Review: Texas Family (Texas #4) by R.J. Scott

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Rating 4.5 stars out of 5

Texas FamilyJack and Riley Campbell-Hayes have been through so many things together, and overcome it all to get to the place where they are today, a happy couple with an adorable daughter and a wonderful extended family. Each hurdle in their path, whether it was their disastrous start to their relationship, fires, gunshots, and even the deepest of family betrayals haven’t kept them from each other or hurt their deep bond.

Now its time for another change, another forward step that will enlarge their family…..that of having another child.  This time, the child will have Jack’s DNA and their chosen path is surrogacy. But before Jack and Riley know it, their plans for just one child are being hijacked, first by their  surrogates pregnancy and then by a young four year old boy, Max, in foster care As Jack and Riley quickly find out, nothing is ever easy, especially in the state of Texas where gay couples, even rich ones, have a tougher path as families.

I have followed the romance of Jack and Riley through three books now and still can’t get enough.  Starting with The Heart of Texas (Texas, #1) where the men meet and marry under the worst possible circumstances through Texas Winter where Riley learned about his daughter and the devious workings of his family to Texas Heat (Texas, #3) and the expansion of the Double D, I have felt an intimate connection to these men and their future together as a couple and family.  So I was thrilled to see Texas Family released so I could pick up where we had left off before, with the men wanting to have another child, this time Jack’s.

But the road to having children is never an easy one, especially for gay couples. Then locate the gay couple in question in the not so gay friendly state of Texas and the obstacles in front of them increase exponentially.  R.J.Scott makes sure that Jack and Riley’s pursuit of a surrogate to have their child is realistically described to her credit.  This is not an easy process in any respect.  From the mens thoughts on whose sperm to donate to the woman who will carry their child, it is a complicated procedure, fraught with the possibility of rejection, pain, and the right of the birth mother to refuse to turn over the child when it is born.   The author brings us right into couples journey to fatherhood, making all the many emotions and complex decisions seem as though they could be ours.  As Riley and Jack questioned the two surrogates as to why they would agree to such an emotional and physically draining procedure, they asked the same questions that were in my mind as well.  It all felt authentic.  It was stressful, hopeful, and ultimately one of the most rewarding experiences for them all.  Trust me, by the time everyone ends up in the maternity room, your eyes will be filled with tears of joy along with everyone present.

But if that is not enough, Scott adds yet another dimension to this picture of Jack and Riley’s expanding family.  The couple that is the surrogate and her husband are also foster parents.  In their care is a very special child named Max.  I won’t spoil either his introduction or his history but needless to say that Max will grab onto your heart just as quickly as he does Jack and Riley’s.  So adoption and its complications enters into the story, again not an easy path for a gay couple, not only in Texas but elsewhere.

In fact Texas Family is about more than just Jack and Riley and their efforts to expand their family.  It’s about their extended families efforts to have children or to move forward in their troubled relationships.  Its about family in every aspect you can think of.  Its Jack’s sister whose fragile health complicates her dreams for another child. Its Riley’s sister’s problems with the man she loves , one Riley doesn’t approve of. Its their mothers, step fathers, and co workers. Its even the new worker newly arrived with problems of his own.

If I have a quibble, its that the author has packed so much into one story that it threatens to burst at the seams. Just the introduction of a new thread about the latest hire, a young man with a troubled past, had me wanting more yet wishing she had postponed that element in favor of a last minute look at Jack, Riley and their new family. I ended up wanting more of everything and everyone. The Double D Rance is a huge canvas and R.J. Scott is taking advantage of every square inch to bring us a multigenerational family saga, complete with drama, laughter, and romance.

I know the author has at least two more books planned.  I hope that the Texas saga will continue on much, much longer.  I love this series and highly recommend both the series and this book.  If you are new to the Texas saga, go back to the beginning and see how it all starts.  Otherwise, some of the relationships and past events will make little sense to a reader picking up this book to read as a standalone story.

Here are the stories in the Texas series in the order they were written and should be read:

The Heart of Texas (Texas, #1)
Texas Winter (Texas, #2)
Texas Heat (Texas, #3)
Texas Family (Texas, #4)
Texas Christmas (coming soon)

Cover by Meredith Russell.  The cover is adorable and perfect in every way.

Book Details:

ebook, 186 pages
Published October 15th 2013 by Love Lane Books
edition language English
series Texas

Review: After the Fall (Tucker Springs #6) by L.A. Witt

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

After The Fall coverNathan has pursued a dream of owning his own dressage horse and now after years of saving, Nathan has finally bought one.  His  Trakehner mare, Tsarina, is young but Nathan hopes to show her after they spend some time training together.  But all Nathan’s hopes and work of 15 years is shattered in one moment.  On Nathan and Tsarina’s first trail ride, a motorcyclist on the wrong trail causes a horrendous fall that breaks several of Nathan’s bones and sees him on his way to the hospital and Tsarina loose in the woods, his summer and hopes in ruins.

Ryan has always traveled where his wanderlust takes him with nary a thought of settling down in one place.  His current travels have brought him to Tucker Springs, Colorado on his way to Texas and a job for the winter.  But one wrong trail ride on his motorcycle changes his path after he causes a rider to fall after his horse shies when Ryan veers into their path.  The rider, Nathan, has  a broken leg, and a broken hand that resulted from a mean right hook after Nathan punched Ryan in his fury and pain.

Feeling guilty, Ryan offers to look after Tsarina while Nathan is incapacitated.  Before each man realizes it they have fallen into an easy friendship that soon turns into something more.  But each man has his own insecurities and issues to deal with that starts to throw up obstacles to love.  Can Ryan and Nathan put aside the past in order to make a future together?

After The Fall, Tucker Springs story#6, brings back a character, Nathan, that we first met in the very first Tucker Spring novel, Where Nerves End.  In that story, we come across Nathan as Michael’s young assistant in his shop Tucker Springs Acupuncture. He is introduced as a young, college age, nattily dressed gay man but we lacked a larger picture as to who Nathan was.  Now L.A. Witt fills in the portrait she started a while ago and we get to see his depth of character and his dreams for himself.  I found it startling that Nathan aspired to own a warmblood and show in dressage, a lovely quirk for a western  town where the style of riding is so different.  That is an unexpected and marvelous side of Nathan.  And by its inclusion, the author gives Nathan a layer that lets us know that he is a serious, disciplined and caring young man all at once.  Owning his own horse is a goal Nathan has spent “ten years of dreaming, three years of saving, and almost a full year of searching for the perfect horse”, so his happiness and anticipation on the first day he is going to get to ride his horse is palpable. And it makes what happens next scary and heartbreaking in vivid and authentic detail.

