A MelanieM Review: Roughstock: Blind Ride – Season One by B.A. Tortuga

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Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

Blind Ride cover 2Jason Scott is at the top of the field in his career, that of professional bull riding.  Jason, along with his traveling partner and best friend, Andy Baxter, are riding the circuit, both hoping to finish at the top of the boards and win enough money to see each of them set for life.  Jason and Bax have been dancing around the fact that they are crazy about each other.  Each is afraid of losing his best friend if they admit how much they actually love each other. It will take something huge to make a change in their relationship.

Being a professional bullrider is a dangerous game and in one horrible instant everything changes for both Jason and Bax.  When a ride on one of the top bulls goes wrong, an injury to Jason’s head causes him to go blind. Reeling, Jason and Bax retreat to Jason’s family ranch to recover and wonder what’s next for them both.  For Jason, it appears his life is over and he has nothing to live  for.  Bax is determined to prove him wrong, both personally and professionally.

Bax thinks Jason can ride the bulls even blind.  But it will take Bax, his love and their small circle of friends to prove to Jason that even blind bullriders have their life and love ahead of them.

I have a huge fondness for both the Roughstock series and its author, BA Tortuga.  So it pains me when I have to report that this story, while having so many of the great qualities I have come to expect from this series, is guaranteed to frustrate the reader to the point that it is hard to recommend it. First let’s look at the merits of this story.

The characters are wonderful.  Jason “Mini” Scott and Andy “Bax” Baxter are typical of the cowboys you will find in the stories of B.A. Tortuga.  Their personalities are so authentic to the bull riding circuit and the locale that I would also expect to run into them at any PBR event.  They become so real that they feel like a part of your family.  And it is this intimacy that connects the reader to them and their futures.  You feel the dust that coats them as they pick themselves up off the arena floor and the pain their profession inflicts upon their bodies.  They are just so realistic that you hurt for them.  And Tortuga is one of the best authors around when it comes to dialog.  The words that issue out of the mouths of her cowboys ring with authentic local flavor and colloquialisms.  And it does so without being hokey or off sounding.  Here they are heading down the road to get supper:

Bax threw his duffel back, too, sliding into the driver’s side. “So, where to? I figure that one little place where you circle your order will be closed.” “There’s that one place by the highway — about twenty minutes out. It’s nothing but old ranchers taking their women out. Nice T-bones.” And he always got tickled by those tables with the ads printed on them. Reminded him of going to auction with Pa-paw.

“That works.” The big dualie slid right into traffic like an elephant into a herd of zebras, Bax muscling them right in.

They scooted down 35, radio blaring. He found a pack of smokes in the console and lit one for Bax, then got himself one. Three days of rest, then Tulsa.

“You think we ought to try and hit home ‘fore Tulsa?” It was kinda eerie sometimes, the way Bax read his mind. Then again, they’d been on the road together for nigh on six years.

“We can. Momma’d like to see us. ‘Course, we could go on to the city. Goof off. Depends on how much you want Momma’s pineapple upside down cake.”

“Oh, I’d rather go see your momma.” That man did have a sweet tooth. Pineapple upside down was Bax’s very favorite.

“Cool. I’ll call her. Let her know we’ll be in.” He took a deep drag, grinned. Lord, lord. “I hope your knee’s up to riding fence.”

“Shit, you know it. Just don’t ask me to walk fence.” Wheeling around a little Honda, Bax started humming with George on the radio, off tune as anything. “Nah. You wouldn’t be worth shit in Tulsa, then.”

They both hooted, and Jason leaned back, easy in his bones. Man, event win number three. Check in his pocket. Him and Bax heading for steak.

Life, she was good.

Of course, we know it’s all going to change and soon.  But in that short exchange we see the ease and contentment of Jason and Bax’s relationship.  It sings of a friendship long established and perhaps much more.

And once they fess up and go for a full romantic relationship, it is still in keeping with their cowboy ways and personalities.  No flowers here.

 It was like a good ride, all motion and want and spinning. He tried to warn Bax, tried to let the man know he was gonna be way quick off the mark, but it wasn’t happening. And it didn’t seem to matter one bit. Bax was pushing him on, making these amazing noises, just as hot for him as the Fourth of July.

Their relationship is hot, sexy, and emotionally deep.  How we fall for them.

Pretty much everything works here for much of the story.  The narrative suffers a bit from almost too much sex.  We want more of Jason coming to grips with his blindness.  And we want to see exactly how Jason, with Bax and Coke’s help, will learn to ride again.  At one point, even Bax remarks that he and Jason have sex instead of talking.  OK, but as a reader, while I love the hot sex, I want more of the relationship that produces it.

After all I have been through with Jason and Bax, feeling side by side with them on their emotional rollercoaster, I want and deserve to have the emotional payoff I expect at the end of the story.  And that is exactly what’s missing.  No “aha” moment, no ending.  Nothing.  It just stops prior to Jason ever getting back up on a bull, even one on his friend’s ranch.  The emotional reward, the moment everything has been building up to never happens. Frustrating? You betcha.  And totally unexpected from this seasoned author.  And it is this aspect that dragged the rating down to a 3 star rating.

