A Free Dreamer Review: Horizon Points (The Galactic Captains #3) by Harry F. Rey

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

The problems of the Outer Verge are stacking up for Ales, now a commander of the Union fleet. From rebellious priests on Jansen to terrifying rips in space sucking matter out into the unknown, not to mention jealous lovers scattered across space, Ales is pulled in infinite directions. Disrupting the Galactic Balance isn’t so simple, and Admiral Turo is also a hard man to please.

While trying to secure a crucial trade deal on the heterosapien world of Nelu, Ales struggles to ignore the stark inequalities cutting through life in the galaxy. If he’s not fighting for a future free from the horrors that blighted his past, what’s the point of living?

With the Outer Verge bitterly divided and factions readying for war, the new horizons Ales dreamed of feel galaxies away.

I was thrilled to see “Horizon Points” pop up in my inbox and couldn’t wait to get back to Ales and everybody else. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed.

First of all, this is part three of the“The Galactic Captains” series. As such, it really doesn’t work as a stand-alone at all. You definitely need to read the first two parts in order to understand and enjoy this one.

If you have read parts one and two, you know what to expect: Great SciFi with a lot of hot, kinky sex and the author once again delivers all that and more.

Ales has changed and grown and continues to do so during this book. He seems less bitter and hateful and  I think I liked him better than before. He also seems a bit more mature, though he’s still thinking with his dick most of the time, even if said dick is caged. And that’s really the only issue I continue to have with this series. Ales has sex or thinks of sex at the craziest moments, when there should be other, more important, things to worry about.

I was surprised to actually find some hints of a possible blossoming romance. Previously, there was only sex, but no love. Of course it really didn’t turn out the way I’d expected. There were a couple of twists I really didn’t see coming.

It all ends with a horrible cliffhanger, so I’m eagerly anticipating the next installment of this great series.

The cover by Natasha Snow works well for the story. It’s unique enough to be easily distinguishable and yet similar enough to the others to create an overall aesthetic for the series.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book details:

ebook, 167 pages

Published March 4th 2019 by NineStar Press

The Galactic Captains Series:

Siege Weapons

Forbidden Pursuits

Horizon Points

Review: The Prince and the Practitioner by Christian Baines

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

The Prince and the Practitioner coverEliot had been practicing magic for most of his life but never had he been successful in summoning a demon…until now.  Far too impulsive for his own good, Eliot’s spell casting has always been a hit or miss proposition.  Sometimes it worked, mostly it didn’t.  So when the summoning succeeded and brought forth a demon, it didn’t work out exactly as Eliot had hoped.  Instead of a demon to control, the demon Prynthius now had control of Eliot.  With Prynthius deep within Eliot’s body, Eliot decides, to his horror and pain, that the only way to dislodge the demon is to pass him on to another unsuspecting body, one that the demon must approve of before the transfer is made.

Dean, tall, gorgeous and sexy, seems like the perfect target when Eliot sees him at the local gay hookup bar.  With the demon’s pain induced instructions echoing in his mind, Eliot accepts Dean’s invitation to return home with him for a night full of hot sex and kinky exploration.  But is Dean as straightforward as he appears?  Who will be left standing when all the secrets are exposed?

Christian Baines’ first novel, The Beast Without, was a terrific supernatural tale of horror.  It contained multidimensional characters and a complex plot.  At 234 pages, the author gave himself the length necessary to explore in detail the world he was creating as well as construct a complex history for his main and secondary characters.  It was a refreshing take on creatures dominating all forms of media these days,  vampires and werewolves, and I loved it.

The Prince and the Practitioner has many of the same elements that exemplified The Beast Without but at approximately 27 pages it seems to be missing the breadth and detail necessary to make this story feel as well constructed and polished as the one that preceded it.

