Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Apprentice Sebastian has long cherished his love for his master. For years, Master D’arcy Qyn has respected Sebastian’s right to choose whom he embraces in the sexual arts known to the Fellowship of Servitors. But when the fashions and opinions of other Servitors are no longer enough to keep them apart, they rely wholeheartedly on the vows that have made them student and teacher.
Abiding dutifully by the formal roles prescribed for so taboo a relationship, each must find his way with desires and pleasures they would not otherwise enjoy. Together they must prove their love in all its expressions without shame and eternally beyond reproach.
Publisher’s Note: Although this book is set in the same universe as The Secret Art of Failure, it is the beginning of a new standalone series.
First off: I don’t think the publisher’s note is right about this being the beginning of a standalone series. I haven’t read “The Secret Art of Failure” and I felt very lost at times.
SciFi is one of my favourite genres and “Wasted Youth” sounded really promising. I took the publisher’s note to heart and was really looking forward to reading this book.
Sebastian has had a thing for his master for a while now. Or rather, for the idea of having an affair with his master and the thrill of doing something not quite socially acceptable. When D’arcy Qyn finally makes his fantasies come true, the affair turns out to be quite different from what he’d imagined.
I liked both D’arcy and Sebastian, even though I sometimes had a hard time understanding D’arcy. He’s always so mysterious.
The sex that happens between the two of them is damn hot. There’s quite a bit of humiliation and other BDSM elements. There’s even some consent play, so if you’re triggered by that, stay away from this book. Personally, I just found it hot.
There was quite a bit of action thrown into the lot as well. I didn’t understand the reasons behind a lot of things, though. It certainly never got boring, though.
Now, as I mentioned above, I really feel like this isn’t a standalone series. There seems to have been quite a bit of world building going on, but there are virtually no explanations in “Wasted Youth”. I just didn’t understand a lot of the traditions and the characters often remained mysteries to me. It really felt like I was missing some serious background info. I’m assuming this was all provided in the author’s previous series “The Secret of Failure”, which I haven’t read.
I think “Wasted Youth” had serious potential, but it left me feeling kind of “meh” in the end, simply because there was so much I just did not understand. I am curious about “The Secret of Failure” and have added the first book to my ever-growing list of books I’d like to read one day. I won’t continue with “The Secret Art of Mercy” for now, however.
The cover by April Martinez shows a beautiful landscape, overlaid with a picture of Sebastian. The landscape is gorgeous but I think the cover could’ve done without the young man at the top.
Kindle Edition, 292 pages
Published September 5th 2016 by Loose Id LLC
SeriesThe Secret Art of Mercy #1
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
The mysterious man, rescued from a basement in which he was chained by cultists, keeps Jamison guessing. He both confuses and excites him, and Jamison isn’t sure how he feels about that. Plus, things turn from unusual to downright strange when people start insisting Mal isn’t quite human. And Jamison’s creepy dreams of crows and graveyards don’t make things any better for him.
Will Mal stay around long enough for Jamison to figure out his secrets, or will this stranger leave him aching for more?
This is my third book by Caitlin Ricci, and the first fantasy book I read by her. Since I really liked the first two contemporary books, I figured this was a safe bet. Well, unfortunately “The Little Crow” left me rather disappointed.
I never understood the attraction between Jamison and Mal. Mal is annoying and stalkerish and Jamison repeatedly tells him to get lost – which Mal ignores. At one point, Mal is forced to do some pretty awful things to Jamison. Jamison is understandably pissed and feels betrayed. Mal does feel guilty, but instead of explaining why he did what he did and giving a proper apology for it, he was just annoyed that Jamison was once again telling him to stay away. The apology that came eventually was too late and too little for me to believe Jamison’s forgiveness.
Jamison was difficult to connect to. I just don’t know what to think of him. He seemed oddly naïve and innocent for a policeman. Mal repeatedly says, “You shouldn’t have freed me.” And Jamison never wonders why. I could never quite get a handle on his emotions. He was very difficult to read, even when I was reading his POV.
Mal was much easier to read. I didn’t necessarily like him, but he was simple. He had some funny ideas how to deal with people he didn’t like and he was extremely protective of Jamison.
