A MelanieM Review:The Wolf at Bay (Big Bad Wolf #2) by Charlie Adhara

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

 

Going home digs up bad memories, so it’s something Bureau of Special Investigations agent Cooper Dayton tries to avoid. When he’s guilted into a visit, Cooper brings along Oliver Park, his hot new werewolf partner, in the hopes the trip will help clarify their status as a couple…or not.

When Park’s keen shifter nose uncovers a body in the yard and Cooper’s father is the prime suspect, Cooper knows they’re on their own. Familial involvement means no sanctioned investigation. They’ll need to go rogue and solve the mystery quietly or risk seeing Cooper’s dad put behind bars.

The case may be cold, but Park and Cooper’s relationship heats up as they work. And yet if Cooper can’t figure out what’s going on between them outside of the bedroom, he’ll lose someone he… Well, he can’t quite put into words how he feels about Park. He knows one thing for sure: he’s not ready to say goodbye, though with the real killer inching ever closer…he may not have a choice.

I just love The Wolf at Bay (Big Bad Wolf #2) by Charlie Adhara.  It’s a first for me by this author.  I picked it up because I was intrigued by the cover and the description.  At the time I had no idea it was part of a series.  I had to find that out once I went scrabbling for more information at Goodreads for information about the author and found that there was a story that preceded this one.  Too late, I was already heavily involved with Cooper Dayton, Oliver Park, and Cooper’s visit home.

I’ll tell you immediately Adhara’s characterizations are amazing.  Layered, complex, and highly interesting people/beings emerge immediately from the story.  I didn’t have to read the first novel to get into the stress filled  relationship and shaky dynamics that is the partnership, personal and professional, between Cooper and Oliver.  It’s like being close to quiet lightning. it crackles and you don’t want to look away from the energy.

They are struggling to figure out how to emerge from what was clearly a disastrous event.  Cooper’s ex partner and his unwitting involvement  in his corrupt affairs.  Yes, this will send me running back to that first story but I didn’t feel I needed it to read this book.  I got enough information to feel satisfied that I had sufficient groundwork here to go on.

A call from Cooper’s family and  an invitation from Cooper for Oliver to accompany him seems like a good idea until a body is found under the gazebo in his family’s backyard.

How Adhara builds this case, all the emotions, the labyrinthine path filled with clues, old personal history, memories both good and bad is incredible.  The author builds it around Cooper’s family, his memories of his childhood, and his tenuous connections to his father in present time.  All the while as he and Oliver try to figure out where they stand with each other.  And keep Oliver’s identity as a werewolf from the family.  I did say that, didn’t I?

I’m so in love with this author and story.  I  need the next book in the series to arrive.  I guess the first story will have to do until then.

Love shifters?  Murder mysteries?  And romances?  Why not combine all three?  Pick up one beautifully written story with outstanding characters and a romance you will go crazy over in The Wolf at Bay (Big Bad Wolf #2) by Charlie Adhara. I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

Cover art is simply and relevant from a scene in the story.  Love it.

Sales Links | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 249 pages
Expected publication: September 24th 2018 by Carina Press
ISBN139781488089367
SeriesBig Bad Wolf #2

A MelanieM Review: Ground of Insurrection (Wizard Wars #1) by Mell Eight

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Life on the prairie isn’t easy, especially since the prairie has a habit of eating people it doesn’t like. Ruse knows the dangers, but there’s so much more to the prairie than death.

The nearby country of Ammet, however, only sees an exploitable resource to be conquered. Caught between the political machinations of Ammet and his love for the prairie, Ruse can only hope he doesn’t wind up killed by one or the other.

I honestly hesitated on the rating because the imagination behind the concept of Ground of Insurrection is just incredible.  There have been sentient planets, yes.  Sentient plants.  But here you have a sentient eco system, one that came about via a mage war.  A sentient prairie that once was a man. Mind blowing stuff.

My mind went all over the place with questions that quite frankly the author never answered.  How?   What?  As in I wanted to know exactly what it feels like to be a prairie! One that gobbles up people mind you for sustenance among other things. The adjustments to life, mind, everything that had to have taken.  There’s the book I kept thinking….

But nope.  We get Ruse as a storyteller. One of the convict’s sent to the Prairie from Ammet as a part of the city’s survive or die program.  True, Ruse has his own secrets and each small village of criminals is interesting on its own.  That would be small towns that grew as the killers, perverts, thieves…one by one…started to figure out how to survive and come together long  enough to form a village structure.

The dynamics at work within such a village are fascinating too, especially the ease at which they each accept what other societies find horrifically unacceptable:  the serial killer who continues to kill leaving bodies of the unwary to be deposed of at dawn, the psychopaths, the thieves, all working together, in a criminal harmony.

Mell Eight has other elements at  work.  Espionage, treason, assassination, and more plotting than I was honestly interested in.  No.  My focus was on the Prairie, his existence, his beginning, and how the others started to interact with him.

He is a 5 star creation in my books.  The rest almost suffers next to him.

In fact, the ending brought up so many  questions and opened up a bunch of holes in the narrative for me.  The villagers starting orchards for one thing.  Orchards are the very bane of prairies.  Any  woody plant it because its the first stages of a forest.  The very introduction of something that could mean the end of such a ecosystem seemed all wrong.  Surely Ruse and the settlers/villagers would have come up with a substitute for apples and tree grown produce?

And yes, that other ending left me unsatisfied because I still had so many unanswered questions to begin with and now had more.  It wasn’t until I looked at the title on Goodreads that I understood that this was to be a part of a series.  Still….

Magnificent creation.  And I definitely need more.  So I can handle a little frustration if I    finally get the answers I’m looking for…in book 2.  Hang in there with me and check it it.

Cover art:  Natasha Snow.  Perfect cover.  Just love it.

Sales Links:  Less Than Three Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook
Published June 13th 2018 by Less Than Three Press (first published June 11th 2018)
ISBN139781684312931
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesWizard Wars #1

A MelanieM Release Day Review: From a Jack to a King by Scotty Cade

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

New York Times best-selling mystery writer Bay Whitman leads the life of a celebrity—at least on the surface. In public he’s self-assured and in control. Women hang on his every word, while men envy his confidence and swagger. But in reality, Bay is a loner. He’s shy and introverted, and his life consists of sitting in a dimly lit room writing his famous Jack Robbins mystery novels. His one vice—gambling. Winning an escort in a poker game will change Bay’s life in ways he never imagined.

Matthew “King” Slater is one of the hottest tickets in gay porn. He spends his days in front of the camera and his nights as a highly paid escort to the rich and famous. Deep down, he craves romance and a real connection, but his past makes it hard to separate the needs of his body from those of his heart. For now, it’s easier to think of sex as just a job. But while doing a shoot in Vegas, King is hired for a tryst at a famous hotel and casino, and his handsome client might blur the line between work and play.

OK, I’m going to admit right off the bat, I misjudged this book.  Not by it cover, but by the synopsis!  I thought I was going to get a typical high priced call guy/porn star meets and transforms a nerd sort of story and gets a life makeover himself.  All of which does kind of happen.

But…and it’s a huge one, Scotty Cade takes that barest of well if not themes, then outlines and fleshes it out with surprising twists in his characterizations, story framework, and unique elements.  It begins with his multiple pov, told from both Matthew “King” Slater and Bay Whitman.  We don’t actually hear the name Matthew used much until the end of the story which is appropriate because for much of this novel, it’s King Slater, the vastly popular gay porn star and high priced escort that you hear from.  We meet him in the middle of a “shoot” for a porn film, taking a call for a hookup later on.   And it’s our first inkling of the twist that’s coming when  we hear King’s inner thoughts, both on the shoot and the escort job to come.  The layers that Cade start to pour over his character to distinguish him from others you might have stashed away in your mind.  I don’t really want to give away the issues with King.  But needless to say, the author has done considerable research and it comes through how King internally voice’s his insecurities and deep fears.  It’s believable and his actions at all times feel authentic.

So too does the bullying element that has played such a restrictive, altering role in Bay Whitman’s life.  The author mentions the horrible effects that childhood bullying have had on him and it translates into the  character of Bay in the story. That simply said, they carry over into adulthood with often surprising ramifications on that persons life.  With Bay Whitman, Scotty Cade is able to show what course those repercussions might have taken with one person.  And again, Bay becomes someone you can connect with, a person who needs to create a persona to deal with the “outside”, to handle people and events that he himself thinks are beyond him.  It’s so easy to emphasize and feel compassion for both individuals.

I enjoyed the path the author plotted to their HEA, as potentially loaded with emotional potholes and outright craters I kept waiting for them to fall into. But the author was kind and, I believe, sympathetic  himself towards this pair that needed each other and love so badly.

He gives them a ending that, perhaps I had to suspend my belief a little more than usual (which is why the rating) but it’s also a tremendous way to end the story.  Did I enjoy it? Absolutely.  I was rooting for them after all.

I think you will too.

I definitely recommend From a Jack to a King by Scotty Cade.   If you love romance, and for two men who deserive a chance at HEA, I think you will love this contemporary novel.

Cover art: Paul Richmond. You can always pick out a Paul Richmond artwork.  This one is absolutely perfect for the characters, story, and of course, the cover.  Love it.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Expected publication: July 3rd 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640801141
Edition LanguageEnglish

A MelanieM Review: Pack Up Your Troubles by Charlie Cochrane

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Rating: 4. 75 stars out of 5

A collection of WWI stories from Charlie Cochrane.

THIS GROUND WHICH WAS SECURED AT GREAT EXPENSE
An officer thinks he finds love in the trenches, but is it really waiting for him on the home front?

HALLOWED GROUND
A doctor and an army chaplain spend the night in a foxhole and discover there’s hope even in the darkest situations

MUSIC IN THE MIDST OF DESOLATION
And an old soldier discovers that there are romantic problems to solve even after you’ve cashed in your chips.