So who should read this book?  Well, hard core fans of B.A. Tortuga for one as well as fans of the Roughstock series.  Coke, AJ, Bax and Jason are the core characters of the Roughstock series so its good to have this part of the story.  But that lack of ending just makes me want to grab a beer and go watch some PBR instead of continuing to bemoan what could have been an outstanding book.

Cover art by Posh Gosh.  I like this cover, it feels more representative of the story and characters.  Terrific job.

Sales Links:  Pride Publications |  Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, Pride Publications (a LGBT imprint of Totally Bound, now Totally Entwined)
Published July 7th 2015 by Totally Bound Publishing (first published January 1st 2007)
original titleRoughstock: Blind Ride – Season One
ISBN139781784306397
edition languageEnglish
seriesRoughstock #1
charactersJason Scott, Andy Baxter settingUnited States

Books in the Roughstock series:

Roughstock: Blind Ride — Season One – Novel, m/m, core
Give it Time: the Seven of Wands – Novella, m/m
Roughstock: And a Smile — Season One – Novel, m/m, core
Doce — A Roughstock Story – Novella, m/m
Amorzinhos — A Roughstock Story – Novela, m/m, threesome
Roughstock: File Gumbo — Season One – Novel, m/m, core
Roughstock: And a Smile — Coke’s Clown – Novela, m/m,
Shutter Speed, A Roughstock Story: the Seven of Pentacles – Novella, m/m
Roughstock: City/Country – Novel, m/f
Roughstock: Picking Roses – Novel, m/f
Needing To: A Roughstock Story – Novella, m/m

Upcoming Roughstock Novels
Roughstock: What She Wants – Novel, m/m/f
Roughstock: Tag Team – Season Two – Novel, m/m
Roughstock: Terremoto – Season Two- Novel, m/m

Roughstock Shorts:
Cowboy Christmas (Coke and Dillon)
Barbed Wire and Bootheels (Sam and Beau)
Some Good Doctoring (CB and Jonesy) – Free Read

 

A Stella Review: Two Howls (ALPHAS #4) by Sean Michael

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Two Howls coverMax is on the run, but is he running from his past, or toward his future? Only Ulf knows…

Werewolf Max knows desiring males is wrong, but he can’t help himself. When his pack nearly kills him in an attempt to cleanse him, Max runs. Jumping on his motorcycle, he heads north.

Ulf has lived on his own in the wilds of Northern Ontario for a long time. When he catches the scent of a stranger in his territory, he’s angry at first, until he realizes that Max is more than just another werewolf. They’re mates.

Ulf must make Max believe that two males can be mates, but just as he’s about to succeed, Max’s past catches up with him. Will the home they’ve been hoping to build together be lost for good?

I’d like to do a little premise. Two Howls by Sean Michael is the second book I read in this new ALPHA series from All Romance eBooks. I read and reviewed Jumping In by Cardeno C too. Sean Michael and Cardeno C are two of my fave authors, but in my opinion in this series something didn’t work it well. As I already said in the previous review, in this case too, Two Howls didn’t do justice to Sean’s works. Of course the choice to publish stories so short didn’t help with the plot but it can’t be used as a excuse. Nevertheless I was left with a lot of blanks to fill.

The little plot we got is really interesting. Max is on the run, he escaped from his homophobic pack that almost killed him, just cause he’s a gay wolf. He finds a lonely little cabin in the woods and decides to stop there to rest for a while. What he doesn’t know is that the cabin isn’t abandoned but it’s where another werewolf lives, not just anyone but his mate.

The rest of the story shows us a lot of sex between Ulf and Max, used as a way to persuade Max that they are truly mates and that he needs to learn to trust Max and his protection. There is some action at the end that definitely improved my enjoyment.

It was an ok-read to me, maybe in some way a typical shifters story, but if you like alpha men, hot shifters and abused characters, you can give a chance to Two Howls.

Cover art by unknown. Nothing great about it but I like it, especially the choice of the colors.

Sales Links:  Available only at All Romance (ARe)   Buy It Here

Book Details:

Published February 4th 2015 by OmniLit / All Romance eBooks, LLC
ebook, 56 pages
ASIN B00U37BOU0
Edition language English
SERIES Alphas #4

 

A MelanieM Review: A Curse on the Mountain by Missouri Dalton

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

A Curse on the Mountain CoverLong ago the god Cai  was torn from the mortal woman he loved by Death and his fellow gods refused to let them reunite.  In a rage born of loss and pain, Cai cursed a city and watched his curse doom generation after generation of humans who live on a mountainside made almost inhabitable by Cai’s curse.

