A MelanieM Review: Tigers on the Run (Tigers and Devils #3) by Sean Kennedy

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Rating:  5 out of 5 stars  ★★★★★

Tigers on the Run coverYoung Australian Micah Johnson is the first AFL player to be out at the beginning of his career. Retired professional football player Declan Tyler mentors Micah, but he finds it difficult, as Micah is prone to making poor life choices that land him in trouble. Nothing Dec can’t handle. He’s been there, done that, more times than he’d like to admit. Being Simon Murray’s partner all these years has Dec quite experienced in long-suffering and mishaps.

As usual, Simon thinks everything is going along just fine until his assistant, Coby, tells him a secret involving an old nemesis. Simon and Dec’s problems mash together, and to solve them, they must undertake a thousand-kilometer round trip in which issues will have to be sorted out, apologies are finally given, and a runaway kid is retrieved and returned to his worried parents.

Tigers on the Run by Sean Kennedy is the book I have been waiting for since I first read Tigers and Devils back in 2012.  Ever have a book just suck you in? One that kept you superglued to the story and the characters? That was Tigers and Devils. There I fell passionately, madly in love with Simon,  and Dec, plus their close friends Fran and Roger, Nyssa,  even, dare I say it  Jasper Brunswick (ok, more like a case of disgust with Jasper).   Sean Kennedy created a cast of funny, fallible, and plain out irresistible characters who moved through a story that was full of angst, humor, and the pain and rewards that come with taking risks to become the person you want to be and to be with the person who is your HEA.

Sean Kennedy followed that up with Tigerland (Tigers and Devils #2), a book I really liked (4 stars) but that was missing some indefinable spark, an element found in the original story.  Yes, the characters resolved some issues between them, Fran and Roger’s personal quest to have children was gripping and real, and all  showed growth as people and/or as a couple.  It’s a wonderful book but still…..

Now comes Tigers on the Run (Tigers and Devils #3) , a book I’ve already read twice!  And I can happily say, the magic is back!  I laughed, and cried, and laughed some more.  I marveled over the crispness and intelligence of the dialog,  nodded in recognition at certain events and the emotional fallout that enveloped everyone, and in general, had the time of my life.  I intend to read it again…soon.

Kennedy has used the structure of an Australian football game as the format for his narrative.  We open on Coin Toss, which takes us back years BD, or Before Declan as Simon calls it.  It functions as a small sketch of Simon’s start towards a larger family of friends and his relationship with Dec.  First chapter?  That’s First Quarter and it finds our snarky, irresistible narrator, Simon, now in his “gay golden years” as he calls it, also known as his thirties!  Simon and Dec are babysitting Roger and Fran’s twins and its prompting a ton of introspection in both, but mainly in Simon.  Dec wants kids.  Simon?  He’s just not sure.  That’s just one of the issues that plays out here in layers, parent/child relationships at all levels, including  if one of those children is a teenager  and not the most lovable one at that.

This is also a story of letting go, of putting  old issues to rest and finding a way to move forward, even if part of you stubbornly wants to resist the change that’s coming.  How human is that?  Needing to  hold onto old grudges, finding a way to forgive? Kennedy acknowledges these truths, makes it a vital, believable element of this story as well.  So many layers and all so beautifully woven into Tigers on the Run.  I love Sean Kennedy’s writing.  It’s fluid, it feels so natural and easy, two things hard to accomplish, and it pulls your heart and mind into the story from the beginning.

That’s important too.  The reader’s heart and mind.  I found myself appreciating how gorgeous some of the sentences and structure of Kennedy’s writing even as I was laughing until I was bent over as Simon, or Roger or even Fran was embarked on some shenanigans.  I could actually have just  quoted sentence after sentence but as good as those lines are separated from the narrative, they get stronger and smarter in context.  What a joy lies in discovering them as you go.

Old standing betrayals are reexamined, surprising new relationships are formed, and their “family” circle enlarges once more. And while that’s happening all  the characters are growing emotionally,  and intellectually.  Kennedy understands people and relationship dynamics, whether its between lovers or friends or even colleagues.  Most importantly, Kennedy knows how to write those relationships and changing dynamics in a way that brings these people to life.  We believe in them, we feel for them.   My connection to Simon, Dec, Colby, Roger and Fran (I adore these two), even Jasper is both deep and solid.   By the end of the story (yes, a terrific ending too), I never wanted to let go.  I’m hoping that the last paragraph is indicative of the fact that more is to come.  Fingers crossed, bribes being prepared.

