A Lila Review: His Hart’s Command -Nothing Special VI (SWAT Edition) by AE Via

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Lennox Freeman (Free) is one of the best hackers in the world which has caused him to spend most of his life on the run. Never able to put down roots, he couldn’t trust anyone not to take advantage of him, even his own family. If it wasn’t for his best friend, Tech, shielding him, Free’s father would’ve sold him and his skills to the highest bidding crime family when he was still a student at MIT. Free owed Tech his life; so when his friend called for him to come to Atlanta to work with him, he couldn’t say no. However, he wasn’t expecting the overprotective group of detectives that made up Atlanta PD’s most notorious task force. And he certainly wasn’t prepared for the large-and-in-charge SWAT Captain that was responsible for their safety.

Ivan Hart has lived and bled one creed all of his life: To Serve and Protect. His intense focus and determination in law enforcement has led him to finally commanding his own team. He’d worked hard to put together a squad of badasses capable of backing up a very dangerous team of detectives. Being God and Day’s last line of defense came with a lot of responsibility that he took very seriously.

After his divorce was final Hart turned right around and remarried his job. He had his good friends there in the office with him every day, so it was easier to ignore the few quiet hours he spent at home alone each night. He’d settled well into his new routine and was comfortable with it. Then God decided to disrupt everything by hiring another tech specialist for his department. A man whose brains, trendy looks, and voice would leave Hart tongue-tied and captivated at their first introduction.
Free quickly awakens a passion in Hart that he long thought was dead. An attraction he didn’t know existed. He couldn’t fathom that the sexy cyber genius could be interested in an over-sized, big-bearded brute that served criminals the bottom line for a living. No matter what his best friend, God said.

A future with Hart could be potentially dangerous and often times full of terrifyingly close calls; but little did he know that so could falling for the most hunted hacker in the world. All Lennox Freeman wants in life is security, love and protection… Hart had all that to give and more.

His Hart’s Command is a spin-off of the original Nothing Special series. With some parts running parallel to the previous book. We get to see all the guys again, and how their lives continue to change after their happily ever after. It’s also a good place for someone new to get into these men.

As always, I love the older characters. Their sweet banter, and how they were not afraid to show each other who they truly were. This book is a nice mix of sweet and sexy. I liked the way Free and Hart fit together. They have a vulnerability that calls the reader to know more about their past and what made them protect their hearts. They are strong and capable but as a couple they are beautiful. They helped the other heal and look forward to their future.

There are not as much action scenes in this story, but the author did an excellent job making them relevant. Everything that happened had a reason and moved the story forward. The smexy was a bit milder but it worked for them. There are some awkward moments but they fit the story.

My only complaints were about Hart’s ex-wife and their story. Perhaps to theatrical for my taste. And some loose ends here and there. Overall, a nice addition to this series.

The cover by Jay Aheer is worth staring at. It matches the previous books but it’s enticing enough to attract new readers. Plus, that beard…

Sale Links:  Amazon | Smashwords | Nook

Book Details: 

ebook, 250 pages
Published: November 27, 2018, by Via Star Wings Publishing
ASIN: B07KX7QF8P
Edition Language: English

Series: Nothing Special
Book #1: Nothing Special
Book #2: Embracing His Syn
Book #3: Here Comes Trouble
Book #4: Don’t Judge 
Book #5: Nothing Special V
Book #6: His Hart’s Command

A MelanieM Review: Designer Holiday by Ari McKay

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

It’s never too late for a second chance at love… or is it?

Rayne Sadler left the tiny town of Holiday Pines and his childhood sweetheart, Emilio Rives, to make a name for himself in the world of interior design. For twelve years, he never looked back. Now he has the successful career he wanted, but no one to share his life.

Emilio isn’t happy when Rayne returns to Holiday Pines to renovate the local playhouse. The town wants to stimulate the failing tourist industry, but Emilio has no interest in reviving the ashes of his relationship with Rayne.

Yet shared memories and experiences are powerful things. As the playhouse is restored to its former glory, the friendship between Rayne and Emilio slowly returns as well, and their chemistry is as powerful as ever. Rayne has designs on Emilio’s heart, and he sets out to prove it. Will the magic of Christmas thaw Emilio’s heart, or will it remain as cold as mountain snow?

