A MelanieM Review: Midsummer Curse (Midsummer #2) by Megan Derr

Standard

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Midsummer Curse coverBrayton’s a lone wolf.  He’s also a “jack of all trades”, roaming the country fixing  problems for the supernaturals who call on him.  A call from a friend sends Brayton to supernatural town of Midsummer’s Night where a curse on the town’s gremlin threatens all things mechanical and worse in Midsummer’s Night. It should be a easy job, find the person responsible, have them break the curse and the gremlin and the town’s problem is fixed.  But nothing is ever so simple in Midsummer’s Night.

Ferdinand (Ferdy to friends), the town’s adorable gremlin, is miserable. His passion and nature is to fix and tinker  with all manner of things mechanical.  But someone or something has put a curse on him and now everything he touches falls to pieces…coffee pots, cars, clocks…everything.  His only hope lies in the gorgeous werewolf who has just arrived in town to fix his problem.  Ferdy has just broken up with his boyfriend and doesn’t want another.  So why can’t he get Brayton out of his head and heart?

Brayton’s stymied.  Everyone seems to love Ferdy and no one can figure out why he’s been cursed.  Something peculiar is going on and Brayton is determined to get to the meaning of it all.  But all he can think of is Ferdy, how the endearing pint sized gremlin smells and giggles.  What is happening to them both? Only time and a keen nose will sniff out the cause of their problems and much, much more.

Who knew gremlins could be so endearing?  Obviously Megan Derr, because with Ferdy she has created a pint-sized character full of vulnerability, sweetness, and a innate need to tinker with everything that has gears and mechanical moving parts.  With Ferdy and the reader its love at first sight.  For others it might take a sniff or  two before a powerful connection is made.  That’s where the other wonderful character of Brayton comes in.  Brayton is the odd were known as a lone wolf.  He wanders without a pack on business brought to him by word of mouth (or whatever parts necessary).  Brayton is snarky, self assured, and powerful in his own right.  Ferdy’s  total opposite or is he?  That’s one of the real delights of this story.

The chief plot of Midsummer Curse is a mystery.  Who and why cursed Ferdy so that everything mechanical he touches falls immediately to pieces?  As he is the town’s chief mechanic and handyman, this poses a huge problem for all.  That is hurts Ferdy horribly only gradually comes out as well. There are other small plot threads woven through this story that are equally enjoyable and twisty.  I love it when that happens.

Midsummer Curse may just be my favorite of the series.  A romantic duo of werewolf and gremlin?  Be still my heart and let my feet find a path to Midsummer’s Night and more stories to come.

Cover art by Megan Derr.  Love the car, now where’s my wolf?

Sales Links:    Less Than Three Press          All Romance eBooks    Amazon    Midsummer Curse

Book Details:

ebook, 57 pages, also available in audio
Published January 2010 by Less Than Three Press
ISBN139781936202157
edition languageEnglish
seriesMidsummer #2

Midsummer Series in order they were written and should be read (available in print, ebook and audio):

  • Midsummer Moon
  • Midsummer Curse
  • Midsummer Law
  • Midsummer Baker
  • Midsummer Days (Print collection of all stories)

Midsummer MoonMidsummer Curse covermidsummerlaw400midsummerbaker400

A MelanieM Review: Midsummer’s Moon (Midsummer #1) by Megan Derr

Standard

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Midsummer MoonHomeless, lonely, and starving, werewolf Lowell has heard of a town and doctor that can cure his lycanthropy.  Lowell can remember little of his upbringing outside of foster homes and abandonment.  All he knows is that being a werewolf brings nothing but pain to himself and to others.  And he wants to be free of his curse.

Lowell is hitchhiking to the  small town of Midsummer’s Night where he thinks the doctor and cure might be residing.  But when a kindly stranger picks Lowell up in the middle of a storm, Lowell gets far more than just a ride to Midsummer’s Night, he finds a wild town made up of supernatural beings who enjoy who and what they are, beings who are ready to accept Lowell into their midst if only he can begin to accept himself and his past.

I love it when a short story feels so much bigger in scope than it is in length.  In Midsummer’s Moon Megan Derr invents a town full of wildly imaginative supernatural beings, each more over the top than the other.  From a doctor with secrets to a vampire with a love for baking cookies and colorful clothing, this is a town that the reader and Lowell need to get familiar with.

Ah, Lowell.  What a sad, little were he starts out being.  Bereft of past, he lacks even the basics to get by in the present, and he hopes to change his future in Midsummer’s Moon.  He does but not in the way he expects.  Derr gives us a character that experiences growth and maturity while outlining the basis for future  stories from this intriguing little town.

As always, Derr brings a few new twists and turns to familiar werewolf lore and introduces us to new supernatural beings and their society that are sure to pop up as the series continues.  Megan Derr is a must read for me and this new series is no exception.  It’s lively, twisty, and fun.  Pick it up and begin your introduction to Midsummer’s Moon, a town you will want to visit again and again.

Cover art: Unsure.  Dark  but works for the story.

