A MelanieM Review: Loving a Warrior (Loving a Warrior #1) by Melanie Hansen

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

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

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

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

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

After all, the only easy day was yesterday.

Melanie Hansen’s ability to bring us inside this intense world of SEAL training and the brotherhood that forms between the men that make it through this grueling six months is remarkable.  As she has done before, the people she creates  come alive for us, laid out in all their frailties, brutalities, complexities, and, the inner drive and grit that keeps them from cracking under the enormous pressures and pains BUD/S puts them through to see them out as SEALs with their Tridents at the end of the story.

And in between, we are given a journey of determination, questioning, growth, and romance between two very different men. Matt Knytych and Shane Hovland.  One (my favorite) Matt is the most complex perhaps of the two, certainly the most focused on his goal of getting his Trident, being a SEAl like his uncle, his idol and mentor. Matt is that one creation that has such power as a character that it’s almost impossible to turn your attention away from him to any other character or element.  He’s blinding in his ability to draw your eye to him and his life, leaving all others to wander along the edges.  It’s funny really, because Matt’s not the “gorgeous” one here. He’s not the tall one, overly good looking one etc.  But for sheer determination, grit, and, power on the page, nothing is comparable to him.  Matt burns with a narrative incendiary intensity.  His is not the easy road you might think it will be.

Shane Hovland is the gorgeous one and, ironically, the lesser of the two men in strength of characterization but only because Matt shines so brightly and with such great strength. Shane is the former Marine taking BUD/S for the 2nd time, the reason for which I’ll leave to the story.  His back story is every bit as interesting as Matt’s but again but it comes across as lacking…something.  Unfair I know.  And totally realistic as is this entire story.

Hansen pulls us through the training, their lives, the questioning about the costs of pursuing a romance….everything and we believe in them in every way.

She also makes us feel for those that don’t make it. How is that possible?  It’s only fiction, yet I felt the anguish and their pain just as deep.  And the pride for those that receive their Tridents.

It ends as it should, a HFN.  And where it should.  A powerful story of love of country and of two men for each other.

Melanie Hansen has quickly become a Must Read Author for me and  Loving A Warrior is an excellent example why.  I highly recommend it and can’t wait for the next story in the series to arrive.

Cover art is perfect for the men and the story.  I only wish I knew who to credit it to.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 276 pages
Published November 26th 2018 by Carina Press
ASIN B07DCTPL94
Edition Language English
Series Loving a Warrior #1

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Loving a Warrior (Loving a Warrior #1) by Melanie Hansen

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

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

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

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

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

After all, the only easy day was yesterday.

What a wonderful story! The author created an interesting, realistic (I assume) look at SEAL training while giving us two men who were not perfect individuals but gelled beautifully together. I got to know them really well by the time I turned the last page. I definitely couldn’t put the book down during this compelling drama, and when real life interrupted my reading, I was not a happy girl. Honestly, though the attraction was there from the beginning, the men had a long road to sexual fulfillment. Definitely a slow burn/UST, one of my favorite themes.

Matt Knytych is fantastic character. He’s wanted to be a SEAL all his life and everything he’s ever done has been with the goal of being a SEAL like his Uncle Rick. So when he meets the gregarious, gorgeous, former marine, Shane Hovland, there’s no way he’s going to act on his attraction to the personable and sweet Shane. Nothing and no one will come between him and his goal.

Things change along the way during training when the two are thrown together as swim buddies and torn apart again when—well, each reader will see for themselves—happens. There was something special about Matt’s character that I can’t quite pinpoint, but he will be with me for a very long time. Maybe because he’s so close to ordinary—in an extraordinary kind of way—and maybe just because the author’s talent is no-holds-barred when it comes to delving into a character’s psyche so we readers can’t possibly fail to want more.

In his own way, Shane was also memorable, but I must admit there were a few times when I wanted to smack him. Again—a character worth reading, and one who improved vastly, in my opinion, over time, especially after his secrets were revealed.

The slow burn romance was perfect, the situations unexpected, the training grueling, the men unforgettable. What more could I ask for? Very highly recommended.

To enhance the overall experience, we’re given a gorgeous cover featuring two handsome, muscular men with a beach scene superimposed over the guys—a very nice representation of the theme.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 276 pages
Published November 26th 2018 by Carina Press
ASIN B07DCTPL94
Edition Language English
Series Loving a Warrior #1

Review Tour and Giveaway for Loving A Warrior by Melanie Hansen

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK
 
Length: 77,300 words approx.
 