What a perfect time for a lovers reunited and second chance at love story than at Christmas?  Designer Holiday by Ari McKay is a sweet, contemporary romance that brings two high school sweethearts back together after a long separation.  While one has seemingly moved on, the  other clearly hasn’t emotionally, the pain of the breakup deep even after all these years.

It’s hard since the breakup was as teenagers to imagine why Emilio carries such an enormous burden after all these years but McKay (and a lovely character, Emilio’s mother) go a long way to reasonably explaining such a deeply held grudge towards Rayne.  And Rayne’s take on it all, which honestly seems to normal for a teenage boy.

The way in which the town comes together for the playhouse, the various members of the community, and the place itself has it’s own magic.  I would definitely love to visit there myself would it appear on a map.  The authors have a way of making a walk down the street turn into an intimate stroll that pulls the readers into the scene, glancing here and there about the location while eavesdropping onto the conversation taking place.  It’s real, lovely, and in the moment.

The same goes for the romance.  At first hard and a bit tortured, it becomes a slow path back to trust and love and the way home at Christmas time.  Sweet, heartwarming, and believable.  I loved it.

Want to add a holiday story to your Christmas reading?  Pick up Designer Holiday by Ari McKay.  I recommend it to add sweetness and joy to your holiday reading.

Cover art is suitably Christmassy and bright, I like the models but wish for a little more of the playhouse that drew them both back together.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 132 pages
Published December 8th 2018
ASIN B07L7K5CKM

A Free Dreamer Review: Love Blooms by Stephanie Hoyt

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Nico Hamurişi is the one and only son of Santa Claus. All his life, Nico has known he’s expected to fall in love and find lifelong commitment by the Christmas of his thirtieth year—like every other heir before him. But knowing and accepting are vastly different things, and as the final countdown begins, Nico has yet to embrace his fate. His once great enthusiasm for eventually becoming Santa has been dimmed by uncertainty over how the Santa Line will be affected when he marries a man.

With only a year left, will Nico have time to find love and commitment all while learning how magic will transform the family line to accommodate who he is and who he loves?

As much as I tend to avoid holiday stories on principle, I actually read two of them this year. “Love Blooms” sounded like an interesting take on the Santa Claus myth, so I decided to give it a try. And I’m glad I did because I actually quite liked it.

After reading the blurb, I was a bit worried there might be Mpreg in this story, a trope I really can’t stand. But I’m glad to say that none of the boys got pregnant. I won’t reveal how the “provide an heir” problem is solved, but magic does indeed find a way.

As I’d hoped, the take on the Santa Claus myth proved to be quite interesting. Being Austrian, I didn’t grow up with Santa Claus, so there were no childhood memories to be spoiled for me. I liked how Santa Claus wasn’t this immortal being that didn’t age, but rather a title to be passed from father to son. I also liked how every human being had a bit of magic in them, Nico just has a different kind of magic from others. Outside of the Santa line there isn’t a whole lot of world-building going on, but it was enough.

Nico made for an easily likable character. It wasn’t hard to relate to his conflict and understand the pressure he faces. When the love finally did bloom, it was beautiful to watch it unfold. It was quite cute and fluffy, but still on a tolerable for me.

I did have a few minor niggles. Nico’s story gets a lot of on page time and I understand that his story is probably more interesting than that of his love interest, but a bit more about the other guy would have been nice anyway. Especially the reveal of his magic was very anticlimactic. And I think the story of how he decided to spend the rest of his life with the future Santa Claus would have been an interesting one to read as well.

All in all, “Love Blooms” is one of the better holiday stories out there. Yes, it’s cute and fluffy, but not extremely so. There’s real, believable conflict and struggle and an interesting take on the Santa Claus myth. I think this makes a great holiday read that lets you relax and sink into a happy place, without being over the top. I was pleasantly surprised.

The cover by Natasha Snow is really pretty. It just looks so magical and just really fits the story.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book details:

ebook, 225 pages

Published December 10th 2018 by NineStar Press

A Chaos Moondrawn Advent Review: Twenty-Nine Hours to Eternity by Elizabeth Noble

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

A Story from the Warmest Wishes: Dreamspinner Press 2018 Advent Calendar

Being gay and pagan can make for a lonely holiday season, as Ian knows well. He’s used to celebrating alone. The last place he expects to meet a like-minded guy is at LAX during a twenty-nine-hour layover.