Sales Links:    Less Than Three Press             Amazon        Midsummer’s Moon

 

Book Details:

ebook, 63 pages
Published January 2010 by Less Than Three Press
ISBN139781936202119
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.lessthanthreepress.com/ebooks/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=66&products_id=187
seriesMidsummer #1

 

Books in the Midsummer series will have audio books out shortly:

Midsummer’s Moon
Midsummer Curse (Midsummer, #2)
Midsummer Law (Midsummer, #3)
Midsummer Baker
Midsummer Days: Tales of Midsummer’s Night

 

A MelanieM Review: The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds by Charley Descoteaux:

Standard

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

All he ever wanted was to be a normal guy….

Cover The Nesting Habits of Strange BirdsPhil Brask’s life has been one of abandonment and abuse. Jerry Callahan found and rescued Phil after an attack.  Jerry offered Phil a job, and a home as well as a becoming a mentor to the younger man.  Now Phil lives in Jerry’s basement.  He spends his days in solitude, converting legal documents into electronic format. When Phil is not working, then he lives behind the lens of his camera, photographing nature, including the nesting habits of migratory birds. His only friend and outside contact continues to be Jerry, the father figure and mentor, who understands Phil and his issues.

When the pipe feeding the water heater bursts, Phil’s life undergoes a dramatic change. Plumber Lee Redding arrives to fix the pipe and water damage done to the basement where Phil lives and works. The two men establish a shaky and instantaneous attraction.  And before Phil is even aware, he is drawn away from the narrow focus of his computer and camera lens. Lee gives Phil hope for a life past the walls that Phil has built around himself.  Lee’s arrival  expands Phil’s universe as he meets Lee’s family and band. But there’s a reason Phil retreated behind those walls, why he panics at a simple touch.

Lee’s life is full, if not exactly what he had wanted. He works  with his uncle and helps out on his mother’s farm. He  playis bass in a horrible metal band, and hooking up when he pleases—but he’s always suspected something was missing. When he meets Phil with the icy-blue eyes, he knows exactly what that something is. Phil isn’t like other guys, but neither is Lee beneath his carefree exterior. Lee has his own demons to fight.  Between the two of them, maybe they can help each other past their issues and histories into a future both have always dreamed of.

From the wonderfully quixotic title to the intriguing blurb, this was a book that drew me in with just one glance.  It is also the first book by Charlie Descoteaux that I have read but it certainly won’t be the last.   The Nesting Habits of  Strange Birds is a wondrous journey into the complex minds and lives of two wounded men and their families.  From the surface, each group seems so dissimilar.  But upon closer inspection, each young man carries the scars of their past, if not upon their bodies, then upon their inner selves. And each man’s family (in Phil’s case, it is Jerry) is as different and supportive as each one of the them needs them to be.  The family dynamics and individual give and take found in this story were among the highlights of this amazing novel.

In particular, I loved Lee’s family. It consists of Lee’s mother Tina who runs a holistic farm, his sister Becca who I just adored, and his Uncle Lenny who will grow on you by the end of the story.  Phil’s adopted family can be found in Jerry Callahan, whose past makes him ideal to act as a mentor and father figure to Phil. Every character here is a believable human being, consisting of layer after layer of values, beliefs and faults.  There are so many surprises and delights to be found amongst this group, none of which I am willing to spoil for the reader.  The joy is in the nature of these individuals and the matter of fact manner in which Charley Descoteaux slowly reveals the family dynamics and close relationships found between them all.

Descoteaux’s descriptions are vivid and gripping in their naturalness and authenticity.  The author’s imagery pulls you into the scenes and keeps you involved and part of whatever situation is unfolding at the time.  It doesn’t matter whether it is the Great Blue Herons interacting with their young that Phil is photographing and Lee is observing for the first time or Phil’s introduction to Lee’s band and ear numbing music.  It’s carries an emotional wallop while continuing to be totally absorbing.

Is this story for everyone?  Well, it depends if you are looking for a story that is strictly romance or one where the romance is just another lovely thread in the narrative. If romance is your goal, then perhaps The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds isn’t the story for you.  This story certainly has its dark moments as it should given each man’s background and emotional status.  And the narrative slows down to deal with issues raised during the course of the story line.  There are no “instant cures” for the ailments and issues carried deep inside Phil and Lee.  Instead it documents how these two can learn to adapt, changing enough to allow their lives to expand to include love for each other and their families.  That they achieve it is remarkable and heartwarming.

I absolutely recommend The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds by Charlie Descoteaux.  It’s a slow, thoughtful read with complex characters who find themselves trying to deal with life and sometimes difficult situations.  Its full of love, family, and the strength and courage needed to live a life beyond the barriers we erect to protect ourselves, even if it means that sometimes we get hurt in the process.   Pick it up and decide for yourself.

Cover art by DWS Photography.  I wish there was more to this cover than just two models.  It just doesn’t speak to the story within.

Sales Links:    Dreamspinner Press     All Romance eBooks (ARe)   Amazon       The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds

 

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published August 11th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published August 10th 2014)
ISBN 1632160447 (ISBN13: 9781632160447)
edition languageEnglish

A MelanieM Review: The Last Wolf (Sapphire Ranch Wolves #1) by Sue Brown

Standard

The Last Wolf 400x600Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Professor Joseph Lowther Jr. returned home to the Sapphire Ranch when his father became gravely ill. His dad is now hospitalized and its up to Joe Jr. to run the ranch he left years ago.

When Joe hears a commotion out near the barn, he shoots a wolf he thinks is attacking their sheep.  But to his astonishment the wounded wolf turns into a young man, a wolf shifter in need of help and refuge.

