Release Day Review: World Turned Upside Down by Elyse Springer

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Set at the McMurdo station in Antarctica, this story is told through the first person POV of a janitor named Simon. It follows his crush on Asher, a new researcher. With them stuck there for four months to over winter, Simon is afraid of rejection and making it awkward in an enclosed space where they can’t avoid each other, even if they want to. What starts out as a harmless bet, made in jest to get Simon to talk to Asher, ends up being the albatross around his neck as his thoughts change from lust to care. Sweet, shy, and awkward, Asher is not who Simon thought he was. Simon seems to suffer from low self-esteem and has no interest in a real relationship. Fantasies aren’t usually the same as reality, and Simon has to navigate what he thought he wanted vs. what he actually wants.

I understand just wanting to play the field, not wanting to get serious. I don’t understand Simon’s panic at the thought of a relationship; by the time he changes his mind…he has hurt Asher by not realizing he was already in one. Part of what happens is his fault for not communicating to Miranda and Oli that his feelings about Asher had changed, but it was none of their business and he didn’t really owe them an explanation. In fact, they are more acquaintances than friends. They’re not malicious, but they are self absorbed about their own amusement and thoughtless in their actions throughout the book.

Though this is enjoyable, there isn’t much detail. The Aurora is colorful and pretty. It’s cold and there is much ice. Simon is never really described even when he is looking in the mirror so all I know is he has: a flat stomach; a round butt; his bangs to the side; and a smaller physique than Asher. Several months pass and not much happens. The sex scenes start slow and build up as their intimacy increases; these are the best described scenes in the book. Overall, I think they make a cute couple because Asher is actually a nice guy. Who wouldn’t want to date him?

The cover is by Brooke Albrecht (http://brookealbrechtstudio.com). I assume the cover is Asher, who is described as a fit, tall man with blond hair that goes darker down his face and green eyes. I think the cover is very striking and matches the story well.

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Book Details: ebook, 105 pages
Expected publication: August 9th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781644054277
Edition Language: English

 

via A Chaos Moondrawn Release Day Review: World Turned Upside Down by Elyse Springer — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

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

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

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

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

Sales Links: Amazon | Universal Link 

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

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

Review: Enough by Matthew J Metzger

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

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

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

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

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

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

Salels Links: Pride Publishing | Amazon

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

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

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

LoveIsAllVol2
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: Complementary Colors by Adrienne Wilder

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Paris is a successful artist who picks up Roy, a maintenance man, at his gallery showing. He’s trying to get away from his overbearing sister, Julia and the patrons who all want a piece of him. This one night stand doesn’t go like all his others. By the time his other sister Alice is introduced, it’s obvious something is very wrong with not only Paris, but everyone who surrounds him. It’s a story of greed, lust, and betrayal.

First, I would say this book has very dark themes with: angst, violence, drugs, drinking, brutal sex, deaths, PTSD, and past trauma. But those are just words; if you read this book, you will feel all of those words. Second, it is written in the first person POV of a mentally ill person who is in tremendous pain, is self medicating, and has no sense of self worth. Add in the layer of abuse Alice heaps on him as his legal guardian, and the story is quite harrowing. There is a really pivotal scene where I realized Paris can take care of himself…does he let Julia hurt him because of guilt? or is it just fear and habit?

The meaningless sex here is brutal and explicit as Paris exercises some of the only power he has. Then there is the dubious/non consensual sex. As Roy starts to realize the sex means nothing, he tries to date Paris without it. All the meaning comes from Roy’s care giving, but Roy quickly realizes he’s in over his head and Paris needs professional help. Roy is also clever enough to realize he can give Paris a positive sexual outlet for the first time in his life, with someone who loves him. I made a point to mention this because, sex is a major, integral part of this book. I didn’t feel the story lacked anything at all, it’s just important to remember the reader is never given anyone’s POV but Paris’s. Paris’s world is filled with wealthy, bloodthirsty sharks. Paris is drowning from the inside out. Roy may be a flotation device, but Paris still has to hang on, and he is still in the sea.

By the halfway mark, the reader should understand almost all of the demons that drive Paris, but it’s not until the end that the demons driving Julia and Alice are understood. There could be a debate about whether this is a romance or not. While I love Roy, for me, the HEA comes from Paris getting the professional help he needs from a doctor he trusts. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I knew it was going to be an emotionally devastating read, so I kept putting it off. I can say without a doubt, this will be on my best of the year (and possibly ever read in this genre) list.