Publisher: Carina Press
 
Blurb
 

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


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


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


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


After all, the only easy day was yesterday.

 

 

Read Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words 5 star review here.

Melanie Hansen doesn’t get nearly enough sleep. She loves all things coffee-related, including collecting mugs from every place she’s visited. After spending eighteen years as a military spouse, Melanie definitely considers herself a moving expert. She has lived and worked all over the country, and hopes to bring these rich and varied life experiences to the love stories she gets up in the wee hours to write. On her off-time, you can find Melanie watching baseball, reading or spending time with her husband and two teenage sons.

 

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A Stella Review: A Fighting Man (Men of Manhattan #3) by Sandrine Gasq-Dion

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

A Fighting Man coverArmy Ranger Slater Cassidy has a very special – very sexy – target in his sights. Meeting gorgeous, smart, uber-snarky Casper Kennedy was the highlight of Slater’s last trip home to New York. The soldier in him carefully plans his conquest. Unfortunately, Casper’s wearing some seriously strong armor and Slater’s charm offensives bounce right off. Casper’s refusal to fall for him is puzzling – not to mention incredibly annoying. When Slater gets leave again after grueling back-to-back tours in Afghanistan, all he wants is another shot at wooing Casper. He jumps right into the battle for the other man’s heart, but Casper does not intend to entertain the troops.

A heartbreaking revelation changes the rules of romantic warfare, and Slater suddenly realizes he doesn’t just want Casper. He wants to capture his heart, too.

 Casper Kennedy is fighting a losing battle. A certain outrageously demonstrative Army Ranger has been a thorn in his side since his last trip home – and the main character in his steamiest dreams. Now he’s back. He launches an all-out sensual assault and no matter how hard Casper pushes Slater away, the man somehow manages to inch closer. So close, in fact, that Casper’s once-impenetrable defenses are in danger of collapsing. Should he throw up the white flag and take a chance at love? Or start firing back and keep his heart protected? When the handsome Ranger shows his true colors, Casper just might have to surrender the fight

A Fighting Man is the third book in the Men of Manhattan series. You can’t help but love this series. These books are all well written and the characters (main and second ones) are so enjoyable and well depicted, I had the feeling of knowing them forever.

Casper Kennedy is a 25-year old administrative assistant. He lost his lover, Mason, three years ago, they were engaged when Mason died in the field. He’s still missing Mason badly, so it’s hard to him to fall for the stubborn Sergeant that has his eyes on Casper.

Slater Cassidy is an Army Ranger in Afghanistan, and from the first time he saw Casper, he knew he had to have the man. Now is coming home on leave for a month. Can it be enough to conquer Casper? He will try everything, from sending him a fake police officer to made a striptease, to a serenade with the Casper film’s theme song.

After losing Mason, Carter is afraid to fall in love again, specially with a military guy, but thanks to an ad campaign and a little jealousy, Slater is slowly making his way into Casper’s life. Will Casper surrender to Slater?

As I already said at the start on this review I really loved this book. First of all it’s a funny and easy reading, I particularly liked the dialogue parts, they were fast paced and entertaining. The double POV use is my fave, cause I need to know what goes through my characters’ mind and in this case, seeing them both struggle with their feeling till almost the end and overcome their fears was heartbreaking and hard to watch without being able to hug and reassure them, but so worth it.

Some parts were really emotional, I’m thinking for example at the family aspect in this story. I ached for Casper, he was very unlucky with families. His parents don’t speak with him since he came out, Mason’s family didn’t even let him know Mason was dead. Finally he has found a new family in Slater’s mum, Raquel,(she rocks!) and in Blaine and Spencer.

There’s a great support cast, funny and strong as Casper and Slater. I can see more couple in the future books.

Highly recommended!

Cover artist by Wilde City Press. Nothing special in this cover and all the others in this series. They are nice to look at but nothing more.

Sales Links:   Wilde City Press     All Romance (ARe)     Amazon      Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 103 pages
Published May 7th 2014 by Wilde City Press
ISBN139781925180022
edition languageEnglish
seriesMen of Manhattan #3

 

The Men of Manhattan Series:

  • A Betting Man (Men of Manhattan, #1)
  • A Marrying Man (Men of Manhattan, #2)
  • A Fighting Man (Men of Manhattan, #3)
  • A Working Man (Men of Manhattan, #4)
  • A Healing Man (Men of Manhattan, #5)

Review: Angel’s Truth (Angel #2) by Liz Boreno

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Angel's Truth cover  “Freeze or I’ll shoot!” Aaron yelled and aimed the gun at Jordan’s chest.
“Angel, no, please.” Hacking fluid-filled coughs broke up Jordan’s words.
“Jordan?” Aaron whispered his name as recognition painted a mural of memories of their life together on his face.
“Yes.” He coughed red into his dirty hand. “Please help.”

