Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 There is a free short story prequel to this book, but you don’t need to read it to enjoy this story. Alpha Varian of the Northern Pack is allied with the Shadow Clan against the allied packs of the South. I don’t really understand how this alliance works; it […]
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5 What helps makes this successful for me is that Hunter is well established as a character, and the reader is immersed in his POV, before anything extraordinary happens. Hunter’s choices, based on who he is as a person, lead him to another realm after he follows a thief stealing […]
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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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5 This book starts out with a civil war started by King Taen by appropriating the lands of Lord Mavren, making him an enemy. Really there are huge ideological differences between the two and Mavren speaking out against what they see as issues in their society has lead to this. […]
Sometimes, I get it wrong. I couldn’t decide if I was going to try to use the author’s pronouns for this review (ne/nem/nir) or use they/them. I wrote it with masculine pronouns because it was easier for me, meaning to switch it later, but the review was due and I forgot why I hadn’t sent it in yet. I had been out of town for two weeks and was rather sleep deprived. So, yes, I think I messed up. It was not my intention to upset anyone. Here is the review rewritten with more neutral pronouns.
I would rate this 4.25 stars.
This book starts out with a civil war started by King Taen by appropriating the lands of Lord Mavren, making them an enemy. Really there are huge ideological differences between the two and Mavren speaking out against what they see as issues in their society has lead to this. Lord General Aiomonni is the head of King Taen’s military and Lord Mavren’s previous lover. Mavren becomes King of their own rebel Catalyst forces. The reader is thrown into the mind of a Soldiercaste of the Augment Empire during a battle in which they are captured by the enemy. The Augment are a cybernetic species that need organic tissue for digestion, or a host body to assimilate. They are bipedal, yet insectile. This soldier becomes Nact of Quen and the reader will follow them as they raise up in the Catalyst army after their defection. When Nact and Aiomonni engage in battle beyond the charted galaxy to land on a hostile planet, their only hope of survival lies in cooperation, and maybe more.
I would recommend reading an excerpt to see if this book appeals to you. It is written with agender pronouns (ne/nem/nemself/nir). What makes this so compelling is that Nact’s POV shows what freedom and choice look like to someone who’s never had it. It takes six years for Nact to become a general, due to their skills, not because they were born into it. They channel their anger for how their caste was deprived and ill treated into battling King Taen’s forces. By the time they are sent to capture Aiomonni, my sympathies were engaged with them. But for all their privilege, Aiomonni is as much a captive of the system, of convention, as Nact was. The crash shows Aiomonni that their crew have skills beyond their caste. Alive on a populated planet named Colti, being Augment seems more important than their civil war. Showing Aiomonni’s POV makes them extremely sympathetic. At one point they have a common enemy, Plackart, who the author gives a moment of his own: a chance for the reason to see and understand who he is. (I used the he pronoun here because I have no idea if this species is agender also.) This would have been more poignant and heartbreaking than it is, if it had been explored more so my sympathies lay with him also, but that opportunity passes–it is an intellectual scene showing the psychology of his character rather than an emotional scene where I felt his pain and loss.
I feel like the whole book takes the first 25 percent to set-up until they crash land. Then, it gets really interesting. There are so many ethical issues raised throughout the book: the caste system, ruling by fear, being a parasitic race, acceptable behavior during war, what makes a person a person, the parameters of loyalty, etc. This is obviously not a traditional romance. Intimacy is earned by respect or allegiance, but there are layers to the intimacies they grant and even having larvae together doesn’t guarantee anything approximating love. There is never any doubt that these are alien creatures. The sex is completely alien. The sex scenes show aspects of their culture and personal characters as a normal part of life, however, at least for me, they weren’t terribly erotic. This book captures that forbidden feeling of wanting your political enemy whilst being stuck by duty of birth, oaths, and family obligations. This book is so intriguing because the characters are acting honorably–in their own fashion. Their temporary alliance for the greater good allows them to live in a bubble and indulge themselves, but it is temporary and the vanities of others await–continued war still awaits.
