A Lila Review: The Demon of Hagermarsh (Virasana Empire: Sir Yaden #1) by Beryll Brackhaus and Osiris Brackhaus

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

“The Emperor cares for each and every one of his subjects.”

Many consider the catchphrase of the imperial Lotus Knights to be nothing more but well-polished propaganda, but for Yaden, it is a way of life.

A young Lotus Knight himself, his first mission in service of the Emperor sends him to the remote village of Hagermarsh, a suspiciously friendly place on a planet known for its inhospitable people. But how to uncover a demonist coven when nothing bad ever happens?
Getting to know the villagers only makes things more difficult – the motherly fishmonger surely isn’t a demonist. Nor the gruff leader of the local militia. And definitely not the cute baker from across the street.

Or are they?

Come discover a dazzling, hopeful universe of knights and monsters, of psions, aliens and ancient deities! The Demon of Hagermarsh is the first book of ‘Sir Yaden’, an epic SF saga of grand adventure, romance, bromance and family, set in the multi-faceted Virasana Empire. It is a romantic adventure and can be read as a standalone.

The Demon of Hagermarsh is a well-written mix of paranormal and sci-fi elements. It transcends the MM Romance genre and set itself apart with a great set of characters and mystery elements. The descriptions include all senses and it’s easy to feel and understand Yaden since the reader is part of him.

It does have slow spots and lengthy descriptions but they can be appreciated when they become relevant further in the story. The battles and explanations could have been shorter but it helps the overall story.

The characters are three-dimensional and the reader gets a chance to cheer for their future. I wanted a bit more of Darios since he’s an important part of the memory chapters, but not much of the regular ones. I was intrigued by him and the possibilities of his future.

I like Colin and the innocence of his relationship with Yaden. The rest of the people in the village felt real and interesting. Even after everything happened, I wanted to revisit them and see how they have changed.

The small peek into Yaden life as a Lotus Knight and all his friendships opened the door for future installments in this saga. I’m definitely reading the next one.

The cover by Anna Tiferet is perfect for the story. It shows the setting as described by Yaden. Everything from the weather to the house stones is relevant to the story.

Sale Links: Amazon | iBooks | Smashwords

Book Details:
ebook, 212 pages
ISBN: 9781092150453
Published: June 3, 2019, by Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus
Edition Language: English

Series: Virasana Empire
Book #1: The Demon of Hagermarsh

A Barb the Zany Old Lady: Audio Review: Diplomatic Relations (The Sci-Regency #4) by J.L. Langley and KC Kelly (Narrator)

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

I was excited to have a chance to listen to the audio of this new installment of a series I first started reading many years ago when I was new to MM romance. Unfortunately, the narrator’s style and pacing did not meet my expectations. In fact, at times, I cringed at a vocalization or at the way he rushed through a particular paragraph or dialogue. So, being the bookaholic I am, I got the e-book version and alternated reading with listening.

The story itself was complex and interesting. In fact, I had to pay attention carefully because many of the characters in this book appeared in the past, and while listening to the audio, I had to take “pause time” to recall old relationships—one more advantage to having the e-book(s) so I could double-check names and research past appearances. I should have reread the previous book before starting this one. I didn’t realize the first line in the blurb, which said this is a sequel to My Regelence Rake, was actually a strong hint. So, by all means, other readers should do that first. It may help with character recall.

This book features a sweet, innocent, virginal character, Blaise Thompson, one who reminded me of Aiden in My Fair Captain. Blaise fed my need for a revisit to this world. Smart as a whip, cute as a button, he was constantly trying to get his younger brother out of trouble. Enter Dalton Fairfax, a soldier between assignments and nephew of Raleigh, the King Consort. Estranged from his father and sire, Dalton doesn’t much care about his reputation, until he makes a deeper connection with Blaise than he thought he’d ever desire.

