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 : 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: 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: Ghost House by Jacqueline Grey

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The main characters are a college student named Andrew, who is trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life, and a mysterious man named Caius, whom he keeps dreaming about after spending the night in a haunted house. I think the blurb tells you everything you need to know about this book, so if it sounds intriguing, go ahead and jump right in. I really hesitate to give any spoilers. Part of the fun of the book is it walks a fine line of many genres: horror, ghost story, historical romance, fairy tale, contemporary romance, paranormal, and urban fantasy. Is Caius the charming man of Andrew’s dreams, or an entirely different kind of nightmare?
Is he hallucinating? Is he going mad? I was often unsure where this was going to go; the fun is in trying to find out. At turns this is creepy, but never too much or for very long. It’s also fun with cute banter and some fantastical moments. Of more interest to me are the times when Caius is confronted about the fairness or morality of some of his past actions. This is actually a slow burn romance where the author successfully provides sexual tension at various points. While most of the book is chaste, when they finally do come together, it is really about them.

The book is divided in half with the first half told from Andrew’s point of view. His friends Charlie, Amanda, and Marie help round out the cast a bit, but don’t seem as real as Jason, Andrew’s best friend since childhood and college roommate. The reader also gets to meet Andrew’s parents, his father being a major source of anxiety for him. Yet, most of the first half I wasn’t sure if parts of what were happening were real or not. Once the second half starts, the reader gets to see some things from Caius’s point of view. I was still left waiting for the shoe to drop–waiting to see the real Caius as his thoughts were slowly revealed. Strangely, I was waiting to see the real Andrew as well since he wasn’t being honest with anyone, while letting his father plan a life for him that he didn’t want. So wrapped up in this bizarre tale, is still a new adult coming out story that has to be resolved. I think some people will really like this, and other people will not agree with all the choices the author made to go in different directions. For myself, I like quirky and different, so I enjoyed it.

The cover is by Kanaxa. I found it compelling and apropos for the way the book unfolds.
https://www.kanaxa.com/

Sales Links:  Amazon | Smashwords

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 244 pages
Published September 24th 2019
ASIN B07W7DFVXZ
Edition Language English

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Ghost House by Jacqueline Grey — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Love Is A Walk In The Park by V.L. Locey and Stephanie Locey

LoveIsAWalkInThePark_Cover
Cover design by: Meredith Russell

I would rate this 3.75 stars.

Sullivan is a dancer with big dreams of Broadway, but has ended up teaching mostly kids and the elderly at a rundown dance studio. He has a pitbull named Princess Pizazz Periwinkle, no really. One morning he sees Duane in the dog park with his Yorkie named Tiberius. It’s lust at first sight, but Duane is shy and a little awkward about putting himself out there. Sullivan has no such issues and Duane’s roomate Ronan helps encourage Duane. Of course, Pizzy and Tibby are doggie besties from there on out.

This story is told in alternating first person so the reader gets Sullivan and Duane’s thoughts throughout the book. Although the addition of details about their friends adds depth, Sullivan’s relationship with Aliyah mostly consists of insults, his awe of her art, and the fact she wealthy and it’s her condo. Duane’s relationship with Ronan mostly consists of him listening to Duane’s dramas. The book is realistic in it’s depiction of day to day life and trying to fit relationships in between work and sleep. There always has to be a conflict and in this case, it’s external to the relationship. Be aware there is an on page sexual assault. Emergencies and our reactions to them either drawn us closer, or push us apart from people. In this case, it’s all handled fairly quickly with not a lot of detail, allowing for minimal angst on the reader’s part. The final obstacle is when Duane’s parents come for a visit. Overall this is a sweet story of boy meets boy with explicit, but low heat, love scenes and a happily ever after.

