Review: Unfettered by Kate Hawthorne

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Heath is a 39 year old Sub who has suffered past trauma with his Dom. When he meets 24 year old Beau on a dating app, they have more in common than he could have imagined. With their first date, the dynamics slot into place nicely. Having Heath’s point of view creates a nerve-wracking tension, while having Beau’s point of view cements his confidence and maturity. The author creates a nice push and pull. This gets intense on the second date with Heath telling Beau about his ex. Beau handles Health’s abuse well throughout the relationship. Once Heath finds out Beau is a student, and in a class he is subbing for, things get complicated. On the one hand it’s taboo sexy, on the other hand it’s wrong of Beau to put Heath in this position as his Dom. I think that is why the author makes it Heath’s decision to out them to a colleague Michael. But then it’s just dropped with no mention of the ethics of Heath grading Beau’s work at the end of the semester.

One focus is on Beau’s five half brothers and that family dynamic, yet I can’t figure out if this is only to try and give Beau more depth, or if they are added so the author can make this a series and give them their own books. Of all the brothers, Cameron keeps pushing for a relationship with Beau and I’m not really sure why. Heath’s sister and her wife are also included, but considering he speaks to her daily, she is still not not given a lot of life. Michael is given the least to do even though he unintentionally plays a pivotal part. There is a plot twist with a big reveal, but that too seems glossed over: there is more emotional resonance coming from the postscript by the author, than the story she fictionalized about it. For me, I enjoyed Beau’s top drop and his crisis of faith in himself, yet his real emotions weren’t explored. At this point I successfully felt Heath’s frustration with Beau not trusting his own judgment. The reader is not really privy to how Heath worked out how to trust his judgment after what happened with Mac.

This is an erotic romance that basically goes from one hot, graphic, explicit and messy sex scene to another. They do build a relationship, but the dialogue gets stuck on awkward talk of family or Health’s job. I enjoyed the sex and there were moments I really liked the characters: it’s just that after being privy to so much of their intimacy, I still don’t feel like I know them very well from their own points of view. For instance, what does Beau want to do after he graduates? I have no idea. Their collaring and planning their lives together is romantic, it just would have been even more so if I would have been more emotionally invested. Think of this as high on kinky sex, and low on plot and character development with suprisingly low angst for the subject matter.

The cover design by AmaiDesigns shows a scene from one of their dates.

Buy Link: AMAZON 

Book Details: Kindle Edition, 261 pages
Published November 21st 2019
ASINB081FZPXX1

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Unfettered by Kate Hawthorne — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: We Still Live by Sara Dobie Bauer

WeStillLive-f500
Cover Art by Natasha Snow Copyright © 2019

I would rate this 4.5 stars.

Isaac, a new professor at a college that just had a mass shooting, moved from South Carolina to Ohio for a fresh start. He is surrounded by people with PTSD, an outsider among those who have not only known each other for years, but who have bonded over a painful event that he doesn’t know a lot about. Running from his own demons, Isaac has to forgive his own secret past, before he came be truly present for his future. Meeting his colleague John is a complication, a fresh start, and a powerful emotional journey he wasn’t expecting.

Be warned: besides some wonderfully explicit sex scenes, this also contains violence, suicide, and copious amounts of alcohol. The nonfraternization policy at the university creates a taboo nature that is fun at first, with the flirting and kissing. Right away this becomes serious as both men are dealing with trauma and have a lot to lose moving forward with a relationship. Them working on the literary magazine in the English department was a great plot point–I wish I could read it. The side characters like John’s best friend Tommy, a student John works with named Janelle, and a departmental employee named Cleo all add so much to this story, I can’t imagine it without them. I even got attached to Sonya, who is not shown in the best light. I loved how the book shows that grief and trauma affect people in a myriad of ways. Sometimes people don’t realize the impact they have on those around them. Sometimes, doing the right thing can hurt. Sometimes, what you think is best is not what’s best for everyone involved.