I just went back to look for a quote to end this one and now I’m laughing again, caught up once more in the story.  Got to go, I have a story to reread.  Need a new book or three to love?  Pick up Tigers and Devils series from Sean Kennedy.  Start at the beginning of Simon and Dec’s relationship and then work your way through their lives, mishaps and love until you reach Tigers on the Run.  Its one of my Best of 2015.  After you have read it, you will understand why.

Cover art by Catt Ford.   It’s a cute cover but only partially reflective of the outstanding story within.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press  |  All  Romance (ARe)  |  Amazon   |  Buy It Here

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 256 pages
Published July 13th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ASINB011061AKG
edition languageEnglish
seriesTigers and Devils #3
characters: Simon Murray, Declan Tyler

Tigers and Devils Series stories in the order they were written and should be read:

 

A MelanieM Review: Forging the Future (Change of Heart #5) by Mary Calmes

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Forging the future coverJin Church is back where he started, alone, wandering, and uncertain of his path. It’s not by choice but by circumstance, as he remembers he’s a werepanther… but not much else. He knows one thing for sure—he needs to find the beautiful blond man who haunts his dreams.

Logan Church is trapped in a living hell. His mate is missing, his tribe is falling apart, and he’s estranged from the son he loves with all his heart. His world is unraveling without his mate by his side, and he has no one to blame but himself.

If Jin can regain his memory and Logan can overcome the threats to his leadership, then perhaps they can resume their lives. The question is: Is that what they want? Back to the same house, the same tribe, the same troubles? They can choose from various roads leading to their future… or they can forge their own path.

When an author or publisher announces a book that ends a beloved series, it unleashes a flood of mixed feelings.  Shock…the series is ending?  Sadness…I love this series and can’t bear to seem them go.  Happiness…I get to read about some of my favorite couples and characters. Fear…how will the series end and will I be happy?  Anticipation…how will the author pull it all together and will I be content to let them go?  Mary Calmes gave me the perfect answer to all my questions with Forging the Future, the last in the Change of Heart series.

I fell deeply and totally in love with Jin Raine and Logan Church, Mary Calmes’ panther shifters, from the moment I met them in Change of Heart (Change of Heart #1).  Each character had such a rich and varied back history to them, it had a interesting location of Reno, Nevada, and the drama that swirled around them was  layered, full of pain, discrimination, and race pride.   I couldn’t get enough of them or their story.  I read the book twice. Finished it the first time and started rereading it all over again.    Yep, hooked.

But it wasn’t just the characters that drew me in, it was the fascinating culture and enthralling species history that Mary Calmes  built book  by book that  had its origin in Egypt and egyptian mythology.   Especially when the plot and characters ended up on Sobek, Egypt, ancestral home of their kind, then I was riveted.  Calmes wove the plight of her characters (often horrific and gutwrenching) into the idea of Egyptian myths come alive and an ancient shifter tribe on the brink of change and the result was gripping and magnificent.

So what does Mary Calmes do with her last Jin and Logan story?   She terrifies us!  From the very first sentence, the reader is plunged into a living nightmare.  It’s Jin at his most heartbreaking and horrific.  Jin has been stripped of everything he fought so hard and so long to have.  He’s alone, amnesiac, and heartsick, although he doesn’t know why.  No Logan, no family or friends or tribe.  Its chilling, and his panic and uncertainty  becomes ours from the outset.  And overtop of what Jin is feeling is the fact that we can imagine just what Logan and the others must be going through at Jin’s absence.  Above all, the question looms for Jin and us….what the hell happened to blow everything to bits?

That answer comes slowly and with great suspense.  Mary Calmes’ approach here is masterful.  It is suspenseful, gripping, and excruciating in the anticipation it creates along the way.  I loved it.  And when the reunion comes, the scene explodes with just the sort of power and emotion we have come to expect from this story and characters.  My heart was pounding along with Jin’s.  But it doesn’t stop there but just starts gather more strength and energy as the pieces start to fall into place and Jin’s memory  returns.  I went back and forth reading and rereading passages for the shear amazement and total enjoyment that brought to me as a reader and fan of this series.

What else did I love?  That the author brings her saga full  circle, back almost to the beginning and then launches it upward with new direction and hope for the future.  This story has all the elements I look forward to in a Change of Heart story and then some.  Calmes gave us more mythology  and also filled in some world building that was extremely practical and down to earth.  Things made sense at the end.  I found myself nodding “yes” at certain turning points and crosspaths in the narrative.

