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

TermsOfService
Cover Art by Garrett Leigh of Black Jazz Design

I would rate this 4.5 stars.

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

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

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

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Marie Sexton’s website

**Currently the ebook is only available from Amazon.

Review: Unfettered by Kate Hawthorne

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Heath is a 39 year old Sub who has suffered past trauma with his Dom. When he meets 24 year old Beau on a dating app, they have more in common than he could have imagined. With their first date, the dynamics slot into place nicely. Having Heath’s point of view creates a nerve-wracking tension, while having Beau’s point of view cements his confidence and maturity. The author creates a nice push and pull. This gets intense on the second date with Heath telling Beau about his ex. Beau handles Health’s abuse well throughout the relationship. Once Heath finds out Beau is a student, and in a class he is subbing for, things get complicated. On the one hand it’s taboo sexy, on the other hand it’s wrong of Beau to put Heath in this position as his Dom. I think that is why the author makes it Heath’s decision to out them to a colleague Michael. But then it’s just dropped with no mention of the ethics of Heath grading Beau’s work at the end of the semester.

One focus is on Beau’s five half brothers and that family dynamic, yet I can’t figure out if this is only to try and give Beau more depth, or if they are added so the author can make this a series and give them their own books. Of all the brothers, Cameron keeps pushing for a relationship with Beau and I’m not really sure why. Heath’s sister and her wife are also included, but considering he speaks to her daily, she is still not not given a lot of life. Michael is given the least to do even though he unintentionally plays a pivotal part. There is a plot twist with a big reveal, but that too seems glossed over: there is more emotional resonance coming from the postscript by the author, than the story she fictionalized about it. For me, I enjoyed Beau’s top drop and his crisis of faith in himself, yet his real emotions weren’t explored. At this point I successfully felt Heath’s frustration with Beau not trusting his own judgment. The reader is not really privy to how Heath worked out how to trust his judgment after what happened with Mac.

This is an erotic romance that basically goes from one hot, graphic, explicit and messy sex scene to another. They do build a relationship, but the dialogue gets stuck on awkward talk of family or Health’s job. I enjoyed the sex and there were moments I really liked the characters: it’s just that after being privy to so much of their intimacy, I still don’t feel like I know them very well from their own points of view. For instance, what does Beau want to do after he graduates? I have no idea. Their collaring and planning their lives together is romantic, it just would have been even more so if I would have been more emotionally invested. Think of this as high on kinky sex, and low on plot and character development with suprisingly low angst for the subject matter.

The cover design by AmaiDesigns shows a scene from one of their dates.

Buy Link: AMAZON 

Book Details: Kindle Edition, 261 pages
Published November 21st 2019
ASINB081FZPXX1

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Unfettered by Kate Hawthorne — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Hearts Under Fire (New Amsterdam #1) by Kelly Wyre

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

When two Doms meet in a bar and are enamored with each other…someone has to submit or they need a third. There are plenty of books like either of those scenarios, but this is something more nuanced. Clark owns a Bar named Glow, but is also part owner of a BDSM club and has a nebulous side job working for Lucien that isn’t entirely explained. Daniel is a college professor and professional Dom. The awkward dance really begins as Clark tracks Daniel down and invites him to visit the club for a possible job and membership. When the characters start acting differently than the way that had already been established, the care given as both characters unfold in really unexpected ways, just because of each other, was great to read. The key is that their reactions to each other are different than their reactions to others, so this goes serious very quickly.

With the way their first night happens, they actually have to talk about it–still no one uses the words switch or vers. Not everything has to be labeled or put in a box. The answer for me is…Clark will refer to Daniel as Sir occasionally in this book, but Daniel never calls Clark that, so that’s all I need to know. Arguably there is very little D/s at this point in their relationship, but there are power dynamics that are fluid. They tend to naturally flow in and out of fairly mild “scenes.” There are several explicit, beautifully written sex scenes, but a tad too many “Oh, God” and “Nnngh” moans. These guys are vocal and they do like to talk during sex. The hurt/comfort trope is maximized here in a way that doesn’t seem forced or exploitative. Be aware there are flashbacks from Clark’s time in the service. Daniel has had his own trauma and loss. The story does switch points of view between them, however I noticed that it’s usually in the vulnerable POV during sex, yet not during the sharing of trauma with each other. The times when Daniel lets himself be taken care of are some of my favorite parts–him trusting Clark and relinquishing control doesn’t change who he is. They hold a safe space for each other.