The point of view is Isaac’s, but the reader is not privy to everything since there are things he just doesn’t want to think about. Information is layered in throughout the book. By the time I realized it was all sliding slowly down a dark road, I was completely hooked. They both have mental health issues from trauma: whereas John seems to be dealing with his (therapy and medication), Isaac is ignoring his. I wondered if Isaac had given himself the job of rescuing John so he could avoid fixing his own mess. When Isaac’s ex Simon shows up, I felt genuinely frightened by this seemingly obsessed angry man’s actions, but then this plot point just fizzles out as Simon realizes this is a battle he can’t really win. Simon brings everything to a head, but I do wish it was a bit more nuanced since everything else here is so wonderfully well written. There is a time period where Isaac and John are separated during which I would have loved to see John work through his own issues. I don’t understand why there isn’t more shown about his Catholic guilt, or any guilt about his treatment of his wife and Simon. I feel like it would have strengthened the book since several months go by. While John is working hard to get better, Isaac seems like all his issues go away when Simon does.

In some ways this has a happy ending, yet trauma changes people forever. Even though it was hopeful, I was left with such a lingering sadness since we all know this is an ongoing societal issue with no end in sight. The author handled the gut-wrenching topics of mass shootings and mental health issues brilliantly. All I can say is that I cared about everyone–I cared what happens to each character–and isn’t that what we all want from a good book?

Sara Dobie Bauer’s Website

Buy from NineStar Press

Buy from Amazon

Buy from Barnes and Noble

Buy from Kobo

Buy from Book Depository

Buy from Smashwords

Review: Hearts Under Fire (New Amsterdam #1) by Kelly Wyre

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

When two Doms meet in a bar and are enamored with each other…someone has to submit or they need a third. There are plenty of books like either of those scenarios, but this is something more nuanced. Clark owns a Bar named Glow, but is also part owner of a BDSM club and has a nebulous side job working for Lucien that isn’t entirely explained. Daniel is a college professor and professional Dom. The awkward dance really begins as Clark tracks Daniel down and invites him to visit the club for a possible job and membership. When the characters start acting differently than the way that had already been established, the care given as both characters unfold in really unexpected ways, just because of each other, was great to read. The key is that their reactions to each other are different than their reactions to others, so this goes serious very quickly.

With the way their first night happens, they actually have to talk about it–still no one uses the words switch or vers. Not everything has to be labeled or put in a box. The answer for me is…Clark will refer to Daniel as Sir occasionally in this book, but Daniel never calls Clark that, so that’s all I need to know. Arguably there is very little D/s at this point in their relationship, but there are power dynamics that are fluid. They tend to naturally flow in and out of fairly mild “scenes.” There are several explicit, beautifully written sex scenes, but a tad too many “Oh, God” and “Nnngh” moans. These guys are vocal and they do like to talk during sex. The hurt/comfort trope is maximized here in a way that doesn’t seem forced or exploitative. Be aware there are flashbacks from Clark’s time in the service. Daniel has had his own trauma and loss. The story does switch points of view between them, however I noticed that it’s usually in the vulnerable POV during sex, yet not during the sharing of trauma with each other. The times when Daniel lets himself be taken care of are some of my favorite parts–him trusting Clark and relinquishing control doesn’t change who he is. They hold a safe space for each other.

The book is broken into two parts. I felt like the romance was established enough in order for this next part to work. There is foreshadowing, but I was still shocked. It is one of my own worst nightmares, so it was very difficult to read. The reader will be in Daniel’s POV for a very traumatizing event. I appreciated the aftermath of the event being focused on, the other people affected by the violence, not just the relationship. I felt the action sequences were well done and believable. However, it’s also in the last quarter where it goes off the rails a bit for me. As Clark’s boss, friend, and one of the club’s co-owners, Lucian’s behavior towards Clark may make some sense, but it doesn’t make sense for Daniel, whom he had just met. It’s distracting because the reader knows Clark has known Lucian for years, but has not been shown that relationship for more than a few lines. I realize I might be in the minority about this, but with Daniel being a police insider and Clark heavily involved in elite politics…the privileged ending and special treatment was a bit off-putting to me instead of romantic. However, I think this book establishes a comfort level and trust for a real BDSM relationship to develop over time while they are an established couple in a way other books miss when they rush to play with equipment or just expect the sub to be vulnerable to a dom who has never reciprocated. This is a new to me author and I found this erotic romantic thriller to be more thought provoking than most in its genre.

The cover design was done by Natasha Snow. It’s a bit generic, but along with the title should let the reader know a bit of what to expect.

Sales Link:  Amazon

JMS Books

Book Details: ebook
Published January 17th 2018 by JMS Books (first published July 1st 2011)
ISBN139781684311729
Edition Language: English
Series: New Amsterdam

 

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Hearts Under Fire (New Amsterdam #1) by Kelly Wyre — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words