Review: Omega Returned by Tanya Chris, Omega Reimagined 4

Omega-Returned-small
Cover art by Chay Fox (https://www.etsy.com/shop/chayebookcovers)

 

I would rate this 3.5 stars.

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.

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**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.

Review: Shades Of Henry By Amy Lane, A Flophouse Story 1

ShadesOfHenry-1
Cover Art © 2020 L.C. Chase http://www.lcchase.com

 

I would rate this 3.75 stars.

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.

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Review: Silent Heart by Amy Lane, Search And Rescue 2

SilentHeart
Cover Art © 2020 Alexandria Corza

I would rate this 3.5 stars.

This is the second book in the Search And Rescue series. Damien was a key character in that book, so although this could be read alone, it would have more emotional impact read in order. Damien is in love with Preston, a dog wrangler who trains service dogs and search and rescue dogs used in law enforcement. Damien’s business partner Glen is his best friend and Preston’s brother. While Damien is still dealing with the aftereffects of the crash in book one, he has yet to move forward with acting on his feelings for Preston. When Glen disappears in Mexico trying to extract a “punk kid” named Cash during an earthquake, Damien and Preston mount a rescue with their friend Buddy.

Damien met Preston on leave from the military when he came home with Glen. Preston was 13 so Damien has watched him grow up, their friendship a close one. It’s the main reason he has hesitated, afraid he will lose his chosen family if things don’t work out. His injuries and mental health are other reasons he has given himself for holding Preston at arm’s length. Preston is in your face honest, gruff, and hard to figure out (although the word isn’t used, he seems autistic to me.) But Preston can make decisions too, and he is tired of waiting for his happily ever after so he makes his move. I think it needs to be this way so that the reader is never confused that Preston is being taken advantage of. Glen seems like he would be supportive, but he may have inadvertently kept Damien and Preston apart because of bad advice at a critical time.

Their story is told through their ongoing fight about changing their relationship to a romantic one as well as being seen in memories and flashbacks so the POV switches around. This was a little difficult for me to get into; it starts slow and there were moments I couldn’t keep thoughts and dialogue straight. There is a little repetition about how Preston organizes his thoughts and what he needs to focus. It’s difficult not to compare this with the first book: I was invested in Damien’s health because I was right there with him when he was sick and injured. Because this is focused on Damien’s and Preston’s journey to find Glen, the reader isn’t with Glen when he is injured and since the author doesn’t spend a lot of time with Glen in either book, I was less emotionally attached to his character. This uses forced proximity to get Damien and Preston together, and uses Glen’s situation to set-up the next book for him and Cash. Being with Preston’s POV also creates distance as his difficulty handling strangers and changes to his routine slow the pacing. Overall, I’m glad these guys got their HEA, I just wanted to feel more excited about them getting out of their own way.

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Review: Nuts (Ace’s Wild #2) by S.E. Jakes

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

This series takes place in the same town, though each book is by a different author. Jagger and Preston meet on the first day of junior year after Preston gets punished for flunking out of several private schools and sent to a rough Boston public school. Although Jagger is from a family that skirts the law, Preston sees more kindness in them than his own blue-blood family. After being disowned Preston feels his only way to make something of himself is to go into the service. On his last leave a year ago he kissed Jagger…and then ghosted him. Now that Preston is out of the service, they will have to deal with what is simmering beneath their friendship.

Jagger is bi, but Preston clings to the idea he’s straight: allowing a gay for you/bi for you/out for you trope. There is also a M/F scene in this book. This is has many firsts for Preston: first time with BDSM, first time with a man, etc. There is very slight dubcon in that Preston doesn’t want to admit what he wants–he wants to be tricked or forced into it, which he is when Jagger wins him in a card game. Of course, that is Jagger’s friends setting them up, and Preston finding a way to act out to get what he wants. I found this was one of those books where I just got so frustrated because no one is honest and they don’t communicate until the very end, but Preston finds a way to act out and finally get what he wants. I do find that the Green Beret manly-man realizing it doesn’t make him weak to be submissive, is getting to be an over-used trope lately.

