A MelanieM Audio Review: Devil Take Me anthology by Rhys Ford , Ginn Hale ,Jordan L. Hawk ,T.A. Moore ,C.S. Poe ,Jordan Castillo Price , and Greg Tremblay (Narrator)

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Rating 5 stars out of 5

Temptation lurks around every corner in worlds sometimes dark, sometimes lurid. Giving in is both dangerous and satisfying, though never in the ways one expects. While these enticements offer a vast range of benefits and boons, the cost is a soul and the devil expects his due. Sometimes suave and charming or calculating and cruel, these devils have schemes and desires of their own. They can be creatures to run away from… or toward.

Join the most unique and celebrated authors of LGBT urban fantasy and paranormal fiction for a fast-paced and unpredictable ride, from a city on the other side of reality, to a world suspended in dusk, to a twisted version of the 1960s and 70s.

Meet devils in top hats and waistcoats, a defrocked motorcycle-riding priest, and a genderfluid antihero—among many more. Full of humor, romance, horror, action, intrigue, and magic, these stories have one common element….

They’re one hell of a good time.

5 Stars ~ just 5 stars because even if the ratings sorts of varied up and down ever so slightly in my mind per tale this is an exemplary collection of stories from a group of authors who know their way around the supernatural narrative.  Boy howdy, how they delivered.  Chilling, humorous, thought provoking, wildly imaginative, and filled with love and loyalty that borders on horror, every tale here is one to be savored.  So no ratings from here on out, they are just incredible in their own way.

Infernal Affairs by Jordan L. Hawk
Jordan L. Hawk launches the collection with a tale that’s one of my favorite’s. A demon Ralgath, on his first assignment as a crossroads demon, gets played by a gorgeous mortal, Chess, who screws Ralgath (literally) into giving them a contract for superhero powers so they can go out into the world and fight for good.  Ralgath’s boss is not happy with him, and the subsequent funny actions and events lead to Ralgath meeting up with Chase again.  This is a rich story, full of laughs, love, adventure, redemption, and heroes.  Done with in the wonderful Jordan L. Hawk style, with outstanding plot and characters so well done you wanted more.

Collared by TA Moore
“Sometimes, when you couldn’t change what was going on and you didn’t want to understand it, all you could do was shove it under the bed and make sure your toes didn’t stick out from the covers.”

TA Moore has become an author whose stories I look out for.  They twist and turn with the unusual and the edgy.  That’s very apparent here with Collared and the relationship between Jack and Meth.  It evolves, or better the truth of their relationship is slowly revealed over the course of the story.  However, it’s not so evident at the beginning when Jack sets out to track down a missing child.  It’s an horrific case, one that grows worse the more details that are gathered.  Jack’s background too is shown and the dynamics between Jack, Meth, and the other players becomes more complicated and fascinating.

This story had a way of sending me running off for more of this author immediately because everything was so spot on.  The world building, characters, storyline and ending.  Even down to the small chilling details that would come in the future.  Just amazing.  Would that I see more of this world, Jack, and Meth.  More cases, more of their haunting and haunted relationship. I would tell you this is a favorite of mine (it is), but that is going to get redundant after a while.

Counterfeit Viscount by Ginn Hale

.The Viscount Archibald is leading a double life. Since he’s soll his soul to Nimble, he becomes Archie and descends into the underbelly of the town to pay his due every three months. This allows him to keep his title and have his revenge against his uncle. This is alternative history where Prodigals, the descendants of fallen angels who have been converted by the Church, live alongside humans. A prodigal boy in service to a lord is afraid a fellow servant who’s gone missing was murdered at the Dee Club after its Sunday fights.

This story was one of the ones that was a little dense at the beginning.  It took time to get into.  Although once Archie and Nimble’s background become clear, I become more connected to them and this story.  The last section contained most of the action and held my attention.  This was probably the one story that I scrambled through.

11:59 by C.S. Poe
“He is all that stands between the innocent and the flesh-eating monsters who were once human. Because Asuka no longer dreams, he cannot be chased into consciousness by one of the nightmares.”

