Review: Handsome Death by Sara Dobie Bauer

HandsomeDeath
Cover Artist not credited in my ARC

 

I would rate this 4 stars.

How vampire lore works in this story is layered in through the musings of an unknown narrator, which we learn is Ethan. He uses his skills as a mercenary for a man named Marco. He becomes intrigued by a pretty man in front of a coffee shop, who is a student named Tristan. His protective urges grow, but I’m unclear as to whether vampires have a mating instinct or are obsessive by nature? I don’t like stalking as love, so frankly, I’m glad it’s illegal here, so I guess that answers the question really. Since Tristan has a vampire fetish and their kinks line up well, the story gets steamy very quickly. What saves this for me is that Ethan is actually trying to do the right thing, the struggle is real. It’s also hot, hot, hot. Parts of it are a lust fueled haze of toys, light blood play, bondage, and shibari. If the book would have stayed that way, I’d have been perfectly happy with it as an erotic romance.

This didn’t quite go how I thought it would, so I struggled to figure out why. First, the cover would fit in quite well with the dark erotic gay romance series Criminal Delights (twelve different authors), so I think I subconsciously put it in that category. Of course, Ethan is portrayed over and over again as a ruthless killer for hire, albeit he now kills “the bad guys” although I am unclear who decides that. Mario? So, when this turns into a sweet, sappy romance with flashes of dry humor and a meet the parents, I am perplexed. Then I figured out why: it heads into New Adult territory even though the sole POV is from an ancient vampire. Tristan’s parents are fantasy perfect. Tristan makes Ethan human again. Ethan goes from unlawful to legit without anyone blinking an eye. Tristan realizes his own self worth, thanks to Ethan’s love. It’s all very enjoyable with “all the feels,” but it could have been something more nuanced, more intellectually interesting–and I’ll probably still read it again.

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Sara Dobie Bauer’s Website

 

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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Tanya Chris’s Website

**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: Scintilla by Elizabeth Noble, El Corazon 1

Scintilla
Cover not credited.

 

I would rate this 3.5 stars.

Brandon goes on vacation to fulfill his sexual fantasy with a werewolf Dom at the El Corazon adult entertainment club in Arizona. The werewolf he gets is Raul, grandson to the club owner and professional bounty hunter. One scene is not enough for either of them and a bond is struck. But Brandon is a scintilla, a magical human that wields electricity, and an expert with using electronics to glean information. Months later Brandon disappears and his father shows up to hire Raul to find him, leading everyone down a path filled with paranormals, human trafficking, and betrayal.

For me, this book is split in two with the first half being a bit awkward where some things are explained, and the second half where there is a lot of action and a better connection between the characters. The first love scene wasn’t quite as hot as I would have liked, but that’s just sex. They hang out for a week, having more sex, which is not shown. Too many sex scenes back to back can be boring, but skipping out on the time they spend together lessens the intimacy. The reader is told they emailed for months after, but that didn’t make me feel attached to either of them. Then, the second half has the intimacy and connection I wanted–almost too much as it also actually distracted them from their own undercover operation. There are a plethora of kinks here, with the age gap, Raul being a hairy bear type, knotting, and Brandon basically being a violet wand. I did like that Raul is actually a wolf, it is always part of who he is and that is consistent.

The world-building was a bit haphazard. There are four classes of magical humans, so what are they? There are five types of jinn, but only effrit and sila are referenced. There is a leprechaun and a prism character, but neither are explored. Later, acoustic and aether paranormals are also mentioned. The only thing I know about werewolf culture is they are pansexual and matriarchal. Raul’s family is also Latin, so that comes across the most. As the matriarch, Natty is a force to be reckoned with, and a welcome, loving presence. A jinni, Fahim, who is a business partner of Raul’s cousin, Tad, is always there to lend of hand, but I don’t know anything about him. At first I felt I missed something as a character named Janey was introduced; I had no idea who she was. She is described as a prism, and ends up being the police captain, but I have no idea what she or her lieutenant, Iva, whom Raul has known since grade school, actually look like. So, really, the world-building here is contained to Raul’s family life and glimpses of his work as a bounty hunter. Things that need to be known are thrown in scene by scene. That’s a shame since the plot is actually interesting. This is really just a fun, low angst for the subject matter adventure, with some steamy sex scenes, a bit of violence, and likeable lead characters. Expect that instead of urban fantasy and it’ll be an enjoyable diversion.

