Review: Ten by Tia Fielding, Love By Numbers 1

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Cover Art © 2019 Garrett Leigh

I would rate this 4 stars.

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.

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**This book was previously published by Dreamspinner Press and has now been self-published by the author. I have an older edition of this book and it is exclusive to Amazon at this time.

Review: Master Of Obsidian (Master Chronicles #1) by Jamie Craig

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, but I still feel like I got to know Jesse better than Gideon, which may be a good thing.

One issue is the plot is obviously just to move them from one sex scene to another, which is a shame because there could have been something more interesting done with what is here. For instance, seeing more of their actual relationship before being thrown into their sexual relationship would have given this a more solid basis. More UST before they got together as well as any indication at all that Jesse was into pain before they have sex, would have made it less jarring. Seeing Jesse’s fantasies and revelling in Gideon’s angst to control himself would have added more depth. For me, the distressing part was no aftercare, even when Jesse had open wounds. Gideon doesn’t really treat Jesse with the care, the respect, the reader is told he has for him; not just in their personal interactions, but with the case they are working, where he doesn’t give Jesse vital information. At least that is acknowledged after the fact, it’s just that so much of this really should have been talked about before all the events that happen.

Between sex scenes, most of the information is told to the reader as a statement right before they need it, rather than being seen in flashbacks. I’m going to mention something that is not related to the plot, so it’s not a spoiler, but would turn many people off: I want readers to be aware there is a scene where Jesse gets off to Gideon’s snuff porn. This caused an issue for me: why is Jesse expecting better behavior from John, the blackest of mages, but then turns around and has no issue with Gideon’s past? I guess for those raised on a TV show with Angel and Spike, maybe this isn’t a big deal? But the reader doesn’t get to know enough of this supposedly good Gideon that is trying to save humans before being introduced to who he used to be. Then, there is the torture scene which really points out the problems with the world-building. One assumes, if the suspect were human, they would have involved the police, but since the suspect is a vampire (demon), they can do whatever they want to her? Obviously humans, mages, and vampires know about each other and coexist, but that is all the reader really knows about this world. In the end, I was left with a few steamy sex scenes and characters that are a bit twisted and not necessarily likeable. Even Jesse seemed more dangerously obsessed with Gideon rather than in love with him, enough to blur ethical lines and basically do whatever he wants as long as Jesse gets what he wants from Gideon.

I think for maximum enjoyment, this should be read as a series of sexual fantasies without a lot of expectations. Since it’s about vampires, expect a lot a blood. Also be aware this has a m/m/f scene, violence, torture, and Gideon sharing Jesse, so they are not monogamous in the traditional sense.

The cover art for my version was done by Cover Design: Written Ink Designs (written-ink.com) with image(s) used under a Standard Royalty-Free License. It does communicate the BDSM elements, but not really the paranormal or investigative elements.

Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC | Amazon | Kobo

Book Details: Kindle Edition, 192 pages
Published September 25th 2019 by JMS Books LLC
ASINB07XWNT85S

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Master Of Obsidian (Master Chronicles #1) by Jamie Craig — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Possibilities by Nicole Field, A King’s Council 1

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I would rate this 4.75 stars.

This is a new to me author and I bought this based on the blurb. I would say this takes about 90 minutes to read. The writing syle is crisp and focused. It’s the story of a king who doesn’t want to be, was never intended to be, actually king. Hiring his jester is one of his many new duties, but it’s the one that ends up being his most personal. I love the idea of the King’s Jester being a trusted friend and confident. This author is great at building tension: court politics, longing for someone, establishing trust, and navigating power dynamics (not BDSM). Fairy tales can get away with many things that other books can’t. For instance, yes I did find it shocking they were left alone so soon. What if they were an assassin? What if they were a spy? But in this world, the jester school is well respected and trusted. This is meant to be a sweet fairy tale, so there is no room for that here. It’s a personal tale between two people based on mutual respect, a peek into their bubble. I am torn about whether I want another book, because this is perfect as it is in my opinion.

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Review: Empire Of Light by Alex Harrow, Voyance 1

 

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Cover Art by Natasha Snow

I would rate this 4.5 stars.