If you have ever read any of Charlie Cochrane’s historical novels, you know not only of her intense interest in WWI but her incredible ability to bring it vividly to life. To take not only the years that encompass WWI but those that preceded it as well as the years afterward where the impact on the survivors who came in many forms, and those who remembered shaped the course of many nations and weave it memorably into her stories.

When it comes to WWI and the men who went to battle, whether they were officers or those on the front line, she takes us into their lives in the trenches.  We feel their fear, their hopes, the lives shattered in a split second and get that war is ugly, anonymous, and death has many faces.  We feel both the intimacy of the men and their yearning for home.

And their fear for it as well.

All of that makes THIS GROUND WHICH WAS SECURED AT GREAT EXPENSE my favorite story of the three. Five stars plus as it takes us directly into the battlefield as well as the mens live before and post war.  It’s grim, the men undergo live changing experiences, and loss.  The characters are people we hurt for, believe in, and finally feel relief and happiness there at the end.  It’s an amazing story and so well written you can almost hear the sounds of battle ringing in your ears.

Next up is my second  favorite, also because of the realism and ability of the author to open her character’s up and expose their vulnerabilities…to each other and her readers in such a way that’s touching and authentic given the circumstances.  Such a moving story.  Again 5 stars for HALLOWED GROUND.  The author got the inspiration from visiting a chapel and those details carry over into the story.

The stories go from the most grim and realistic working their way towards an almost supernatural story,  MUSIC IN THE MIDST OF DESOLATION, that’s hard to describe.  Here the author plays with the lines between the afterlife and the living and two soldiers from different eras with a mission to accomplish.  It’s lighter in tone with WWI still but for me, there were some missing elements as the end where we didn’t find out what happened to a character or two. So  the addition of this story with the other two just didn’t completely work for me.

Now I know from the author’s guest blog that the three stories titles all came from WWI poems.  If you’re interested, check out more of Charlie Cochrane’s guest post on the subject here.  I myself am a fan of Siegfried Sassoon, another WWI author and poet as well as Wilfred Owen who the author loves so much.

I highly recommend this remarkable collection as well as the other historical novels by Charlie Cochrane.  The author has a way of putting you next to these men, letting you feel their experiences, empathize with their conditions and lives that will leave an impact on you long after the book is over.

Cover art is  perfection with the use of poppies,a symbol of Remembrance from famous poem called ‘In Flanders Fields’.  against the white background.  Blood red.  Haunting indeed.

Sales Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Book Details:

Kindle Edition
Published May 9th 2018 by Williams & Whiting
ASINB07CZKTX6G

A MelanieM Review: Demon Familiar (Wanted #1) by Bellora Quinn and Sadie Rose Bermingham (repost)

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Sometimes when you don’t know what you want, life gives you what you need. 

When Neil Markovic witnesses the murder of his mother by Bone Men his world is thrown into turmoil. On the run from the assassins that killed her, his sorcerer father and the police, Neil finds help in the form of a tall half fae alchemist named Malachai. Mal seems more accepting than most of Neil’s demon bloodline, but curiously immune to his charms.

Malachai Valentine, disgraced scion of a noble Leprechaun clan, back in the Old Country, is happy living as an anonymous scrap dealer. Using his talent for alchemy to make fuel and potions, most days he doesn’t even think of his ruinous past. When a scared young man with a fancy car crashes into his life, at first, Mal thinks he can do without the hassle. But as Neil begins to get under his skin, Mal starts to reassess his hopes and ambitions.

Harassed by megalomaniac fae and stalked by sorcerous killers at every turn, Malachai and Neil must fight to be free, and to find what they both truly wanted.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence, murder and non-consensual sex.

When I finished Demon Familiar, I just wanted to do a little teeth gnashing.  Where, oh, where, was the next book in this series? Oh, wait…not to be published until August 2018.  Let the wails commence.  That’s because at the end of this gritty, sometimes tender, occasionally horrific but always, always riveting story I wanted nothing more than for it (and this couple and other characters) to continue.

Demon Familiar by Bellora Quinn and Sadie Rose Bermingham is the first in their new Wanted series and as such left some fairly large mysteries looming large while the overall arc for this story was resolved.  Yes, I was completely satisfied yet I knew just as Mal and Neil’s relationship was going to grow and deepen so would their journey that would continue to explain each of their back histories.  And I can’t wait.

The authors were masters at the tease here.

They gave us intriguing (and so often appalling hints as to events in Mal’s past and elements from Neil’s, that had our own speculations leaning from the tortuous to the downright insane.  And probably being right.  On top of that, they weave Gaelic mythology into an alternate city of  Detroit that’s just familiar enough to be both alien and mundane.  What a marvelous location.  It felt like a character itself with its atmosphere and vivid descriptions.

I loved the way the authors carefully built the relationship between Mal and Neil, while exposing both characters to the readers (alternating pov).  This is a big cast, full of fae, gremlins, demons, and more.  Not high fantasy but more urban fantasy,  the gritty underbelly of society for many.  Think pimps, drugs, whores and thieves.  And with that comes non-con for a section.  It’s only a section but its there and I expect to see it again for reasons I will not go into in the upcoming stories.  Maybe wrong but I don’t think so.  People and beings are in part a commodity in certain sections of town here.