CS Poe is another name that’s landed on my must read list.  Such a marvelous, surprising author of great narrative depth.  This story is a perfect example of why you should search out their tales.  Incredible worldbuilding, endlessly fascinating, it starts with Asuka, who sold his soul to the devil so he would never dream again, lose the nightmares, and prevent him from becoming a monster.  But like all contracts with the devil, there’s the fine prints, and all the dreams are lost, including the ones that bring the hope, and the wishes, and much more.

Next up is Merrick, who has spent his time studying mythology and believes he knows the source of the nightmares and how they can be destroyed if he and Asuka work together.

What follows is an exciting, tautly constructed tale, full of mythology, gripping with suspense and action, twists and turns, plus an ending that will leave your jaw hanging open.

Wonderland City by Rhys Ford
“Back before I met the Devil and bled my soul out into his hands, I’d have thought chasing a cigar-munching white bunny with pink eyes was something I’d only run into after I chewed on a few peyote buttons.
Now it was a typical Tuesday.”

A Rhys Ford story can bring out the fangyrl in me and Wonderland City is a perfect example why.  Ford takes Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland and gives it a warped, wonderful further twist  Here the Queen of Heart’s has been executed, Xander Spade sold his soul to the Devil because, hey, he was a very naive and dumb kid at the time, who ended in down the Rabbit hole.

Then the Devil,Az, says he will return Xander’s soul if he will just do a favor…yeah, right.

This is my all time favorite story here.  You meet all the characters you might expect to meet in Wonderland…just don’t expect them and it to look and things to go as you would think. Things here are convoluted, masterfully warped, the scenes vivid and sharp, and, each twist more memorable than the last.

Dark Favors by Jordan Castillo Price
“The driver looked me up and down and said, “You strike me as a perceptive young man.” That really should’ve been my first clue that I was dealing with the Prince of Lies.”

Johnny Lockheart has been offered the chance to get his soul back from the Devil if he murders a TV star, but her bodyguard Adam is going to have something to say about that. Both of them are Chosen, which means that they trade favors for power and know how the world really works stripped of illusion by the Sight. The flashbacks help us understand how Johnny ends up the way he is, and are well timed to pack a punch. This book makes better use of the idea of evil being seductive, whereas the other books focus on the grotesque, or horror elements.

Dark Favors was the perfect way to end this collection.  Strong, effective, and, for me, it held just that ever so fleeting hint of bittersweetness or darkness one needs when reading a collection of stories dealing with men who have sold their souls to the Devil. It is exactly how this story should end and what I would expect from Jordan Castillo Price, that extra depth that makes a story so memorable. 

Greg Tremblay did a superlative job with all the many voices here.  From little girls to white rabbits, to various demons to gender fluid humans and much more, he handles each one effortlessly.  It was such a pleasure to listen to each and every story.  The time just flew by.  He was the  perfect match for this collection!

Cover art: Reece Notley.  That model does draw your eye.  What does it represent to you?  One of the 7 deadly sins?  Could be….

Sales Links:   DSP Publications   |  AmazonAudible |

 

Audiobook Details:

 

Audible Audio, Unabridged
Published December 27th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press (first published October 16th 2018)
Original TitleDevil Take Me
ASINB07L5Y3M59
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Chaos Moondrawn Release Day Review: Devil Take Me Anthology by authors Rhys Ford, Ginn Hale , Jordan L. Hawk, T.A. Moore , C.S. Poe , Jordan Castillo Price