Damien is a guy trying to survive by making the hard choices. He’s loyal and will do anything for the family that’s been cobbled together in this dystopian future, especially his lover Aris, which puts him right between a rock and a hard place. He’s working as an assassin for the Watch, the police force of the Empire of Consolidated Nations, run by Commander Faelle Valyr. The story is set in Helos, previously New York before the Wars of 2090. Everyone is corrupt. When Damien gets sent to take out a corporate guy named Mael Taerien, he’s caught and blackmailed into killing Valyr instead. Taerien’s henchman Raeyn sticks close to his side to make sure he cooperates. As the action intensifies, battle lines are drawn but they are fluid and everyone has to adjust to the ever changing landscape.

This is a gritty story with an almost frantic pace. Damien is like a mountain goat, stubborn yet quickly adapting to all terrains. It’s not like he has any choice. The poor guy is in one fight after another (beaten, choked, kicked, stabbed, and shot). Darien tries to play whichever side will help save Aris, himself, and their friends. Aris has his own plans and his own lovers. He’s between his own rocks and hard places. The thing is Damien and Aris are both broken and the pieces don’t quite match together. That doesn’t change anything that is going to happen as everyone runs head first into their future. Damien doesn’t ignore things as well as he thinks he does, so the reader understands he sees what he wants to about the people he loves. He also forgets that everyone he loves is not like him. I’m of two minds about the secondary characters not being that fleshed out: that’s a huge missed opportunity for emotional connection to the story, and thank goodness or I’d be a blubbering mess.

As Damien gets closer to Raeyn, I wasn’t sure who to root for, or against. In many ways Raeyn is a better match for Damien, but there are some major obstacles and their relationship has it’s own dysfunction. About halfway through this story my mind was partially blown, because a good author foreshadows. At about three quarters of the way in, my mind was fully blown. The only way this story works at all is because the reader only has Damien’s POV. There is no way at all to describe this plot without spoilers. It’s an impossible task and I don’t want to do that. Just trust that there is a plot twist around every corner in this complicated web of lies and conspiracies. Yes, some seem improbable but that’s half the fun. This is action packed from beginning to end and could have benefited from some more quiet moments. They are there, but they are usually gut wrenching in their mental dysfunction, so they are not restful for the reader. They are necessary to understand the psychology of the characters. I also think the unrelenting pace is to stop the reader from looking at holes in the plot, or to try and work out what will happen. But after going through this journey, the end is too optimistic for all the brutal world building that has taken place. Even though this has an ending, I was left floundering around wondering what now, but that might just be that I kept moving after the ride stopped. I’m going to say I enjoyed the ride.

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Review: Beyond Meridian By C.C. Bridges

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Cover artwork by Natasha Snow.

Rick Raine is our space captain. Karl is our other MC looking for transport to Mendhem, a territory controlled by Confed military. The Confed (Confederation of Free Planets) and UPA (United Planetary Alliance) are at war. This story starts on Meridan, a world along the borders that tries to stay a neutral territory.

Raine agrees to take him on as crew if he can find cargo to transport. Karl is from Meridan, but has been living on Earth. He escaped his life in the brothels after his mother’s death at 12, due to Sam, who is trapped on Mendhem after being sold as a slave. Slavery is allowed in the Confed and sometimes people are given a choice between slavery or military service.

I liked the descriptions of the various worlds, the spacecraft, and space travel. I love that the ship is piloted like a theramin.

I have to say both characters are so different in their outlook and approach to life, but both are likable in their own way. Rick will remind you a bit of Hans Solo and this is no bad thing. Karl could be a young Luke without cool powers. The sex scenes were well written and fit into the story as a natural, inevitable progression to them growing closer through proximity and sharing dangerous situations.

As a novella it did its job of telling a complete story with world-building. Due to it’s length, it did such a good job by focusing on the two main characters and showing us parts of space inhabited by “border rats” and a small part of Confed space. We don’t know that much about UPA and that is fine. I hope adventures in this world continue and we get to see if UPA is actually the “good guy” in this fight, or if it is a bit more nuanced than that. This story is complete with an ending, but it could be a beginning too, so that could make this work for a prequel or just book one in this world.

I would rate this 4.5 stars.

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