They have just started their world building and it’s only going to get better because the foundation is already rock solid.

I thought it ended a little too soon but I’m hoping the next book picks up directly after the events of this one.  My mind is buzzing over a few clues here and there, and the mysteries left unsolved.  I want more of these characters and more of Mal and Neil.  I want their backstories and I want their future.  I can’t wait for this series to go forward.

Pick this one up which I highly recommend and join me in waiting for the next one to roll out.

Cover art: Posh Gosh.  The red head works for Mal but in no way does the dark haired character work for the incandescent youth Neil.

Sales Links: Pride Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 244 pages
Expected publication: June 19th 2018 by Pride Publishing
ISBN139781786516695
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesWanted #1

New Release Book Blitz Demon Familiar (Wanted #1) by Bellora Quinn and Sadie Rose Bermingham (except and giveaway)

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Title:  Demon Familiar

Series: Wanted #1

Author: Bellora Quinn and Sadie Rose Bermingham

Publisher: Pride Publishing

Release Date: June 19th 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 96,000 words

Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Alternate Reality

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

Sometimes when you don’t know what you want, life gives you what you need.

When Neil Markovic witnesses the murder of his mother by Bone Men his world is thrown into turmoil. On the run from the assassins that killed her, his sorcerer father and the police, Neil finds help in the form of a tall half fae alchemist named Malachai. Mal seems more accepting than most of Neil’s demon bloodline, but curiously immune to his charms.

Malachai Valentine, disgraced scion of a noble Leprechaun clan, back in the Old Country, is happy living as an anonymous scrap dealer. Using his talent for alchemy to make fuel and potions, most days he doesn’t even think of his ruinous past. When a scared young man with a fancy car crashes into his life, at first, Mal thinks he can do without the hassle. But as Neil begins to get under his skin, Mal starts to reassess his hopes and ambitions.

Harassed by megalomaniac fae and stalked by sorcerous killers at every turn, Malachai and Neil must fight to be free, and to find what they both truly wanted.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence, murder and non-consensual sex.

Excerpt

Neil set the bushel of summer squash into the panel van with the rest of the produce ready to go to market tomorrow morning and jumped down. Mr. Yaetz patted him on the back. “That’s the last one. Good job, Neil. You best head home now. Don’t want to get caught outside the wards after nightfall, ’specially not in that fancy car.”

Neil stifled a wince and forced himself not to look around to see who might have overheard the mention of his ‘fancy car’. Mr. Yaetz didn’t mean anything by it, but the car was a sore point with his co-workers at the small greenhouse and urban farm lot. None of them had their own vehicle, much less a sleek convertible sports car. Explaining that it was his mother’s, not his, hadn’t stopped the digs about his ‘slumming with the common folk’ or brought him any closer to the camaraderie the rest of them shared.

“Thanks, Mr. Yaetz. I’ll see you tomorrow,” Neil told him and turned toward the front lot. He glanced at the horizon automatically, judging how much time he had. About forty-five minutes, maybe an hour. More than enough for the short drive home. He wasn’t likely to come across any shadow beasts here on the outskirts of the city but a pack hunting farther afield was always a possibility. Of course, if he did run across shadow beasts, they would have to catch him first and the Maserati was both fast and agile.

Neil slid behind the wheel and the powerful engine purred to life. With the sun slowly sinking behind him, he swung the car out onto the road and headed for home.

As expected, Neil pulled into the driveway with plenty of daylight left and no encounters with any creatures that came out after dark. Climbing the front steps, his thoughts preoccupied with a shower and dinner, he almost missed the broken seal on his front door. He stopped cold. The warding glyph, usually a subtle shimmering gold, was inert, dull gray and cracked with lines of black. A sick knot cramped in his belly and Neil pressed his thumb down on the latch and pushed the door open but hesitated on the threshold.

“Mom?”

He listened. No answer.

Neil stepped into the foyer and slowly moved into the hall. A picture had been knocked off the wall and the broken glass from the frame glittered in the fading sunlight streaming in behind him.

“Mom?” he called again, louder.

Something crashed in the kitchen, the metallic clatter of pans hitting the tile floor. Neil ran in that direction.

His mother screamed, “Neil, get out! Get out!”

Heart hammering, he skidded into the kitchen. A black-clad, hooded man held on to his struggling mother. Another man stood next to them with a curved knife in his hand—his eyes were flat black and icy cold as they slid over him. Neil rushed them, yelling, “Get away from her!” The man with the knife lifted his free arm and flung the outstretched fingers of his empty hand at him. Neil hit the stop spell so hard it jarred him from teeth to toes, knocking him on his ass.

“Neil!” his mother shrieked.