Perched on a mountaintop surrounded by a frigid swamp, the rain never stops in the cursed city of Var Eldore.  Here a former pleasure slave Myr lives in hiding, trying to stay a step ahead of his captor. But Myr is far more than he realizes, and fate has other plans for him. Reunited with his mate Ryall and their daughter Quinn, Myr and  his family gathers together a group of disenchanted soldiers, spies, nobles, and wizards  to oppose the king and all he stands for.  This includes certain nobles and their houses who perpetuate slavery   Myr and his following intend to fight for the freedom of their land. As they uncover secrets and conspiracies, each more tangled than the last, Myr also discovers he has unique abilities to aid their cause—the Redeemers.

As the strength of the Redeemers grows, so does the number of enemies they must face. Each member of their alliance has his or her own demons to battle, and Myr must confront the truth about himself and become the leader they need. Alongside his lover Ryall and the people who have become his family—as well as some unlikely friends—Myr and the Redeemers must prepare for war. If they fall, the city in the rain will follow.

I fell in love with Missouri Dalton when I discovered her Guidebook series (a must read that included Necromancy and You) as well as her Night Wars (The Hanged Man’s Ghost..)series.  Both are exceptional supernatural series which can always be found high on my Recommendations lists.  So I was thrilled to see a new story from Dalton from Dreamspinner Press and gobbled it up with  a certain amount of anticipation and glee.  But what I found didn’t live up to my high expectations for this author and book blurb.

What was amazing about The Curse on the Mountain was Missouri Dalton’s world building.  From the vengeful god Cai to the denizens of Var Eldore, Dalton brings alive a city dark, icy cold and constantly wet from the endless rains and snow.  Life is perilous unless you are weathy and on the right side of the King.  For those who are poor, out of favor and just unfortunate enough to block someone’s ambitions or path to power, well, then death would be favored over the imprisonment, slavery or torture that follows.   The author’s descriptions can give the reader a good case of the shivers based on the people and places that appear in her narrative.

Even Dalton’s characters hold out such promise for a suspenseful and rich story.  Myr, Ryall, and fierce adopted daugher Quinn are terrifically realized people and I would have loved to have seen a story that truly focused in on them, their past history, their love and fight for freedom.  Had that happened this would have been a different review.

But instead, Dalton starts piling on more characters,  more relationships (old and new) as well as couples who meet, come together, mate, part so quickly that they mimic the life of a mayfly.  Here and gone in a blink of a moment.  Or if they reappear, its as sudden and short lived as their first appearance.  Relationships and people age in a flash as time moves swiftly by as the Redeemers rebellion gains in power and strength and then we flash back to the past and prior events.  And along with that ever changing time line the author gives us side stories with Cai, foul supporters of the King, evil creatures, back to Myr and Ryall, past and present, all starts to cram together until it has all the density of a 10 year old fruit cake.  Yo can tell it is comprised of many different elements you would enjoy but it’s become so dense and unwieldy that it has become inedible. For me, that’s The Curse on the Mountain.

Dalton just piled on too many characters, plot threads, and elements that all get lost amidst the jumble of timelines, storylines, and relationships that keep folding back on each other.  Even if you start to get a glimmer of feeling and interest in certain beings and events, the focus moves away to another part of the story and the power of those characters is lost.  It makes it nigh to impossible to feel a connection to any of these people and their situations and the frustrations build as the reader tries to make sense of some of the events and happenings that occur…some threads I never did untangle in my mind. I mean I just take a look at my notes on the story and after a while all I see is a list of names and places and question marks.  It’s never a good sign when you feel you should have to storyboard a novel to make sense of it all.  Sigh.

Still because of the promise of the world building, the terrific mythology Dalton creates and the largess of the scope of her story, The Curse on the Mountain deserves a 3 star rating.  If you are a Missouri Dalton fan, you might want to pick this up and enjoy the elements I have talked about.  But if you are new to this author, I would recommend you start with her other series that I mentioned above.  They are marvelously addicting and will give you a true taste of this author’s many talents  as a storyteller and her wonderful writing skills.  Just thinking about those stories prompts me to pull them up on my Kindle again.

Cover art by Paul Richmond.  Loved this glorious cover, from its design to the colors used, it works on every level.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press        All Romance (ARe)      Amazon     Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 214 pages, also available in paperback
Published December 29th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781632162823
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com

A Sammy Review: Unfortunate Son (Sons #1) by Shae Connor

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Unfortunate Son coverAfter being dishonorably discharged from the military and disowned by his family, Evan Day turns to the world of porn. For Trevor Hardball, Evan’s porn persona, everything comes easily. He can focus himself, knows the way around a good scene… things as Evan aren’t so easy. He’s still dealing with the scars war left internally, not to mention to pain of losing his family, lover, and job all at once.