The big mystery here is Preston’s family, but ultimately it’s about control…and, as the reader finds out later, something more. There are secrets and lies that bind Jagger and Preston closer than Preston knows. Jagger has always had his eye on the prize, an endgame. The villians here are supposed to be the good guys. In a way this does glorify a family with mob ties whilst trying to have it have its cake and eat it too, as Jagger tries to go legitimate. This one sentence is a spoiler: everyone is being investigated by various alphabet agencies, yet no one knows about Preston co-owning everything?! Is that even possible?

This has all the feels, but it’s slow to start, quick to resolve and then over the top after a quick 180. It’s enjoyable, hot, even romantic in its own way (ride or die), but it could have been even better if it had been longer, in order to allow more time for the story arc. Also, it tries to straddle that bad boy line whilst still trying to make Jaggar noble – to mixed success.

The cover art design is by Sleepy Fox Studio. It does pertain to the story, but it just shows Jagger, so for me it doesn’t show a partnership.

Buy Link:  Amazon |  http://bit.ly/NutsSEJakes

Book Details: Kindle Edition, 118 pages
Published October 1st 2019 by Stephanie Tyler LLC
ASINB07YF8ZVVF
Edition Language English
Series: Ace’s Wild #2

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Nuts (Ace’s Wild #2) by S.E. Jakes — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Heart Strain (Interlocking Fragments #1) by Michele Notaro & Sammi Cee

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Holden moved away from Baltimore nine years ago; his life is now in Ithaca where he’s a veterinarian. He has his best friend Gavin and his pit bull Peanut. But when he gets a call his twin brother Hendrix has been shot in the line of duty, he rushes back to be by his side. While Drix is in a coma, Holden gets close to Jameson, his brother’s work partner and his own high school crush. There was a reason Holden left this place and Jameson has family problems of his own. As their lives start to slot together into a routine, they need to decide if this is something they want to keep.

The authors switches POV between Holden and James every other chapter, so the reader gets immersed in both men’s feelings. I got attached to both characters quite quickly. Although this is a hurt/comfort trope, it never gets too angsty. Since the authors dwells on the positive rather than negative aspects of the story, the shooting and the past traumas for both men, are easy to navigate. This is a slow burn that is unexpectedly sweet with sexy love scenes. The characters are spending so much time together, they get to know each other well. This all feels natural. They are in their own little bubble–with Jameson on leave after the shooting, they spend every day at the hospital. I felt that time go by, but I wasn’t bored. I felt a real sense of intimacy was achieved. It’s impossible not to like Drix and Gavin, but I really connected with Luwanna, a volunteer at the hospital. I think most people who have spent time in a hospital have known a Luwanna.

This is a complete story. Yet, there are many threads that could get pulled for a sequel. Holden’s aforementioned past trauma is something he needs to talk about with his brother one day. Jamison’s family issues may never get fixed, but it’s his professional problems at work that are the real issue, considering his uncle is his boss. His brother and cousin are all also cops. Throw in Jamison’s father situation, and the reader knows exactly where this will all logically come to a head moving forward. Just because I think I know the plays, doesn’t make this less enjoyable to read. I prefer foreshadowing to things coming out of left field. Still, life comes at you hard, so I’ll wait to see Gavin get his own story which way the authors go to wrap those things up.

The cover was done by Michele Notaro and Sammi Cee. I would say this is Holden. He has a lot of past hurts he keeps hidden so I get using the hair as a veil, but I feel like the book deserves a more wow cover.