But the author has also given Nathan more than his share of past problems with men and those issues as well as watching his friends in the act of demolishing their own relationship has caused Nathan to pull away from any romantic relationships of his own at the moment.  As Nathan reasons it out for himself, he has a full life and schedule and a  romance would only add its unwanted complications at the moment.  I think we have all been there at one time or another and this makes Nathan a character we can certainly relate to.

The character of Ryan (no last name) is more of  an enigma.  We learn little of his past, some about his family and a smidgen about what prompted his tumbleweed lifestyle.   But frankly his personality is overshadowed by that of Nathan, who is telling the story.  That lack of fullness to his character leaves the resulting romance between the men lacking as well.  True, there is a sweetness to the manner in which they fall in love, a startling contrast to the way in which they first met.  I certainly enjoyed watching them become first friends and then lovers but it could have felt so much more real had Ryan been more fleshed out as a person and Nathan’s equal.

There were a few other quibbles for me in this story. One, for Ryan to learn how to push a dressage horse into a collected trot or canter using his seat with no training is a tad unrealistic, considering the amount of skill and training that goes into a dressage horse and it’s equestrian partner as well.  Yes, there are natural riders out there who just seem to “get it”.  They have a great leg and a natural seat that just sticks to the saddle, flowing along with the rhythm of their partner.  But Ryan doesn’t even know how to hold the reins in an English style, having learned the western method of riding which is completely different.   Beginners usually saw on the reins or pull too hard,   The subtle tickling of a braided rein, the slight tension required takes time, more time than Ryan had.  My other quibble is the lack of last names.  I don’t know why but this drives me crazy.  If you want us to believe in characters fully give them a complete name.  Unless they are Cher of course.  Stepping off my quibble box now.

For most readers the last two issues won’t be a problem with them.  It’s just nitpicking on my part.  But Ryan’s character and the swift resolution of their commitment issues might be more problematic.  I think another chapter or two would have seen the ending more drawn out and given the author more time to paint a more realized picture of a man who finally finds a place and person to call home.

I really enjoyed After The Fall and I think you will too, especially if you are already a fan of the Tucker Springs series.

Here are the stories in the  Tucker Springs series in the order they were written, and is recommended that they be read:

Where Nerves End (Tucker Springs, #1) by L.A. Witt
Second Hand (Tucker Springs, #2) by Heidi Cullinan
Dirty Laundry (Tucker Springs, #3) by Heidi Cullinan
Covet Thy Neighbor (Tucker Springs, #4) by L.A. Witt
Never a Hero (Tucker Springs, #5) by Marie Sexton
After The Fall (Tucker Springs #6) by L.A. Witt

Cover Art by L.C. Chase, lcchase.com/design.htm.  Love the cover but ack…that posture, those flying elbows…tuck those babies in.   Shakes head.

Book Details:

ebook, 202 pages
Published October 7th 2013 by Riptide Publishing

Review: The Unwanted – The Complete Collection by Westbrooke Jameson

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Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

The Unwanted Complete CollectionThe unwanteds, that’s what society calls the people who make up the lowest of society.  The prostitutes, the drug users, the poor, the discarded and the dying.  Shots, Derek, Ambrosia, Renzo, and Sara are all young prostitutes.   In addition, they picked up Joel, a gay teenager thrown out of his house because of his sexuality. Together they form a family, willing to do any to keep each other safe and fed.  Unfortunately, Derek is sick.  He contracted the deadly VIS virus and is moving into the final stages of the disease.    The group is barely scraping by when an encounter with an alien john changes everything for all of them.

Recently a race of aliens called Narsoreal made contact and landed on Earth.  In three years time, several major diseases were cured and human technology advanced because of Narsoreal information and assistance.  In return, the alien race asked to collect and bond with humans who are genetically predisposed towards symbiosis with the Narsoreal.  For the governments of the world, only the unwanted were viewed as available for collection and bonding.

When Shots picks up a john called Alimund a Norsoreal, Shots changes not only his life but the lives of everyone in his small family of unwanteds.  Because for each one of them, there is a Narsoreal who is their bondmate, if only they will accept them.

There is so much promise buried within The Unwanted that I wanted to rate it much higher than it deserves.  Originally, each Unwanted had their own story released separately, then a collection of all the stories was published.  And it is much easier to read as a collection than they would have been as individual stories if for no other reason than the flow of the narrative works better.  Unfortunately, whether it is as a collection or separate short stories, there are just so many issues and missed opportunities that I have to give The Unwanted a fail.

Let’s start with some of the most basic issues, the world building.  It just doesn’t make any sense nor does it feel “alien” in any manner.  Jameson makes the aliens and their planet pretty much just like us, only with a few alterations that are so unbelievable that they further disconnect the reader from the Narsoreal and these stories.  The aliens land because they are looking for love.  They bring advance technology, enough to cure some diseases but not VIS or at least that’s the accepted knowledge.   There’s some nonsense about not having the right materials for them to help us build space ships ( a throw away line that makes no sense either) but really the author makes no attempt to give us anything authentically alien.  Not the people, not their abilities (more on that later), not even their technology.  And when we do find out what elements make them “different” from us, its laughable. Really the Narsoreal are so dubious a creation that its screams worst alien ever. They are poorly thought out and mindbogglying lame brained unless you are a prepubescent boy.   If you are going to create aliens, complete with alien physiology and culture, then make it believable.  Don’t make them a reflection of juvenile wants and desires, a cardboard alien worthy of  a Space Hooters or sex doll.

That brings us to characterization or the lack of it.  The only members of the Unwanted that come close to being a layered personality are Shots and Ambrosia, with Ambrosia being my pick of the litter.  The rest of the small group of prostitutes and discarded never rise above a character outline.  They certainly have no credibility as young people who have been abused, abandoned and made to prostitute themselves as the only means to survive. As a described by the author, this group has seen it all from their lowly position on the streets but the reader never gets any sort of desperation or emotions that would reflect this status.  Its more what they say they are then what actually comes across, and that’s a huge fault when it comes to characterization.