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Infernal Affairs by Jordan L. Hawk
I would rate this 4.5 stars.
We meet Ralgath on his first day on the job as a crossroads demon summoned by Chess. In exchange for his soul, Chess gets powers to hunt monsters and vampires. Poor Ralgath never stood a chance against them. Three years after getting demoted, Ralgath gets an opportunity to redeem himself, but he needs Chess to help him since they can track Otherworldly beings as part of their contract. Two demons are missing, but things are not what they seem. Between tracking missing humans and demons, escaping a rabid fan, thwarting an assassin, and fighting an epic battle scene, they fall in love. This made me laugh. Although the sexy times are not explicit and mostly off page, it was clever, well written and has almost everything you could want in a fun short story.
Collared by T.A. Moore
I would rate this 4.25 stars.
This one starts out as hardboiled detective with some Preacher mixed in. It’s gruesome and written well enough to picture it, so be warned. When you watch T.A.’s videos, she sounds so nice. This is really intriguing world-building. Math is the demon who owns Jack’s soul and someone stole something from him so he uses Jack to help him get it back. Imagine the bittersweet torture of having your worst mistake ever, and something you still crave, controlling you forever. This one is as explicit as the last one was circumspect. Jack is now a private detective whom a policeman named Ben comes to for help on the weirdest of his cases–they have their own history. A man is dead, and his wife and daughter are missing. Of course, these are the same case. There are some great plots twists here, and some that didn’t work as well, in my opinion. If you are a horror fan, this will be right up your alley. I enjoyed it, but it was so gross, I’m not sure I would read it again. I would have rated it higher, but what I liked about the writing style of the first part, didn’t seem to be there in the second half.
Counterfeit Viscount
I would rate this 4.25 stars.
The Visount Archibald is leading a double life. Since he’s soll his soul to Nimble, he becomes Archie and descends into the underbelly of the town to pay his due every three months. This allows him to keep his title and have his revenge against his uncle. This is alternative history where Prodigals, the descendants of fallen angels who have been converted by the Church, live alongside humans. A prodigal boy in service to a lord is afraid a fellow servant who’s gone missing was murdered at the Dee Club after its Sunday fights. This was difficult for me to get into; I’m going to chalk this up to the writing choices at the beginning. I started to warm to the MCs and became intrigued by the plot about halfway through. As the author reveals more about Archie’s upbringing, we understand his motives. Although I did see the plot twists coming, I enjoyed reading them. This is not my usual genre and it charmed me in spite of myself, so if it’s your type of thing, I imagine you will be as well.
11:59 by C.S. Poe
I would rate this 4 stars.
Asuka is tricked by the Devil when he sells his soul to help save people from the monsters that come from a world full of nightmares. His world is bleak. One day the Devil needs a favor, and Asuka will risk much to reclaim his soul. Meeting Merrick has shown him how much he has lost from his deal. It is a cold realization, of logic and comprehension rather than a messy emotion. It’s difficult to see how Merrick retains any innocence or hope in this world. He also must seriously like the brusque, strong type. The story is intellectually intriguing though. The Greek mythical elements allow fate (or the Fates?) to give us an epic ending. I missed the emotional elements though.

Wonderland City by Rhys Ford
I would rate this 4.5 stars.
This version of Hell is through the looking glass–think Alice in Wonderland turns into Sin City. After Xander Spade loses his soul to a fallen angel named Az, he gets trapped there as the Queen’s Ace. After the death of the Queen of Hearts, the place goes feral. With the help of the Knave of Hearts, Jean Michel, Xander has to find a missing girl whose presence threatens chaos and his chance to finally go home. This is a clever retelling rich with imagination, with flashes of dark humor.

Dark Favors by Jordan Castillo Price.
I would rate this 4.5 stars.
Johnny Lockheart has been offered the chance to get his soul back from the Devil if he murders a TV star, but her bodyguard Adam is going to have something to say about that. Both of them are Chosen, which means that they trade favors for power and know how the world really works stripped of illusion by the Sight. The flashbacks help us understand how Johnny ends up the way he is, and are well timed to pack a punch. This book makes better use of the idea of evil being seductive, whereas the other books focus on the grotesque, or horror elements. This HEA leaves you with a dreary feeling and will get you in the Halloween mood and reminds me of the feeling I get when I watch a movie called Angle Heart.

I really enjoyed this whole anthology. Of course, anthologies are always a mixed bag and some stories you will always favor over others, but that is subjective for each person. I found this anthology to be pretty even on quality, more so than many anthologies. If you like dark fantasy and horror, I would highly recommend it. What grounds each story is love or something worth fighting for.

The cover art is by Reece Notley. There are so many delightful characters in this, I am not sure why this picture was chosen. It seems a little bland for the subject matter. I believe it fits a scene from the C.S. Poe story.

