A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Riven (Riven #1) by Roan Parrish

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Theo Decker is a rock star—his dream come true. But he hates it. Give him his music and he’s happy, but give him paparazzi, crowds of fans, and no privacy and he’s immobilized with fear. He’s even socially awkward around his bandmates. Riven was a three-person band looking for a lead singer who could compose music when they happened to connect—a match made in heaven, or at least in rock star heaven. But they were all friends before Theo joined them so he continually finds himself on the outside looking in. Uncomfortable is almost too mild a word to describe how he feels both on and off stage when he’s on tour with them.

Caleb Blake Whitman is a formerly famous brilliant musician and a currently recovering drug addict. His fear of relapsing again (his fourth time) is so huge that he’s secluded himself at a cabin in the woods and spends most of his time alone and in his vegetable garden. A former bandmate and lover, Rhys, visits frequently and supports him wholeheartedly. He also has support from his sponsor, Huey, an old codger who says little, but knows much about life.

When the two meet, it’s like the stars collide. Theo is over-the-top excited to meet someone like Caleb and Caleb is in awe of Theo’s talent. As their relationship moves from friends to friends-with-benefits to more, however, Caleb is frightened of the thought of relapse. And he knows it will happen if he allows himself to enter Theo’s world. After all, each time he tried to stay clean in the past, it was something related to touring with his band that triggered him into relapse, and though he wants this time to be different, he’s deathly afraid it won’t be.

What happens along the way makes for a complex and beautiful love story. The author’s treatment of addiction, recovery, triggers, and the need for a sponsor and an outlet for the fears is spot-on. Her portrayal of Theo as a young, insecure musical genius was totally different from what I expected and absolutely perfect for this story. Caleb and Theo belong together and readers should enjoy their journey. It’s not an easy one but there is an HEA and for that I was most thankful.

I highly recommend this story to lovers of MM romance, especially to those who love a story featuring musicians, age gap, hurt-comfort, addiction recovery, and just plain love.

A note about the cover: This is a stunning cover – the best I’ve seen in a long time, unfortunately the cover artist is not listed in the ARC. Most of the cover is solid black with a view of the MC, Theo Decker, through the thick lettering of the title: RIVEN. The author’s name appears below in thin white lettering. This cover is unique and extremely well done.

Sales LInks:  Penguin House | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 235 pages
Expected publication: May 29th 2018 by Loveswept
Original TitleRiven
ASINB0755Z3SH1
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesRiven #1

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Cold Shadow (Cold Country #2) by Mercy Celeste

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

This story was powerfully moving, deeply chilling, and amazingly complex. But before I even begin to review it, I need to share some of the triggers that may be problems for some readers. I know I was caught off guard by a few of them and, though they are definitely issues for some people, I was honestly shocked that they didn’t turn me away from this riveting drama.

So proceed with caution if any of these are your triggers because the scenes are vivid and realistic in many of these situations: descriptions of past rape, abuse, and torture; dubious consent; rough, often violent, sex scenes; cheating—on multiple occasions; ménage, and with it, double penetration.

Where to start? First of all, to understand this story you really need to read book one first: In From the Cold in which Nathan Truman was kidnapped, raped, tortured, and brutalized at the hands of a law enforcement coworker turned monster. Nathan’s high school best friend and lover, now deeply closeted—but still involved with him—country western superstar, Quinn Anders, was able to save Nathan’s life with help from FBI Agent, Drew Walker, a secondary character in book one. As book one ended, Nathan and Quinn had made plans to be together quietly and out of the limelight, but to be committed and to raise Quinn’s daughter by an early marriage together. Their relationship would be low profile to the world at large, but known to those closest to them, and Nathan would go back to work in law enforcement. It would be for the local sheriff’s office after he had time to make peace with what happened and heal both physically and, hopefully, psychologically from the trauma.

And that’s where this book opens, but the quiet life they planned falls apart early in the story as someone is kidnapping and maiming Hispanic workers from Truman Steel and the FBI sends in an undercover officer to assess the situation. The officer they send, complete with lip piercings and a whole lot of attitude, is none other than Drew Walker, the Feeb from book one. Apparently his mother is Hispanic and he was raised in a household of Spanish-speaking family members so he’s able to fit in comfortably. Assisting him in getting into the plant is Nathan’s sister, Natalie, who’s now the manager, and Natalie’s boyfriend, the Hispanic foreman.

The story is way too complex to try to condense in any sort of detail in a review, however, it’s easy to sum up in generalizations. First and foremost, there’s apparently a lot more going on with Nathan’s and Quinn’s relationship than most people know—both now and in the past. Quinn not only loves rough and violent sex, he’s participated in it during many past occasions and has not remained faithful to Nathan. In fact, there’s a history there between he and Drew, the man who was portrayed as straight in book one. And Nathan is sexually attracted to Drew as well. As mentioned before, this story features ménage—some pretty hot ménage, to be sure—including a scene of double penetration. But it’s the violence that might turn some readers away. Though they ostensibly love each other, there is very little tender sex between Nathan and Quinn. In fact, it’s most often brutal.

Add to that, Nathan’s nightmares of his past kidnapping, and Quinn’s behaviors when he was addicted to drugs and alcohol early in his career and sold himself for a high, and you get the picture. Now, with the new round of kidnappings and mutilation of the victims, the terror comes closer when Natalie’s boyfriend goes missing. When one of the men is then taken while out hunting the kidnapper, all will have to put their personal needs, plans, and lies aside to bring the killer to justice. And though the culprit may be a shocker, the danger is not lessened when booby traps get triggered.

