Review: Master Of Obsidian (Master Chronicles #1) by Jamie Craig

Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

This is a dark erotic romance, with urban fantasy elements, set in Chicago. Jesse is a human who works for a vampire named Gideon doing private investigations. They’ve been hired to solve a murder that may tie to a dangerous new demon drug. This shows alternating points of view, but I still feel like I got to know Jesse better than Gideon, which may be a good thing.

One issue is the plot is obviously just to move them from one sex scene to another, which is a shame because there could have been something more interesting done with what is here. For instance, seeing more of their actual relationship before being thrown into their sexual relationship would have given this a more solid basis. More UST before they got together as well as any indication at all that Jesse was into pain before they have sex, would have made it less jarring. Seeing Jesse’s fantasies and revelling in Gideon’s angst to control himself would have added more depth. For me, the distressing part was no aftercare, even when Jesse had open wounds. Gideon doesn’t really treat Jesse with the care, the respect, the reader is told he has for him; not just in their personal interactions, but with the case they are working, where he doesn’t give Jesse vital information. At least that is acknowledged after the fact, it’s just that so much of this really should have been talked about before all the events that happen.

Between sex scenes, most of the information is told to the reader as a statement right before they need it, rather than being seen in flashbacks. I’m going to mention something that is not related to the plot, so it’s not a spoiler, but would turn many people off: I want readers to be aware there is a scene where Jesse gets off to Gideon’s snuff porn. This caused an issue for me: why is Jesse expecting better behavior from John, the blackest of mages, but then turns around and has no issue with Gideon’s past? I guess for those raised on a TV show with Angel and Spike, maybe this isn’t a big deal? But the reader doesn’t get to know enough of this supposedly good Gideon that is trying to save humans before being introduced to who he used to be. Then, there is the torture scene which really points out the problems with the world-building. One assumes, if the suspect were human, they would have involved the police, but since the suspect is a vampire (demon), they can do whatever they want to her? Obviously humans, mages, and vampires know about each other and coexist, but that is all the reader really knows about this world. In the end, I was left with a few steamy sex scenes and characters that are a bit twisted and not necessarily likeable. Even Jesse seemed more dangerously obsessed with Gideon rather than in love with him, enough to blur ethical lines and basically do whatever he wants as long as Jesse gets what he wants from Gideon.

I think for maximum enjoyment, this should be read as a series of sexual fantasies without a lot of expectations. Since it’s about vampires, expect a lot a blood. Also be aware this has a m/m/f scene, violence, torture, and Gideon sharing Jesse, so they are not monogamous in the traditional sense.

The cover art for my version was done by Cover Design: Written Ink Designs (written-ink.com) with image(s) used under a Standard Royalty-Free License. It does communicate the BDSM elements, but not really the paranormal or investigative elements.

Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC | Amazon | Kobo

Book Details: Kindle Edition, 192 pages
Published September 25th 2019 by JMS Books LLC
ASINB07XWNT85S

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Master Of Obsidian (Master Chronicles #1) by Jamie Craig — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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: By Way of Pain – Criminal Delights: Assassins by J.M. Dabney

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

This is part of the Criminal Delights series, which are standalones by different authors revolving around dark themes. Pay attention to the trigger warnings. This book is about a lawyer named Cowan Kingley, who is a hired assassin. The reader sees him at different ages to establish him as not quite right, and much of the book is in his first person POV. The reader also gets the first person POV of the man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and ends up kidnapped instead of killed. The key here is the why of it. What would make an assassin not kill a witness right away?

The warnings say dubcon, but I would say this is noncon. The Stockholm Syndrome contributes to the confusion. As a virgin with no experience, the captive has never had the chance to find out what he likes. Once Conway starts with the humiliation, whipping, spanking, choking, and breath play…his captive realizes he likes it. I don’t think this will convince anyone who isn’t predisposed to liking this sort of book. The book really has two acts. The first half is more intimate with just the two of them. The second half has John Wick style action sequences. While the whole book is actually effective, well written, and way more entertaining than it should be with a satisfying conclusion…there is a major issue.

