Review: Asylum by Julian Burnes

I would rate this 4.5 stars.

Based on the blurb, this book wasn’t quite what I thought it would be, so I struggled to rate it and review it without spoilers. This is billed as a paranormal erotic romance, and while that is true, it is so much more. Tags are spoilers, so as per usual, I will only give them when I think stories could be triggering to people. This book contains multigenerational family trauma, sexual abuse, incest, attempted suicide in first person, suicide, bipolar and OCD mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, and ghosts thrown in with kinky sex. Since this is told in a single first person point of view, I got very attached to this character, but talking about him is a spoiler. This story is not told in linear time, so it might be difficult to get into the first two or three times it goes from the present to the past, but then it seems very natural as he shares his life through memories. The characters become complex and multifaceted the more the book goes on–one minute I might hate a character and the next I felt sorry for them even though that doesn’t absolve them of their awful choices.

Let’s start with the erotic romance, which I think worked very well. He meets a Dom named Devon in a club and everything goes sideways. Luckily another Dom named Mike helps him when he needs it, allowing the reader to get to know more about the main characters before any sex actually happens. The trust comes when the paranormal aspects are believed by everyone involved, which helps the romance move forward. I think this was effective. All the characters here are likeable and believable. The sex scenes are hot. With an 11 year age gap, the huge disparity in circumstances, and the added D/s aspect, there is plenty of the hurt/comfort trope in play. Devon ends up being compelling as a Dom and very endearing as a person.

There are so many great secondary characters in this book: Officer McBride, Devon’s sister-in-law Maya, Dom Mike, and the medium Maxine are the obvious favorites. There are also well written characters that evoked very negative emotions for me like Uncle Barry, Mom Dana, and Vern. Barry seemed confused about right and wrong without ever trying to figure it out. Dana deserves credit for doing the best she could at the time, she made an effort…but not enough of one to actually heal, so that saddened and frustrated me. She had plenty of opportunities to get help from mental health professionals, but just didn’t. That may seem like victim blaming to some, but she had children to raise and could have done better by them. As for Vern, I hate him. At its heart, this is the story of two brothers and their tragedy, as well as how everything got to this point–it’s a story of an American family tragedy.

As for the paranormal aspects, occultism is treated with respect here, not as a party trick. I believe in energy work, in cleansing, in the benefits of ceremony and feel like this is a really good idea for anyone who wants to find closure for grief and trauma…we have funerals for a reason. Often, the difference is at a funeral people focus on the good, forgetting the bad…and that might not help people find any sort of resolution, especially with the ridiculous notion of not “speaking ill of the dead,” which is just a whole layer of guilt people get wrapped up in. I don’t agree that intention matters most. For many, this will be a lot of woo but this is based in what some people actually practice, so either the author does believe or has done excellent research on the topic. It does walk a fine line…and then gets preachy at the end. I would have rated this higher, but I don’t like being prostalitized to. Also, evoking Robert Monroe and the Matrix Control System is strange in an LGBTQIA book because he believed one reason for his theory is because all mobiles are split into two genders, ever seeking reunion with each other. Ugh.

This book is a rare gem–entertaining and packs an emotional wallop without wallowing in emotional pornography. I like how the ideas of Platonic solids, sacred geometry, and reincarnation are synthesized together, yet the New Age ideas used to explain the phenomena were a bit offputting for me. There is a lot to unpack here, but I’m not going to get into spiritual arguments about an erotic fictional book. Finally, there is an epilogue about 4 years later than the main events of the book. I liked the range of reactions to what happened because in the end, people still choose how to process things. Having or creating an opportunity for closure doesn’t mean everyone will let go and move forward in a positive way. I’m glad theirs is psychological work with a therapist, rather than only relying on New Age ideas.

The cover design was made by Written Ink Designs | written-ink.com. At first I thought the images combined with the title were a bit misleading, but the more I think about it, I really like them for the metaphorical imagery. The main character is trapped until he gets to see the bigger picture and find his asylum, his safe place where he is free.