But if they are bad, then the aliens are so much worse.  The really only alien thing about them is that they physically morph or their body changes (permanently) according to the wishes of their bondmate.  Of course, they don’t tell their human bondmates that fact.  So  one ends up looking like Legolas with long white hair and elf ears.  Another ends up with wings, and another with a penis and a vagina.  *shakes head*  If you are going this heartstoppingly stupid and young, why stop there?  Where is the woman with three breasts?  Of course, there is no continuity here.  So the one alien is another species, a worker bee, who doesn’t change. Which is a good thing because his human bondmate thinks he looks like a bulldog.  Awkward. But if there were any logic to this, then it would be the worker class who would change their physiology, to better help them shoulder the load so to speak.  Another thing is that these aliens are rich.  So you have rich aliens who change their physical state according to their lovers wishes?  And the upper echelon of the world’s societies doesn’t want them to bond with?  That makes no sense either.  Who among the rich wouldn’t want a mate who is rich, changes according to your desires and cures diseases by their bond.  Oops, did I forget that exchanging fluids with these aliens cures every disease you could humanly have?  The Narsoreal are a kind of one stop shopping for any of your sexual, emotional, financial and pharmaceutical needs. Do they have personalities too?  Not really because how could they?  They aren’t real in any respect, merely objects that reflect the needs and desires of their human companions.

And that’s both my problem with these stories and the promise I see as well.  Had these stories been a treatise of the objectification of others, or a humorous take on loving yourself, or some sort of allegory about making love to one’s dreams, that would have been one thing.  All the elements are there for any of those takes on the human condition or maybe just an alien comedy.  All but one human changes the alien into the lover of their dreams and that one can’t because that alien’s different? It’s all instant love and instant bonding.  But how is that believable is that love if you change them almost immediately without getting to know them?  These humans don’t love the aliens, they love what the alien becomes. What a great subject for these stories!  But was that ever addressed any where? No, I mean even their cum changes from purple grape flavor to black licorice, a sort of Skittles of choices. Oh look, he shoots purple jism, If that’s not a juvenile giggle fest in the making I don’t know what is.  If you were the alien, wouldn’t you be a teensy bit upset over wings, a purple penis,  purple nipples and purple cum, a purple grape tasting cum?  That other alien has it worse, his human loves the color pink. But as written, the Narsoreal are both intergalactic doormats and any teenagers sexual wet dream mashed up together.

Add to that just awful dialog.  The aiiens say things like  “Yes, my treasure, I will change for you. I will become whatever pleases you most, my prince, my darling.” or to Joel Flowers . “I will be your giant if you will be my flower.”  The group explains it away as the aliens speak “formally”.  No, that’s bad romance talking, not Downton Abbey.

Add all of that up from the terrible world building, poor characterization, cheesy dialog and a plot with promise that misses on every level, and you have a collection of stories I can’t  recommend to anyone other than a friend of the author’s.   I think thats one of the problems when you self publish, not enough eyes and assistance (read that as editing) for the author and their writing.  I hope that the next stories from Westbrooke Jameson achieve the promise I saw here.

Cover Design by Morris Duncan. Cover Photo Credit to Joel Kramer via Flickr Creative Commons License.  The cover makes no sense either.  No aliens, nothing other than an alley?  Consider the cover a missed opportunity too.

Book Details:

ebook
Published August 2013 by Westbrooke Jameson
edition language English
series The Unwanted

Review: Conquer the Flames (Lang Downs #4) by Ariel Tachna

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Conquer The Flames coverThorne Lachlan, a firefighter for the Royal Fire Service, arrives at Lang Downs when a grassfire brings him onto the station to ask for assistance and prepare them for evacuation if necessary.  A former Commando for the Australian Army, Thorne has retired, beset by nightmares and blackouts, a  victim of PTSD.  Lang Downs is a sheep station unlike any other Thorne Lachlan has been to.  With homey cottages ringed with gardens to the people who live there, Lang Downs starts to cast its spell over a man clearly in need of  both sanctuary and home.

Then Thorne meets Ian Duncan, a long time resident of Lang Downs and the attraction between the men is both immediate and mutual.  But both men are afraid of committments and relationships.  Thorne because he fears he is a danger to all around him because of his PTSD. And Ian? Ian hides a deep secret that he had only told one man, Michael Lang, when he first arrived at Lang Downs at the age of 20. That secret has kept Ian a solitary man among friends on the sheep station, alone with his woodworking and small house.  Still, neither man is capable of staying away from the other and slowly they begin to build a relationship and hopefully a future together.  However, their pasts combine to raise up obstacles to their future.  Thorne and Ian must face down their demons and get the help they have long needed before they can have a future together.

Conquer the Flames is the fourth book in the Lang Downs series and it comes close to being my favorite story yet.  I had to wait several days to think about this review and why so much about this book spoke to me.  And even now I am still not sure I can answer that question with a clear explanation.

In many ways, Conquer the Flames has a slower, deeper feel to the story as well as the men at the heart of the book.  And that’s unusual considering the title and the profession that Thorne has found himself in as a firefighter.  But if you are to continue the analogy, this is much more a slow burn than a fast moving line fire as the basis and the fuel for the flames have a deep foundation in both mens past history and traumatic events.

Once more Ariel Tachna has taken great care in building her characterizations to go with the beautifully created landscape and setting that is Lang Downs.  Thorne is unlike any character that we have met here before.  He is a former Commando whose time in the Army has left him with PTSD.  He has anger management issues, blackouts and nightmares. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the events in his past that sent him running into the Army.  Ian Duncan is also a damaged soul.  His is a deep trauma inflicted in foster care and one he has never recovered from, even 20 years later.  Both men are so marvelously crafted that it never occurred to me to doubt their authenticity or backgrounds.  They feel so real, their problems and issues are so painful that the reader hurts along with them.

