A Caryn Review:Semper Fae (Endangered Fae #3) by Angel Martinez

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

For those of you who thought this would be Zach and Lugh’s story, you are right, but it is so much more….  This book takes our heroes from the upper echelons of the United States government, to a perilous journey to the realm of dragons and wild fae, and they are confronted with danger from within and without, and face a sorcerer powerful enough to control and corrupt all the magical forces in the human world.  I’m so pleased with this series, and how it just keeps getting better!  I’m not sure that there will be another book in the series, but I am hoping!

At the end of the last book, the Fae had established a permanent presence in the human world, declared themselves an independent country, and Diego was the diplomatic liaison between the two realms.  Zach was head of security for the fae, especially for Prince Lugh.  Everything was supposed to be straightforward from there, but opening a gate between the two worlds had some very unexpected repercussions.

It all started when Finn developed a magical malady – what the fae healers described as their version of the common cold – that made him miserable and also made him shift uncontrollably.  Then other unusual things started occurring, humans developing magical skills, but also the appearance of mythical monsters, vampires, werewolves, and the like.  While Zach was struggling with his attraction to Lugh, he was accidentally outed to his parents and went to do damage control, and was bitten by a werewolf as he was defending a couple of kids.  Even the fae had no cure for that.

Initially, the story focussed on Zach and Lugh as they worked through the fact that Zach was now a monster dangerous to fae as well as humans, and what that meant for the growing relationship between the two of them.  Diego was increasingly concerned by the evidence that magic was getting out of control in the human world.  But the story took an unexpected twist that left everyone reeling, and Zach was thrust into the role of leader of the combined fae and human forces to combat the sudden appearance of a belligerent, tyrannical sorcerer who could quite possibly take over the world.

At first I was a little frustrated that I was missing some background elements, and it wasn’t clear exactly where the story was going.  But with a little patience, the pieces started coming together and the story took on an urgency that made it a real page turner.  And though in retrospect I find myself wondering “Why did that happen like this?  Why didn’t they do that instead?  Why did the author go in this direction?”, while I was reading I had no such qualms.  There was an incredible amount of detail and new information added to the basis set in the first two books, and to be honest at times it was too much.  New characters came into the story, some fully fleshed out, and others left me wondering why they didn’t have more to say or do, or why they were there at all.  I guess that is one reason I am hoping for more, but I believe Ms. Martinez will have to tighten up what could easily turn into an overly vast and sprawling cast of characters.  I got the impression that the world of Diego and Finn and their human and fae friends is much more complete and coherent in Ms. Martinez’ mind, but is so complex that it is hard to put it down on paper in a way that makes it totally clear to the reader.

Cover art by Emmy@studioenp is very pretty, and I love the model for Zach.  The font still seems a little odd though…

Sales Links:  Pride Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 368 pages
Published October 23rd 2018 by Pride Publishing (first published January 13th 2013)
ASINB07HQ4DXQQ
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesEndangered Fae #3

 

A Caryn Review: Single White Incubus (Supernatural Selection) by E.J. Russell

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I am soooo happy to read and review another book from EJ Russell set in the universe of the “supes” – the supernatural, from all realms.  And as a bonus, this book had cameos from David and Alun of Cutie and the Beast, as well as Mal from The Druid Next Door.  The dedication is to the readers “who fell in love with the Kendrick brothers and wanted more stories in their world”, and all I can say to that is YES! And MORE!

This is the story of Ted Farnsworth – your average lumberjack kinda guy, who also happens to be a bear shifter.  But unlike most bears, he’s generous and actually enjoys being social and interacting with humans, and that desire has gotten him into trouble with the shifter councils and the secrecy pact.  He also seems to have a bit of ADHD, with impulse control and difficulty thinking through to the natural consequences of his actions.  He’s staged a few “sightings” while mid-shift, because the photographer is his friend and down on his luck, and Bigfoot photos pay well.  When the council started threatening him with more severe consequences if he didn’t settle down and act more like a bear, he decided the best way to behave was to get married to a solid, steady kind of guy.  So he contacted the matchmaking service Supernatural Selection which guaranteed marriage to a perfect partner.  Rusty, a beaver shifter with his own construction company, was ideal.

This is also the story of Quentin Bertrand-Harrington, an incubus with a conscience who didn’t want to ever take a lover again after feeding off a boyfriend to the point of near death.  His family was pushing him to marry a human, and he figured the best way to make sure that never happened was to choose a husband from the undead – zombies are gross, but Supernatural Selection found his perfect match with a vampire.  He’d been taking suppressants to tamp down his urges to feed on humans for decades, and they left him weak, and unfortunately, a little bit mentally fuzzy – too impaired to truly pay attention…

With the contracts sealed in blood, all Ted and Quentin had to do was meet their fiancees – but that is when the comedy of errors began.  Turns out they both didn’t pay enough attention to the final drafts of the contracts, and neither noticed that the names were changed in the final contract, and it matched the two of them.  They were married!  And when you sign a contract in blood with the witches council, getting out of it isn’t easy.

There was a delicious slow burn to their romance.  Not quite enemies to lovers, but they both had to overcome a lot of preconceived notions before they were able to really and truly see each other.  And it turned out that a clumsy but good hearted bear was actually a perfect foil to a jaded and withdrawn sex demon.  How they got to that point was the majority of the book, and it was funny, well written, and made me fall in love with both of them.  Both men learned to see their strengths and weaknesses in a different way, and learn that they were indeed valuable and worthy of love.  Their unlikely pairing really brought out the best in each other.

I took off half a star because the final part of the book was a bit rushed, confused, left a lot of strings hanging, and I felt was a little too easily resolved.  The mystery to be solved in the rest of the books in the series was introduced (just who was that sneaky AI and why was he smirking?), but it seemed a bit sudden, and I thought everyone should have been questioning how Ted and Quentin’s first contracts had different names on them in the first place….

Cover art by L.C. Chase is great – clearly defines the book as a comedy, and the bear paw was a great representation of Ted.

Sales Links  Riptide Publishing  |  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook
Published October 20th 2018 by Riptide Publishing
Original TitleSingle White Incubus
ISBN139781626498501
Edition Language English
Series Supernatural Selection

A Caryn Review: Fourteen Summers by Quinn Anderson

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This was a new twist on a coming of age book, with not one, but three protagonists.  And to a small extent it is even a bit of a love triangle – the MCs are not only trying to figure out how to relate to each other, but also how to fit platonic, familial, and romantic love into the right places in their lives.

Aiden and Max Kingsman, as the blurb says, were identical twins who had been pretty much inseparable for their entire lives to this point.  Aiden was the quiet, bookish one, and though he was accepted into a more prestigious university, he chose to attend a less prominent college to stay with his brother and share an apartment.  Max had always been more outgoing, loved to be the boss and usually had no trouble getting Aiden and their best friend Oliver to follow his lead.  Despite the differences in temperament, most people couldn’t tell them apart – even their parents had trouble – but Oliver always knew.

Oliver Jones was the only child of parents who fought loudly and bitterly all the time.  His greatest wish was to be Aiden and Max’s brother (which led to a cute opening chapter of six year old Max marrying Oliver, with Aiden officiating), not only because they were best friends, but because their house seemed so much safer and more peaceful.  When his parents divorced while the boys were in middle school, Oliver moved with his mother to NYC, his father moved to California, and the boys inevitably lost contact.

Years later, Oliver arrived back in their little town of Irvington, NY to spend the summer with his father who had also recently moved back to the area to be closer to Oliver as well as to his extended family. Oliver was thrilled to run into Max and Aiden, and they picked up their friendship pretty much where they left it off when he moved, with one big change – Oliver and Aiden were both gay, and ready to act on the crushes they each had on the other so many years ago.

The book is told in alternating points of view from Aiden, Max, and Oliver.  All three characters were given equal time, and equal priority, which I felt really highlighted the fact that friendship and family are just as important as romantic love.  Both sets of parents are also involved, their own relationships providing good and bad examples of how to incorporate those types of love into healthy (and not so healthy) lives.  Each of the men had some pretty unpleasant epiphanies about why they felt the way they did about each other, attitudes that were left over from their childhood experiences that they needed to let go of.  A lot of buried resentments, trust issues, and jealousies emerged that were much more powerful than any of them expected, and as the summer progressed, threatened to not just drive Oliver out of the twin’s lives, but to drive Max and Aiden apart as well.  The character growth came as they identified these problems and faced them down with compassion, with the underlying confidence that the results would be worth the pain.