Honestly, as I write this review, I wonder how I can say I enjoyed the story so much, and yet I did. That indeed is a tribute to the author who dragged me into every scene and gave me a new appreciation of her talent. Unfortunately, the end of the story didn’t have the twist I’d hoped for. I held out the hope until the very last sentence of the story when the statement made totally disappointed me. It may have been 4.5 stars if not for that. I can’t go with 5 because of the cheating that was not mentioned in any of the blurbs or advanced summaries I read. Plus, even after I went back to the previous story and searched for indications that Drew was more important to these men than appeared on the surface, I can’t shake the feeling he was a very minor character in the first story and much of what is revealed in this one as having taken place during the time of the first one doesn’t have a firm foundation in the first book. (Sorry if that sounds confusing.) So a 4 star review here. But overall, I do recommend it to those who like a dark and/or kinky story and can forgive the cheating.

Cover art shows the muscular, bare-chested Nathan in the forefront with the shadow of a man with a guitar in the background, an obvious representation of closeted Quinn.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 308 pages
Published May 9th 2017 by MJC Press
ASINB071DL35K3
SeriesCold Country #2

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Watching and Wanting (Housemates 4) by Jay Northcote

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

watching-and-wantingIn the continuation of the Housemates series, Jay Northcote introduces Shawn, an apparently straight guy—as evidenced by his girlfriend—and sometimes smartass—as evidenced by his comments on his roommates’ snogging sessions in the lounge.

Those roomies are Jez and Mac and Ewan and Dev from previous stories, all of whom I enjoyed seeing again. Not long after Shawn breaks up with his girlfriend, he accidentally walks in on Jude as Jude is wanking off in front of his laptop in his own room. Just before he awkwardly gets back out the door, he sees the name of the site Jude has up on the screen, and against his better judgment, signs onto the site on his own laptop. Shocked to see that Jude is live on the site, wanking off in front of the masses, Shawn nevertheless stays around not only long enough to watch Jude get off, but to get himself off as well.

Doubts and questions abound as he starts to realize that watching that show and appreciating the sexiness of the men around him is not as strange as he thought it would be. When he takes up Jude’s offer to sit in on a session with him, Jude is shocked and pleased, but it’s what happens to Shawn that makes the big difference.

This is the start of a friends-with-benefits relationship that later evolves into real caring between the men, and the author made sure we had a good, basic story before launching into feelings territory. By the time the men were ready to move forward, I was engaged by both characters, rooting for them to make their way out of the rut they fell into, and hoping Shawn would be brave enough to move forward with Jude and come out of his straight-boy persona.

The story is an all-around “feel good” tale with an OFY theme—one of my favorites. Set in the world of the other housemates, this book can certainly be read as a standalone, though it would be a shame to miss out on enjoying the others. This series has become one of my favorites, and I’m looking forward to story of Ben, the quiet new roommate. Please, Jay, give us Ben’s story. He seems like a sweetheart, and I definitely want to see him find his forever love.

The cover is a simple black-and-white photo of a bare-chested man, similar to others in the series, and just right for this story. 

Sales Links

65a2f-waxcreative-amazon-kindle

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 129 pages
Published January 20th 2017 by Jaybird Press
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesHousemates #4 settingPlymouth, England (United Kingdom)
England (United Kingdom)

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Hexmaker (Hexworld #2 ) by Jordan L. Hawk

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

hexmakerMalachi is a fox shifter who finds himself in a world of trouble when the robbery he’s committing turns into a murder.  He’s not the murderer, just the thief who happens to get caught when he stops to check on the bleeding man he finds in the library. Unfortunately, he found the real thief in the act—a red-headed thief who gets away, leaving red-headed Malachi to take the heat for the crime. 

Just down the street, leaving his parent’s mansion on “Millionaire Row,” is Owen Yates, the forensic hexmaker we met in Hexbreaker.  Owen spots the police vehicle outside the nearby mansion and goes to investigate. By the end of the story, readers will realize this is the best thing that ever happened to him, as he not only finds the pieces of the valuable object the thief was after—an object with ancient Greek hex symbols on it, he also finds the man who is his familiar—Malachi. 

As Malachi and Owen start out slowly, while all around them, outside forces are trying to decide Mal’s fate and the real murderer is now trying to murder Mal, the story gets interesting and complex. Owen is in his last week with the MWP, Metropolitan Witch Police, because he’s getting married Thanksgiving weekend, a marriage he neither desires, nor appreciates. He’s marrying to appease his wealthy family who want to shore up their place in society with funds from the wealthy heiress he’s betrothed to.

However, as the week progresses, leaving the MWP and getting married sound more like a death sentence as he and Mal, now bonded as a witch and familiar, dread facing the future and the loss of the chance of a happy outcome they both desire and deserve.

I really enjoy this story. This author has such a vivid imagination and appreciation of the history of the 19th to 20th turn of the century period. Weaving historical facts and fantasy into a complex story, while bringing alive another “fated-partners” love story, one with a few D/s elements this time, is pure creative genius. As the saying goes, the joy is in the journey, and in this case, Owen’s and Mal’s journey to love and to finding their true places in life brings nothing but joy to readers. I highly recommend this to all lovers of MM romance.

Cover art by the author is perfect for the story and characters.  Its eye catching and draws you in.

Sales Links

Amazon | Amazon UK | Kobo | ARe | Smashwords | iBooks | Nook

Book Details:

ebook, 270 pages
Published October 14th 2016 by Smashwords Edition
ISBN139781941230213
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesHexworld #2