A MelanieM Review: Boy Next Door (Hot Off the Ice #5) by A. E. Wasp

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Hockey superstar Joey Luciano has always been good at being whatever people needed him to be. The fans want a good-looking fast-living party boy? Enter ‘the Looch,’ Joey’s carefully created public persona. But the cracks in his mask are starting to show, and he’s begun to lose touch with who he really is. It’s going to take someone who’s been there from the very beginning, to help him find his way home.

Coach Liam O’Reilly always had a very clear picture of what his life should look like. Falling in love with the infuriating, passionate, stubborn, and endlessly fascinating boy next door was not part of the plan. But when Liam’s carefully constructed life fell apart one Christmas Eve, Joey Luciano was there to pick up the pieces. Now Liam can’t stop wanting him.

The passion blazing between them on the ice and behind closed doors could leave both of them badly burned. But through the smoke, Liam can see glimpses of a future brighter than any he’d imagined, a future worth risking his career and reputation for, if only he is brave enough to reach for it.

But Joey’s got a secret he’s keeping from everyone. If it gets out, it could be the end of everything.

I really enjoyed the Boy Next Door (Hot Off the Ice #5) by A. E. Wasp.  It has so many elements I love in a contemporary romance, starting off with hockey players and hockey coaches in love combinations.  Or just a hockey element.  That always draws me in.  Wasp also has another aspect to this series and story I adore.  Large families that support the main characters!

Families easily identifiable by location (Boston), ethnicities (Irish and Italian), long association (neighbors), and even intertwined relationships.  This extended main cast is a huge factor in connecting the reader to the character of Joey Luciano (the Italian family) and Liam O’Reilly (the Irish one),  In a totally current and hilarious format, we often see the family members communicating with each other via group text.  It’s never overdone, totally funny, and very realistic.  It’s has the feel of family and truth.  And it brought these people and their lives right into my heart.

Joey, “the Looch” Luciano, is a 25 year old  with a lot of issues. On the outside, he’s let this “Looch” character he’s created take over his life (brash, outgoing to the  extreme that it seems like he’s hogging the media and outshining his teammates.  No one is happy with him, including himself.  On the inside it’s worse.  Wasp has created Joey as a insecure person, low self esteem to the point that he seeks approval from every source and everyone without asking himself why he needs it so.  This is an enormous issue, obviously.  Not his only one. On top of this Joey is dealing with the fact that he has loved Liam since he can remember, a love that he has never looked at what that meant.  Why?  Because he shrinks from being called gay or even bisexual.  Which imo is totally misused here with regards to Joey.

Joey is someone who has lacked self examination for most of his life and it’s not until he gets involved with Liam that he smacks into some hard realities for himself.  At about 51 percent, we get these musing from Joey…

“What did people see when they looked at him? Could they tell he was having sex with a guy? Probably not. He looked as normal as Paul and Robbie. And he wasn’t gay gay. If anything he was bisexual like Liam.”

There are so many flags in those sentences that show exactly how messed up Joey is over not only his sexuality but homosexuality in general.  Being gay isn’t “normal”?  He also has issues with femme versus masc. And as is worked out down the story, Joey really doesn’t enjoy sex with women, so no, not bisexual.  Yes, some of this flags get addressed, not as many as I wished but a lot.

There are so many broken layers to Joey, it’s just one right after enough. Panic attacks, health issues, and more that need to be seriously addressed. Are all given the depth of attention I would wish or deserve? Perhaps not but they aren’t blown off either. Believable, authentic cracks in this man.  Kudos to A.E. Wasp for creating such a character.

Liam is a strong character, older by 10 years than Joey.  I liked him and their relationship but honestly wondered if the author was going to use their hot, and admittedly kinky sex life as a bandaid for all of Joey’s deep problems.  Thankfully, the  answer is no.  Wasp let me wonder about that, while I enjoyed Joey and LIam working out their relationship and then gave me everything I hoped for in the ending of this story. That included my Washington Caps winning the Stanley Cup this year!  And therapy for Joey.  Win win.

The humor here had me cackling!  Whether it’s Knock Knock jokes or Liam’s younger brother Patrick trying to get Liam to switch out his posh furniture for a huge leather sectional that all the young hockey players can come over and watch TV on saying”

“It’s the traditional furnishings of our people!”

Well, this book and dialogue crackles with fun, the knowledge of what it is like to be young, in love, or a hockey player, or to just do dumb things.  And all of the above.

Yes, plenty of angst too.

If I also have a complaint, its the actual lack of hockey.

We get headlines, sports feeds,  but  little actual ice time.  These men are passionate about ice and hockey.  So where is the time on the ice?  Where is the sense of team?

We get little of that except towards the very end in the important game.  I wish so badly we had had lots more of that action throughout the story.  Then we could understand why Joey and Liam’s actions carried the weight of the love of ice behind them that they did.  I felt that was missing because we never really saw Joey on ice for the majority of the book.  We were told about it but never actually “felt” it through the character. And I felt that was a mistake.

But did I love this story?  Yes I did.  I thought the author did a tremendous job with the characters, actualizing a man on the brink of a life change for himself and letting us travel some of the journey with him.  Scary, messy, not totally complete, a work in progress as they say.  I think Joey would agree with that and be happy.  So would Liam and the rest of the two families.

I definitely look for more in this series.  I recommend this one for all lovers of contemporary romance and hockey and even a little love of spanking!

 

Cover art: Ana Phoenix.  Nice cover but doesn’t quite get the age difference.

Buy Links – Available in Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK 

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 462 pages
Published September 21st 2018
ASINB07HL6TTW9
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesHot Off the Ice #5

 

A MelanieM Review: The Werewolf on Lowre Few Lane by Bryce Bentley-Tales

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Rating: 4 .5 stars out of 5

 

Thirteen-year-old Colton and his best friend Jade spend their free time investigating a local urban legend concerning an old abandoned house in their hometown in Ireland. The run-down building is said to be haunted and some of the things they’ve seen seem to confirm it.

Colton has a crush on foreign-exchange student, Dylan, who is visiting his aunt from America. But Dylan isn’t your average American kid, and soon Colton and his friends are embroiled in more than urban legend and must find a way to save everything they know and love.

If you’re a lover of those wonderful fantasy adventures that mixed youth, growing up with both the familiar and the unknown, where wardrobes turned into doors into scary, fabulous alternate worlds and a path that the heroes took on a fated journey?  Well, here’s a tale for you! The Werewolf on Lowre Few Lane by Bryce Bentley-Tales, the first story by this author, brings together an unlikely group of 13 and 14 year olds in a small town in Ireland. We  meet the first two misfits out where clearly they have no business being, spying on the local haunted house and getting thoroughly creeped out in the process when it starts to show evidence that perhaps things aren’t as normal there as they should be.

It’s Colton, half Irish half Asian with a mother from Singapore and a dad from Ireland, and one of his best friends Jade, a wonderfully brash,intelligent girl who’s a great match for the curious Colton, although their first attempts at being low key are both spot on for their age and laughingly normal.  Thomas of the bright red hair, and surprising depths and sweet Erin come a little later.  It’s on one dark night when they are out investigating that they meet Dylan, the American foreign exchange student staying with his Aunt who lives locally.just as

Ah, how the author has all the threads needed to start weaving a marvelous supernatural fantasy tapestry!  And he does!  What an adventure! From a pack of white wolves menacing the village and local boys gone missing to Colton needing to figure out issues within himself,  low self worth and insecurity to a group that shows realistic, heartwarming amounts of  individual growth while on an epic journey!  And yes, it’s also about family and love and what that truly means to each and every preteen and grownup involved here.

One element I absolutely appreciated?  That fact that both Colton’s and Dylan’s homosexualtiy wasn’t treated as a huge deal.  Of course, they do have much large things to face throughout most of the story, that feeling comfortable with who they are becomes much easier for all of them in the end.  Perspective and all.

Was the story perfect?  No.  I needed more worldbuilding and backhistory for Dylan and his side of the family.  I definitely needed more on Weredome. More, much more books and adventures there, please!  Just the tiny glimpses we got was enough to want to go sledding through the lands on romps wild and free with the folk there.  So I’m hoping the author has more planned for this merry  troop and that house on Lowre Few Lane.   One book clearly is not enough.

The Werewolf on Lowre Few Lane by Bryce Bentley-Tales is well written, full of endearing, believable characters on quests and into adventures that keep you glued to Kindle or whatever you happen to be reading the story on.  I loved it.

I definitely recommend this story for all lovers of YA  novels and fantasy/supernatural novels. Or just lovers of fantasy fiction who are young at heart.

