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

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 […]

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

Review: Fox Hunt by J. Leigh Bailey, Shifter U 4

Fox Hunt
Cover Art © 2019 Aaron Anderson aaronbydesign55@gmail.com

I would rate this 4 stars.

This is the fourth book in this series, but can sincerely be read as a standalone. I haven’t read all the series in order, but didn’t feel at a disadvantage at all. In fact, this is a great example of how to blend pertinent information into a story without awkward or wordy recaps. In the course of doing a favor for a friend, David hacks something that brings him to the attention of the Moreau Initiative, a group of scientists researching and experimenting on shifters. He mother assigns him a bodyguard, Buddy aka Theo, he doesn’t think he needs, as he goes on a three week cross-country road trip for a college campus tour before he starts graduate school for journalism.

This is a great road trip story featuring a slew of tropes: age gap, forced proximity, fake boyfriends, gentle giant, and bodyguard crush. Since Buddy is a bear shifter, there is some humor thrown in during a leather night at a LGBTQ+ Irish pub. David’s skills match his foxy, inquisitive nature, lending him maturity when he could fly off the handle and derail things. I like that he stops and thinks. His family plays a large part as his mother is the head of the Western Division Shifter Council Headquarters, his older brother Aidan is her aide, and his mother’s fiance Darren is a member. I liked that there is a strong female leader who can direct the shifters, even in battle. Although Buddy’s family is not highlighted in this book (I think his brothers are in previous books), he helped raise his brothers. His patient and nurturing way is just what David needs. David’s fierce loyalty and consideration is just what Buddy needs. Though fast, they grow close by being honest and sharing confidences. The action throughout the book was always leading to a violent conclusion. It’s a shame the bad guys here, at every step of the way, are quite one dimensional, and none too clever. Also, the emotional exchanges with and between the other characters are not as rich as those between David and Buddy. This was an enjoyable ride, with an interesting plot, likeable leads, and a fast but realistically compact romance in intense situations. I think I’ll go back and read the ones I missed.

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Review: Chained by Kim Fielding, Bureau 4

Chained_Cover
Cover Art:  Reese Dante   http://www.reesedante.com

I would rate this 4 stars.

This is the fourth novella in a losely tied together series about The Bureau of Trans-Species Affairs. Usually these show the darker side of humanity. As with all of Kim Fielding’s work, she draws the reader in with damaged characters. They can be read in any order.

Edge and his brothers, Duke and Holt, were bought and trained to be security. Edge has the most difficult time as “the boss” tends to abuse him the most. Terry works for the Bureau’s West Coast HQ and goes undercover at the estate to investigate a Hollywood agent named Whitaker. They grow close while Terry is staying at Whitaker’s estate. As a dog shifter, Edge has never known any other life but to obey, yet he isn’t as good at it as he should be–he’s not broken. The details paint a heartbreaking picture. Terry’s background explains his empathy with Edge and their quick connection. Using Hollywood as the backdrop for a tale of greed, power, abuse, and temptation seems like a no brainer.

The connection between the two characters is well done. The story does get magically resolved so everything is neatly taken care of. It’s a little upsetting that Duke and Holt did nothing earlier to help their brother. While hope and a happy end is the point of a romance, it is wrapped up with no mention of recovering from the long term affects of abuse. Still, the happiness I felt for Edge in the end was worth it.

Proceeds from the sale of this series are donated to Doctors Without Borders.

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A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Ruff Trouble by Sharon Maria Bidwell — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Rating: 4 stars out of 5 This is a new to me author. These stories were published previously, I believe separately, so this is a complete trilogy. The first story is Hounding The Beat. Chantelle and her police colleague Bobby, are supernaturals or supes. They keep it secret that they are romantic partners so they […]

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Review: An Erie Collection by V.L. Locey

An Erie Collection jpg
Cover by Meredith Russell

I would rate this 4 stars.