The plot felt very unfinished. All we learned was that Mal is a weird guy. Subplots are introduced and then left hanging, going nowhere. This is only part 1 of the series, but it still felt rather unfinished.
The general idea was interesting and certainly had potential, which the author sadly never quite fully realized. The world was rather lacking, too.
The one thing I found truly fascinating was Mal’s second form, the crow. I wish there’d been more about that.
All in all, this book just wasn’t for me. Too little everything, really. I won’t continue this series.
Cover: The cover by Natasha Snow is absolutely gorgeous. That crow looks amazing and the background colours are perfect.
Kindle Edition, 252 pages
Published September 12th 2016 by NineStar Press (first published November 29th 2012)
SeriesHeart of Darkness #1
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Zion’s life is falling apart. His home burned down, his obnoxious ex-boyfriend is scheduled to get out of jail, the managers of the magical Renaissance Faire expect him to do a month’s worth of work in days, he hasn’t seen his sick sister in nine months, and he’s discovered a hidden room filled with secrets in the rubble of his library.
Usually, spending a few hours practicing rope bondage would be enough to clear Zion’s head, but not this time. This time there’s too much going wrong, and none of his problems are going away. In fact, life is throwing him yet another curve ball in the form of a handsome architect named Vin—the same Vin who spent all of last year trying to climb into Zion’s pants. Zion resisted then, but he’s not so sure he can do it again. He’s not so sure he even wants to.
Zion’s mountain of problems just keeps growing, and it’s only a matter of time until he gets buried beneath them.
First of all, I haven’t read the previous books in this series. I read the blurb for “Faire Secrets”, which is book four, and thought it sounded interesting. I went back and glanced over the blurbs of the previous books. Since this couple didn’t show up in any of them, I figured it should work as a standalone. Unfortunately it doesn’t. That’s totally my own fault and has nothing to do with the quality of the book/series. So I’m going to try to keep my rating as fair as possible and not punish the author for my own mistake.
The world of the Faire seems very intriguing. It looks like a lot of world building has happened in previous books and I really like the little that still happened in this book. The author has obviously put a lot of thought into her world and shows a great love for little details, which make the place even more alive and real.
Zion is an interesting man. I can’t help but relate to his work as a librarian, since I work with books as well. I always love to read about characters who truly appreciate books. Unfortunately for Zion, his world is currently in the middle of falling apart. Everything’s a mess. Usually, a bit of rope bondage helps him calm down, but that’s not enough this time. While Zion likes to be put into elaborate bondage and loves the feel of rope on his skin, he’s not into any other BDSM things. He’s neither a submissive, nor a masochist. He’s just kinky. I really liked that about him.
The sex scenes were very hot. Vin and Zion are very versatile and open to new things. The scenes were a good mix of explicit and non-explicit. Not every single time the two of them had sex was described in elaborate detail. Instead, the author chose to only show us the times when the sex was important to the plot and the relationship.
I liked that Vin was so open from the beginning. He told Zion that he wasn’t good at the guessing game and thus needed to be told explicitly what he was supposed to do or not do. I hate it when MCs don’t talk to each other and just assume things all the time!
I especially loved reading about Zion’s work with the ancient texts he found. I think those were my favourite scenes by far.
There isn’t much to complain about. The plot wasn’t exactly full of breathless suspense, but I still felt well entertained. I just wasn’t fully invested in the story all the time, which was probably a result of my lacking knowledge of previous events.
I’m sure I would have liked “Faire Secrets” even better if I had read the previous instalments. It has definitely made me curious about them and I want to read the first three parts now.
The cover by Fiona Jade is a bit generic. I think it could have done without the shirtless man. A greater focus on the books and scrolls might have worked better.
ebook, 257 pages
Published May 17th 2016 by Loose Id
Series: Part 4 of the Faire Folk series – add to your Goodreads shelf here:
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Remus Black is still reeling from an abusive relationship that stripped him of everything — including his desire for love. Now all he wants is a fresh start halfway across the country, but his new roommate is determined to draw him into his strange world of chains, half-naked men and the infamous Lodge, a BDSM club as lavish as it is secretive. When Remus is entered into the Lodge’s annual Alpha’s Pet contest against his will, he finds himself thrown to the Wolf Pack, the very type of men he needs to avoid. What’s worse is that the wolves immediately label him a submissive, something he swore he would never be again. Things get even stranger when “wolf” turns out to be far more literal than Remus ever imagined. When both the next-in-line for Alpha and his outcast brother claim Remus as their own, the entire pack is thrown into chaos. Can Remus learn to embrace the power of submission and choose between the brothers before their rivalry tears the pack apart, or will the tension between them unravel his own sordid past?