Although Conway thinks of himself as a sociopath and has studied human psychology, I can’t agree since he is able to become obsessed, possessive, and caring–genuinely caring as the reader knows his POV–towards his captive. In the thank you note at the end, the author calls him a psychopath. These are not interchangeable words; they are two different things. One lacks empathy and the other lacks conscience, but neither would care about anyone else, let alone fall in love. This is the downfall of the book. If you are willing to ignore clinical definitions of these mental illnesses and suspend disbelief, it is well done for what it is.

The cover by was done by Natasha Snow. The covers of the whole series are stylized and match

Sales Links:  Amazon Universal Link: books2read.com/CriminalDelights-Pain

Book Details: Kindle Edition, 166 pages
Published May 20th 2019 by Hostile Whispers Press, LLC
ASINB07PKQZ23C
Edition Language: English

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: By Way of Pain – Criminal Delights: Assassins by J.M. Dabney — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Shift by Joel Abernathy, Flesh And Bone 3

Shift cover

I would rate this 3.75 stars.

This is the third book in the series about werewolves, vampires, and hunters. These should be read in order for the overarching storyline. These books don’t have white hats, but shades of gray with graphic sex and violence. This is Andrei’s story of how he meets Mihail showing alternating POV. It makes sense, in this world, that they would end up thrown together–both know death and the hunt. This is a coming of age story in many ways and shows their gradual loss of innocence, breaking away from their family influences/duties and finding out who they are and what they can live with.

After all the nontraditional pairing in the first two books, I’m not sure why everyone expects Andrei to just fall in line with tradition, especially with his past. This has that Romeo and Juliet quality, except they actually have known each other for most of their lives. The plot is similar to the second one featuring Mason and Vasil, so the author had to throw us a curveball out of nowhere in regards to Andrei. That’s not quite fair, there was a little foreshadowing, but I feel like the actual plot didn’t need it on top of everything else. It just seems to be there for a certain type of sex to occur. This is trope city with friends to enemies to lovers, dirty little secret, alpha/omega, first time, and dubcon all present.

One of the emotional components I really liked about this story was something I understand: abuse, being feral, and then being vulnerable when you feel loved and unable to access that rage for protection anymore. There are so many psychological issues that ring true to human existence included to help ground the story a bit. That’s especially important when writing about characters who are not “good” or necessarily likeable.

In the beginning the story seems slow and clunky, but gets better as you see the threads of the plot weave in and tighten. The author is consistent and committed to this over the top, angsty style so it makes sense to just revel in it. Then it all ties back to books one and two, making it all inevitable. All the interesting world building from book one isn’t really used or visited again. It’s also a shame that we see all the characters from the first two books, but they have just walk-on parts with no sense of their personality. These books have been about finding home and someone who will love you, scars and scarred psyche and all, yet I didn’t really feel it. The way this book ends for Andrei and Mihail, the way the series ends, has a nice symmetry.

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Review: Wrong Way Home (Criminal Delights: Taken) by K.A. Merikan

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

This series has very dark themes. Each book is by a different author and can be read as standalones. Please pay attention to the trigger warnings and tags.

The first two chapters are Colin’s POV as he takes a new route home to visit his parents and ends up seeing a murder. The horror elements are well done. I understand the negotiating–believing maybe if Colin tried to offer favors it might save his life or improve his quality of life in the situation. I think for me, the attraction was too quick on Colin’s part after what he witnessed. Chapter three shows Tarin’s POV. He’s not a psychopath, but he is a survivalist and definitely follows his own rules and moral code. After the initial awkwardness in transitioning them from captor/hostage to actual lovers, the book gets very intriguing when absorbing the reader in what might be Stockholm Syndrome. The sex here is raw, wild, and brutal the first few times and then gets intense with intimacy as the book progresses. As the rest of the book alternates between them, both characters get their layers peeled away.