One night, Riley literally falls into his lap. He’s not Evan’s typical type, but somehow he just intrigues Evan, and after a night of steamy sex, Evan can’t seem to get him off his mind. But life is full of surprises, including his mom reaching back out to him, and Riley’s cold exterior after a hot night…

Their paths may have been different, but they’d ended up much in the same place: isolated, so alone in so many ways, and yet here, together, sharing desire and intimacy.

When I read the blurb for this, I was pretty excited. With porn stars, military, and a loss that’s sure to be gut wrenching, what’s not to love? It should’ve hit all the right buttons, but I’m afraid it was pretty much a complete miss for me.

There was quite a bit of “honey” and other little phrases that just became overused very quickly. It even had me rolling my eyes when a third character started to use them too. It was just… too much. That takes me to another point, which is that I don’t think the characters had enough of their own personality. They all seemed to come from the same template with some slight changes, but I didn’t feel like they were different. For me, it was at times like reading different versions of the same person.

On top of that, the book tries to tackle a lot of issues. Evan had nightmares, sometimes has some conflict between himself as Trevor and Evan, lost his lover and his brother, was disowned by his family (who are now trying to win him back), then you have his best friends in a large part of the story, and then we take Riley who also has family issues and who knows what else – we don’t really get to know, as we hear very little about Riley as a person. I understand that people in general have a lot of stuff happen in their life (to put it mildly), but this was just too much for the author to try to tackle.

I was also very uncomfortable toward the end when there was a BDSM scene that went very wrong, and we knew it would from the very start… but Evan still went into it. We never do find out what happens with that – or Riley’s family.

Having so many issues in one book made it easy to forget to resolve things, or to resolve them too quickly. Besides just the two things I mentioned above, the issue with Evan’s family is fixed super nice and neatly, but then the issue of his nightmares and all the other issues in his life are not paid much attention to.

All of these things got to me, but I think that even if those were all resolved, I would still have a problem in that I did not connect with the characters, and I certainly did not connect with their relationship. I honestly felt more connection in Evan’s porn scene with Adam than I did between Riley and Evan, which made me quite dissatisfied.

That being said, I think the author has potential. The writing wasn’t terrible, and she certainly doesn’t lack for ideas. It’s just a matter of knowing when and how to use them, and making sure that everything is actually treated with the time and respect it needs. If that can’t happen, it probably shouldn’t be in the story at all.

The cover art by Paul Richmond unfortunately did nothing to add flare to the book. I’ve seen Paul do a lot of really great work and praised it, but this isn’t necessarily one of those. Sure, it’s fine, but it’s pretty bland. There’s nothing particularly special about it, and as someone pointed out, it appears that the flag, if considering the height of the model and the way the flag is positioned, is likely touching the ground, something seen as taboo in normal society – so having a model who is meant to depict an ex-marine hold a flag that could be touching the ground is a bit unsettling. To put it simply, I’ve seen Paul do far better.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press eBook & Paperback   All Romance (ARe)    Amazon     Buy it here

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Expected publication: January 12th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press LLC
original titleUnfortunate Son
ISBN139781632165312
edition languageEnglish
seriesSons #1

 

A MelanieM Review: Otter Madness by Winnie Jerome

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5:

All I Want For Christmas Otter MaddnessOtter shifter Bryon is not happy.  His terrible boss wants him to work on Christmas and his mage boyfriend has been distant and uncommunicative lately.  What is an wereotter to do?  Get in trouble, that’s what.  When Byron goes snooping around his boyfriend’s workshop, he accidentally unleashes a second Bryon.  Now with two Bryons on the loose, can his boyfriend Lucas handle two mischievous, highly-sexed shifters just in time for Christmas?

Uh…wow.  Otter Madness is a perfect title for this wild concoction of a holiday story.  It contains nothing less than two wereotters ( should I say one were otter and one wereotter doppleganger), a homophobic boss, a mage boyfriend who is also a Dom, and quite a bit of bdsm toys and kinky sex scenes.  Mix that all together in 27 pages and you end up with a wild mess of a Christmas tale with some very funny elements, some sexy kinky bits and some things that are just so discordant that the story goes awry.

For me the best scenes in this story are the ones with Bryon in his otter form.  Jerome manages to convey the playfulness, the joy, and willy-nilly scatteredness of an otter in motion during these scenes.  But for every scene that reveals just how great it must be to be an otter rolling about in the towels, Jerome then gives us something to shudder at. A homophobic boss who is so unpleasant (calling Bryon and his boyfriend the “f” word and more) that you wonder why Bryon still wants to be employed there. . It’s just such an ugly segment, ok that whole restaurant segment is awful, that I can’t begin to understand why it was included.

Then there is the Bryon on Bryon sex, the D/s relationship between Bryon (and eventually Bryon) and Lucas, that  D/s relationship that never quite works because you don’t get enough of the personalities behind it to make it viable.  Otters are smart, playful, inventive, and high energy.  Submissive?  What is it about Bryon that makes that a part of his emotional makeup?  We haven’t a clue, especially when the second Bryon shows up and doesn’t quite seem to have the same personality even though they are supposed to be identical.  The story just continues on its messy way, dilly dallying over the kinky sex through a story that never quite comes to an end.