The book is broken into two parts. I felt like the romance was established enough in order for this next part to work. There is foreshadowing, but I was still shocked. It is one of my own worst nightmares, so it was very difficult to read. The reader will be in Daniel’s POV for a very traumatizing event. I appreciated the aftermath of the event being focused on, the other people affected by the violence, not just the relationship. I felt the action sequences were well done and believable. However, it’s also in the last quarter where it goes off the rails a bit for me. As Clark’s boss, friend, and one of the club’s co-owners, Lucian’s behavior towards Clark may make some sense, but it doesn’t make sense for Daniel, whom he had just met. It’s distracting because the reader knows Clark has known Lucian for years, but has not been shown that relationship for more than a few lines. I realize I might be in the minority about this, but with Daniel being a police insider and Clark heavily involved in elite politics…the privileged ending and special treatment was a bit off-putting to me instead of romantic. However, I think this book establishes a comfort level and trust for a real BDSM relationship to develop over time while they are an established couple in a way other books miss when they rush to play with equipment or just expect the sub to be vulnerable to a dom who has never reciprocated. This is a new to me author and I found this erotic romantic thriller to be more thought provoking than most in its genre.

The cover design was done by Natasha Snow. It’s a bit generic, but along with the title should let the reader know a bit of what to expect.

Sales Link:  Amazon

JMS Books

Book Details: ebook
Published January 17th 2018 by JMS Books (first published July 1st 2011)
ISBN139781684311729
Edition Language: English
Series: New Amsterdam

 

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Hearts Under Fire (New Amsterdam #1) by Kelly Wyre — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Fairground Attractions Series by L.M. Somerton

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

I read and liked the Investigating Love series by this author years ago, so I thought I would try these. This trilogy has one overarching storyline, so although each novella focuses on one couple, they have to be read in order and together for maximum enjoyment. Garth, Stevie, Adam, and Zach are friends from university who work at the local amusement park during the summer breaks. The conversation in the diner at the start of summer lets the reader know what they are in for as each character is described and labeled. The plot focuses on criminals using the park as a cover for their activities: something to further tie together these three stories of couples exploring their different kinks with a hurt/comfort trope for all. I didn’t rate the individual stories because the plot is the same and each reader will have their own preference on what type of sex scene and dynamic appeals to them. The BDSM scenes are all pretty steamy, even though I think they are only there for titillation rather than being truly moving. I also don’t think these are realistic representations of loving D/s relationships, just erotic romances with a bit of fun plot. There is a nudge nudge, wink wink quality since Criminal Minds and the Scooby gang are mentioned.

GHOST TRAIN

This one focuses on the goth of the group, Garth. He is assigned to work on the ghost train ride for the summer. Most of the details are not believable: Clem works as an investigator that helps the police so they just let Garth leave without questioning him after he discovers a dead body. This is rectified somewhat in book two and three. Clem and Garth drive straight into BDSM the next day, with bondage, when he has very little experience and it’s technically their first date. I appreciate that information is gleaned from actual conversations between the characters rather than info dumps. There are little details, like Garth getting hurt, that just don’t disappear–they stay consistently acknowledged. Garth is the bratty type of submissive for Clem, who likes the challenge and play.

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Pride Publishing  |  Amazon UK  |  Amazon US

MERRY GO ROUND

Stevie is the sweet and shy one in this group of friends, but still no pushover. He has been assigned to the carousel. His best friend, and crush, Adam, is working security at the park. Although one assumes they have been dancing around their attraction for quite awhile, they are virgins who jump into more without talking about it. Whereas the first couple were much more serious about the BDSM, this couple seem more like they are playing at it. This matches them both being inexperienced and is generally cute. Although they are the same age and the dynamics are not all there, Adam is more like a Daddy with no age play.

Buy Links

Pride Publishing  |  Amazon UK  |  Amazon US

 

HELTER SKELTER

Zach has a crush on his former math professor Daniel, who has been dragged into the investigation since he is an expert on mathematical ciphers. He works with the police to decipher the codes the criminals are using. Now that Zach is no longer his student, he is ready to make his move. He is the strictest dom, needing a compliant sub. Again, they rush headlong into a masochistic relationship without any indication Zach would be into that until the first sex scene. There is some scary equipment use here with no discussion about anything. Zach’s father, who owns the park, has not been doing well with all the stress. It is the perfect handing over of the reins for Zach’s care as the police close in on the drug runners and the assassin Harlequin. When Clem and Daniel go to help the police, the three subs can’t resist going to see the conclusion of the investigation.

Buy Links

Pride Publishing  |  Amazon UK  | Amazon US

 

The epilogue ties up any loose plot strings and gives one more scene between Daniel and Zach. Even though there are several traumatic events in these books, (murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, threats of sexual assault, shooting, and stabbing), they all seem to be there as a reason to excuse the insta-love/lust. The BDSM is used to take everyone’s mind off the criminal investigation and fear. There is amazingly low angst in all three of these. All three couples are looking to the future as the four guys head back to college for their final year.

The cover art is by Erin Dameron-Hill. I love the covers, but they seem quite dark. While there are dark plot points, this is all a bit of fun, so I think some more amusement park colors could have signaled that. Each one highlights the submissive in that story; I think the models used match the characters well.

