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

Standard

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)

Review: Some Kind of Magic (Being(s) in Love #1) by R. Cooper

Standard

Rating: 4.75 stars

Some Kind of MagicRay Brannigan has always fought against convention.  He was the first were to become a police officer and then detective.  He worked hard to become one of the best on the force, respected by his  peers. Life was pretty good, until he met his mate then his life started unraveling.  Now he finds himself unable to sleep or eat, his thoughts constantly on the one being he wants most in life and can’t have, at least on his terms.  That would be Cal Parker, half human half fairy, consultant to the Police force and son of his retired Captain.  Cal Parker is his mate and Ray can never let Cal know the truth.  Because wolves mate for life, and fairies? Well, everyone knows that fairies don’t do long term anything, so what’s a wolf to do?

When bodies start piling up, all the evidence point to a supernatural Being as the killer.  Ray’s Captain wants everyone working on the case, including Cal Parker.  Working closely with his mate is playing havoc with his senses, all those delicious smells pouring off the fairy and Cal loves to flirt, especially with the grumpy wolf detective.  The more time Ray spends with Cal, the harder it is to fight the pull of his mate.   Then the killer turns his attention towards Cal, and the race is on to protect Cal and catch the killer.

Some Kind of Magic is some kind of charming.  I loved this supernatural tale of romance between a grumpy wolf detective and the flighty half fairy consultant.  Ray Brannigan is almost along the lines of those old noir detectives, detached yet protective of his city, honorable yet fighting his own nature.  The story is told from Ray’s pov, so the reader assembles the facts of the case and the details of Ray’s relationship with Cal as Ray thinks about it.  But right away, we realize that part of Ray is not thinking very clearly, and this is in turn with a being not eating or sleeping well.  A wolf has found his mate and is denying them both the deep relationship that comes with the part.  A lovely touch by the author is the inclusion of “known facts” from old fairytales about werewolves and fairies versus the “new modern knowledge”.

We realize, even if Ray doesn’t, that his perceptions of fairies is off from the start, and that it is fear that is ruling his decision.  So the author gives us a slow build, full of heat mind you, to a sexual explosion between Ray and Cal.  Cal is a lovely character, half human and half fairy, who has his own troubles fitting in with the police and constant human prejudices.  Descriptions of Cal are always accompanied by mentions of sugary confections and candy, savory aromas and rich smells as fairies are constantly feeding on sweets.  The sensual descriptions just add another layer to the reader’s enjoyment of this story as well as makes one want to visit a candy shop.

Humor is not left out of the picture either. At one point, Ray is telling his partner that were natural history was easy to find as the book “I’m Going To Get Fur Where?: A young Were’s guide to their changing body was in every library for Pete’s sake.”  I loved the meshing of worlds here and that does sound exactly the sort of book you would find in the library.

The only element I found to be disappointing was the identity of the killer.  I had that figured out early in the story. But the real journey is the one that Ray and Cal take towards true romance and that is the one that filled me with joy.  Vivid descriptions, wonderful characterizations, and terrific world building, it’s all here.  I hope R. Cooper continues to revisit this world she has created so there seems like a city full of stories await us and I want to hear each and every one.

cover by Paul Richmond is just lovely.

Stories in the same universe include A Boy And His Dragon.

Review: Crucible of Fate (Change of Heart #4) by Mary Calmes

Standard

Rating: 5 stars

Crucible of Fate coverDomin Thorne should be on top of the world.  He is the semel-aten, the leader of the werepanther world, ruler of the city Sobek in Egypt, the capital of the werepanthers.  At his side are his new mate, Yuri the former shersuru of Logan Church as well as Mikail, Crane, and Taj from his former tribe, courtesy of Logan and Jin who knew it was crucial to have people he trusted around him as he began his rule.

But the tasks before him are even more formidable than he had imagined.  The old priest who supported him has died, and the new priest is intent on undermining his authority.   Crane is homesick and both Yuri and Mikail are not acting like themselves.  And Domin finds himself short tempered, and impatient with the pace of change in the rules and regulations he wants implemented.  Then his ex shows up just as a servant tries to kill him, and Yuri goes on a goodwill mission that turns deadly, and faced with his loss, Domin realizes that he truly loves Yuri, the only one to love him deeply and forever.

As his enemies gather all around him, Domin must prove to himself and all of Sobek that he is truly the semel-aten Logan believes he can be if he is to save those he loves and the werepanther world so desperately in need of change.

I hope that Mary Calmes intends to continue this series because with each book, it gets stronger, more deeply layered and complex.  Crucible of Fate picks up after the events of Honored Vow, and the fight in the arena between Domin and the former semel aten, Ammon, a circumstance planned by Logan.  Now in Sobek, the werepanther capital city in Egypt, we are given a Domin in crisis mode, inside and out.  Everything has  changed for Domin and it is overwhelming him on every front.  Domin has a mate in Yuri and it is so new for them both that neither has adjusted to their new status.  Yuri has always loved Domin, but Domin’s feelings for Yuri are still so brand new, bringing with them a measure of insecurity.  Logan gave permission for several close members of his tribe to go with Domin to insure his safety and to insure he would have people around him he could trust but none of them are acting like themselves.  Even the goals he wants to set for change within their society seem to distant to enact.  Mary Calmes gives us this wonderfully volatile man puts him down within an equally volatile framework and lets the explosions start to happen.

The author places characters we have come to love into situations where  their interpersonal relationships must expand and grow to their potential or all will be lost.  And it’s not just  Domin who must change, but Crane, Mikhail, Yuri and the entire court of Sobek.  It’s wonderful because we get to see the start of a social revolution but from the person’s view point who is planning it all.  Just a lovely touch.  As this author has done in the past, she takes the facts she has given us and then uses them to turn everything we know on its head by the end of the story.  All the little twists and turns she throws into the story takes Domin into a place I did not see coming, and I loved that.

And it’s not just the wonderful characterizations that greet us like old friends, but the vivid descriptions of Egypt, from the palace to the catacombs that help the reader visualize each and every scene our beloved werepanthers find themselves in.  But no matter how wonderful the settings (and they have been outstanding, especially Mongolia), it is the characters that continue to bring all of us back for more.  I never thought I would come to love Domin as I do when I initially met him. Then he was a bully, and a bit of a thug, deserving of a smackdown, which he got and then some.  But over the series, we have watched Domin evolve into a man of honor, worthy of both respect and love.  One of the true pleasures of this story, is Domin and Yuri’s story, watching their relationship deepen, strengthen and finally reveal itself as one between true mates.  It is just so rewarding and satisfying, I can’t wait for you to experience it yourself.

In fact you won’t find a quibble here.  Just the plea for another book.  Ilia, Jin and Logan’s son is introduced here, and while not giving you any spoilers, let’s just say he is worthy of his own series.  Crane has a wedding coming up, and so much more is on the horizon for them all that their story cries out to be heard (yes, that would be Danny’s voice we hear). So here I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping the future will bring us more in the Change of Heart series.  Until then I will return to the beginning and start over with Jin and Logan.  Don’t miss out on any of them.

 

Here are the books in the series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and the events that occur:

Change of Heart (Change of Heart #1)

Trusted Bond (Change of Heart #2)

Honored Vow (Change of Heart #3)

Crucible of Fate (Change of Heart #4)