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Asylum by Julian Burnes — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: One Man’s Trash by Marie Sexton, The Heretic Doms Club 1

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Cover Art by Garrett Leigh of Black Jazz Design

 

I would rate this 4.75 stars.

The blurb here tells you the whole plot. Warren is ex-military, with survivor’s guilt, and has created a life for himself many would feel was unconventional. He helps people in his own way, but isn’t terribly happy. Taylor is a rent boy with past demons whose moments of fleeting happiness aren’t enough to give him a life raft. When these two damaged people meet, it’s a case of them finding the right puzzle piece–they match in the way they both most need. I’m not talking about love conquers all, but rather hope giving them each the chance to make changes, make different decisions to increase their happiness. I loved both these characters. I always felt like they were real people. For me, there is a HEA, but I feel like they are both out there, stuggling to continue to make the best choices for them.

This novel goes to some dark places, so pay attention to the tags. I will highlight two things because, frankly, this book is awesome and I don’t want people leaving bad reviews just because it isn’t their cup of tea. There is humiliation. There is urination. Although a flogger and BDSM eqipment is used, it’s not really the focus of this book. The author concentrates on the psychology of the characters and their daily lives. There is no “play.” Also, Taylor is a whore and has sex with multiple people in this book. There is no cheating because there is no expectation of monogamy at the time, but I know some people don’t like that. I felt like this was all very realistic and well written without feeling full of tropes. Yes, there is an age gap and plenty of hurt/comfort, with a power exchange–they are there because they are real for this couple, not just to have a list of buzzwords to attract readers. In other words, things aren’t just there to be salacious, not that they aren’t intriguing, just that it is all very heartbreaking and heartwarming in turns.

If I have any small complaint, it’s that I wanted to see more of Warren’s friends and have them be as real also. They all get books, so I will have my wish, but it would have made this even more compelling. I don’t feel like I know Warren’s friend Charlie as well as Taylor’s friend Riley, for instance. Then again, everyone’s life is very bleak already, so focusing on this bubble of happiness that Warren and Riley fight hard to create by being truthful and brave…that is everything and it is more than enough.

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

Sick And Tragic Bastard Son by Rowan Massey

 

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Book cover designed by BetiBup33 Studio Design

I would rate this 4.75 stars.

The title says it all really. This is a young man with mental health issues who, on his 18th birthday, finds out his biological father lives in the next city over. Apparently he left them right after Zander’s birth, and he is actually gay even though he started a new family with another woman. Since that is Zander’s hunting ground for older gay men to have sex with, he starts to obsess whether he might have already had sex with his own father. Sometimes, he can’t tell his real memories from his fake memories. Since much of the book is in Zander’s point of view, it makes this all incredibly dark and twisted. His need for revenge for the father that abandoned him becomes all consuming. Of course the fantasy that his life would have been different if his father has been around, because he would be well adjusted, is just a fantasy. This is someone seriously disturbed.

There are many parts of this that are psychologically interesting. The Westermarck effect hypothesizes that sexual disinterest happens with those with whom you spent most of your early life. Genetic sexual attraction (GSA) is the term coined by Barbara Gonyo in the 1980s. Apparently some adoption agencies estimate that elements of GSA occur in 50% of reunions between parents and children that have been separated at birth; this can also occur with siblings. These relationships can often turn dark and obsessive, even revenge for perceived abandonment has been documented, so this book is not farfetched at all, even when speaking of supposedly mentally healthy individuals. So, that’s where I expected this story to go. That’s not what happens here, at least on Zander’s side, but might help explain Clay’s attraction to Zander because the phenomenon happens whether you know you are related or not. This is not Daddy kink or incest kink either, although there are explicit scenes–they aren’t erotic, they just make everything complicated. The fact that they fall in love makes it all so much more devastating. It’s really just a sad story about the multigenerational life traumas of a family, made worse by Zander’s mental instability. In effect, he retraumatizes himself and takes everyone else along with him.

The beginning, the setup, is difficult to get into because almost all of this takes place in Zander’s head with very little dialogue. Once it’s setup, the story really kicks in. The fact that it’s very well thought out and written lured me into this incredibly disturbing tale. The author gives flashbacks to how being a bastard affected Zander when he was growing up, combined with the depression his mom Leona suffered from, it’s not difficult to see how he fell through the cracks. The drinking and drug use doesn’t help either of them. Obviously mental illness is sometimes hereditary. Since the reader doesn’t experience Leona’s point of view, it’s difficult to tell. Either way, this woman is a horror and Zander was let down by everyone, society included. By the time it switches to Clay’s point of view, we see he is in a rut and lonely. He’s distraught over the loss of his son, who he knows just turned 18. The reader gets his story at the same time as Zander and it changes the whole plot. Woven in are flashbacks to Clay’s childhood and his own traumas. This also layers in more information about Leona and her family. Be aware there is violence to animals in this story. What all of these tales show are the failings of the grandparents and parents involved in dealing traumatic events, so that as adults these people continue to make bad decisions and perpetuate the damage.

Zander’s sister Lottie is someone who might have come through this relatively unscathed if not for the infiltration of Zander into her life. Of course, he was already there and she suffered the effects of him, she just didn’t know it. The scenes of them as friends, although Lottie wanted more until she realizes Zander is gay, show glimpses of might have beens. The last third showing some of the events in her point of view brought me desolation as I realized if she has children, this cycle will just continue as I’m sure it did in Clay’s brother’s children. Her mom could actually get her some good counseling, but I felt no hope this would happen.

This was always a train that was going to run off the tracks; every moment careens towards a horrific conclusion. This is where the author shows some compassion, because if the whole ending had been in Clay’s head, I might not have been able to bare it. Switching points of view did leave me some welcome ambiguity. Even the final moments with Zander, while painful, are left open ended–I am left to write my own ending. What is he diagnosed with? Will he get the help he needs? Will he go to prison? Will he be institutionalized? Is any of this forgivable? I want to cry because I understand all of this, and wish I didn’t.

Rowan Massey’s Website

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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: Strength of His Heart (Enhanced World #4) by Victoria Sue

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Book four focuses on Vance who comes from a family of law enforcement, and his new partner Samuel who left working for the DEA and ATF to join the enhanced FBI unit. One of Samuel’s informants will only speak to him, so they are actually on loan to the joint task force when a bust goes wrong. As there are dead enhanced, the unit starts working the case. They are also working on finding enhanced who are going missing again.

As with previous books, there are a whole lot of coincidences here as the cases being worked overlap. There is a new drug being sold that uses enhanced blood, possibly for blood doping in athletes. As Vance goes undercover as bait, Sam gets kidnapped and his past meets his present. There are flashbacks from Sam throughout the book, showing what he needs to overcome in order to be a good partner and friend. I found the whole storyline with his mom is exploited for closure as well as to set Sam and Vance up with an instant family.

In the previous books, Vance seemed the luckiest of the enhanced with a supportive family, but here we’re shown his insecurities about his size and weight, along with the bullying his parents didn’t know about. Here he comes across as a gentle giant. It’s fun to watch Vance physically protect Sam, while Sam emotionally protects Vance. All of these books focus on the hurt/comfort trope in their own way. Samuel is jaded and ambitious, causing him to stop any sort of relationship with Vance from moving forward. Having said that, the romance between Vance and Sam didn’t work for me as well as the pairings in the first three books. I didn’t particularly like Sam, and I feel like Vance is too good to be true. Because I didn’t engage with them, even the sex scenes didn’t click for me; most of the time Sam seems to be using Vance and pushing him away, hurting him. The epilogue as their HEA is a step too soon and a complete turnaround on Sam’s part.

What continues to give this series its heart, is the children. While introducing new enhanced children to the cast, this book also brings back a few from the past. The continued discrimination against enhanced, is hard to read. The mistreatment of a transgendered enhanced child caused me an added bit of angst. The team continue to fight for the inclusion of enhanced in all aspects of society and for their protection against mistreatment and exploitation.

