A BJ Review: Staged (Belonging #3) by Kim Fielding


Rating:    5 stars out of 5

Staged_600x900Once the second-prize winner on My Slave’s Got Talent, Sky Blue has spent the past few years singing at a failing New York nightclub. While Sky has never had control over his fate, his life seems to take a turn for the worse when he’s torn from the familiar comfort of performing and sold to a rich and enigmatic man.

Morgan Wallace takes his newly purchased slave to San Francisco, his intentions unclear. On the one hand, he treats Sky with more kindness than Sky has ever known—treats him like a real person. On the other hand, he shares Sky at parties hosted by his sadistic new friends.

A confused slave is an endangered slave, and Sky isn’t even sure of his master’s real name. Is he Morgan Wallace, wealthy and cruel, or Mackenzie Webster, caring and compassionate? Caught between hope, fear, and an undeniably growing attachment, Sky struggles to untangle which parts are real and which are merely a performance. His future, his heart, and even his life may depend on it.

First off, I’ve not read any of the previous books in this series, but I was told it was merely in the same universe and cold be read as a standalone. After reading it, I can assure anyone considering doing the same that I never felt like I didn’t understand anything during reading this story.

I’ve been interested in the series and had already purchased but not yet read the first book, but when I was offered the ARC of this one, I couldn’t turn it down since I’ve enjoyed every single book I’ve read by this author. And a few of them I’ve even loved. Might as well say right off the bat that Staged falls firmly into the loved category. This story sucked me in from page one and was one of those rare books that I hated to put down and was almost sorry to see end.

This isn’t the first book in which this author has ventured to the dark side, but readers should be aware that there is non-con, violence, and some pretty horrific  torture scenes. Which for me, made the sweet and tender scenes amidst it stand out all the more. Sky and Morgan/Mac are two of the most enthralling main characters I’ve read in a while. Sky is a slave in a world where folks say that slaves aren’t like others, don’t feel emotions the same, aren’t fit to care for themselves. And yet Sky is, as Morgan/Mac says, just the most amazing person. He enthralled me from the beginning. The entire story is written from Sky’s POV. Very often in single POV stories, at some point I find myself wanting to get into the head of the other character for more depth and insight, but that was never at all the case here. It was perfect the way it was written.

There were so many feels wound into this. It touched my heart and made me say “Awww”, then turned around and horrified me. It also at parts alternately had me tears-eyed, irate, on the edge of my seat, and stupidly proud. Sky’s personality really starts to unfold and bloom as he’s allowed for the first time to experience all of the many bits and parts of life that were withheld from him which exhilarates and confuses him. He experiences TLC for the first time, but is understandably too confused and fearful to be able to trust in it. Watching him find pleasure and joy in small things and living in the moment even when he knows that more bad is coming because he has been warned to expect it. So poignant to see him learn in tiny sips what it feels like to be in control for short periods of time, to make decisions on his own, to read and search the net and learn things about the world. But it wasn’t all feeling, as there are also many bits that made me think.

Morgan/Mac, a man who’d never owned a slave but had an awful childhood of his own driving him, also grows a lot in this book as he discovers that all he’s accepted about slavery is wrong. And as he begins to lose his heart to a slave. Right from the start, he seems in awe of him. Throughout a lot of story, Morgan is left a bit of an enigma, and yet through Sky’s narrations, we see his heart come out, see what kind of man he seems to be.

I’m going to stop as I don’t want to go into the story much beyond the blurb. This his story has motivated me to make time in my busy line up of TBRs to fit in book one which I already own sooner rather than later. I definitely want to revisit this world again soon. I just wish I could also revisit these characters—I didn’t want to let them go.

The cover by Tami Santarossa was not a favorite because it wouldn’t have drawn me to look at the story if I’d seen just that, but the layout and style does fits with the series.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | ARe | Amazon – more links to come

Book Details:

ebook, 255 pages
Expected publication: July 18th 2016 by Riptide Publishing
Edition LanguageEnglish

A BJ Review: Lost and Found by Z. A Maxfield


Rating:  4.5 stars out of 5

LostAndFound_500x750Lost: one dog and two men in need of each other. Found: love.