And it all made me want to go read it from the start all over again.  Which I am going to do.

What can I say?  I thought this was perfection.  It ended better than I hoped, with a smile and laughter and utter joy in all the characters and the new future ahead for them all.  Am I sorry its over?  Absolutely.  But did Mary Calmes give Jin, Logan, Yuri, and all the rest the ending they deserved? Without question.  Change of Heart remains a series close to my heart and Forging the Future is one of the Best of 2015!  I highly recommend this book and the entire series.  Now you must excuse me, I have a series to reread!

Cover art by Anne Cain is just perfection.  Perfect for the last cover in the series.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press eBook & Paperback | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon    Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 180 pages
Expected publication: June 29th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781634763042
edition languageEnglish
seriesChange of Heart

Books in the Change of Heart series in the order they were written and should be read for character and plot development.

  • Change of Heart (Change of Heart, #1)
  • Trusted Bond (Change of Heart #2)
  • Honored Vow (Change of Heart, #3)
  • Crucible of Fate (Change of Heart, #4)
  • Forging the Future (Change of Heart, #5)

Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review – Tempest (Playing the Fool #3) by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Tempest coverShakespeare buffs should love this series. As in the other two stories, quotes from “The Bard” abound and, in fact, the title of the story is an adaptation of The Tempest.

Henry Page, aka Sebastian Hanes, aka a hundred other aliases, is a Shakespeare buff. He and his twin sister Viola were raised by an alcoholic mother who was an actress and instilled a love of William Shakespeare in her children from a very early age. As this third story in the series opens, Henry is on the run and so is his boyfriend, FBI Agent Ryan “Mac” McGuinness Mac is being framed for murder and with nowhere else to go, they head for Altona, Indiana, where the series began. Altona, not the most well-known city in the world has a population consisting of Mac’s family, some goats, a few chickens, and maybe a handful of other people. Henry’s not happy about lying low at the McGuinness family farm (hence, his singing of Old MacDonald’s Farm on the way there), but they’ve got nowhere else to go, and he believes Viola will be safe there, a fact which makes him most cooperative.

Viola suffered a brain injury while trying to pull one of their mother’s boyfriends off of Henry as he was being raped when they were teens. In this book we learn something more about this man, JJ. <spoiler> The way the authors wove Mac’s and Henry’s stories together was both complex and compelling. Interesting to me as a reviewer and as someone who has read the past books, I felt like I was slowly unwrapping a gift and each layer brought a new surprise. In hindsight, it’s obvious that the authors plotted this series out before starting the first book, yet each story is a complete story in itself. Together, they make an incredibly interesting action adventure saga. As Henry jokes, the two of them together, aka “Mac and Cheese”, had enough going on in their lives to create a TV series about them, and now they seem to have enough material to make an epic motion picture.

Watching their relationship develop, and most especially, watching Henry come to the realization that he can indeed rely on Mac, that he loves him, and that he might have finally found a home with Mac, is incredibly fulfilling and I just literally couldn’t put the story down. If this had been a movie, I certainly would have watched between my fingers, like a little kid who can’t bear to see what’s going on, yet can’t leave the room either. The last chapters were a hair-raising adventure, super scary for more than just Mac and Henry, and highly riveting. A definite nail-biter, for sure.

The authors continue to relate to the world of William Shakespeare throughout the story, and I particularly enjoyed Mac’s realization that “everyone had their assigned part, and played it. All the world was a stage, after all, and it was just bursting at the seams with eager understudies.” He went on to speculate on the people who loved you and those you loved—those are the only people who mattered. It was clearly evident that he loved Henry, and when Henry finally admitted that he loved Mac, though it was mumbled, it was just perfect for them. And speaking of perfect, the ending of the story was exactly what will allow our guys to continue on in future stories if the authors want to take them further, but would be a fine place to end if they decide to do so.

I highly recommend this series. It got better with each book, and both characters are now on my list of favorite M/M characters and definitely on my most memorable couples list.
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Cover Art by L.C. Chase depicts an open black umbrella on a red background, giving the same overall feel as the covers of the other books. In this case, use of an umbrella symbolizes both Henry’s fear of storms and the use of an umbrella to thwart one of the “bad guys” in the story. Nicely done.

Sales Links:   Riptide Publishing       All Romance (ARe)      Amazon    Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 205 pages
Expected publication: March 9th 2015 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN139781626492233
edition languageEnglish
seriesPlaying the Fool #3

Playing the Fool Series in the order they were written and should be read: