A MelanieM Review: Moonstruck by Aleksandr Voinov and LA Witt

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Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

Anthony Rawson is screwed. Fans, producers, and his agent are all chomping at the bit for the next book in his wildly popular Triple Moon series, but he’s got epic writer’s block and is way behind deadline. Then he reads Axis Mundi, a fanfic novel by his online friend “SirMarrok.” It isn’t just a great story—it’s exactly what the series needs.

Samir Daoud is thrilled when “Ulfhedinn” wants to meet up after reading Axis Mundi. When Ulfhedinn turns out to be Anthony Rawson himself, Samir is starstruck. When Anthony tells him he wants to add Axis Mundi to the Triple Moon series, Samir is sure he’s being pranked. And when their online chemistry carries over—big-time—into real life, Samir is convinced it’s all too good to be true.

The problem is … it might be. The book deal, the sex, the money—everything is amazing. But fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and Samir is left wondering if Anthony really loves him, or just loves his book.

The problem with rereleases like Moon Struck by Aleksandr Voinov and LA Witt is that they haven’t been revised enough that the original, and the series that surrounded it, is never far from your mind.  The fact that the characters names have been swapped out, books and movie titles changed, never really sinks in enough to erase the fact that, if you loved and are deeply familiar with the first release, this is just a bit jarring.  My mind kept changing everything back, refusing to accept Anthony Rawson for Hunter Easton and Samir Daoud for Kevin Hussain.  Don’t get me started on the rest of  Half Moon Bay crew that makes appearances here, so to really enjoy this, I think you have to not have read any of the prior stories from that series at all.  Be a new reader to Moon Struck and take it as you would any other new release and stand alone story.

Now, taking it from that angle, there are elements I loved and ones that I weren’t as comfortable with in my romances.  I love the whole geek thing, as well as fan fiction. It’s relatable, at least to me as someone who loves cons and reads fan fiction.  Using that as a base for a romance between an established author and a fan was a great idea, especially since they had started an online relationship through a fan board.  It made the almost instant love feel to this romance not as unbelievable because that had been established.  Do I wish it was incorporated more into the story?  Yes, if nothing else than to give us a feeling that these two different men had a more intimate knowledge of each other emotionally than comes across at times.

They know each other/they don’t know each other.  One is powerful, rich, older, in charge, an established writer.  One is much younger, unsure of himself, plunging into an unknown somewhat cutthroat world of publishing, media, movies, contracts, with someone he honestly barely knows.  Hmmm, talk about unequal power situation.  Even though his book saves Anthony’s series because of writer’s block, there is only one driver here and it’s not Samir.  This is a May/December romance and for the most part, the power seems to be one sided.  At least for most of the story.

Moon Struck is well written and the characters well developed, it’s just the relationship and the situation that I seem to have issues with.  The lack of support for Samir, even knowning how overwhelming it all could be and was, it never appeared.  Not even the explanations made sense.  Nor the fast reconciliation in the end and the expected HEA or HFN  depending on how you look at it.

If you are looking for a contemporary May December romance with some interesting elements, try Moonstruck by Aleksandr Voinov and LA Witt.  Its still an enjoyable ride.

Cover art works for Rawson and its very attractive.

Sales Link:

Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 331 pages
Expected publication: April 12th 2019 by 44 Raccoons (first published November 12th 2014)
Original TitleLone Wolf
ASINB07NTX4FFH
Edition Language English

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Test Of Valor (Valor #2) by Keira Andrews

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

The story had a slow start as it was focused on reestablishing Rafa and Shane’s relationship—being in love and living together in Australia as Rafa awaits the start of school and Shane establishes his security business. There was a lot of page time devoted to Rafa’s parents—the former President and First Lady of the US, now “just ordinary people” as Rafa’s mother reiterates a few times. Rafa and Shane share eye-rolling looks behind her back since his parents travel with Secret Service agents and other staff wherever they go and are the most unordinary people around.

For me, one of the saddest moments in the story came when the lead agent assigned to the President refused to even acknowledge that she knew Shane, though they had worked together in the past. He’s very definitely persona non grata to fellow agents now. That was the moment when I first started to see him as more than just the older man in this May-December romance. When I read book one, I couldn’t relate to him but this definitely helped so I tried to keep an open mind throughout this story so I could see he and Rafa as equal partners.

There is some excitement in the second half of the story, not quite the type of scenario I had envisioned, but definitely exciting, dramatic, life-changing moments. I loved that whole segment and I appreciate that the author kept Rafa’s parents true to their personalities, though a little softer around the edges—especially Rafa’s mother who was a typical B*8#h in every way.

This book stresses Rafa’s growth—in character and in age—and allows him an opportunity to step forward in family situations and to be the partner Shane needs him to be as Shane deals with his own repercussions from Rafa’s kidnapping in book one. But to be honest, as much as I recognized that intellectually, I still felt like he was the same kid as he was in book one and Shane the adult older man in all situations in which they were alone together. Yes, I saw growth in Rafa in his relationship with his parents, and yes, I could see that he attempted to be more of a partner to Shane but I never felt that Shane wholly accepted that. He verbalized it but his actions negated his statements.

There’s lots of sex scenes in this book so for readers who enjoy a super-hot romance, this one will push all the buttons. Personally, I thought it was a bit much, especially given the fact that they are an established couple when the story opens. But there’s no doubt that the two have chemistry.

Overall, it was an enjoyable story, and I liked it a bit more than book one. But neither character is going to stay with me long after I finish this book, unlike a few others this author has penned. Somehow, this just missed the mark of greatness I was looking for.

~~~

The cover by Dar Albert depicts an older man in a leather jacket and dark sunglasses set against a night city skyline that could represent Sydney, Australia. There’s also a young man to the left rear of the cover who is wearing a bathing suit, holding onto a surfboard with one hand and holding his curly hair back with the other. The photo depicts all the key elements in the story—the older man represents Shane, who is now working private security in Australia and the younger man is Rafa, who enjoys surfing in his spare time.

Sales Link:  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 1 edition, 225 pages
Published April 26th 2018 by KA Books
Original TitleTest of Valor
ISBN139781988260334
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Valor :

Valor on the Move (Valor, #1) 

Test of Valor (Valor, #2)

An Alisa Release Day Review: Smitty’s Sheriff (Hope #3) by Cardeno C.

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

 

Todd is too flakey. Richard is too stubborn. Together, they’re perfect. A May-December couple get a second chance at love.

 

Retired soldier Richard Davis wants a stable life in a quiet town with a forever man. Becoming the sheriff of Hope, Arizona, accomplishes two of his three goals, but instead of finding a serious partner, he falls for too-young-to-be-committed and too-flakey-to-be-serious Todd Smitty. Richard won’t find the right man if he’s obsessed with the wrong one, so he walks away from Todd.

 

It’s lust at first sight when Todd meets his sister’s army friend. He sets his sights on the worldly, strong, stable older man, and the more time he spends with Richard, the harder he falls. But after three years together, Richard cuts off all contact with no explanation.

 

When a mutual obligation requires Todd to move into Richard’s house, he’s thrilled at the opportunity to earn a second chance. Ignoring Todd from across town was hard enough. Can Richard resist temptation under his own roof?

 

This was a sweet story even if I was frustrated with some of the characters actions.  Richard is so sure that Todd isn’t the right man for him and doesn’t want to hold him back so he breaks off their relationship.  Todd has been so confused as to why Richard broke off their relationship that when they have to work together and watch Todd’s niece he is so scared of doing something wrong.

 

This story definitely had a d/s undertone to it, Todd is completely submissive to Richard’s dominate nature and that is where some of the problems lie with these characters.  Todd loves to be taken care of which makes sense considering what we learn about him in this story while Richard is afraid that he is making too many decisions for Todd and it isn’t what Todd wants.  However, I still can’t understand Todd’s thought process about having sex with other guys before that since Richard didn’t specifically say anything that he could sleep with whoever, that part just didn’t work for me.

 

This story is told from both characters’ points of view which gives a nice look into both of their thoughts.  It takes some work on Todd’s part but he finally gets Richard to talk about why their relationship fell apart and they are able to clear the air with each other.  Richard is breaking his own heart staying away from Todd while Todd can’t help but hope they will be able to work it all out.

 

Cover art is great and I love the sweet visual of these two characters together.

 

Sales Links: Amazon | PayHip

 

Book Details:

ebook, 33,297 words

Published: July 17, 2017
ISBN: 9781942184737

Edition Language: English

Series: A Hope Story

A MelanieM Review: Life is a Stevie Wonder Song by V.L. Locey

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Rating:  4.5 stars out of 5

Life is a Stevie Wonder SongAuthors know that their muse is a fickle creature. Best-selling spy novelist Stephen Ramsey has been in a hate-hate relationship with his inspiration for months. When Stephen’s publisher lays a legal ultimatum upon him, with a rapidly approaching deadline, he knows he must do something to kick-start his creativity or face the unemployment line. His daughter comes up with a possible answer: a summer camp for the creative soul. With nothing to lose, Stephen packs up his laptop, phonograph and beloved record albums and heads from Greenwich Village to the Catskill Mountains.

There, among a horde of college students attending for extra credits, is Declan Pomeroy, a photographer of fey creatures who is twenty-two years younger than Stephen. The woods are a magical place, and he quickly finds himself falling under the spell of the free-spirited photographer. Confusion wars with desire inside Stephen as he succumbs to the feelings welling up inside. But, sadly, summer camp always has to end. Can a man who has just found himself really leave the person that makes his heart sing?