A wereotter is a terrible shifter to waste.  The mere creation of such a wonderful shifter elevated this story to a 3 star rating.  It’s antics, in his human form, kept it there.  It’s the holidays.  If any of the above appeal to you, then this is the story for you.  Other than that, treat it as the otter madness it is.

Torquere Holiday Sip generic cover is used, the artist is not given credit in this release.

Sales: Torquere Books        All Romance        amazon             buy it here

Book Details:

ebook, 27 pages
Published December 11th 2013 by Torquere Press (first published December 10th 2013)

A MelanieM Review: Billionaire with Benefits (Romancelandia #2) by Anne Tenino

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Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

 It’s just a friend thing.

BillionaireWithBenefits_400x600For fourteen years  Tierney Terrebonne’, of the Ambulance  Service owning Terrebonne family, has been in love with his best friend, Ian Kelly. Someone he thought was straight and therefore off limits.  But the truth was that his best friend was gay and in love with someone else.  That was a reality that Tierney couldn’t and didn’t handle very well.  Weighed down from years of emotional repression from his authoritative grandfather, Tierney has stayed firmly in the closet where his parents and brother prefers him to remain.  But the cost to Tierney results in a man losing his battles with alcohol abuse and a pattern of self destructive behavior that is costing him the few friends he has left.  Including the one he thinks he is still in love with.

Dalton Lehnart’s life has been one of rejection and rebounding, over and over again.  From parents that threw him away when he was outed in high school, to a series of wealthy, damaged, closeted, lying, cheating, no-good, cowardly men, who kept him…for a while, temporary has been Dalton’s middle name. But now Dalton has a job he likes, and good friends so things are looking up.  Then Tierney Terrebonne weaves into his boss’s office, reaking of booze and demands. Of course Dalton finds he’s immediately attracted to Tierney Terrebonne. Damaged men are his thing, right?

Somehow as Tierney tilts towards a complete meltdown, Dalton is there trying to save the man he sees underneath the posturing and self destructive alcohol-induced behavior.  When Tierney outs himself in the worst possible manner on the worst possible moment, the aftermath finds Tierney checking into rehab and Dalton is there with support.

Dalton soon finds out that timing is everything when the post rehab Tierney can’t  handle anything other than friendship, just when Dalton thinks they might have something more.  That should make it easy for Dalton to leave it at friendship, shouldn’t it?  But what if the safest thing for them both isn’t the best thing for both?  What happens when “just a friend thing” isn’t enough?

I love Anne Tenino.  Her characters have such heart and life to them that’s its almost impossible to leave them behind when the story is done.  I definitely felt that way about Sam and Ian Kelly from the first Romancelandia story, Too Stupid To Live (Romancelandia #1).  Sam was so endearing and hug worthy that he almost levitated off the pages.  Adding Ian Kelly to Sam brought about a romance that was funny, heartwarming, and real.  Luckily, for this story, both have large roles to play out here.  Why is that such an important aspect to Billionaire with Benefits?  Because without them and the character of Dalton Lehnart, this book would sink under the weight of Tierney Terrebonne, a character so problematic that living inside his head is painful and sad at best, irritating and prolonged at the worst.

The story switches pov from Tierney to Dalton and back, but for the most part, its Tierney’s head we live inside.  We are present for all his repressed thoughts and feelings, his sense of entitlement, his endless bouts with the bottle and feelings of insecurity.  We are there through all the countless drunks and sobering mornings, the meanness and the apologies (a pattern anyone familiar with substance abuse will recognize).  He, himself, understands that he is acting like a “douchebag”, a term I’m not fond of.  He’s an extraordinarily well written believable mess of a man, a character so well defined by his issues and past that he is both identifiable and authentic.  And he is the voice for the majority of this story.

How the reader handles that intimacy with such a exasperating character will figure into how well they enjoy or commit to this story.  For me, it felt like spending time with someone with a large substance abuse problem, a person I was not particularly fond of.  I didn’t start to appreciate Tierney until I was able to see him through the eyes of Dalton, a man with a weakness for damaged men with his own angst filled past to boot.  And even then,Dalton was far more the interesting and relatable personality.  Dalton I totally enjoyed, from his perspective on life to his attempts to be supportive while raising enough barriers to keep himself emotionally safe.  Of course, Dalton too is well written, so we can see  how that is going to work out for him.  I think had the time spent within this story been reversed, so that’s its Dalton’s voice we hear most of the time, my feelings about Billionaire with Benefits would be more positive and the rating higher.

The last element  that bothered me was the miracle of “rehab”.  Two weeks and an almost lifetime of alcohol abuse is dealt with successfully.  While a far more realistic approach to Tierney’s recovery and life as a recovering alcoholic would have required almost as many pages as it took him to get there, even a shortened version of the real thing would have made this aspect of the story more believable as Tierney becomes sober.