Cover art: Natasha Snow.   I liked parts of this cover, especially where we seem to be looking through a doorway out into a snowy world.  I think maybe it’s the font giving me issues.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

ebook
Expected publication: October 29th 2018 by NineStar Press (first published July 9th 2018)
ISBN139781949340075
Edition LanguageEnglish

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Love and Lint Rollers by Kaje Harper

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Even with six beloved cats at home, Thom Fletcher can’t help opening his heart to a little injured stray he finds at Pride. Luckily, the generosity of the veterinarian who helps him means he doesn’t have to open his wallet. Thom’s budget is stretched pretty thin, between his struggling start-up and medical expenses for his Crohn’s disease, so the free cat care helps a lot. Thom may have fallen for the little feline, but he’s also intrigued by the attractive vet in the bi-pride bracelet.

Dean Edwards went to Pride with his colors on his wrist, hoping to find community after his divorce. Instead, he’s pulled into a cat rescue by an appealing man. Dean likes Thom’s kindness to strays, his blue-gray eyes, his intelligence, and his perspective from decades as an out gay man. Maybe with Thom, Dean will finally feel able to explore his long-neglected attraction to men.

They’re not a perfect match. From Dean’s cat-hating dog to Thom’s chronic health issues and preferences in bed, going from a casual date to something more will be a challenge for both of them.

I don’t know when I last read a story with so many elements that stood out as remarkable and yet still folded nicely into a heartwarming romance in the end as the ones in Love and Lint Rollers by Kaje Harper.   First the characters are older which I really appreciated, one in his early fifties, with all that means emotionally, mentally, and baggage wise.  Thom Fletcher has the added complications of Crohn’s Disease, something that has drastically affected his health and his love life (no anal sex to be explicit). Harper addresses life with Crohn’s through Thom and we see all stages of the disease and its effects on his life and relationships.  For some readers it might not be enough information. For others too much.  We definitely learn a lot about life lived with this illness and its tight restrictions.  And how not to give up as well.

The character of Thom is someone I just loved and understood, even if I wanted to given him a shake or two.  If you have ever known anyone who has or had had serious illnesses, then you know how their focus can or sometimes must narrow down to dealing with their own health issues, especially if they have been doing so over a length of time.  And doing it on their own.  Letting someone else in is hard and Harper shows that realistically.  Especially with a diseases such as Crohn’s.  Portraying Thom’s shame, fear, and belief that no one will ever stay with him because it’s too hard will ring true with all readers who will emphasize with this man.

Dean Edwards too is dealing with past issues, coming out at his age, overcoming the emotional restrictions his deceased parents placed on him that still effect him.  I really liked Dean and believed in his internal battles and choices he was making.  As well as his love of his animals and Thom. Oh, and Dean is a vet with years of medical experience behind him which helps when one has many animals and other issues.

Ah, the animals!  Cats Gin, Snap, Buster, Louie, Onyx, Salem, and Cinder.  Plus elderly but still fierce dog Tig.  All with their huge roles to play in Thom’s life, this couple’s relationship, and in the story. And of course, the reader’s heart’s they wind and twine their way into.

There is a lesbian couple with a bestie half with tendencies to want to control Thom’s life.  That was a character i found irritating, probably realistic as there are always people like that in RL who believe that they know better than another person what path that person’s life should take. That they do it out of love doesn’t make it any less controlling. That you as a reader want Thom to have this person back off?  Well, it means that Harper has done her job and written this bestie so believably we have become put off by their behavior.  Well done.

For me, I might have wished for a little less of the Crohn’s, and  a little more of Thom and Dean together at the end with the menagerie for Love and Lint Rollers by Kaje Harper to fulfill all the promise I had hoped for. But honestly?  It came so close I’m not complaining.  I loved it.  And think you will to.  Especially if you love cats as well.  I highly recommend this!

Cover Art is adorable.  At first I thought the models were too young.  Still wavering on that.  But Thom is remarked to look more like in his 40’s than the early 50’s he is and I loved the cats.  More cats.  Where is Louie?

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Expected publication: October 9th 2018 by Kaje Harper
ISBN139780463646465
Edition Language English

A MelanieM Review: Ryker (Owatonna U Hockey #1) by R.J. Scott & V.L. Locey

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

This New Adult book is the first in the Owatonna U Series, a spin off from the best selling Harrisburg Railers Hockey Series.

Ryker is hockey royalty, Jacob is a poor country boy. Can two vastly different people find common ground and become the men they want to be?

Ryker comes from a long line of championship-winning hockey players. Playing college hockey to develop his game is his only focus, and nothing will stand in the way of him working to become the best player. He has no room for relationships, people that point out his flaws, or anyone who calls him on his dreams. He certainly has no place for love, and meeting Jacob is nothing but a useful distraction on the side. After all trying to get his Owatonna Eagles teammate into bed is less work and more play. When tragedy rocks his family, his charmed life crumbles, and the only person he can turn to is the same one who claims to hate him.

Jacob Benson has only known hard work and stifling conservative values his whole life. Born and raised in the small rural community of Eden Crossing, Minnesota, he’s the only son of a hard-working but struggling dairy farming family. Jacob is using his skills in hockey to finance his way to an agricultural science degree. These four years at Owatonna U. will probably be the only time he has to enjoy life, gain acceptance about his sexuality, and live openly before his inevitable return to the farm. Running into a pretty rich boy like Ryker Madsen is putting a damper on his enjoyment of life away from home. Ryker’s flip, conceited, carefree attitude grates on Jacob’s every nerve. So why, if Ryker is everything he dislikes, does he want nothing more than to explore the sinful dreams that his annoying teammate stars in every night?

First of all, let me say I adore and am seriously addicted to the Harrisburg Railers series by these same authors.  It’s an ongoing series, and the focus is the Harrisburg Railers Hockey team, where you meet Coach Jared Madsen and genius player and from hockey family royalty Tennant “Ten” Rowe in the first book Changing Lines.  Why is that important?   Because Jared Madsen is Ryker’s dad. And Ten? Well, read both series and find out if you don’t already know.

That’s one warning I do have here. Ryker (Owatonna U Hockey #1) by R.J. Scott & V.L. Locey is an adjacent series to the Harrisburg Railers and contains spoilers for that series as it picks up during events happening in and after the Harrisburg Railers story Goal Line (Harrisburg Railers #6). 

So if you haven’t already read Goal Line, you’ll be shocked and heartbroken by the events here. I’m still in recovery over that book fyi.  So just a flag..

All that said, I’ve loved Ryker throughout the Harrisburg Railers series,  HIs close relationship with his father and Ten was a joy to read.  Now the focus is on him and the fact that he’s has the ability to be as talented a player as Ten.  People are seeing it as he heads off to college and the draft, he has choices to make, while others will be made for him.  And one hockey camp changes his life and opens his eyes to life lived outside his “hockey” bubble when he meets agricultural student Jacob Benson, using hockey to continue his education and save his  family farm.

As I’ve come to expect from these authors, the portraits of these young men at camp and college are realistic and layered.  They are exuberant, youthful, hopeful, serious, just everything you expect young men to be.  Even judgemental…that old not going past the surface thing…that happens all too often and the writers know it and use it.  The authors keep it real from the dialog to the physical contact..the boys jockeying for fun so high energy, all bumping and jumbling around with each other.  We get not only the interactions between Jacob and Ryker, but also all the other teammates that become so important to this couple.

Another moving element?  Jacob’s farm and parents.  Jacob’s deep love for his family farm, his need to save it comes across ini his characters and actions.  The scenes on the farm and his dynamics with his father are tremendous.  I reveled in the later when it comes to the aspect of Ryker.  I won’t spoil that here.  That should be savored.

My only, well, can’t call it an issue, maybe tiny heartbreak, is the HFN, which it has to be at this stage of their lives.  Both are still in the  growth stage, both still have their goals ahead of them. And like the Harrisburg Railers with Jared and Ten, we followed them all through every story, one way or the other as their relationship progressed, even though the stories had other couples at the fore.  I’m grinning in  anticipation and waiting for the next story to release.  That would be for both series!

You can  read one, which I highly recommend, but why would you when you can read both if you haven’t already ?  Make the  Owatonna U Hockey team part of your life along with the Harrisburg Railers.  Become as addicted as I am!  You won’t be sorry.

Cover art: Meredith Russell.  That’s a perfect representation of Ryker, irrepressible curls and all.  I love it.

Sales Links:

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2IdxlmP

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2MT11q9

Book Details:

ebook, 1st edition
Published September 26th 2018 by Love Lane Books (first published September 22nd 2018)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesOwatonna U Hockey #1

A MelanieM Pre-Release Review: Loving A Warrior by Melanie Hansen

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

BUD/S: six months of the most intense training there is. It’s survival of the toughest, and Matt Knytych is determined to come out the other side a navy SEAL.

Distraction is life or death. And just the sight of former marine Shane Hovland is enough to shake Matt’s concentration.

Shane came to BUD/S training ready to prove himself—again. Semper Fi is forever, but he needs a new start. Not this dangerous heat with a man he barely knows.

Everything they’ve ever wanted is riding on a thin, punishing line. And they’ll have to fight for more than just each other if they want to make it through intact.

After all, the only easy day was yesterday.

