A Free Dreamer Review: Sword Dance (Sword Dance #1) by A.J. Demas

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Five years ago, Damiskos’s brilliant military career was cut short, leaving him with a permanent disability and scars that are not all physical. Adrift and still grieving, he tries to find meaning in an unsatisfying job.

Work takes him to the remote seaside villa of an old friend, where, among an odd assortment of guests, he meets the eunuch sword-dancer Varazda. Enigmatic and beautiful but distinctly prickly, Varazda is the antithesis of the straightforward and serious Damiskos. Yet as they keep getting in each other’s way at the villa, their mutual dislike is complicated by a spark of undeniable attraction.

Then the villa’s guests begin to reveal their true characters and motives—no one here is what they seem—and Damiskos finds himself at the centre of a bizarre web of espionage, theft, and assassination. Varazda may need Damiskos’s help, but not as much as Damiskos, finally awakening to a new sense of life and purpose, needs Varazda.

Sword Dance is the first book in the Sword Dance trilogy, an m/m romance set in an imaginary ancient world, with murderous philosophy students, sex acts named after fruit, and love blossoming in the midst of mayhem.

I honestly can’t remember why I asked for this book. The blurb doesn’t sound like something I’d normally be interested in. But “Sword Dance” turned out to be a very pleasant surprise, so I’m glad I decided to give it a try.

The setting was quite interesting. It was well fleshed out and I got a real sense of place from it. Sometimes the many country and city names were a little confusing though and I found it a bit hard to remember them and their significance to the story. A map would have been a huge help. A.J. Demas clearly put some serious work into this world and I was very impressed by all the cultural  details.

The romance part takes a while to get started and I liked how well it fit in with the rest of the plot. It’s not an easy relationship between Damiskos and Varazda, considering their past experiences. And it was great to watch them work it out.

Damiskos is a former soldier,  who’s feeling a little lost now that he can no longer fight. I liked him from the start. He’s a very level-headed, reliable man, who might have some difficulties in the romance department. I also liked that the author decided to make him bisexual and gave him an important relationship with a woman, where the woman didn’t turn out to be a horrible person.

Varazda was quite the surprise. Let’s just say he has some very surprising secrets. And he’s just plain gorgeous. I think he’s the first eunuch MC I’ve read about and I would’ve loved some scenes form his POV. And I must admit I would have liked some more anatomical details. I wanted to know exactly what was done to him and how it was functioning now.

The plot itself was certainly unusual. You don’t often see a bunch of murderous philosophy students trying to overthrow the country to create the Ideal Republic. I’ve never heard any intelligent person spout so much nonsense. It’s a clear sign that intelligence doesn’t prevent you from being stupid.

I liked the ending. It’s obvious this is only part one of a new trilogy, because there are most definitely some loose ends. But it wasn’t a horrible cliffhanger and the story was wrapped up neatly. Plus, it just generally fit the tone of the whole book.

Overall, “Sword Dance” was a great read. It took me a bit of time to really get into it, but once I did, I couldn’t stop. I definitely want to find out what happens next and I’ll also take a look at the author’s other books, some of which are set in the same world as this one.

Cover art: Aud Koch, Cover design by Lennan Adams. I know I said I didn’t remember why I wanted this book. But I have a strong suspicion it was probably due to that utterly gorgeous cover. It’s so different and kind of reminds me of a painting on an ancient vase. The perfect cover for this book!

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal Link

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 265 pages
Published July 31st 2019 by Sexton’s Cottage
ASIN B07VPDNCRG
Edition Language English
Series Sword Dance #1

A MelanieM Review:The Ghost Had an Early Check-Out (The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks #2) by Josh Lanyon

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

To live and draw in L.A.

Now living in Los Angeles with former navy SEAL Nick Reno, artist Perry Foster comes to the rescue of elderly and eccentric Horace Daly, the legendary film star of such horror classics as Why Won’t You Die, My Darling?

Horace owns the famous, but now run-down, Hollywood hotel Angels Rest, rumored to be haunted. But as far as Perry can tell, the scariest thing about Angels Rest is the cast of crazy tenants–one of whom seems determined to bring down the final curtain on Horace–and anyone else who gets in the way.

The second in The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks mystery series, The Ghost Had An Early Check-Out  by Josh Lanyon continues with our newly established couple Nick Reno and Perry Foster now living in LA and working on the dynamics of their relationship and living together.  I love how Josh Lanyon writes relationships…relationships of all kinds and then threads them through her stories.  In this case a mystery story.

Nick is sketching an eerie old Hollywood hotel, an architectural wonder or horror depending upon reviewpoint, when he hears screams coming from the hilltop. That begins Nick’s introduction to Horace Daly, wildly eccentric and on the ancient side, it’s his scream that Nick hears and it’s his mystery that Perry (bringing a reluctant Nick) tumbles into.

It starts with Horace, that crazy hotel and its inhabitants, along with all those old horror movie props.  Lovingly if not gleefully described by the author through her characters. If you have ever watched an old Vincent Price or any other horror movie it that ilk, then you will have no problem imagining the movies, the props, and even Horiace in his heyday.  Perry, inhaler in hand, wants to help Horace who is convinced someone is trying to kill him.  Nick wants to watch over Perry on his time home, not happy its at a dusty old hotel with a quirky old actor asking for his boyfriend’s help.

As usual, there is a whole wonderful cast of secondary characters, even a pet alligator named Wally to help or thwart our heroes in their investigation at the hotel and the danger to Horace.   As the plot twists and turns, our couple also continues to work on their own relationship and love affair, the narrative spotlight turning from the mystery to the couple and back again.  It all intermingles effortlessly and the story moves forward quickly.

The Ghost Had an Early Check-Out (The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks #2) by Josh Lanyon is a wonderful mystery romance, full of terrific characters and a complex storyline.  I love this couple and can’t wait to see what ghostly romp they will fall into next.

Cover art works for the type of mystery the novel is about and sets the tone.

Sales Links:  Amazon | Josh Lanyon Website

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 180 pages
Published December 18th 2018 by JustJoshin Publishing, Inc.
Original TitleThe Ghost Had an Early Check-Out
ASINB07HHNDTSZ
Edition Language English
Series The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks #2
setting Los Angeles, California (United States)