Once again Christian Baines has chosen to feature in his story a couple of creatures seen often in novels and on tv and movie screens these days, the demon and the wizard.  Baines appears to enjoy tearing away any romantic overlay from often used character types to pare them down to the horrific bare bones they are capable of.  That is certainly the case with his characters here.     Eliot is not an especially admirable person.  He is certainly not one most readers will relate to.  His is a slapdash morality, one more composed of expediency and self interest than one based in any sort of ethicality and righteousness. Prynthius is everything a malevolent demon should be or at least the backstory provided by the author makes him out to be.  Prynthius is more a dubious outline of a monster than a fleshed out one.  And that lack of solidity lessens the impact his demon is supposed to make.

Dean only snaps into place as a credible character midway through the story.  I can understand why the author made this decision but again it delays the cohesion to the narrative.  The story starts off more like a simplistic piece of porn than a tale of horror.  Had Baines given the reader a little more substance, a little more back story to the opening scenes of The Prince and the Practitioner, this would have felt more polished and solid than the story it finally morphed into.

I don’t have to like a book  or its characters to admire the cleverness of the plot is or the preciseness of the prose, both of which can be found within this story. Like fun house mirrors, nothing is as it seems here but still I had an issue or two with Eliot. With characters whose sense of morality has the same properties as a puddle of muddy water, one character’s righteous indignation at the end seemed false and out of place, especially considering the events that preceded it.  Either the author meant to show Eliot’s gift of self deception to be as endless as I felt it was or the hypocrisy of the scene didn’t bother him as it did me.  This departure from the persona the author has created felt like a break in the characterization, an unnecessary one to my mind.

I do feel the twist at the end elevated The Prince and the Practitioner past porn into a story with layers as opposed to merely sequential sex scenes.  I only wish that the author had included trace elements early on that hinted at the depth and twists of plot to come.  So too does any tenderness and compassion feel completely out of place among these egocentric masters of magic.

This short story contains elements of bdsm (whipping to be precise), D/s, and non con.  For some readers, including lovers of horror, this quick read might be just the thing for you.  For others, especially those lovers of stories of romantic love, I recommend you look elsewhere and to another author as romance does not seem to be in Christian Baines’ box of literary ingredients the way horror and the supernatural most certainly are.

I am looking  forward to what his imagination turns to next.  At any rate I expect it to be entertaining and worthy of discussion.  I leave any recommendations up to you.

Cover art by Wilde City Press.  This cover has a generic feel to it.  It certainly does not speak to the magic and demon you will find inside.

Book Details:

ebook, 1st Edition
Published January 15th 2014 by Wilde City Press

Back from GRL, Pulp Friction Week, Book Contests and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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It’s Sunday and I have been back from GRL in Atlanta a whole week but it feels like only yesterday.  How does that happen?  I still haveGRL ATL -Atlanta-skyline one small suitcase to empty, my swag bag contents are scattered across parts of the kitchen table like so much titillating, lovely fall debris.  And I have yet to take all my books and stack them close to the bed for reading.  Sigh.  I have an awful feeling that I will open the suitcases to pack for GRL in Chicago next year only to find the remnants of GRL Atlanta still laying inside ready to be put away.

It was an outstanding conference.  So many wonderful authors, publishers, bloggers, and readers to meet and talk with.  Amy Lane, Shira Anthony, JP Barnaby, Lynn Lorenz, Venona Keyes, Marguerite Labbe, Wade Kelly, RJ Scott (making the journey from the UK), Mary Calmes, Jessica Freeley, Kaje Harper, Anne Tenino, Laura Harner, Tom Webb, Katey Hawthorne (my roomy), so many more.  I know I will kick myself when I realize who I have left out. Oops Keturah from Riptide, Dolorianne from Wilde City, Kris Jacen, editor extraordinaire from MLR, ack my brain cells are running out….My head and thoughts swirl under all the great people I got to see and meet there.  TJ Klune and Eric Arvin got engaged in a tearful and heartwarming engagement in front of a Q & A audience to our delight.  The Heaven and Hell Ball sawDSCN4099 DSCN4103so many great costumes from the sublime to the silly and everything in between while the gorgeous Atlanta city lights twinkled as our backdrop. That is Edmond Manning (King Perry)to the right and the sexy Drake Jaden, porn star and model for the cover of JP Barnaby’s Painting Fire on the Air (Survivor Stories #2). Be still my heart!  I don’t know who that funny person is in the Queen of Hearts wig and outfit! lol.  From Heidi Cullinan, Reese Dante ,Ethan Day , Teresa Emil ,Carol Lynne , and  Damon Suede , thanks for organizing a great conference.,They made GRL memorable for me and everyone else I talked to.  I can’t wait for GRL in Chicago next year!