Overall, this was a great read, with fully three dimensional characters who adapted and grew, definitely character driven rather than plot driven, but engaging and thought provoking, and I finished it with a real sense of satisfaction and contentment.

Cover art by L.C. Chase really made me think – at first I just assumed it was Aiden and Oliver, but as I read the book and got to know the characters, I realized it could have been any of them.  Their bonds were just that close!

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 287 pages
Published May 21st 2018 by Riptide Publishing
Original TitleFourteen Summers
ISBN 1626497648 (ISBN13: 9781626497641)
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Caryn Release Day Review: Nudging Fate (Enchanted Occasions #1) by E.J. Russell

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

We all nudge Fate every day, with every choice we make.

I just love this author when she’s being playful!  Those who loved Cutie and the Beast will also love this book.  It is not explicitly in the same universe, but still involves beings from various mythologies (the MC in this one is Norse) who are interacting with the morally ambiguous and manipulative world of the Fae, as well as mundane Earth.  This book is set primarily in the Interstices, “the pockets in reality where … magic from all supernatural realms could coexist”.  In addition to the Fae, this book has an eclectic mix of supernatural beings from just about every folklore and tradition that I can think of, cleverly integrated into a cohesive whole.  It was only as I was writing this review that I realized how very clever the author was in taking such complexity and making it seem effortless!

I will save you the trouble of looking up the norn (which I just had to do because I didn’t want to wait for the author’s specific explanation).  In Norse mythology there are three divine female beings who influence the destinies of gods and men (roughly corresponding to the Greek Fates), Norns with a capital N, and then there are other norns of lesser strength and influence.  Anders Skuldsson is one of these – half human son of one of the big three, which makes him outcast for being a half-breed, but also mistrusted because when you are around him, how to you know that he didn’t just make things happen according to his will?  Despite his questionable status, he’s a good guy just trying to do the right thing and earn a little respect.  He’s the Senior Event Coordinator of Enchanted Occasions Event Planning, and has been chosen by no less than the Fae Queen herself to be in charge of her son Prince Reynard’s ceremony to choose and bond with a consort.  This job is not only his greatest challenge so far, it is also a make or break event for Enchanted Occasions and his employees – all of whom are half-human and looked down on by most of the Pure bloods of the other supernatural races.  Anders has a lot to prove with this gig.

Prince Reynard, on the other hand, has no desire to participate in this Faerie version of “The Bachelor” and get hooked permanently to some suitable consort chosen by his mother.  He’s all about a life of freedom and promiscuity.  His half brother Conall of Odstone – bastard result of the Faerie Queen’s own consort’s infidelity centuries ago – has been blessed/cursed with the gift of responsibility:  he does what’s right, even when it’s difficult or inconvenient.  Rey is used to exploiting this trait, and Con has ended up impersonating Rey multiple times over the years for any events that Rey finds boring, or onerous, and Con once again found himself uncomfortably forced into a predicament that unfortunately has much higher stakes than he’s ever faced before.

Through a comedy of errors and missteps, these two unlikely men end up thrust together – while each impersonating someone else – and find that they really like each other, and their chemistry is off the charts.  But they are both basically men of truth and integrity, both responsible for others and wanting to do the best by them, and how can anything real and true come from such deception?

I laughed out loud at the antics of the MC’s, and at the ridiculous situations they ended up in despite the best of intentions.  The secondary characters – Talus, man of iron, arbiter and dispenser of justice for Faerie, and solid supporter of Con; Brooke and Smith, the other half-breeds who work with Andy who are brilliant at creating the perfect worlds in the Interstices; the other characters that are pure comic relief like the goblin chef who creates the most incredible and delicate food but goes into a rage when people don’t appreciate it – were just pure genius.  The Interstices themselves were an incredible and subtle weave of magic from different worlds combined with the best of Earth.  And the plot, while superficially a romp of increasingly ridiculous circumstances, was really a story of integrity and kindness overcoming manipulation and selfishness.  It’s a romantic comedy with a moral, in the style of a fairy tale, but so much more fun.  I can’t wait for the next book, and there were definitely some clues dropped about who might star in the next one…

Cover art by Aaron Anderson actually detracts from the book.  The story is otherwordly, beautiful, and magic, and this cover is downright boring…

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 224 pages
Expected publication: May 15th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640805064
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesEnchanted Occasions #1

A Caryn Release Day Review: The Architect and the Castle of Glass by Jade Mere

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

It’s been a while since I’ve read fantasy, and this book definitely lives up to the genre.  The universe created is a little bit middle east, a little bit steampunk, a little bit of magic in a world just entering an industrial age.  The cast includes a spoiled but genius aristocrat, his eccentric brother who sees things not of this world, a reclusive and secretive prince and his insane mother, and the man who calls himself brother to the prince.  It’s long (as a fantasy book should be), and this is the first in a series, but it does end with closure of the initial story arc, and no cliffhanger (thank God, because those drive me crazy!)

The protagonist of the story, Takhi, starts out as an arrogant, selfish, entitled jerk.  He’s the son of the ambassador, wealthy, aristocratic, given all the things wealthy men can give to their children.  The only thing he wants, though, is to be a famous architect.  His country is peaceful and meditative, and has been essentially sealed off from the largest and most modern country, Vatalokit, and that is the only place Takhi feels his genius will be appreciated.  So he runs away, convinced that the only reason he is not already renowned as the greatest architect is because his country is backwards and resists innovation.  Although I knew that he was going to be humbled and come out a better man – because that’s how fantasy works and this book follows the formula – I have to admit the process took so long I almost gave up on him.  Truthfully, that’s probably more realistic, but I kept getting angry at him until the end of the book for being so conceited and self-absorbed, and because it led him into quite a few TSTL (too stupid to live) situations.

Takhi was recruited to serve as architect for the prince of Vatalokit, to convert his castle into a weapon.  The castle itself is almost like another character – it is made of obsidian, dark, brooding, and strangely alive (Howl’s Moving Castle kept coming to my mind, but really it is nothing like that!).  People who stay in it too long tend to go a little crazy.  At the castle, Takhi met Rye – a man the prince rescued from the slums and who is now the closest thing the prince has to family.  Takhi didn’t know why the prince wanted such a weapon, and didn’t believe the flimsy reasons the prince gave, but he thought only of making a name for himself, and was going to do that however he could.

The entire book was really well written, steadily paced with a natural plot evolution.  I got irritated at Takhi many times and wanted to skip past the consequences of his stupidity, but it was worth it in the end to hang in there.  The romance aspect of the story is almost peripheral, with only hints of interest from Rye and Takhi, and they are not together until the very end of the book.  There was more written interaction between Takhi and his twin brother Sorjian, who actually became my favorite character.  The reveal of the secrets of the castle, and the prince’s plotting, was abrupt and the only really jarring exception to the plot progression, and left several threads hanging, but I think those will be taken up in the next books in the series, and I’m looking forward to reading them!

Cover art by the author is typical of a fantasy book, pretty, and probably why I kept picturing Howl’s Moving Castle every time I thought of it….

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 230 pages
Expected publication: March 27th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640802629
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Caryn Release Day Review: Color of You by CS Poe

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is the last Christmas book I am reviewing this season, and I’m going to treat it a little bit like a hallmark movie.  At a different time of the year, I would probably be more cynical and take off a star, but this is the season of peace and goodwill, so if the characters act a bit schmaltzy I am just chalking that up to the spirit of the season!

Bowen Merlin is a classical musician who has left the NYC rat race to teach band in northern New Hampshire.  He’s excited about the opportunity, and the chance to work with elementary and high school students.  He knows he can’t expect much of a gay scene, but he’s pretty much sworn off trying to find a compatible boyfriend – after all, who would expect a tall, skinny redhead with a penchant for bow ties to be an alpha male?