I like the universe the author has created, the complexities of the governments and off-planet entities that make their futuristic world so different. And I really love these sweet, innocent young men and the all-men society they live in. It’s refreshing to be there as they confront their first sexual attraction—usually a rake from whom they’ve been warned to stay away. But, in this case, I can’t recommend the audiobook format. E-book? Yes, by all means. The story is certainly worthwhile. But the pacing and interpretation of the story and narration of the character voices was very poorly done in audio.

The cover by Tiferet Designs features two young men standing back to back. Their attire and overall appearance represent the regency look of this story. It’s nicely done against a bright blue background.

Sales Links:   | Amazon | Audible

Audio Book Details:

Audiobook, Audible Audiobook
Published April 18th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press (first published February 19th 2019)
ASINB07Q5V7Q9M
Series Sci-Regency #4

A Chaos Moondrawn Review : Tarragon (Rise of the Symbionts #4) by Jo Tannah

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

This is the fourth book in the series, but it’s a prequel. The first three books mention Tarragon, the first and greatest of the technomage kings of Oryon. He became king at 18. This is the story of how he came to have a symbiont, and planned for the survival of his family, setting the stage for everything in the last three books. Yet, this can also be read as the first book without any problems: the other three must be read in order. Having said that, this ends abruptly leading me to believe this will also be a trilogy about how the symbionts in the first book came about.

Although there is a Council of Kings, the Capricis and Zaruthrans attacked the Dacrons, leading to years of war. Tarragon is the last of his line, becoming king on his eighteenth birthday. While his father insisted that he fight his magic, when they are close to being defeated, he embraces it. Not trained to either be king, or to use his magic, he turns to the mountain mages to help him and learns history of his world that was lost to his kingdom. With his Guardian, Brenn, he finds the will and allies he needs to fight his enemies and save his vassals. He plans to change Oryon so mages are no longer shunned due to fear.

The loss, deaths, and Tarragon psychically comforting his clan in their grief, is heartbreaking. Tarragon and Brenn becoming lovers, while a huge complication, was inevitable. The characters are cast about from one entertaining emergency to another, but that doesn’t hide some of the issues. The broken trust, not once but twice, between him and Brenn is never addressed. The fact that no other king has kept tabs on Kayel, for both their technology and their mages seems astonishing to me. After all, they do sell the technology to other kingdoms. There is never a good explanation for how the magic and technology work together (in any of the four books). The reader is just supposed to accept these things work because they are told they do. I would have liked to avoid the cliche of phrases like “once in every generation” and the idea that Tarragon is the being of a long held prophesy. There are abrupt shifts of mood between scenes on occasion, as well as the emotions and responses of the characters are sometimes uneven. Still, the whole thing is imaginative. There is something about these books or else I wouldn’t keep reading them. I have to know what happens, flaws and all, so I would recommend trying them if you want an easy science fiction romance without too much world-building or hard science.

The cover art by Angela Waters matches the other book covers. It establishes the magical and science fiction nature of the story whilst showing Tarragon how I pictured him except for that strange fur collar.

Sales Links: Extasy Books | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, First, 160 pages
Published April 12th 2019 by Extasy Books
Original TitleTarragon
ISBN139781487424589
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesRise of the Symbionts #4

An Alisa Review : Afflicted to the Core (Wielder World #3) by Nat Kennedy

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

Reggie Wolfe religiously visits Kyle Landon—his student in Nerve detangling—at the Harpford Disentanglement Center, where the younger man has been incarcerated on trumped up charges. During one of Reggie’s visits, Kyle’s able to warn his teacher of an imminent unauthorized transfer by an unknown shadow agency. Reggie demands help from his sister at the Bureau of Wielder Services but is pressed to take the matter into his own hands when bureaucratic red-tape stymies her actions. Breaking into a secret medical installation, Reggie and August Whalen find Kyle and six other men hooked to IVs, unknown chemicals pumping into their systems.

The three are caught up in a quest to find an antidote for the drugs and discover who is behind the powerful anti-male Wielder organization. On this dangerous road, will they forever remain friends or give in to their growing attraction?

This world is so interesting and complicated at the same time.  I am not gonna lie, I haven’t read the first two books in a while but I remember being severely confused at times and it happened a bit in this book too.  There is just so much going on, so many people to keep track of and so much hiding it makes you slow down and pause while reading.