I will probably still be packed for it.

Now I am so excited for the week ahead as I am trying something new here.  Next week is Pulp Friction Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words and a multiple book contest to go along with 4 great authors and 4 wonderful intertwined series.  The Pulp Friction group consists of Havan Fellows, Lee Brazil, LE Harner and TA Webb.  They got together (I will let them tell it in their own words) and decided to write a group of serialized stories reminiscent of pulp fiction that interconnected through a group of tightly bonded men.  I have slowly been reviewing each series at four books a piece.  Now it all culminates in a fifth book each and a guest post from each corresponding author.  A review of the fifth book follows the author’s post in the afternoon.  This is how our week shakes out.

Wicked Solutions coverFifty Fifty Chances Are coverMonday, October 28:    Havan Fellows and Wicked’s Way series

Review of Wicked Truths (Wicked’s Way #5)

Tuesday, October 29:    Lee Brazil and Chances Are series

Review of Chance In Hell (Chances Are #5)

Wed., October 30:         L.E. Harner and Triple Threat series

Review of Duplicity (Triple Threat #5)

Defiance coverStarry KnightThurs., October 31:       T.A. Webb and City Knight series

Review of Darkest Knight (City Knight #5)

Friday, Nov. 1:       Pulp Friction Wrap up, Announcements, and

Winners of the book contests

Saturday, Nov. 2:          October Summary of Reviews

To be entered into the contest, just leave a comment on any post this coming week and you will automatically be entered one of four books being offered up by the authors.

Review: Defiance (Triple Threat #3) by Laura Harner

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Defiance coverAtlanta football legend Kebow Trainer is in big trouble and needs help now.  For four years Trainer has been blackmailed and has paid up. But now he is about to negotiate a huge new contract and the blackmailer’s demand has risen to outrageous proportions.  So now Trainer  wants it stopped and figures Archer and Zachary are the men to do it.  But this case brings up more than just a blackmailer filled with hate, it reminds Zachary of a part of his past that fills him with pain and regret.

It has been two months since Jeremiah was abused by a Dom with a grudge against Archer and Zachary and he has yet to heal emotionally.  So while Zachary worries about Jeremiah and his ability to move past his recent trauma, Jeremiah and Archer are overwhelmed with concern for Zachary and the future of their relationship.

For all involved, this case has enormous consequences for their relationships and their futures.  Will the triple threat of Archer, Zachary and Jeremiah be enough to solve the case and save their relationship?

Defiance is the third book in the Triple Threat series from L.E. Harner and it moves the reader into Zachary’s  past and his involvement with Wick Templeton (from Wicked’s Ways series).   I really loved this element.  Harner has been doling out bits of information about Zachary’s past like a miser does money, in tiny amounts here and there.  Now we start to understand that the loss of his sub and closeted lover was a deeper, more involved event that has had repercussions on Zachary’s life and relationships ever since.   So many layers here to peal back, such an amazing depth of characterization.  I just love Zachary.  His is a character and voice that just  resonates with a reader.  Wry, knowing, sarcastic, this person has seen it all, the best and mostly the worst humanity has to offer and is still standing.  Like Wick Templeton with whom he has a past and is close friends with, Zachary lives and works on the outskirts of what passes as normal in society.  He is both Dom and sub in his relationships, although sub to only one man…Archer.  He is brutal, funny, intelligent and physical.  Trust me when I say this complex personality will stay with you a long time.