Tachna has treated each man’s problems with the gravity necessary when speaking of PTSD and abuse.  She gets the symptoms right as well as the need for outside medical assistance to help each man overcome years of denial and repression.  There are no immediate cures, no easy answers, just the accurate portrayal of time and the hard mental ,emotional work necessary to recovery and healing for each of them.  The author also sidesteps a common flaw when writing about such damaged characters, and that would be a quick sexual relationship and instant love.  Thank goodness none of that is found here.  I think it would have not only ruined the relationship’s credibility but destroyed the story for me as well.

This is a romance but it is a simmering one.  There can be no flashfires between men as hurt and broken as these two.  Instead we get a slow buildup of trust and understanding that is as sweet and fragile as it is satisfying.  Once you read this remarkable love story, you will understand it completely when I tell you I read and reread certain passages just to savor the scene and the emotions that were flowing over the pages. On more than one occasion I had to grab a tissue or two but they were honest tears brought forth by the real emotion and pain felt by Thorne and Ian, and of course the reader.  Just a remarkable job by the author in every respect.

As with the other books in the series, all the other characters, including Caine and Macklin, are here and well represented.  This story takes place five years after the events of Outlast The Night (Lang Downs #3), but the gap of time feels as seamless as the flow of seasons over Lang Downs.  We see the couples settling into their relationships and lives on the sheep station, the young children are getting older and new ones are being born.  And new people have been introduced to the series that just might make their way onto the sheep station just as the others such as Michael’s Lost Boys have found their way there too.

For the characters involved, and for the reader, Lang Downs remains an extraordinary place.  Its a location where once we arrive, we don’t want to leave just like all those people who have found the path to Lang Down and home.  I hope that Ariel Tachna has many more stories planned for this series.  I  intend to be there for each and every one.  I am putting Conquer The Flames on my Best of 2013 list.

Cover art by Anne Cain is as beautiful as the story within.

Books in the Lang Downs series in the order they were written and should be read:

Inherit the Sky (Lang Downs, #1)
Chase the Stars (Lang Downs, #2)
Outlast the Night (Lang Downs #3)
Conquer the Flames (Lang Downs #4)

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 254 pages
Expected publication: September 27th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN13 9781627983228
edition language English
series Langs Down

Review: Goblins, Book 1 by Melanie Tushmore

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Goblins, Book 1In the 17th Century, the ancient sprawl of Epping forest is bursting with magic and those who go unseen by human eyes: the elves who rule the summer court, and the goblins who rule the winter court. It is said that if a human catches the eye of one of the fey, they are either doomed or blessed.

The Goblin King has seven sons, a number said to be unlucky.  For most of them, home and duties is not enough and when they go exploring chance encounters with humans change their lives forever.

Book 1 contains the stories of Wulfren and  Quiller, goblin princes and the humans that changed their lives.

Goblins is a magical book on so many levels.  From that cover that pulls you in with its haunting and haunted young beings to the lyrical and imaginative descriptions of Epping forest and its dwellers, this book kept me awake thinking about the scenes and settings I found within.

Honestly this is a book who needs more than one rating because of all its standout elements, including that miraculous cover.  But the characters and plots for each brother varied enough for me to rate each story individually.  So let’s start with my least favorite and the first in the book, Wulfren and the Warlock:

1. Wulfren and the Warlock.  Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Wulfren is the seventh son of the Goblin King and the youngest.  Wulfren also has the least amount of magic as the magic increases with age.  A very young spirit, Wulfren is half elf and half goblin. His mother is an elf banished for her passion and love for the Goblin King, she remains the favorite of his consorts and the mother of two of his sons.   His curiosity and youth get the better of him when Wulfren and his brother Garnet spy a warlock in their woods and play pranks on him.    When the warlock turns the tables on Wulfren and captures him, both of their lives change forever.

I loved so much of this story.  The plot is wonderful, the settings other worldly and the descriptions of everything within so unbelievably magical that I never wanted to leave.  So where is the problem?  With one character, that of Wulfrin.  Wulfrin is a very young spirit, so young in fact that his dialog and antics place him in the realm of a 12 to 14 year old.  He himself says at one point to the warlock after being captured:

“I… I have over seven hundred seasons, now. Seven hundred and twenty,” I added.

“Seasons? The seasons … But that would make you …” He sounded surprised, his eyes widening. “Age aside, you must be a young spirit.”

“I’m not young!” I said, indignant. “I do everything the adults do.”

Yes, Wulfren is young, adorably so.  He acts on impulse, doesn’t like doing his chores and feels shuffled aside at his father’s court because no one let’s him do anything.  Any one who has had a child or is familiar with children has heard this plaintive voice a hundred times or more.  It’s the voice of a child and Tushmore has captured it perfectly.  So why do I have issues with this?  Because immediately the Warlock binds him with silver chains and drags him off to bed, introducing elements of bdsm and non con sexual activities to basically what is a immature goblin.  No matter how I tried looking at this aspect of the story, the squick factor was just too big to overlook.  Time and again, I picture Wulfren as Max from Where the Wild Things Are roaring his terrible roar., claws included.  Not an image Tushmore would want to evoke. Even after both admit they have feelings for each other, it still feels like a barely pubescent boy who wants to please an older man, doing small chores around the house and pleading for his attention.  When they are parted, Wulfren writes a letter to his warlock and its contents are those that any tween writing to Tiger Beat would recognize.   Even if you accept that these two characters have a loving relationship, it never feels real or believable, just terribly one sided.

And that is the fault of Ash, the warlock.  We really never get a firm grip on his character.  Who is he?  Why is he by himself on the edge of the woods?  He remains an enigma for the entire story, and that makes it hard for us to believe and connect with his relationship to Wulfren.  Everyone else comes alive in this story with the exception of Ash.  Had his character been more fleshed out and Wulfren made an older soul, then this story would have a completely different tone.

Still, the vivid descriptions and magical air that Tushmore imparts to her tale make this story a lush visit to hidden kingdoms.  Here is a look as the goblins get ready for a celebration when Wulfren is brought home:

They led me downstairs. Random bursts of song filled the air as musicians tuned their instruments, and quarrelled over who played what. Outside in the dark, the court gathered amongst the inner ring, with the toadstools towering above us. Sprites had lit the dew drops that covered the toadstool heads, and they sparkled. Fires lit on twig ends were jabbed into the ground for torches. Brownies rushed about with acorn shells full of wine in their arms, sloshing liquid as they hurried.