The cover design is by Adrienne Wilder with a photo from Dan Skinner. While it does show the colors in Paris’s mind, and the photo shows the darkness, it’s not terribly compelling.

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US  |  Amazon UK 

Book Details: ebook, 320 pages
Published June 20th 2014 by Adrienne Wilder (first published June 19th 2014)
Edition Language: English

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Complementary Colors by Adrienne Wilder — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Surviving the Apocalypse by Tinnean

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Lyncoln has had a night job working maintenance at Laurel Hill Mall for the past ten years. The James family owns the mall and Adam James, IV, is in charge of renovation. After a disaster, they are staying in the fallout shelter in the basement of the mall theater. I have liked this author’s work before and the plot sounded post apocalyptic so I was very excited. Who knew, maybe there would be zombies? Aliens?! Sadly, this is not that.

This still could have been a great deal of fun. This short story is a full of tropes: blue collar/wealthy, hurt/comfort, forced proximity, and emergency situations. Pretty quickly I thought I had the plot device sussed, but when it went into dual POV, I thought I must be wrong. I shrugged and thought now that we have our two MCs on lockdown together, there would be sexy times. There was a hint of that, but most of the sex took place off page. So, what was the point? I’m not sure.

I don’t want to spoil the plot twist for anyone so this is hard to critique. I will say this is a plot twist that I feel is overused. I will also say the epilogue then takes it to the next level of fantasy. Even if this was meant to have been a fantasy fulfillment short story that would have been fine, but I still would have wanted more than what was here, not in length, but in substance.

The cover design is by Written Ink Designs and shows a great photo of urban decay, which fits the subject of this type of story.

Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC | Amazon
Book Details:
Kindle Edition
Published August 25th 2018 by JMS Books LLC
ASINB07G71N362

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Surviving the Apocalypse by Tinnean — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Love You So Special By Tara Lain, Love You So 3

Love You So Special
Cover Artist: Reese Dante

This is the third book in the Love You So series. I have not read the first two and didn’t feel like I missed anything at all so I would call this a standalone. I admit having a bias here as I went to school in and worked in Orange County, CA where this and a lot of her books are set. Tara Lain usually does the blue collar/wealthy trope well. She has reigned in the fabulousness for this one, although there is still a little OTT plot point.

Artie, a plumber working on a job in a concert hall gets to hear some of the music played for rehearsals. We know by his POV that it’s a unique experience for him. When we see the rest of his life–his work buddies, his family–we understand how he only superficially fits into his own life. His quirks as they are called, his interests, hobbies, what moves him, are what flesh him out as a person for the readers.

Francois is a rich, famous classical pianist who loves composing, but has anxiety performing because of the crowds. He lives with his overbearing mother in an exclusive gated community. They meet when Artie is hired to take over work on the guest house, being built in the back of the main house. Artie is enchanted by the music and then attracted by the man. Francois has been home schooled and is socially awkward, but he’s intrigued by Artie.

As Artie and Francois become friends, I found the interactions between them charming. Artie has spent so long pretending to be what everyone expects him to be, he is lonely. While Francois is out, Artie is not–not even to Francois. Of course, I’m happy when that changes. Some people just click when they meet and it just works. Francois having met Artie is the impetus for him to start trading security for some independence. Artie needs to stop living to accommodate everyone else in his life and start living for himself. Have you ever had someone say the right thing to you at the right time? Don, Artie’s landlord gives Artie something to think about that changes the way he looks at things. Francois’s epiphany comes during a much more traumatic experience.

At first I didn’t really like Francois’s mom, but then once we get to know her more she becomes more human and she does actually care for her son. Her idea of what’s best for him and his idea of what’s best for him don’t always gel. I could say the same for Artie’s family, but when they needed to step up and be supportive, they were so that’s all that matters. Right? So, yes, everything is resolved easily and there is some fan girl nodding to her favorite authors. Not everything has to be angsty. While I’m the first to say I like realistic stories, I like a good fantasy to cheer me up also. Sometimes the world is dark enough and I want to escape into a well written cheerful happy, sappy gay romance novel. This hit the spot.

I would rate this 4 stars.

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