Reggie an Wielder World d Kyle were in the first book while the second focused on August and how he ended up tangled up in this mess too.  Bethany, Reggie’s sister and BWS agent, is a help and a hindrance at times and I hate watching her fight against herself and trying to figure out the right thing to do.  I liked her much more in this book than the last as she basically sent August to the slaughter before but seems to be redeeming herself.

I liked watching Reggie find the acceptance he thought he wouldn’t get with Kyle and August, he is so self-conscious and has a hard time letting go of the strict control he has lived his life under that these two were perfect to shake things up a bit.  Now Kyle, man he is determined to make Reggie see things his way and both August and Reggie want to protect him from harm.  August is the most independent of the three and doesn’t get involved right away but really is the one to bring them all together the tightest.

I really look forward to what else is in store for these three but also to see if Bethany can take down the bad guys and possible even change the world’s viewpoint on male weilders.

The cover art by Deranged Doctor Design follows the form from the first couple books but I like how it still stands out from the others and that is gives us a picture of the three MCs.

Sales Link: Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 260 pages

Publication: June 14, 2019

Edition Language: English

Series:#3Wielder World

A MelanieM Review: Modified and Sacred by Jana Denardo

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Lieutenant Addison Hunt is proud to serve the Confederation even if he still feels like he’s on the outside looking in. Addison was illegally genetically modified as a child, leaving him burdened with a sense of shame. Emotionally isolated from his fellow crewmen and recovering from injuries from his last job, Addison is happy to have light duty transporting an esteemed diplomat to a peace conference.

Deveral is one of the Sacred Kin, possessing a psychic ability that his people consider a spark of the divine. Like all the Sacred Kin, he’s led a sheltered life as a temple priest, but his heightened empathic ability makes him the perfect diplomat. Nervous to leave his home, he’s curious about his new companion, Lieutenant Hunt.

Not everyone wants the diplomatic mission to succeed, and a rebel faction poses a real threat to Addison and Deveral. Finding themselves cast adrift on a “lost” colony, they’ll have to fight to stay alive.

Jana Denardo’s new LGBT science fiction novella, Modified and Sacred, is a enjoyable, imaginative story.  The author has filled the novella full of fascinating elements like stolen or sold children that were then modified illegally for use by trades, businesses like mining because it was cheaper than building machines.  Also aliens that, due to their ancient past as prey, have evolved skins full of chromatophores that allow bursts of color or camouflage as was needed in the past.  So many things about both main characters that just grab your attention and fill your mind with questions, along with the storyline.

The plot is fast moving, along with the immediate attention to detail on the action at hand.  I loved how the relationship developed between Addison and Deveral, especially after the events that happened on the ship.  No spoilers here.

But what keeps this story from a higher rating is that I felt it wrapped up too quickly for as complicated a plot it it was made out to be.  Far too many loose ends floating around that mission and answers we never got behind the rescue or the finalization of Deveral’s peace initiative. I also wished for more background, world building on Deveral’s species, and things that were merely hinted at.  There was enough here to fill a series!  A novella?  Felt a little thin for all the tantalizing information and bits thrown about.

I did appreciate the HFN as that is clearly the only way this could end for this couple given the time frame.  I do hope that the author can be coaxed into revisiting them and this universe in the future.  There’s a story I would be first in line to read.

As for Modified and Sacred by Jana Denardo?  There is still so much here to be investigated and thoroughly enjoyed by science fiction, suspense and action, and romance lovers alike.  I recommend it to you all.

Cover art: Natasha Snow.  While that cover is pretty and all glowy I’m not sure that it’s all that pertinent to the storyline. No globe worshipping going on here.  No blobs.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook
Published April 29th 2019 by NineStar Press
ISBN 139781950412525
Edition Language English

A Free Dreamer Review: At the Trough by Adam Knight

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Rating: 3 stars out  of 5

In a future where schools have no teachers and no classrooms, Jennifer Calderon is the perfect student. Every day she watches her video modules, plays her edu games, and never misses an answer. Life is comfortable in the Plex, a mile-wide apartment building. Corporations and brand names surround her and satisfy her every want and need.