Nothing makes me happier then to discover a new (to me) author and a wonderful story.  V.L. Locey’s  Life is a Stevie Wonder Song did both.  Locey’s did so many things right in this story from the wonderful locations to the absolutely marvelous characterizations.  But the thing that stood out the most, almost immediately?  That her novelist Stephen Ramsey thought and spoke like a literate man.  I almost swooned over his words and thoughts, thinking, “Yes, I do believe this is a man of letters.”

I fell in love with Stephen Ramsey over and over again just through his thoughts and ability (V.L. Locey’s) to use the language.  He describes Declan as a “coquette” and its perfect.  Another time as Declan is pulling him along through the woods, Stephen thinks “For being so slender, he was a strong little tugboat.” And that says it all so beautifully.

Then there is Declan Pomeroy, photographer of fey creatures. Declan has the strength of a willow.  He bends, moves with all the etherial nature one would expect, yet the strength is there as well, deep rooted and firm.  I love Declan, he is surprising and magical. Both men are layered and believable, and I committed my feelings to both upon meeting them.

More interesting was the author’s handling not only of their age difference but of the author’s gradual awakening and acceptance to the fact that he is either bisexual or pansexual (I’m actually all for abandoning the GFY appellation).  I think it was done with a wonderful realism and recognition how they would deal with it in their relationship.  Very well done.  Better yet was Stephen’s dawning realization that he was attracted to Declan, the idea that he might be gay/bisexual, and what that meant for himself, his past marriages/relationships/daughter/ and his future.  Ah, denial.  That’s a phase many of us would recognize.  I love those scenes.

And here comes my only outright deplorable element in the story.  I can’t decide if the author did it on purpose and if so it really is outside of the character she had created but she has Stephen wondering if he is a “f####t”, a word I find so hateful that I refuse to use it here.   Up to this and after, this man is a liberal New Yorker, a man of letters, who uses the language as if he was born with a dictionary  in his mouth.  Then this?  No, I think this was used to shock by the author and was a huge misstep.  It was one of the reasons this story was just shy of a 5 star rating and that the ending seemed a little rushed.  I wanted so much more of their story.

Looking back, I find it hard to believe that this gem of a story is only 87 pages.  So much love and exploration of the human heart is to be found here.   Looking for a author to love and a story to take to heart?  Grab up Life is a Stevie Wonder Song by V.L. Locey and prepare to fall in love.  I highly  recommend it.

Cover artist Kris Norris has 1/3 of a good cover.  Stephen Ramsey is spot on, but the fey, slim Declan?  No where in sight or the wood that is so much a part of this story.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 87 pages
Published December 30th 2015 by Torquere Press
Edition LanguageEnglish

 

A Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review: Dom of Ages (Collars and Cuffs #7) by K.C. Wells and Parker Williams

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5                 ★★★★★

DomofAgesFSJarod has been a submissive for nearly thirty years. He spent twenty-four years with his last Dom, Master Phillip, who perished in a plane crash four years ago. He’s trying to get back in the scene because he needs someone to serve, but he’s constantly belittled by other subs and Doms, all of whom think a man who is nearly fifty is way out-of-place in the world of BDSM clubs. Just as he’s ready to give up and never return, he’s approached by a young Dom who seems genuinely interested in him.

Eli is only thirty, but he knows what he wants, and he wants a sub who will serve his needs. When he spots Jarod, he recognizes the genuine article—a submissive who is thoroughly a submissive and who shows that in every line of his body, and he knows he won’t be happy unless he can take Jarod home.

Eli does indeed take Jarod home, and Jarod begins his service to Eli that very night. He’s so good at it, in fact, that Eli screws up and puts his own needs ahead of those of his sub, and he fails to comprehend the depth of both Jarod’s loss and his desire to be of service.

When the two eventually do communicate, they find that they work well together, and when Eli finally moves on to scenes and then to sex with Jarod, it’s more than either man could have hoped for. But a harsh reaction from some other submissives at Eli’s club leads them to a new location, Collars and Cuffs, and there their relationship takes a turn for the better. In fact, Jarod’s whole life takes a turn for the better as he makes friends with the other subs in the club—subs we’ve met in past books in this series—Peter, Alex, Scott, Damian, Garrett, Pietro—all are strong secondary characters in this book, and it was an enormous pleasure to have time to “visit” with them and their Doms in this book. In fact, it was one of the highlights of the story for me.

Eli and Jarod explore new scenes; Eli is taught by Thomas how to use sounds on Jarod; and Eli, in turn, offers demos on sounds to other Doms. Jarod and the other subs become close friends, and all work to help Peter prepare a very special surprise for Thomas’s fifty-ninth birthday gift. I have to take a moment here to mention that this was my happy-tears-in-eyes moment in this story. When Thomas pulled Peter into his arms, <spoiler>click here</spoiler> I was sobbing happy, sappy tears!

Of course, there’s going to be a dramatic potential break-up scene as there generally is in all books, but the one in this story was really heartbreaking, and to watch the turmoil both MCs went through was very painful. These authors grabbed my heartstrings with this story and proceeded to dance around me like a maypole, tangling up my emotions and creating a very memorable experience. I loved this story! I think it’s moved up to #two on my list of favorites in this series. (#one is Trusting Thomas—I can’t help myself. I love Thomas and Peter!)

I very highly recommend this book to all lovers of MM romance, BDSM, age gap romance, MCs over forty, and I could go on and on. It’s wonderful. Don’t miss out!