Harner has created an emotionally explosive case for a trio of men already destabilized by recent events.  Nothing is ever simple in this series, no case without ramifications for all who become involved.  Jeremiah is still reeling from his abuse and uncertain future, Zachary is dealing with his past and Jeremiah, and Archer has to come to terms with the fact that he destabilized his own 15 year relationship with Zachary in his arrogance and the repercussions of the addition of Jeremiah.  Then you add the case of a blackmailed gay football player and watch the situation ignite.  Here is a taste:

The bottle of Don Pilar was already on the table, two glasses poured, two waters on the side. The plate of limes and salt sat in the middle of the glasses, where they would likely remain untouched. They usually did.

“Thanks.” I tossed back the first glass before I even sat down. Sliding into the black leather bench of the dark booth, I poured a second glass and tossed it back, too. It suddenly seemed like a great idea to get completely shitfaced.

“Never necessary. And you know that’s sipping tequila.” We smiled at each other. It was the look of longtime friends with hundreds of favorite lines from past conversations.

“You might have said that before. This needing each other shit is becoming a habit,” I said. It had only been a few days since I’d shown up to pick him up from jail. Wick hadn’t technically needed a ride from me—but a little bird let me know he was being released and I thought a surprise was in order. Not that he’d actually done anything wrong—it’d been part of a case he’d been working—but that got me thinking about the fed. “So, hear anything from that guy? What was his name? Fred? Ked? You know, the one you left standing there with his heart on his sleeve and a bone in his pants?”

Wick threw his head back and laughed. When he finished he took a long sip of his drink, eyeing me over the rim of his glass before responding. “You’re such an ass. His name is Ned. And no, I haven’t heard from him. I think he might’ve taken offense to the lip lock you planted on me when I got in your car. I probably should take offense too, except I love dancing with your tongue.”

I grinned. “Yeah. That one might’ve gotten a little away from me. Still, it was nice.”

“It always was.” We stared at each other for a long moment, old memories suddenly fresh.

So much is revealed by the single scene alone.  The easy, casual nature of the conversation, the lack of emotional and personal barriers between Wick and Zachary that just speaks volumes about their relationship as old friends and ex lovers.  It is terrific and a perfect example of the narrative of the entire series.

The reveal of the identity of the blackmailer is an emotionally explosive event as anything that preceded it.  It is gut wrenching and so painful in that one   secondary relationship that you have come to care about is left in tatters, the future of it and the couple involved uncertain.  It is a totally realistic and heartbreaking element in this story and  I don’t see how Harner could have handled it any other way without losing the credibility built up in the series to date.  But I would love to see a sentence or two somewhere down the line to let the readers know how it all eventually resolved for the men involved.

Defiance is an amazing read, especially considering it is only 83 pages in length.  As I have said before, this book and all the books in the series seem to have the feel and scope of  stories much longer in length because of all the emotions and story plots involved.  Great narrative, smooth writing style, compelling characters and a singular voice in the pov.  Those unfamiliar with BDSM and D/s or those who usually don’t read books with that element will still enjoy this book and series.   That aspect of this story and the m/m/m relationships are beautifully done and Harner makes it accessible to all readers, not only those who like a little kink in the sex but those who prefer their sexual relationship on the vanilla side.

I highly recommend not only this book but the entire series.  But start at the beginning.  It’s the only way to understand the characters and events that follow.  You will find yourself as hooked as I am.

Books in the Triple Threat series to date and in the order they were written and should be read are:

Triple Threat (Triple Threat #1)
Retribution  (Triple Threat #2)
Defiance (Triple Threat #3)
Crucify (Triple Threat #4)

 Book Details:
ebook, 83 pages
Published May 31st 2013 by Hot Corner Press
ISBN13 9781937252533
edition language English
series Triple Threat

Review: Second Chances Are (Chances Are #02) by Lee Brazil

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Second Chances AreChance Dumont has decided to move forward wit his life.  Chance decides the best way to put the past behind him is a relationship with the young man, Rory, who idolizes him. At least it seemed like a good idea at the time.  But lately the relationship feels constricting, and Chance can see it deteriorating in the near future.  But how to tell Rory that its over?  Unfortunately, Rory saw it coming and made one of the worst decisions of his young life.  Now both men must deal with the tragic outcome.  Chance realizes that second chances are hard to come by and makes a hard decision.  Then his past walks through the doors of his bar after five years.  And Chance is face to face with the hardest decision he has ever made.  Who will get the second chance at love, his past or his present?

