Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5 This is a dark erotic romance, with urban fantasy elements, set in Chicago. Jesse is a human who works for a vampire named Gideon doing private investigations. They’ve been hired to solve a murder that may tie to a dangerous new demon drug. This shows alternating points of view, […]
I would rate this book 3.25 stars.
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.
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I would rate this 4 stars.
I thought this was a standalone, but apparently it would have been helpful to read the Lord of White Hell and the Champion of the Scarlet Wolf duologies first. The world-building is amazingly detailed, yet I still feel like I might have had a rounder view of this universe if I read those first, as there are several characters from those books included in this one and they are written in linear time. Things about the court intrigues, neighboring countries, power struggles between church and state, all the differnet types of religious beliefs, and the use of magic obviously all have more background than I was privy to here. While the plot is always easy to follow, the explanations about the magic are not–until the second half. All of the sudden the magic is explained, the emotional connection I wanted kicks in, and the book really comes alive, which saved this story for me. I am left wondering if maybe I would have felt more emotionally attached from the beginning if I had read the other four books? The writing style for the first half is removed, like an observer focused on the main plot and moving about chess pieces. While there is clever dialogue and witty banter, the author never lets them succumb to passion or deeper emotions that the reader can actually sit with and let breathe. Then again, maybe that is because of the constant explanations of past events, but recaps are entirely necessary for this to work.
The story is told from four points of view: Narsi, Atreau, Ariz, and Fedeles. Narsi is a great character, a genuinely kind, clever, brave and warmhearted physician. Atreau the charming rake and novelist, but that deflects from what he is really doing as a spymaster. Ariz is the tragic tale, living under compulsion and being made to do things he doesn’t want to do. Fedeles as the Duke of Rauma is treading a fine line of facing his fears and past traumas to become the hero everyone needs. Although these main leads are all male, there are many strong females characters in this book and the cast is large and diverse. Clara and Oasia are the most intriguing, rich, intelligence, three dimensional female roles I’ve read in secondary characters in a long time. Everyone has various shades of grey as many are not whom they seem on the surface, even Narsi takes to subterfuge with ease. The characters are what bring this to life–why I even cared about all the plots and subplots. Honestly though, more than rooting for them individually, I was rooting for good to win over evil and for anyone to have even a dash of happiness. Just like real life, there is racism, sexism, homophobia, religious zeal, and xenophobia. In the end, it’s about averting a war. The corruption, greed, torture, assassinations, servitude…they are what you would expect from the rich and powerful. There is nothing fast about this book; it’s all slowly built brick by brick. That’s not to say that no action happens, but the pacing is slowed by the world-building–even though this all takes place in a week, it feels much longer. Suddenly everything happens at once and it’s over.
If you are wanting an m/m romance, this may not hold your interest. If you want a complex, painstakingly detailed, queer renaissance type high fantasy novel with a tangle of multiple plots and slow burn, fairly chaste romantic pairings, then you might like to try this book. This is also going to be a duology, so be aware this doesn’t end here. Right now I am frustrated on many levels. While I acknowledge the first half was neccessary, I didn’t love it and was getting bored. After the second half, I am completely sucked in and want to read the next book right now this minute. I am also sad that reading this might have ruined the four previous books for me, because I will know what happens as I believe this duology is the end of the series.
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Rating: 4 stars out of 5 For the first nine chapters, the reader is in Hunter’s POV as he navigates his crush on Shawn, a colleague at the hospital he works at. He is beset by guilt over the death of his boyfriend. Hunter’s drinking and PTSD are a source of worry for his friends […]
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 I read and liked the Investigating Love series by this author years ago, so I thought I would try these. This trilogy has one overarching storyline, so although each novella focuses on one couple, they have to be read in order and together for maximum enjoyment. Garth, Stevie, Adam, […]
Rating: 5 stars out of 5 Paris is a successful artist who picks up Roy, a maintenance man, at his gallery showing. He’s trying to get away from his overbearing sister, Julia and the patrons who all want a piece of him. This one night stand doesn’t go like all his others. By the time […]
I would rate this 4.75 stars.
Kuro Jenkins owns a ramen shop in Los Angeles. Rescuing former child star Trey Bishop one night leads him back into a lifestyle he thought he left behind. Trey has his own past he is trying hard to shake. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Trey’s life is in danger, but as a recovering addict, no one believes him. Growing close as they try to figure out who’s trying to kill them, is it just proximity and convenience, or something more?
Every time I feel like I’m being mean, not giving higher star reviews, I read something like this to remind me why I’m just being honest. This author describes scenes I can picture in my mind, with so many little details stuck in, they create snapshots. Her words tease all my senses, giving me characters I care about and can root for. This is like an action adventure, yet so intimate. The writing is a rat-a-tat style that fits this genre well. Here, the secondary characters shine–especially the females. The plot twists actually move the story forward with nice symmetry. This is a spy tale–ex-spy tale–so the reader should expect some suspension of disbelief. Overall, this is a gripping, sweet and totally smoking romance, with a few dead bodies and a satisfying ending.