 

I started in with Melanie Hanson on her strong military story, Point of Contact.  Reviewed by both Barb, our Zany Old Lady and myself, each of us found it to be a moving, beautifully written 5 star novel. And each for very different reasons.  Now comes Loving a Warrior, the second in what feels like a series of SEALS themed novels and I’m just as caught up in her characters and storytelling as I was in the first.

Unlike the first novel where the men were out, well, one was at the start.  The men here are on a totally different journey.  Several of them in fact.  Both are first of all on that most intensive and exclusive of all paths…the one that might lead to getting their Trident and being a member of the SEALS.  That’s BUD/S training.  Hansen brings us directly into probably something the majority of us will never experience and can never imagine, what those men and now some women go through in their attempts to become SEALS. Only a tiny few make it.  As Shane and Matt are run through the hellish rigors of BUD/S, we are right there, sweating,  straining, even bleeding and almost breaking along with them.  It’s vivid, and so realistic that it makes you think about all the real soldiers going through training at this moment, doing everything they can to reach that almost unreachable goal.  Your heart is with them all.  Those that make it as well as those that don’t.

Along with the unrelenting stress, mental, emotional, and physical of BUD/S, there’s Matt and Shane trying to figure out their magnetic attraction to each other, one that threatens to become more and derail their  focus on their SEAL training which they can’t afford.

Matt and Shane are complex characters, Matt especially so because he’s got a hard veneer and laser focus on his goal to become a SEAL.  So for Shane to start to get under some of the barriers that Matt has erected takes time.  He seeks to understand   Matt and as he does, we do as well.  It works  both ways. Shane also has a background that makes his appear all too shallow when he’s anything but.  Matt makes certain assumptions about Shane that he also needs to overcome and a narrow view of the  future for himself that needs enlarging if they are to have a future.

This is not a HEA, but a realistic HFN as it should be for two soldiers.  I would love to see Melanie Hanson revisit them down the line in a sequel, perhaps as they both go off on assignments.

Loving A Warrior by Melanie Hansen is a beautifully written novel that is full of complex characters and a gripping plot that kept me connected from beginning to end. It is also a wonderful  complement to the first story Point of Contact.  I absolutely recommend this story as well as Point of Contact.  Both are just amazing and I can’t wait for another in this military series to be released.

Cover art is strong and has the characters well defined.  I like it although not as much as the first one.

Sales Links:  Carina Press | Amazon to come

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition
Expected publication: November 26th 2018 by Carina Press
ASINB07DCTPL94
Edition LanguageEnglish

A MelanieM Review: Heart’s Desire (Boystown #11) by Marshall Thornton

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

It’s February 1985. Nick struggles to recover from a gunshot wound, while taking on the case of a woman with a mental illness, who may or may not have witnessed a murder. As he attempts to determine exactly what the woman saw and how much danger she may be in, he juggles the approaching DeCarlo trial, an ill Mrs. Harker, and the sexually precocious Terry. Valentine’s Day with boyfriend Joseph produces some big changes in their relationship.

Life is evolving, but there’s no guarantee it’s for the better.

I find it interesting how Marshall Thornton has written each book as almost as a mirror held up against the life (both inner reflections and daily outer living) of PI Nick Nowak.  In some books the stories flow along with his struggles, both emotional and physical, occasionally ending up with some light and hope for Nick and the readers.

But with Heart’s Desire (Boystown #11), the latest in this  incredible series, the struggle gets darker, heavier for many around him, including his mother in law  (sort of), his friend with HIV, even his building super.  Oh, and himself, still fighting to recover from being shot  It’s going very slowly.And Nick can’t understand why he’s physically not himself, including no sexual relations with his boyfriend.

Joseph would like Nick to reject jobs that need surveillance, the very things have have gotten him injured.  That’s not something that Nick thinks can he do, and while he’s thinking about his relationship and his health, a case comes his way in fhe form of his super’s sister who believes she’s seen a dead body and refuses to go back to her apartment.  Should be easy excerpt that the  sister has mental  illness and there’s no body.  A typical case for Nick because it’s convoluted, dark, and, connecting the dots for Nick manage to bring him up against people that impinge on other parts of his life.

There are so many obligations and emotional strings tugging at  Nick now.  Mrs. Harker has terminal cancer and facing that and her role in his life is rough for Nick, equally so for Terry, the young student who spends most of his time with her and how has a “mature” boyfriend, another factor Nick and his friends are having issues with.