I would have liked to get to know some of the other passing characters more. At first I was not sure about the purpose of the character of Feylc, but they become a good foil and I realized it is something I’ve missed in other books as it’s an underutilized tool these days. Still, they are the only other Augment with a real personality here.
I’m not going to say this wasn’t sometimes a little difficult to fully picture, because it was. I’m not going to say the non-binary language wasn’t sometimes confusing (even having read many non-binary characters previously), because it did get awkward in places since the author still uses we and they. What I will say is that for me the effort was worth it. I liked that the world building was character focused and driven without all the extraneous descriptions of things that have no real bearing on the story. There is little attention placed on the various home worlds, which may annoy readers who expect and enjoy that type of detail. While there is tech involved, this is not hard science fiction in any way. The reader is told that things work, not how they work. The end wraps up in a satisfactory way with a (mostly) HEA, although it was startling to be narratively told, like a voice over, after living in the character’s heads for so long. I have to say I really enjoyed this book. If you like things that are different from the norm, give this a try.
The cover was designed by Aisha Akeju. I suppose it shows the ship going through the wormhole. It really isn’t intriguing enough for this book.
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 […]
I would rate this 4.5 stars.
Although this is a follow-up to Game Changer, this can be read as a standalone. In fact, most of this takes place before book one and then catches up to that timeline, so you could read them in either order. Scott from book one has a brief appearance.
Shane Hollander is on the Montreal ice hockey team and Ilya Rozanov is on their historic rival team of Boston. The author gives the reader a glimpse at what their relationship is like, and then flashes back to when they first met eight years ago. Each interaction over the following seven years is highlighted, showing the personal rivalry both on and off the ice in dual POV. But having hot, steamy encounters for so many years draws them closer. Their status and similar positions in the hockey world make for a strange connection that no one else could really understand. This is an enemies to lovers story and they are not romantic or a couple for the majority of the book, so if it will bother you that they have sex (off page) with other people, this might not be the book for you. While Shane has to confront the fact that he’s gay, Ilya has to confront that even though he’s bisexual, he only really wants Shane anymore. When their dynamic shifts in a way that frightens them both, they have to decide if this is worth their careers.
I loved these guys from start to finish. I loved when they were enemeies, loved how they strangely became friends, and I loved them as a couple. This was a hot, entertaining erotic romance. I also found it a bit more realistic and evenly written than the first book. I was fine with how it ended, although some might not like the practicality.
*Please be aware you can no longer buy books from Carina Press; you must buy them directly from Harlequin and they are in a proprietary format, meaning you have to have their ereader app.*
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I would rate this 5 stars.
This starts with the funeral of Chris’s 28 year old baby brother Cal. A stranger at the funeral, Cal’s lover Elliot, upends everything Chris (also called C.J.) thought he knew about his brother. Drunk and in pain, they connect, adding a load of guilt to the grief. Chris is unhappy with his life and feeling the burden of keeping secrets from his parents. Although he is a psychiatrist working with terminally ill patients, he feels overwhelmed and unable to help himself, let alone his family in the face of his grief. The reader is thrown into Chris’s angst and gets to know Cal through flashbacks.
There are times when I like books that are fun and easy to read, but other times I miss more depth. This is a book for when you want more depth. Dealing with Cal’s death is not glossed over. Chris’s job interacting with his dying patients is not glossed over. Their father’s alcoholism is not glossed over. This whole book is devastating and devastatingly well written; it’s about working through the stages of grief and making incredibly bad decisions. It’s about Chris working on himself and who he is as a person. It’s about the difference between lust and love, sex and making love, using people as a crutch vs having a healthy relationship. If you like books that drop you into the psychology of a character, this book is for you. I loved the journey this book took me on. It has “all the feels,” but I didn’t feel manipulated or like the scenes where there for emotional pornography. It’s rare that a book can capture the agony of loss and the exuberance of living.
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I would rate this 4 stars.
