Fortis and Keesh have their own complicated history of dancing around their attraction for each other for five years, each for his own reasons. As an alpha and a beta, they have a certain dynamic they maintain. When Prince Angel asks them to escort an omega named Owen back to his home in Western Pack, they agree. Owen has been treated badly by Prince Devin, who has canceled their mating. With an alpha’s ability to command compliance and an omega’s pheromones, both need Keesh’s beta abilities as a peacemaker to make their travel go smoothly, especially when Owen goes into heat.
This goes exactly where it says it will, there aren’t many surprises. Except for what is needed for each scene, there also isn’t much world-building. Neither does this move the overarching storyline forward much. If you have not read the first three books, you would still have no problem following this story. I’m not sure how Owen is so sweet, having been raised in a political household and trained for court life. Still, it’s nice to see him learn to be more independent. Much of the book has that feeling of being in a bubble as the three travel through the forest. Even when they detour to Central Pack territory to stop at Keesh’s hometown of Hybernia, the only other character to stand out is Keesh’s mom. The book is at its best as the three men work out their hurt feelings when jealousies arise. They are all willing to step aside for each other to be happy, as they all struggle with how to make a triad work. There isn’t any need; they just have to open their minds to it. Mainly, there are sweet, cute, and adorable moments in this, broken up by hot sex scenes and pining. Read this when you want fluffy, steamy goodness to enjoy without being too taxing.
**The ebooks are exclusive to Amazon but you can buy books 1-3 bundled together as a paperback at Barnes And Noble here, so check back later after book six comes out to see if books 4-6 are published as volume 2. Ditto for Book Depository here.
Grant is so unhappy being a worker drone in Seattle, he burns his whole life down six months after his divorce. His defenses are so high, the only one he seems to lower them for is his nephew Kai. When he ends up camping rough on Vashon Island to try and figure out his life, he meets an artist named Oliver who challenges him. Sparks fly as Oliver likes irritating Grant with a strange arrangement meant to get him back on his feet. Oliver has demons of his own and stripping Grant bare exposes his own defense mechanisms. Both of them will need to battle their own and each other’s walls if they are to have a chance at living happily ever after.
Grant ignores unpleasant realities. Yet, he has a big heart for those who accept him as he is instead of trying to change him. The tweens (his nephew Kai and his friends Jill, Clover, Penelope, and Abelino) are there as the catalysts to show who he is behind his anger, fear, and desperation to find himself for himself, instead of always bending to fit the will of others. Some might say, where are their parents? But, I grew up on an island and ran wild for hours, all day and night in the summer and no one knew where I was or who I was with, so this made me think of my own adventures. How wonderful they have someone to treat them like the individual people they are. One of Grant’s lessons is that sometimes order and boundaries are needed, that their are times they are appropriate and should be respected; another is that if the rules he lives by don’t serve him, it’s time to make up new rules.
Oliver flouts the idea that you can’t help people who don’t want to be helped. I’m glad Oliver had a come to Jesus moment about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but it didn’t make him more likeable for me at that moment. With his artistic nature, his fantasies often overcome or overwrite his reality…but people who are lonely or traumatized often live in their head. His circle (Talia, Clementine, Freddy) is only people who will respect his boundaries and not expect more from him. Freddie, Oliver’s friend with benefits for seventeen years, is a deceptively complex look into Oliver’s world as he has ordered it. I liked Oliver the most when his art therapy ends up saving him from his avoidance techniques.
Being creatives, this is a wild ride with characters that explore the absurdity of their inner worlds. Memories, nostalgia, how the past shapes our reality, and thus the present, is what is battled here. This is what it looks like when people take a self inventory. So many stories focus on violence or sexual abuse as the only thing that wounds people; you will not find that here. Having said that, I was not enamored with the stalking for love trope. In the end, these two wounded men fit like puzzle pieces–their strengths and weaknesses merging to create a stronger whole. My mind was a swirl of grief and enchantment, painted with vivid art and inner imagery. The ending left me touched, breathless, and happy knowing in all the world Grant and Oliver found the one special person who gets them, crazy and all.
Do yourself a favor and don’t read this unless you have read the following series by Amy Lane first: Johnnies, Racing For The Sun, and Fish Out of Water. You could read this first, or out of order, and enjoy the romance between the main characters Henry and Lance, but the main events of the novel come at you sideways via the fifth book in the Fish Out of Water series; you would have to keep track of two different names for a plethora of characters from the Johnnies series, since each has their real name and their porn star name. The true emotional payoff will come for the faithful fans who will enjoy all the series being woven together and already know all the side characters in this.