He lifted his head in time to see the man who had floored him lift the knife and draw it down the side of her throat and across her shoulder in two professional, vicious slashes. The other man let her go as her eyes went wide and her hands flew up to clutch at the wounds. The blood didn’t spray everywhere like it did in the movies. It welled up in a gush of red that soaked the front of her shirt as she choked and gasped then fell down on her knees.

“Mom! No!” Neil scrambled to his feet. The two men moved toward him in unison as his mother crumpled, face down on the floor. Her body sounded like a wet rag hitting the tiles and a shocking pool of red spread under her.

“Take him,” the one holding the bloody knife said. His voice was low, emotionless and without accent, like an automaton in one of the old films they occasionally streamed when the comms satellite was functioning.

On autopilot, Neil grabbed the pendant that hung on the chain around his neck and ripped it off, throwing it on the floor. The man reached to stop him, but it was too late. The glass pendant shattered and a wall of noxious smoke rose between him and the killers. It wouldn’t hold them long, a minute if he was lucky. Probably less. He turned and ran back down the hall, fleeing the house.

He stumbled down the steps and fumbled the keys from his pocket, hitting the lock button. He yanked the door open and was shaking so badly he dropped the keys on the floor.

“Fuck! Fuck!” He reached down and his fingers just touched the ring as the killers came running out of the front door. Neil grabbed the keyring and jammed the right key in the ignition. For one horrible second, he was sure it wouldn’t start even though he’d just driven the car home. The engine turned over as smooth as a kitten’s purr and he slammed the shifter in reverse just as the man with the blade grabbed the driver’s door handle. Neil put his foot down on the pedal. The tires squealed and the car shot backward down the driveway and into the street.

Blood pounded in his ears, almost drowning out the engine sounds as he threw the car into drive and floored the gas, clutching the steering wheel hard enough to turn his knuckles white. He looked in the rear-view mirror as he sped away. They would come after him. He turned at the next intersection. Then turned again. And again. He tried to focus on what to do next but all he could see was the shock and anguish on his mother’s face before she fell, and that bright pool of red spreading out under her. He looked in the mirror again but saw no sign of the men that had killed her. That didn’t mean anything. They could come, he knew it. He was heading out of the city following pure instinct, but now he slowed the car for just a moment. At the next turn, he doubled back the way he’d come.

Out of the city might seem safer, but it wasn’t. He had little money and the car would take him only so far. He needed resources.

He forced his fingers to relax on the steering wheel but his hands still shook. When he took a breath, it was shaky too. The red had been so stark against her blonde hair. Her eyes…had they been blank before she fell or after she hit the floor? No. No he couldn’t think of that now. He raised and hand and swiped at his wet cheeks.

Bone Men. Their name whispered across Neil’s mind in his father’s voice, from one of his many lessons. Assassins. Twisted by the sorcery that enhanced them, marked by the lives they took. Had she been their target? Was her death retribution for something his father had done? Or…or were they there for him?

His mind raced as fast as his pulse and the car he was driving. He took another deep breath and eased his foot back off the pedal a few degrees. He needed a clear head. He needed a plan. But first he needed somewhere to hide. Instinct told him to find someone he trusted, but his training overrode that idea. He could hear his father’s voice in his ear again. Trust no one, Nielob. If they come for you, go to ground. Speak to no one you know. Hide and wait. I will find you.

Not if he could help it. If he had his way, he’d lose both the Bone Men and his father, for good. The car would get him a good distance but he couldn’t keep it. It was traceable. He’d drive into the city, find someone he could sell the car to for scrap and use the money to get a ticket to as far away as it would take him.

He couldn’t take the car directly to a salvage yard without a title, too risky. He needed a fence. Months ago, while he’d been watering seedlings at work, he’d overheard Carl bragging about how his uncle was going to get a real car, one with a combustion engine. No one had believed him and Carl had gotten mad. Insisted his uncle knew a guy that dealt in contraband autos in the city. Hammersfell Road, next to the old Ackard Motors factory. There was a warehouse where they had raves. The fence organized them. Neil had no way of knowing if the bragging was just lies, but he had filed the information away anyway. His chin gave an odd quiver and the tightness in his throat squeezed hard enough to choke him. No. He couldn’t give in to tears now. He couldn’t afford to let out the sobs that threatened him. A safe place first. The grief tasted of bitter acid and wanted to strangle him, but he swallowed it down and kept going.

Purchase

Pride Publishing | Amazon

Meet the Author

Bellora Quinn

Originally hailing from Detroit Michigan, Bellora now resides on the sunny Gulf Coast of Florida where a herd of Dachshunds keeps her entertained. She got her start in writing at the dawn of the internet when she discovered PbEMs (Play by email) and found a passion for collaborative writing and steamy hot erotica. Soap Opera like blogs soon followed and eventually full novels. The majority of her stories are in the M/M genre with urban fantasy or paranormal settings and many with a strong BDSM flavour.

