Review: Four By Tia Fielding, Love By Numbers 2

Tia Fielding Four
Cover by © 2019 Garrett Leigh http://www.blackjazzdesign.com/

I would rate this 3.5 stars

Although this is book two in the series there are (thankfully) brief recaps. You could read this on its own just fine, but it would have more emotional impact if read them in order. This one focuses on “Doc” Padraig Donovan the town veterinarian. He’s introduced in book one when helping Makai with a pregnant stray cat but other than knowing he’s a widower, and gay, there hasn’t been much character development. At the end of book one, Kaos, Makai’s genderqueer friend from prison, has arranged to come visit. He spent two years inside with Makai before he was released from prison after serving his four years. His life on the outside with an abusive boyfriend has been traumatic.

Since Marcus’s death, Padraig has buried himself in work. After seeing Makai and Emil get together, he starts tentatively moving forward with his life by using the space where his husband’s clinic used to be and getting in touch with mutual friends again like Marcus’s best friend Francis. They all went to college together and when Francis comes for a visit, it’s clear he will feature prominently in the next book. With Makai’s and Emil’s house being too small, Kaos moves in with Padraig while Francis’s character works as a buffer to allow a slow burn as both Padraig and Kaos work out their issues as individuals and as the couple they are becoming. Kaos’s issues revolve around his PTSD and exploring their gender identity in a safe environment whilst Padraig is having to deal with his grief and guilt, being honest rather than nostalgic about his marriage, and exploring his attraction to someone more feminine.

These books are about people with real issues that work at dealing with them in a mature way and actually communicate with each other, support each other, and treat other with respect. While they discuss their trauma, in order to understand each other, they aren’t bonding over their traumas. They bond spending time together. Their age gap doesn’t come into play except in relation to their experiences within the gay community. Everything is going so well but, triggers are triggering, so there are things to work out. There is more time spent with Kaos than Padraig, but I was grateful as seeing Padraig’s POV in dealing with hurt or abused animals would have been difficult for me. This book is focused more on the little things, the joys and annoyances of daily living, than the first book, but also has more steamy love scenes.

Although Padraig moved back to the area because of his family, neither his sister Mairead (or Mary) nor his dad are fleshed out. All the locals pop up, but there isn’t much done to expand them as characters. Sherriff Kalle is more sympathetic, more willing support Kaos since he already did his time. Kaos’s boss Christa at the tattoo shop and one of his clients are thrown into the story, but are not fully realized. Athena, as Padraig’s employee studying to be a vet tech is also underutilized. Having been established as homophobic in book one, the sheriff’s deputy Mark has a turnaround here that didn’t ring true without any foundation for how it happened–I expected more here, especially since it’s obviously a setup for him being paired off with Francis in the next book. There were some missed opportunities for more depth here but, I want to see Mark’s POV so I’ll read the next one.

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** This book was previously published by Dreamspinner Press and has now been self-published. It is currently exclusive to Amazon.

Review: Rook by T. Strange

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Rook is sent to the alien prison planet B-226 for twenty three years for killing his husband. The average life span on the hostile planet is three weeks. His plan is to live as long as possible to honor his husband’s wishes, and then die and join him. Upon landing he is partnered with a prisoner named Stevie to help guard the miners, or he won’t get fed. There is a strange thrill in fightening off the local fauna and surviving, or having a specific daily purpose, that Rook didn’t count on. Their days are stressful, consisting of violent episodes bracketed by fighting boredom for concentration. Through his POV, the third character is Rook‘s dead husband Carlos. Stevie walks a fine line of teaching Rook how to survive, being wary of any attack or signs of madness setting in, using him for company and sex, but trying not to care too much in case Rook gets killed like all his previous partners.

I found this plot enticing as I personally enjoy when an author explores the psychology of a character. This is a new author to me so I really didn’t know what to expect. The main question here was always going to be, are they just together because of the circumstances? While that is actually asked, finding out the real answer takes the whole book. Bonding over shared trauma isn’t bad as a short cut, as long as it’s not the only thing there. While they are just trying to survive, they don’t actually know anything about each other’s previous lives. What they do know is: how they each react in an emergency, if they are trustworthy and to what extent, how each deals with conflict and triggers, and what factors motivate or de-motivate them. I would argue not knowing facts about someone’s life, or even their particular thoughts at any given moment, is less important than knowing if they can be counted on. I loved that there were so many issues touched on like the complications of choice, personal sovereignty, stages of grief, and PTSD. Having said that, it’s shocking that no one even makes a mention or an attempt at trying to deal with said mental health issues.

There are parts of this book that at times reminded me of movies like Predator, Reign of Fire, Pitch Black, Starship Troopers or Enemy Mine. I mention movies because I saw this story as pictures in my mind. That the author manages to sustain a feeling of suspense and terror for such a large (80-85%) portion of this book is amazing. There are breaks in the tension just when they are needed. There are breaks in the setting, just when they are needed. The focus of this book is very narrow, with the characters in their own world, creating a very intimate rather than epic feel so without the breaks, this could have been stifling. As it is, I felt like I went through everything with them.