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Elizabeth Noble’s Website

Elizabeth Noble’s Payhip

Elizabeth Noble on QueeRomance Ink

**This book is currently exclusive to Amazon, but not all the author’s works are. She sometimes offers books through her Payhip for a short time and publishes through JMS Books.

Review: Omega Replaced by Tanya Chris, Omega Reimagined 5

 

omegareplaced
Not credited

 

I would rate this 3.75 stars.

This is book five in the series, but I’ve not read the previous four and had no issues reading it as a standalone. This one focuses on Donovan, an alpha from Southern Pack who comes to Northern Pack territory as a bounty hunter for a runaway omega named Carmen. When he arrives, Judge Tarek refuses to give him an extradition order. His stay, while trying to convince Carmen to voluntarily return to her family, shows him how restrictive the wolf caste system is. As he acknowledges his forbidden desire for another alpha, he has an affair with Tarek that is rapidly becoming something else. Can he confront the difference between what he’s been taught his whole life, and the reality he is faced with?

Since this is about Donovan’s character development, the POV stays with him. The politics snuck up on me, although I don’t know why; the correlation with patriarchy and gender roles is obvious. In this world, omegas are treated differently in each region as is the legality of same sex and mixed caste unions. Central and Western Pack are mentioned, but don’t play a role. Here’s where some more in depth world-building would have made this really shine for me. Maybe that’s unfair because perhaps it was already done in previous books, but with this writing style, I doubt the previous books were markedly more detailed. Ditto the secondary characters in this book who have had their own books: they are all likeable and move the story forward, but not much is learned about them here. So reading the previous books might have given me a greater emotional attachment to them. However, it’s cleverly written because you can read them all in order for the overarching political story, or you can just read the ones you want if that couple strikes your fancy without missing much.

The sex scenes are steamy and well written. While this world has heats and knotting, there was no mpreg. The development of Tarek and Donovan’s relationship is fast–a matter of days. While cute, I would have liked more connection outside of the sex. In the end, did me wanting more detail about everything affect my enjoyment of this book? Nope. This is a new to me author and I really loved the writing style. As a fun, easy to read, steamy, paranormal erotic romance, this is a great choice when you want to be entertained for a few hours and have some food for thought (it’s okay to be who you are), without a lot of angst. I will read this author again.

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Tanya Chris Website

**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: Forbidden Bond by Lee Colgin

I would rate this 3.25 stars

Historically enemies, there is now a peace treaty between vampires and shifters. As vampires push to announce their existence to humans in the face of technological advances in order to control the PR, many shifters disagree, threatening the peace. The real problem is that it’s just an armistice: there is no integration or friendship. Sinclair, a living vampire, has been accepted at a shifter college for graduate study, which is an historic opportunity. His father, who presides over the Vampire Council, is worried about his safety. He might be right as Sinclair is met with hostility and suspicion. The POV then switches to Mitchel, the Alpha on campus, whose uncle Marcus runs the Werewolf Council. Mitchel’s parents where killed by vampires, so he has no love of their kind. As Sinclair and Mitchel actually get to know each other, they become friends while they try to help maintain peace between their species. Others struggle to accept a world where vampire and werewolf date and humans know of their existence.

Each chapter is started by a news report updating the reader about the issues and fears in the supernatural community. I thought it was a little gimmicky. This is firmly in the new adult genre even though Mitchel is older. It has an enemies to lovers, slow burn vibe–fun, flirty, a little juvenile–at the beginning. Then, all of the sudden, their relationship is serious with sexy times and a violent, action packed plotline. The vampires are ruthless and bloodthirsty when threatened, while the wolves come off as more squeamish and less prepared for violence. Other supernatural species are mentioned in passing, but not focused on so they have no face. It was great to see Erika as a strong female Alpha wolf who takes charge in the crisis, yet none of the secondary characters are very detailed. This story is enjoyable even though it doesn’t break any new ground in this subgenre.

The cover art by Natasha Snow works well with the titles to convey much of the story.

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Forbidden Bond by Lee Colgin — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review : Fated Hearts (Shadow Bound #1) by Garrett Leigh

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

There is a free short story prequel to this book, but you don’t need to read it to enjoy this story. Alpha Varian of the Northern Pack is allied with the Shadow Clan against the allied packs of the South. I don’t really understand how this alliance works; it is something to do with the peace accord with other supernaturals (like vampires), but that is never discussed in any detail. Shadow Clan has so far stayed out of the agression. Zio is a beta in Varian’s combat squad, full of rage after the death of his best friend Emma, their wolf healer. When Shadow Clan sends their healer Devan to replace Emma, he must navigate culture shock, distrust, grief and the mating bond in order to save the lives of his new Pack.

The fish out of water element is a great way to explain things through Devan’s POV. Unfortunately, this is completely underutilized. In this world, paranormals coexist with humans, but shifters are treated differently in different parts of the world. The wolves are born with their own supernatural powers, like an affinity with different types of magic…and nothing is done with that except for a few small tremors and some shielding, which is literally a few sentences. There is one human character introduced briefly in the book even though humans try to stop the werewolf aggression and some wolves have human mates. Also, Devan is a different type of shifter…the author purposely doesn’t say what type until well into the book, but it’s on the cover so I didn’t understand the big secret. As an enemies to lovers story, it’s based on the loss of Emma, not that they are different animal spirits. The way humans or paranormals become shadow shifters is something else not well explained because the prequel made me have more questions than the book did–some people die once, while some people die twice…or is that only vampires who become Shadow Clan? I don’t know.

Zio is not in the correct frame of mind, as the reader can tell when his POV is given at key times. The only things that make sense to me about his extremes are either immaturity or PTSD, although that isn’t discussed, yet it’s treated more as a charcter issue that is fixed with the mating bond. This is a book about war, but the action scenes weren’t that gripping. Some shifters die and there are a few horrific injuries, but it is seen at a distance somehow, even with Devan being the one to heal them. None of the other side characters come alive; they are supposed to be close, sometimes having sex after battle, but I never got to feel anything for any of them because that is something the reader is told instead of shown. I wasn’t emotionally attached to whether they lived or died.

Even though Zio was bitten young, he was raised by humans and doesn’t seem to know wolf history or understand wolf biology. That’s convenient to move the story along, but he purposefully never rectified it and willful ignorance isn’t a very attractive character trait. Devan seems to be more arrogant, thinking he can ignore their growing bond, while Zio doesn’t recognize they are mates at all. Frankly, as a healer used to dealing with different kinds of supernatural, Devan should know better. About 60% of the way in, Devan says he likes Zio but I’m not sure why when they have barely spoken to each other and their interactions are contentious or a short sexual activity. All of the sudden, just when they start having whole conversations, there is a manufactured crisis to keep them apart, which would have worked better if the attention to the political details had been in the world-building. Again, while this is convenient for a slow burn romance, it doesn’t really work with the story except as an excuse to wallow in an agonizingly precarious position. Then all of the sudden Devan is dying for no reason. What? At the end, the humans are involved and have some drug to use on shifters, which has to have been stuck in there at the last minute to create conflict for the next book. I really wanted to like this more than I did, but I didn’t connect to this story.

The cover art was done by Garrett Leigh @ Black Jazz Design. I’m not sure it is representative of the mood of this story.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details: Kindle Edition, 256 pages
Published September 10th 2019 by Fox Love Press
ASINB07XSKC3ZP
Edition Language: English
Series: Shadow Bound

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review : Fated Hearts (Shadow Bound #1) by Garrett Leigh — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Jaeger’s Lost and Found by Ofelia Gränd

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Archie, Archibald Jaeger, is from a long line of respected finders. Unfortunately, his talent for finding doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. His business partner and best friend Edie, is the only person keeping him from being a hermit. When a vampire named Gael comes looking for a finder to help with his missing coven, there is more on the line than ever before. Archie is completely out of his comfort zone with someone’s life in his hands. Gael is having to face home truths in the face of his imminent death. Coming to care about each other in these circumstances, no one saw coming.

What made this novella work for me was all of Archie’s quirks, compulsions, and neuroses. Gael has to face his own bad judgments, regrets, and mistakes. They had no room to judge each other, and with the clock ticking down, no time. It’s their foibles that make them dimensional. Their support of each other is uncharacteristic of how they interact with others. They just fit together. The author does a good job of capturing steamy moments of carpe diem. I enjoyed the flashes of humor. The moments that tugged my heart made this worth reading.

Unfortunately, there is not much world building so details about nagi, shifter, or vampire culture, or life in the human or nonhuman zones aren’t explored. Edie is a large part of the plot and is only on page at the beginning and the end. The big issue is how Gael’s mental connection to his coven is described as a “Milky Way of linked minds, his internal sky of diamonds” which seems too similar to the Psy-Changling series by Nalini Singh. With the way this was resolved, I do wonder about what changes in character Archie would have, but there is no way to know.

The cover design was done by Written Ink Designs. I think that is supposed to be rain, which most of the story takes place in. There is also supposed to be a ghostly hand, so it could be that? I’m not really sure this cover communicates anything about the story at all except showing Archie.