~~~~~

Cover art by Paul Richmond shows an older sub sitting in a cross-legged position in the foreground with a Dom standing to the rear of the scene. The picture illustrates the loneliness Jarod was feeling when Eli came along.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press eBook & paperbackAmazon | Buy it Here

Book Details:

ebook, 264 pages
Expected publication: December 21st 2015 by Dreamspinner Press

Review: Family Man by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton

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Rating: 4 stars

Family Man coverVince Fierro is forty.  He comes from a large Italian family who love him and can’t understand why he hasn’t found the right girl yet.  After all, Vince has three failed marriages behind him to prove that he is trying. But inside Vince knows the real reason none of his marriages have worked is because he is gay, a fact he has a hard time acknowledging even to himself.  When his sister suggests that Vince find out by visiting a gay club in Chicago’s Boystown , he agrees and runs immediately into someone he knows, an encounter that will change both of their lives forever.

Trey Giles is leading a life that would cause anyone else to have a nervous breakdown.  Trey is working two jobs in order to finish school, take care of his grandmother, who he lives with and dealing with a mother who refuses to deal with her serious substance abuse problems.  Dating is the last thing on his mind until he runs into Vince at the bar.  Vince is clearly uncomfortable, from the crowd to the music and when Trey suggests a more quiet jazz bar so they can talk,  the night turns into something neither man expected.  They talk for hours, Trey agreeing to help  Vince become adjusted to the idea of his homosexuality but in truth Vince and Trey find a connection with each other so deep and instantaneous that it leaves them unsure of what step to take next.  Vince’s biggest fear is that he will lose his family if he comes out of his closet, but if he doesn’t acknowledge his homosexuality to himself and his family, Vince just might lose the best thing that has ever happened to him, Trey Giles.  What will this self proclaimed family man do?

Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton are two of my “must read” authors.  They never fail to produce a story that will warm your heart and leave you thinking about love in all its combinations.   In Family Man, the authors give us an older Italian American who has been so afraid of his own sexuality that he has married three times in the past, each with the same predictable result, divorce.  His huge Italian family is pressuring him to date and enter into yet another relationship with a woman and Vince finally realizes that something has to change.  At first Vince comes across as almost a stereotype and I had a problem connecting with the character.  Vince stubbornly refuses to see that being gay does not lessen him as a man and until he can rid himself of that notion he won’t be able to accept his “gayness”.  It takes some time to really see Vince as the complex character he really is and most of that is due to his inner dialogs with himself that almost makes the reader lose patience with him.

The story really takes off when Vince and Trey connect with each other.  The story switches pov back and forth between Trey and Vince and it works as we become involved emotionally in their burgeoning relationship.  Trey’s situation is especially disheartening and stressful.  Overworked, he is trying to provide for his grandmother and deal with his mother who is an alcoholic and drug addict.  Cullinan and Sexton realistically portray what it means to live with someone who refuses to deal with their addictions.  It is heartrending in its futility and the damage it inflicts on those closest to the addict and the addict themselves is authentic at every level.