So again, what saved this story?  Apart from Dalton that is? The inclusion of Sam, lovely, light-hearted, romance story loving Sam.  And Ian of course.  Sam and Ian’s interaction with Dalton amused and informed (along with the romance novels Sam loves so well).  They added just the right type and tone of perspective on Tierney and Dalton that the reader required, and the balance of their relationship versus what was happening with Tierney and Dalton was a welcome relief.

Billionaire with Benefits seems to be along the same time line as Too Stupid Too Live, with some of the same events occuring in both.  This works so both stories can be read as stand alones or together to round out the time frame and relationships between all the reoccurring characters.  Next up is Miller’s story, one I have been waiting on.  I can’t wait to see Miller have his own HEA.  As for Billionaire with Benefits, some will love it, others not. I will leave it up to you as to whether it appears on your TBR list or not.

Cover artist: L.C. Chase.  Love that cover.  It’s adorable and lighthearted, far more so than this book. I only wished I liked the story inside half as well.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing   All Romance eBooks  amazon   Billionaire with Benefits

Book Details:

ebook, 415 pages
Published October 18th 2014 by Riptide Publishing
original titleBillionaire with Benefits (Romancelandia #2)
ISBN139781626491960
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://riptidepublishing.com/titles/billionaire-with-benefits
seriesRomancelandia #2
charactersTierney Terrebonne

Romancelandia Series, all can be read as standalones or together:

Too Stupid to Live (Romancelandia, #1)
Billionaire with Benefits (Romancelandia #2)

A MelanieM Review: Confetti, Cake & Confessions by K.C. Wells

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Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

Confetti, Cake and Confessions jpgIt’s been eight years since Tony Porter and Marc Powell moved into the same house and joined their families when their single parents moved in together. When Tony’s mother Marie and Marc’s father Dennis decide to finally get married, it should be a reason to celebrate and make merry.  But there’s an unknown problem.  Tony and his feelings for his step brother Marc.  Tony moved out of the house as soon as he recognized the feelings growing for Marc and now he is facing having to spend 2 weeks at home, in Marc’s constant presence, and he’s not sure how he is going to handle it.

Marc too is coming home from college and he has no idea that Tony has been in love with him since Marc was sixteen.  Their parents are depending upon the boys to make this time a special family celebration, and need them to help make it the best time for all.  But high emotions, secrets, and confusion have a way of coming out and two weeks is just long enough for that to happen.  Weddings are a time for confetti, cake, and, just maybe a few confessions.

The description and cover for K.C. Well’s story Confetti, Cake, & Confessions give the impression this is a frothy, fun story of misunderstandings and romance but I’m not sure that’s the story the readers get.   True, there are plenty of misunderstandings and romance here but the atmosphere is definitely not one of fun or froth!

Did I enjoy it?  Definitely many elements of it.  It’s very well written and the characters and their behavior are so fitting for young men of that age.  I recognized the truth of K.C. Wells’ characters.  The angst and confusion that occurs over some of the drama and “complications” that arise felt so familiar because I have had children just that age. Teens, or those just twenty, when all the emotions and feelings and obstacles loom so large, unmanageable, and  occasionally forbidding.   All that conveys beautifully within the story and yes, it does make Tony and Marc both understandably real and vulnerable.  However, it also felt frustratingly long and overcomplicated.  I know at points I just wanted to poke them and say “communication does wonders”.  That frame of mind does not readily give into the romance that is supposed to be taking place.  Realistic?  Yes.  Romantic?  No.  At least for me.

What did I think was so well done?  The self examination and doubt that comes with the road to acceptance and understanding of a young man’s sexuality. That plays out beautifully here.  At times, painful, confusing, a barrel of mixed up emotions that have to be figured out before any growth or movement can take place within the characters all felt absolutely believable.

There are other aspects of this story that other readers might have issue with.  The first being that Tony and Marc are step brothers.  This is not a case of incest as the young men are not related, not even by marriage until the end.  But those readers who look at the most strict definition of family will be bothered by the close familial ties.  That didn’t bother me.  Marc and Tony had only lived together for eight years, not all of their lives and Marc’s dad is still alive.  What else might  bother some readers?  The age of Marc and Tony.  Again, while not quite Romeo and Juliet’s age, I found this aspect of the plot to be spot on.  Remember when you first started having feelings for someone else?  Fifteen and sixteen isn’t unusual to start thinking about sexuality and who you are attracted to.  K.C. Wells does a wonderful job of treating this element with sensitivity and restraint.

I think it all came down to the ending that felt a little unrealistic for me.  It felt rushed and perhaps too simple for all that went before to have it so easily resolved.  Then again, others may be cheering and thinking that’s the best part of Confetti, Cake & Confessions.  This story can go so many ways with so many different types of readers, depending upon their outlook on family and age, that it is hard to predict where its audience lies.   Some readers will adore this story, others not so much.   To those fans of K.C. Wells, I think you will enjoy this.  For all other readers, think about the story content and decide for yourself.