Then one day, her foul-mouthed, free-spirited, 90’s-kitsch-wearing girlfriend Melody disrupts everything. She introduces her to a cynical, burned-out former teacher, who teaches them the things no longer taught in school. Poetry. Critical thinking. Human connection.

But these lessons draw the attention of EduForce, the massive corporation with a stranglehold on education. When they show how far they are willing to go keep their customers obedient, Jennifer has to decide what is most important to her and how much she is willing to sacrifice for it.

When I read the blurb of “At the Trough”, I was thrilled to finally find a classic YA dystopia with an LGBT+ couple. But that’s not what I got, so I was a bit disappointed.

There are so many YA dystopian novels out there, with two teenagers in a forbidden love, fighting to overthrow the system and I love that genre. But I have yet to find a book with a couple that’s not m/f. I had hoped that this book would finally be the first book with a f/f pairing with that setting. Needless to say, I was quite disappointed when it turned out that “At the Trough” was more a philosophical debate about the school system.

Other than that, I had a couple issues with the story. First of all, the timeline didn’t quite work out for me. The book is set in 2051 and the world as we know it doesn’t exist anymore. That’s only 32 years from now, so not all that far in the future. I found it hard to believe that everything is so very different, without any sort of natural disaster or war or something else to jump-start such a major change in society. It all started in the 2030s, which is just 20 years from now, and I just don’t see that coming.

I didn’t feel the romance between Melody and Jennifer at all. Best friends with benefits, sure, but lovers? Not so much. Maybe a little background info would have worked. We never learned how these two very different young women met and fell in love. We never learned anything about Melody’s past.

On one occasion, I found a pretty serious mistake. Charles tells his students about Kafka and calls him a “German writer”. And that’s just plain wrong. There’s a difference between German-speaking and German, just like there’s a difference between English-speaking and English. If you have to pin a nationality on Kafka, it would have to be Czech. Charles, a literature-loving teacher, would never have made that mistake, so it was clearly a research mistake.

The plot didn’t really engage me. It felt a bit like a manifesto of the brilliant, wonderful school system and that’s not something I’m interested in. And the ending didn’t really work for me either.

Overall, “At the Trough” wasn’t what I expected at all and I was honestly disappointed by that. I guess you might like the book more, if you go in with the right expectations, but it just wasn’t for me.

The cover by Natasha Snow is alright.

Sales Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Book Details:

ebook
Published May 13th 2019 by NineStar Press
ISBN139781950412679
Edition Language English
URLhttps://ninestarpress.com/product/at-the-trough/

A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Rook by T. Strange

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Rook is sent to the alien prison planet B-226 for twenty three years for killing his husband. The average life span on the hostile planet is three weeks. His plan is to live as long as possible to honor his husband’s wishes, and then die and join him. Upon landing he is partnered with a prisoner named Stevie to help guard the miners, or he won’t get fed. There is a strange thrill in fightening off the local fauna and surviving, or having a specific daily purpose, that Rook didn’t count on. Their days are stressful, consisting of violent episodes bracketed by fighting boredom for concentration. Through his POV, the third character is Rook‘s dead husband Carlos. Stevie walks a fine line of teaching Rook how to survive, being wary of any attack or signs of madness setting in, using him for company and sex, but trying not to care too much in case Rook gets killed like all his previous partners.

I found this plot enticing as I personally enjoy when an author explores the psychology of a character. This is a new author to me so I really didn’t know what to expect. The main question here was always going to be, are they just together because of the circumstances? While that is actually asked, finding out the real answer takes the whole book. Bonding over shared trauma isn’t bad as a short cut, as long as it’s not the only thing there. While they are just trying to survive, they don’t actually know anything about each other’s previous lives. What they do know is: how they each react in an emergency, if they are trustworthy and to what extent, how each deals with conflict and triggers, and what factors motivate or de-motivate them. I would argue not knowing facts about someone’s life, or even their particular thoughts at any given moment, is less important than knowing if they can be counted on. I loved that there were so many issues touched on like the complications of choice, personal sovereignty, stages of grief, and PTSD. Having said that, it’s shocking that no one even makes a mention or an attempt at trying to deal with said mental health issues.

