A MelanieM Review: Claw Marks & Card Games (Stallion Ridge #2) by Maz Maddox

Standard

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Cooper Woodlock is a man who can’t seem to stay out of trouble. Between his gambling debt and being a widowed father, he can never seem to get Lady Luck back on his side.

Desperate for a winning hand, Cooper starts hitting saloons and tempting fate in order to keep the bloodthirsty Spades at bay.

When a black-clad gunslinger enters the game promising a slice of freedom, Cooper realizes all too late what he is actually playing for.

Claw Marks & Card Games (Stallion Ridge #2) by Maz Maddox started off a decidedly mixed bag for me.  Touted as a standalone novel in a series it quickly become apparent that this novel is the furthest thing from a standalone creature that you can get.

You get thrown into a universe that you have no understanding of and that, quite frankly, you never get filled in on.  The world building is completely missing.  Somewhere in the past there was a major war with what? Shifters and humans?  Shifters and shifters?  You don’t know because it never get the background.  Plus this is a western. Just because.  When you enter this universe, there’s a tentative, not tentative peace between humans and shifters.  I never figured that out.  Some of the shifters were accepted, some not. Seemed to have to do with the history we weren’t getting.

A big part of the main couple’s history seems to reside in the first story, Heartache & Hoofbeats (Stallion Ridge #1).  It’s the reason for the entire “main action element” that launches the characters and plot.  The characters (couple) and their storyline is crucial to this novel and how it plays out as  well as being intimately connected.  Soooooo.  How is this a standalone again?

By now you all must be wondering why did I give it such a high rating with my obvious irritation with the lack of worldbuilding and introductory confusion.  Two words.  The characters.  Even with all the narrative holes in the foundation and downright bewilderment about the plot, my need to be with the characters drove me on until everything settles down to just them, the people (beings) around them, including one little spitfire of a daughter who may just take over the world.

Whatever else my arguments with Maz Maddox (or their editor), the characters here stole my heart.  They are real and believable.  Their truly awful start to a relationship continues and their misunderstandings/missteps are on both ends even as they try to figure out how to make it work out between them, one young kid included.  Both have no idea how to make this work with each other yet others and the reader want to try…that’s the key…even given that start.

There are other story threads here to contain your interest. Plus killers, and more shifters, and one hell of a shocking ending that is going to leave you wanting the next story asap.  No it doesn’t involve our couple.

I am definitely going back to read the  first story.  I think had I been prepared knowing that this must be read as part of a series, I would have done that first.  I need to see what information that one fills in that this book lacks.  But anyway, the author has me hooked.  I need to know what happens next.  I will be onto the third story.

For all of you who love shifters, this is definitely a twist on shifter romance.  A bit of western, a bit of action/adventure and mystery, and 100 proof strong on characters.  I will let you know what I find in book one.

 

Cover art: Shaleah Poster.  Nice job with the western style and story elements if not particularly eye-catching.

Sales Links:

Amazon US

Amazon UK 

Blurb

Book Details:

Claw Marks & Card Games is book 2 in the Stallion Ridge series but can read as a stand-alone.
While this is a western romance, be prepared for a little paranormal with your sixshooters, my friends**.

ebook, 1st, 250 pages
Published October 1st 2018
** I disagree totally.  This is not a standalone and needs either more foundation work or the first story as additional grounding and world building.

Release Blitz – Us Again by Nell Iris (excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

 

 
Length: 9,200 words approx.
 
Publisher: JMS Books
 
Blurb
 

When Alex gets a call in the middle of the night telling him his ex-boyfriend is in the hospital, he only hesitates for a second before rushing to Sammy’s side. But the Sammy in the hospital bed is fragile and not the same man who told Alex to leave seven months ago.


Alex wants to help Sammy get better and is desperate to find out what went wrong between them. Maybe he’ll even get a second chance with the man he hasn’t been able to get over.


But will Sammy let Alex back into his life?