Felix Hansen is a single father, and proprietor of the Snowy Ridge Apple Orchard and Christmas Tree Farm.  He’s a big guy, but he’s shy and tender-hearted, easily hurt, and self-conscious of the extensive scars he carries from the fire that burned down his house and prompted his move to New Hampshire.  He has also been out of the dating game for years, content to raise his teenage son Alan and support his community.

Bowen has sound-to-color synesthesia, which means that all sounds have specific colors for him, and affect how he feels about or reacts to people.  His first exposure to Felix is hearing his voice, which is a rich amber, warm and affectionate, a color that Bowen has never experienced before and he is incredibly attracted to it.  After an adorable meet-cute, the men start dating, and quickly find that they are perfect for each other.  There are obstacles to overcome – like the fact that Alan is one of Bowen’s band students – but things look like they will be pretty rosy.

But since this is a Christmas Hallmark-type story, there has to be some conflict, and it comes in the guise of homophobia that might destroy both men.  But the wonderful secondary characters – Bowen’s best friend Scarlet, accounting teacher Stephen, and of course Alan – jump in and save the day, with help from the entire town (except for the homophobic assholes who are basically tarred and feathered and run out of town).  And they lived happily ever after.

Even though the plot was simple and the conflicts resolved way too easily to be anything like real life, I found both MCs to be wonderfully likeable and their romance inevitable.  The dialogue is light-hearted, the pace is steady throughout, and the book is easy to read in one afternoon.  I loved how the synesthesia was worked into the story.  Although the book is from Bowen’s point of view, the colors he saw and the way he described this condition to others (which was exactly like Wikipedia, but that’s a good thing, right?) created a different kind of visualization of his emotions that was really intriguing.

Cover art by Reese Dante is perfect for the book.  The models are just what I expected the characters to look like – minus scars – and the gold/amber lettering and music notes highlighted one of the main themes, which also ties in with the title.  It’s a nice cover regardless, but after reading the book I really appreciated it!

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Expected publication: December 25th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640801509
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Caryn Advent Release Day Review: The Probability of Mistletoe (2017 Advent Calendar Daily – Stocking Stuffers) by E.J. Russell

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this cute holiday story about second chances, and of course I was thrilled to review another of E.J. Russell’s books after reviewing the Fae Out of Water series here on Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words earlier this year.  I enjoy her characters, who have just the right combination of snarky and sweet…

Keith and Parker were best friends in high school, despite significant differences in personality – Parker was popular, involved in everything, friends with everyone, and Keith was an introverted geek and computer genius who really only had Parker.  At the winter formal senior year, Keith attempted to kiss Parker under the mistletoe, but Parker freaked out and ran.  He later rationalized his actions, thinking that he would have held Keith back from becoming the success that Parker knew he could be.  After graduation, Keith left for Stanford, Parker stayed in Oregon, and though he thought of Keith often and regretted his actions, he allowed lingering embarrassment to keep him from staying in contact, and they drifted apart .

Ten years later, Parker is organizing the class reunion.  He was surprised to get a text from Keith, but happy, and he starts thinking he might be able to make up for that missed opportunity 10 years ago.  Keith also wants Parker, for business as well as personal reasons, but since he never knew the reason behind the missed kiss so long ago, he is very unsure about what will happen.

What follows is a comedy of errors, accidents, and misunderstandings that almost sabotages their reunion.  But when the probability of mistletoe is high, anything can happen…

Very enjoyable Christmas read!

Cover art by Paul Richmond is humorous, cheery, and brands the stocking stuffers for  2017.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 43 pages
Published December 1st 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640802988
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series2017 Advent Calendar Daily – Stocking Stuffers

 

An Alisa Review: Without A Compass by Helen Juliet

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

 

Riley Anderson isn’t an outdoorsy guy. He’s a desk jockey, office by day and couch by night. So when his family insists on a camping trip for his father’s 50th birthday he’s hardly thrilled. Things only get worse when Kai shows up, too.

 

Kai Brandt’s more than eager to go camping with his best buddy, but his buddy’s little brother Riley is all grown up now, and hotter than hell. Kai’s willing to help him pitch more than just a tent… Which is weird, because Kai never swung that way before.