I’m a bit torn about this book. I pretty much hated the first 40% or so. That part was something around 2 or 2.5 stars for me.
At first, Remus is a horribly annoying doormat. He has no spine and never, ever stands up for himself. It drove me nuts. At least Remus is aware of his lack of spine and we do get a good explanation later on. But at the time, I just want to shake some sense into the boy.
Then Sebastian shows up. He’s your typical badass, growly Alpha Dom. He got on my nerves pretty soon. I didn’t like how he coddled Remus. It seemed belittling to me, taking away all his choices and taking advantage of Remus’ lack of self-confidence.
Things got interesting when Victor, Sebastian’s twin, showed up. Where Sebastian seemed to be all muscle and little brain, Victor was a master at mind games. He was a very intriguing character. I think that’s about the time I started to get more invested in the story.
After a while, questions start getting answers and mysteries start unravelling, uncovering some very interesting world building. Everything became more and more intriguing and suddenly I really, really had to know what was going to happen next.
The ending is a very mean cliff-hanger, leaving us with even more questions. It’s a very open ending. I have a feeling there won’t be a real resolution until the end of the series.
Long story short, the beginning was very, very weak. It took about 40 or 50% for me to get invested in the story. The second half was really good, though, full of suspense and mysteries.
Cover art is fitting for the story and eye-catching.
Kindle Edition, 434 pages
Published April 10th 2016
SeriesKingdom of Night #1
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Finn is about to start his senior year of high school when he and his family move from Austin, Texas, to Woodland Park, Colorado. Everything is different—even the elevation—and Finn’s having a hard time getting used to his new home. Life takes a turn for the better when he meets Ivan Dubovasky at a farmers’ market. Finn finds not only a close new friend but a fulfilling volunteer position at the High Mountain Wolf and Wild Dog Center, which Ivan’s family runs. Before long Finn develops an affinity for the wolves under the center’s protection.
Things only get better for Finn when he starts a relationship with Ivan; and Ivan’s best friend, Adrian, who’s asexual, completes their small pack. But it all comes crashing down when the bully plaguing Adrian crosses the line and Adrian goes missing. Finn and Ivan are determined to bring their boyfriend home safe, but they might not be able to do it alone. Luckily there’s a special wolf ready to lend a paw.
For some reason, I fully expected this book to have werewolves. It took me a while to realize that the wolves were perfectly normal wolves and nobody was secretly a werewolf. That definitely didn’t stop me from fully enjoying “Running with the Pack”, though.
Reading this story was truly delightful. The MCs were adorable and were a perfect match. The angst level was pretty low and there wasn’t a whole lot of drama either, but I was never bored. I didn’t even realize I was essentially inhaling this book until I was almost done, just over 24 hours after I’d started it.
There are a lot of m/m books out there with a poly relationship. There also a few m/m books with an asexual character. But I’ve never seen both in one book, and neither in a YA story.
I loved how natural it was for Adrian, Finn and Ivan to become a trio. Adrian’s asexuality and the poly aspect of their relationship were portrayed in a very positive light and felt absolutely natural. There simply was no other way for either of them. They just fit. And I also loved that they started their relationship as a trio, rather than as a couple adding a third party.
It probably wouldn’t have hurt if they’d talked more about their relationship. But they are teenagers and relationship talk is hard for anybody, so it didn’t bother me too much. I did, however, feel like we were missing something from Finn’s past. The authors kept making implications about his old school and the reasons why his family decided to move so far away, but we never really got a good explanation. It just felt like there was more to the story than was being said.
