A MelanieM Review Replay: Forged in Fire (Asheville Arcana #2) by Ari McKay

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

The magic touch.

Ever since Harlan Edgewood was bitten by a possessed werewolf, his monthly shifts have been agonizing. When he meets Whimsy Hickes—a mage who specializes in transformation—the attraction is mutual. But Harlan believes his curse is too great a burden to inflict on any romantic partner.

Fortunately, Whimsy thinks he can help.

When Harlan is provoked into an unexpected change, Whimsy uses his magic to help ease Harlan’s pain, but with an unexpected consequence. While he’s shifted, Harlan’s wolf claims Whimsy as his mate.

As they draw closer, suspicious events in the Asheville magical community escalate. Shifters are disappearing, others are murdered, and Harlan’s curse makes him an obvious target. It will take all of Whimsy’s magic to force back the rising evil—and if he fails, Harlan will lose not only his life, but his very soul.

Whimsy Hickes! Of all  of the character names that have leapt across the  pages I have read all these years, this is one of the ones I wish I could grab for myself.  Just the sheer charm of this name speaks to me.  As does the character himself.  I have adored  Whimsy since I met him in Out of the Ashes (Asheville Arcana #1).  Then he was dealing with the loss of his triad relationship when his friend and lover, half-elf Arden Gilmarin, finds true love with his mate werewolf Eli Hammond.  When their other third, the Vampire disappears in his research, it leaves Whimsy lonely and searching for something for himself in Forged in Fire (Asheville Arcana #2) by Ari McKay.

The Asheville Arcana series or maybe trilogy is so wonderful.  Layered over with multiple storylines that keep your attention glued to every sentence less you loose a clue or important element that will frame out the next action, McKay never forgets that its the people (or beings) that are the foundation here.  And I mean every character, not just the main ones.  Just terrific characterizations all around.

Both Whimsy and Harlan are looking for something….and find each other unexpectedly.  It’s the mate bond that shows them the way.  Each character is lovingly built up so that they feel alive, each detail, right down to the handmade candles that one makes and the other joyfully receives, gives us insight into them as people and as a couple.  I loved that and them.  And could see them so clearly in my mind that I felt I  was nearby, listening in as  a friend and happy for them.

Of course, there is an ongoing series storyline arc here with a great evil and that is carried through here with suspense and wonderful action.  I was holding my breath at parts to see how it would all shake out and how if any resolution would happen knowing the series was only as book two.  I wasn’t disappointed. The authors can write action as well as romance.  And of course, we still have a lonely vampire at large.  Can’t have that, can we?

So what have we got?  A terrific magical series with supernatural and fantasy characters that feel alive and so vivid that you will connect with them easily.  An evil so pervasive that it sends chills down your spine and make you fear for all involved.  And plenty of love and romance for all lovers of, well, love and romance.  Plus the name Whimsy Hickes. You know how I feel about that.

I can’t wait for the next story in this series.  Until then, if you are new to the Asheville Arcana series, pick up book one and find out what’s in store for you.  None of them are standalones.  Then read this one.  I highly recommend them both.

Cover art:  Aaron Anderson.  Love this  cover.  That’s my idea of Whimsy Hickes now absolutely.

Sales Links:     Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Expected publication: May 1st 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640806979
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Asheville Arcana

Out of the Ashes (Asheville Arcana #1)

Forged in Fire (Asheville Arcana, #2)

A MelanieM Recent Release Review: Contraband Hearts (Porthkennack #10) by Alex Beecroft

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

His future depends on bringing the smuggler to justice. His heart demands to join him.

Customs officer Peregrine Dean is sent by his patron to investigate rumors of corruption in the Porthkennack customs house. There he is tasked by the local magistrate to bring down the villainous Tomas Quick, a smuggler with fingers in every pie in town. Fired with zeal and ambition, and struck to the core by his first glimpse of Tomas, Perry determines to stop at nothing until he has succeeded.

Tomas Quick is an honest thief—a criminal regarded by the town as their local Robin Hood. He’s also an arrogant man who relishes the challenge posed by someone as determined and intelligent as Perry. Both of them come to enjoy their cat-and-mouse rivalry a little too much.

But the eighteenth century is a perilous time for someone like Perry: a black man in England. Two have already disappeared from the wrecks of ships. Tomas and Perry must forsake their competition and learn to trust each other if they are to rescue them, or Perry may become the third victim.

Back to that historic seaside village of Porthkennack again we go in  Contraband Hearts (Porthkennack #10) by Alex Beecroft, one of my favorite ongoing series by multiple authors.  Only this time, we journey way back into Porthkennack’s history which is rife with smuggling, ship wrecks, profiteering, and in this case, it seems the mystery of the missing slaves who ought to be free men once they reach the shores of those rocky cliffs outside of their owners reach.  How I love this series and small complicated township, no matter where the story falls on its timeline.