Sales Links:  DSP Publications | Amazon
Book Details:
ebook, 450 pages
Expected publication: October 16th 2018 by DSP Publications
Original Title Devil Take Me
ISBN13 9781640808874
Edition Language English

Review of Lashings of Sauce Anthology

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3rdRating: 4.5 stars

Lashing: British slang for lots or large amounts.  In celebration of 2012 Olympics, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the 3rd Annual UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet, a lashing of authors from all over the Globe put forth an GLBTQ anthology of stories that highlight everything that makes Britain  (and mainland Europe) a great place for GLBTQ people to love and live.

Here is a list of stories and authors in the order they appear:

• Post Mortem by Jordan Castillo Price
• Dressing Down by Clare London
• Et Tu, Fishies? by JL Merrow
• Zones by Elyan Smith
• Sollicito by Charlie Cochrane
• A Few Days Away by Elin Gregory
• Vidi Velo Vici by Robbie Whyte
• Shelter From Storms by Sandra Lindsey
• Faulty Genes by Rebecca Cohen
• Lost in London by Tam Ames
• My Husband by Zahra Owens
• Waiting for a Spark by Lillian Francis
• Social Whirl by Emily Moreton
• School for Doms by Anne Brooke
• Dragon Dance by Josephine Myles
• Reclaiming Territory by Becky Black

The stories contained within this anthology really run the gamut of GLBTQ sexuality as well as genre.  Here you will find stories of wereshifters of London (no, not those, quite the contrary) to lesbians in love, love in transition, timeless love or should that be love amuck the ages and finally lost lovers reunited after a long separation.  There is humor, ok, humour (sheesh) and brooding, and angst, all the emotions love pulls out of you and more.  And oh what authors await you between the pages, it is almost sinful to have such a wealth of talent in one book.

Some of the stories don’t fall into the realm of books I normally read and review but I will say that I enjoyed them all.  Thank you for my visit into f/f fiction as well as D/s.  There are stories of transgender persons and one who cross dresses with panache. These stories manage to combine great characterizations, vivid descriptions from locations all over Britain and plots that make you guffaw and break down in tears.  Here were some of my favorites among a list of outstanding stories:

Et Tu, Fishies? by J.L. Merrow.  When Bill leaves his fish tank along with his flat in the hands of Marty for the week, Marty was prepared for many things.  Cleaning, feeding the fish, masturbating in Bill’s bed, lots of things.  Nothing, however, prepared him for Arthur, the weird upstairs neighbor.  That would be Arthur Prefect. When Marty challenges him on his name, he says it used to be Herbert Wells.  Right.  And Arthur has lost his lover.  That would be..nope not giving that one away.  Yes, indeedy, we are off on a wonderful romp involving lashings of vodka, wine , walnuts and cheesy balls.  And time travel, snappy dialog and drunken sex.  Loved it.

Sollicito by Charlie Cochrane.  She did it, she went ahead and did it. Charlie Cochrane gives us weresloths of London.  With shifters of all sorts bounding across the pages of book after book, there was nary a weresloth among them.  Until now. Told from the point of view of an unnamed bloke who sprouts fur and long curved claws at the most inopportune moment, he bemoans the fact that his shifting, unlike the numerous wolf shape shifters, has no rhyme nor reason to it.   One moment he is fine, the next he has fur and the urge to move slowly along a balustrade.  Yes, insert spew event.  The whole story is like that.  While laughing out loud, I found a new phrase to use “divvy doo dah”.  Love the sound of that.  Had to look up Martin Johnson (not a clue), read the words “brolly dangling stage” several times as obscene images flittered across my mental landscape while remaining completely in the dark about the Junction 6 of the M40. Yes,I know.  It’s a British thing!  Love this story even as it boggled my very American mind.

Vidi Velo Vici by Robbie Whyte. Whyte uses a clever format for this story of lust, if not love discovered during a daily commute through traffic.  Each day Evan sets out for the office in his car only to find himself trapped in horrific traffic. Each day finds him on the phone to his sarcastic assistant, Tia, to have her rearrange his schedule as he is going to be late into the office.  Monday, 8:38 am and Evan’s car mirror is clipped by a cyclist weaving through the clogged cars.  Evan’s rage is only abated by watching some outstanding glutes in tight spandex peddling away.  Day after day, Even and the faceless cyclist appear on the same road and at the same time.  You listen in on Evan’s inner dialog as he watches for that magnificent physique to appear in the mirror, Evan consults with his sat-nav with the voice of Vader, Evan talks to Tia whose droll comments on Evan’s current legal case involving a shih tzu,  dog custody and someone named Antonio who he keeps sleeping with had me giggling madly.  It’s funny, it’s real, and has a great ending.

