First Rodeo by Jodi Payne and BA Tortuga, The Cowboy And The Dom 1

Cover illustration by AJ Corza

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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Jodi Payne’s Website

BA Tortuga’s Website

A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Ghost House by Jacqueline Grey — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Rating: 4 stars out of 5 The main characters are a college student named Andrew, who is trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life, and a mysterious man named Caius, whom he keeps dreaming about after spending the night in a haunted house. I think the blurb tells you everything […]

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Ghost House by Jacqueline Grey — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Complementary Colors by Adrienne Wilder — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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 […]

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Complementary Colors by Adrienne Wilder — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Ramen Assassin by Rhys Ford, Ramen Assassin 1

Ramen Assassin
Cover Art © 2019 Reece Notley

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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Rhys Ford’s Website

Review: The Case of the Voracious Vintner by Tara Lain, Middlemarch Mysteries 2

Cover Art © 2019 Kanaxa

I would rate this 3.75 stars.

Although this is the second Middlemark Mystery, you can read this as a standalone. Llewellyn and Blaise from book one (The Case of the Sexy Shakespearean) are planning their wedding at Marchand Wineries and get drawn in to the intrigue happening amongst the cut throat wine community. Bo Marchand tried to escape Georgia and start his own vineyard in California, but Bo’s whole family followed him and now live with him. As the “man of the house” at the age of 26, he is struggling with everyone’s expectations. Jeremy Aames, owner of Hill Top Wineries at the ripe old age of 24, has been in the area for a year and is starting to make a name for himself until a competitor seems to be undermining him at every turn. With Jeremy not who he says he is, Bo in the closet, and a murderer on the loose with a long list of suspects, I felt like I was in a soap opera. Thank goodness, because this is a load of fun.

The author shows both points of view, but Bo is so much more likeable as a character. He is the driving force in trying to save Jeremy from going out of business by teaming up to combat Ernest Ottersen, who is taking over most of the wine contracts. Eventually I got drawn in to Jeremy’s background story, but being intrigued by his story and interested in him as a character are two different things. There are times I felt sorry for him, times I was impressed by his cleverness and success, and other times where I think he is too naive, especially given his background. There is not a lot about the side characters: Jeremy’s assistant, Christian, Bo’s best waiter RJ, the ruthless competition Ernest Ottersen and his PR person Sage, the Cop O’Hara, Bo’s whole family, Jeremy’s family…really they are all there to be suspects, except Bo’s Momma, who is there to drive him nuts. The intrigue is very well done with different forks in the storylines. I don’t want to spoil it.

With this author I am used to OTT fabulous characters with a lighter plot. This book has more subdued characters and an OTT plot. There is some murky Dionysian group or secret society involved. There is also Jeremy’s past coming to bite him in a big way. Yes, some of this is completely unrealistic. I love how after people get killed, no one seems at all upset or traumatized in any way. There is one little thing that bothered me. There is a scene with some dubious consent that I am not sure added anything to the book unless you have that kink. I am not sure if it was meant to be hot or funny, but it didn’t work for me because it didn’t seem to match the rest of the story. Also, many more people should have gone to jail. Never mind, because the rest of the book is quite entertaining. Everything gets resolved and wrapped up with multiple bows. The banter and bad jokes between Jeremy and Bo are cute. The sex scenes are hot. I wanted these guys to have their happily ever after.

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Tara Lain’s Website