Frankie kissed Tom when he was 17 and Tom punched him, ending their friendship. Then, Frank left town and hasn’t been back in 30 years. When his uncle dies, he has to go back to deal with his inheritance. Tom has been working for Frankie’s uncle and has now lost his friend, his home, and his job due to his death. He has given up everything to take care of his mother, who is now in a nursing home. The story has dual POV and their childhood is shared through flashbacks. Frankie is still caught in the sadness of the past. Much of this book is sad, reminiscences often are–of dreams lost, bad decisions made, the things you can’t take back. As Frank and Tom start to relive the good times they shared as boys, rather than dwelling on the incident, you would think it would liven up, but for me it doesn’t.
I am not a fan of second chance romances. I tend to think things didn’t work out for a reason. I am not a fan of nostalgia or glorifying the past. But avoiding dealing with things from your teenage years until you are nearing your fifties is not healthy. While my heart ached for both men for different reasons, I was frustrated with them too. Tom has let fear rule him for so long; after fighting it, he finally gives in and decides to explore what they have. Frankie was hard for me to relate to for some reason. His demisexuality seemed to keep him isolated from deep relationships and even his friends didn’t really know him. There was a little bit of comic relief about 60% in when they tour a neighboring resort. I wish that type of interaction had been included more. The best parts are having them recapture their love of the woods and each other–sharing the dream of remodeling the resort.
While this was interesting and well written, I felt removed emotionally at times. That’s okay, because I like to read books that are about many types of people. How boring would it be if we were all alike? It’s a good reminder that other people’s logic and life experience can be completely different and will affect their decisions and outlook. Charlie, Simon, and Brian from book one show up. Brian seems the next one to be paired off, but as he cheated on Simon over and over for a decade, I am not much enthused by this prospect. It will take a lot to redeem this character in book three, but if any author can do it, Kelly Jensen can.
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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5 After the death of Nate’s parents, he takes the truck he inherited to the cabin they left him in order to take some time to grieve. The drive to the cabin lets us get to know Nate and his family history; it should come as no surprise it is […]
This is book one in a series called Outcasts. With the title, Clay sitting in the gay friendly Blue Moon Bar, and arranging a Grindr hook-up with MoonGazer, we are clued in this will be about shifters. Enter Damian, his hookup, and a short drive into the woods where they do they deed in that awkward way that strangers do, which was written in such a way to be found entertaining. The sense of humor is one of the best things about the book. I also like enemies to lovers, and I liked the switch of lovers to enemies. Clay is pretty mad about being made a werewolf, even if it is his own fault–especially because it is his own fault. After we get past their hook-up personas, both characters are actually likable, even when mad or grumpy, and well matched, even when things do not go smoothly. Clay has shut himself off from people after the death of his parents while Damian has shut himself off from people after a toxic relationship. Neither man actually wants a relationship, so them accidentally bonding is not actually a positive experience. People are not always pleasant when they feel cornered or frightened.
We get to meet a few other characters like, Willard and Pete, a human and werewolf bonded mate pair. I am still a little confused about the difference between fated mates and bonded pairs. Still, this story really focuses on our MC’s and not side characters. The badie here is Damian’s ex, Blaine, but he is a bit of a cartoon villian and not fleshed out. Then, there is the werewolf council for this town; there are some politics here with good and bad werewolves, just like people.
I really liked the idea of werewolves having to grow into their wolf. With born weres that would happen at the same time, but with made weres, those adult humans still have a pup that needs to grow and learn. This is a great way to build a sense of community so it’s a shame that fails them in this book. But, that sets up the conflict and change for the next book. I think fans of Eli Easton’s Howl At The Moon series might like these if they let go of the idea of the happy ending being in one book and each book being about a different couple. I think we will see the relationship evolve over many books. There is still a lot of anger and bitterness here, even with some humor, so it will take time to adjust and work things out. I would call this a HFN.
I would rate this 3 stars.
Tags: enemies to lovers, humor, mates, shifters, werewolves, gay, mm, paranomal romance, cis gender, explicit
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