Laid atop a maze of tunnels and small rooms dug into the ground that lead directly  to the caves and shoreline (read all the stories written for the series), Porthkennack only looks tidy, and, seemingly normal at first glance.  But the truth of Porthkennack often lies beneath the surface of things and people, as it has been shown from story to story, whether it be from Porthkennack’s convoluted and twisted past to it’s present, who’s ties to it’s past are almost iron clad.  Especially with its ancient families.

I love the historic stories and here Alex Beecroft has crafted one both timely and timeless.  Due to it’s location atop the perilous cliffs, riff with caves perfect for hiding smugglers and “misplaced” goods, Porthkennack’s citizens are a tightly knit village who survives based on cooperation, their wits, and floundering ships lost upon their shorelines.  Oh and wonderful harvests of fish too.  Beecroft builds this gritty, down to earth community with authenticity, heart, and verve.  At the top of Porthkennack is the Quick family who rules over all, leaving little for the township and most for themselves.  Tomas Quick, who’s relation to the family is uncertain is beloved by the town and not so by the local magistrate and Quick family.  Which is why Customs officer Peregrine Dean is sent to the seaside town.

Ah yes, the outsider sent to investigate corruption and smuggling.  In the 18th century.  Made all the more fascinating because Peregrine Dean is a black man who has never been a slave.  An Englishman with a mentor, he hopes for grand things for himself with the service.  So it’s with a certain zeal that he’s going to approach this  job.

Again, the characterization of Peregrine is perfect.  As is the shocks that await him. For in some respects,  Perry has been insulated away from the realities of what it actually feels like to be black and have your freedom taken away from you, to be considered a “product” to be traded and sold.   Beecroft works that element and the essence of the slave trade in here fluidly and subtly.  Plus you can see why that aspect of Peregrine’s personality fights so hard against what is before him.  Reality is a hard truth here for him to accept.  He has never seen himself as anything other than an Englishman and has thought that to be true mostly of others.  He is about to find out that the world outside of London is not as expected.

Tomas Quick is another wonderful character complete with mother and support of his community (equally made up of believable villagers and seafaring scoundrels as the reader will discover. Tomas has his own agenda here, along with established businesses.  His attraction to Peregrine (same sex attraction) and his acceptance of it is based on his mother’s attitude and background.  So the author’s case for their relationship is grounded and seems realistic.

There is also a delightful twist at the end that I throughly enjoyed!

Taking another journey to Porthkennack’s past for a romance, some mystery, considerable suspense and hijinks, and just plain grand storytelling makes me recommend Contraband Hearts (Porthkennack #10) by Alex Beecroft all the more.  I just adore this series and this book (and author) is just one more reason why.

Cover art:  L.C. Chase is exquisite.  This is  Peregrine Dean at his finest.  Love that cover.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

ebook, 270 pages
Published April 30th 2018 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN 1626498040 (ISBN13: 9781626498044)
Edition Language English

A MelanieM Review: Masc (Femme #2) by Marshall Thornton

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Lionel and Dog are back in this follow-up to the Lambda finalist, Femme. Almost six months have passed and, after taking an online quiz, Lionel believes their relationship is doomed because they have nothing in common. To save their future together, the pair joins a gay bowling league and discovers that Lionel is an excellent, if somewhat eccentric, bowler.

Meanwhile, Dog gets profiled in a work newsletter. He’s excited that he’s out at work, but doesn’t immediately realize that by fawning over Dog’s masculine nature the writer was also putting down all femme guys. Lionel takes it personally, which leads the to a crisis in their relationship. Attempting to make it up to Lionel, Dog makes a grand gesture—which backfires spectacularly.

Will the two manage to put things right? And will a night in jail, a morning of drag bingo, an afternoon of day drinking, and a month of moping make things better or worse?

I just loved Femme, the first story that introduced us to Lionel and Dog, and their road to love and a relationship.  I wish I just had this one to sail right into.  If Lionel is the femme of Femme, than Dog is the masc of MASC.  It’s so fitting that we now get Dog’s perspective in Masc (Femme #2) by Marshall Thornton as we pick up the timeline where Femme left off.

Well, we still get Lionel’s too.  Happily, Marshall Thornton gives his readers this story from both Lionel and Dog’s points of view.  But the focus is on Dog, the idea of a masculine “gay”,  how that definition impacts Dog and others around him, including his relationship with the femme Lionel.

There are so many things about not only MASC but this series that stay with me.