Sadie Rose Bermingham

A storyteller since before she started school, Sadie also enjoys reading, photography, live music and long walks on the beach. Sadie has worked as a bookseller, a pedigree editor for the racing industry and a local and family history researcher. Originally from the north of England, she has been working her way across the UK ever since. She currently resides on the south east coast with her long term partner, where she hopes to buy a mobile home and establish a whippet farm.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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A MelanieM Review: Three Nick Nowak Mysteries (Boystown #1) by Marshall Thornton

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Finalist for the Lambda Award in Gay Mystery, Boystown: Three Nick Nowak Mysteries takes place in Chicago during the early 1980s. Haunted by his abrupt departure from the Chicago Police Department and the end of his relationship with librarian Daniel Laverty, Nick Nowak is a beat cop-turned-dogged private investigator. In this first book of the series, Nick works through three cases: a seemingly simple missing persons search, an arson investigation, and a suicide that turns out to be anything but. While working the cases, Nick moves through a series of casual relationships until he meets homicide detective Bert Harker and begins a tentative relationship.

Marshall Thornton’s other stories made me a die hard fan but these? Made me  want to go out and plant some sort of narrative equivalent of the gold star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.  How Nick Novak would have hated that.  Probably Marshall Thornton too.

Also I’ve already read far ahead in this magnificent series.  Had I not done that, this story would have rated higher but I have the truly stunning, haunting stories ahead as comparison.  Fair or not, I know that is but a solid, excellent building block for the gritty unforgettable heartbreak to come.

Its is funny thing about historical fiction.  Writing stories too far ahead and authors run the risk of readers who either have little interest or knowledge of those eras in which they are writing.  That can be from ancient Greece all the way through Edwardian times. Hell, I’ll throw the Civil War in there, embarrassingly enough.  Then you have what many call the recent historical fiction, stories written maybe a mere decades away from our current times.   That’s a completely different animal as they say because so many readers still remember those times.   That’s where this series fits in.

Boystowns and this first book which contains three Nick Novak tales takes place in the 1980’s.  For gay men in Chicago (or anywhere), it’s a time of change.  Almost entirely forgotten are those hated days of being called perverts and jailed automatically. Now gay flags are flying. Gay sex means quick anonymous hookups, rampant promiscuity, a sense of freedom after being in the closet and being jailed for your sexuality.  OK, yes, you could still lose your job in places, yes you still need to be circumspect in  some areas of your life but men are out and gay.  There are Pride Parades and PFlag. But still there’s gay bashing. And also the first whispers of a mysterious gay flu spreading through parts of the population of gay men in the United States.

Thornton brings the 80’s back with electric typewriters,  disco music, cars and all the other items of the day that scream that era but nicely folded into the narrative in such a way that it’s a subtle reminder rather than a blaring signpost.  Always at the center is Nick Novak, the ultimate reminder himself.  It’s in his behavior, one hookup after the other, doesn’t matter whether hes’ on the job or not. It’s in his mannerisms and in the way he talks and the way he lives. It also doesn’t matter whether he’s in a relationship or not.  Monogamy is not Nick’s thing here.  Nor was it in the 80’s.  Remember that was more of a heteronormative “thing”.  Plus casual sex, swinging sex?  Sex in the parks, bathhouses, no condoms?  That was the norm of the day and Nick is the king follower.

There will be many readers out there who dismiss books because of what they consider “cheating” elements.  But you have to understand the times.  This is not a romance book, that was not the 80’s.  Don’t go into these complicated, messy emotional stories with those expectations.  But these are stories filled with love of many types.

Nick and his first love were victims of a horrendous gay bashing.  It cost Nick his job as a police office and his lover, who underwent many facial reconstruction surgeries. He left Nick when he felt that Nick didn’t stick up for him. Nick is still working his way through the emotional impact of that event when we meet him here.

The stories are gritty and real.  The people you meet are sometimes ugly, mean, or tired and sad.  Even the sex feels dirty at times.  But it comes across as authentic and haunting, especially as you know the context.  We know the history.  And with each story Nick grapples more with his own recovery and past history, trying to move forward.

I can’t being to tell you how remarkable this series it.  As I said these three stories represent only the beginning building blocks for the truly stunning, heart grabbers to come.

There isn’t a missed step narratively speaking.  It’s perfection.  Marshall Thornton is building a masterpiece.  All ten books.

Start on your journey with him and Nick Novak here.

 

Cover art is simple, evocative of mood of the stories.

Sales Link:Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 241 pages
Published January 9th 2015 (first published November 1st 2009)
ASINB00QXSTXE2
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBoystown #1 settingChicago, Illinois (United States)
Illinois (United States)

Series:

Boystown Bundle 1 – 3 – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #4 A Time For Secrets – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #5 Murder Book – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #6 From The Ashes – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #7 Bloodlines – Amazon US | Amazon UK (ON SALE for 99c)
Book #8 The Lies That Bind – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #9 Lucky Days – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #10 Gifts Given – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #11 Hearts Desire – Amazon US | Amazon UK (PREORDER)

A MelanieM Review: Robby Riverton: Mail Order Bride by Eli Easton

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

 

Being a fugitive in the old west shouldn’t be this much fun.

