A MelanieM Review: Forged in Flood by Dahlia Donovan


Rating: 5 stars out of 5


When one drunken night forever scars three best friends, will they ever find a way to pick up the pieces?

Eaten up with guilt, Ivan Black spends ten years hiding from the world. He retreats to his family forge to wallow in misery. Alone. So lonely his heart aches with it.

Wesley Cook and Rolland Spence have been together since university. They struggle through the physical scars of the accident, building a life in the ruins of their dreams. They find happiness but continue to miss their angry ginger Viking—Ivan.

In all the anger of wasted years, the three men find a way to forge a relationship as hot as the fires in the smithy.

I’ve long been a fan of the novels of Dahlia Donovan, but Forged in Fire may be her best story yet.  It is a deeply moving love story between three men who lost each other and their chance at major careers in rugby directly after the university. Young men drove drunk and disastrously crashed, rolling the car, ending their triad through grievous injuries and the guilt one still carries to this day.  That would be the driver Ivan.

All this we learn in bitter bits and pieces one wet, flooded night as the waters rise about the village of Boscastle and Ivan’s family’s forge high on the hill.  It’s over a decade after the accident and “Ivan the Terrible” as his family calls him has fully retreated from life to his forge, shutting off all contact, including the two men who used to mean the most to him.  He’s plagued by memory loss from brain damage, deep guilt, and a deep seated rage that is his legacy from his father, now in prison.  His past not only haunts him but he fights it every second of the day.  And it mostly wins and tears him down.

Ivan is a savage portraiture of a man.  Driven by his demons yet Donovan continues to make us understand him as she reveals more and more of his past and his struggles to get by them.  They include his father who we meet in prison and who Ivan is named after.

But the heart and soul of this story is the dynamics, return of love and relationship of the triad. Born in the rising flood waters in Boscastle, it’s painful, so slow its like slogging through the rising tide, full of anger, resentment, pain, and loss.  They have a decade of issues to work through…even abandonment.  Incredibly, the author also manages to bring in laughter, giggles, light touches, and some incredibly  sexy scenes that show that the pull between all three men isn’t just some surface attraction.  No, it’s cellular.  These men need each other in order to be complete.  Donovan makes us believe it absolutely.  We feel it as much as the men do.

If Ivan is a complete character, so is Wesley Cook and Rolland “Rolly” Spence, who have been together as an existing couple since the accident.  They have returned to get their third, Ivan, and bring him “home”.  Each one of them, so clearly defined and beautifully written that its a joy to meet them and be included in their relationship.  It’s fun to watch and listen to, the dialog shows the ease of a couple who has been together for years as does the sex between them.  Loving, quick, and warmhearted.  Yet still they yearn for Ivan, all prickles and anger who they’ve missed all this time.  And he’s missed them as well.

The emotions here are huge, the growth, the pain, the fear the oozes off of Ivan as he faces his past, his father, his disabilities and even his future, it will scare even you.  Bring tissues.  For 130 pages, this is a big book.

I can’t begin to tell you all how much I love it and the men here.  It will leave a lasting impact.  One incredibly stupid decision and three lives changed forever.  Now we how the aftermath turns out and lives change again.

I highly recommend this story. The writing is incredible, the descriptions vivid and carry such emotional heft, and the characters so real you believe in them and invest in them absolutely.

And for those of you who are wondering, no this is not connected to her Sin Bin series other than a brief mention of Taine Afoa.  It’s completely standalone.

So yes, go pick it up, dive in and lose yourself in these men and their road back to each other.

Cover art: Claire Smith.  I love this artist’s work and this cover is no different.  It’s perfect for this story.

Sales Links:  Hot Tree Publishing  | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 130 pages
Published July 14th 2018 by Hot Tree Publishing
Edition LanguageEnglish

Forged in Flood is a British contemporary M/M/M romance. With heartache, hot men with foul mouths, and plenty of heat, enjoy getting to know Ivan, Wesley, and Roland.

A MelanieM Review: Head-on by John Inman


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Head-On coverAt 24 Gordon Stafford had it all. A rising career as a tv meteorologist, a loving family, a wide circle of friends…everything anyone could want. By 26, Gordon Stafford had lost it all. And all it took was the decision to drive home drunk from an awards ceremony. That decision shattered three mens lives immediately. For one man, the driver of the other car, it cost him his life. His passenger? Multiple injuries and the love of his life. And for Gordon, the driver that hit the other car head on, it cost him his career, his home, his friends, his self esteem…everything that had mattered to Gordon at the time.

Two years later, Gordon is a changed man. Consumed by guilt and shame, Gordon spends his days thinking about suicide and working at court appointed community service at Mama’s Soup Kitchen, the local shelter for the homeless. It’s there he meet’s Squirt, a young man barely surviving. At first meeting, Gordon realizes that Squirt is special. He seems shy and fragile. But when Squirt saves Gordon from a beating or worse from thugs under a nearby bridge, Gordon realizes that looks can be deceiving and that Squirt is much more than he appears.

From that moment on, Gordon finds a new meaning to his life. He rediscovers his will to live and perhaps even found love. And it’s all due to having Squirt in his life. But Gordon still needs to find forgiveness. Forgiveness for himself and the destruction he caused.  And that the forgiveness Gordon needs the most will come from the one person he least expects, the one closest to his heart.

Head-On is a huge departure from the comedic stories John Inman normally writes.  Unlike those novels which are full of laughter and humorous moments, Head-On naturally has little to none, which should  be expected given the nature of the plot and the gravity of the subject matter at the heart of this story.  With Head-On, John Inman demonstrates he has as deft a gift for writing characters full of pain and poor life choices as he does people with lives filled less with drama and more the search for romance.

The opening chapter of Head-On is astonishing for a number of reasons but the most important of them is that Inman pours us into the seat next to Gordon, first at the awards dinner as he consumes multiple congratulatory drinks and then in the passenger seat of his car as he makes that fateful decision to drive home drunk.  We’re in his head, and his thoughts could so easily be that of anyone who has taken one drink too many and decides to drive.  But this time Gordon’s poor judgement results in a fatal car crash that we catch in shocking glimpses just before Gordon passes out after the cars collide.  That one scene will stay with you for some time to come.

From there we move to Gordon’s life post crash, and here Inman pulls no punches, makes no excuses for Gordon who is mired in guilt and self loathing.  And yes, still drinking.  Inman’s realistic portrayal of  Gordon shows a man totally aware of the consequences of his actions, the life cut short, the destruction of families, someone who is living with a pain that has no balm.  Gordon exists in a prison of his own making.  And for those who get frustrated and angry when they hear of drunk drivers getting off with a so-called “slap of the wrist”, especially those whose actions caused the deaths of others, this feels like a window into the post accident life of one of those drivers who “got off lightly”.

Just the subject matter of drunk drivers is inflammatory.  That category covers the range from repeat offenders to those who make a one time bad decision when they decide they are sober enough to drive home. And while this book opens up the conversation about drunk drivers and asks the question “what is ample punishment for their deeds”, it remains focused on those drivers like Gordon.  For some, like Gordon, theu are their own warden, turning their lives into a sort of prison of their own making.  It’s a wretched life John Inman constructs for Gordon and it reeks of authenticity and despair.

Only Gordon’s court ordered community service at Mama’s Soup Kitchen provides a temporary relief to the cycle of drinking and hangovers that has become Gordon’s life.  Again, Inman brings Mama’s to life, from the kitchen preparations to the customers who line up for what might be their only meal of the day.  Inman gets the details exactly right, including all those homeless and down on their luck people who need a shelter like this so badly.

Squirt who appears to get a meal isn’t exactly homeless but he is clearly a person who has been damaged in more ways than are visible.  His mental faculties are simplistic while  still remaining that of an adult.  His is a lovely character, vulnerable and easy to connect to.  Which is exactly what Gordon does.  Squirt is  another lost soul and when he rescues Gordon from an attack, he ends up saving Gordon emotionally as well as physically.  Watching this relationship form is such a heartwarming element of this story.

The “revelatory” aspect of Head-On is not as surprising as one might expect.  But here it’s the journey to the “denouement” and not the revelation itself, that drives the story.  Its the twists and turns, the stops along the way as Squirt and Gordon try to figure out a way to move forward towards redemption and forgiveness that make this story such a memorable read.  Inman’s writing style works so beautifully here to bring us into Gordon’s thoughts and life.  And then it does the same for Squirt.  From wretchedness to hope, from personal darkness to atonement and light, this story works on every level.

I highly recommend this moving story.  With it John Inman moves into the ranks of authors who can move easily from one genre to the next, from angst to comedy and any combination thereof.  If he was not a “must read” author for you before, Head-On should bring John Inman into that circle for you now.  Don’t miss out on this remarkable story.

Cover art by Reese Dante.  Explosive and Emotional. Perfect for this story.

Sales Links:         Dreamspinner Press               All Romance eBooks (ARe)          Amazon              Head-On

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Published July 9th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published July 8th 2014)
ISBN 1632160064 (ISBN13: 9781632160065)
edition languageEnglish