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V.L. Locey’s Website

Review: Best Behaviour by Matthew Metzger

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Jim does everything in his power to not have to ask his sister Sarah for help, but when it’s not enough, he ends up staying at her house until he can get back on his feet. Sarah’s husband is a reverend and his flavor of religion can’t coexist with Jim being bisexual, but it’s Sarah’s (and their mother’s) lack of support that hurts Jim emotionally. At 26, Jim has made some mistakes and at the beginning of this book still seems like he is “cutting off his nose to spite his face.” The fact that Sarah helps him at all and allows him to stay at her house, even when it may cause problems with her husband is not really given a whole lot of credit here, in my opinion. It’s definitely time for Jim to grow up. At first, his affair with the piano teacher that tutors Sarah’s children doesn’t encourage hope that is going to happen–hot and sexy though it is!

This has more heart than I expected right away, but what starts out as sexy fun ends up as a relationship. What starts out as an erotic romance, ends up to be a heartwarming and heartbreaking story of family. Fran is completely Jim’s type and has family issues of his own. Jim has finally met someone who could be good for him, but this is just good timing. I like the fact that what really motivates Jim to step up and sort himself out is his niece, not his boyfriend. Don’t get me wrong because I love Fran’s character and his place in the book is vital. I just don’t like storylines where one person “saves” the other. Fran provides support that allows Jim to more easily navigate his issues, but they are his issues to navigate.

It’s good to see a representation of the spectrum in this book. Be aware this story uses British English and vernacular, but it very easy to read and follow. I loved seeing character development in a story that has very erotic scenes as a natual part of his life and who he is. I loved that it is emotionally accessible. I am glad the author shows what can happen when a person changes their actions with someone; it changes their reactions too. Breaking cycles is difficult and it’s work. I would definitely read something by this author again.

The cover art is by Erin Dameron-Hill. I’m of two minds about the cover. It’s shows the tension and has the piano to represent Fran, but instead of showing that life is messy, it looks a bit like a horror novel. However, it’s not boring and neither is this book.

Sales Links: Pride Publishing |   Amazon | Barnes&Noble | Kobo

Book Details: ebook, 222 pages
Published February 12th 2019 by Pride Publishing
ISBN139781786517050
Edition Language: English

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Best Behaviour by Matthew Metzger — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Semper Fae (Endangered Fae #3) by Angel Martinez

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The is book three in the Endangered Fae series. While you could probably read this alone, it would be best if you started from book one. Having said that, this is the best book so far and shows what could have been possible in the first two books. This is just more fun and action packed, with layers. It also introduces many new characters. All of the sudden weird paranormal phenomena is happening all over. Human magic is different from fae magic, but they are connected. Just as the shifter fae start to get a magical illness, humans start turning into vampires and werewolves, or developing new powers. I love the idea that all of the legends and lore are real, and are now alive because the Veil is open again.

While this book still has a lot of Finn and Diego, Finn is sidelined a bit with an illness and Diego has bigger problems. The main romance is between Zach, the marine medic from book two, and Lugh. Zach is working as the head of Lugh’s security detail. Lugh is, of course, a shifter fae and part bull. This book is more explicitly bestial than the previous books. There is also an element of dubcon. They seem to find their footing at the end and know what works for them. There were two times in the book when something is a huge emotional deal, and all is quickly forgiven when someone is injured, once with Zach and his parents and once with Lugh and Zach. There could be a better way of working out these conflicts.

As mentioned there are several new characters but the main five are The Silver Adepts, a human coven: Kara, Nate, Brandon, Will, and Minky. Will has awful premonitions, so Minky tries writing to Diego for help, but he isn’t taking them seriously. They have a plan to kidnap him and things go horribly wrong. There was a hint of dragons in book two, so I was waiting for the dragons! Diego and Zach go to find them for help with knowledge about human magic. The dragon lord eventually comes to help train the coven in how to better access their magic. The final showdown and rescue mission, in fact much of the book, reminds me of a comic book. This is no bad thing.

Zach becomes the human Consul for the fae now that Diego is ill. The book leaves some of our characters in the Otherworld making it possible for future books to take place on either side of the Veil. There is now so much magic in the world, these stories could go anywhere or even have spin-offs, so I’ll have to wait and see where the series goes.

The cover art is by Emmy @ studioenp. All the covers in the series are eye catching and fit together.