There are parts of this book that at times reminded me of movies like Predator, Reign of Fire, Pitch Black, Starship Troopers or Enemy Mine. I mention movies because I saw this story as pictures in my mind. That the author manages to sustain a feeling of suspense and terror for such a large (80-85%) portion of this book is amazing. There are breaks in the tension just when they are needed. There are breaks in the setting, just when they are needed. The focus of this book is very narrow, with the characters in their own world, creating a very intimate rather than epic feel so without the breaks, this could have been stifling. As it is, I felt like I went through everything with them.

Romance is not the point of this book. Finding someone you love and can get along with during one of the worst times of your life is another thing altogether. Sex is also not the point of this book–mostly it is fade to black, or described as a celebration of survival or stress relief as a realistic part of Rook‘s life and circumstances. While there is a HFN/HEA here, it is done in a realistic way consistent with the flavor of the novel as a whole. I am so thankful this author didn’t just slap a bow on it and negate all the work it took to get to the end of this journey. I thought this story was great and complete as it is.

The cover designed by Aisha Akeju is evocative of desolation and beauty. You can clearly tell it is science fiction. I do appreciate the use of the jungle as both reality and allegory.

Book Details:

ebook
Published February 7th 2018 by Less Than Three Press
ISBN139781684311804
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Free Dreamer Review: Destructive Forces (The Galactic Captains #4) by Harry F. Rey

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

In the far reaches of the Kyleri Empire, young Captain Mahnoor travels around the system to escape the cultural pressures to marry. But his infatuation with a handsome imperial pilot leads him into a galactic war.

On Jiwani, Viscamon is attempting to consolidate his power, by blaming the Ingvar for the royal massacre and calling armies from across the Empire to track down the missing prince, and achieve his dream of destroying the Galactic Balance. However, Antari knows the truth about Osvai and must find the courage to stand up to the prince’s enemies, and his own, no matter the risk.

Meanwhile on Aldegar, Daeron is being held prisoner by the few remaining Ingvar forces and must find a way to break free to rescue his mother and the crew of the Daring Huntress once again, as well as the missing Prince Osvai, before the Kyleri come to take back what’s theirs.

Sallah, no longer the last Tevian, returns to Aldegar with no choice but to enlist the help of the man she hates and the woman she once loved to see her son again.

As the Galactic Balance tips ever more towards chaos, time is running out to save Ales from the destructive forces he has unleashed.

First things first. “Destructive Forces” is part 4 of “The Galactic Captains” series and doesn’t work as a standalone at all. You have to read the previous three books in order to fully understand and appreciate this book. My review will also contain spoilers for the previous books.

I really liked the previous three installments of the series, so I was looking forward to this latest part. Sadly, I was rather disappointed.

First of all, I loathe cliffhangers. “Horizon Points” ended with one hell of a cliffhanger and it made me really mad that it didn’t get resolved. We still don’t know if Ales survived and what happened to him. For story telling reasons it’s probably safe to assume he’s alive, but I don’t like being kept in the dark about such things.

Overall, I was surprised at how tame this book was. The other books were pretty porny, but this time, it took quite a long time for the first sex scene to happen. I liked that there was more of a focus on the main plot, but the second half more than made up for the rather tame first half. Once again, the male MCs were thinking with their cock and seemed to be in a state of constant horniness. There’s also a lesbian couple and they obviously have sex at least once. I was disappointed that it wasn’t explicit and we only got to see the “aftermath”. The author sure is never shy about very explicitly depicting the m/m sex.

During the sex-less first half, we learn a lot about Turo and his past. That was actually really interesting, since his motives were a bit of a mystery so far.

The cast of main characters gets yet more additions and at times it got a little bit confusing. It’s all getting very complex and yet the books are quite short. I think it would be easier to keep track of everything, if I didn’t have to wait months between each book. You could half the number of books in the series and combine two books into one. That would also take care of the cliffhangers I hate so very much.

While the multitude of MCs makes everything very complicated, it does also offer an opportunity to see even more societies and cultures. The author is really good at world-building and creates some very interesting cultures. I always enjoy discovering what Rey comes up with.

Sloppy editing is a major pet peeve of mine and there’s absolutely no excuse for it. Needless to say, I was super annoyed by the bad spelling and grammar of this book. I can forgive a typo or two, but not when there’s at least one stupid mistake on every page. I don’t want to read a book where the author can’t tell the difference between you’re/your.

Book four ends pretty much like book three did and yet again we’re left with a major cliffhanger. Yet again, we don’t know if anybody survived. And yet again, I’m annoyed. The next book will probably focus on Ales again and the fate of this set of MCs will probably be left unclear for the whole next book.

The story itself was 3.5 stars for me. But the sloppy editing really spoiled my enjoyment of the story, so I had to knock it down to 3 stars. Despite this rather disappointing book, I do still want to read the next part of the series. I just hope it will be as good as the previous ones.

The cover by Natasha Snow is gorgeous and fits the rest of the series and the story itself.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book details:

ebook
Published April 22nd 2019 by NineStar Press
ISBN 139781950412471
Edition Language English

A Lila Release Day Review:Innocence & Carnality by J. Alan Veerkamp

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Innocence is his only currency.

The gilded cage of propriety where Nathan grew up as a member of the Deilian aristocracy became a true prison when, at fifteen, his homosexuality came to light and created a terrible scandal. His parents see only one way to preserve their reputation amongst the other noble families: fit Nathan with a chastity belt to increase his value to a potential partner and marry him off as soon as possible.

The recipient of that prize is Lord Rother Marsh Delaga III. After a hasty wedding, Rother whisks Nathan away to the strange and seductive land of Marisol, where Nathan will begin a new life, free to explore the pleasures of the marriage bed, though his life is still not his own.

But Rother’s Delaga House is a place of secrets, dangers, and depravity Nathan can scarcely comprehend. Where friends are few and peril waits around every corner, Nathan must employ all the manipulation he learned from high society, along with his talent for clockwork. Most of all, Nathan must adapt, compromise to survive, and cast off the preconceptions of his homeland.

Because only he can orchestrate his freedom, and it’ll come at a cost.

Innocence and Carnality is a work of fiction. It’s the perfect combination of drama, intrigue, rawness, sensuality, sexuality, and so much more. Nathan is the embodiment of all of these, and we get to see how he evolves from a pampered aristocrat to a man of his own. He’s a great narrator for the story. It’s easy to get lost in his thoughts, his sadness, happiness, and hopes.

This book is hard to put down. The more you read, the more you want to know. It’s hard to see all the changes coming or to try to anticipate the next twist and turn the author envisioned. The amount of detail and foreshadowing is incredible, as well as the world-build. Everything in the story was necessary.

The mixed of characters, backgrounds, and locations show the author’s knowledge of where he wanted to take the story. In every step of the way, we have Nathan. His life becomes the reader’s guide. The supporting cast is as impressive as Nathan. They all have a part to play, even when isn’t positive for Nathan, I had my doubts about Rother but had to accept that I felt for him just like Nathan. I wanted him to have an opportunity for redemption but in reality, he didn’t deserve it.

This may not be a true romance but it has enough elements to satisfy the readers need for more. Personally, I could have seen the ending go either way. I think Nathan was strong enough to rule his world on his own. This story is perfect for everyone looking for more than a cute story.

The cover by Tiferet Design goes great with the author’s depiction of Nathan. It has all his arrogance on display, as well as the aesthetics.