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

Book Details: Kindle Edition, 100 pages
Published June 1st 2019 by JMS Books LLC
ASINB07S9PP8L5
Edition Language: English

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Jaeger’s Lost and Found by Ofelia Gränd — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Love Is All: Volume 2 edited by Xio Axelrod

LoveIsAllVol2
Copyright © 2019 by Xio Axelrod LLC

I would rate this whole collection 3.75 stars.

This is a charity anthology, so I tend to think of the stories as a thank you for donating money. All anthologies are a mixed bag and people will like different stories than I do, but here are a few of my favorites from this collection. There is a variety of combinations (M/M, F/F, M/M/F, M/F) with bisexual, trans, and ace represented. They are all contemporary except for the one historical, paranormal romance. The foreword by Roan Parrish is quite eloquent.

R.L. Merrill, Pinups and Puppies (F/F, 4 stars)

This is told from the first person POV of Marianne, who is struggling with grief and reintegration after her retirement from the Air Force. She owns a vintage plane and volunteers to transport dogs to help shelters who find them homes. That’s how she meets Dinah, who co-owns the shelter. They both seem to have great support systems filled with family and friends. With great chemistry, their lives and interests slot nicely together, making them a cute couple.

Susan Scott Shelley, Sugar Crush (Bliss Bakery Series) (M/M, 4.5 stars)

Jack, a horror novelist, gets to know a baker named Gabriel when he joins a softball team to help his friend Shane. This has an opposites attract trope with great sexual tension and friends as extended family. This is about fitting into someone’s life and making room for them to fit into yours–giving each other a safe space and carving out shared time, while still having their own interests. Also, not letting fear or the past get in the way of the future.

Xio Axelrod When Frankie Meets Johnny (M/M, 4.25 stars)

DJ meets contractor/teacher in this hurt/comfort tale with an age gap. This story is what you make it. I highly recommend listening to all the songs that he plays for a hell of a good time. If an artist is mentioned, but not a song, pick one that has a title that fits the scene. I would have rated this higher, but I couldn’t tell if this was Johnny’s first time with a man or he was demisexual? There is certainly a misunderstanding I think could have been handled better, but the story is charming.

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Review: Hunter by J.V. Speyer, Hunted 1

 

Hunter cover
Cover design by Bad Doggie Designs

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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J.V. Speyer’s Website

Review: Wounded Soul by Annabelle Jacobs

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Ian has feelings for his best friend Blake, who doesn’t reciprocate. In a moment of impulsiveness, he takes home a stranger named Jesse. But Jesse isn’t who he seems to be and suddenly Ian and Jesse are thrown into circumstances that will change their lives. While the general population doesn’t know vampires exist, branches of the government and law enforcement do. Most vampires are in covens that follow the rules laid out by the Vampire Liaison and Crimes Division so they are no longer hunted and killed. But some vampires like to kill and are not happy about being monitored. The cast is rounded out by: the coven leader Raphael, Jesse’s sire and former lover Peter, Ian’s best friends Blake and Cate, and Jesse’s best friend Lys.

When Blake joins the VLCD, things get complicated. The circumstances put everyone in danger as one bad decision after another happens at a frantic pace. On the one hand, this helps pull the plot along without a lot of time to question or poke too many holes in it. On the other hand, I kept wondering why everyone just went along with the crazy parts. Although Blake’s POV happens occasionally, I wanted to know way more about his job and training, so I am hoping that will be another book. I thought how all the police just jump up and do whatever Raphael says at times unbelievable.

There are several things that make this book work: the chemistry between Jesse and Ian, having someone a reader can love to hate, and the friendships which give the book heart. Although the relationship between Ian and Jesse is fast, with the way things happen I didn’t have an issue with that. Where this author shines is individual scenes between characters. The book is very entertaining with likable main characters, but it could have been great instead of just good with more detailed world building, especially a more realistic view of the relationship between the vampires and law enforcement.

The cover artist is Garrett Leigh. Since both Ian and Jesse are tall with dark hair, I have to guess, but I would say this is Jesse. Along with the title, it hints at Jesse’s past and is appropriate for the story.

Sales Links:

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2XQCbgv

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2J1E19X

Universal Link: books2read.com/WoundedSoul

– Exclusive to Amazon and Available to Borrow with Kindle Unlimited

Book Details: Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 245 pages
Published April 28th 2019
ASINB07R8TMVYK
Edition Language: English

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Wounded Soul by Annabelle Jacobs — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words