so he can be a good friend and support to Stefan. It was nice to see Han’s father be a positive and supportive Christian character. Han’s mother takes longer to come around, but Han’s issues with his mother are not all about Stefan. Caring too much what other people think, judging children because of their parents, lack of empathy and shaming others–these things divide communities. So while this is a cute story about young adults trying to become a successful band, with lots of fun sex, the author puts the band in it’s context geopolitically, and that makes all the difference to elevate this above many similar works.

Katey Hawthorne’s Website

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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

Release Day Review:Anhaga by Lisa Henry

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

This is written in the third person point of view of Aramin, or Min, who I wasn’t sure had anything to recommend his character except his adopted nephew Harry. This is the first clue that he has a heart in his cynical, morally flexible shell and if he lashes out in anger or bitterness, well it’s better than fear. His sass and wit are part of his charm. When Edward, the head of the Sabadine family, curses Harry to coerce Min into retrieving his grandson Kazimir from a seaside village called Anhaga, it starts a series of series of events that lead to tensions between the King of Amberwich and the Hidden Lord.

A large part of the book focuses on the morality or even fairness of what’s happening. I can’t help but think if the journey had taken longer, if the love had been fully actualized between Min and Kaz, it would have been more heart wrenching and interesting: a Sophie’s Choice, where random chance is morally preferable in the moral dilemma Min is caught in. It’s so close, but doesn’t quite get there because while there is lust, guilt, fascination, and attachment…it is not quite love yet in my opinion. Edward’s son, Robert, is also stuck between doing something reprehensible while doing his duty and being loyal to his father, or protecting his daughter. At first I wondered why Talys was even allowed/made to come on this journey and then I realized Robert probably thought it was the lesser of two evils rather than leaving her with Edward. There is a side love story with Talys and Henry. Of course, she is convenient for moving the plot along as are all the women in this story; they are strong, brave, and resourceful. Henry is sweeter than Min ever had a chance to be, and Min tries to keep him that way. Large parts of this show Robert in a bad light, but is Robert doing any less for Talys?

This book…was not what I was expecting. I was expecting high fantasy. I think it’s really a fairy tale. Sometimes I felt like it was trying to do too much and so it missed the opportunity to be great at any one thing. For instance, the scenery is described well, but not well enough for those who love fantasy world-building. There is nothing except what needs to be there at any particular moment. There is one well done love scene that shows you the possiblity of what Min and Kaz could be to each other, but the circumstances are not romantic. If looked at through the lens of a fairy tale, maybe I should just accept it is love, although to me that is what comes after the adventure. I thought this book was going to show the fae as beautiful and terrible as the lore does, only to have that change in the last chapter. Having said that, the creepy scenes are my favorite in the whole book–that feeling of catching your breathe and holding it. Once it gets going, the pacing is fast, as the plot moves from one point to the next. The book is foreshadowed well, but still manages to have a few surprises that are logical. Fairy tales get away with many things other stories do not, and this is so charming and satisfying as each layer of the story is revealed, I decided it was my expectations that were the issue, not the story. By the time of the final confrontation I was satisfied and if it was a little unbelievable, I didn’t even care because it is a fairy tale ending. The final chapter, which takes place four months later, gives the HEA everyone will want. I’m definitely going to reread it.

The cover art is by Tiferet Design. It is beautiful and striking. Now that I’ve read the book, it makes total sense and rather than just paying attention to the real buildings to give me a glimpse of setting, I should have also payed attention to the pastel, dream-like quality to give me a better hint of the story.

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details: ebook, 220 pages
Expected publication: July 23rd 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 139781644054642
Edition Language English

via A Chaos Moondrawn Release Day Review:Anhaga by Lisa Henry — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words