Vance’s brother Daniel, has taken a leave of absence from the Bureau after working on pedophilia cases. He can’t stomach it anymore. It’s not a surprise when he gets partnered with Eli. Eli has been on the periphery of all the stories–angry and distant. There have been clues his childhood was worse than the rest of the team, so I am expecting his book to be heartbreaking. This comes at a time when they have permission to expand to add more units based on the H.E.R.O model so we’ll have to see how the unit gets broken up for training new recruits. Overall this series is very well written and grabs you by the heart strings, so I will continue to read them.

The cover art by Jay Aheer is dark and eye catching.  Love it.

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | B&N

Book Details: ebook, 214 pages

Published: December 11, 2018 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN-13: 978-1-64405-115-3

Edition Language: English

Series: Enhanced World #4

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Strength of His Heart (Enhanced World #4) by Victoria Sue — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Who We Truly Are by Victoria Sue, Enhanced World 2

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Cover Artist: Paul Richmond

I would rate this 4 stars.

Book two of the series starts off with Finn, who was about to get some real tactical training, instead being pulled to go undercover at a group home as a 17 year old enhanced. Enhanced kids are going missing from foster homes, some ending up murdered. Talon is being over protective of Finn and they’re having a little friction working together and being lovers.

Undercover, Finn meets the enhanced kids at the home including Liam, whose dad used to work for Alan Swann from book one. He’s talking about creating a boarding school for enhanced, but it sounds like incarceration. Liam’s situation is heartbreaking. There are several enhanced kids introduced so if we keep seeing them in future books, they could be a series of their own as the next generation. Of course, Finn being Finn mananges to find trouble several times throughout the book. I like that he wants to save people, but he doesn’t really have the training and he keeps getting his ego hurt when people point that out. It’s been eight weeks and he can barely shoot a gun; he trained as an accountant. Part of the fun in this series is Finn geeking out over trivia and facts, so that continues.

One of the main issues is the ENu, who have the authority to sedate, transport, and forcibly detain an enhanced. It doesn’t matter whether that enhanced is a child or an adult. Most ENu seem to love their job and hate enhanced. When Jake Riley doesn’t fit that mold, he starts to have problems with his co-workers. I don’t want spoilers about the plot so this continues with the main mission, which is rescuing kids. The kids being murdered seems like a different case, so I expect that will continue on in book three. Since each enhanced is supposed to be partnered with a regular human, it’s not a suprise when Jake joins the team and I expect that partnership to be the focus of next book. Here, we finally get someone trained as law enforcement as former SWAT.

Here Talon’s backstory gets filled in when his mother arrives to try and bully him into politics. The pieces of how he met Gael and Vance are added to the puzzle. Talon’s abilities are evolving and he’s taken into custody after a dangerous incident. As usual, this affects the team and the politics involved in keeping the unit going come into play. There is a bit more of Eli seen in this book but him and Sawyer are the least fleshed out at this point. A little more levity and team bonding would go a long way here.

This book advances the plot lines quite a bit, but even though the sex scenes are hot, the romance between Finn and Talon is giving me whiplash. These guys need to work on their insecurities and actually talk to each other like mature adults. There is angst on both sides as we get the alternating POVs and I want to smack them both–Talon more often than Finn. In fact, it’s Finn who really cracks himself wide open in this book so I expect Talon to step up now or I am going to get irritated. I still love these guys though.

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Review: Changing Faces by Cole McCade, Criminal Intentions Season 1 Episode 4

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Cover Artist: Cole McCade Cover Design Template: Les Solot http://www.fiverr.com/germancreative

I would rate this 3.75 stars.

This is episode four and starts in the vile mind of Tim Mitchell, who is then killed. Good riddance. This is a domestic violence case. The break-up between Anjulie and Anya was coming, and it was up close and personal. Then, it picks back up from the last episode with Seong-Jae in the hospital with Malcolm when Malcolm’s ex-wife Gabrielle comes in…and then moves in with him to help him while he’s injured. Oh boy. Anjulie and Gabrielle went to law school together. It’s good to see the coroner Cara make friendship overtures to Seong-Jae. This case really tests Seong-Jae’s ethics, and shows us more of who he is. The weird thing haunting him is here, along with another crime scene clue. We finally have a name to go with what is happening, Sila. Seong-Jae testifies aginst his old partner, causing his face to go nationwide, and the police in the BPD finally know who he is.