This is a m/m paranormal romance collection of short stories with a lot of humor, sexy times, and some violence. The urban fantasy stories are set by Lake Erie, in case you wondered. The stories are told from our plucky hero Templeton’s point of view. Although these stories are a lot of fun, in the way of science fiction, this has some rather pointed points to make about society with serious social commentary woven through each story. So, each story has its own plot–usually murders–and an overarching plot about politics in the magical community. There are graphic sex scenes in each book between the fun and violence. I really enjoyed these tales; you just kind of have to roll with each new thing that gets thrown in and laugh. Each story is written in a different season until we come full circle over a year later.
An Erie Halloween
This is an interesting take on wolf shifters as well as adding a nontraditional shifter character, which is fun. It’s not all fun and games because shifters are being murdered. Mikal and Templeton get thrown together as someone tries to kill Templeton. It’s a good thing things go bump in the night to hide paranormal activity at this time of year. Sexy times, political intrigue, and an attempted coup later, the story has a sweet ending.
An Erie Operetta
This continues our adventures with the werewolf Mikal, and his lover Templeton. The rogues are rising and shifter civil war threatens if the strong and those in power don’t start to make concessions to modernity. Of course, they have to go to the opera because that is what one does when bored in winter weather. It’s fun to see more magical beings. Did I mention this is a murder mystery? After the crime is solved, they continue building their dream to have a safe haven for LGBT shifters as the vampire Vincente, and his human partner Akio come to live at the manor.
An Erie Garden Party
It’s finally Spring and hibernation is over. Mikal’s cousin Haval comes for a visit and all of the sudden, there are dead bodies. With the full moon making Mikal much more aggressive than usual–the sex is rougher in this one. As the Council investigates the deaths, will Mikal and Templeton get found out? Cross species dating and being gay are forbidden after all. Then there is Haval’s secret. Of course what one does when there have been humans murdered on the property is take one for a walk along the lake, at night. An old friend from the Halloween book shows up to wrap up lose ends so they can finally have their garden party with Rugby, the majordomo, in fine form for the comic relief.
An Erie Uprising
The ongoing shenanigans come full circle back from Halloween to Christmas in this tale. The pack has been away at a werewolf gathering of the east coast packs. The bear shifter Margaret now lives at the manor with Haval. The rebellion that has been brewing is here as species choose sides: to maintain the status quo, or fight for a more equal society with equality. The author lured us in with all the fun and sex, but this is a much more serious book and was fully foreshadowed, so not a surprise. Don’t worry, a happy ending is had by all who don’t get killed.

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Review: Hiding In Plain Sight By Bru Baker, Camp H.O.W.L 3

hiding-in-plain-sight
Cover Art by Aaron Anderson

This is the third and final book in the Camp H.O.W.L. series. Harris, who is a certified psychologist, has been working at the camp for a while now, yet we still don’t know much about him. Harris figured out Jackson was his mate two years ago. Since Jackson had always made it clear he wasn’t interested in settling down, when Harris realized he’d bonded with him, he kept it quiet. After being friends for over a decade, Jackson finally starts to feel the need to nest as he realizes Harris could be his mate. This is epically bad timing as he is within reach of the job he has worked towards all his life, and it will require him to relinquish all pack ties and bonds.

All the angst comes from Jackson not wanting a mate, he’s been so focused on his career, none of his relationships have been serious except for the one with his best friend Harris…whom he hasn’t even told about his interview. They are both keeping secrets at this point. But whereas Harris comes off as trying to do what is best for his mate, Jackson comes off as very self-centered and oblivious. Everyone knows Harris is in love with him, but him. His brother Drew finally drops that bombshell in his ear. Jackson is still so busy fighting his own attraction, trying to keep his plan on track, he is hurting Harris. When he finally does admit defeat and acts on the attraction, he still can’t admit they are mates and puts Harris in a terrible situation.

I guess since everyone’s been paired off except Jordan, we need a new direction, so enter the Fae Council. With no mention I recall from the previous books at all, there are suddenly naiad, selkies, dryads, and other shifters. So I admit to being annoyed that they seem thrown in, so the author has options for other books in the future, rather than being preplanned and integrated into the trilogy.

Since Jackson is so busy with three different jobs and lives two hours away from Camp H.O.W.L., there needs to be a reason to have him there. Enter a high profile wolfling who is a famous actress about to go through her Turn. They will need to keep out the press, so the camp gets a security upgrade. We do get some fun details about patrols, but not quite as fun as the scent game from book two. I always enjoy the scenes from the camp classes, though. As you would expect, the main action comes from a security breach as a paparazzo tries to take a picture of camper Candice Bachman a.k.a. actress Kandie Bates. Suddenly the FBI is involved and the plot becomes OTT (over the top).

The Connoll Pack in New York, has been mentioned since book one, yet we know nothing about them. I couldn’t help but wish there was information about them woven into the plot because it would have made the ending so much more impactful. The reason becomes clear after the epilogue, when the author talks about her new series based on this pack. That is why all of the sudden Selkies and most other shifters have a treaty with the Tribunal and representation on the Tribunal court, which is in New York.