Sale Links: Amazon | Nook | DSP

Book Details:
ebook, 348 pages
ISBN: 978-1-64405-193-1
Published: April 23, 2019, by DSP Publications
Edition Language: English

A Free Dreamer Review:Time Taken (Out of Time #3) by C.B. Lewis

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Time travel is a precarious business at the best of times, but when Qasim El-Fahkri’s mission to the past ends in violence, it has a ripple effect through every level of the Temporal Research Institute.

Rhys Griffiths finds himself caught in the wake of the disastrous jump, his own career uncertain. With the Supervisory Board breathing down his neck, operatives demanding answers to baffling questions, and life outside of work bearing down on him, his only respite comes from Qasim’s company. As the professional slowly becomes the personal, they must confront the echoes of their own pasts to try and move forward in the future.

But another past is waiting for Qasim, and there may be no coming back from this one…

For full enjoyment, it is recommended to first read books 1, Time Waits, and 2, Time Lost.

If I only had one word to describe “Time Taken”, it would have to be “surprising”. I really didn’t expect the story to go the way it did.

First of all, the blurb implies this doesn’t work as a stand-alone. I have to disagree. I didn’t read the previous two books and didn’t really feel like I missed something. Other than some background of the MCs and a bit of world-building.

While I read a lot of SciFi and Fantasy, time-travel isn’t normally one of my go-to sub-genres. It’s more something I only read every now and again, so I can’t really judge how unique this book actually was. However, it certainly felt unusual. Historical Istanbul and Uzbekistan aren’t exactly the first places I’d expect people to travel to. I really enjoyed finding out a little more about those places. It feels like Europe is the go-to setting for any historical fiction, so this was a nice change.

Qasim is a practicing Muslim and yet the book isn’t about Islam or any other religion. It’s not about a young Muslim struggling with his faith and his sexuality. It’s not about a homophobic family. In fact, Rhys, the Christian MC, is the one with a difficult family background. Qasim’s family is extremely supportive, loving and tolerant. They don’t care that Rhys is a man and a Christian. Qasim is a very religious man, he prays five times a day, fasts during Ramadan and doesn’t eat pork or drink alcohol, but he never tries to shove his believes in anybody’s face. I really liked him and I think this is the first ever practicing Muslim MC I’ve come across in M/M fiction.

Rhys is an interesting character as well. I think he might just be the first-ever Welsh I’ve read about. Plenty of English, Scottish and Irish, but nobody from Wales. And I actually learned a few words of Welsh thanks to him! I think a lot of his background story was talked about in the previous two books, so I felt like I kind of missed some info to really understand him, especially in the beginning.

The romance is quite slow. It takes Rhys and Qasim quite a while to admit their attraction to each other and act on it. I think it worked perfectly for the story and they were really sweet together. So very different, but neither tried to change the other one. They were so accepting and loving, it was really wonderful.

The whole first half of the story is rather slow. The book starts off with a bang in historical Istanbul and then I was kind of lulled into a quiet sense of peace. It was a nice story, nothing mind-blowing, but definitely enjoyable.

And then the second half started and suddenly there was so much drama it gave me whiplash. Suddenly I couldn’t put the book down and was biting my nails in anticipation and dread of what was going to happen to next. At times, I was actually a little bit teary-eyed and struggled not to start crying on the subway. I’m not going to give away too much, but let’s just say I really didn’t expect this kind of drama in a book about time-travel.

I felt like the whole story was very realistic. Qasim got injured right at the beginning of the book and came close to getting killed. And he’s actually traumatized by that and struggles to find his way back into his normal life. Often, characters in similar situation just shrug it off and bounce back to normal with no trouble whatsoever.

The ending was a little much for me, though it does make sense for Rhys and Qasim. Still, it was a little too cute for me.

Overall, I really, really liked “Time Taken” and I definitely want to read the previous and the following books of the series. My rating for the first half would have been 4 stars, the second half would have been 5, so I went with the average of 4.5 stars.

The cover by Natasha Snow is alright, if a bit generic. Nothing about it really says “time-travel” or hints at the places in the past that Qasim visits.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book details: ebook, 450 pages

Published March 18th 2019 by NineStar Press