Excerpt


Except for the dim light of a wall-mounted lamp next to the only occupied bed, the room is dark. Sammy is a shapeless silhouette from here and I take a step closer. Another. And another until I’m right by his side.

My knees buckle when I finally see him. His golden hair is plastered to his face, his cheeks hollow, his full lips dry and cracked. Long lashes fan out over black shadows under the eyes. His hand rests on his pillow and is so thin and bony, tears well up in my eyes.

A steadily beeping monitor surveils his vital signs. An IV bag hangs on a metal pole, and the line snakes its way down into his hand.

My hand flies to my mouth and my shoulders shake. To avoid ending up in a sobbing pile on the floor, I sink down in the chair next to his bed.

Sammy was always slender. Like a willow with long limbs, narrow hips, and a concave stomach. But now … he looks emaciated. Hardly there. Easily breakable and so fucking small I wouldn’t be surprised if a stiff breeze could snap him in two.

I reach out but hesitate to touch him. Instead, I lay my hand next to his on the pillow. My olive complexion seems dirty next to his pallor.

“Oh, Sammy.” I don’t even try to wipe the moisture from my face; I just let the tears flow. I want to crawl into bed with him, scoop him up in my arms, and use my big body to shield him from the world. But all I do is move my hand closer, until my fingertips ghost against his pinkie. A jolt of electricity races through my body and a sigh slips out.

“Now will you tell me what happened?” I hiss to David who’s sat down on a chair on the other side of Sammy’s bed sometime during the last minute.

“His boss called me this evening. Apparently, he fainted.”

I gasp and can’t keep my hands off him any longer. Carefully, I lay my palm on top of his hand and something snaps into place in my chest when I finally touch him. He’s cold. I’d give him all my warmth if he would just open his eyes and smile at me and call me Care Bear again.

“Doesn’t he fucking eat?” I grind out between clenched teeth.

“He said he does. He said he was fine.”

“Clearly, he lied.”

“Clearly.”

“What’s all this?” I sweep my hand at the IV pole.

“He was severely dehydrated so they’re giving him fluids.” He rattles on about vital signs and nutrition and how Sammy will need to see a therapist and a dietitian to straighten out his eating and I only listen with one ear. Even though I asked, I can’t absorb all that information.

“Don’t you fucking check on your own brother?” I interrupt. I’ve always had a foul mouth, and frazzled nerves make it worse, but I don’t give a shit if David is offended.

“I should have. I knew he was … sad. I talked to him on the phone almost every day and he said he was fine.” David’s voice trembles, saturated with guilt and remorse, but it just makes me angrier.

“Are you telling me you haven’t taken the time to visit him for seven fucking months?”

“No! That’s not true!”

“It seems that way to me.”

“Who are you to talk? You left him!”

His words sting. He might as well have thrown acid on my face. I tighten my muscles, so I won’t jerk under his accusations. “He told me to leave. He said he never wanted to see me again. I did not leave willingly.” I shoot him an angry glare but quickly look away. I want to take out my fear and worry on him. Plant my fist in his face and roar out the pain that took up residence in my chest when I laid eyes on Sammy a few minutes ago.

Dear, sweet Sammy.

“I don’t even know what happened. I thought he loved me,” I whisper. My head is heavy, and I let it sink down until it rests on his bed.

 

Nell Iris is a romantic at heart who believes everyone deserves a happy ending. She’s a bona fide bookworm (learned to read long before she started school), wouldn’t dream of going anywhere without something to read (not even the ladies’ room), loves music (and singing along but, let’s face it, she’s no Celine Dion), and is a real Star Trek nerd (“Make it so”). She loves words, poetry, wine, and Sudoku, and absolutely adores elephants!


Nell believes passionately in equality for all regardless of race, gender, or sexuality, and wants to make the world a better, less hateful, place.


Nell is a forty-something bisexual Swedish woman, married to the love of her life, and a proud mama of a grown daughter. She left the Scandinavian cold and darkness for warmer and sunnier Malaysia a few years ago, and now spends her days writing, surfing the Internet, enjoying the heat, and eating good food. One day she decided to chase her lifelong dream of being a writer, sat down in front of her laptop, and wrote a story about two men falling in love.