Book Details: ebook, 86 pages
Published February 26th 2019 by Pride Publishing
ISBN139781786517234
Series: Fairground Attractions

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review:Fairground Attractions Series by L M Somerton — 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: Just Say the Word by Elizabeth L. Brooks & Lynn Townsend

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

This book made me destroy my process. When I’m going to review a book, I open up a notepad so while I’m reading I can put down all the important names, things I like and don’t like, and my feelings regarding what I read. Usually, by the time I’m done reading the book, the review just needs to come together with connector sentences. I had that happening until the last 25 percent of the book when I realized I was going to have to trash the whole thing and start over. The review was not looking good up until that time and then, I got the point (I hope); however, there are things I still think might have been better executed.

The story is about an established couple, who after a year together start on a journey of adding kink to their love life. Tom is a prosecutor who met his boyfriend Gage, a police detective, at work. Much is made of Tom being an experienced dom and switch. Gabe is the bisexual, widowed vanilla guy in this scenario. I like how a few pages in, I knew everything I need to know about everyone involved, just from a natural sounding conversation instead of an info dump. Having said that, it does seem strange that Tom hasn’t really shared anything about his sexual history with Gage until one of his colleagues says something.

This is erotica, so don’t expect a lot of plot. Most of the book just moves them from one scene to another. The scenes focus on the actual descriptions of the various positions or tools so they aren’t even as erotic as they could be. In fact, many of them are upsetting as one thing after another goes wrong with each scene. Gabe is excited but unsure and yet when given complete control, sinks into it, at odds with the blushing novice of the previous scene. This really wouldn’t have worked without them trusting each other so well already. That is why it doesn’t make sense how Tom gets injured, especially when much is made of his previous experience later. Also, since we are getting Gabe’s POV, I’m not sure how he knows how to use the equipment and what to expect about how Tom’s reactions to bondage are going to go. Their second scene is shibari, in multiple patterns, with Gabe using instructions on his phone with no prior indication of Gabe practicing. No, that is just not believable even if there is a nod to acknowledging it isn’t.

Apparently, we missed Gabe’s first time submitting to Tom altogether, which could have been quite interesting psychologically and was a missed opportunity for some emotional depth. That might be optimistic, since the depth at that point seems to just be them calling each other baby, angel, gorgeous, babydoll, and saying I love you often. I was not feeling it. The author skips all of Gabe’s training as a sub, so it’s difficult to gauge the time frame of this book.

Since Tom is into exhibitionism, Gabe secures an invitation to an exclusive BDSM club, because Tom was well known in the scene at one time. After an intense scene, they wander the club instead of going home afterwards and Gabe is thrown into a situation that triggers him, then he has sub drop. So far, I was not impressed with Tom as either a sub, nor as a dom, who didn’t take care of Gabe properly after his first intense public scene. Then, in the next scene Gabe gets injured so I am really frustrated by now. The scene after that Gabe talks about gagging Tom, putting a vibrator in him while he is in bondage and going to sleep. That is also a no for me, especially when he is not in the proper mindset to do a scene at all after a traumatic day at work. At least he realizes it, but that is another scene gone really wrong. At this point, I am wondering if the authors are writing a what not to do manual.

Yet, it also doesn’t really work as a study of a couple exploring their kinky side together because we miss so much of their journey, it’s difficult to be emotionally invested. Having the POV be all over the place, contributed to that. By the time I actually feel the connection between the two of them, the book is almost over. The most erotic scene in the book at that point is when they are not kinky at all.

The scenes actually work better when Gabe is the dom for some reason. I’m not always a fan of accents in books, so it would be fine without the phonetics. I think there should have been more about them as people, or as a couple, other than sex scenes. If the goal was to show all the mistakes they make and how they grow over time, that could have been shown with practicing with equipment, taking classes, or other ways that were less stressful for the reader than having all the scenes end with one of them distressed, injured, or showing bad judgment. In the end, it is quite an effective reminder that most of what you read, where the dom is seemingly perfect at everything and a mind reader…that’s crap. It takes a long time, trial and error, and commitment from both parties, especially when there is experimentation, to get good at doing scenes. All doms and subs are different, will react differently, and just learning one person really well is a challenge.

The final scene is the one that goes as planned, is erotic, and shows the love they have for each other where it is written so it’s easier to connect to it. I just wish it hadn’t been quite as upsetting to get there, but then imagine being the one these things happen to, or the one who did them to the person they love. Everyone makes mistakes, but when it involves unintentionally hurting someone, or being hurt, imagine the trust and love it takes to keep coming back again and again. So, I hope that was what the book was trying to show and I have rated it accordingly.

The cover art is done by Written Ink Designs. The picture lets you know that the content of the book involves kink. I think the title is layered with meaning for the story.

Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC  | Amazon
Book Details: ebook, 137 pages
Published September 21st 2018 by JMS Books LLC
ISBN139781634867344

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Just Say the Word by Elizabeth L. Brooks & Lynn Townsend — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words