Overall, “Running with the Pack” is a truly lovely YA story and definitely also suitable for younger readers. There is only one scene with sexual action and that happens completely off-page.
I would love to have a sequel where the three of them figure out how to be together in the long run. I’d especially love to find out how involved Adrian will get in the sexual part of their relationship. I don’t know if the authors are planning on writing a follow-up or leave this as a standalone, but I’m all for another visit with these three wonderful boys.
If you like YA, asexual MCs and/or poly relationships, then you should give this book a try. Chances are, you’ll be as charmed as me.
Cover: The cover by Bree Archer isn’t really to my tastes. It’s a bit cheesy, tbh.
ebook, 180 pages
Expected publication: September 8th 2016 by Harmony Ink Press
ISBN 1634770641 (ISBN13: 9781634770644)
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
When they first meet in the woods and Brad takes in Davie’s small stature and pretty-boy looks, he assumes the kid is just another runaway. As a cop, Brad has learned to recognize the signs. But Brad is already in trouble with his superiors, getting suspended for “assuming” something on another case, so now he knows better than to assume anything.
Davie, actually in his early twenties and far from being a child, escaped a horrible past and now lives each day living from hand to mouth as a drifter. Homeless and starving, he meets Brad in the woods, and despite their differences, can’t fight the immediate attraction he shares with the older man.
But with both men still trying to deal with their troubled pasts, they quickly realize it’s just not the right time to begin a long-term relationship. When they meet a year later, however, and they feel the same attraction to each other, will they be able to follow their hearts without their pasts coming back to haunt them?
Before I decide if I’m interested in a book, I normally always check the page count. I don’t like short stories, so I rule out books with less than 100 pages. But somehow I managed to overlook the page count for “The Cop and the Drifter” and only realized it was a short story when I started reading.
As with most short stories, this book lacked depth. The plot idea would have been enough for a full novel and 63 pages just weren’t enough to do it justice.
Davie has suffered horrific sexual abuse. He was raped countless times for many years and even spent several years as a sex slave. Davie tells Brad about his horrible past on the very first night they meet. Brad is a complete stranger to him and yet Davie has no trouble talking about the abuse he has suffered. That’s the first thing that bothered me. It just doesn’t seem realistic.
The author didn’t manage to make me care for Davie. His story left me cold. It all seemed very emotionless to me, as if it happened to some unimportant minor character and not one of the MCs.
Brad remained colourless as well. He’s grieving, but once again, the author didn’t manage to make me care about his pain.
The whole story felt a little hurried. Brad and Davie don’t see each other for months after that first night and yet it’s essentially love at first sight. And then they have sex again, and Davie’s history of sexual abuse doesn’t come up even once. He seemed to have made a full recovery within a few months, all without a single hour of therapy.
Overall, “The Cop and the Drifter” had enough going on to fill a full novel. But rather than give the MCs time to heal and for the romance to slowly unfold, Christiane France pressed it all into a short story that just didn’t do her ideas justice. It could have been great, but turned out just okay.
Cover: The cover by Fiona Jade is sweet, but a little generic. There are plenty of similar covers out there.
ebook, 2nd Edition, 68 pages
Published June 28th 2016 by Loose Id (first published May 29th 2010)
Original TitleThe Cop and the Drifter
Note: This book was previously released by another publisher. It has been revised, lengthened and reedited in this version.
Rating: 2 stars out of 5
When sword for hire Teodoro Ciéza de Vivar accepts a commission to “rescue” Lord Christian Blackwood from unsuitable influences, he has no idea he’s landed himself in the middle of a plot to assassinate King Philip IV of Spain and blame the English ambassador for the deed. Nor does he expect the spoiled child he’s sent to retrieve to be a handsome, engaging young man.
As Teodoro and Christian face down enemies at every turn, they fall more and more in love, an emotion they can’t safely indulge with the threat of the Inquisition looming over them. It will take all their combined guile and influence to outmaneuver the powerful men who would see them separated… or even killed.
Now I’m usually not all that interested in historical novels, especially if they’re set in Europe. But something about the blurb for “Checkmate” grabbed my interest. Probably the fact that Teo is a mercenary. I do like my mercs. Either way, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to broaden my horizon a little. Unfortunately, I really didn’t like this book all that much.