“Father has even broken out the mead,” Garnet whispered to me. “Hurry, before it’s all gone.”

I dream of lit dew drops and fire flies tucked into cobwebs to light the great hall.  Just so magical.   Scenes like this elevated this story above the main relationship.

2. Quiller and the Runaway Prince:  Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Quiller is the third son of the Goblin King.  He is half goblin and half bird spirit like his mother, another one of the King’s consorts.  When winter is finished and spring comes to the woods once more, Quiller and the rest of the goblins are free of their duties for two seasons and its time to play.  Flying through the woods, Quiller sees a fallen man and his injured horse deep in the forest.  The horse snorts and tells Quiller he doesn’t think much of the young man but Quiller sees and feels something for the human right from the start.  When Quiller tells the young man that “all runaway princes are mine”, a journey begins that neither is quite prepared for.

This story has it all, great characters, believable relationship between beings of basically the same age (emotionally and intellectually), and the vivid, imaginative descriptions that make this book a must read on every level.  This is how the story begins:

The start of spring, 1648.

Winter was over, at long last. Tonight we were all in our larger forms— as tall as elves— and dressed in vein-thin leaves. It was the celebration to welcome Eostre, goddess of spring. Our home, the rotten ring, had been decorated in her honour. Dewdrops were lit, and fireflies were hung in cobwebs. The musicians piped up and played as the first glimmer of Eostre appeared through the trees. Pale light played on her shapely edges, like it shone from within. The form she took to visit us was more elf-like than anything; tall and graceful, with long, sleek hair of many colours.

Hair that moved. As Eostre stepped inside our ring of rotten tree trunks, I could see her hair crawled with insect larvae. She paid it no mind, as she cast an amused eye over the ring, then addressed Father. “Goblin king. Your line was missing one pair of claws this winter.”

Father’s face twitched ever so slightly before he replied. “Yes, Goddess, we … We managed without.”

We know from the previous story that the missing set of claws belongs to Wulfren, the youngest son of the Goblin King.  The King and his subjects are responsible for Fall and Winter.  And during those seasons, the King holds Court but the scepter passes to the elves in the spring and there the Goddess will hold court through the summer months.  I loved the image of the Goddess, Eostre, her hair full of larvae that writhe as she walks. Its mesmerizing, opulent and yet somewhat repulsive. Yet, Tushmore is not finished with Eostre.  Here is the scene as the Goddess leaves the company of goblins:

The ceremony was almost over; Eostre bid our ring farewell. In each footprint she left, fresh shoots and flowers grew, yet without her touch they soon wilted. All flowers died in the rotten ring.

Eostre inclined her head to Father. “Raedren, goblin king of the southern realm, thank you for the winter.”

“Goddess. Peace be.” Father bowed deeply to her in return, his cloak of cobwebs fluttering around him.

“Peace be.” Eostre smiled, then turned with a swish of hair and flowers. Her hair’s colour was ever changing, like the leaves in the trees. Butterflies and mayflies now crawled from her hair, spread their wings, and took flight. She left in a trail of flying insects and wilting flowers, on her way to the summer court, and the elves.

How wondrous, how enchanting!  And the spell is set for the rest of the story.  I loved the characters here, each a small treasure to be held and marveled at again and again.  Quiller is just the start of a cast we will connect with and remember.  Quiller is the third son of the Goblin King and therefore a prince himself.  But his mother is a bird spirit, a crow and his personality bears the hallmarks of a bird.  He is flighty, scattered in his thoughts and attentions and he recognizes that.  Just his actions as he flies through the forest gives ample example of this character and light hearted nature. Cashel is also a prince, a human one.  But magic aside, these two are each other’s equal in courage, in outlook, and finally in love.  They are everything that is missing from the first story.

Tushmore also uses Quiller’s journey to bring a dark realistic look at the times and ways of humanity.  Along the way, Quiller talks to a group of crows to see if they know where his mother resides.  They reply to look near the gibbet:

“Gibbet?” I asked, puzzled.

“Wood the humans hang other humans on,” he explained. “We peck their bones clean. Nice when it’s dried in the sun.”

“How strange,” I said. “Where is this gibbet?”

“Find the human path,” the crow said. “East of here. Before you get to the human place.”

“Oh, fear not, I shan’t be visiting any humans!” I cawed.

But of course, he does, flying past human remains, evidence of the cruel nature of the times.  Tushmore blends together the magical and the human worlds with a smooth, gifted touch.  When Quiller meets Cashel, a human of royal blood, Cromwell and the Parliament are laying waste to the people and lands all around.  None of that really matters to Quiller but Cashel is mired deep in the midst of political intrigue and fears for his life.  So into the castle goes Quiller (in bird form of course) where Cashel is living with his cousins.  Black deeds abound inside, threatening Cashel’s life and those of his relatives.  With a magical being in the middle, all sorts of things start to happen, and the reader will love every single minute.   I mean, Melanie Tushmore gives us everything we could want and more.  There’s poison, nefarious goings on, villains, a witch and of course, love.  And it’s all believable, and layered and complete.  Well mostly.

These are just the first two books and there are seven sons, five more to go.  So I expect to see Quiller and Cashel appear in the books to come.  Quiller still has his duties to attend to in the fall and winter.  Plus I don’t expect the Goblin King to willingly lose another son to the humans and that is not addressed here.   Still this story is quite marvelous, worthy of the price of this book alone.

After reading Goblins, I can’t wait to see what the author does for the rest of the sons.  I want more of her extraordinary descriptions and spellbinding imagination.  I highly recommend this to you all even with my reservations concerning the first story.

Cover design by Ria Chantler.  This cover is exquisite, one of the best of 2013.  The more closely I look at it, the better it gets.  just remarkable.

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: September 25th 2013 by Less Than Three Press LLC (first published September 25th 2012)
original title Goblins, Book One
ISBN13 9781620042373
edition language English

Review: Sonata by A.F. Henley

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Rating: 4.5 stars ouf of 5

Sheet Music with Rose on pianoIan James is feeling every bit of his thirty six years.  His long term partner cheated on him, multiple times apparently, before leaving for good.  Ian’s long promised promotion at work is two years overdue and counting.  Now his sexual hookup, young sexy Jordan, has just told  him to get lost after some quick mutual satisfaction.  Even after Ian tried to pursue Jordan, all he got in return was an outright refusal.  What’s a man to do?

Jordan has more than he can handle at the moment, two jobs and his young son Cole who happens to be autistic. When Jordan hooked up with Ian one night, all he wanted was just a quickie, no involvement, no phone numbers but the universe had other plans.  When their paths intersected not once, but twice, it seemed as though fate was interfering.  Yes, Ian had made it clear that he wanted to see Jordan again but meeting each other again and again was completely accidental.  Can both men overcome their pasts and their fears to make a future together?

There is so much to love about A. F. Henley’s latest book, Sonata.  From the lovely and relevant cover, the chapters titled with the names of musical movements to the in-depth research the author has done on Asperger syndrome, the story kept me involved and emotionally engaged from the opening page.

Henley’s characters are both desperate to connect with someone yet equally fearful for a connection to be made.  Each man’s past makes them question their ability to see clearly about situations and individuals.  Ian’s last boyfriend hurt him emotionally, cheating on Ian on numerous occasions, taking advantage of his generous and forgiving nature.  Now Ian questions his own judgement when it comes to people and relationships.  Jordan is hiding a traumatic past and trusts no one unless absolutely necessary.  These characters contain all the nuances necessary to make them not only believable but endearing.  For Ian and Jordan to go forward past their fears into a tenuous relationship, we watch them slowly let go of their closely held suspicions  to reach a measure of comfort and trust with each other. It’s a slow, subtly shaded journey with pitfalls every step of the way.

Another remarkable character is the young boy Cole.  Cole has Asbergers syndrome and  Henley gives us an authentic portrait of the effects of this genetic disease on an adolescent.  Cole’s behavior as well as the methods used to calm him down are realistic and medically authentic in nature and scope.  But what I love most is that this is a balanced portrait of autism the author achieves in Cole.  For every wail and out of control moment, there is an equal victory to behold.  Small, fleeting and sometimes almost unnoticeable, but there to be seen and applauded. It is a marvelous element of this story and Henley’s treatment elevated this story past a romance into something very special.  For a key to Cole is music.  And Ian with his grandfather’s beloved piano opens the way for Cole to enjoy and communicate with others through music.

This is a age gap between Jordan and Ian and for some, this might be an issue.  Jordan is younger than Ian, in actions and emotions.  But I still felt enough of a real romantic connection between the two characters that it never bothered me.  What did I have issues with? The ending.  As with so many stories these days, it just petered off.  For it to feel fully satisfactory, I wanted to know more about Cole and his current situation.  I also needed more than a paragraph or two to pull all the events of the last fourth of the story together.  It was a good ending but the story that preceded it deserved a great one and didn’t get it.

Still Sonata is terrific.  It’s a story full of characters that pull you in and moments that have you cheering out loud (take that, Aubrey or )tearing up in response to the scenes you are reading.  Leave me leave you with a scene with Cole and Ian:

Cole hitched a breath, mid-shriek, and paused for a second before resuming his demonic call. Ian forced him over to the tub, a square grungy hulk of an appliance, and shoved Cole’s ear against the side of the tub with more force than he’d have liked. But the moment Cole’s ear was pressed to the side of the tub, Cole stilled and silenced. A palm snaked up the slick surface of the bathtub and rested alongside Cole’s flushed cheek. His eyes drifted into unknown territory as he listened to the echo of water through metal.

A scary and ultimately beautiful moment for child and man.  Grab up this book.  I think you will love it as much as I did.

Cover art by Megan Derr.  I love this cover, so relevant and lovely.  Great job.

Book Details:

ebook
180 pages, printed version
Published July 17th 2013 by Less Than Three Press LLC
original title Sonata
ISBN13 9781620042137
edition language English

Review: Blessed Curses by Madeleine Ribbon

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Blessed Curse coverWhen David was 8, his world came crashing down around him, isolating him from his family and all of society.  David had been cursed by his 9 year old brother in a fit of jealous anger and it stuck.  Despite everyones efforts, including the best sorcerers of the time, no one could undo the curse, a curse that made people fear him and unable to be in his company for longer than a minute.

Now, years later, David has adjusted to his life and the curse, or as much as anyone could be.  He works the night shift at his cousin’s magical practitioner shop and then goes home to his video games and lonely life.  Then one day at his brother’s wedding, David is introduced to Vaughn, a magical enforcer. The firm Vaugn works for is the law enforcement agency charged with picking apart complex curses and making sure sorcerers stay within the law.

Vaughn is intrigued immediately by David. David has long been known to them as The Impossible Kid because of the cure he carries.  But Vaughn also finds David handsome, shy, and kind of heartbreaking in his loneliness. Vaughn loves solving supposedly irreversible curses like David’s and can dampen the magical fields he comes in contact with, enough so that he can stand near David without screaming…for most of the time.

Vaughn vows to help cure David of his curse, but finds that the more he gets to know David, the more personal his quest becomes,  David is more than a puzzle to Vaughn, he just might be the love Vaughn has always wanted.  David seems to want him back.  But before a relationship can happen, there is a curse to be dealt with and Vaughn is not having much luck.  What will happen to them both if David’s curse is truly unbreakable?

Madeleine Ribbon is a new author for me.  Blessed Curses is only the second book of hers that I have read but already I look forward to her stories because certain elements of her books are so well done.  Ribbon’s world building is terrific.  She gives us a credible universe for each story, one that is complete without going into scads of details when it is not necessary.  Ribbon also has the gift of bringing magic and its practitioners to life as thoroughly as any common place profession and its employees.  This enforcement agency suffers from cut backs, dingy office space and overworks it employees because of budget cuts.  Within this world magic is both commonplace and a talent to be taught and nurtured.

The characters that Ribbon creates for her stories are just as well done as her world building.   David is such a tragic figure but one that never gives in to self pity or bitterness.  Vaughn too has many interesting layers.  A self described “slut” for most of his years, Vaughn is tired of his promiscuous ways and wants to find someone to love.  The author makes both men authentic sympathetic individuals who she then surrounds with equally moving and real secondary characters.  I especially love the grumpy Trekker, Vaughn’s partner at the agency and Cole, a young homeless sorcerer.  They really helped bring this story to life.  Less well rounded in personality was Todd, the brother who cursed his brother and has spent the rest of his life being his companion.  Given his was the curse that started it all and that he was bound to his brother by guilt as well as love, I think his character should have reflected more of the dichotomy inherent in their situation.  He seemed a little shallow to me unfortunately.

The beginning of this book will absolutely make you cry.  In fact the poignancy and heartbreak of those earlier scenes is so powerful, so pain filled that the feelings they engender are never fully recaptured.

David sat down on the next swing over. It hung just a little too low to be comfortable, but he didn’t want to lose this taste of friendship by moving down to the other end of the set.

He managed to kick his way up almost as high as Andy, though he had to keep letting go of the chain to push his shaggy brown hair out of his eyes.

Todd would see them when he got home from camp. David wondered what sort of a reaction he would get, once Todd realized that his friends didn’t mind David quite so much as David had been led to believe.

It was nearly dark when Todd finally found them talking and laughing, still on the swings. David stopped pumping his legs when he saw his brother stomping toward them. “Davey,”

With the joy of the scenes before when a lonely young boy realizes that someone will play with him, the boys swinging together on the playground, a rarity for young David, to the sight of his  angry brother stomping towards them, well, it will feel absolutely spot on to anyone who knows young kids and sibling rivalry.  But in this case, a fight between an older jealous sibling ( who has consistently bullied his brother) and his baby brother will have far more grave consequences than can be fixed by a bandaid and a time out in their room.   The innocence of David combined with a child’s fear and sense of betrayal will haunt this book for several reasons.  One reason is that it is so beautifully written, the emotions flowing from the boys are visceral in their impact.  And secondly, the consequences upon the siblings and their relationship is never spelled out to the readers satisfaction.  Yes, Todd became his brother’s companion but how did they feel about that?  Where is the realism to their complicated relationship? Nor do we see what is Todd’s (the brother) reaction to the curse being lift.  This whole element is lacking from the story and when it is such an emotional component right from the start, it should be included in the story as well to make this a well rounded plot and feel complete at the end.

Aside from this gap in the narrative, I loved this story.  I did feel the denouement lacking in intensity.  It just sort of happened.  Another missed opportunity.  Others may not feel that way.  The majority of this story is terrific. In fact its downright magical, including elements of angst in the form of a young teenager discarded by his family.  I definitely recommend this story and am off to locate more of Madeleine Ribbon’s stories to read,

Cover Art by Brooke Albrecht is gorgeous.  I think it know where the design was going with the picture but I am just not sure anyone would know what the story was about from the cover.  I wouldn’t and it that part of the cover’s job?

Book Details:

ebook, 168 pages
Published August 7th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published August 6th 2013)
ISBN 1627980571 (ISBN13: 9781627980579)
edition language English

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

The Winners Are Announced for The Tameness of the Wolf Week! Happy Birthday, Kendall McKenna!

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It’s here, our final day with Kendall McKenna and The Tameness of the Wolf Week.  It’s been a great week with terrific prizes and  author insight into a series that is just outstanding and one of Scattered Thoughts Best of Lists for 2013.  I am sure you all are with me when I say I can’t wait for more.

Thank you, Kendall, for the wonderful posts and gifts.

ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords

Strength of the Wolf Banner

Whew! It’s been a helluva week! I was already behind on some administrative duties when Strength of the Wolf was released. The reaction was so strong, it was all I could do to keep up with email, Facebook PMs, and messages left on my wall, and on The Tameness of the Wolf’s Facebook page. I’ve been participating in the Suicide Prevention Blog Hop (because as of 2013, more military personnel take their own lives each day/year, than are killed in combat), and I have two new guest blog appearances starting today, and it’s been rough keeping up!

Who am I kidding? I’m even farther behind than I was!

And don’t think any of this is a complaint, because it certainly is not! What it is, is an observation of the escalation of the reaction to the Tameness of the Wolf books as they come out. I think the love of paranormal stories gave Strength of the Pack a good launch, but Strength of the Wolf was met with a perfect storm of paranormal, sequel, and my own slightly higher author profile. From an objective standpoint, it’s fascinating to watch how each series generates its own unique reaction. Each new title generates a slightly more intense reaction than the one before.

So here we are, one week into the release of Strength of the Wolf, it’s topping the bestseller lists, and I’m still behind in admin work! Just in case it’s not clear, when I’m behind in admin work, that means I’m not working on the next book! Yikes!  Today, none of that matters!  We’re celebrating my birthday, today, by announcing the last of the contest winners!  My thanks to everyone who has stopped by, read my posts, read the wonderful reviews for both books, and entered the contests!

A huge thanks to Melanie (aka Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words) who stayed in stealth mode! I knew you were out there, even though you stayed in the background. I appreciate the two great reviews for Strength of the Pack and Strength of the Wolf.

So, to celebrate my birthday today, I’m going to finish giving out gifts to YOU!KM Dog Tags

Jumping back a bit, the winner of Noah and Lucas’ dog tags is Carissa! Congratulations! Drop me an email at Kendall.mckenna3 at gmail dot com with your shipping address.

Next up, the winner of Tim and Jeremy’s dog tags is Fedora! Congratulations to you as well! Be sure to let me know your mailing address.

And for the GRAND FINALE! The winner of the e-book copy of Strength of the Wolf is: Lyra L! Congratulations! I just need to know which format you need!

Once again, my thanks to everyone for participating!  Congratulations to all the winners!  I hope your prizes help you enjoy my birthday!  Now, go run and tell all your friends and family about this wonder series of books you’ve read and how they need to check them out now, before too many of them get released! 😉

Time for me to lace up my LPCs and step off! Kilo-Mike out!Strength of the PackStrengthoftheWolf4

Kendall McKenna

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www.kendallmckenna.com

www.facebook.com/kendallmckenna

www.facebook.com/thetamenessofthewolf

www.facebook.com/therecondiaries

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Review: Triple Threat (Triple Threat #1) by L. E. Harner

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Triple Threat #1Private investigators and partners of over 14 years, Zachary>>>>> and Archer Wilde have been happy together or at least Zachary thought so.  Both were well known Master Doms when they met all those years ago, and it took Archer every bit of three years to woo Zachary and get him to submit.  From there on, they were inseparable, as lovers and owners of one of the most popular and exclusive BDSM clubs.  Then they sold the club, settling into a life of semi retirement as partners of a discreet recovery business with Archer taking only those cases that interested him and leaving Zachary’s life as a Dom in the past.  But all that is about to change….

Archer is finding that their successful recover business is taking up too much of Zachary’s time, so Archer buys a personal assistant for Zachary,  the submissive Jeremiah,  thinking that will make his lover happy.  It doesn’t.   With their delicate balance upset, the men must still investigate the case of the missing insurance millions while trying to deal with each other and the addition of a third.   Can the three men pull together to become a triple threat or will Jeremiah tear Zachary and Archer apart for good?

Triple Threat and its series are a part of the Pulp Friction offerings from authors Havan Fellows, L.E. Harner, Lee Brazil and T.A. Webb that feature a loose circle of friends and acquaintances. And as with the other series, Triple Threat is turning out to be just as terrific and substantial an offering as the rest of the stories.

It also marks a sort of departure for me as m/m/m and D/s are not the normal stories I reach out for when looking for reading material.  But L.E. Harner does a remarkable job in not only creating characters one can relate to, she also makes the D/s BDSM lifestyle accessible and understandable to those unfamiliar with that life choice and sexual kink.  I can honestly say that I enjoyed the relationships that develop within the story as well as those that were already established and I think others will too. The ease with which I connected with these characters and their situation is  due primary to the wonderful writing style and character creations of L.E. Harner.

First, the characters.  The pov is that of Zachary, Master Dom and submissive lover of Archer Wilde, a wealthy, brilliant man who also happens to be a Master Dom as well.  Zachary’s voice is everything I have come to expect of the narrators in the Pulp Friction series.  It is the wry, self depreciating, older voice of a man who has seen and done it all and come out the other side surprisingly content. At least that is the man we meet at the start of the story.  A man whose continued calm, happy lifestyle is about to be upended.  I love Zachary.  As with all the characters found within, he is a man of many layers. Here is our first taste of Zachary and Archer:

“Margaret Blackwell,” I murmured as I led the impeccably clad young woman into the bright morning light of the glass ceilinged solarium. A small gasp escaped her lips as the tall, powerfully built man stood from the table where we’d been sharing a leisurely breakfast minutes before. He unfolded himself into his full height, and she sighed. I understood her sentiment completely.

“Miss Blackwell, may I present Archer Wilde.”

They met in the middle of the solarium, and Archer politely shook the limply proffered hand.

“Please, have a seat. Can Zachary bring you anything? Coffee? Hot tea?”

“No, thank you.” Margaret sat at the edge of the chair, her back ramrod straight and ankles demurely crossed. My, my. Someone attended cotillion as a teen.

“Zachary? Won’t you sit and join us?” Archer’s eyes sparkled with mischief and I couldn’t resist smiling back.

“No, thank you Archer, I think I’ll stand this morning.” We shared a look, then he turned his attention to his guest.

“How may I help you, Miss Blackwell?”

“I want you to find my husband, Mr. Wilde.”

“I see. I’m afraid there’s been some misunderstanding. I…we…”—he inclined his head to include me—“don’t take on missing persons cases. Those are best handled by the proper authorities.”

“I’m afraid that’s impossible. Nona Wilkerson says you are exactly what I need.”

“Ahh…the delightful Miss Wilkerson. You intrigue me. Is your husband in some sort of trouble?”

“My husband is dead, Mr. Wilde.”

Huh. That was a new one.

Just from that scene alone we understand not only who Zachary is but get a glimpse into their relationship as well.  Zachary is the rough to Archer’s refinement and it works perfectly for them both.  At least until now.

Just when we think we know who Zachary is, Harner surprises us with more information about his past that makes the reader reevaluate everything they thought they knew about the man and his motives. The twists and turns here are fabulous.  That Zachary is both a Master Dom and a submissive would be contradictory except that he is only submissive for Archer.  That fact is the key to understanding why Archer would upset the balance the two men have worked so hard to achieve for years.  That plus the fact that Archer’s brilliance doesn’t always means he’s correct in his assumptions.  Like every other character, Archer is full of flaws, he is human and therefore, will make more than his share of mistakes, especially in his relationship with Zachary.

Then Jeremiah arrives on the scene to Archer’s glee and Zachary’s dismay. This is a neat touch.  It upsets an established couple of 15 years.  It shows that Archer had not completely thought through his actions and makes Zachary deal with an aspect of his past he had pushed away. But of all the characters I had to work harder to understand Jeremiah.  A submissive mindset is not one that I can relate to so Jeremiah took time to connect with.   But again, Harner let’s us close to Jeremiah and his needs that it soon becomes clear that this is part of Jeremiah’s nature and he needs it to be whole.  I like that we also see that Jeremiah is also young, highly intelligent and naive in some respects.  It makes his submissive nature easier to connect with, especially as he becomes the third in an already established relationship.

The case of the missing insurance money also turned out to be more finely layered than I had anticipated.   It turned out to involve someone from both Zachary and Archer’s past.  It’s another terrific aspect of this story and the series as it has implications down the line for them all.

Are there scenes of BDSM? Yes and they are well done but not as explicit as you might think. So those of you are uncomfortable with the D/s element will still be able to enjoy the story.  Same goes for the m/m/m aspect as well.  It works here and you will come to care for all  of these men, not just Zachary and Archer.   Wick Templeton and Chance Dumont, or at least the Chances Are bar makes appearances.  You will be as happy to see them as I was.   Plus we get a few more details as to Wick’s background that we wouldn’t have otherwise.

Triple Threat is the wonderful start to a great series.  It surprised me and drew me right in.  I think it will do the same for you.  All the stories in this series and the Pulp Friction group are short in length but large in characterization and plot.  Pick it up now, and settle in for a wonderful read.

Cover art by Laura E. Harner.  It’s delicious and perfect for the book and series.

Book Details:

ebook, 1
Published January 31st 2013 by Hot Corner Press (first published January 13th 2013)
ISBN13 9781937252366
edition language English
series Triple Threat