Shelter From Storms by Sandra Lindsey takes us back to the French Revolution as a wounded, frail Louis appears on the doorstep of Daniel Elcott in England.  He has made his way through war torn France to Daniel’s country manor with only a small dirty calling card to hand the butler. Once the men were lovers when younger, now Daniel is married with children.  But Louis has no where else to go as he has lost it all.  The men reconnect as Louis falls ill and Daniel attends to his needs.  Their love sparks once more as Louis convalesces.  Daniel finds that with Louis’ return so does the man he once was.  Lovely, well told story that brings history to life and makes a gay relationship seem not only possible but realistic as well.

Lost In London by Tam Ames.  Here we meet Kevin Larton, from Calgary in Canada.  He’s in London to go to school but finding it difficult to navigate his way.  He is finding his courses difficult, making new friends more so and when it comes to reading maps and getting around town, he is at a complete loss.  It doesn’t matter that he is here to get his PhD in Economics or was a city planner.  Kevin just can’t read maps so he is always lost. A chance meeting with Benjamin White gives Kevin a change in direction.  Everything starts to become possible, friends, degree and perhaps even a boyfriend.  There is a hilarious drunken scene, wonderful characters and I learned what a feedlot was.  Ewww.  Great story, though.

My Husband by Zahra Owen charts one person’s marriage through the tumultuous stages of their transitioning from female to male.  There is never a missed step as Owens treats the subject with sensitivity and authenticity.  Told from Sam’s POV, we meet Sean their husband and see their courtship and marriage through Sam’s memories.  Owen gives us a glimpse of what it must feel like to be born in the wrong body and the journey one person makes to correct nature’s mistake. Poignant and lovely.

Dragon Dance by Josephine Myles is the penultimate story and one of my top two (I have no intension of telling you all the other, guess why don’t you).  I love going to Chinatown here in DC and watching the Dragon Dance during the Chinese New Year so imagine my delight over a story wrapped around two friends and their families preparing the costumes and dragon for their neighborhood’s New Year celebration. Gan and Archie are two lifelong friends whose families are equally close in their small village’s Chinese community.  As their mothers make the Dragon from crimson parachute material and fashion the pearl it will chase after, the boys discover their sexuality and the love that has always been present.  Myles pulled me in completely from the vibrant portraits of the boys as they dance the Dragon Dance. As they practice, their movements are jerky and uncoordinated with respect to each other but as they communicate their love and desire  it becomes sinuous, motions beckoning each other forward that mimic the depth their relationship has finally achieved.  I could picture it unfolding so real did it all become. Sigh.

Reclaiming Territory by Becky Black is the last story of the anthology so it is fitting that it is the story of  an old love lost and then later reclaimed.  Jim and Andy are riding a motorcycle and sidecar to Whitby, a place full of memories for both men and their relationship, good and bad.  As they wander through town, making various stops we learn their history and what is has taken for the men to get to this stage in their relationship where they are now.  The story bounds between 2012, 1987 the year they broke up, and 2009, the year they reconnected.  Jim is so very human in his fears and faults as is Andy in his anger over Jim’s betrayal and cowardice.  All it takes is a look at the date and remember what it meant to be gay during that time period.  Yes, things have changed, yes, they have gotten easier in some parts of the globe but this story is a reminder of the fears of coming out and staying together as a gay committed couple that many had during the 80’s.  It is fitting that in celebrating our present, the past is never forgotten and Black does an outstanding job of bringing that  to us in the forms of Jim and Andy riding into the future firmly hooked together by vehicle and by choice.

Go out and grab this anthology, read each story, find your own favorites, Mine might shuffle as I read it once more.  Happy Jubilee, Queen, Great Olympics, Britain and have a wonderful time at the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet.  I really wish I was there with you.  Divvy doo dah!

Cover art by Alex Beecroft.  Smashing I say! lol