The beginning wasn’t that bad. The first 20% or so felt like about 4 stars, with a little too much jealousy between two strangers. But once Teo and Christian got together, it just kept getting worse.
Both MCs seemed extremely possessive from the start. They essentially only met hours ago, under less than ideal circumstances, yet they’re instantly attracted to each other and also instantly extremely jealous and possessive. A little bit of jealousy is perfectly fine by me, but just like in RL, I find such extreme possessiveness very off-putting. It just didn’t make sense to me. I’m willing to get behind a bit of insta-lust, but this felt a little too close to insta-love for my tastes.
Something else that bothered me from the beginning was the constant head-hopping. If the authors had limited the POVs to the two MCs, that might have been okay. But virtually every character, no matter how minor, seemed to get their say at some point. Keeping track of whose thoughts I was reading got old really fast.
After much woe about unrequited love that isn’t actually unrequited, and some meddling by a well-meaning best friend, Teo and Christian finally get that the attraction is mutual. I had hoped that now we might be able to concentrate on the plot a little more. But instead of the constant pining we now got constant sex. And sadly, that sex didn’t do anything for me. To be honest, I was so annoyed after a while I just ended up skipping the sex scenes. They felt extremely cheesy and drawn-out and just really not all that hot to me.
I didn’t particularly like Christian. He read like a typical poor little rich kid, with daddy issues and a dead mother. Why do rich characters in romance always have to have issues with their parents? Does being rich make you a bad parent? His insecurities and Teo’s reassurances were seemingly endless.
At one point, Teo has to face charges for comitting sodomy. There’s a bit of torture here, but nothing explicit. I actually liked that part, because it was something very realistic and I hoped the rest of the plot might get a little more realistic as well. Unfortunately, I was once again disappointed.
Instead of trying even harder to keep their relationship secret, the two of them throw caution to the wind. They hug and kiss in broad daylight, in plain sight of anybody who might look out a window and then proceed to have tedious sex in a barn. That was one of a few serious face-palm moments for me.
The ending wrapped up nicely and everybody gets their HEA without any real trouble. And I was glad that this book was over.
“Checkmate” just pushed all the wrong buttons for me. I hate overly jealous and possessive people, in RL as well as in stories, and the writing style just didn’t really agree with me. I am still glad I read this book though, because now I know once and for all that typical romance novels just aren’t for me.
If you’re on the look for a nice, fluffy love story with a historical backdrop, by all means, go for it. You might just enjoy this.
The cover by Reese Dante shows a chess board and a headless male figure, probably Teo. I think it looks really good.
Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon
ebook, 2nd Edition, 294 pages
Expected publication: July 25th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press (first published 2009)
ISBN 1634774639 (ISBN13: 9781634774635)
Rating: 2 stars out of 5
Trystan is an unchosen angel—shunned by society, bullied, and without a future. In a hidden well, Trystan discovers a carving of a dragon, who were once the commanders of demons and now believed extinct. But Trystan learns the carving doesn’t depict an ordinary dragon. Stories tell that millennia ago, the great dragon Asagoroth and his demon army nearly conquered the three realms but was killed by the five elders. The powerful angels combined their life forces to cast a spell, sacrificing their lives.
But history is full of falsehoods. The five elders only managed to imprison the dragon, and Asagoroth had cast his own spell—one of releasement. It only needs the blood of an angel to liberate him from his cage….
Asagoroth, enemy of angels, conqueror of realms, is free. But even as the angels prepare for war, the great dragon surprises them with an ultimatum: hand over the angel who awakened him or face annihilation.
Okay, so I had several issues with this book. The general plot idea sounds good and I love dragons and demons and angels (as long as they aren’t sent by God or something), so it definitely had the potential to be great. Unfortunately, “On Wings of Thunder” mostly fell flat.
The beginning felt a little unrealistic to me. Trystan falls into an old well and discovers a gorgeous carving of a dragon at the bottom. He realizes that the blood from his cut hand does strange things with the carving. Instead of being scared or at least a little cautious, he’s fascinated and makes the cut worse to get more blood on the carving. And didn’t for a second think about the consequences. He lives in a world full of magic and doesn’t worry that blood magic and an ancient carving of an evil dragon might be a bad idea? That’s extremely naïve.