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I would rate this 3.5 stars.
Luis is a federal agent, trained as a profiler, sent to Boston where he is assigned to work a murder case with a state police detective named Donovan. Donovan was his roommate and lover in college thirteen years before. Part of why they broke up was Donovan’s unwillingness to come out of the closet. Luis already faces discrimination for being Brazilian, so being gay is one more reason for his colleagues to dislike him; so he may as well be in their faces about it. Only Donovan knows Luis’s history and how people are unfairly judging him. For them to get their second chance, Donovan has to be honest about who he is and Luis has to value himself and stop pushing people away.
Many of Luis’s issues are his childhood trauma that he hasn’t dealt with. As a psychological professional, it is sad how mentally unhealthy Luis seems to be. His stressful work environment is not helping, and neither does he help himself. He is also dealing with racism at work–nothing overt, more like micro-agressions. Donovan’s family, also all police officers, are also not very accepting of Luis being brown, or gay. It takes awhile for Donovan to acknowledge he’s done anything wrong, or for him to admit he hasn’t ever recovered from their breakup either. Although I liked seeing flawed characters, it’s also difficult to not dislike them all at times throughout the book.
The writing is uneven. For example, Donovan is seemingly impressed with Luis being an FBI profiler at the beginning, but then he says it’s a pseudoscience and is disrespectful of Luis during the case. Then, he has an about-face defending him to Kevin, even citing Luis’s qualifications. Donovan belives in ghosts and psychics, but not psychology? Why is a police detective acting as an intermediary between FBI agents? At the point that Kevin and Luis are having issues, Donovan and Kevin are acting more like professional partners even though they don’t work for the same branch of law enforcement. Why does the FBI captain even listen to Donovan at all? The paranormal aspects of the case are only signaled by the cover. The entrance of paranormal activity is thrown abruptly into the middle of the story. I’m not sure it needed this aspect at all. I don’t think it added anything to what was already an interesting murder case. I think it took time away from character development and interpersonal communication that would have strengthened this book.
There are many things I liked about this book, and there are several parts I feel could have been better executed. By the time they have their HEA, everyone feels bad they were mean to poor Luis. At least in two sentences Luis acknowledges he needs to handle things better moving forward…but I wanted to see that as an actual realization. I wanted to see the work that would go into that, not to assume everything will magically be better after he gets out of the hospital and goes back to work, with his new boyfriend in tow.
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Rating: 3 stars out of 5 Related to the Men Of Honor and Phoenix Inc. series, you can read this without reading the other seven books, as there is plenty of recapping, (over two dozen characters are mentioned in the first few chapters alone), but be prepared for the plot to be connected. I picked […]
I would rate this 3.75 stars.
Holden is a half-breed in a world where pure bloods rule. Even though his fae father is the Council’s current Minister for Justice, he has cut all ties with Holden. His vampire mother died in childbirth. It would be difficult for him to be more of an outcast than he already is. Holden’s only friend is his lover for the last five years, the vampire Raoul. Working as a subcontractor for the Fellowship’s Investigations Team, he is finally given a chance to take the lead in a case following a series of murders thanks to the support of his supervisor, Owens. The Fellowship maintains the treaties for and preserves the cultures of the the three supernatural communities: fae, witch, and vampire. Part of their job is to keep them secret from humans. When Holden is partnered with Valerius Blackwood, head of the Mayfair-Belgravia witches, London’s most powerful and influential coven, his life becomes more complicated than he ever imagined.
This is one of those books where it’s difficult to critique it without spoilers. Holden is an interesting character and having Raoul and Owens as supporting characters makes this more engaging. Val is more complicated. It is challenging to make an unlikable character likeable, and the author only partially succeeds, in my opinion. If you like your white and black hats pristine, this morally ambiguous take might not be for you. The plot makes perfect sense in the end and is well told, I was just surprised where it ended up. What didn’t quite work is that not once, but twice, the lower than low halfen, as Holden is called, makes the mighty pure blood, prideful, Council members bow to his will. This really doesn’t gel with the rest of the book and how Holden is treated. They could have just killed him at the end, or put him in the medieval dungeon. No one would have cared. Where this book really captured me was the world-building with the details about powers, spells, demons, and shifters. I did want to see more about witch, vampire, and fae culture. The plot is good. The characters are good. The love story is good, albeit strange. Yet, this still didn’t come together for me as much as I was hoping. If you like to root for the bad guys, give this a try and tell me what you think.
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