Romance is not the point of this book. Finding someone you love and can get along with during one of the worst times of your life is another thing altogether. Sex is also not the point of this book–mostly it is fade to black, or described as a celebration of survival or stress relief as a realistic part of Rook‘s life and circumstances. While there is a HFN/HEA here, it is done in a realistic way consistent with the flavor of the novel as a whole. I am so thankful this author didn’t just slap a bow on it and negate all the work it took to get to the end of this journey. I thought this story was great and complete as it is.

The cover designed by Aisha Akeju is evocative of desolation and beauty. You can clearly tell it is science fiction. I do appreciate the use of the jungle as both reality and allegory.

Buy Links:  Less Than Three Press | Amazon

 

Book Details: ebook
Published February 7th 2018 by Less Than Three Press
ISBN139781684311804
Edition Language: English

 

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Rook by T. Strange — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

***Sadly, Less Than Three Press has gone out of business.

Review: Building Forever by Kelly Jensen, This Time Forever 1

Building Forever Cover
Cover By: Natasha Snow

I would rate this 4.5 stars

Charlie is a widower with a teenage daughter and a crush on his neighbor. Simon is on the rebound and rebuilding his life in a new state at a new job. When Simon’s ex Brian steps back into the picture, and Charlie needs to prioritize his daughter Olivia over his love life, things get complicated.

I find that I like the dual POV in alternating chapters approach rather than the willy nilly style some authors have. Seeing their relationship unfold from both sides made me care about each of them and I never struggled to figure out whose thoughts were whose. Charlie is adorable. His admitting he was bisexual and sharing that with his friend and daughter was handled in the confident way of someone who is honest with themself and others while still showing his doubts and anxieties. Simon is more serious and cautious, taking longer to think things through. I laughed out loud a few times; I felt weepy a few times too, and cringing–there was definately cringing. They burn up the sheets, but in a way that is real and human. They connect in that way that people do when they are actually honest when getting to know each, other instead of just putting on a face.

Their story is engaging with interesting side characters that give it richer layers: Simon’s friend Frank, Charlie’s friend Phil and his neighbor Cassie, Simon’s new business partner Aurther, even Charlie’s daughter Liv are all there to show us different facets of the MCs.

The difficult part about being in love and staying in love is the daily decision to–the decision to stay when things hurt, or are not fun and easy, but still confront and fix them. To think about what someone else needs even if they don’t communicate well or ask for help is part of building a partnership. Stressful things can either pull people apart or bring them closer together, and that’s a choice too.

Sometimes I feel like I judge books too harshly, like I’m being mean, but then I read a book like this and I know that all the books I gave a lower rating to are missing what this book has, and I feel fine about it. This is the kind of romance I want to read, regardless of genre.

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Review: Somebody To Die For By Kris T. Bethke, Requiem Inc. 3

Somebody to Die For Cover
Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson

 

Kris T. Bethke Somebody To Die For

This is the third book in the Requiem Inc., series. To learn more about the first book, Ghost of a Chance, or the second book, Lost Souls Found, go here.

The people who work at the company help find stranded souls so they can go on the next step of their journey after death and find peace. As a recap, the mediums find the spirits, the ghostwalkers die and go to them, the anchors bring them back and provide aftercare, and the guardians, as anchors with greater abilities, oversee several teams at once and make sure everything goes smoothly.

Ghostwalker Avery Wagner lost his anchor and bonded partner to cancer four years ago and now teaches rather than ghostwalking himself. Get ready to be mired in the angst of a widower. Jameson is in training, but doesn’t have the anchor gene. He’s awkward, determined and somehow really likeable because he wants to help people. The attraction is there for both of them pretty immediately and they both fight against it for different reasons. Even though the age gap here is 18 years and Jameson does make some immature mistakes, he also steps up when he needs to and learns from them.

Jameson hasn’t been assigned a ghostwalker yet and is going through the training alone. Thrust into working an emergency with Jameson, Avery is afraid of his feelings, not wanting to open himself up to that kind of pain again. The author took the time for Avery to be thoughtful about his grief. Jameson was so sweet and understanding. Their intimate moments were perfect: hot, sweet, and confused feelings. It’s the emotions that anchor this story and put it a shoulder above others. I did cry at one point. I love how everything is not magically fixed at the end–grief is a long process and love is complex. Even with the age difference, this gets to the point of being a true partnership where they work through issues and talk things out.

I’ve enjoyed this whole series. This may actually be my favorite of the three and it’s nice that the author finishes strong rather than the first one setting everything up while the other two seem tacked on to make more money. This is not that. This seems to have been a trilogy from the start and, whilst there could be many more stories to tell in this world if done right (there are 47 branch offices), the HEA of all the originally focused upon characters is now complete.

I would rate this 4.25 stars.

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