Cover art by Meredith Russell, whose lovely design and models make you want to reach out and grab up this story.

Sales Links:        All Romance eBooks  (ARe)       amazon   Confetti, Cake & Confessions

 Book Details:

ebook, 180 pages
Published September 29th 2014 by Island Tales press
edition languageEnglish
urlhttps://www.facebook.com/IslandTalesPress

A MelanieM Review: DMZ by Andrea Speed

Standard

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

DMZIn college, Carlo Langlois had a secret crush on Ky Kinnaird, a straight jock who was everything wonderful in Carlos’ opinion.  But Carlos was shy, gay, and didn’t run in the same circles so he didn’t think Ky was even aware he existed.  Fast forward to the present.  Carlos is  a member of the diplomatic corps, he’s in a foreign and hostile nation, and he’s in a world of trouble.  His helicopter was shot down and now he needs rescuing and medical attention.

Who does MI-6 send in to  extract him but Ky Kinnaird, a secret agent and his old crush.  Secrets come out and the old attraction flares up, now only if Ky can keep Carlo alive enough to see if they have a future ahead.

DMZ from Andrea Speed reads more like a single chapter from a larger story than a complete story itself.  It has many good elements going for it.  A narrative that manages to convey a sense of urgency and moment to moment terror of discovery as well as a sense of loss and emptiness of buildings and  people damaged by too much warfare and bombardment.

The characters too are intriguing from the snippets we get of their backgrounds and mutual history.  I just wish that all the great little elements added up to a piece of substance.  One that feels complete instead of just a pulled out section of a larger story.

I love Andrea Speed and if you are new to this author, I think I would explore her other stories first before picking up this one.   It’s tempting enough for me to wish that Speed uses it as a platform for a larger novel or series.

Cover art by L.C. Chase.  Wow. What a dramatic cover!  One of the Best of the Month! Love it.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press     All Romance eBook (ARe)     amazon         DMZ

 

Book Details:

ebook, 29 pages
Published October 1st 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1632161044 (ISBN13: 9781632161048)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://andreaspeed.com/

Review: Burning Ashes by H. Lewis-Foster

Standard

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Burning Ashes coverAustralian cricketer Nat Seddon is one of the world’s best bowlers. He is also gay and out to his team mates.  His life revolves around cricket, his sex life around casual hookups and friends with benefits.  Until he sees Scott Alverley, England’s promising new batsman.  On the last day of his team’s “Ashes” tour of England, Nat spies golden Scott Alverley across the field and is instantly smitten.  But the young man plays for his old “enemy” and Nat doesn’t even know if Scott is gay.

Scott Alverley is a son of privilege.  A true golden boy in coloring and heritage, all Scott has ever wanted is to  play cricket and be accepted for who he is.   Years of boarding school have taught Scott to keep his sexuality a carefully guarded secret until he meets Nat Seddon.  Nat is everything Scott has ever dreamed of but what is a young virgin to do when he meets the experienced man of his dreams?

Scott and Nat’s attraction to each other proves to  be something far deeper, a real love each man expects to last.  But Nat and Scott play for teams separated by more than an ocean.  Constantly pulled apart by schedules and geographical residences, Nat and Scott try to make the best of it all.  Until they can’t.  What will give in the tournament of love?  Who will be the victor and win the cup of Ashes?  Can they both come out on top in the contest for love?

You don’t have to be a fan of cricket or even knowledgeable about the game to enjoy the love story at the heart of Burning Ashes.  It’s a very sweet love story that has its foundation on the playing field of cricket and crosses continents in its tale of love and the pursuit of a relationship that will stretch over the years.  H. Lewis-Foster has created a very wholesome and mostly angst free tale of gay love on and off the cricket field, a game that Robin Williams describes as “baseball on valium”.  So its probably a good thing, especially for American readers, that an understanding of cricket and those that play it isn’t necessary in order to make sense of this story.  True that Scott and Nat are batsman but as long as you can relate to men whose lives revolve around a sport, both as players and as men who deeply love the game they are involved in, then that aspect of Burning Ashes becomes real.

I have to admit I still don’t understand the title even after having read the book anymore than I understand cricket.  I loved the author’s descriptions of England and Australia right down to the way the two cultures feel about the weather and the heat.  It seems all very authentic, including the affection Lewis-Foster feels for the two countries and their outlook on sports, which is a good thing considering the story will track over both continents as the men travel with their cricket teams to various matches and tournaments.

My only real issue with the story is not the game but the relationship that is built between Scott and Nat.  Considering the age of the men, the relationship and their almost courtly parade towards love comes across as almost Pollyanna in tone and mildness.  They meet, fall in love, separate, miss each other, come back together, make love and tell each other how much they missed each other.  It’s all very ordinary and sweet, everything you might expect in a tale of a first love that becomes a final one.  It never becomes cloying but it also never climbs above the middling sweetness either.  It takes a certain writer to  elevate a story that is kind, sweet, and even toned into a book that makes even the most  mundane of events dramatic and vivid in description.  This is not that author or book.