Marshall Thornton threads all these incredibly complicated storylines through the novel and Nick’s life with such craft and such raw, gritty writing that the narrative and characters stick to your heart, making you think, making you hurt for them.  And in this series and because we know the era and history, we fear for them.  We know what they are dancing around…the elephant in the room.  The tests that some haven’t or won’t take.  AIDS.  It’s the dark shadow that looms over Nick, his lover, and all his friends and any future they might have.

Heart’s Desire (Boystown #11) by Marshall Thornton is a must read story in a must read series.  I’m not sure how many the author plans.  If he intends to finish the 80’s, because we are at 1985 now and he other series, Pinx Video,  starts in the 1990’s.  I want more and yet I fear what’s to come.

I can’t recommend this story and series more highly  enough!

Cover art: Marshall Thornton. Works for branding the series and  storyline.

Sales Link:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 210 pages
Published August 10th 2018
ASINB07DFMSRTN
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBoystown #11

A MelanieM Review: In This Iron Ground (Natural Magic #1) by Marina Vivancos

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Rating:  5 stars out of 5

 

Damien is nine years old when his parents die. What should have been the worst moment of his life begins a journey shadowed by loneliness and pain. The night of a full moon, four years and seven foster homes later, Damien flees to the forest, desperate to escape everything.

Instead, he finds the Salgado pack, and the earth beneath his feet shifts. Damien has seen the Salgado children in his school: Koko, who is in his class, and Hakan, two years older and infinitely unreachable. Damien is suddenly introduced into a world that had only ever existed in his imagination, where there is magic in the forest and the moon. He meets creatures that look like monsters, but Damien knows that monsters have the same face as anybody else.

Over the years, Damien and Hakan grow closer. First, just as friends and foster brothers in the Salgado house, and then into something heated and breathless when Damien joins Hakan at college. Despite what he may yearn for in the darkest part of the night, Damien knows, deep down in that bruised and mealy part of his core, that he’s not good enough to be part of the Salgado family, their pack. He’s not worthy of calling Hakan his home.

Even though he knows in the end it’ll hurt him, he’ll hold onto this for as long as he can.

In This Iron Ground (Natural Magic #1) by Marina Vivancos is as hard a book to review as it was at times to read. It’s also a magical, beautifully written, moving, and literary novel.  Full of unbelievable torture and pain and yet still manages to include flights of hope and passages of teenage normality and then flights of wooded spirituality.  And all the time it’s flowing out from the  wounded soul and form of Damien who ages throughout the story starting from the age of nine when he enters the foster system an orphan.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from that blurb but what I got was an  almost epic exploration of Damien’s journey through life. We jump into Damien’s life with a harrowing look at the  foster system.  Then we and Damien plunge into hell when he is delivered into the  horror of a  foster home and  its carers that will set a pattern for him for the next years that will have you wanting to scream. It’s here, listening to Damien’s “voice” as he suffers, withdraws, and internalizes the messages he’s hearing that the book becomes almost unbearable to read. The abuse he’s suffering during these chapters are the ones that warrants the notes at the bottom of this review.  The damage done, not physically, but mentally and emotionally to Damien is such that he carries it with him through the story, not dealing with how much it has truly affected him until 3/4 of the way through.

But while he’s enduring this, mind you he’s only 13, there’s also hope in the form of a pack of shifters unlike any I’ve read about in other stories.  Vivancos brings in a pack that  is layered with a Earth  religion, a spirituality you can feel amazingly, a pack family that comes forward to rescue, support, and finally welcome the human child.  I won’t spoil how incredible a job the author has done with the Soldado pack but for me they became as alive as a walk in the woods.  They  breathed life and that made their connections to Damien even more magical.

The book is broken up into two parts and yes at times is felt a little long as Damien and Hakan went off to college but this is still such a journey for Damien I can see why the author wanted to include each and every scene.Special details were giving to Damien’s emotional and mental health recovery which is an important element here.  Damien could not recover from the horrific abuse he suffered on his own.  He needed professional help, and with the gentle assistance of his friends, lover and pack, he gets the therapy he needs. Some of his session scenes make a powerful but quiet impact.  It’s a responsible thing to do, in my mind, after reading all the scenes in the beginning, for the reader to see Damien finally emerging into hope and light.

Yes, I loved this story and the amazing characters in the pack.  I see that the author is turning it into a series and can’t wait to see where it’s going next.  I do recommend it but please do pay attention to the warnings below.