Callum Pope just might be the last of his pack.  On the run from hunters who specialize in hunting, killing, and the destruction of all shifter wolf packs, he was on the run until he landed on the Sapphire Ranch and was shot.  That may have been the best thing to ever happen to Callum.  Joe offers him safety, friendship, and perhaps even sanctuary from those hunting him.

For Joe, his view of the universe has been shattered.  But in its place just might be something he never expected….a strong connection to Callum Pope, a bond that grows deeper by the day.  Now all Joe has to do is keep Callum alive long enough to figure out what it all means to himself and to Callum.

When a story manages to combine author Sue Brown and wolf shifters, I know I am in for a treat.  That the story is the first in a new series just makes this all the sweeter.  The Last Wolf by Sue Brown sets the stage for the series and the stories to come.  In that respect,  it tended to try to do too much in this first novel.  But the sweetness of Callum, the likability of Joe Lowther and his father, and  the undeniable terror of hunters bent on exterminating an entire race combine to make this story one to read.

I loved the premise of the series.  Its heartrending in its small details, and shocking in scope.  Hunters out to exterminate an entire race of beings on a world wide scale. That the hunters target all ages and genders, from babies to the infirm just intensifies our fear and horror.  They are killing machines who seem unstoppable.  When you put that type of villain up against a vulnerable young main character who has already lost so much, then your empathy is easily engaged and your connection to this shifter and Joe snaps into place.

The relationships make this story shine.  From the father/son bond between Joe Jr. and Joe Sr., this is a family you adore immediately.  Then there is the growing bond between Joe Jr. and Callum, which is swift but understandable given the circumstances.  I loved that one too.  As the story continues, more people and different types of bonds and deep relationships come into play.  Brown is also setting up some of the potential couples for the stories to come.  One is particular has me “growling” in anticipation.  The author has always been able to make her people and their relationships believable (even if one is a supernatural being), and she continues that  here.

There are some shaky moments in the narrative where the author clearly is trying to get in all the elements she needs for the rest of the series, even if they are only hints and glimpses of things to come.  So at times it can feel rushed or scattered.  But the story and characters are strong enough to pull you into their journey to safety, sanctuary, and love.

What makes a pack?  I think Sue Brown is delivering that answer in her Sapphire Ranch series.  It has a wonderful concept, terrific characters, evil hunters, and the type of elements that  will keep the reader returning to see what the author has in store for us next.  While the ending is not exactly a cliffhanger, Sue Brown leaves us with enough questions that the next installment will be eagerly awaited.   What is in store for the Lowthers, Callum Pope and the Sapphire Ranch?  I have no idea but  can’t wait to find out.

If you love shifters, add this to your TBR list today.  If you adore Sue Brown, this story and series are probably already there.  Now the anticipation begins for the next story.  I will be waiting to see where Sue Brown takes her characters next.  I hope you will be along for that journey!

Cover art by Meredith Russell.  Love that cover.  Great job.

Sales Links:   Love Lane Press          All Romance eBooks (ARe)     Amazon     The Last Wolf

Book Details:

162 pages
Published September 5th 2014 by Love Lane Books Limited (first published September 4th 2014)
edition languageEnglish
seriesSapphire Ranch Wolves #1

A MelanieM Review: A Suitable Replacement (Deceived #5) by Megan Derr

Standard

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

A Suitable Replacement coverReturning home after three years abroad on an exhaustive research expedition,  Lord Maximilian wants nothing more than to see his twin sister Mavin and meet her fiance to whom she got engaged while he was away.  But as usual with his imperious sister things have already gone awry on his first day home.  Shortly after Max’s return,  a man barges into Max’s study demanding to see his sister.  The problem?  It’s Master Kelcey Moore, Mavin’s fiancé  wanting to know where Mavin has gone and why. Max doesn’t know what’s going on.

It doesn’t take much investigation on Max’s part to find out that his bold as brass sister has run away with someone else’s fiance, leaving her own (and another’s) far behind without warning to handle the social and personal embarrassment by themselves.  Floored by his sister’s actions, Max gets to know Kelcey, the man left behind.  He’s hurt, embittered by the fact that he thought Mavin was his friend and impoverished by his circumstances, something the marriage would have alleviated.  It isn’t soon before Max is finding himself concerned by Kelcey and his future.

Max thinks he has found the answer to all Kelcey’s  problems in his marriage contract to Mavin.  A suitable replacement must be found if the marriage doesn’t take place.  So Max reasons, all he must do is find a replacement for Mavin.  Another rich, suitable person for Kelcey to marry.  As more problems pop up to confront Max and Kelcey, the biggest of all just might be the fact that Max is wishing the suitable replacement to be himself.

In the world of Megan Derr, the word “typical” and “normally” are banished to the realm of others.   If Megan Derr is  writing an story that might seem historical on the surface, you can be sure that dragons, or trolls, or something magical or mysterious is lurking just around the corner, alongside carriages and horses and things.  In the world of Megan Derr, the young heir to the title and lands is not the twin brother but his twin sister, Mavin, a force of nature of her own.  Mavin, the cigar smoking,gun wielding, imperious and yes, impulsive wild child and head royal here.   Her twin brother, Max, also has his moments of wildness and peculiarities but they are nothing when stacked up against those of his sister.  I loved that its Mavin who fills the role of the  “typical” uncontrollable heir instead of her brother.  And its her exploits that set off the explosive and crazy events to come.  But back to Max and Kelcey.