This episode is strange. Beside the UST, which is ever present, the episode lacked a lot of Malcolm, making me miss the dynamic between them while working a case. It allows the audience to get to know Seong-Jae better, but that might not be a good thing as he is much less likeable than Malcolm, and this didn’t give me anything to change my mind. Seong-Jae’s overarching plot that doesn’t yet involve Malcolm, moved forward, but to what end? What is happening, before seemed like mental illness, now seems like a real person. The issue is unless this goes paranormal (please no), I don’t think having a real someone leaving all these clues at difference crime scenes is possible. This was not my favorite episode, but it did forward a few plot points.

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Review: Criminal Intentions, The Man With The Glass Eye, Season One Episode Three By Cole McCade

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Cover Artist: Cole McCade, Cover Design Template: Les Solot

Cole McCade Criminal Intentions Season 1 Episode 3

This is a serial written like a TV show crime drama. We get a novel each month. As such, you will like some better than others, each episode so far has had its own murder to solve, but there are over arching storylines for the whole season. I would recommend you read these in order for maximum enjoyment. There are content (re:trigger) warnings in the front of each episode. Since this is a crime drama based on two homicide detectives, one should assume explicit, graphic violence. If you read the content warnings, there will be spoilers galore, so I would recommend skipping them if you don’t need them. This series is completely inclusive of all peoples so if that bothers you, don’t read it.

If you want to see my review for episode one or episode two, click on the links.

We start this episode with a bit of a retread of Malcom, being Malcolm with the usual stranger and hangover. His interactions with Seong-Jae make me laugh, but I am used to men with a dry, sarcastic, or dark sense of humor. To continue the dynamic, Malcolm is trying to not be attracted to Seong-Jae, and Seong-Jae is trying to not be jealous of the boy toys whilst hiding behind judgement of Malcolm for dereliction in his duty for turning his phone off whenever he has sex. Their undercover work in this episode goes a little too far. The UST (unrequited sexual tension) is ratched up to a fevered pitch in this episode, which may be too much too soon, straining their relationship. We follow them through their rituals while working the case, or is it cases? Even they aren’t sure.

In this episode, a junkie is executed and there is a tenuous connection to our last case because of a Hookah bar themed like an opium den, previously owned by the late Marion Garvey. We know Malcolm used to work in narcotics, but Seong-Jae seems to know a lot about addiction. Lillienne Wellington is now a major investor/owner in all Marion’s businesses. She also has control of Maximilian’s holdings. She and her father are both out on bail. Does she know about the illegal parts of the business(es) or not? Did someone set Maximilian up to kill Marion?

One of the things I love about this author is the writing style. Having said that, one of my favorite books so far this year is Over And Over Again, also by this author, and the writing is very different in many ways, as is the subject matter. This author has a lot of range and depth.

As ever, the dual POV is there for us to immerse ourselves in Malcolm’s and Seong-Jae’s psyches. It is the little things, mundane intimate moments between them, that make us catch our breath. The reason this works so well is that the moments–the humor, the fights, the sniping–are so real.

During a stakeout of Jason Huang, the drug dealer we met last episode, he is receiving goods marked for shipment to Wellington Industrial. The plot thickens. Sade pops up out of nowhere! But, we knew they were up to something and now we get to see what that something is (sort of). Is Sade dirty, or undercover? What did they mean warning Malcolm about Seong-Jae? And what are they doing with Jason Huang? We know there has to be dirty cops…

I don’t even care they caught the killer at this point because I want to know all the things.

Our world expands with Jason’s POV and then we get a sense of someone, possibly someone we haven’t been introduced to yet, pulling the strings. Time will tell.

I will say there is a sneak peek of the next episode and it is a gruesome murder from an abuser’s POV, so if that will bother you, be warned. The author answers questions from fans at the end of the book, so you can find out more interesting info.

I love this series. I would rate this 4 stars.

Unfortunately, this author only sells on Amazon right now and just took down his Patreon.

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