 

Cover art: Natasha Snow.  That is a gorgeous cover by Natasha Snow.  The mountains, woods, and wolves.  Perfect.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 325 pages
Published September 3rd 2018
ASINB07GNS5MZ4
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Natural Magic #1

CONTENT WARNING: This book contains themes of emotional and (nonsexual) physical child abuse and the subsequent emotional, cognitive, and behavioural impacts.   Trigger warning also includes scene of suicide attempt by minor, physical and  sexual child abuse.

This story contains sexually explicit scenes between consenting adults and is meant for an adult audience.

A MelanieM Review: Private Charter by N.R. Walker

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Stuart Jenner’s job is high stress, high stakes, and everything he’s strived for. So why, when the apex of his career is within reach, does he stumble? At his doctor’s insistence, he books a privately chartered yacht to sail around the Whitsundays for two weeks of sun, surf, and sex. When his friend-with-benefits bails on him at the last minute, Stuart decides to go alone.

Foster Knight left the rat race behind six years ago, bought a yacht, and now calls the Great Barrier Reef his home. Sailing tourists around tropical waters is all in a day’s work, and he’s never been happier. When his next client arrives alone, the two-week charter will be the most private job he’s ever had.

Foster can see how stressed and exhausted Stuart is, and he promises him extensive rest and relaxation. Stuart slowly realises his original plan for two weeks of sun, surf, and sex might not be lost yet. Confined to a yacht, isolated by aqua-coloured oceans and the sweltering sun, Stuart and Foster are about to find out just how hot the tropics can get.

I hate to admit how many times I’ve reread this story already, especially that ending!   Something about Private Charter by N.R. Walker has just gotten under my skin.  When I need something happy to think about before closing my eyes, I reach for my Kindle and that fabulously moving ending that I know now by heart.  True, I believe I can recite it!

If you had asked me if I would have had that reaction from reading that blurb, I probably would have said no, not even with N.R. Walker as the author.  The timeline seems too short and the plot a little light. I should have known better.  This is N.R. Walker after all, one of my favorite author’s and this story is so much more than it seems.

Stuart isn’t just stressed out and exhausted.  He is at a crossroads in his life and a particular set of circumstances have led him to a sailing yacht and man who might be the only one to understand his dilemma and situation.   Against a gorgeous background of sailing and the ocean, Walker brings us two men oddly not that different from each other.  The characters of Foster Knight, owner and Captain of the White Knight and Stuart Jenner, corporate financier, are carefully crafted and so well layered that I was into both men immediately.  I was pulled onto their lives as they sailed the Whitsundays, exploring each other, letting Stuart experience the f freedom of being himself and revelling in it.

We did as well.  The chemistry that builds with them is amazing.  We feel the power and beauty of being under sail, the awe of the sea, and the joy it brings them both.  Plus the terrible pull of the deadline that the end of the voyage has on them both.

I was so caught up in every part of this story that I didn’t realize how quickly it was flying by.  When that incredible ending came (not the epilogue mind you, love that) but the ending that made my heart swell …well I wasn’t ready to let go of these men.  I wanted a movie, another book, anything!!!

Yep, hooked but good.

So I settle for rereading it.  Over and over.

Yes, I absolutely recommend this to all lovers of contemporary romance.  It’s turned out to be one of my favorites.    See if it will be one of yours.

Cover art is sexy, hot, but doesn’t really make me think of Stuart.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 244 pages
Published August 22nd 2018
ASINB07GSKKVTT
Edition LanguageEnglish

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Rainbow Rodeo by BA Tortuga

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

As a teenager, Dalton Jakoby made Tank an offer-one Tank turned down gently. It was still embarrassing as hell, so when Tank returns to the Jakoby Rodeo Company after a big-time bull riding tour, Dalton decides polite but distant is the best course of action.

Tank is hurting from some tough injuries and ready for a lighter workload. He’s also ready to admit Dalton is an adult now, one he wants to get to know much better. While Dalton’s past makes him suspicious of Tank’s attention, he can’t stay standoffish for long… not with Tank.

The new romance burns hot, but problems inside and outside the arena threaten what Tank and Dalton might have together.

Trust me, there is nothing finer than frog hair as when BA Tortuga combines romance with cowboys and rodeo, two of her absolute loves.  Then place these men and their search for a HEA in Texas where the sun beats hot, the salsa even hotter, and the bulls are both reviled and heroic, and you know that BA Tortuga is at home.  Her characters will talk, move, love across the page with cowboy and redneck oozing from their personalities at a cellular level.