Nell Iris writes gay romance, prefers sweet over angst, and wants to write diverse and different characters.

Email contact@nelliris.com
Web www.nelliris.com
Twitter @nellirisauthor
Facebook page www.facebook.com/nellirisauthor
Facebook profile www.facebook.com/nell.iris.12
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/nelliris
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/nell_iris/
QueeRomance Ink https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/nell-iris/

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Hosted By Signal Boost Promotions

 

Release Blitz Tour – – Not Just Friends by Jay Northcote

Standard

 

Buy Links:

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2pAxxnz

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2NnIT8b

 
Length: 200 pages
 
Cover Design: Garrett Leigh @ Black Jazz Design
 
Blurb
 

Is it worth risking a friendship for a chance at love?


Leaving home to go to university is an exciting phase in anyone’s life. One that’s full of new places, new friends, and new experiences. But Lewis isn’t prepared for the sudden and intense crush he develops on his out-and-proud flatmate, Max, because Lewis had always assumed he was straight.


Max starts dating another guy, and Lewis’s jealousy at seeing them together forces him to confront his growing attraction. When Max’s relationship goes awry, Lewis is the one to comfort him and one thing leads to another. After a night together, Lewis is devastated that Max wants to go back to being just friends.


Lewis tries his best to move on and their friendship survives, but the feelings he has for Max don’t go away. He faces other challenges as he deals with coming out to his parents, and needs Max’s support more than ever. But Lewis isn’t the only one who’s conflicted. When Max finally admits he cares for Lewis too, Lewis must decide whether he dares risk his heart again on being more than just friends.


Please note that although this edition has been re-edited for publication, there is no new or additional content.

Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England. He comes from a family of writers, but always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed him by. He spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content.


One day, Jay decided to try and write a short story—just to see if he could—and found it rather addictive. He hasn’t stopped writing since.


Jay writes contemporary romance about men who fall in love with other men. He has five books published by Dreamspinner Press, and also self-publishes under the imprint Jaybird Press. Many of his books are now available as audiobooks.


Website
Twitter
Facebook profile
Facebook author page
Facebook author group
Newsletter
Jay’s books

Hosted By Signal Boost Promotions

 

Book Blast: The Selkie Prince and His Omega Guard (The Royal Alphas #2) by J.J. Masters

Standard

BOOK BLAST

Book Title: The Selkie Prince & His Omega Guard: An MM Mpreg Shifter Romance

Series: The Royal Alphas, Book 2

Author: J.J. Masters

Publisher: Self-Published

Cover Artist: Megan Parker of EmCat Designs

Release Date: October 6, 2018

Genre/s: Contemporary Romance (PNR/Gay/mpreg)

Length: 56427 words /236 pages

It is a standalone story but within a series

Add on Goodreads 

Blurb

An alpha prince ready to find his fated mate. A Selkie who wishes he wasn’t omega-born…

Unlike his brothers, Prince Adrian, the dutiful second-born son to the King of the North, looks forward to finding his true mate and producing an heir. Until he stumbles across a beta guard with an enticing scent.

Del never wanted to be an omega. All his life, he’s only wanted one thing: to serve as a Royal Guard. Though forbidden, he found a concoction to mask his omega scent and was successful until his dwindling supply caused the alpha prince to discover his deception.

Rian not only breaks every cherished royal tradition, but ends up hiding Del until he can figure out the reason for the attraction between them. However, one selfish mistake puts them in a precarious position they can’t escape. Their reckless actions have them worried they’ll be banished from the Selkie community. Rian needs a plan to convince his father to accept his mate before he has to risk everything he’s ever known and loved for their future. Because, no matter what the king says, Rian will not give up Del.


Note: A 60k-plus word m/m shifter mpreg story, this is the second book in the Royal Alpha series. Due to the “knotty” times in this book, it is recommended for mature readers only. It can be read as a standalone and, of course, has an HEA.