Thornton has created a cast of characters, starting with Lionel and Dog that I have taken to heart.  I fell in love with Lionel first, then Dog.  Here Dog’s vulnerability really stands out.  I keep thinking about Dog/Doug the person…yes, he seems somewhat naive in some respects, but I know people like that.  That earnestness, need to want to help or fix things is “real” and believable.  Which makes what comes later in the story even more heartbreaking.   Because the author uses something that occurs in real life and applies it to Dog.  And it’s not only extremely timely, it’s also upsetting and disturbing because the reactions are ones I’m sure others in his circumstances are receiving as well.

Trust this author to take this series and story and include such serious elements such as child abandonment (Lionel), parental loss, male gender roles, physical abuse, and sexual harassment into a story that includes sparkling dialog, glittering humor, heartwarming romance and love.  That includes Dog’s entire family and Lionel’s family of friends…both of which collide when Lionel joins Dog’s bowling team with surprising results.

The only thing that keeps this from a five star rating (which it will get anyway because I will round up) is that it’s not a standalone story.  MASC needs Femme to lean on just as Dog needs Lionel as his support.  Not that their communication issues get resolved until later in the story. That also feels very real in a new couple.   No,  much of who these two are and how they came together rests in the first story (a must read anyway in my eyes).

I intend to go back and read them one right after the other for my pure enjoyment.  Hopefully, this is not the last of Lionel and Dog.  But even if it is, I’m so thrilled to have made their acquaintance.  I want to go bowling with them, play bingo with them, and just spend more time with them.  It’s time well spent in laughter, love, and maybe a few sniffles too.  That’s life and this story is full of it.  And characters  who you will never want to let go.

Yes, I highly recommend them both.

Cover art: Marshall Thornton.  Love the bowling shoes!  Yes, they also make me think of the other pair not pictured!

Sales Links: Universal Buy Link

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 217 pages
Published April 28th 2018 by Kenmore Books
ASINB07BWWB5PW
Edition Language English
Series Femme #2

Femme 

Masc

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Ginger Snaps (Belladonna Arms #5) by John Inman

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

 

Even with a string of earthquakes jarring the tenants of the Belladonna Arms, rattling nerves and smashing dishes, life still manages to plod along as usual. Love pollen continues to fall, romances continue to flourish, and Arthur, the grand Pooh-bah in residence, continues to plan his upcoming wedding extravaganza.

In the midst of all this drama fall Gideon Chase and Reed Kelly, two redheaded losers at love who find themselves regrouping under the auspices of the most incorrigible matchmaker in heels.

Arthur sees hope for the two right away. He leases them adjoining apartments, then continually tweaks their budding friendship in the hope it will slip into love. Just as Arthur’s plans are coming along nicely, Reed’s past shows up to toss a monkey wrench into his and Gideon’s blossoming romance.

With Arthur’s wedding ceremony nigh, and Reed and Gideon on the verge of heartache yet again, Arthur faces one inescapable conclusion.

It will take more than love pollen to sort this mess out.

There’s is absolutely nothing better than to be home again in that faded six-story apartment building called The Belladonna Arms high atop a hill overlooking the ocean, a fabulous view of the city,  and new possibilities for love for all who arrive there.  For you see, it’s full of  love pollen  as each book has proved time and again.  Love pollen and cats.  Both figure large in each story.

John Inman has written so many incredible stories in many genres from contemporary romance to humor to the supernatural and horror.  But none has so captured my heart and left me wheezing from laughter or yes, sniffly from tears as his Belladonna Arms series and the oddball family that has sprung up in each apartment on every floor.  I thank John Inman every time each one/or couple makes an appearance in his stories.  And they do. In every one because they are a family that supports each other, no matter the occasion, in this case Arthur and Tom’s wedding (omg…the wedding dress).  The earth itself is having conniption fits over Arthur’s upcoming wedding as earthquakes galore are running through the area.  Through Inman’s vivid descriptions and our in depth knowledge and love or these characters we feel every quake and shimmy as if we were there.

The author really makes us a part of this family too.

From the moment heart hurt, homeless ginger haired Gideon Chase walks to see The Belladonna Arms because Ben  has told him he can get him a room there, we know Gideon is on a special journey.  One that starts with Arthur in all his drag  splendor waiting at the entrance, shifting boobs made of quinoa bags and all,  of The Belladonna Arms.  Then we move to red-haired Reed, his marriage, his decision not to live a lie, and again his arrival at The Belladonna Arms.  Two gingers, both hurting, now side by side neighbors.  Let the love pollen flow.

Lacking the necessities, all of the couples of the apartment building gather round Gideon to help him furbish his new home.  By chapter three, I’ve wrapped this book around my heart like a favorite comforter, so happy I feel to be back in their midst.  Then Gideon opens his door to two of my favorite kleptos, married couple Charlie and Bruce,  And it happens.  I’ll say the words.  Internet ballet lessons.

Ok, now I’m starting to wheeze here and the tears are streaming down my face.  I’m laughing so  hard that typing is a fail.