Second Chances Are picks up shortly after the end of the first book in the series, Chances Are.  Chance Dumont, that quintessential damaged ex cop is back and trying to move on with his life,  one that was destroyed both career wise and emotionally five years earlier.  Chance has decided to put his past behind him and give romance a try once more.  His choice of partner?  That would be Rory, a young gay cop who is clearly in love with the older man.  Lee Brazil brings us again into the weary, sarcastic personality that is Chance Dumont, a man who gained his  nickname from a grandmother he both loved and hated.  One who always said, “Chances are you will come to no good, just like your pa”, and the appellation stuck.

We reenter Chance’s life just as he has made a decision to try and move forward with his life.  New boyfriend, new attempt at a relationship (although on his terms).  But when the story opens, Chance is realizing that Rory will never be the one he wants and that’s a painful reality.  Chance is a difficult man.  He is complex, with his own set of rules and laws he goes by, not necessarily society’s ones.  He is a Dom and wants someone who not only has the same kink he has but something more.  Something he once had and lost.  Chance is not a bad man and he realizes the damage this is going to do to the young man who idolizes him.  It won’t be pretty, in fact, Chance is sure it is going to get ugly quick.   I love that Brazil’s characterization of Chance is realistically layered and contradictory in his thought processes.  He is human, not always likable but trying to be as honorable as possible.  Brazil’s Chance is a man who knows life is hard but is still surprised by the depths people will sink to.  I really like this man and can see why the author created Rory, his opposite in almost every way.  We need that to illuminate the truth of Chance and it works.

A traumatic event happens to Rory that changes the dynamic between the men.  Just when Chance had made one decision about their relationship, an attack on Rory changes everything. Soon Chance is dropping that hard won decision altogether in favor of a different path, one that is 180 degrees from the realistic one Chance thought was best for them both.  This is a hard choice for Chance and Brazil lets the reader into Chance’s inner thoughts and moral arguments as he works through his own culpability with respect to Rory and the attack.  This intimate look into Chance’s mindset is necessary for the reader to continue to be emotionally attached to a man who can be perceived as cold and removed.   Chance is a great character who continues to grow as more about his past is revealed and our attachment to the man grows with him.

In this case, his past walks through the door towards the end of the story.  The reader knew it was coming but the emotional implications and impact on Chance is still as disastrous as we expected.  It’s wonderful when an author can do that with an anticipated segment of their story, and Lee Brazil does a great job with it.

We get to see Wick Templeton or at least hear him mentioned as a possible course of action, so you know  things are dire when Wick is the weapon of choice.  I think it is wise that Wick is accounted for in these linked series by something as fleeting as a phone call.  I am  not sure that either series can hold both men together at the same time.  That’s a lot of testosterone and trouble for one series, let alone two.

The other aspect I need to bring up is that this is not truly a romance, at least not yet.  There are elements of BDSM, a D/s relationship, certainly affection as well as bitterness over a past love.  But romance? That would be no.  And it’s really not needed here.  This is a portrait of a man who is trying to move forward in his life, leaving his career and obviously love behind.  We don’t have the facts yet but they are coming.  Some of them just walked in the door. What Lee Brazil does give us is tension, the realities and hardships that life dumps at your feet, and taking responsibility for your actions.  This is a grown up story and I love it.

So start at the beginning and work your way through the series.  Then head on over to Wicked’s Way, Havan Fellows’s series and grab that one up too.  I have two more stories in this series to review so stay with us all the way to the end.  You won’t be sorry.

Cover art by Laura Harner is appropriate for the book and the series.  Works well to brand the series too.

Books in the series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and events within:

Chances Are (Chances Are #01)
Second Chances Are (Chances Are #02)
Fifty Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are #03)
Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are #04)

Book Details:

ebook, short story
Published March 1st 2013 by Lime Time Press
ISBN LBRZL00000 (ISBN13: 2940016176192)
edition language English