And with those words, Angel’s Truth begins, picking up immediately from Angel’s Hero when supposedly dead Army Captain Jordan Collins arrives home after a month as a POW in Afghanistan.  Sick and injured, Jordan finds his enemy Major General Troy Hart  just leaving his home before Jordan reaches out to let his husband, Aaron “Angel” Collins, know he is alive and home once more.  As Aaron welcomes Jordan home and rushes Jordan to the hospital, Jordan reveals that Hart is the man behind his imprisonment in Afghanistan and death sentence he was under.

As Jordan adjusts to freedom, he also has to contend with PTSD, a shattered confidence, and the fact that his enemy,Troy Hart, is still free. Aaron realizes that the man he thought was a friend to him during those painful times where Aaron was looking for answers about his husband’s disappearance and unlikely death is actually a danger to them all.  Now Aaron must help Jordan recover his emotional and physical health and together discover just what Major General Troy Hart’s betrayal and deception means to them and to the nation.

As stated in the publisher’s blurb, Angel’s Truth picks up exactly to the word where Angel’s Hero ends.  If you haven’t read the first story, this one won’t make any sense as there is very little back story included in this sequel.  At 64 pages, it is a tad shorter than Angel’s Hero and somehow that works to this story’s advantage.  The narrative is tighter, and some of the more problematic plot elements from the first story are gone, including a fractured timeline that jumped back and forth between present day and the beginnings of their romance.  That was more confusing than helpful.  Luckily, that is absent here.  But other larger errors appear.  Let’s get to those now.

But while the loving relationship between the men is reestablished by their reunion, some of the issues I had with the plausibility of their professions and Jordan’s escape still stand.  This is Jordan’s explanation as to how he arrived (sick, coughing up blood and in Afghanistan Army uniform pants) back in the US, apparently only miles from Bethesda, MD.  The conversation picks up at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in Bethesda where Jordan is telling his story to his superior officer:

“… had “accidently” dropped a piece of paper with information about a cargo plane to the United States in his cell weeks before. Jordan then explained that he hitched a ride on a delivery truck, and offered to read the English map to the US for the pilot in exchange for a ride home. “

Now Jordan changed some of the details about the nurse who helped him get free to protect her. But all this took place in two days time.  In two days, he got free from a horror of a desert prison, just before his date with a firing squad, hitched a ride out of said desert (not that a mixed heritage of black and Korean American wouldn’t stick out like Uncle Sam) but he is also limping on a severely broken ankle, with a bad case of pneumonia, and wearing an Afghanistan Army uniform.  And after the reader makes a huge leap over that implausible plot canyon, you still have to believe that he then hitches a ride in a native’s truck to an airfield, hitches another ride (still coughing up blood, same attire) on a foreign cargo plane, which lands in Bethesda (with no problem apparently even without an airport or the ever present homeland security), and then makes it to his house on foot, just a couple of streets over.  Only in a comedic send up of the military and Washington, Dc would such an escape be possible. Or remotely realistic.

Then there is the fact that in the story Aaron calls 911 and Jordan is taken immediately to Walter Reed Army Hospital in Bethesda, MD.  Our local 911 responders are not allowed to do that even if the person being transported requests/demands to be taken to Walter Reed for emergency care.  Instead the injured party would be taken to a civilian emergency room, evaluated, and then later transferred if required.  That’s the law and that fact can be easily checked with Walter Reed authorities, also known as Command Personnel.

In addition, it says Jordan was a prisoner for over 2 months time.  Sometimes its a “little over a month”.  As a prisoner of war under harsh conditions, a month or so would have an enormous impact on the prisoner’s health and mental state.  But the actual time as a POW seems to fluctuate from page to page. These things alone serve to disconnect me from the story, pulled out of whatever dramatic action is happening to think about the errors in front of me. If the reader can’t believe in the characters or the plot, how can they invest even a part of themselves in a story?  I don’t think they can. Then there is the lack of security and isolation around an escaped ill prisoner who just “came back from the dead”. These days that happenstance is called a major security risk.

Unfortunately, this author just stumbles into one pitfall after another with her characters and story location to this story’s detriment. And this leads into one of my issues with this series.  To some it may land on the side of nitpicking, but to this reader it says the author hasn’t done their research.