Vince’s issues are also examined and given an equally respectful treatment.  His fears of losing his large, Italian Catholic family if he comes out as gay are pretty realistic, especially at his age.  Vince has spent close to forty years denying his true self and that is a tragedy.  It takes time for Vince to visit all the ramifications of his decision and then move forward with his relationship with Trey.  I actually found the second half of the book just flies by as events speed up in both Vince and Trey’s lives.  It was my favorite part of the book.

Family Man is a wonderfully sweet story of romance and love found when least expecting it.  Cullinan and Sexton make a marvelous team and I can’t wait to see what they will come up with next.  Pick this up and prepare to meet an Italian family that is hard to forget and two MCs you will grow to love.

Cover art is wonderful, I wish I knew who the artist was to give them credit for this delicious and spot on design.

Review: Spot Me (Work Out #1) by Andrew Grey

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Rating: 4 stars

Spot Me coverDan’s life is in flux and not all of it of his choosing.  He just turned 40 and his partner of 10 years up and left him for a much younger man.  Luckily for him, he has a best friend Lonnie and his wife supporting him and helping him back into the swing of things, including a workout schedule at their local gym. While working out, he happens to see Gene Harper, a competitive bodybuilder, working out  near him and almost collapses in a fit of lust.  But his mind tells him that someone that gorgeous would never want a older man like him, and he turns away, not noticing his  interest is returned.

Gene Harper is 28.  He is a competitive body builder tired of meeting men who  can’t see past his physique. When he meets Dan, he recognizes the man’s humor and intellect that just happen to go along someone shy and inherently self effacing.   Gene knows what he wants and that is Dan, if only he can get Dan to realize it and see past his insecurities. As they work out together and get to know each other better, the more Dan starts to trust that Gene means exactly what he says.  When Dan’s old boyfriend wants back in the relationship, will Dan seek safety in the past or go forward into the future he has always deserved?

At  95 pages, Spot Me is a quick read and a delightful introduction into another Andrew Grey series.  This series revolves around a gym and its clientele, in this case a bodybuilder and computer programmer.  It is also a case of May December romance as well.  Dan is coming out of a long term relationship he is just starting to realize was borderline abusive.  His ex so dominated Dan over the stretch of their relationship, including in the bedroom, that he demoralized Dan in more ways than he knew.  Dan is full of insecurities, hyper aware of his age and afraid to go forward when romance comes calling. I understood Dan immediately and thought Andrew Grey did a great job in creating this character.

Gene Harper is more of a unknown.  He is an IT recruiter as a profession and a competitive body builder by passion and sport.  At 28, he has had an unusual amount of success in his sport but dislikes the attention it brings from men who can only see the body and not the man inside.  I have little knowledge of the sport of body building but Gene professes that his goal is to become the first Mr. America without using chemical enhancements  and that startled me.  Aren’t steroids banned from use? So aren’t all bodybuilders supposedly “chemical free” to start with?  Yeah, yeah, like the world of professional bike racing, that is not the case but it still struck me as odd.   And really if you are a competitive body builder, don’t you expect people to judge you on your body?  That just seemed so naive that it lessened my believability in the character. Gene tells Dan some of what it entails to train for his sport and that includes the constant weighing and a rigid diet, but I knew a woman who was into this sport and her regimen was far more intense that what was reported here.  Again, perhaps it was the length that determined the lack of accurate bodybuilder requirements, sacrificing them for the romance between the men.

It is hard although not  completely impossible to build a believable romance between such diverse characters and Grey comes close to achieving it here.  This is a sweet story between two men who deserve a happy ending.  The story ended abruptly but I think it is safe to say we will be seeing this couple again throughout the series as that is Andrew Grey’s style.  I would like more time to get to know them better and this was a good way to start.

Cover Design by Mara McKennen.  Very sexy and speaks to the bodybuilder within.

Here are the books in the order they were written and should be read.  The last is a compilation of all the stories in the series.

Spot Me (Work Out, #1)

Pump Me Up (Work Out, #2)

Core Training (Work Out, #3)

Crunch Time (Work Out, #4)

Positive Resistance (Work Out, #5)

Personal Training (Work Out, #6)

Cardio Conditioning (Work Out, #7)

Work Me Out (Work Out, #1-6)