The year is 1860. Robby Riverton is a rising star on the New York stage. But he witnesses a murder by a famous crime boss and is forced to go on the run–all the way to Santa Fe. When he still hasn’t ditched his pursuers, he disguises himself as a mail order bride he meets on the wagon train. Caught between gangsters that want to kill him, and the crazy, uncouth family of his “intended”, Robby’s only ally is a lazy sheriff who sees exactly who Robby is — and can’t resist him.

Trace Crabtree took the job as sheriff of Flat Bottom because there was never a thing going on. And then Robby Riverton showed up. Disguised as a woman. And betrothed to Trace’s brother. If that wasn’t complication enough, Trace had to find the man as appealing as blueberry pie. He urges Robby to stay undercover until the danger has passed. But a few weeks of having Robby-Rowena at the ranch, and the Crabtree family will never be the same again.

Damn, what a kerfuffle. If only Trace can get rid of the fugitive while hanging on to his own stupid heart.

Do you know how there can be a disconnect between a blurb and the actual story at times?  Well for Eli Easton’s Robby Riverton: Mail Order Bride, there was one not only between the synopsis but also between the cover as well.  Both ended up veering far off from the charm and drama that is this m/m historic romance.

From that first line, you might think you are getting a high farce, a comedy, but its hardly that.  Robby Riverston is a serious actor who has finally getting the roles he’s wanted after paying his dues on the stage in New York  for years.  He’s worked hard and he’s a gifted actor about to get his break until he ends up at the wrong place at the wrong time and sees one of the city’s most notorious criminals murder someone.  Unfortunately for Robby, they see him too.

A ticket out of town is his only option and one thing after another leads him to Flat Bottom.  At one point he assumes the “role”  of a woman who was supposed to be a mail order bride but reneged along the way.  As any good actor does, Robby treats “Rowena” as just that, a role he is playing.  From the makeup he wears, to his dress and mannerisms, he becomes this character and a part of the Crabtree family, a situation he feels guilty about because he comes to care about these people. So yes, no high farce to be found here.  Instead, simply a desperate man trying to elude killers and a family like no others adjusting to a Easterner in their midst.

Eli Easton does bring up another element when Trace Crabtree, the oldest son and Sheriff, figures out Robby’s secret.  How the dynamics work between these men is an aspect to this story that also surprised and delighted me.  Trace has his own issues to work through, about his past, his place within the town, and his feelings about Robby.  All while trying to keep him alive as well as his family when the killers come calling.

I  loved the characterizations and the town.  All the Crabtrees absolutely grew on me, even the father.  Easton pulls it all together in a thrilling suspenseful ending and a happy epilogue that will leave you smiling.

I highly recommend Robby Riverton: Mail Order Bride by Eli Easton to all lovers of romance, even if you arent a complete fan of historic fiction, I think you will love this one too.

Cover art, while cute, is so far off the mark.  Robby would never look like that. “Rowena” was always impeccably dressed with her makeup on at all times.  That cover gives a completely false impression of the story.  Fail.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook
Published April 26th 2018 by Pinkerton Road (first published April 24th 2018)
Original TitleRobby Riverton: Mail Order Bride
Edition LanguageEnglishsettingNew Mexico (United States)

A MelanieM Review: The River City Chronicles by J. Scott Coatsworth

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

 

A group of strangers meets at Ragazzi, an Italian restaurant, for a cooking lesson that will change them all. They quickly become intertwined in each other’s lives, and a bit of magic touches each of them.

Meet Dave, the consultant who lost his partner; Matteo and Diego, the couple who run the restaurant; recently-widowed Carmelina; Marcos, a web designer getting too old for hook-ups; Ben, a trans author writing the Great American Novel; teenager Marissa, kicked out for being bi; and Sam and Brad, a May-September couple who would never have gotten together without a little magic of their own.

Everyone in the River City has a secret, and sooner or later secrets always come out.

I always seek out an author’s forward, if there is one, before start into a book.  It often gives me insight into the writer’s mindset when laying out their story and characters, even the inspiration behind the origins of the tale.  In this case I got that and more.

J. Scott Coatsworth’s love for his adopted city of Sacramento, the River City of the title and setting here, is deeply established and he lets us know exactly why it’s so ingrained that its almost a living character here in The River City Chronicles. Close behind it?  Coatsworth’s love for Italian language which he speaks and teaches,  Italian cooking, and the style and format of ‘Armistead Maupin’s Tales Of The City.

The author has gathered up all these elements, given them a mighty swirl, tossed together with his own marvelous imagination and a dose of magical realism and come up with The River City Chronicles by J. Scott Coatsworth.  What a magical heartwarming glorious blend it is!

It all starts off with Matteo and Diego, a married couple recently arrived from Italy.  They’ve reopened a restaurant where one of their relative’s old Italian restaurants was but the new one isn’t being received very well.  It’s called Ragazzi, meaning ‘the boys’.  But a bit a magic is about to  happen when one gets the  idea for a cooking class that brings in an odd mixture of people in various stages of their life and circumstances.