Writing about Washington, Dc and it’s surrounding environs can be tricky. You either get it right or you don’t. And Liz Borino mostly doesn’t get it. Built as the only Federal city in the United States so many people have decried its lack of “thereness” , of that inescapable uniqueness that cities such as Baltimore, Chicago and New York City have and are associated with. And that’s intentional. On our maps should be the sentences “here lie the NSA, the CIA, the FBI” and all the other alphabet agencies so necessary to the security of our nation just like it used to say “there by dragons” on ancient maps. Here lie Congress, the Capitol, the White House, and all the other government organizations meant to reside here from the very beginning. Then the World Trade Organization, all the embassies….and soon you can understand why the District of Columbia lacks the very individual nature, the vivacity associated with other cities. It’s not built into its personality on purpose. It thrives on anonymity, on power disguised behind common tailoring and less than modern haircuts….on people who are secretive and withdrawn by nature. No one who burbles on at work makes it here…unless its done on purpose and with a hidden agenda.  How long would Aaron have lasted at the CIA?  Not long, if he even made it through the door.

None of the characters here are believable within the ethos of Washington, DC , whether it be political, military or intelligence agency.  I think Borino had a good idea somewhere in here but not the attention to detail that these characters, their professions, the location, and even the plot requires.

Do I think all of the above will bother every reader?  Probably not, which is why this got by with a 3 rating instead of the 2.5 it deserved.  Some readers will love the romance and the “aww” factor found in the reunion and HEA.  I will admit this is a tighter narrative on the surface than Angel’s Hero, and thus a better story as far as that goes. But as someone who lives in the Washington, DC Metro area, all the errors committed within these stories caused any enjoyment I might have found in the Angel series to fade away, like Cherry Blossoms in a stiff wind…in the Spring of course.

Cover art by Anthony Walsh.  Again, very nice cover. Works for the story and characters.

Angel series include:

Angel’s Hero (Angel #1)
Angel’s Truth (Angel #2)

Book Details:

ebook, 64 pages
Published March 14th 2014 by Lazy Day (first published March 10th 2014)
ISBN 1612581250 (ISBN13: 9781612581255)
edition languageEnglish
seriesAngel #2

Review Repost: Strength of the Pack (The Tameness of the Wolf #1) by Kendall McKenna

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Strength of the PackAt a time when tales of the Human Dominant and his True Alpha Shifter have been consigned to myth, along comes human Marine Lt. Lucas Young.  As he readies his command of mixed human and shifters for their deployment to Afghanistan,  he is assigned True Alpha pack leader Sargent Noah Hammond to his platoon. From the beginning, Lucas and Noah circle around each other, Noah pressing for dominance and control while Lucas is equally determined that his authority and rank be recognized and respected by the True Alpha. Small skirmishes and exercises bring human and shifter together in an ever strengthening bond as Lucas learns to dominate Noah and understand the ways of the Pack.

Once their platoon has landed in Afghanistan, they find themselves under fire, and the wartime stresses find their bond deepening and getting stronger with each trial and success. Soon the pair are mirroring the legendary bonding of Dominant and True Alpha from ancient lore. But the bonding is incomplete and when one is wounded, can misunderstandings and military regulations be overcome in time to save them both?

It has been a while since a new shifter book blew me away.  Strength of the Pack has done that job and then some.  McKenna gives us an alternative world where shifters and humans have been together for millennia and throughout much of history.  But through human rewriting, their place in our history has been purposely obscured. Now, because of some unmentioned war or occurrence, shifters are now partnering with humans in all aspects of life, including the military.  McKenna gives us just enough back history to whip up a thirst for more while still making her current setting feel realistic and well thought out.  Little by little, McKenna delivers glimpses of this magical back history, reinterpreting such legends as Joan of Arc and Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

McKenna’s world building is a wonder with no element left to chance.  We are given pack hierarchy, which is folded  into Army and Marine structure in such a way as to feel utterly real and authentic in every detail.  She has a way of describing army life as lived while deployed that I wondered if she was a Reservist or active in the military.  From their packs to their guns, to the dust and heat of the land they are bivouacked on, it felt as though you were there with them, close to the insurgents and ambushes.  It just rang true, right down to how the Pack reacts after skirmishing with the enemy.

And that brings me to another aspect of this book that I loved, the natural history of the wolf.  Unlike other shifter stories, here the wolf shifters act like wolves, including their rank and status within the pack and how it regulates their behavior to one another.  While I enjoy seeing different authors take on shifters, as a park naturalist I love seeing an author who gets the science right, especially where natural history is concerned. Kudos to McKenna for that lovely take on wolf shifters and shifter society.  She also opens up for an explosion of options in the books to come.  I can’t say more without giving away some of the plot but oh my, what possibilities could be in store for us in the books ahead.