Max is your “preoccupied disheveled scientist” in a historical context.  But what is Max researching?  Troll magic, an unpopular if not totally rejected subject for research and scientific study.  Not typically an historic element.  Apparently, there was a Troll War and Max is determined to research what he thinks is the use of magic during that war.  Max is most at home in his study or at the various bookstores where he is known as a generous patron.  But  when he gets the idea to find a replacement for his sister for Kelcey to marry, Max must once more take up the trappings of society and his royal status to achieve his ends.  This is just the sort of character Derr does so well.  Irritable yet soft hearted, highly intelligent and isolated, and truly in need of love.  He finds his match in Kelcey, an enigmatic man who pushes all Max’s buttons.  The courtship between them starts off slow and then takes off at a gallop. No, really a gallop at they flee town together.

There are quite a few obstacles to happiness and HEA thrown in their way.  That they are raised by the actions of Mavin in the first place, ones she shows little accountability for later on, might take away some of your enjoyment of her character and this story.  I thought her thoughtlessness of others around her and her self centered outlook was perfectly in keeping with her character.  Did I want to see her throttled? Of course but I found her a viable and interesting persona.  You need a character like her to add a prickly tartness here and she does that well.  And how Max and Kelcey react and adjust to the following chaos is lovely to behold.

The resolution is a little drawn out in a manner that might put off some readers.  Mavin’s actions has some real consequences, and as in real life, the person responsible is not always the person who pays the price.  I thought it realistic but for some this might be a tad unpalatable. I do wish a troll or two had shown up or even a magical wand.  That would have been stupendous (although not necessary for the plot).  I would love to have known more about the Troll Wars and past history that Max was researching, that got my interest going too.  But this story?  I still enjoyed the heck out of it.  Like them or not, I think you will find yourself empathizing with their circumstances, relationships and events to follow.  I loved the plot and the twists Megan Derr wove into a typical Regency novel.   Consider A Suitable Replacement totally recommended.  Now off to find the other stories in this series.

 Cover artist: Aisha Akeju.  Terrific cover, totally works here.

Sales Links:    Less Than Three Press     All Romance eBooks (ARe)        Amazon         A Suitable Replacement

Book Details:

ebook, 218 pages
Published August 6th 2014 by Less Than Three Press LLC (first published August 4th 2014)
original titleA Suitable Replacement
ISBN 1620044013 (ISBN13: 9781620044018)
edition languageEnglish
seriesDeceived #5

Review: Nothing But Smoke By Daisy Harris

Standard

Rating: 4 stars out of  5

Sometimes good boys do bad things.

Cover_NothingButSmokeFirefighter Nicky O’Brian’s life is falling to pieces.  His mother is dying from cervical cancer and only has a short time to live.  The stress and pain of trying to ease his mother’s suffering at home, attending to her medical and emotional needs, is tearing Nicky apart.  Long hours at work, and the emotional strain of his home situation is pulling Nicky under.  To escape, Nicky hunts for a quick sexual gratification near the gay bars in town, hoping to lose himself if only for a moment.

Michael Larson’s life is full and overflowing.  Michael has just finished up his undergrad degree and is starting a masters in sociology in September.  He works in a local Seattle coffee shop and when not busy with friends, then his mother is sure to appear with unwanted advice, extra produce from her garden and lots of love. He also loves to run.  While on a run by the gay bars in town, Michael watches  as a hot guy on a motorcycle cruises the area for a quick encounter.  But what was supposed to be fun, fast, and anonymous turns into something unexpected and life altering when the man turns out to be a Seattle firefighter, Nicky O’Brian.

Nicky and Michael find their attraction to each other growing when they run into each other again at a Firefighter Picnic.  But huge problems loom for both. Nicky is deep in the closet and with his mother critically ill and highly religious, Nicky is not sure he will ever be able to tell her that he is gay.  Michael has sworn never to date a closeted man again after the painful relationship with his last closeted boyfriend imploded.  But as Nicky’s mother’s condition becomes dire, Michael must choose between his promises to himself and Nicky, who is clearly in need of support and friendship is not more.

“Nothing but Smoke” by Daisy Harris is Book 3 of the ‘Fire and Rain’ series about a group of Seattle firefighters and their lovers.  I am new to both this author and her series, so I am entering at Nothing But Smoke.  That fact didn’t seem to present any problem for me with either the story or the characters when entering after two stories and I don’t think it will for the other readers as well.

Seattle is the location for this story and series and Daisy Harris works many of the local establishments and iconic landmarks into her story to give it a wonderful feel as far as atmosphere and setting is concerned.  I love it when the author demonstrates a deep knowledge of the town her characters live in as the nuances and local flavor make it that much more authentic in bringing this story to life.

Harris’ characters are touching and real as are the situations they find themselves in, particularly Nicky and his mother, Lydia, as well as Michael and his mother, Ailene. Two very different son and mother combinations and the juxtaposition between them is startling. The scenes between the critically ill mother and her son are profoundly moving and believable.  I don’t know where Harris’ obtained her knowledge of the care and physicality of a terminally ill cancer patient , but they are so emotionally wrenching that it hurts . Harris’ descriptions of the crippling, painful manner in which Nicky’s mother is failing and it’s debilitating effect upon her son are the most heartbreaking elements of this story.  Nicky’s grief over the impending loss of his only parent and the mother he loves is visceral in its realness and denial.  Most readers will be awash in tears as Nicky and Michael survey her room with the objective of packing up her things to take to a hospice.  In fact, this whole aspect of the story is so strong, so compelling, that everything else almost fades in comparison.

Another strong and equally believable element here?  Nicky’s closeted status and his inability to add to his mother’s pain by declaring his homosexuality to her in her final days.  All the arguments, internal or otherwise, are clearly stated here.  To let a mother know who her son really is versus the peace of mind of a deeply religious Catholic woman who is dying.  Do you do what is best for you or for the woman who raised you?  An added stressful complication for Nicky is that his mother is almost always being attended to by a family priest who sees  homosexuality as a sin.  These issues alone could have filled this book.

What this story needed more of to be a romance is well….a romance or believable love story.  I loved Michael and Nicky as friends feeling their way towards each other through the emotional turmoil and struggle of Nicky’s situation.  I found that to be authentic, compelling, and practically perfect.  To use sex as a mean to forget or an outlet, I found that believable too.  But for Nicky and Michael to fall in love in a short amount of time and under those conditions? Not as the author has framed it.  I could see it if they realize that the situation was pushing those emotions onto them but it’s not the time for a romance, and the author makes no attempt to convey one here.  That case of instant love flew in the face of all the other painful realitiies that Harris dumps upon these wonderful characters and I missed the precision that Harris used with all the other aspects of her story.  Just look at how carefully Harris created the character of Michael’s vegan, gluten free, earth mother Aline.  From her  bounteous fruit bearing plants outside to her dubious kitchen abilities, this wonderful, opinionated “no bras for her” woman is a force to be reckoned with and you love her immediately even if a small voice inside is telling you how happy you are that she isn’t your mother.  Her impact is decisive, her personality forceful and loving.  I believed in her 100 percent.  And I needed that same feeling for the love between Nicky and Michael.  I believed in their need, their attraction, and  even the caring Michael demonstrates towards Nicky…just not an abiding love.  However, I adored these characters so much that I could shove that aside and concentrate on everything else.  Other readers might find their need for each other and attraction deep enough to call it love and be fine with the romance element here.  I will leave that up to you.

If you are searching for a book about firefighters in love, I am not sure this is the story for you. The firefighter aspect is missing here other than the occasional mention of Nicky’s profession and the other members of his station house in a couple of scenes. They might be more prevalent in the stories leading up to this one.  I just don’t know. But Nothing But Smoke is such a strong, emotional story that I will certainly search out the others in the series as well as other books by Daisy Harris.  There are so many outstanding elements here, so many great characters that I recommend this story to you.   Just be prepared for a story as much about loss as it is about love.  And keep those tissues handy.

Cover by Kanaxa,  Incredible cover from the tone and to design, you can almost feel the loss….

To enter the Daisy Harris Nothing But Smoke book release contest, visit here.

Buy Links:    Samhain         ARe            Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 214 pages
Published June 10th 2014 by Samhain Publishing
ISBN 1619221721 (ISBN13: 9781619221727)
edition languageEnglish
seriesFire and Rain #3

Stories in the Fire and Rain series include:

From the Ashes (Fire and Rain, #1)
After the Rain (Fire and Rain, #2)
Nothing But Smoke (Fire and Rain, #3)
November Rain (Fire and Rain, #4)

Review: Vampire Prince by S.J. Frost

Standard

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Vampire Prince cover

For three years Sebastian Beaumont has fought against his imprisonment as a sex/blood slave in a vampire brothel but now he feels like dying.  Abducted after he was thrown up by his parents for being gay, Sebastian longs for freedom, his music, and to see the sun again but has seen his hopes fade over time and the years of abuse.  When a new vampire buys his services, Sebastian has no idea that his future is about to change.

Prince Valentin Wyndham has just arrived in Savannah, Georgia, from his home in Europe. A quick need for blood sends him to a nearby blood house and a timely replenishment. But the blood slave Valentin chooses offers so much more than Valentin expected.

A prince by age, Valentin’s far different from any vampire Sebastian has served.  Their one night is full of surprising passion and something more, a deep connection that forms between them that neither expected.  Valentin has been burned before by a human but Sebastian is different and he wants Sebastian for himself, no matter the cost.

Giving a blood slave his freedom is dangerous, as Valentin knows.  But he wants Sebastian by his side and will do whatever it takes to make that possible.

Vampire Prince is the beginning of a new vampire series by S.J. Frost and it looks to be a marvelous one.  Frost lays out her universe almost immediately with the vampire hierarchy and the hidden blood houses that service vampires. We see it all from the “legal, well-maintained houses” whose humans are contracted and well taken care of to the disreputable establishments,like the one that owns Sebastian. These are dark, barred prisons,seedy, run down and smelling of death and despair. They disregard all legalities, vampire and human, to obtain their slaves.  The hopelessness and abuse of the blood slaves like Sebastian translate beautifully in the descriptions and dialog between Sebastian and House Master Wesley in the beginning chapters.  The stage is set for the arrival of Prince Valentin and we are not disappointed.