Sales Links:  Amazon |  Universal Buy Link: mybook.to/HeartStrain

Book Details: Kindle Edition, 262 pages
Published July 22nd 2019
ASINB07VC8P6QC
Edition Language: English
Series: Interlocking Fragments

 

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Heart Strain (Interlocking Fragments #1) by Michele Notaro & Sammi Cee — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Craving’s Creek by Mel Bossa

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

The blurb to this book really captured my attention. The story, seen through Ryde’s point of view, takes place over 15 years and is broken down into three main parts. The first part shows Ryde’s intense attraction and focus on his neighbor Alastair. The reader gets to see the juxtaposition of Ryde’s supportive, though neglectful family and Alastair’s strange and scary religious upbringing. Then, this gut wrenching tragedy happens taking away all their youthful hopes and dreams. The second part shows Ryde’s life fourteen years later. Surveying the landscape is bleak as Ryde hits rock bottom when his selfishness, pain, and grief become more important than his love for anyone, even Alistair. Meanwhile, seeing Ryde again makes Alastair realizes his life is not what he thinks it is. The third part of the story deals with them both trying to put their demons to rest and move forward. This is where most of the hurt/comfort trope plays out.

For this 2019 edition, the author has mentioned she “really toned down the drama” from the 2015 version, which boggles my mind since I cried several times while reading it. This book has a very high angst level with themes of rape, sexual abuse, mental illness, PTSD, addiction, religious fervor, and betrayal. It is stark in its depiction of what Ryde’s whole family has lost. Ryde’s best friend Sheryl is fighting her own battle since she made the decision to let Ryde drag her down with him.

I am of two minds about this book. Obviously, it was well written enough to affect me so deeply. There is so much nuance here to complex issues like religion versus spirituality and coping mechanisms. Watching Father Masson wrestling with his own conscience about what is best for Alastair is compelling. Father Cornwell, as Alastair’s spiritual advisor, shows the bad side of the Church in wanting to control the situation, or save his soul, rather than do what may be best for Alastair’s mental health. There is certainly a compelling argument that he should not have been allowed to take his vows. Through it all, Alastair never losses his Faith in God, even when he loses faith in the Church.

I think the main flaw of this book is the subtle implication, even after apparent rewrites, that love can cure mental illness, trauma, and stop alcoholism. Ryde’s sobriety is nearly instantaneous. Alastair almost never shows any sign that it isn’t all about him except for asking about Ryde’s nightmares. Their one attempt at sexual intimacy ends disastrously. He warns Ryde he may never be able to have sex, but I’m not sure Ryde actually thinks that might be true–his focus on the physical rather than the mental issues here is astounding. A lifetime of trauma can’t be solved in a few months of once a week therapy or even after one huge breakthrough. Going back to Craving’s Creek seems just thrown in for the dramatic affect.

Shared history and trauma are important components to their relationship, but in the end it can’t be the only thing that keeps them together. There is not much here to convince me they can live together on a daily basis and navigate normal life yet, so I would argue this is a HFN rather than a HEA. Still, the book ends on a hopeful note of catharsis as they move towards their futures, finally together, with Ryde much more able to cope with the reality of Alastair than his 17 year old self would have been.

The cover design was done by Written Ink Designs. This is not how I pictured Alastair at all. The picture does signal that religion will be a main theme and shows the place that is ground zero for what happens to them.

Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble |  Kobo

Book Details: ebook, 224 pages
Published June 29th 2019 by JMS Books LLC (first published August 18th 2015)
ISBN 139781634869560
Edition Language: English

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Craving’s Creek by Mel Bossa — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: The Bucket List by RJ Scott

BucketList
Cover design by Meredith Russell

I would rate this 4.5 stars.

Jason contacts Mark about the death of his brother Andrew. Andrew and Mark had been best friends when they were young, but didn’t keep in touch after Mark left town at 15. Now at 33, all the memories Mark buried away are back. It was Andrew’s last wish that Jason complete his bucket list of things he wanted to do and Mark is made a part of it with his 15th high school reunion. Throughout this book they both face grief of a life lost, lost chances, and regret for bad decisions and might have beens. This is tapered with some of the best memories of their lives. Questions of all the missed years are painful. At first, both have things they are hiding; watching them earn those secrets is an emotional rollercoaster. The flashbacks they both have keep the emotional punches coming.

This was a bit unexpectedly triggering for me. Be advised much of this is about child abuse and bullying. The grief and shared history gives them something to bond over initially, but it is being together daily that makes it mean more, letting their relationship blossom. This book come across as very real to me with enough sweet and sexy parts to make it believable they can make it work and not just as a vacation romance. I liked the honest communication between them, both about the past and what they are feeling for each other as it happens. This is about righting old wrongs and really living because life is short, not revenge or comeuppance, although the reader gets a bit of that too.

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Review: Fire on Ice by Deirdre O’Dare

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Bard has been the Captain of the Unit for the last two years. Gordon has become his de facto second in command, even though there seems to be no such designation in this military. The Universal Council is constantly conquering other worlds for their galaxy spanning empire. With the men on an ice planet where electro-magnetic-based technology doesn’t work, one has to wonder why they even care about taking this planet inhabited by an insectiod population with primitive weapons.

This is a short read about two military men who have feelings for each other, but neither knows until one of them is injured. The reader gets both points of view, glimpsing their respect and longing for each other. While there seem to be no regulations against fraternization, anyone caught doing it disappears. In fact, none of the men seem to be allowed to be friends. They are not encouraged to forge ties, making their whole service seem senseless. I have decided to give the author the benefit of the doubt that this was the point of the story–endless war is pointless and institutionalization is demoralizing. There were two love scenes, neither of which were particularly sexy or emotionally moving. I think this is because the reader doesn’t get to see their two years serving together. There is only a sentence that even alludes to Bard showing an interest in Gordon as a person with small kindnesses. A short story can be captivating and pack an emotional wallop–so it’s not the length I am critiquing, just the execution.

The cover design was done by Written Ink Designs. I think it is actually very fitting, showing the only love and color in their lives happened in that tent. It’s the start of a new dawn for them.

Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Book Details: Kindle Edition

Published May 11th 2019 by JMS Books LLC

ASIN B07RH7NMKC

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Fire on Ice by Deirdre O’Dare — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Release Day Review: Hitting the Mark by Aidan Wayne

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The story starts with Marcus going back to where he’s from to film a movie. He has the chance to visit the taekwondo academy where he spent five formative years, from age 10 to 15. Back then, his crush was the son of the owner, Taemin, who became an instructor, training to take over the family business. Meeting Taemin again and getting to know him as an adult and equal, shows Marcus everything he wants in a partner. Taemin takes a bit longer to realize what he is feeling, that it’s ok to feel this way, and that Marcus is someone he wants in his life as more than a friend.

There is smart writing on the author’s part in the use of all the side characters. Preeti, a former student and now instructor, gives them a buffer and shows that they are adults now–that Preeti and Taemin are friends and colleagues, especially with Preeti being younger than Marcus. Mr. Avi is the father figure, even though he is Taemin’s employee. Marcus’s assistant, Billy, is not just an employee, but also a supportive friend. When you spend as much time at work as these two do, their whole world is really their colleagues and people they meet through work. A huge amount of this book is the day to day details about Marcus and Taemin while they are at work, doing what they love.

With Taemin’s work ethic, his schedule is grueling. He teaches almost every day and is training for the Olympic qualification tournament on top of his charitable work. This is a habit, but may also be a way to stave off the loneliness of down time. Marcus’s life as an actor, doing most of his own stunts, is also full of training, publicity, and requires travel. There are no surprises about the travails this couple will face. There is no manufactured angst–just the real work of making it through their first disagreement. This is a realistic view of two men falling in love who must work out a way to integrate their lives together. It is a solid, well crafted romance about strong, masculine men who are confident about who they are. The love scenes are beautiful without being salacious. That the author captures that feeling of butterflies in your stomach, of wonder that the person you want, wants you back, is satisfying. It is the length, that the reader really gets to know who these men are, that elevates this above most romances.

The cover art is by Kanaxa and shows both characters as I pictured them.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details: ebook, 193 pages
Expected publication: May 28th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN1 39781644051436
Edition Language: English

via A Chaos Moondrawn Release Day Review: Hitting the Mark by Aidan Wayne — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Renewing Forever by Kelly Jensen, This Time Forever 2

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Cover Artist Natasha Snow

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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