Brilliance.  The humor here will just grab at you when you least expect it.    This is just the first of many such scenes.

Of course, there’s plenty of poignancy too.  Reed has some powerful issues to work through and he’s not always as successful as one would hope at  first in finding his way.  Nothing here is ever easy.  But The Belladonna Arms family comes through again and again in the most amazing ways.  Inman finds paths that lifts everyone up, not just the main characters, but the secondary ones, that in other hands might have come out looking somewhat villainous, and that would have been   such a shame as well as unnecessary.

No one leaves The Belladonna Arms feeling unloved or a Belladonna Arms story feeling less that a bit dusted by love pollen yourself. I can’t help but wonder if a certain half naked flower boy will be featured in the next story.  Here’s hoping!

But until then I’m keeping myself warm with the laughter and love I find within the pages of Ginger Snaps (Belladonna Arms #5) by John Inman.     I know I will see Reed and Gideon again so this is but a seeya later.  And I keep bursting into giggles and outright laughter over the thoughts of Gorilla tape and cowboys hats and plie’s.  Truly my stomach hurts.  But not my heart.  John Inman has left that in excellent shape.

Now to wait for my next visit.  Until then I highly recommend you take a trip  to the Belladonna Arms yourself.  Meet everyone and fall in love.  Start at the beginning and work your way here.  Join in on the family fun.

Cover art: Aaron Anderson.  Normally I love Aaron Anderson’s work but I think this is a miss.  You have a story about gingers and you cut the top off the model so you miss out on the color of the hair?  Nope.  Plus the bandana really belongs to Charlie.  Fail all around.  Except that its done in the style that brands the series.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 240 pages
Published April 24th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleGinger Snaps
ISBN139781640800311
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series The Belladonna Arms #5

A MelanieM Release Day Review: The Obstruction of Emma Goldsworthy (Get Out #3) by Sean Kennedy

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Measuring up to her friend Micah Johnson’s success is an uphill battle for Emma Goldsworthy, but it’s one she’s determined to win. She works hard to stay on task and excel in her hockey program at the Australian Institute of Sport, but her mettle is tested when her ex-girlfriend returns from studying abroad… with a new American girlfriend by her side. Apparently she’s come out of the closet, something she wasn’t willing to do for Emma. Still, Emma has moved on from her ex—despite what those around her want to believe. Besides, there’s someone else on Emma’s mind—a girl she met once in passing and can’t stop pining for… even though Emma doesn’t know her real name, or even what she looks like beneath her costume.

Really, my love for all these characters and Sean Kennedy started back in the novel Tigers and Devils with the foundation couple, Simon Murray and star forward Declan Tyler.  They had their ups and downs on their way to becoming the established couple they are now.  In the later stories, Declan saw a need to help young  LGBT athletes and the Get Out Foundation was born.  So was this series.  The young men and women are all family to Simon and Declan, their stories intermingling seamlessly with theirs through Tigers and Devils and now three books in the Get Out series.

Usually Micah Johnson is the star of the series, as Emma herself is quick to note.  But she deserves her story and thankfully Sean Kennedy gave us hers.

Right off the bat or stick as it were, I would have bought this book for her interview with Trevor alone. I laughed myself silly.  Brava!

Emma Goldsworthy is a great character.  Yes, we’ve met her  before and been intrigued by her strengths, and yes, flaws.  But here she shines as she struggles to find herself again.  She’s adrift emotionally but not in her game and she’s trying to find the girl she appears to be to everyone else but herself.  Her life is in flux as her ex is back in town with a new girl in tow.  The ex is a star athlete on the field, she met a girl at a Con but both were in costume and she left because of friend drama and never got her name.  And Micah, her friend, is having bf issues too.  Emma is feeling the weight of the world.

The way Sean Kennedy writes all this feels fresh and real as does Emma.  With her vibrant red hair and attitude, nothing is easy and yet, you can’t wait to see  how Emma is going to handle the next situation that life is going to throw at her.  All the characters from previous stories as well as the Tigers and Devils series are here as they form part of the core group that hovers over both series.  So you see Trevor (still laughing) and Will, along with Simon and Declan.

I have a hard time thinking of these people as characters as they appear to me more alive, so vividly young and earnest that it hurts at times.  Their hearts are so easily bruised and yes, broken.  And yet, love can appear and fix it again.

What can I say?  I hope Sean Kennedy never runs out of stories to tell about these people.  I’m addicted to them because the writing is wonderful, the characterization is out of this world and the storylines come straight from the heart.

Emma Goldsworthy is a red-haired amazon to love.  Read her story and become crazy about her!  Love the entire series and this naturally  includes Tigers and Devils.