When Asagoroth is finally awakened, he essentially blackmails Trystan into joining him. He’s all, “Come with me, my love, or I will kill every last angel, destroy your entire realm and take you by force afterwards.” (Not his exact words, but the gist of them) And yet again, Trystan isn’t scared or worried at all. He seems to think that’s incredibly romantic. I was kind of uncomfortable with that premise. It didn’t feel like a very good start for a consensual relationship.
Once Trystan and Asagoroth are finally joined, self-doubt ensues on Trystan’s part. So much self-doubt it soon had me rolling my eyes. I do get that he’d be unsure about Asagoroth’s love for him, given his life as an Unchosen, but it was just too much.
One of my biggest issues was the sex scenes. With phrases along the lines of, “Trystan shuddered at the violation of his secret entrance”, it almost read like rape wrapped up in purple prose.
There wasn’t all that much plot overall. Around the 80% mark I was still looking for things to really get going. There is a big showdown at the end, but even that left me a little bored.
Essentially, “On Wings of Thunder” very much wasn’t for me. It felt a little silly and I was kind of bored for the most time. I’m sure there are people who will enjoy this, but I’m not one of them.
The cover by sin shows Trystan and Asagoroth. Just like the story itself, it isn’t really to my tastes.
ebook, 144 pages
Expected publication: July 20th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634774094 (ISBN13: 9781634774093)
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
After his family is killed by thieves, sole survivor Trey McAlister is taken in by a nearby Comanche clan. Trey has a gift for magic and the clan’s shaman, Singing Crow, makes him an apprentice. While learning to control his powers, Trey bonds with a young warrior and shape shifter, Grey Talon. When they are sent out on a quest to find the missing daughter of a dragon, they encounter the same bandits who murdered Trey’s family, as well as a man made of copper who drives Trey to dig deeper into the magics that created him.
It doesn’t take them long to discover a rancher near Cheyenne, Wyoming is plotting to build a workforce of copper men—and has captured the dragon’s daughter they’ve been searching for. Trey and Grey Talon must draw on all their knowledge and skills to complete their quest—one that grows more complicated, and more dangerous, with each passing day.
“Native Wind” is an interesting mix of Western, Steampunk and Native American mythology. That’s definitely not a mix I’ve come across before, so I was hopeful.
Grey Talon is a very unusual shifter with his ability to turn into any animal he’s ever laid eyes on. Trey’s shaman magic was also very interesting and I loved the time Trey spent practicing it.
Both MCs were very likeable and their bond was obvious. I liked that they were a couple from the start of the book, which left more room for plot outside the romance. There was no need for explanations and flashbacks, their love for each other felt completely natural.
There were a couple of unique minor characters as well, like Copperpot, the metal construct, or Singing Crow, Trey’s shaman teacher.
The great villain, however, was needlessly evil. I don’t like it when the villains only ever do evil things and the MCs only ever do good things. I like my shades of grey. At times, it was also hard to understand certain actions of Grey Talon and Trey. They didn’t always make all that much sense.
The world building was a little lacking. While there were a lot of scenes of Trey talking about and practicing his magic, little things were left unexplained. I’m still uncertain just how Grey Talon communicated in animal form.
I would have also enjoyed a bit more Steampunk. Sure, there was Copperpot, who became a loyal companion of the two, but that’s about it. The world itself didn’t have many steam powered machines.
I’m not sure I entirely understood the part dragons play in this world. They’re definitely nothing like any dragons I’ve come across in literature before.
Overall, “Native Wind” had promise but didn’t quite live up to it. The plot didn’t really grip me. I wasn’t exactly bored, but I never quite felt the urge that I absolutely had to know what happened next. I probably won’t read the sequel.
The cover by Stef Masciandaro shows a drawing of our four heroes, with Trey shifted into a dog and a dragon looming in the background.
Sales Links: DSP Publications | Amazon
ebook, 216 pages
Expected publication: July 19th 2016 by DSP Publications
ISBN 1634765532 (ISBN13: 9781634765534)