A LIla Review: Came Upon a Midnight Clear by Katie Porter

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Up-and-coming film producer Kyle Wakefield lives in the closet rather than risk the wrath of his influential, conservative parents. The only time he took a chance on love was a tempestuous teenage affair with Nathan Carnes. But when Nathan proved himself hell-bent on self-destruction and wound up in prison, Kyle closed off his heart.

Almost a decade later, Kyle’s production partner hires Nathan’s stunt company, Second Chances, to work on a big-budget action film in London. Nate is floored by his explosive reunion with Kyle. But he sure as hell isn’t surprised that Kyle still treats their mutual needs—and Nate—like dirty little secrets.

As the London holiday season casts its dazzling spell, the two men find themselves falling in love again. Kyle is one breathless kiss away from declaring himself to Nate—and to the world—but they cannot ignore secrets borne of youthful mistakes. To protect their bright new future, Kyle and Nathan will need all their passion and trust . . . and a little Christmas magic.

Came Upon a Midnight Clear is my favorite MM Romance story. I read it for the first time in 2013 and fell in love with Nate and Kyle after their very first scene together. For a couple of fictitious characters, their chemistry is palpable throughout the pages and the longing they have for each other makes their struggle to have a relationship real.

I re-read this book in 2016 and got a paperback copy as well. I loved rediscovering their love and all the scenes that made their relationship special. I’m not entirely sure why, but after reading over 1,500 MM books, this one still my favorite. And that’s why I just read it one more.

This is a re-edited version of this story, but the main events still the same. The only edits I noticed were related to technology and pop culture references. The sense of place, culture, and holiday spirit brings this story together. It’s not a traditional Christmas tale but a second chance love.

Since the start, it’s easy to see how good they’re together. Plus, how well they did without each other. They don’t need the other to be successful. Their relationship goes beyond that, to a friendship that stayed with them even after all the years apart. Their love is just an added bonus and the sex their way to connect.

And there’s a lot of sex in this story. Hard, raw, loving, but always as part of their developing story. This is definitely an erotic romance. Even so, the romance is as important as the plot itself. There’s a lot of angst too and Kyle’s and Nathan’s original relationship will pull your heartstrings, but it’s worth it.

This book is not perfect or a writing masterpiece but the authors did an excellent job developing the characters, creating an interesting supporting cast, and making Kyle’s and Nathan’s love believable. As a reader, we get to cheer for them until the very end. The epilogue is the perfect ending to the book. And yes, I’d read it again. 🙂

Also, Came Upon a Midnight Clear is now a 2017 Riptide Holiday Charity Novel benefiting The Russian LGBT network.

The cover by Natasha Snow is sweet and festive, just a bit too generic for this story. Other than the London Bridge, it doesn’t give the reader a feel for the story.

Sale Links: Riptide | Amazon | NOOK

ebook, 291 pages
Published: November 20, 2017, by Riptide Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-62649-673-6
Edition Language: English

A Lila Review: The Secrets in My Scowl by A.E. Via

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

the-secrets-in-my-scowl-by-ae-viaFrom high school, up until he became a successful attorney Jacob Snowden was convinced that love had it out for him. “Everyone left,” were the words he lived by. His mother, his high school sweetheart, his father, and his fiancé, all left Jacob just when he felt it was safe to let down his guard. Not any longer. Jacob was a determined man, set at keeping people at a distance. If his six foot one, military-made body didn’t scare people off, his permanent scowl surely did. At almost forty, Jacob’s social life was non-existent, but he told himself his work fulfilled him. He helped people get out of their loveless marriages. Jacob Snowden was one of the best divorce lawyers on the east coast and was damn proud of it. So, imagine his disdain when a wedding planner moves into the suite directly adjacent to his… an insanely masculine, male wedding planner.

Wylde Sterling had made quite a name for himself in his hometown of Roanoke, Virginia, working for a wedding planner that catered to the elite. He was known for his charm and impeccable taste. Yep, he was incredible at giving couples the wedding of their dreams. But he wanted nothing more than to plan his own. After striking out in love more times than he cared to admit, Wylde decided to start his own business in a new city, hoping Richmond would give him a fresh start. Things started out wonderfully – until he started to piss off the angry divorce attorney next door.

Wylde could see past Jacob’s mean scowl, knowing there was a reason for it. It was the man’s defense mechanism, his means of keeping people away. Everything in Wylde told him to stay away, but he believed Jacob just needed to meet a man who had been hurt as badly as he had.

The Secrets in my Scowl had me swooning from the start. I loved reading about Jacob’s past and how it shaped him. His experiences felt real and the author did an excellent job describing the military elements and the settings. I’m glad this part was included in the story and not narrated as a confession by Jacob later on. It lets the reader understand him without labeling him an ass.

Wylde’s introduction was a bit slow. Perhaps because I was still into Jacob’s story and wanted to see more of him. It was almost like starting the story all over again. But waiting for them to meet was worth the wait. It was explosive, luscious, and enough to keep the reader into the possibility of a relationship from there on.

The MCs had great chemistry. They weren’t perfect but worked well together. Their pasts made them who they were and it was nice to see them grow through the story. Their profession might look opposite from each other, but in reality, the author brought them together throughout Wylde’s comfort words to Jacob. Their UST was flawless.

Yes, the ending was a bit cliché, but it’s part of the magic. The story was fun and engaging and included great secondary characters. Patrick is one of my favorites. Emotions ran high, but the angst wasn’t overwhelming. Both main characters are snarky and compassionate on their own way. I’m glad Wylde wasn’t the stereotype wedding planner, and I felt sorry for all his mishaps before he started dating Jacob.

I deducted a quarter of a star because I’m a picky reader. I wanted to know more about the future of Jacob’s high school sweetheart, and a more descriptive encounter during the divorce preceding Jacob’s involved at the end of the story– a middle finger, perhaps? Also, I think the plot line with Jacob’s mom was unnecessary. Overall, these comments are more about me as a reader than the story itself.

Jay Aheer did an amazing job finding the right models for the cover. The composition has all the important elements of the story—which are brought into the perfect balance. The blue hue is a bit bland, but it goes with other covers designed by Jay for the author.

Sale Links: Amazon | ARe | Smashwords

ebook, 286 pages
Published: Oct 28, 2016, Via Star Wings Books
ISBN: 9781370823741
Edition Language: English

A Lila Review: Loving Djinni by Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Loving DjinniLeft to die in a sealed tomb, David, an educated and good-natured New York arts dealer and part-time forger, stumbles over an old oil lamp. But instead of producing a little light for David’s last hours, it conjures forth a veritable djinni.
An ancient, tempting, puckish djinni, who in David’s company prefers to show himself as an irresistibly handsome, fit and barely legal teenager. Quite literally an incarnation of trouble waiting to happen.
So what’s a modern man to do with his three wishes, when he can literally wish for anything except the one thing the truly desires – to mend his broken heart?

 

Loving Djinni brings a refreshing breath of air to the traditional MM fantasy genre. It starts as a mix between Indiana Jones and Lara Croft but rapidly finds its own place. I think (please don’t quote me) that this is my first MM djinni story. It was a pleasant surprise, to say the least, and I really enjoyed this authors’ style.

 

David seems a little distant and overdramatic at the beginning of the story, but the reader warms up to him as soon as they learned more about his story. The more time he spent with Sharu, the more we wanted for them to get their HEA. David is the traditional boy next door in everything but his job as a questionable art dealer. That hint of spice he has in him comes through the story creating an interesting character.

 

I have to say that Sharu was my favorite of the two main characters. I like the idea of having the djinni learning about the new world after his long confinement on his own and with minimal help from David. How many times he had been hurt by his masters has obviously shaped the person he’s now. David was the right master for him, caring, loving, but at the same time, intelligent and somehow outgoing.

 

This story has a great amount of sarcasm and humor. Their banter is fun and develops as they get to know each other better. Their daily lives give us an inside of what they both wanted, and there was a nice compromise during their relationship. They worked great as a team and as a couple. Their chemistry is sizzling, and the UST only enhanced it.

 

There aren’t many secondary characters, but Stanley and Mrs. Weintraub worked well, bringing trouble and comedic relief into the story. Yes, Stanley was perhaps too much of a stereotypical antagonist, but it felt real in this fantasy world. My less favorite parts were their history and art related conversations. For some reason, they didn’t read as smooth as the rest of the story.

 

I’m really impressed by this, new to me authors, and I’m definitely looking forward to more books from them.

 

The cover by Natalya Nesterona is perfect for this story. It shows both characters, the lamp, and David’s apartment. A great combination of style and fantasy.

 

Sale Links: Smashwords | Amazon | ARe

Book Details:

 

ebook, 190 pages
Published: April 14, 2016, Self-Published
ISBN: 9781310559877
Edition Language: English

 

A Lila Review: The High Kings Golden Tongue by Megan Derr

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Rating: 5+ stars out of 5

The High Kings Golden TonguePrince Allen has trained his entire life to follow in the footsteps of his illustrious mother, who has made their kingdom one of the wealthiest and most influential in the empire. For the past few years he has trained to become the new consort of the High King. The only thing no one prepared him for was the stubborn, arrogant High King himself, who declares Allen useless and throws him out of court.

High King Sarrica is ruling an empire at war, and that war will grow exponentially worse if his carefully laid plans do not come to fruition. He’s overwhelmed and needs help, as much as he hates to admit it, but it must be someone like his late consort: a soldier, someone who understands war, who is not unfamiliar with or afraid of the harsher elements of rule. What he doesn’t need is the delicate, pretty little politician foisted on him right as everything goes wrong.

The High King’s Golden Tongue is an excellent fantasy tale of love, trust, family, and friendship.

The original story, in which this book is based on, was written in 2012 and was around 40 pages long. I read it about two years ago and rated five stars as well. I went back and skimmed over it, and found myself reading further than I first intended. The bones were all there, but this extended version is everything a reader could have wished for and so much more.

The fantasy world the author created includes several kingdoms with different languages and traditions— each of them with a rich history, royal families, and plots to take over the Empire. Simple things like food predilections, crops, and fashion are taking into account and spun into a well-connected tale.

Prince Allen is that connection between the kingdoms, but especially between the reader and the story. He had trained all his life to be a silver tongue, but more specifically, to be a King/Queen’s consort. He’s knowledgeable in politics, business, logistics, and many other things a regent would need to be taken care of. When Lord Tara’s family suggested him to be the Consort of the High King, he trained for two years just to be what King Sarrica needed.

Being a widower with two small children and a kingdom ready to go to war takes King Sarrica’s full attention. It’s not until the moment the Council brings a consort for him that he realizes that he didn’t want anyone to replace his late husband, Nyle. If forced, Sarrica wants a soldier, like him, to help him defend his Empire. He didn’t see value in Prince Allen’s knowledge and training. He pegs him as a spoiled royal looking for pampering and multiple lovers.

Sarrica’s dismissal puts Allen in an awkward position. If he returns home, his family would see him as a failure and his kingdom can take offense. If he stays, he would constantly be waiting for Sarrica’s call. Even if it’s just to warm up his bed, Allen wants to serve the stubborn King.

A series of misunderstandings, clever resolutions, and dark situations would mark a separate path for Sarrica and Allen. Their separation would show Sarrica how much he needed Allen and what he was willing to do to get his Golden tongue back. At the same time, Allen would find the friends he never had and a real reason to survive. He’s finally putting to practice everything he learned since childhood and discovering his own strength.

All these adventures are detailed, engaging, and fascinating. There isn’t a slow moment in this book. The plot moves forward steadily with every situation, and all the characters had a reason to exist. The amount of characters and setting involved is grant, but not overwhelming. Everything is presented cohesively and the narrations, as well as the dialogues, were well-written and witty.

I loved Tara, Rene, Lesto, and many of the Fathoms Deep and Three-headed Dragons. The friendship between Sarrica, Lesto, and Rene added a sense of familiarity and reality to the story. The settings, the fashion, and the food descriptions were great; the books and treaties, too. I only had trouble following some of the gender neutral names and I wished the author had explained the reason why some of the males  were able to bear children.

Overall, an exquisite fantasy story filled with unique scenes and engaging characters. Really happy to see more books being added to the series.

The cover by John Coulthart is beautiful. The intricate design and the attention to detail bring small parts from the setting & the castle to life. It definitely has the feel of a medieval High Court.

Sale Links: LT3 | Amazon | ARe

Book Details:

ebook, 400 pages
Published: November 4, 2015, by Less Than Three Press
ISBN: 1620046245 (ISBN13: 9781620046241)
Edition Language: English

Series: Tales of the High Court
Book #1: The High King’s Golden Tongue
Book #2: The Pirate of Fathoms Deep
Book #3: The Heart of the Lost Star (2017)

 

 

 

 

 

A Lila Review: Guardian by Jordan Taylor

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5                   

GuardianGavin lives a serene and routine life. He has no friends, and his only contact is with co-workers or acquaintances he sees over the week, during his day-to-day activities. Even when he doesn’t know of his existence, his Guardian is always with him. Trying to console him, to love him, and bring him joy.

Unfortunately, he’s not able to touch Gavin or influence his decisions. Just like the Guardian, we follow Gavin around and see, through his eyes, how Gavin lives. We experience Gavin’s depression and the Guardian’s love and desperation to make his protectee life brighter.

When the Guardian asks for help to manifest as a human, his request is granted. For the next twenty-four hours, he had the chance to meet face-to-face with Gavin and explore what he always wanted. As the time counts down, Gavin will realize that what he wants might not be what Gavin needs.

Guardian is a beautiful short story about the true meaning of love. It’s a none traditional romance, but lovely on its own right. I’m not going to spoil the twists and turns that give this story its uniqueness. I’d only say that it’s different than the blurb description.

The author did an excellent job bringing to life the Guardian’s feelings and Gavin’s misery. Also, with the changes in Gavin’s life. They were slow but significant. There’s some humor together with the pain and angst.

It takes some time to get used to the Guardian’s POV and the omniscient narration, but overall, it works well. The story is compelling enough to make the reader fall for the characters and pull them into reading faster to see what happen next.

The cover seems too severe for the story, but it matches Gavin’s state of mind at the beginning of the story. It has an old London feel, but more Gothic than contemporary.

Sale Links: NineStar | Amazon | ARe

Book Details:

ebook, 42 pages
Published: March 7, 2016, by NineStar Press
ISBN: 9781911153146
Edition Language: English