Henry is finally at rock bottom when he goes to visit his brother Davy (aka Dex), a former porn model, in Sacramento with his husband Carlos (Kane). After nine years in the Army he flounders with what to do now that he has been discharged. His brother sets him up at a flophouse used by a stable of young guys who work for Johnnies. His tragic story is layered into the book as he tries to avoid thinking or talking about it unless he has to. He acts as a “den mother” for Cotton, Randy, Zeppelin, Fisher, Billy, and Curtis along with Lance. As a resident finishing his internship at the hospital, Lance still does the occasional porn scene to pay off his student loans. As the oldest in the house, and the same age as Henry, it’s inevitable they are drawn together. Right when I started to get everyone straight, and Lance and Henry are forming a bond, there’s a murder, which drags the P.I. Jackson Rivers and lawyer Ellery Cramer, among others, from the Fish Out Of Water series into it.
Maybe the absolute worst time for a relationship, might be the best time. As Henry navigates his abusive relationship from the past eleven years or so, he doesn’t even know how broken he is. This makes his journey from internalized homophobic abuse victim to over the top hero at the end, without any counseling, a bit unbelievable for me. Lance is the stable presence here, not because he doesn’t have issues of his own, but because he knows what they are and seeks treatment both for himself and to inspire the other Johnnies in the house. To me, Lance is the real hero. Then, there is what I wanted to happen versus what I could realistically expect to happen based on the story so far; having something be emotionally satisfying doesn’t make it a realistic conclusion. What saves this for me are the genuine moments of intimacy and connection Amy Lane is known for invoking in her writing. I will probably read everything again, catch up on the few books I missed, and read this last.
After ten years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Makai heads to Acker, Wisconsin to start his life over. There he meets Emil, still suffering his own PTSD from his ten day ordeal at the hands of drug traffickers. The hurt/comfort trope is high with this one as they stumble into a relationship while Emil’s father Kalle, the Sheriff, tries to keep them apart. We get to see both sides of law enforcement here, from Makai’s conviction for being brown, to an honest small town sheriff trying to protect his son from heartbreak and conquer his own prejudice (about excons, not because Makai’s a POC), and deputies Erin and Jason, who show Makai kindness. Unfortunately another deputy, Mark, is concerned with everyone’s sexuality and gender instead seeing them as people.
Watching Makai emotionally and mentally navigate being out of prison is sad. I am not usually a fan of so much inner musing, but with Makai fresh from prison and living alone in a sparsely populated area, it is appropriate to the story. Emil has trouble being around people too, so his POV is also self contained. Yet, when the dialogue happens it is real and pertinent, it helps paint a picture of their lives. Here the slow burn is entirely necessary; there is no other way for these men to interact. The bravery, the honesty they share is astonishing but in their excitement to have found someone who understands, they get too close too quick. As with all mental health issues, it’s a few steps forward, a few steps back. The sex is a natural extension of their relationship, but not eroticized for the reader. They are building a life together and that is just one small part of it as they struggle to be healthy.
The vet Doc, Emil’s shrink Evy, Emil’s mom Nora, the grocery store owner Mr. Miller, Joy/Joie and their mom Lotte–this is loaded with caring characters that feel real because they are described and their interactions with each other feel real. Joy/Joie is a wonderful 5 year old age appropriate character exploring their gender. It’s heartwarming to see the effort some of the town members take to welcome Makai, encouraging his integration–yes, some are bigots and homophobes, that’s just life. The small town feel is well written and surprisingly diverse. The whole town is invested in Emil because they had to share in his tragedy, so they want share in his happiness also. I do think Makai has to go above and beyond to prove to everyone, especially the sheriff, he is a “good guy” even though we was exonerated of the crime he committed and was unjustly convicted. This makes me wonder what kind of reception Kaos, Makai’s friend from prison, will get when he arrives for book two. Over all this is a well done, low angst for the subject matter, solid romance.
Taji is a human linguist who was supposed to be on a small moon, mostly isolated, to compile information on its language, culture, and inhabitants for the Interplanetary Trade Coalition (IPTC) databases. After the deaths of two members of a diplomatic team on the planet below named Mirsa, he is conscripted to assist Ambassador Tsomyal since he is the only person in nearby space even remotely qualified to help decipher nuances of communication in Asha, the language used throughout most of the Sha Empire. Shavians value control and stoicism except in precise culturally acceptable situations. Although humanoid, they seem to have a vast amount of nonverbal communication with their cat like ears. As a native Anglisky speaker with no training in diplomacy and a translator device with inferior software translations, he is thrown into the deep end of a foreign alien culture in political turmoil. Nicknamed Mouth by the IPTC security team, he will find out how accurate that description is as he tries to stay alive.
The IPTC sending a diplomatic team to encourage trade is just an experiment to save the cost of war. They are on the outskirts of space, with a steep learning curve for survival by their wits alone. The author successfully conveys a sense of peril as there is no one close enough to rescue them in time should anything go wrong–even a misunderstanding about the meaning of a word can upend their mission. Here several words cause trouble: shehzha, honor, and gender pronouns. The entire book hinges on Taji’s communication minefield. This does what the best scifi does, examines our own society through the lenses of alien society with social commentary on: oligarchy, figureheads, finding the balance between tradition and change, stagnation vs. innovation, rule by fear, class warfare, devaluation of skilled labor and the arts, an uneducated populace, xenophobia, and the dangers of not treating all peoples equally and equitably.
I love all the genders and skin colors represented. Taji, with a bad leg and misaligned prosthetic that hurts him, is surrounded by aliens that are larger, stronger, and not used to dealing with making accommodation for such an injury. Many IPTC like Trenne, join them to get away from societies with restrictive rules. Although Trenne is from Mirsa, he is not considered Shavian, since he is descended from conquered peoples, thus he is discriminated against due to his skin markings. This is used to good effect as how people treat them both, reflects on them. All the characters here are interesting as shown through Taji’s viewpoint whilst trying to help navigate the circumstances. The reader knows and understands them as Taji does, so as his opinion changes, so did mine. The political intrigue makes it difficult to tell friend from foe. The love story between Taji and Sargent Major Trenne is moving, explicit, and erotic. Because Taji is caring and kind, he is the heart of the book; since Trenne holds his heart, he also holds mine. Be aware that the sex also has a biological component–a chemical reaction that causes “heat” so although everything between Taji and Trenne is consensual, this could be abused like sexual slavery since it causes addiction like a drug.
This book is like the author mixed up a few of my favorite ingredients (the Claiming series by Lyn Gala, The Prince He Loved by Michael Barnette, the Breeds series by Lora Leigh, Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula le Guin) to make me a cake. Really, really good cake, but I missed the nuts. In other words, I didn’t rate it higher because the world-building was mostly political, less physical. The book didn’t paint pictures in my mind as much as I would have liked. All of it takes place in the capital or the home territory of the emperor’s family. I know there are different districts of the capital like the Gardens, or the Fires, but I don’t have a real sense of them. It’s alright, because I know some people are allergic to nuts. Althought this is a slightly darker book than I am used to by this particular author, it will be loved and read again, as I usually do with her stories. I really loved it.
Grey, has a crush on his friend and co-worker named Si. Good thing Si has a crush on Grey right back. But the school they both work at, run by Headmaster Greene, is full of secrets–secrets that could harm or save everyone there. At first the POV switches between Grey and Si, the main couple here, but also grows to include Jaime’s POV. They meet Jaime in a nightclub and their fates seem tied together. The cast is further rounded out by Jaime’s twin sister Harry, a student at the school Robyn, and another of the teachers Tabitha with her cat that is not a cat Luna. This is a good introduction to a range of supernatural beings, or Folk, and some of their powers.
The main romance relies heavily on the weeks prior to the book, that the reader is not privy to, in order for their relationship to work. The lust is already there but this still feels like insta-love. The love scenes have that bonded fated mate feel. Then there is a manufactured crisis to keep them apart, which goes nowhere. This book seemed fairly straightforward at first, but as the mythos is built, it gets more complicated leaving questions without answers. Everything is foreshadowed with where this story will go and the story made sense, but many things are not explained. I think the parts of the plot that are meant to be saved for the next book could have been handed more deftly, made more intriguing. As it is, it just seems like the world-building is lacking.
The other driving force of the story is the secrecy that Greene encouraged. The Veil between the worlds is failing. It’s the Veil that was created to allow Folk to hide amongst humans as long as they were careful about using their powers. Greene has been collecting faculty, staff, and students who are Folk, often some who don’t know it, and created the school for them. It is assumed for them to be safer when the Veil falls, but his is a complicated character, good and bad in turns. It is only when all the secrecy falls away, that the characters can work together to strengthen the Veil before it’s too late. This is a temporary fix, so a more permanent solution will need to found for the future to help those trapped protecting the Folk.
Since the younger characters Robyn, Harry, and Jaime will likely play a larger role in the rest of the series, this is more like a YA book about a school for Folk, like a paranormal urban fantasy version of the school in XMen. The world-building only shows what the reader needs for each scene, so it’s easy to read. I just need more than that if I am going to be kept mentally engaged. I didn’t feel attached to the characters; I feel like I know things about them, rather than that I know them, so my emotional investment was low even though it was entertaining. Overall this is a stress free read for when you want to relax with an interesting premise and cute characters.
This is the first book in a trilogy and as such is the introduction to the romance of Sam and Thomas. It’s not a cliffhanger, so the reader can just read this and be content, or read the second book coming out soon for a continuation of their relationship. When Sam’s brother James gets murdered in New York, the family sends Sam to take care of his apartment and send back his things. Both his mother and older brother Bowie put a lot of unreasonable pressure on Sam to also find James’s killer. This is supposed to be a suspense element, but it’s not the focus and stays on the back burner. When Sam meets his brother’s lover, Thomas, neither of them are expecting to need each other. Thomas is missing James and feeling the pull to help Sam, but he’s smart enough to worry the grief could lead to something unhealthy.
Sam is floundering and needs direction; he’s also too busy trying to please everyone else, he can’t seem to get his own life together. They were getting to know each other, and then suddenly Thomas is using what he’s learned about human psychology as a dom, to help Sam. I felt the transition could have been smoother, especially the part about Thomas finding out Sam is also gay. The way Sam learns about his brother James being a sub was an easy way for Sam to understand who Thomas is, who James was. The book seemed to flounder with introducing some of James’s friends, coworkers, and neighbors. No one is fleshed out, and I assume these are meant to give the reader suspects to James’s murderer? There were more jarring moments like his job interview when all of the sudden Angel, someone he met at the BDSM club, is also at the biker bar and helps him home. This seems like too huge coincidence. The main point here seems to be BDSM is healthier than bar fights. This all happens a bit too fast for me, there is still an element of Thomas taking advantage of Sam, his naivete, or even them using each other to escape processing their shared grief.
James and Sam are somewhat alike, they were brothers, but they are also different enough and those differences are never forgotten. The writing here is deftly handled so James doesn’t feel forgotten, but they are not constantly compared–rather Thomas struggles to learn how to be what Sam needs. For the subject matter, there is surprisingly low angst and guilt which seems at odds with the way the book was set up. Sam has always felt he was was supposed to stay in Emory, help with the ranch, have babies, and die there. Yet he suddenly throws off the expectations of his family quite easily and dives into a relationship with his brother’s lover. It’s good that Tommy is not an all seeing, all knowing dom. I like that he makes mistakes and recognizes them. I like that he realizes that where James fit into what he wanted, his style, Sam is much for challenging, taking him out of his comfort zone. They build their relationship and trust scene by scene, yet this is a bit messy–not just the emotions of the characters, but the writing. The sex scenes are always hot, it’s moving the characters around to get them there that seems to not flow well.
I like both these characters, so I’m a bit frustrated that the whole book isn’t as smooth as the parts are or I would have rated it much higher. With more time and effort, this could have had so much more depth, but maybe that’s just what I wanted and not where the authors wanted to take it. I’d like to see more of Sam and James, but this was all too easy, so I’d like to see more about the conflict with Sam’s family. Also, there is nothing about Thomas’s family at all. There is a little intrigue about James having different characters or roles he fulfilled for different people; I definitely would like to see more about that. For right now, James doesn’t seem like a real person, so I don’t care who killed him. I hope the second book takes more time to draw the audience into that part of the plot.