Kendall McKenna’s characters are worthy of such marvelous world building too.  I loved the reserved nature of Lt. Lucas Young.  He is brilliant, concerned about regulations and the safety of those under his command.  There are so many levels to this man and they are slowly peeled away as he  realizes that he is not prepared to handle the presence of either a True Alpha or shifters in his platoon.  The decisions he makes (and we are inside his mind as he makes them) paint a portrait of a man, honest to his true nature with the capacity to grow with the challenges before him. Lucas is matched up with the indomitable True Alpha, Noah Hammond, a nordic warrior shifter.  This is not a cardboard hero but again a being adjusting to a bond thought unheard of and having his own problems with it.  McKenna has made Hammond vulnerable, at least to Lucas, a necessary facet of his personality if we are to believe their bond to be true.  This will be one of my favorite new pairs of the year.  The needs of the wolf for taste, touch, smell and markings deliver sensual scene after sensual scene as Lucas and Noah adapt to each other and their needs.

This book is 336 pages long and felt like 90.  I got to the end and wailed because I wanted much, much more.  I have so many questions for McKenna.  Has the government been working to find this combination again?  When did the shifters come forward again?  And what happens to Tim Madison?  Consider my feet stamped in frustration.  Lucky for all of us, this is just the beginning.  I hope the series is a long one.  But either way, long or short, I can’t wait for the next installment in The Tameness of the Wolf.  Go get your copy and let’s start this journey together.  I can’t wait to see where it takes us.

Stunning cover art by  Jared Rackler

It’s Contest Time! The Release of Strength of the Wolf by Kendall McKenna is Almost Here!

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Note: This event has been postponed until Monday, Sept. 9.

Good morning, everyone!  I have several great announcements to make today.  On September 6th, Friday, the long awaited sequel to Kendall McKenna’s Strength of the Pack releases from MLR Press and to celebrate, Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is hosting a two – part guest blog by Kendall McKenna as well as a two- book contest/giveaway.

On Thursday,  Part 1 of Kendall McKenna’s blog will be posted as well as kick off the first book giveaway.  For those of you new to Kendall McKenna, she is one of my absolute must have authors.  Her stories include some of the most authentic, gritty military characters in recent memory, so realistic that she has garnered the approval of soldiers who have read her books and commented on her remarkable details and knowledge of the military universe.  In this series, The Tameness of the Wolf,  Kendall McKenna gives us a new  twist on wolfshifters. In her stories, the wolfshifters and the military work together in special units, each with their own commander.  It is a new arrangement and not without its own unique issues and misunderstandings.  I love the way her universe combines the boredom and terror that goes hand in hand with combat units abroad with the supernatural element of wolf shifters with their pack rules and hierarchy.  It’s amazing and compelling.

The first book in the series, Strength of the Pack (The Tameness of the Wolf #1), revolves around the dynamic relationship between  Lt.. Lucas Young and the True Alpha pack leader Sargent Noah Hammond, who has just  transferred into his platoon.  We watch as they first establish a working relationship and then a personal one, a bond steeped in myth and old legends.  It’s raw, primal, disciplined and oh so real.

There is a power and strength to McKenna’s characters equal to the intensity of the military actions and battles the platoons and soldiers find themselves in.  McKenna’s wolfshifters have a true primal feel to their characters, you never forget the animalistic behaviors  exhibited are their true natures, not ones they assumed.  The author’s Marines exude the  military discipline and attitudes  that Marine training and experience have ingrained in them.  These are not characters easily forgotten.

That first story earned a 5 – star rating and a multitude of fans.  And now finally we get a sequel.  The wait is almost over. So here is the schedule for Kendall  McKenna’s guest blog and book contests.  All you have to do is leave a comment at the end of each days blog, its that easy.  So mark your calendars and join us for a 4 day celebration of Kendall McKenna’s The Tameness of the Wolf series and new book release.

Thurs., Sept. 5:  9/9  Kendall McKenna Guest Blog Part 1 – Start of contest
Fri., Sept.6:         9/10 ,Repost of The Strength of the Pack review
Sat.,Sept 7:          9/12Kendall McKenna Guest Blog Part 2,winner of 1st book announced, start contest for 2nd book
Mon., Sept 9:    9/14  Review of The Strength of the Wolf and Winner of Strength of the Wolf announced

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Strength of the Pack