I liked the blurb and got drawn into the possibilities presented, but the book ends up having a very different feel than what I thought it would be. The original murder is explained and Tarin ends up being quite thoughtful, if stubborn and damaged by past trauma. Colin starts out as not terribly happy and filled with anxiety about decisions and disappointing his family. He and Tarin are strangely well suited and while he may not realise it, his true personality comes out once he feels “safe” enough to fight with Tarin. The noncon/dubcon part of the scenario would have always hung over them unless it was addressed; so while it is addressed, I think I might have liked Colin and Tarin to have more time apart and Colin to have come back on his own, on equal footing. I’ll not spoil it, but there was an opportunity to bring some of the horror elements from the beginning, back into the story and the authors chose a different path. It is also awkward in parts and the plot is a bit thin. Overall, this is a surprisingly sweet romance about two men who might have never met but for fate. They both learn what having a relationship actually means (working together towards a common goal, compromise, listening to each other, respect) and that they are stronger and happier together than apart.

The cover design is by Natasha Snow. Almost all the covers by these authors are dark and stylized with bright fonts. The covers for this series are all similar. This shows Talin and makes sense to the story on more than one level, so I thought it was well done.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal Link – Exclusive to Amazon and Available to Borrow with Kindle Unlimited

Book Details: Kindle Edition, 264 pages
Published April 15th 2019 by Acerbi & Villani ltd
ASINB07P9MVC31
Edition Language: English

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Wrong Way Home (Criminal Delights: Taken) by K.A. Merikan — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Pendulum by Joel Abernathy, Kingdom of Night 1

Pendulum Cover
I would rate this 4.25 stars.

This is a trilogy and the first two books end with cliffhangers, so you have been warned. If you follow my reviews, you know I hate cliffhangers, but there is a definate story arc and these have already been written since this is a rerelease under a new pen name, so I decided to take the plunge. This series has dark themes and explicit content so pay attention to the trigger warnings and tags. (As an aside, there is nothing hardcore in this book in terms of BDSM, but I have used the author’s tags which may be for the whole trilogy.)

Remus is looking to start over in Washington after having left Texas, to get away from his rich controlling ex-boyfriend. He meets Arthur, who is a member of a high class BDSM club run by the Wolf Pack. There is a contest to be Alpha’s Pet that Remus enters without meaning to and quickly gets in over his head. The whole situation is odd and gets more odd by the minute. It’s also a lot of fun as both Remus and I tried to figure out what is happening. Remus meets the twins Sebastion and Victor, sparking angst and jealousy in Victor as Sebsatian has marked them as mates without telling Remus or giving him a choice.

Although Victor seems creepy at first, in many ways he would be a better match for Remus. The love between Sebastian and Remus is too soon and unbelievable. The sex scenes between them are lacking something. The author does a good job of seesawing between the three of them in a love trangle, but it would have been a great job with more time devoted to figuring out why Sebastian and Remus fall in love in the first place. Having more depth here would have really given an emotional oomph to what happens later in the story. The author is great at building the tension like a horror novel. Also the sexual tension between Victor and Remus is well done in places, but could have been better developed with more scenes. Here, the short looming deadline could be seen as working against the story, but a few more scenes with Victor as Master would have gone a long way. This may be a personal preference as some readers may like the fast pacing, which does add urgency. By the time the extent of Remus’s past is revealed, there is yet another impediment to them being together.

This brings us to the vampires. The origin myth for the wolves and vampires is completely awesome. It also helps develop the mythos of both cultures which we’ll see more of moving forward. I feel like there is a little hypocrisy about the way the wolves view the vampires in terms of death and violence although the wolves do seem…saner, mostly. The last part of the book is OTT (Over The Top). It is both horrifying and fun. No one is left untouched and the readers’ perception of each charcter will completely change by the end. I think I know what will happen–there is plenty of foreshadowing. For me to be happy about Remus ending up with Sebastian in any fashion, there will have to be some major character development. Having said that Remus has some problems of his own to fix. I had wondered why the author spent so much time on Remus’s professor and roommate, only to seemingly drop that portion of the story, but they popped up later when I least expected it and will definitely be more involved in the next books. My last little thing is that I didn’t actually like the switch in POV in the Epilogue, even though I acknowledge that it helps set up a dilemma for the next book. Without giving away too much, there is a good reason that Remus’s POV may not be desirable at this point in the story arc. It’s a good thing I only have to wait a few weeks to see what happens.

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