Sales Links:  Pride Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 368 pages
Published October 23rd 2018 by Pride Publishing (first published January 13th 2013)
ASINB07HQ4DXQQ
Edition Language: English
Series: Endangered Fae

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Semper Fae (Endangered Fae #3) by Angel Martinez — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: My Cocky Cellist by Cole McCade, Undue Arrogance 2

 

My Cocky Cellist cover
Cover Artist: Cole McCade

I would rate this 4 stars.

 

Vic Newcomb has been best friends with Ash since boarding school. He is briefly in book one. You don’t have to read book one or read these in order to understand the plot. Since he’s suffering from hypertension, Ash books him in with his masseuse, Amani Idrissi. Vic is the rich, egostistical, privileged, white man. Amani is the poor, talented, hardworking black man working his way through school. Vic is intrigued by him and during the course of their conversation offers to pay him for cello lessons. He ends up paying him for something else entirely, and that twists the layers of intimacy they are creating. As they both fall in love, trying to remember this is a business contract, they hurt each other.

I liked the characters and wanted them to be happy together. The author’s writing style weaves the audience into their intimacy with alternating POVs. Even though the words master and sub are used, the kink is mild and has more to do with voluntary power exchange. This also plays with the bi for you/out for you trope. With all of Amani’s pride at the beginning of this, it all but disappears as they become a couple. It seems unlikely that the money was such a big deal, is just no longer an issue. It also seems strange Vic doesn’t tell Ash about Amani. There are never any ramifications to a rich, famous, straight CEO suddenly dating a femme, black Moroccan man. In other words, it’s a nice fantasy, but I wanted a little more realism–a little more depth. However, there are references to Richard Gere, so if this is a take on Pretty Woman, that may be unfair of me and there is something to be said for writing the world how we want it to be.

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Author’s Website

Review: One Step Back by Edie Danford

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Asher is the good boy nerd and Joe is the bad boy jock. Joe’s mom and Asher’s dad have been dating for four years and are about to get married before everything falls apart. Eleven years later, Asher and Joe meet again at a business meeting when they realize they will be working on an account together. This might appeal to those who like the second chance trope. Through scenes and flashbacks, we get layers of their personality and history together a little bit at a time throughout the book. By the end of chapter four, I am wondering why they are not together? There is never a really good answer. Immaturity? Stubbornness? Pride? Fear of more rejection? Maybe all of the above, but if they can’t talk and work things out, they shouldn’t be together anyway.

I think this is a stylistic thing for me. It’s not that it’s badly written–it isn’t. I’m not a huge fan of flashbacks, but they are effective here. I think the alternating first person POV also works well to slowly reveal both sides of the story evenly. It may be that what I don’t click with is: there is so much inner monologue in a way that doesn’t match the style of what they each say when they talk. Even though it is supposed to be first person, the inner monologues of both characters are the same, and really the author telling us what we need to know to make the story work–most of which is complicated family histories or complicated work politics. These feel like manufacturered crisis. I do like that Joe being bisexual is never a problem or issue between them.

The angst and all consuming lust/love is kept high at all times: “…the amount of energy I’d spent thinking about him had probably caused a shift in the universe and, after coming within fifty or so miles of him, I figured we’d be thrown together by the force of cosmic rays.” It’s exhausting. But, plenty of fans love angsty OTT feelings, this style seems to be popular so you might like it. I think it would be more effective if it was used more sparingly for the dramatic moments like a crescendo. Even the sex scenes, while explicit and hot, have a lot of thinking, which banks the fire for me, leaving me distanced from what’s happening. Then, there is sex scene after sex scene after sex scene, past and present. The final complications all happen because they are making plans without talking to each other. I understood that when they were teenagers, but they are late twenties (29?) now at least. Of course, they finally work it out because this is a romance, but it felt hard won even though nothing much happens in my opinion.

The cover is by Black Jazz Designs. This is obviously supposed to be Joe. With dual POV, it seems strange that only one of them are on the cover.

Sales Links:  Amazon
Book Details:
Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 316 pages
Published October 23rd 2018 by Edie Danford
ASINB07GNY5Z8C

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: One Step Back by Edie Danford — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words