It’s in the names of the characters, in the pet names they call each other, the epitaphs that let fly across paddocks that stand in for terms of endearment among those toughed by years on the rodeo circuit, by loss, by experience, by seasoning.  And it’s not just the men but the women of the circuit as well.  All are here and well represented in the Jakoby outfit.

This romance is one of second chances.  Tank, a bull rider on the top circuit, returns back to the Jakoby operation to recuperate and work at assisting in the operation.  At one time, a teenage Dalton had a crush on him and he had gently refused the underage boy’s awkward first advances.  Now, he’s returned to find Dalton a man, and the attraction flares up once more, this time with nothing to stop it.  And nothing does…almost.

We get a marvelous look into the daily operations of a rodeo.  What it takes to put it out on a circuit, the grind, the fact that not all towns are welcoming, and the general wear and tear on body and soul.   On both people and animals.  Plus the very real need to seek some grounding somewhere….a home, a person to be centered in.

I loved the characters, the sense of camaraderie between the twins,Tank, the family and all the rodeo family.  Tortuga gives us a real picture and feel for how being on the road could bring everyone so close together…depending upon one another to have each other’s backs.  It all rang authentic, you could smell the dust, and the heat, and the love that springs up between Tank and Dalton.

There is also mixture of danger to go along with the hot sex and love, a really nice combination.

But what always keeps me glued to the page is the people, the places, and the love that flows there.  All types of love.  The family, the friends, and  above all the romance.  Really, you just can’t beat it.  All in the Texas heat and some rodeo.

What more do you need?  Yes, I highly recommend it.

Cover art : Paul Richmond.  I enjoy this cover by Paul Richmond. The stripes in the background almost look like part of the flag being pulled into the center with the  wonderful outline of the cowboy or cowgirl. It’s really gender neutral if you look at it. Perfect for a rainbow rodeo. Outstanding.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Published August 7th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640804876
Edition LanguageEnglish

A MelanieM Review: The Eye of Ra (Repeating History #1) by Dakota Chase

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Repeating History: Book One

Both Aston and Grant have a talent for finding trouble—it’s what landed them at the Stanton School for Boys—but this time, their mischief might send them to a completely different world.

When they accidentally destroy their teacher’s priceless archaeological artifacts, he demands they replace them. And since the teacher in question is Merlin, refusing isn’t an option for the two boys. Thanks to Merlin’s magic, they’re about to become time travelers.

The first piece on their list is the Eye of Ra, a mystical amulet belonging to the young King Tut. Ancient Egypt is nothing like Aston and Grant expected, with its war, disease, and lack of modern technology. To survive, they must befriend King Tut and learn to trust him—and each other. In a primitive world, where death and danger wait around every corner, one thing is clear: revisiting history could cost someone their life.

From the moment you meet Aston fidgeting away in a juvenile courtroom, he’s instantly identifiable from his jumbled emotions and thoughts.  Trying to be brave, on the cusp of breaking down in tears as he sits next to a father giving him no support other than his presence, he none the less recognizes the role he’s played in getting himself in this situation.

Yes, he takes absolute responsibility for all his actions, including the stealing the car and joyriding.  The hints as to why Aston is acting up comes later…the anger and pain that’s launching many of his bad decisions and actions stemming from the death of his mother and his abandonment issues.

All these feelings and thoughts are bubbling up inside of him…some clear, some not.  All speaking to his age and maturity levels.  And it makes him so easy to relate to in his fear and brashness.

Even when he lands his third chance and old patterns lead to yet more bad decision making, we get him. And Grant.  When they are pulled into Merlin’s class and circle of control, it’s at their own doing. Or is it?

A fight, a fire, a loss of precious objects of Merlin’s sends the boys on flights through time to retrieve them and return them safely back to Merlin.

Chase has crafted a highly adventurous tale, full of well researched details that add to the journey of Aston and Grant back to ancient Egypt.  The author brings the boy King Tut and his times vividly to life as Ash and Grant precariously befriend the boy Pharaoh, try to change history, and still retrieve the Eye of Ra which hangs around Tut’s neck.  It’s exciting, entertaining, and in many ways bittersweet for us and the boys to find that history can’t be changed no matter how much we wish it too.

Add to all this a burgeoning sort of attraction between Ashton and Grant, and you have the makings of a fantastic series and relationship.  I can’t wait to see where this all goes.

Cover Artist: Anna Sikorska, thought it captures the rush of adventure and the magic of the era.  Great job.

Sales Links:  Harmony Ink Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 151 pages
Published May 16th 2017 by Harmony Ink Press (first published May 15th 2010)
ASINB06ZYHBBRK
SeriesRepeating History #1