While I enjoyed this series, it seemed planned on the fly with things thrown in as they were needed. The resolutions to all of the issues are quick and pat. I would recommend this when you are in the mood for an easy HEA read with some steamy action. Although this is part of a series, I don’t think you would miss much if you read them out of order for some reason.

The author is donating a portion of the royalties from the Camp H.O.W.L. series to the National Parks Conservation Association.

I would rate this 3.5 stars.

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Review: Under A Blue Moon By Bru Baker, Camp H.O.W.L 2

Under A Blue Moon Cover
Cover artwork by Aaron Anderson

 

With Tate having left Camp H.O.W.L. in book one, there is a job opening for a new counselor and Nick Parry applies. Drew Welch is the new human camp doctor. They actually meet on the same flight to Indianapolis and don’t realize they will be work colleagues, allowing for them to be themselves and have hot, off page, sexy times. Don’t worry, we are there in the morning when they wake up. Whew!

The first book didn’t really set up a couple for the next book, so all of the sudden Drew is friends with Adrian and everyone else, having visited the camp often. Er, ok. The camp also seems much larger, with expanded services, which makes sense if it is going to be a series. As you can imagine when Nick realizes Drew is his new colleague, he doesn’t handle it well. Besides the fact Nick doesn’t date humans, he doesn’t want to be seen as unprofessional. Drew is a human member of the pack his mother marries into; he was raised in the pack and dated and hooked up with weres before, so Nick’s objections seem strange. I had to wonder how much time he had previously spent with humans on a daily basis before this camp; I mean he has a degree from a University, he’s been out in the world. It seems most of the book is Drew having to prove to Nick how capable he is while Drew is becoming more attached to him and I just wasn’t sure why.

I don’t look for things to criticize, but when there are things that are contradictory it’s difficult not to notice. Why did they call 911 when a camper gets injured? They are a wealthy, state of the art camp with a qualified doctor. They don’t want humans on the property. They don’t want a wolfling going through the change in a human hospital, where he might shift or they might draw blood, which would show abnormalities. The local hospital is rural and not very well equipped. This plot point seemed odd to me. Then later, after we already know there are safety inspections of the camp and that there had been work crews out to fix tornado damage, they are hidden and have no address, just a fake house they get mail at.

I did like the way the camp employees were shown to be a pack and supportive of each other like family. We got to see more of the camp classes and see the staff interaction in this book. I liked that the counselors are required to have counseling themselves. There is a great scene with a camp activity to train weres that really shows how Drew’s pack integrated him into the pack with games and fun. Drew is very likable, but it took me longer with Nick. We are told he is adorable but, for me, the more I got to know him, the more annoying I found him. They have a stupid competition between them after they make a bet which was entertaining and I think it was supposed to endear us to him, but it isn’t until something tragic happens that Nick stops being a dick–right about the time Jordan, Drew’s ex pops back up. I am a little worried about this character as he is written as sarcastic, which could go either way–funny or annoying. Then, there is make-up sex. Yay!

We are set up with a couple for book three, which should be about Harris. We’ve gotten to met Drew’s brother Jackson, along with his parents and see a bit more of Pack culture in the St. Lewis pack. Drew also has a medical practice in a nearby town, so we are getting to know people in the surrounding area. There are a few places for the author to go for book three.

I would rate this 3.25 stars.

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Review: Camp H.O.W.L. By Bru Baker

Camp Howl Cover
Cover art by Aaron Anderson

Bru Baker Camp H.O.W.L.

Adrian Rothschild is tired of being reminded every year that he is still human instead of a werewolf, so he schedules a business trip out of town on his 27th birthday. His mother is the Pacific Northwest’s Alpha werewolf, head of the West Coast Werewolf Tribunal, and CEO of Rothschild Architects were he works. He is feeling increasingly isolated from his family and his pack.

Dr. Tate Lewis works for Camp H.O.W.L. to ease the Turn for young adult werewolves, usually on the full moon when they are 19. This is a month long camp for the elite in werewolf society, so they are a bit spoiled which could be dangerous when combined with increased strength and mood swings. The camps give them a safe space to learn to control their change so they don’t get discovered by humans. One of the things I liked about the camp was that it is set up as a neutral space so anyone can come and no Pack politics are allowed. I was also happy they have need based scholarships and grants.

There is a bond created with weres during the Turn, and it is usually not, but can be sexual so the weres being 19 keeps things from getting icky as they are all the same age. The temporary bonds help keep bloodlust at bay. Tate is pack-less due to past abuse, and using the camp as a pack to get through the full moons. He shies away from roots and relationships. This is a little quibble, but Tate is a board-certified clinical psychologist and is listed as Adrian’s doctor, which could get his license revoked if they engage in a personal relationship. This was a matter of record as Adrian’s mom called the hospital. While I am glad this issue was addressed ethically to make sure there was no doctor/patient relationship formed and Adrian consented, there would be real consequences for Tate’s career and his license being revoked and that was discarded.

This is a story of moonmates, so if you don’t like the idea of fated mates, then this may not be your book. Having said that, one of the main conflicts is about Tate’s reluctance to be a slave to biology, or be trapped by the bond, so even with the forced proximity, they don’t just bond instantly. They get to know each other over several months. Adrian is hopeful and patient as Tate is the one still scarred by his past and has to work through how to get over his fears. The author creates some sexual tension, embarrassing moments, and has one explicit sex scene near the end that seems natural and a normal progression of their relationship. This is not mpreg, and there seems to be no plan to have that included in this series. Also, there is not much animalistic behavior if that is your thing; this is more like humans who happen to change shape.

Here’s a quote to give you a feel: “He separated his whites and colors. He ate quinoa. He paid his taxes. He had an IRA. He didn’t relish the idea of not being in control of his body, even if it was just for the initial shift.” Believe me, between the painful descriptions of changing into a wolf, the humor was appreciated.

Ryan is one of the campers we get to see grow and develop as he has to stay longer due to control issues. Most issues with their shifting seem to be due to psychological issues. One of the fun things was the class Tate teaches during camp, but then we don’t get the rest of the time and it faded to two weeks later. I suppose this is the difference between a novella and a novel, still, I pouted a little.

There are a few other side characters such as Kenya, who is friends with Tate and acts as Adrian’s therapist, the Director Anne Marie, the doctor Diann, Quinn the meditation instructor, Harris who is also a clinical psychologist and trained volunter forest ranger, and Blake the yoga instructor. We get more of Kenya and Diann as mentors and meddling friends, but they are still just sketched out.

The epilogue takes place 6 months later and shows us what their happily ever after looks like. Overall, this was entertaining, cute, and I enjoyed it. It did have some interesting, original ideas about werewolfdom, and I would recommend it for a fun read. There are three books so far, so I am going to go read the second one.

I would rate this 3.5 stars.

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Review: Bad Moon Rising by C.L. Mustafic

BadMoonArising-f500
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow

This is book one in a series called Outcasts. With the title, Clay sitting in the gay friendly Blue Moon Bar, and arranging a Grindr hook-up with MoonGazer, we are clued in this will be about shifters. Enter Damian, his hookup, and a short drive into the woods where they do they deed in that awkward way that strangers do, which was written in such a way to be found entertaining. The sense of humor is one of the best things about the book. I also like enemies to lovers, and I liked the switch of lovers to enemies. Clay is pretty mad about being made a werewolf, even if it is his own fault–especially because it is his own fault. After we get past their hook-up personas, both characters are actually likable, even when mad or grumpy, and well matched, even when things do not go smoothly. Clay has shut himself off from people after the death of his parents while Damian has shut himself off from people after a toxic relationship. Neither man actually wants a relationship, so them accidentally bonding is not actually a positive experience. People are not always pleasant when they feel cornered or frightened.

We get to meet a few other characters like, Willard and Pete, a human and werewolf bonded mate pair. I am still a little confused about the difference between fated mates and bonded pairs. Still, this story really focuses on our MC’s and not side characters. The badie here is Damian’s ex, Blaine, but he is a bit of a cartoon villian and not fleshed out. Then, there is the werewolf council for this town; there are some politics here with good and bad werewolves, just like people.

I really liked the idea of werewolves having to grow into their wolf. With born weres that would happen at the same time, but with made weres, those adult humans still have a pup that needs to grow and learn. This is a great way to build a sense of community so it’s a shame that fails them in this book. But, that sets up the conflict and change for the next book. I think fans of Eli Easton’s Howl At The Moon series might like these if they let go of the idea of the happy ending being in one book and each book being about a different couple. I think we will see the relationship evolve over many books. There is still a lot of anger and bitterness here, even with some humor, so it will take time to adjust and work things out. I would call this a HFN.

I would rate this 3 stars.

Tags: enemies to lovers, humor, mates, shifters, werewolves, gay, mm, paranomal romance, cis gender, explicit

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