Review: Spare The Rod by Marie Sexton, The Heretic Doms Club 3

SpareTheRod
Cover art by Garrett Leigh of Black Jazz Design

 

I would rate this 4 stars.

This is the third book in the series and by now, I feel like they need to be read in order for the full emotional experience because much of the information about each of the doms is layered into each book, weaving a greater whole. This book focuses on Gray, who is way more interesting than I’ve seen previously, yet less time is spent with him. The majority of it feels like this is Avery’s story as a spoiled, ungrateful, selfish brat; his character development is forced as he is finally having to be responsible for himself, beholden to Gray instead of his parents. Even with what he’s seen as a veteran and working as a beat cop, Gray still has things to learn too–the age gap doesn’t seem all that large when gauged by emotional maturity. When his trying moments come, they are devastating. As they traverse the issue of trust between a masochist and a sadist, they learn the hardest parts are sharing more of themselves than just their bodies.

This series is so rich in main characters, it doesn’t need much from its secondary characters. Information about Charlie has been building in each book and he will get his story soon. As the advice giver, peace maker, and heart of the group, his character is frequently the bridge that connects everyone. Avery’s friend Derik is a good mirror for Avery–the more he grows and changes from the way he was, the more he sees how shallow, vain, and cruel his life used to be. The author did set up situations that I felt deepened the friendships of all the men, and yes, that includes more shared sex scenes. The sex between Gray and Avery at the beginning and the sex at the end are completely different with the added intimacy gained on their journey.

Large parts of this are a huge indictment against social media and against people who don’t educate themselves so they are well rounded citizens. While it is couched in terms of Avery’s character development, and Gray’s upbringing, there are times when the pointed social commentary subsumed the narrative. I support the positive message, about building the world you want to have, even as I think the way the story all fell into place was too pat. That made this relationship less realistic to me than the ones in the previous books. I enjoyed Avery and Grey moving through their story together, I just felt like it wasn’t Avery who was meant to be learning the life lessons, but the reader and that made their love story take an occasional backseat to the larger themes.

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Marie Sexton’s Website

**The ebook is only on sale at Amazon at the time of this post. Amazon also is the only place the paperback is for sale, but book one and two are sold at Barnes and Noble as well as Book Depository, so you could check those later.

Review: Terms Of Service by Marie Sexton, The Heretic Doms Club 2

TermsOfService
Cover Art by Garrett Leigh of Black Jazz Design

I would rate this 4.5 stars.

Even though this is the second book in a series written in linear time, I feel like you could read this first and go back to learn more about Warren and Taylor’s story from book one. For maximum emotional impact, I feel they are best read in order. River is grieving over the break-up of his marriage and floundering through his days when he meets Phil in a professional confrontation at the hospital. River is naturally submissive and is drawn to Phil’s personality even though he doesn’t understand why, doesn’t really understand what he wants or needs. His husband works at the same hospital with his new boyfriend, but River hasn’t signed the divorce papers yet. Phil is set in his ways, his rigid control only serviced through one night stands or rentboys, yet he responds to River in a way that makes him want to try for a casual arrangement. As they work through the change from an arrangement to a real relationship, these two lonely men find they have more in common than they would have believed. Both men are lucky to have the support of Phil’s friends, in every regard and there is certainly sharing, so if you have to have a couple that has no sexual contact with others, this is not the series for you. The sex scenes are hot and explicit, but the confidence, care, and camaraderie throughout the book is even more appealing. I felt much more attached to the other characters in this series, as little details about Gray and Charlie are sprinkled throughout, than in the first book.

The first part of this book was a little difficult to get into because I felt Phil’s distance through the writing; the pay-off comes at the end when Phil is finally overtly emotionally engaged, rather than his usual suppression. Strangely, it’s the second half of the book that is easier to navigate as everything gets more complex professionally and personally for all the characters. When people have a personal epiphany, they can choose to ignore it and explain it away, or they can fall into the change it encourages. This requires taking a personal inventory. Both of them need to slough off the expectations of others, in different ways. Phil is dealing with his upbringing and ghosts of past expectations, while River is trying to find himself again after stuffing himself away to be what his husband wanted.

What I really like about this series is the sexual freedom the characters experience as they each do what is best for themselves, as they struggle to not be embarrassed or ashamed of what they individually need as it clashes with what society says relationships “should” be like–or even what other people in a BDSM lifestyle think. They are “heretics” for a reason. It’s also a good reminder that sometimes people need to let go of their own rules, that what served you in your twenties, might not be what serves you in your forties. I found this journey of self realization for both men very satisfying. Although my own bias is for Warren and Taylor, I enjoyed seeing River and Phil create the life they want. I am excited for Gray’s story next and hope to learn more about Charlie in book four.

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Marie Sexton’s website

**Currently the ebook is only available from Amazon.

My Best of 2019 List

The Best Of The Best

This year I read approximately 200 stories/books, although I didn’t review them all. If you have been reading my reviews, both here and on my own blog, you’ll know I like quirky–books that do things a little differently than the status quo. They still have to make sense, connect with me emotionally, and tell a good story. I gave 5 Stars, without rounding up, to these book that were published this year:

Digging Deep, Digging Deep 1, by Jay Hogan
This book gave a realistic depiction of being in a relationship with a chronically ill person with humor, honesty, and dignity whilst still managing to be a romance. The author didn’t cover over the gross or inconvenient things about illness the way most books do.

The Ghosts Between Us, The West Hills 1, by Brigham Vaughn
People handle grief differently and sometimes they fall in love at completely the wrong time with someone others might deem inappropriate. Oh well, that’s their problem.

The Story Of Us by Logan Meredith
Literally, no one agreed with me about this book featuring an older prudish, judgmental man falling in love with a young student and porn star. With breaking the fourth wall and only one point of view, some people didn’t dig it.

Best Covers

The King’s Dragon cover by Natasha Snow, The Witchstone Amulet cover by Tiferet Designs, Anhaga cover by Tiferet Designs, Hell And Gone cover by Danonza, Ramen Assassin cover by Reece Notley, Earth Fathers Are Weird cover by Lyn Gala, Clean Break cover by Natasha Snow, Healing Glass cover by Miranda from Pavelle Art, and Taji From Beyond the Rings cover by Lyn Forester

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The Best Of The Rest

Best Contemporary

Arctic Sun, Frozen Hearts 1, by Annabeth Albert
Best Behavior by Matthew J. Metzger
Heated Rivalry, Game Changers 2, by Rachel Reid
Ramen Assassin by Rhys Ford
The Other Book, Those Other Books 1, by Roe Horvat
We Still Live by Sara Dobie Bauer

 

Best Fantasy/Paranormal/Science Fiction

Anhaga by Lisa Henry
Dead Man Stalking by T.A. Moore
Empire of Light, Voyance 1, by Alex Harrow
Healing Glass, Gifted Guilds 1, by Jackie Keswick
Space Train by David Bridger
The Shoreless Sea, Liminal Sky 3, by J. Scott Coatsworth

 

Best Holiday

A Faerie Story by Barbara Elsborg

 

Best Dark Themed/Taboo

Sick And Tragic Bastard by Rowan Massey
Please read the tags and get ready for a big, fat, ugly-crying meltdown if you have a soul. Then, read or watch the fluffiest, sweetest stories you can find for a week after.

Best Rerelease

Release, Davlova 1 and Return, Davlova 2, by Marie Sexton
This dark romance duology (pay attention to the tags) was originally released under the name A.M. Sexton. I don’t think there are any substantial changes. Expect rich, bleak, dystopian world-building.

 

Honorable Mention

The King’s Dragon, Fire And Valor 1, by W.M. Fawkes and Sam Burns
The Stone Amulet by Mason Thomas
I read so much fantasy this year. These two books stayed with me even though I rated them lower than the others. Why? Maybe I didn’t have enough coffee.

via More Best of 2019 and This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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

OneMansTrash
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.

Buy from Amazon

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Marie Sexton’s website

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

Release Day Review: Never a Hero (Tucker Springs #5) by Marie Sexton

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

This is part of the Tucker Springs series. The books have different authors, so although some of the characters are featured in other books, this can be read as a standalone. This is a meet cute with depth.

Having Owen’s first person POV lets the reader see and feel what his life is like having a congenital arm amputation and stutter. When he gets a new neighbor downstairs, his world changes in ways he could never imagine before. Not because Nick “fixes” anything, but because Owen’s exposure to the outside world is expanded so he observes and learns things for himself that make him question his world view. I didn’t feel I missed anything at all not having Nick’s POV because the writing doesn’t allow it. Nick’s sister has a similar amputation, making June a powerful catalyst. She is a friend who can really understand, but also is a complete contrast to how Owen handles things. June has lived her life with love and support and it shows. That doesn’t mean her reactions to the world are more mature or correct, just different–which shows Owen he can react differently too if he chooses.

I won’t talk much about Nick or Owen’s dad because I don’t want too many spoilers. I will say I adored Nick, but his actions are super frustrating. I could say the same thing about Owen’s father. Most of Owen’s issues stem from his mother, who is completely unpleasant. Watching him gain confidence during the few months of this book is a pleasure. When he actually has a real life with activities and friends, he gives up the unhealthy fantasy life he was living in. The dialogue and the inner monologue flow naturally so the reader feels a part of Owen’s growth, sharing his realizations and small victories. Once Owen actually has a support system in his life, he goes after what he wants, and that is Nick. Everything is not magically fixed at the end, but the characters are set on a much better path that is more likely to be happy and successful.

The cover art for this rerelease was done by Reese Dante. I have to say this model is more appealing and the piano plays a major part in the story.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details: Kindle Edition, 2nd edition, 149 pages
Published July 5th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press (first published May 13th 2013)
Original Title: Never a Hero
ASINB07RGQJXQK
Edition Language: English
Series: Tucker Springs #5

via A Chaos Moondrawn Release Day Review: Never a Hero (Tucker Springs #5) by Marie Sexton — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words