S.J. Frost lays out her cast for much of the series here.  We get Valentin, and Sebastian, true.  But also Basil, Valentin’s best friend and cousin who happens to be a fellow vampire. Basil is a great character that’s so much fun no matter what scene he’s in.  Basil is the voice of reason and a great deal of snark! A demon named Sal and his pet Beezle, both of whom are quite adorable and charming as well, close out the main group or family here.  They manage to steal away every scene they’re in. There is even an old boyfriend of sorts, Malcolm, who I am sure we will see more of in the future stories.  That is a lot of characters to juggle in one story, but S.J. Frost handles the job well.  These are not brief character introductions but beings that are important not only to the plot but to the household the author is establishing as the base of operations for her series.

I have to admit demon Sal and Beezle became early favorites.  Between the red hair and blue eyes of the form Sal prefers and Beezle who likes to be carried like a shih tzu  but can become the size of a dinosaur, their charming company is one the reader looks forward to whenever they pop up in the plot, whether its to quip about relationships or dive into action.  I really couldn’t get enough of them.  Or Basil as well.

But the heart of this story is Valentin and Sebastian. I love Sebastian.  He is strong and vulnerable, loyal and intelligent and of course, so very beautiful.  And while we have seen this persona before, in Frost’s Sebastian this type of character comes to life as someone we want to see succeed and find love.  Sebastian asks us to invest our emotions in him and we do.  And as Sebastian is in dire need of a knight in shining armor, Frost gives him one in Valentin, a valiant protector who arrives in a Jaguar instead of a horse.

Valentin is a prince no less, an odd mixture of old world sensibilities and New World beliefs. Valentin finds the idea of wearing blue jeans abhorent but sees humans not just as food but as people worthy of so much more, including his respect.  He is the hero that Sebastian needs desperately and the scenes that will give readers the most satisfaction is where he comes to the rescue time and again.  True Valentin seems more Prince Charming to me than age old vampire.  But the dark grittiness of other vampire heroes really has no place here.  Valentin is a vampire looking for love and a final companion. And now he has one in Sebastian.  And their chemistry together is red hot, and oh, so sexy!

But not all the villains are slain and not all the story threads tied up.  Valentin and Sebastian are just starting out on their relationship and Sebastian is adjusting to freedom and his new life.  Basil, and Sal are in need of romance. What on earth does Frost have in store for these scene stealers?  I can’t wait to find out. And then there is a character who redeemed himself, ok just a little, and I expect to see him again as well.  And Beezle?  Is there a mate out there for Beezle too?  It’s with gleeful joy that I anticipate the answers that Frost will deliver in the coming stories.

I really enjoyed this story. Equal parts romp, romance and drama, Vampire Prince, is a wonderful start to a new series.  I giggled, sighed and even sniffed a time or two.  And now I can’t wait for more.  Vampire Prince is a must read for all lovers of romance, vampires and especially vampire romance.

Cover design by Fiona Jayde.  Sexy cover, just perfect for the story.

 

Book Details:

ebook, 218 pages
Published March 7th 2014 by Ellora’s Cave
original titleVampire Prince
ISBN 1419948601 (ISBN13: 9781419948602)
edition languageEnglish
url http://www.ellorascave.com/vampire-prince.html
charactersSebastian Beaumont, Valentin Wyndham
settingSavannah, Georgia (United States)

Review: The Oracle’s Hatchling (The Oracle #2) by Mell Eight

Standard

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The Oracle's HatchlingLing was 18, old enough to be tested no matter his parentage.  Yet the Masters barred his way into the testing chamber when he arrived at the choosing ceremony.  forcing him to steal his way into the Oracle’s chambers.  It wasn’t his fault that his birth killed his mother, but that didn’t stop everyone at the Monastery from reviling him nonetheless. But when Ling is tested, the mark on his back is that of an egg instead of one of the four castes, leaving Ling in a worse position than when he went in.  Mocked and hated and now further separated by his tattoo, Ling obeys the Oracle when she sends him off to find employment and a life in Altnoia.

Once Ling has settled into life in the castle’s kitchen, he accidentally falls into a plot to overthrow King Edan and the Oracle who supports him.  Behind the plot is the son of the man who killed the royal family and  usurped the throne. The twin princes and their dragon killed his father and now Prince Damarion lives alone, angry and plotting in the dungeons below.  But Ling understands the pain behind the mask that  Damarion wears and starts up an unexpected friendship with the vengeful prince.  Neither man is prepared for the relationship that follows.  And where it will lead them only fate and the Oracle knows.

Not quite a continuation of the first story,  The Oracle’s Hatchling, the tale of Ling, the Hatchling of the title, is set after the events that took place in The Oracle’s Flame.  The twin Princes and Dragon now hold the throne of Altnoia but the effects of the treachery by the King’s brother continues to spread throughout the kingdom.  At its center is the son of the man who killed his brother and most of his brother’s family.  Now an orphan, Prince Damarion is the focus of all the rage and hatred the people of Altnoia felt towards his father.  Brooding, sulking, and somewhat petulant, he still remains a sad figure, one who has isolated himself from Prince Edan and the other residents of the castle.

Mell Eight manages to take two young men, different in status but not in the manner in which they both were made outsiders by events outside their control, and make them both realistic and worthy of our compassion.  Ling has suffered the worst, he lost his mother and then any place he might have had in the caste societies that live within the Monastery.  Constantly taunted and belittled, his only hope for something better, goes seriously awry or so the author makes us think.  The descriptions of the relationship between Ling and the Oracle are tender and bittersweet, almost guaranteed to bring forth a tear or two. And the moment in which Ling leaves the Monastery and everything he knows for the outside for the first time is something we can relate to, that first step into an unknown future that requires you to leave home maybe forever.

Damarion is another recognizable character.  And by that he feels like that older teen, twenty something young person, who is angry over the things that have happened in his life, things he had no control over and has acted impulsively to the detriment of all.  Our papers are filled full of these young men.  And Damarion’s anger, and sense of indignant self- righteousness and pain makes him an easy target and tool. Again we can understand his behavior and general outlook. Concentrating on only two characters made Ling and Damarion more fleshed out then the Princes because I felt we got to know these characters better. And how Mell Eight brings those two together seems just right as does the communication that starts the relationship between them.

In The Oracle’s Hatchling, we see the kingdom from the viewpoint of those that serve the most basic necessities of the castle.  The cooks, and household staff which is a nice contrast with those scenes where we are reunited with Dragon and his Princes.  There are some wonderful action scenes.  But my favorite? That has to be when we finally see what is behind that egg on Ling’s back.  That is so magical, so imaginative, that as much as I liked the entire book, that made the story for me because it was so unexpected.

Mell Eight intends to write a story about each caste in the Monastery and maybe one more that contains a surprise.  I really don’t know how she will top the surprise in this one.  I can’t wait.  The first story is obviously the Fire Caste with Dragon.  Ling’s Caste is something of a surprise which takes some explaining (see the author interview later this week). While you don’t necessarily have to read The Oracle stories in order, it certainly helps to understand the events and timelines that occur.  I continue to find the Oracle and her Monastery fascinating.  The Oracle’s Golem is next. What will the Earth Caste bring? I can’t wait to find out what is in store next for this magical series.

The first story was m/m/m, or should that be m/m/dragon?  This one is m/m.  No matter, both are imaginative and wonderful, the descriptions vivid and the action engrossing.  I loved the fantasy and Mell Eight’s world building and think you will too.  Pick them up and start reading.  The third is coming soon.

Cover art by London Burden.  I like the simplicity of the cover and the branding design for the series.

Books in the series include:

The Oracle’s Flame
The Oracle’s Hatchling

Book Details:

ebook, 20,000 words, m/m
Published March 5th 2014 by Less Than Three Press LLC (first published March 4th 2014)
original title The Oracle’s Hatchling
ISBN139781620043257
edition languageEnglish
seriesThe Oracle

Buy Link

Review: Reviewing Life (A Review Story) by Lara Brukz

Standard

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Reviewing Life coverAfter a life spent as an alcoholic,  Marshall Ellerbee finds a himself at an AA meeting and on the path to sobriety.  Finally sober, Marshall find a new outlook and the strength to change his life in every aspect.  He starts a new job at the Wellness Center that houses his sponsor and starts making amends.  Then his sponsor suffers a heart attack and dies.  His replacement is none other than Kyle Young, Marshall’s ex-lover’s best friend.  Kyle was no friend to Marshall even when Marshall and Eric were just dating.  But after the drunk driving accident that cost Eric the use of his legs, Kyle’s distain turned to hate.  And now Marshall is expected to work with the man who hates him.  Marshall wants to show Kyle that he has changed, but will Kyle accept that fact and Marshall?

Kyle Young is floored when he finds out that the athletic manager for the Wellness Center where he was just hired is none other than the drunk that almost killed his best friend, Eric.  But Marshall appears sober and when Marshall saves Eric’s life, then Kyle must finally accept the fact that Marshall has turned his life around and become a better person, not just a sober one.

When the men find themselves attracted to each other, and not just physically, it upsets the fragile state of their budding friendship.  Is a romance even possible between two men who shared  a past such as Marshall’s?

I thoroughly enjoyed Lara Brukz’s first story in the series, Five-Star Review.  That novel was Eric Carillo (a reviewer of M/M Romances) and Cade Montgomery’s (author of M/M Romances) story.  But Marshall Ellerbee figured largely in that tale as the ex-lover who, driving drunk, put Eric in the wheelchair and the lifestyle that isolated him in his loft.  His attempts to re-enter Eric’s life after the accident only caused more pain and heartache through a scheme hatched by a drunken Marshall.  In another story, it would have been easy to write  Marshall off as the villain he certainly was but in Brukz’s hands, Marshall was also a person in great pain, drowning in alcohol, destroying his life and others in the process.  Eric could never bring himself to hate Marshall although he hated what the man had done and who he became under the influence of alcohol.     Brukz created a character who could be redeemed but not in that story.  I think many of us who read Five-Star Review wanted to see what happened to Marshall and now we have our answer in Reviewing Life.

As the story opens we find Marshall sitting in at his first AA meeting, listening to people relate the traumatic events that finally made them get sober.  It is a bleak picture and Marshall sits there shaking wondering if he has the courage to go to the podium and acknowledge that he is an alcoholic.  It is a powerful scene and handled with the  painful realism it deserves by Lara Brukz.  Alcoholism and the path to sobriety is a topic of much larger and detailed stories.  But Brukz’s treatment rings with sincerity and the need to make Marshall Ellerbee’s recovering alcoholic as authentic as possible.  We get glimpses into Marshall’s upbringing and his use of booze as a bandaid for the problems he encountered.  And Brukz makes Marshall work for his acceptance, asking for forgiveness and trying the make amends for his past actions.