Ian’s never felt so comfortable or compatible with another man, even if there is an air of mystery to Race.

Race is no stranger to holiday isolation, and he decides they should seize the opportunity they’ve been given and observe the Saturnalia the way it was meant to be. A grand celebration ensues, where every moment is special and every meal a feast. The ancient traditions take on new meaning as the men find meaning in each other. But each of them has a destiny and for their paths to continue together, it’ll take a kind of magic that hasn’t been seen in centuries.

This short story is about Ian and Race who meet at LAX and decided to celebrate the last day of Saturnalia together. Ian has to work Christmas eve and is about to fly out to Hawaii when disaster strikes. This story is not told in linear time, but through flashbacks. The authors shows them spending the day and evening getting to know one another. This story is explicit. There is a real connection between them, but Race is not who he seems to be. I don’t want to spoil it so you’ll have to read it, but the title should give you a clue.

The cover art is by L.C. Chase. While appropriate to Ian, it’s not very exciting.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 30 pages
Published December 1st 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ASINB07L1S2QV5

A Lucy Review: Midnight Angel by Kevin Klehr

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Dinner is overcooked. The guests haven’t arrived. And Luke is sitting alone at his dining table on New Year’s Eve. He was hoping to romance Nathan, one of the people he invited for this intimate evening meal.

As midnight draws closer, it seems an angel, who has magically appeared in Luke’s apartment, is the only person to drink champagne and watch the fireworks with.

But this angel has other ideas. He’s about to grant Luke the New Year’s Eve party he thought he wanted.

It is highly possible that I will be in the minority about this holiday short but it wasn’t what I was expecting.  At first, I felt bad for Luke, who is sitting at his table with chicken drying out in the oven and no one present at his party.  He has invited his crush, Nate, Nate’s best friend, Lucy, and the annoying guy who has a crush on him, Tim.  As he is sitting wallowing about how now he can’t make his move on Nate, his guardian angel, Guy,  shows up, complete with wings on his back.  I did laugh at Luke’s reaction. 

“What happened?”

“You passed out.  Your face landed squarely on your plate.” 

I do have to mention editing – that sentence in the book reads “…you’re plate…”

So what his angel does is bring him the party he wanted, with Nate and Lucy and Tim.  The thing is, I felt really bad for Tim because I thought Luke was pretty awful to him. “Luke, I’m going home.  I’m making you uncomfortable at your own party, and that’s the last thing I want to do.”   Then I felt like the whole thing was a lecture.  The definition of infatuation, what constitutes stalking and some oddly phrased dialogue.  “I was on my way to another party, but something made me drop in.  It was like a mystical force drove me here.”  It just didn’t fit with the way Tim spoke previously.  And I just kept feeling bad for Tim.  “A better body, but  not the one I craved.”  It’s fantasy yes, but it’s convoluted about Luke’s feelings.  I just didn’t get any feel of a connection.  It’s a beginning, maybe, so hopeful. 

The cover design is the standard NineStar Press is using for their holiday collection.  It is pretty but not specific to this story.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook
Published December 10th 2018 by NineStar Press
Original Title Midnight Angel
ISBN 139781949909616
Edition Language English

Love Shifters and Romance? Check out Ta Weezo’s Blues by Layla Dorine (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Ta Weezo’s Blues

Author: Layla Dorine

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 24, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 24800

Genre: Paranormal, college, professor, student, shapeshifter, teacher’s pet, poet, author, ferret shifter

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Synopsis

Sabre never had any intentions of becoming the teacher’s pet. In fact, most of his school years have been spent trying to avoid attention. The scar that mars his cheek has made him wary of strangers, their questions and prying eyes leave him feeling exposed in ways he’s uncomfortable with. Accustomed to blending in, he lurks around the shadows in the back of classrooms, turning in exemplary work but rarely taking part in discussions.

Professor Locklear’s Native lit class is different though. Sabre’s interest in the subject matter, coupled with a dedicated scholar’s need to turn in the best work possible, leads him to seek out a more advanced reading list, much to the delight of Professor Locklear. When he comes across Sabre reading material beyond even the advanced list, Professor Locklear invites on a fieldtrip to a nearby village. Along the way he learns more than just the knowledge contained in the books. He learns about trust and discovers that there are others out there just like him— shapeshifters.

What he believed was an individual anomaly turns out to be something beyond legend and lore, a whole different culture he’d never known existed. The only way he can move forward is to let his shields down long enough to trust the man whose conversations he’s come to enjoy, but to do that, he’ll have to stop distancing himself from everyone.

Excerpt

Ta Weezo’s Blues
Layla Dorine © 2018
All Rights Reserved

The hallway smelled of old dust and coconut curry, setting Sabre’s stomach growling as he trudged the last few feet to Professor Locklear’s door. Instinctively, he pulled his hood low, casting a shadow over his eyes, and with practiced ease, he swept his hair forward. It would have to do. Sucking in a deep breath, he counted to five before letting it out slowly, then licked his lips, and knocked on the door.

“Come in!”

The voice was slightly muffled by the wood that Sabre partially shoved open, only enough to poke his head in about halfway.

“Excuse me, professor, do you have a minute?”

Sabre kept his head angled, watching Professor Locklear out of the corner of his eye. Several moments passed before his professor stopped writing and placed the pen beside his notebook, raised his head, adjusted his glasses, checked the clock, and then brushed a stray strand of hair back from where it had fallen over one eye.

“I have a few, so you might as well come in. No sense hovering half in and half out of the doorway.”

Sabre shuffled forward, carefully keeping his eyes lowered as much as possible.

“So, what can I help you with? Are you in one of my classes?”

“Yes sir, I’m in your ten o’clock Introduction to Native Literature class.”

“Ahh, you must be the one who sits in the corner by the emergency exit, where it’s nice and dark. I have to admit, when you first chose that spot, I assumed you were looking for a place to nap, but you’ve since proved me wrong. Whenever I look your way, you’re focused intently on me or the power point.”

“Yes, sir. I enjoy the material and some of the discussions are pretty fascinating.”

“Really? In that case, why is it that you’ve never taken part in any of them?”

Shuffling from one foot to the other, Sabre carefully contemplated the question before responding. “I try to let my papers speak for me. I’m bad at public discourse. I get tongue-tied and trip over words or end up being so hesitant that people talk over me. When I’m writing, I can organize my thoughts and present a more complete analysis of what I’ve read.”

“Sounds as if you are extremely self-aware. Not a common trait these days, I’m afraid. Still, if you feel you have something to add to a conversation, then I hope you won’t refrain from doing so, er… I’m sorry. You’ll have to help me out with your name.”

“It’s Sabre.”

“Ahh, yes, one of the more unique ones this year. You’re right; your papers are remarkably organized, well thought out and quite complex in their reasoning. I must admit, you’ve had me rereading a few things I haven’t gone through in years just to understand why you’ve presented some of your comparisons in the manner in which you’ve organized them.”

Sabre grinned, a surge of pride rushing through him. “Thank you. That’s actually why I stopped by. I was wondering if you had any books you could recommend, similar to the required material for the course. I’ve finished reading everything on the syllabus, plus the referred texts I came across when I was researching; killed a couple piles of sticky notes and pens in the process, too, so now I’m hoping for more.”

The professor’s eyes went wide and he steepled his hands on the desktop calendar, tapping his fingertips together as he slowly scrutinized Sabre, making him shuffle more and tug at his hoodie to ensure it shadowed his face.

“Try as you might, I don’t think you’re going to change colors and blend into the woodwork. If you do, I think I’d have to take a half day off and schedule an immediate exam with my optometrist,” Professor Locklear remarked with a chuckle. “You can grab a seat, you know. I’m not a fire-breathing dragon about to roast you for stepping into my lair, though I wish I could singe a student or two when I catch them snoring.”

Sabre chuckled softly but didn’t come any closer.

“I guess not. Well, I must say your question caught me a bit off guard. It’s not one I’m used to, at least not from someone who wasn’t required to take my class. Are you considering adding Native Studies as a minor? You are a junior, correct?”

“No, sir. I’m a senior.”

“Ahh, okay. So are you looking for something specific?”

“Well, I, umm, really enjoyed Reservation Blues, so I found the other Sherman Alexie books and read them too. I loved the myths and legends book you assigned, and Fools Crow and Love Medicine were extremely fascinating. I read House Made of Dawn twice, not because I didn’t understand it the first time, but because it resonated with me, and I was compelled to reread it. I didn’t dislike any of the assigned reading if that helps at all?”