RV resort security chief Ringo never believed in love at first sight . . . until he saw Gavin playing his sax on the beach for the tourists. But their on-again, off-again affair—even counting all the great makeup sex—doesn’t come close to the relationship he wants. All he really wants for Christmas is a commitment from Gavin.

Instead he discovers that Gavin has had surgery without telling him, so he lays down a relationship ultimatum while Gavin recuperates. Complicating matters even more, Gavin’s beloved dog Bird runs away, and Gavin blames Ringo for the disappearance.

While Ringo throws every resource he has into finding Bird, he learns deeper truths about Gavin—how hard it is for him to trust and how little faith he has in love. Maybe if Ringo can find Bird, he can salvage Gavin’s faith. Maybe this Christmas, they can all find each other.

(20% of all proceeds are donated to the Ali Forney Center in New York, whose mission “is to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) youth from the harm of homelessness, and to support them in becoming safe and independent as they move from adolescence to adulthood.)

I loved this story for so many reasons, and it could have been a five star read for me. First, the setting in a Southern California RV resort was both unique and perfect. It not only shows a lot about the main character Gavin’s personality, but is a rather unique profession for the other MC to work there. And as someone who lives in SoCal and has a family member who actually lives in one of those down in near the beach. SCORE!

Adored both of the characters. They were original, flawed, a bit broken… they felt like real, ordinary guys just trying to make it. Ringo, with his big ethnic family and kind heart, was just so sweet. The way he kept giving Gavin chances rather than giving up on him, the way he looked inside to try and see why he was doing the things he did, the way he saw that the was hurting himself even when he was lashing out at Ringo. I adored how he thought things through and tried over and over rather than giving up on something, and the story of how that came to be a part of his personality from a childhood event felt right.

Gavin, also from an ethnic background but rather than growing up in a close and supportive big family, he’d been neglected and had a hard childhood. Now on his own except for his dog, Bird, he finds it hard to trust that someone can really care for him enough to stick with him and often pushed people away. Yes, he was a badly flawed character with anger management and trust issues that caused himself and others around him hurt. But that was only a part of him, and Ringo saw behind that to all the good and beautiful parts that he hid behind that. Well, these two together just worked for me. The unusual dynamic between them blew me away. The ending was beautiful, but still I would love to read more about them.

The one thing that kept the story from being a five for me was the way Bird was handled. I’m a complete dog person, I own quite a few, and I’d really wished that Bird had been more of a character from the start. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until close to the end that he actually came alive as a character on his own. Before that, he was just Gavin’s dog. In fact it was pretty far into the story before we are even told his breed, which is a chocolate lab, or given any real description of him. In the end, he does get to come alive, but it could have been so much more of a rich and emotional story if we’d been given more about him closer to the beginning. If he’d been a real character from the start.

I love the cover by L.C. Chase! It has the perfect feel for the story…capturing the California beach feel with the Hispanic character and his sax, even his attire is perfect as described. Cover scores a five out of five stars for me.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:  

ebook, 140 pages
Published December 2nd 2013 by Riptide Publishing (first published November 30th 2013)
ISBN 1626490856 (ISBN13: 9781626490857)
Edition Language English

A BJ Review: Dancer of Death (SPECTR 2, #2) by Jordan L. Hawk


Rating:  4.75 stars out of 5

Dancer of DeathRevenge. Murder. Ballet?

Vampire spirit Gray wants to hunt demons. Unfortunately, the foolish mortals at SPECTR have put his host, Caleb, their lover John, and their partner Zahira on desk duty. Gray longs to leave Charleston with John, but if they flee, SPECTR will make them the hunted.

A series of paranormal murders returns the team to the field, at least temporarily. Ballerinas are being murdered by a vila, a demon that kills with dance. If they can’t stop the deadly attacks in time, one of Zahira’s friends may become the next victim.

And while they track the demon, an unknown entity has begun to track Gray.

First, I hadn’t read the blurb before I read the story and that last line was interesting, as I guess I hadn’t realized that the scent Gray ran across for the second time in this book was tracking him. Interesting development for sure especially since Gray contends the thing he smells is not food… ie. not a demon.

High on the gore factor and we get some POV from the bad guy in this one. It reminds me a lot of book #4 from the first series, Eater of Lives, in both those factors. Excellent pacing that kept me on the edge of my set. Wonderful emotional parts as well as sizzling sexy bits.

Plenty twists and turns in the developing relationship between the threesome, that makes it ever more complex. I adored how this is being explored. Caleb has a bit of a problem with communication with John in this one, a fact that Gray rightly questions. I find myself wondering how Deacon will fit into this overall, as something about him tells me he’s more integral than the surface seems to show—of course, I could be wrong.

The more we get to know of Zahira, the more I’m loving her as a partner for these guys. One scene with her and Gray was so touching. Loved that to pieces. Karl the transman is also very intriguing, and I find myself hoping we will get to read more about him as well.

Overall, aside from a bit of the adverb usage that drew me out of the story somewhat, this was an excellent installment of the series that I enjoyed even more than I did Mocker of Ravens. I’m very eager for the next installment, and hope it comes out soon.

Beautiful cover but a bit surprised since for the first time in the series (1 or 2) it focuses on a representation of the baddie rather than showing Caleb/Gray or John.

Sales Links:  ARe | Amazon

Book Details:  

Expected publication: February 16th 2016 by Smashwords Edition
Series SPECTR 2 #2

A BJ Review: Tracefinder: Contact (Tracefinder #1) by Kaje Harper


Rating:  4.75 stars out of 5

TracefinderWhat could an undercover cop and a drug lord’s pet psychic have in common?

Brian Kerr has spent years hiding behind a facade of mental slowness. His brother and sister got all three of them off the streets and into a cushy life, under the protection of a dangerous criminal. But to keep that safety, Brian has to use his Finding talent to track down the boss’s enemies. Although he pretends not to know what he’s really doing, each Find takes its toll, and he’s trapped in a life he hates, losing touch with his true self.

Nick Rugo’s job is to protect and serve the people of Minneapolis as an undercover cop. He isn’t closeted, but he isn’t out at work, and there’s a wild, angry side to him that he’s managed to keep hidden until now. When he’s assigned to bring Brian’s boss to justice, he intends to use anything and anyone it takes to do that.

Nick initially sees Brian as a pawn to be played in his case, but he keeps getting glimpses of a different man behind the slow, simpleminded mask. As the two men get to know each other, it becomes clear they share secrets, some of which might get them both killed.

A very usual contemporary with a paranormal twist and flawed characters of an entirely different type than I’m used to reading. This one set itself apart from most that I’ve read and stuck in my head (in a good way). Each and every character is interesting, multi-layered, and well-drawn, the pacing moved well, and there were even well-handled animal characters which is always a plus for me. This story unfolds slowly but it didn’t take long to discover that for those like me who love broken boys, this series promises to be a find indeed.

Not high on the heat meter and even the romance element is on the milder side, but that seems fitting given the characters in this story. Nick Rugo and Brian Kerr are worlds apart in many ways, but they share difficult childhoods that have left them trying hold themselves together by whatever means they can. Nick often deals by lashing out in physical violence such as bar fights, while Brian deals by hiding within himself behind the persona of a simpleton called Bry. But is Bry real or did Brian create him as a cover? Even Brian himself seems confused on that point.

The author rather leaves us guessing as to what exactly is wrong with Brian aside from severe dyslexia. How much of who he is (or pretends to be?) is the result of a defense mechanism he began in childhood? How slow/special needs is he really? That’s not immediately clear. Hell, it’s not even totally clear by the end. And I actually loved that. It kept me thinking and guessing and trying to piece things out.

In the end, I decided that regardless of how slow Brian might be, one thing is for sure, he’s far from stupid. His intelligence shines though to me in many ways. Devising an intricate ruse/cover (or even playing into it) and keeping it up over the long haul wouldn’t have been easy. I loved how sometimes Brian’s true intelligence would slip out in the things he said, and how adept he was at covering them up with quick thinking and acting. Also Brian certainly seemed to have a handle on good/bad and right/wrong–he continuously makes insightful and succinct judgments about those around him and his insights into the motivations of others showed a high degree of intuitiveness.