Kyle Young also has a past that includes alcoholism, although not his own.  So Kyle’s approach to the disease and those afflicted is colored by his own experiences, again a realistic handling of the subject matter.  I liked Kyle and the sober Marshall found in this story.  Their romance was slow to build, as it should be with two characters and their past issues.

At 124 pages, it would be a challenge for any author to bring in the full range of issues and milestones in an alcoholic’s road to recovery.  There are several mentions of the temptation to drink again, including one scene at a bar.  The need for support for a alcoholic is there throughout Reviewing Life, a necessity for someone to remain sober.  Lara Brukz introduces a few secondary characters at the Wellness Center, including a young man called Toby.  I loved the scenes that took place there and can only hope the next novel is located at the Center and brings  back not only Toby but the other children and adults as well.

Of course Eric and Cade are strong secondary characters in this tale, so those readers as fond of them as I am will be overjoyed  to see them again.  This is a strong romance which could have benefited by additional length to add some more layers to  Marshall’s recovery and Kyle’s background.  However, I enjoyed Marshall and Kyle’s romance and think most readers will too.  Consider this definitely recommended for both the story and the author. More please.

This is how Reviewing Life starts…

“I LOVED vodka. Vodka martinis; Bloody Marys; screwdrivers. Oh, and I loved green apple vodka. Simply an amazing drink. It was what I went to when I was happy, when I was sad, when I was frustrated. I used any excuse as a reason to practically drink myself into a coma.”

Cover art by Catt Ford.  Just a terrific cover, love the artwork.

Books in this series include:

Five-Star Review (A Review Story #1)
Reviewing Life (A Review Story #2)

Book Details:

ebook, 134 pages
Published November 20th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published November 19th 2013)
ISBN 1627982752 (ISBN13: 9781627982757)
edition language English

Review: The Actor & The Thief by Edward Kendrick

Standard

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

The Actor and the Thief coverAdam Murray and his castmates had just finished their nightly performance in a play in Denver.  Now it was time for some food, some drink and relaxation.  Then he sees someone unexpected, someone he hasn’t seen for over 20 years. The only man he has ever loved…Craig Byrnes, thief,  and recently released from prison after serving time for robbery.

Craig headed out to Denver as soon as he was released.  He is a man with a plan.  But things start to go wrong almost immediately.  Craig’s mentor and friend is killed and it looks like the killers are after Craig.  Then he runs into the one man he never stopped loving, Adam Murray.  He followed Adam’s career in prison but is surprised to see him again in that small bar.

Their meeting reignites old feelings, ones that never really died.  But trouble is on their heels and their lives are in danger.  The smart thing to do would be to walk away from each other.  Will they part again for the final time or find a way to safety and a future they always wanted?

The Actor and the Thief is a short, lively, and suspenseful romance by Edward Kendrick.  There were so many elements to this story that I enjoyed, starting with the fact that its main characters were older, seasoned by their life experiences and yet still hopeful enough to reach out for future with the person they loved.  Kendrick’s characters make this story.  He has given each man enough layers and texturing to bring them to life, grounding them and their life choices in the real world.  We believe in them because the author has done his job well.

Craig is an unrepentant thief, good at his job and tough enough to endure prison and emerge relatively unscathed by the experience.  Craig slid into a life of a criminal early on and found he liked the easy money and he was good at being a burglar.  His only regret was that his profession cost him Adam Murray, the man he loved.  You kind of have to love someone who is not going to apologize for his choices, to use that old phrase….Craig “is who he is”.  Unfortunately for him the past does have a way of catching up and it has for Craig in the plot.

Adam Murray is a lovely character. Clearly the author has pulled from his own experiences in the theatre to create Adam Murray so authentically as an older actor at the zenith of his career. He has played all the roles and now is aging out of the new plays and roles being written.  It’s an ironically wry outlook leaving Murray rueful and yet grateful for the career he has had.  He is also at the point in his life that he is evaluating his next step and looking towards retirement.  And at that moment, his past arrives in the form of his only real love, thief Craig Byrnes.

Kendrick’s plot includes some very nasty killers and  the requisite buildup of suspense as all the characters head towards the climax of the story.  I love this aspect of the story where the hunted and the hunters pursue and are pursued in equal measure.  My interest was riveted to the scheming and action involved and my emotions engaged by the characters and their attempts to outsmart the killers and stay alive.

My only issues with this story is the lack of back history of Craig and Adam’s part and their relationship.  We are given only a small amount of knowledge of their past together as well as the fact that neither man ever got over the other.  But to deepen their relationship for the reader and make us really believe in this enduring love, we needed more of them in the past and we don’t get it.

What we do get is two chapters that move the story forward in time at the end.  The actors and the readers are rewarded with an ending guaranteed to bring satisfaction and happiness all around.

Looking for a great little romance featuring older main characters and a happily ever after?  The Actor and the Thief is the story for you.  Pick it up and enjoy.

Cover art by Wilde City Press.  I have to admit that I found this cover off putting.  Both the models and the split cover design just don’t work for me.

Book Details:

ebook, 85 pages
Buy links Wilde City Press,
Kindle Edition, 85 pages
Published December 12th 2013 by Wilde City Press (first published November 20th 2013)

ASIN B00H9SS0FI