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 his mother’s brooch. This is a typical portal story of moving between worlds, but it’s very well written. Thrown into action in the enemy territory of the Heneran lands, a tense truce is formed between Hunter and the thief Dax as they try to survive. Once they are near out of enemy territory, Hunter meets the Rebellion forces–a ragtag band of people living in a camp in the wilderness and gets thrown into politics against the Crown. As the setting shifts to the capital city of Andreya, he learns more about his new world and how to survive in it. His world crumbles as he starts to question everything he thought he knew, including about his own mother. I felt like I was getting pulled in and figuring things out more quickly than Hunter, which is a clever way of getting the reader invested.
There are really only four main side characters that help the reader to more emotionally connect with the story and move in along in different ways. Glimpses of the rebel leader Quinnar are intriguing. Is he a good man? A good leader? Or does he just want power for himself? Because it’s Hunter’s POV, I was never really sure. It’s always welcome to have a strong, capable female character like Zinnuvial. Uri’s situation is played for sympathy, but I found it frustrating. Corrad at first comes off as a mean bully, but thankfully is a bit more nuanced than that in the end. The most interesting character is always Hunter. Because there isn’t another POV, and the story is focused on developing Hunter and the actual plot, I felt like I didn’t know Dax as well as I would have liked.
Hunter makes a good everyman; but he makes an even better hero. The character is written in such a way that there was always meant to be more for him, for his life. The author works hard at making this believable: that a modern man from Chicago could end up learning to flourish in a more difficult and brutal time without having grown up with the knowledge and skills everyone else would have. Hunter proves himself to be adaptable and able to listen and learn when under duress. The actions scenes are well written, helping to continually build the tension until the satisfying final confrontation. His relationship with Dax is a slow burn from enemies to lovers. Even after the sex, it only clicks into place when Hunter proves how clever, brave, and capable his is–making him a great match for Dax, someone Dax can really respect. It’s only when I thought back about the story that I realized in only takes place within a very short period of time, which lessens the believability. Then, there is the final chapter, which gives the happily ever after, whilst still leaving room for a new adventure as Dax and Hunter look to the future. It is clear there have been atrocities on both sides of this war and it will take time to right wrongs, so the story between the Humans of this world and the Henerans could go in many directions.
Cover Art: Tiferet Design. Rich and interesting, it absolutely works for the story and character.
This is the second book in this series, but can be read as a standalone without any issues. Rueben’s best friend Craig, the spouse of a colleague at his law firm, has talked him into finally taking a vacation for his 48th birthday. Unfortunately, his friends cancel, leaving him alone with his guide. This trip wasn’t his idea and he doesn’t want to be in Alaska. It takes time for the scenery and companionship to grow on him. After Rueben unplugs from his phone and laptop, he is grudgingly starting to have a good time, and flirt with his guide. Tobias may be a smooth talker, but he has hidden depths behind his charming personality and quick smile. He also digs out his ethics and doesn’t sleep with his client when he has the chance. By the time the plane crash happens, I was already hooked on both these characters. Tobias is devastated his injuries might keep him from helping his sisters and his dad. He has little choice but to accept help from Reuben while he recuperates. The crash mades Rueben question his future and what he wants out of it. He vows to spend more time with his 14 year old daughter Amelia. What could go wrong with renting a house for the summer for all three of them?
For a relationship guy like Rueben, who likes to care for people, to agree to a summer fling is rare. For a hookup guy like Tobias to be friends with, and basically live with someone he’s having sex with, is equally unusual. I liked watching them both learn more about themselves. It’s not the age gap coming into play so much as the fact that this is Tobias’s first real relationship; he is not used to dealing with sharing his feelings or burdens. It’s also the first time he has prioritized something he wants for himself. Tobias’s father is such a large influence on him and his thought processes, that it takes him time to navigate through his inner conflict. Rueben hasn’t had the best luck at relationships, learning to put his job first because it gave him most of his sense of self worth. He has to work through breaking old habits–relearning to prioritize his daughter over his job, his life over his work.
This had all of the great writing, depth, and hot love scenes I would expect from this author. This book had an expansion of characters without making them flat or sacrificing any of the love story for the main characters. I thought the interactions with their respective family members all rang authentic. As a long novel, this really takes its time to immerse the reader in details about the activities, scenery, and characters. I found the plane crash to be realistically described while actually adding to the character development, rather than only as an excuse to trap the MCs together. This has some great tropes: opposites attract, fish out of water, age gap, slow burn, hurt/comfort and second chances. I would recommend reading both of these and look forward to the third one.
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.