Cover Artist: Catt Ford.  Yep, that’s Emma alright.  Love the cover.  The only thing better if she had held it like she did for the cover of Sports Illustrated.  Total Attitude!

Sales Links: Harmony Ink Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published April 17th 2018 by Harmony Ink Press
Original TitleThe Obstruction of Emma Goldsworthy
ISBN139781640803862
Edition Language English
Series Get Out #3

A MelanieM Review: Family Matters (Brandywine Investigations #4-5) by Angel Martinez

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

With his career firmly established and his reputation as a successful PI growing, Hades should have the perfect life with his human lover, his faithful ferryman, his dogs and the parts of his family still speaking to him. But murder and chaos are never far away for death lords as his nephew Dionysus and his oldest friend Charon are drawn into the maelstrom.

Includes: Books, Bulls, & Bacchanals: Brandywine Investigations #4 Midwinter Dancing: Brandywine Investigations #4.5 Pack Up the Moon: Brandywine Investigations #5

With Angel Martinez’s fertile imagination, she has created a universe in which Lord Hades gets a divorce, gets kicked out of the underworld and starts a detective agency.  Of course, there’s so much more to it than that.  It involves so many gods and goddesses hanging out in the “real world” as well as on the Olympic plain, all doing their thing.  It’s fun, it’s a madhouse of murder and mystery and the author often turns well-known mythology on it’s head time after time.  Yes, it’s also absolutely marvelous great times.

I’ve taken the two stories that make up Family Matters separately.  They both take place in the Brandywine Investigations universe and have some of the same characters, in that Dio and Leander, along with Hades and Ti makes appearances in Pack Up the Moon.

Books, Bulls, & Bacchanals: Brandywine Investigations #4: Rating: 5 stars

Everyone assumes life’s one big party for Dionysus, but even the god of wine and orgies has problems. His anger management issues are out of control, and his siblings suggest a visit to the Eternal Library to find a cure. The library of the gods is a strange and confounding place, though, one that Dionysus has avoided for centuries, and his certainty that the library hates him is confirmed when a killer strikes during his visit.

Life as the only librarian is blissfully peaceful for Leander, giving him the security and quiet he so desperately needs. Considered a monster as a child, Leander’s memories of his imprisonment in the Labyrinth left deeply carved emotional scars. But when a young woman is murdered in his library, he needs to emerge from his self-imposed seclusion to help find the killer who might still stalk the hallways.

Forced to keep company with Dionysus, Leander swings between whether the unpredictable and charming little god will keep him safe or drive him to distraction before the killer is found.

I absolutely loved this story.  Here again the author takes two well known mythological figures Dionysus and the Minotaur and puts her own spin on their characters, personalities, and back histories.   Personally, I like her take on them  better.  Dio as he’s called is a slightly damaged, loving chaos god whose brain was scrambled by what you might call an acid trip.  He wants to be loved and accepted for who he is.  Hard when part of that includes orgiastic events that he needs to feed his life force.  For too many lovers, that’s been  breaking point along with a certain impossible to contain destructive anger.  One that explodes when he finds his human assistant dead in the Underworld Library.

Leander, head librarian at The Eternal Library, is the Minotaur.  However, here, instead of a fierce monster, he was an abused teenager, unjustly imprisoned by his family and betrayed by Theseus.  He’s a figure of utter shyness, poignancy, with a good measure of PTSD thrown in.  All in a huge minotaur’s body.  All he wants is his books, his garden, and to be left alone with his red panda assistants (so  fantastically  adorable).   But one murder, several robberies, and that’s quite impossible.

The authors characterizations, wonderful plot, sweet romance, and all the suspense make this a 5 star romp that both endearing and edge of your seat exciting.  Loved it.

Pack Up the Moon: Brandywine Investigations #5 Rating 4.5 stars out of 5

Charon, Hades’ ferryman of the Dead across the River Styx, has watched Hades himself and several of Hades’ nephews all find love.  And quietly wished for love himself.  To pass in the normal world, he runs Stygian Funeral Home when he isn’t helping solve mysteries with Lord  Hades.  Then it happens, he has a run in with the raccoon demi god Azeban and his crow Kaukont and everything starts to go terribly wrong.  Or right after a very mixed up fashion even for a Chaos god.  With the world and all its souls hanging in the balance, can love and a ton of goddesses and Chaos gods save the day?

Chary, that wonderful Chaos god who has appeared in all the stories, now gets his own romance.  Long overdue and I’m so happy with the results.  No less than the utter end of the Death Lords and the World could be at stake here.  And the resolution and unlikeliest of heroes is also a Raccoon.  Well, a raccoon god and a crow.  There’s  the Martinez humor, a great deal of pathos in two characters who never thought they’d find love and do with each other, near death experiences, and a wonderful drum dance of goddesses and this story came very close to perfection.    Perhaps I wanted a little more comeuppance for the evil deeds done but maybe that ‘s not possible when you are talking about gods.