The very idea of a cooking class, one where you can almost smell the ingredients, plunge your hands into the dough, get wafts of the aroma of vanilla, the heat of the ovens…its a experience that just conjures up memories.  Which is exactly what the author does here with vivid descriptions and later on wonderful recipes you will be jotting down to try.  It, the  preparation, the cooking, the memories and yes, perhaps the magic, start to intertwine these peoples lives and ours until I was barely aware of the time going by outside of the story.

And oh these people, because that’s what they became to me.  Each person, each couple, carrying their troubles, burdens, voids in their hearts where children or family should be, others looking for love or asking for the approval to move on with their lives to love once more.  All the characters here are so beautifully created, so multidimensional that they are all on equal footing.  Each and every one is so important to the story and will gain equal measure in your heart.  It’s a large cast but it simply doesn’t matter.  You invest yourself completely in their lives and their stories.  You hurt with them, you laugh with them…the entire spectrum of emotion will be trotted out here between the kids thrown out of their homes to the May/December romances and  so much more.

The River City Chronicles is a rich tapestry of lives…messy, complicated, wonderful, human lives.  It’s filled with love, cooking, Italy through the language and recipes, and the singular location of Sacramento.  And I can’t get enough of it.

I want more of it.

Like visiting that restaurant you have picked out as yours and visit over and over because the food is perfect, the atmosphere warm and welcoming, the people inside familiar and everything about the place makes you anticipate an evening that  will fill your heart with love and memories.  That’s how The River City Chronicles makes me feel as well.  I hope that J. Scott Coatsworth feels that there’s more tales to tell here.  I certainly hope so.  Raguzzi is doing so well, so are the cooking classes.  Who knows who will show up next?  Scott, are you listening?

Trust me, this book is magical.  I highly recommend it.

Cover art is beautiful.  It’s dark, magical an lovely.  I love it.

Sales Links: iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | QueeRomance Ink | Goodreads

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, First, 380 pages
Published May 30th 2018 by Other Worlds Ink
ISBN 1732307513 (ISBN13: 9781732307513)
Edition LanguageEnglish

A MelanieM Review: Bones and Bourbon by Dorian Graves

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Half-huldra Retz Gallows is having an awful day. First, he wakes up in the middle of driving to who-knows-where with an angry unicorn head in his passenger seat. This is almost normal, thanks to a lifetime of sharing a body with Nalem, a bone-controlling spirit with a penchant for wicked schemes and body-stealing joyrides. It’s probably a bad idea to ask what else could go wrong.

Jarrod Gallows left home with plans to rescue his little brother from possession. Instead, he got saddled with a dead-end job as a paranormal investigator, a Faerie curse, and a daredevil boyfriend who might be from another world. At least he’s got a new job—except why is his brother Retz here and why does this sudden reunion feel more like a bane than a blessing?

This day’s going to get worse for the Gallows brothers before it gets better. To survive, they’ll have to escape the forces controlling them, as well as the wrath of carnivorous unicorns, otherworldly realms, and even their own parents. Only time will tell if they’ll make it out alive…or sober.

What a startling fantasy story Bones and Bourbon by Dorian Graves turned out to be.  Dark, incredibly imaginative, not always enjoyable (trust me), with a universe so full that it needs more information to be complete in its foundation, and characters that both stymy and border on the profound,  this novel will leave you muttering and loving it long after you have turned off the Kindle.

Where to start?  Forget about any romance.  There isn’t any.  But there are characters who love each other deeply, which here constitutes a clear danger to each other.  For love is a pathway for horror in this case… or not.  Here both can and does happen simultaneously. And work out in ways which at the end leaves you with your mouth flapping open.

It’s a tale of two brothers on different paths…except that every time you think you have this story figured out, the author flips it on its head with a deeper, unrevealed arc.  There are more threads here than an ancient Turkish tapestry and more I expect that are coming as this is but book one.

The characterizations are amazing, the plotlines convoluted and dark and the elements here are often shocking when it comes to relationships (pain filled).   I said this novel was dark and often gritty.

I will tell you that a couple of times I almost stopped reading as I was upset with things that happened to several main characters.  Unpleasant things happen hear. Violent things.  Not rape,  but painful actions (non con) and if that is a trigger, that one if forced to act against his will, then this is not the book for you.  Because it will stay that   way over the series.

That’s not to say there isn’t the occasional moment of tenderness here.  But its fleeting and rare.

What a book Bones and Bourbon by Dorian Graves is.  Filled not with your kindly glowing elves or with  rainbow sparkling unicorns but with Fae far more fiendish and unicorns of your nightmares. This book is bloody, wild, scary, and hugely wonderful in a poignant, twisted wowser sort of way.  I highly recommend it but not to all.  It’s not to everyone’s tastes.  But if you are an adventurous reader, love your fantasy, and love some startling twists and turns in dark novels?  Here is just the thing for you.

 

Cover art: Natasha Snow.  I like the cover but honestly any ocver would fall short because of this storyline.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 268 pages
Published April 23rd 2018 by NineStar Press
ISBN139781948608527
Edition LanguageEnglish