If all you are looking for in a story is a lovely, sweet romance of no real depth or angst, then Burning Ashes is the book for you.  It is a  nice way to spend the day.  But if you are looking for memorable characters, sweeping storylines, and a compelling romance, then this will disappoint in every way.  Consider this recommended with reservations.

Cover art by Leah Kaye Suttle.  It’s a lovely cover and a good match for the story inside.

H. Lewis-Foster (0101-01-01T00:00:00+00:00). Burning Ashes (Kindle Location 11). Dreamspinner Press. Kindle Edition.

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published October 11th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1627981977 (ISBN13: 9781627981972)
edition language English

A MelanieM Review: David’s Dilemma by Rae Brewer

Standard

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

“Two shifters walk into a bar…”

Jaguar Bk 4Panthera Agency Operative Johnny Walking Bear is in San Francisco for a case. A head cold is making him miserable but with the job not starting until Monday, Johnny wants to take advantage of the city and a free weekend to enjoy eating out, drinking and having lots of sex.  Especially the sex now that he is away from his family home and siblings.  Johnny wants a mate but while he’s looking some honey and mead would make this bear shifter very happy.

Cat shifter David Kern is very unhappy at the moment.  Another confrontation with his ex has David depressed and looking for a diversion.  When his friends call to invite him for a night out at the bars, not even his nasty cold can deter David from a night of clubbing and the chance for a hookup.

So two shifters walk into a bar, in this case David and Johnny.  Their attraction to each other is immediate and intense. No wonder that they end up in bed together at the end of the night.  Their night together is memorable and sexy.  Neither wants the night to be over but Johnny has a job to do. He  leaves David’s house without leaving his name or contact  information.  What neither shifter is aware of is that they are mates.  Between David’s cold blocking his senses and Johnny’s drunken state and cold, neither could sniff out the truth before they parted.

What is a shifter to do when a chance encounter brings him the very mate he has always wanted but he doesn’t realize it at the time?  Through a series of mishaps, miscommunications and wrong assumptions, David and Johnny have  a rocky road to love and HEA, one that also comes with a secret organization  with evil plans who might just be the biggest obstacle of them all.

Rae Brewer’s David’s Dilemma has some terrific elements to it.  One of my favorites is the premise.  Two shifters unable to use their senses, one because of a head cold, the other because he’s drunk, meet, connect, have great sex and then part.  What they miss is that they are a mated pair because neither could smell out the truth at the moment.  That’s funny, a great use of natural history and kind of poignant.  I only wish Brewer has used this element to its fullest promise, instead it gets a temporary treatment and then its gone.

Another great aspect of this story is the bear shifter clan that Johnny belongs to.  Here bear natural history and behavior comes across beautifully.  Large, lumbering, that Johnny is a bear  shifter is evident from his actions to his physiology.  Throw in a terrific family unit of healers and other gifts, and the package is complete.  Again, this book could have focused on the Walking Bear  clan alone and made me a happy reader.  That was a fully realized group of characters and their household was one I could have spent much more time in.

But most of this story deals with other elements.  There is the David/Johnny hookup and mishaps to follow.  That was kind of charming even though I never felt that Brewer made her panther/bear pairing believable.  Also this is the fourth story in the Panthera Agency series and the only one that I have read.  They seem to be a lesser part of this story until the ending.  I couldn’t get a real feel for what they do other than they are run by a group of shifters who help locate and return missing shifters to their families.

That agency and Johnny’s job felt less solid and less an integral part of this story than perhaps Brewer had planned.  It needed more background into the agency  and its operatives to make sense of the events that followed and to understand who all the characters mentioned fit into the story and series.  Brewer also throws in a twist that comes off as more contrived than believable.  Someone realizes they have been drugged and their reaction is almost nonchalant?  This part of the story alone called for a suspension of belief that it was never going to get, as did all the events that stemmed from that act that followed.

I wish Brewer has almost made this into a shifter romcom.  That premise just begged for a lighter treatment and narrative.  That is was bogged down in a less than stellar sort of espionage  plot towards the end made little sense  while making those elements of the story that were well done stand out starkly in contrast.  Which is did by bringing in the Walking Bear family to reintroduce a semblance of a well achieved characterizations to that chaotic ending.

So David’s Dilemma is a bit of a mixed bag here.  Some elements were wonderful, others did not achieve the same level of believability and completeness.  The decision is yours.

Cover art: Jess Buffetf.  Loved this cover.  Great job.

Sales Links:          All Romance         Amazon         David’s Dilemma

 

Book Details:
ebook
Published August 26th 2014 by Smashwords Edition, JK Publishing
ISBN139781311637376