A long, low whistle emanated from the professor, who cocked an eyebrow at him, clearly impressed at all the reading Sabre had already done in just the first five weeks of the semester.

“It does, though there was no reason to finish the course load in a few weeks’ time; wouldn’t want you to burn yourself out.”

“It was easy, though. I always work ahead. My work-study job is in the library, shelving books and working at the research center desk, answering phone calls and emails. I usually have a ton of downtime and write most of my papers there. Plus, I’m carrying a light course load, four classes, since that’s all I need for graduation.”

“Well then, let me see what I can do to find you something.”

Rummaging around on his desk, Professor Locklear began moving neat stacks of paper until he finally found something of interest. Sabre watched as he perused the list before finally holding it out for him to take.

“Try these; it’s the reading list for my Native Literature 103 class, since I’m pretty sure between your papers and what you just told me, you’ve read most of the books for the 102. See if any of these interest you, and if you have any questions or would care to discuss them, please feel free to come back, or you can stop in my Native Lit discussion group. We meet in the atrium every Wednesday night at eight. Who knows? Perhaps you’ll be inspired to participate.”

“Thanks, I’ll umm… I’ll think about it,” Sabre said, still staring at the proffered paper. Reaching it meant he’d have to move closer, into the brighter lights above Professor Locklear’s desk. Biting his lip, Sabre took the three steps to the desk hesitantly, keeping his eyes on the paper and not the man.

“Are you okay? Is something wrong?”

The concern in his voice was what made Sabre raise his head, and the moment he realized what he’d done, he ducked it again, took the paper, and backed away until he felt the door at his back. Twisting around, he fumbled for the doorknob.

“Wait.”

Pausing, Sabre gripped the knob, never turning back.

“If you’re hiding in the shadows because of that scar, please know it isn’t necessary.”

Sabre touched his cheek, stroking his fingertips along the rough edges of the raised, puckered skin as the memory of moonlight striking glass from a busted bottle flashed through his mind. Almost instantly, his breathing picked up, and his chest felt tight as the first stirrings of panic surged through him.

“I’ve got to go,” Sabre muttered, nearly smacking himself in the face with the door as he wrenched it open. “Thanks, professor.”

“You’re welcome, but…”

Sabre took off before he heard the rest, sprinting up the curry-scented hall, the stench making him gag. Bursting through the outer door, the fall air hit him like a gut punch, carrying with it the scent of dying leaves. He gagged, bile rising in his throat. Skidding to a halt beside a bush, he vomited, grateful nothing but acid remained in his stomach. By the time he finished, he’d broken out in a cold sweat and felt gross and tired, wanting nothing more than to get back to his dorm room and take a long, hot, shower and climb into bed with a movie.

Glancing at the slightly crumpled list he gripped in his fist, Sabre sighed before smoothing it against his thigh, folding it carefully, and tucking it into the pocket of his hoodie. Shoulders slumped, he turned and trudged back toward his dorm, grateful the day was at an end. All in all, it had been both a success and a disaster. Next time, he’d just email his request, he decided, as a cold wind made him shiver and debate what the hell he’d been thinking, going to see his professor in person.

“Stupid,” he muttered as his short walk came to an end at his dorm.

For a so-called genius, he sure could be an idiot sometimes.

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Meet the Author

Layla Dorine lives among the sprawling prairies of Midwestern America, in a house with more cats than people. She loves hiking, fishing, swimming, martial arts, camping out, photography, cooking, and dabbling with several artistic mediums. In addition, she loves to travel and visit museums, historic, and haunted places.

Layla got hooked on writing as a child, starting with poetry and then branching out, and she hasn’t stopped writing since. Hard times, troubled times, the lives of her characters are never easy, but then what life is? The story is in the struggle, the journey, the triumphs and the falls. She writes about artists, musicians, loners, drifters, dreamers, hippies, bikers, truckers, hunters and all the other folks that she’s met and fallen in love with over the years. Sometimes she writes urban romance and sometimes its aliens crash landing near a roadside bar. When she isn’t writing, or wandering somewhere outdoors, she can often be found curled up with a good book and a kitty on her lap.

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