If you love mythology, Angel Martinez and her wild takes on everything from murder mysteries to every known god pantheon there is, this is the universe and stories for you.  Grab them all up while you are at it.  I highly recommend them all.

Cover art: Rebeckah Murray.  I like this cover.  Clearly different from the norm.  That Leander and Dio on the front.  I liked it.

Sales Links:  Mischief Corner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 502 pages
Published February 28th 2018 by Mischief Corner Books
ASINB079QZG71P
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Brandywine Investigations #4-5

Please note: Books, Bulls & Bacchanals has been re-edited with a few story adjustments for this edition.

A MelanieM Review :Explore with Me (With Me Series #2) by Kris Jacen

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Can two coming from such different backgrounds and points in their lives find a balance to explore together?

The Army is the only thing that First Sergeant Danny Glenn has known in his adult life. From the age of nineteen on, he’s worn a uniform every day. He’s seen so much in his twenty years but the last deployment did something to him. Danny’s begun to wonder if he can’t do more good helping people in the US instead of other countries but to do that he’d have to get out.

Doctor Liam MacNamara is finishing up the last of his residency in Emergency Medicine. Now’s the tough part, which offer to accept. He could stay in New Orleans where shifts are never dull or choose to uproot and experience somewhere different. College followed by medical school and then residency are the only things he’s known since he was eighteen. There’s got to be more out there, right?

Can a retired first sergeant and a brand-new doctor balance each other enough to explore their options together?

I so glad Kris Jacen went ahead and wrote another story in what became a series because it’s wonderful.  Explore with Me continues in the same universe and with the same characters and heptad as the marvelous Wait for Me. First Sergeant Danny Glenn is another member of the heptad that I fell in love with in the first story.

But the author removes him from that close-knit group and their support system by placing him in New Orleans.  I have to admit I missed them but they all will show up later.  By isolating him, cutting him away from his heptad, the focus is again primarily on him, his issues, and the problem at the moment, the one the places him at the hospital.    His doctor, Doctor Liam MacNamara, happens to be the baby brother of Mackay…yep  the same Master Sergeant Jeff “Mackey” MacNamara of Wait for Me.  Lian is also at a crossroads in his life, needing to figure out where to go next now that his internship is done.

Two men, one major attraction, close ties between them,  and both at crossroads in their lives. All you need for a wonderful, emotionally charged story and Jacen gives us that.  And she does so within the framework of the military she knows so well.

The members of the heptad (the group of soldiers that serves together and support each other) don’t have to be physically present to be a strong presence here.  No, they appear via  phone calls, texts, what have you.  And then of course, they do come when needed. They are family. All the nibbles and squeakers (the children as they are called), the dogs, the spouses (men and women)…everyone is here.  I love that about these stories.  Kris Jacen makes it clear that a soldier cannot be a soldier within their support system, their military heptad family which includes their actual ones.  That important message comes through strongly here for the readers and Danny.

The buildup to a relationship is slow and realistic.  I liked that too.  In fact I loved everything about this except maybe I wanted a little more at the end.  Maybe the author will give it to us in another story.  Plus there’s a certain soldier May that now needs his story told as well.  I hope they have a part to play in his.  This is a terrific series that I can see going on for some time.  It’s rich and full of love and wonderful people.  I can’t wait for the next one to come out.

I highly recommend this story and the previous one. It helps to have read Wait for Me to understand all the characters you meet here.   Take this soldier and the whole heptad into your heart today.

Cover art: Jared Rackler. I love the cover for this book.  Attractive and the colors are striking.

Sales Links:  MLR Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1 edition, 127 pages
Published February 8th 2018 by MLR Press
Original TitleExplore with Me
ASINB079Q4BCCZ
Edition LanguageEnglish

A MelanieM Review : Bitten By The Alpha (Regent’s Park Pack #4) by Annabelle Jacobs

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Gareth’s heart is set on Cam, but Cam’s heart broke a long time ago. 

As alpha of the Regent’s Park Pack, Cam’s focus is always centred on its members—his personal life pushed aside after the death of his wife. Now that his pack has merged with the Primrose Hill shifters, he can’t afford any distractions.

Gareth’s been in love with his alpha for years, but his position as beta complicates matters. Added to the fact Cam still mourns his late wife, Gareth knows his feelings will never be reciprocated, so he buries them deep.

With the two packs already struggling to unite under one alpha, they get a surprise addition—one who causes more tension within the ranks. Under such strain, long-kept secrets are forced into the open. Gareth and Cam must deal with the aftermath, while also keeping the pack’s best interests at heart.

One of my favorite series is back with Annabelle Jacobs’ Bitten By The Alpha.  I’ve been waiting to see if Cam, Alpha of the Regent’s Park  Pack would get a mate and a HEA and here he does.  Through the first three books, much is made of Cam’s mourning the loss of his human wife, a woman he loved deeply.  And all the time while he grieved, Gareth, his Beta, has loved him.  What is worse, he’s known that Cam is his mate, something Cam could never have with his human wife.

Jacobs has several plot lines running through Bitten By The Alpha as she  always does with her stories.  Entertwined with the difficulties of any romance between Cam and Gareth (and they are huge), are the pack problems that have come up with melding the two packs, Primrose Hill and Regent’s Park, together now that the alpha from Primrose Hill has had his powers removed and been jailed for his crimes.  Still, even more troublesome are the undercurrents that someone is looking to destabilize the newly formed pack and its Alpha.

Yes, hooked in good with all the drama and suspense yet at heart it’s still a love story, although at first you’re not sure how reciprocated it’s going to be.  All the emotions that have to be worked through, all the dynamics of the pack and emotionally fraught issues between the men that need to be examined, including Cam’s sexuality are played out here.  Jacobs also supplies us with an amazing side story and strong female character who will luckily get her own story and LGBT romance, a fact I recently learned and am thrilled about.

This story is a clear representation of why I love this series so.  The characters are full of personality, well rounded, and layered.  The stories have multiple plotlines that keep you often on the edge of your seat, entertained as well as swooning over whatever couple is at the heart of the main story thread with a strong cast of characters that continue to show up book after book, making everything both familiar and fresh.   Yes, I am eagerly awaiting the next one in the series and I think if you love shifters and romance, this is a series you shouldn’t miss out on.  Start at the beginning and work your way through all the stories as each builds on the one prior to it.  I highly recommend them all.

Cover Design: Natasha Snow.  I love the cover and think it works well for the story. 

Sales Links:   Amazon |  Universal Buy Link

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1 edition, 314 pages
Published February 27th 2018
Original TitleBitten By The Alpha
ASINB079Z72STG
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Regent’s Park Pack :

Book #1 – Bitten By Mistake

Book #2 – Bitten By Design

Book #3 – Bitten By Desire

A MelanieM Review: The Lion Tamer (The Sin Bin #6) by Dahlia Donovan

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

One dominant Marine.

One troubled rugby player.

The Sin Bin will never be the same.

Gray Baird’s to-do list for the year includes starting a restaurant, claiming his submissive, and keeping his nosy friends out of his business. He has his work seriously cut out for him.

Scottie Monk prides himself on bullying his way through problems—and sometimes even people. His life is spiralling out of his control, but he refuses to break. The last thing he expects is to find peace in the confines of submission.

One man will try to tame a lion.

One man will try to heal.

And both men will have to join forces to deal with a toxic family and invasive paparazzi.

Each new story in The Sin Bin series made me sure I’d found the favorite  story and couple out of all of them…and I had. Until the next one.  This pattern held true with The Lion Tamer.  Dahlia Donovan has taken a sad and sometimes unlikable character that’s been appearing in every  previous story and slowly turned him into someone I not only connected deeply with but rooted for his happiness with everything I had.  That would be Scottie Monk,  a ex rugby alcoholic with anger issues up the wazoo.  Nasty to friends, unreliable, he’s on a downward spiral that anyone familiar with his  family would recognize.  And up until the previous story, The Unexpected Santa (The Sin Bin, #5), I wasn’t sure where Dahlia Donovan was going to take or leave him.

Gray Baird, an ex Marine and transplant to the UK is both the key to Scottie’s change in path and a whole new wonderful character.  Gray wants a sea change in his life and makes it.  New career as a chef, new home, and slowly, ever so slowly, a whole new set of people that become his family, including the autistic twins that he befriended in The Unexpected Santa.  The person he also wants to include in this new life is Scottie, but Scottie has to want to change his life, go to rehab, make his own drastic changes ..not for Gray but for himself.

This book has a gritty, realistic side (as does the entire series).  Donovan doesn’t spare the ugliness that is Scottie at his worst.  We  see the effects alcoholism has not only on the person deep in his addiction but on all of those around him.  The strains on the few friendships he has left, the growing exclusions from functions because of his behavior, and always the anger.  When submission and dominance start to help Gray and Scottie, both as a initial doorway to their relationship and as a revelation for Scottie, for whom love has always been an unknown factor in life, we get it.

You can’t separate out sections of this story as all threads flow naturally together into one vivid indelible tapestry.  The bdsm elements which are unbelievably hot and sexy, the raw and painful road to recovery for Scottie to sobriety,  the endearing and moving continued incorporation of twins Alice and Alex into Gray’s home and life.  Finally, their love and relationship along with all their friends and loved ones.  I can’t believe how much I love this story.

It’s so great to see all the other couples popping up to support this couple in whatever fashion is needed.  All the books and characters are so tightly intertwined that I may just start the series over reading them one right after the other.

The Lion Tamer (The Sin Bin #6) by Dahlia Donovan is one remarkable, warmhearted contemporary romance.  It’s moving, and oh so memorable.  I absolutely recommend it and the entire Sin Bin series.

Cover art:  Claire Smith.  I love the cover but it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the series.

Sales Links:  Hot  Tree Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook
Published February 20th 2018 by Hot Tree Publishing
ISBN139781925655520
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series The Sin Bin #6

The Sin Bin Series:

1. The Wanderer – BC & Graham

2. The Caretaker – Tens & Freddie

3. The Botanist (short story) – Aled & Wyatt

4. The Royal Marine – Hamish & Akash

5 The Unexpected Santa (short story) – Gray & Scottie

6. The Lion Tamer – Gray & Scottie

7. The Haka Ever After (short story) – Tens & Freddie

8. TBD – Zeb & Silus

A MelanieM Review: Apocalypse Alley (Blue Unicorn #2) by Don Allmon

Standard

Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Home from a six-month assignment to war-torn East Asia, genetically engineered supersoldier Noah “Comet” Wu just wants to kick back, share a beer, and talk shit with his best friend, JT. But JT’s home has been shot up like a war zoars out of 5ne, and his friend has gone missing.

Comet’s only lead is a smart-mouthed criminal he finds amid the mess. His name’s Buzz Howdy. He’s a con man and a hacker and deserves to be in jail. Or in handcuffs, at least. The only thing the two have in common is JT. Unless you count the steamy glances they’re sneaking at one another. They have those in common too. But that just makes Comet all the more wary.

Despite their mutual distrust, they’ll have to work together to rescue JT before a cyborg assassin gets to him first. Racing down a miserable stretch of road called Apocalypse Alley, they must dodge radioactive spiders, a lonely cannibal, and a killer Buick. They also try to dodge each other. That last bit doesn’t work out so well.

When I last put down  The Glamour Thieves (Blue Unicorn #1), the first story in this amazing series, JT, Austin, and his elf lover were headed to his  home that he shares with the teenage orc he’s mentoring having stirred up more trouble and uncovered even more disturbing information after freeing the virtual intelligence known as the Blue Unicorn.  Trust me, you need to read that story.  One, it’s a dynamite adventure tale and two, without it, you will be lost diving into this one.

I love Apocalypse Alley but the truth is you won’t get a solid foundation of the world or overall series ARC without reading The Glamour Thieves first.  This story and series builds upon each other like building blocks and you can’t enter midway point.  It’s like being dropped on a warped yellow brick road and not knowing you’re headed to Oz.  Not that you’re all that sure of your destination here.  So many twists  and turns await you!

And it all happens at break-neck speed.  What an adrenaline rush.  I had to read it twice to gather together all the story threads and hints I missed the first time.  Props btw to Allmon for creating a character with the name of Urushiol.  As a park naturalist/Ranger, I’m highly familiar with this chemical compound as is anyone who’s come in contact with poison ivy.  I laughed myself silly when I saw that name.  Perfect in every way.  Anyhow, from the moment the story opens we start picking up speed as Comet returns expecting to find JT waiting to pick him up at the airport and  goes looking for him when he doesn’t show.  Each scene as Comet interacts with both Buzz Howdy (we’ve met him before) and others foe and friend gives the readers more information about the man.

Buzz is a known entity but we get into his head and yes heart here.  He falls for  Comet, quick yes, but you can see how and why it happens.

But mostly it’s a race.  A race to keep ahead of some of the worse villains out there, a race to find JT and crew, a race to stay alive…all in heart pounding, white knuckle…go all out scenes.  It’s wildly imaginative, horrifying, and incredibly suspenseful.  Did I say I loved it?  And just when you think it’s safe…a surprising twist shows up at the end that makes you want to go back and read books one and two again to see if there was anyway you could have seen this coming.  And now I need The Burning Magus (Blue Unicorn #3 to come out in the worst possible way.

So, yes, I  absolutely recommend this series.  It’s one wild  ride.  It has great characters, it’s gritty, suspenseful, full of twists and turns and more plots threads then you can shake a VR stick with.  It’s even got love such as it is.  But you need to start with The Glamour Thieves and then to Apocalypse Alley.  I’ll be waiting for you at The Burning Magus!

Cover by: Simoné. I love these covers.  Perfect in everyway from the tone and characters.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 201 pages
Expected publication: February 26th 2018 by Riptide Publishing
Original TitleApocalypse Alley
ISBN 162649665X (ISBN13: 9781626496651)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBlue Unicorn #2