I applaud the author for tackling this rather different type of romance. At first I had a hard time seeing how these two could forge a relationship that would believably complement each other without being woefully uneven, without one being more of a caregiver. By the end of the book, the author had me believably seeing how these two men complemented each other, how each had needs that the other met, and that they were if not equal, at least moving towards it. I felt the sexy bits were skillfully handled and fitting for this couple.

Brian’s siblings, Lori and Damon, are also nuanced characters with complicated motivations that make them far from black/white, bad/good. I’m glad this will be a series because I there are so many questions still in my mind, so many things I’d love to explore and learn about all of them.

When I read a story, connecting to the characters is probably one of the most important things for me. I definitely got that here. I liked Nick, found Brian fascinating, and adored badass Damon. I hope there’ll be more of him in the book two.

The cover is eye-catching and hot. Love everything about it, the layout, the model, the black and white with just a flash of color, it’s perfect.

Sales Links:   Goodreads |  All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here
Book Details: 518 pages
Published January 9th, 2016 by Kaje Harper

A BJ Review: Winter Knight by L. Valko


Rating:  4.75 stars out of 5

Winter KnightAfter three years living as a rich man’s toy, Micah Zaine is on his own again and struggling to salvage both his career and a shattered sense of self-worth. Accepting a position as a substitute kindergarten teacher seems like an excellent start, until he develops a crush on a student’s father.

Two years after the death of his beloved wife, Jacob Lournigran’s life revolves around work and raising his young son—a social life is nowhere in the picture. Until his meddling sister extends a holiday dinner invitation to his son’s handsome kindergarten teacher.

Spending time with Micah makes Jacob wonder if a friend could be just what he needs to start rebuilding his broken heart. And when financial difficulties and an angry ex put Micah in distress, Jacob has all the makings of a knight in shining armor.

Except Jacob is straight, and Micah is no damsel.

An absolutely adorable contemporary that spans both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons. While there is sweetness, this one also has the angst, since both of the main characters are struggling to deal with loss. Jacob has a support system in his sister and son, while Micah is having to deal all on his own.

Jacob is an absolute sweetheart all the way through this story, definitely a catch or, as the blurb says, a knight in shining armor. I want a Jacob in my life! Wealthy and secure, but so down to earth that it never went to his head. In fact, he seemed to give much of the credit for this financial status to his late wife. But Jacob wasn’t perfect, and I adored that, too. His bouts of social awkwardness were endearing, as was the way he got flustered sometimes.

Micah was a nice match for Jacob; he was the one who kept making me laugh and smile with his attitude and inner dialogue, plus his wit and flirting. Initially, I had some issues with him based on choices he’d made in the past, but I quickly came to root and cheer for him. Which did not mean that I still didn’t want to reach over and smack him upside the head a few times.

Lucky for me, the author provided someone capable of giving said smacks in a much more appropriate way. That would be Jacob’s kick-ass sister, Justine. I loved Justine; loved how she stepped in as the voice of wisdom at just the right times, and loved that she was an artist, cuz well, I always love to see fellow artists in stories. And Jacob’s kindergarten age son, Cole, was a wonderful addition to the story… not just a prop as kids can be in some books, but a character with a voice that moved the story forward and felt real and vital.

There are emotional teary moments along with some hot and sexy bits, including a sensual first time m/m experience. I’ve only read a couple other books with a demi-sexual character, and this one will join that particular shelf as one of them that handled it well. Being pansexual myself, I struggle with m/m books that portray bi/pan characters negatively… and sadly I’ve run into quite a few of them that do. In this book, we do get a touch of that in Micah’s cheating ex, Alan, but Jacob more than makes up for him. I adored his reactions when he noticed his attractions to Micah, the way they progressed, and a scene later in the story where he talks to a friend/co-worker was so cute (and a bit funny).

A first book by Valko, and one I’m glad I decided to read. Pick this one up soon  as it’s on Kindle Unlimited right now. I especially recommend it to those who enjoy GFY, slightly broken boys, bi and demi characters, and stories about family/kids.

Sales Link:  Amazon Kindle  | Buy It Here

Book Details:  143 pages

Published December 31, 2015