 

Events conspire to out Riley’s secret AND leave him stranded in Kai’s care for longer than they’d planned for. Trapped together in the wilderness, they’re going to have to face a few hard truths if they’re going to make it back to the world.

 

But even if they manage it, the experience will leave them forever changed.

 

This was a lovely story with some great characters.  Riley is determined to give this camping trip his best effort and enjoy himself despite his past experiences.  Kai is excited to get some time outdoors with his best friend, Brendon, and Brenden’s family.

 

Riley and Kai have known each other for years but at the same time didn’t really know each other with Brendon as a buffer.  Since Riley is the first to arrive after himself and he hasn’t seen him in years, Kai makes it his mission to see that Riley enjoys himself.  I loved that Kai was more than willing to let anyone know about his feelings and not hide Riley away.

 

I couldn’t help but feel for Riley, he has always felt like an outside with his family and even though he moved to the city he continues to be an outsider with those around him.  My heart broke as we see him not feel worthy of having a real relationship with anyone as no one has ever wanted to try with him.  Kai enjoys being part of a couple but has yet to find anyone who he can really see spending his life with.  As he opens himself up to the possibility of being with Riley he also begins to learn more about himself.

 

The cover art by Natasha Snow is beautiful and absolutely perfect for this story.

 

Sales Link: Amazon  

 

Book Details:

ebook, 80,000 words

Published: August 24, 2017 by Helen Juliet

ISBN13: 9781999706722

Edition Language: English

A Caryn Review: Lying Eyes by Robert Winter

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Robert Winter has definitely made it onto my favorite author list.  This is his third book, and they just keep getting better!  This book is a standalone, but it does contain spoilers for Every Breath You Take, and cameo appearances from David and Brandon from September

Randy Vaughan is the enigmatic owner of the piano bar Mata Hari, first introduced in Every Breath You Take.  He’s reserved, doesn’t make friends easily, and his six-foot-three muscle bound body is definitely intimidating.  Some know that he’s retired from the secret service, but he hasn’t shared his artistic side with anyone in years.  He displays the art he’s collected from all over the world in the bar, but mainly for his own enjoyment rather than making a statement.  He was burned, badly, in the past by a lover, and since then has preferred to keep to himself. 

Life was moving along as it always does, and then in only a few weeks two men shook up Randy’s carefully ordered existence: Jack Fraser, London art historian, and Danny, a homeless teen. 

Jack is looking for a very specific painting.  He thinks Randy may own it, and came all the way from London to see it.  When he first approaches Randy, however, he can’t seem to look past the big, tough guy exterior to see the intelligent and discriminating artist behind the facade, and everything he says and does just pisses Randy off.  When Jack won’t say why he needs to see the painting, Randy refuses to show it.  But there is a chemistry there that both men instantly recognize, which makes it impossible for either to walk away for good. 

Danny was getting beat up behind Mata Hari in the middle of the night when Randy came upon him.  He saved Danny from the thugs, and took him home with the intention of finding him an LGBT shelter, but when days and ultimately weeks go by without an opening, Randy finds himself enjoying having a platonic roommate.  Randy modeled most of his life on his gay uncle Kevin, and still lives by a moral code that he learned from Kevin and his partner Luc.  He starts to look at Danny as a way to pay forward everything that Kevin did for him.

None of what I’ve written so far is a spoiler, but this is:  these two occurrences are not random, but are connected as part of a bigger plot that involves blackmail, kidnapping, and priceless art.  It was obvious what Randy’s painting really is, but the rest of it was actually took me by surprise.  There is also a lot of character development of both Randy and Jack, which made their difficulty learning to trust each other despite physical and intellectual attraction understandable.

The dom/sub relationship mentioned in the blurb is actually a minor aspect of Randy and Jack’s romance, and there is not a lot of sex in the book.  There was only one scene that involved bondage, and to be honest, I think the book probably would have been better without it.  My biggest irritation with this book is that it didn’t end at the right point.  I’d get to the end of a chapter and be satisfied that was it, and then there’d be another, and another.  I wanted to tell Mr. Winter, you don’t have to wrap up every single little thread out there!!!  So although I was captivated throughout 90% of the book, I got a little bored at the end.  Still, Randy is easily my favorite of all the characters I’ve seen so far, and I am looking forward to reading more in this universe and hopefully seeing him again.

I’ve got mixed feelings about the cover art by Dar Albert.  The classy bar in the background is perfect, but I just can’t look at this model and see Randy.  In my mind, he’s bigger, bulkier, and doesn’t have the smarmy smirk on his face that this guy has.  Oh well, sometimes cover models add to my mental picture of a character, and sometimes I just need to look past them.

Sales Links: Amazon USA        Amazon CA        Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 239 pages
Published July 7th 2017 by Robert Winter Books
ASINB073JYPVX6
Edition LanguageEnglishsettingWashington, DC

A Caryn Review: Provoked (Enlightenment Series #1) by Joanna Chambers

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

When this series was re-released by Joanna Chambers, I jumped at the chance to review them.  I read them initially a few years ago, and I remember that I thought this first book was only OK, although I ended up absolutely loving the rest of the series.  Rereading it, and knowing some of what was coming next, made me notice all of the ways the rest of the story arc was being set up in this book, that was not clear to me the first time around, and I have to say I enjoyed this book so much more for it!

The series starts with Provoked, told from the viewpoint of David Lauriston, in 1820s Edinburg, Scotland.  David is an advocate, a lawyer who deals with court cases, and at the beginning of the book he had just defended two men who were convicted of treason, hanged, and beheaded.  The case touched him deeply, as in its most basic form it represented the class struggle that was spreading widely throughout Britain during the Industrial Revolution.  David was the son of a farmer, and he and his family worked and sacrificed so that he could become educated as an advocate – though he could speak and act as a member of the middle class, he identified with the lower class.  Although the conviction for treason was almost a foregone conclusion, it was clear that the men were incited and betrayed by an agent provocateur – who got away scot free.

While David was working on getting drunk the night of the hangings, he met Murdo Balfour.  There was an instant physical attraction between the two men, and although David had consistently tried to deny that part of himself that wanted other men, he gave in because he needed the escape, and both men knew they wouldn’t meet again.  David was a little surprised to find Balfour giving him a  tenderness and connection that he had never encountered with a man before, and for the first time he felt regret upon walking away.

Weeks later, David was approached by Euan MacLennan, a man whose brother had also been involved in the case of treason, although his sentence was transport to the prison colonies in Australia rather than hanging.  Euan was determined to find Robert Lees, the agent provocateur he felt was responsible for leading the entire group of weavers into treason, and had a lead that brought him to Edinburg, but he needed David’s assistance to follow it.  David was absolutely opposed to revenge, but he felt responsible for Euan because he was unable to prevent his brother’s conviction, and he reluctantly agreed to help.

When the clues pointed to Lord Balfour, David was caught between his promise to Euan, and his growing certainty that Murdo was innocent.

This book really hit all of my buttons – the characters were complex, and faced with situations that challenged their beliefs.  The search for Lees really was only a backdrop to highlight the interaction and growing attraction between David and Murdo.  David had a very strict and upright moral code, was honest to a fault, but was generous and had a tendency to take on too much responsibility for all the wrongs he saw in the world.  He felt his attraction to men was not only wrong, but damning, and castigated himself every time he gave into temptation.  He didn’t know how to react to Murdo, who felt no shame at all in being with men, and seemed as helplessly drawn to David as David was to him.  Murdo’s point of view was not presented at all, but his responses and reactions to situations indicated a growing fascination with David and his opposing principles.

So even though I know what is coming – although I’ve forgotten many details – I can’t wait to dive into the next book.  I can’t wait to hear what Murdo thinks, and how the men will come together again!

I could not find who created the cover art, but it was perfect.  Granted, David is a red-head, but this model was ideal both in looks and expression, and is now how I think of him.  This cover is much improved over the previous one!

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

ebook, 2nd edition, 202 pages
Published April 25th 2017 by Joanna Chambers (first published July 23rd 2013)
ASIN B071YJ254F
Edition Language English