 

Buy Links – Available in Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US  

Amazon UK

 

 

Excerpt

Prince Adrian, the second born alpha son to the King of the North, frowned. As he stood near the throne where his father sat with his four brothers flanking him, his gaze bounced off the six omegas that had their foreheads pinned to the stone floor and their naked asses presented in the air.

He sighed quietly in disappointment. Not one of these omegas was his fated mate. The Selkie Seekers had gathered these males from good families all over the world, but none of the half dozen presented today belonged to him.

Rian—as his brothers liked to call him—glanced over at Luca who stood with his pup, Dylan, at the back of the Great Hall, bouncing the baby in his arms to keep him from fussing. He reminded himself that it had taken his oldest brother, Kai, several presentation ceremonies until he found his fated mate.

This was only Rian’s first. But still…

Unlike Kai, Rian had always preferred the Selkie traditions and he looked forward to finding his true mate and producing an heir. He was tired of rutting with the betas they had at their disposal. And to even think about rutting with a human…

He wrinkled his nose. His brothers may very well enjoy the sexual release the human males brought, but Rian refused to join them. He was a Selkie prince. He would rut only with another Selkie.

He found humans to be boring and figured none of them would be able to take his size anyway. As his brothers liked to point out time and time again, Rian was big. Most alphas were, but his was… extraordinary. As his younger brother Zale liked to call it… a dinosaur bone.

Not even all the betas could accommodate him. He knew which ones could and tended to use them for relief when needed.

He wrinkled his nose again, but this time it was for another reason. A sweet scent pulled at him. And it wasn’t coming from any of the omegas kneeling on the ground before him.

His eyes flicked back to Luca. Then he twisted his head and glanced over his shoulder at Kai. “Is Luca due to come into oestrus soon?”

Kai’s blue eyes narrowed as his gaze shot to his omega mate then back to Rian. “No.”

Rian inhaled deeply trying to pinpoint what the smell was and where it was coming from. “Do you smell that?”

Before any of his brothers could answer him, this father, the king, loudly pounded the end of his scepter onto the floor at his feet.

“Douglass! If Prince Adrian cannot identify any of these omegas as his fated mate, then let’s get this wrapped up.”

His father’s asshole assistant fluttered down the steps from where he’d been standing behind the king, and approached Rian.

Rian frowned at the weasel-faced beta servant. “What?”

“Has none of them caught your fancy, Your Highness?”

Rian let his gaze wander over the six naked males all bent over in a line. “None of these are my omega, Douglass. You may dismiss them all.” He tried to keep the disappointment out of his voice, but it was a struggle.

With a nod of his head and what curiously looked like a satisfied expression, Douglass clapped his hands, had the omegas rise to their feet, and herded them out of the Great Hall.

Rian couldn’t help but take one last look at the naked males. All were from acceptable families, all very handsome and some were even hung very well for an omega, but even if he was sexually interested in any of them, he was forbidden to rut with them.

Doing so could throw an omega into heat and with heat came pregnancy and then Rian would be stuck with an omega who was not his intended fated mate.

All for a quick dalliance.

Rutting for pleasure with an omega would also ruin the omega’s reputation. Omegas didn’t have to come to their mate with their corona membrane intact, but no matter what, they couldn’t rut with an alpha unless it was their mate. To do so was illegal and could mean imprisonment. Or worse, banishment.

 

About the Author  

J.J. Masters is the alter-ego of a USA Today bestselling author who writes hot, gay romance filled with heart, humor and heat. J.J. became fascinated with mpreg romance as soon as she figured out what mpreg stood for. She loves to write about “knotty” men!

You can join JJ’s FB Group  or subscribe to her newsletter to keep up with exclusive content and news.

 

 

Author Links

Website

FB Page

FB Fan Group

Twitter

Newsletter

Instagram

Amazon Author Page

BookBub

 

BOOK BLAST SCHEDULE

 

Hosted by Gay Book Promotions