A MelanieM Review: A Suitable Replacement (Deceived #5) by Megan Derr

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

A Suitable Replacement coverReturning home after three years abroad on an exhaustive research expedition,  Lord Maximilian wants nothing more than to see his twin sister Mavin and meet her fiance to whom she got engaged while he was away.  But as usual with his imperious sister things have already gone awry on his first day home.  Shortly after Max’s return,  a man barges into Max’s study demanding to see his sister.  The problem?  It’s Master Kelcey Moore, Mavin’s fiancé  wanting to know where Mavin has gone and why. Max doesn’t know what’s going on.

It doesn’t take much investigation on Max’s part to find out that his bold as brass sister has run away with someone else’s fiance, leaving her own (and another’s) far behind without warning to handle the social and personal embarrassment by themselves.  Floored by his sister’s actions, Max gets to know Kelcey, the man left behind.  He’s hurt, embittered by the fact that he thought Mavin was his friend and impoverished by his circumstances, something the marriage would have alleviated.  It isn’t soon before Max is finding himself concerned by Kelcey and his future.

Max thinks he has found the answer to all Kelcey’s  problems in his marriage contract to Mavin.  A suitable replacement must be found if the marriage doesn’t take place.  So Max reasons, all he must do is find a replacement for Mavin.  Another rich, suitable person for Kelcey to marry.  As more problems pop up to confront Max and Kelcey, the biggest of all just might be the fact that Max is wishing the suitable replacement to be himself.

In the world of Megan Derr, the word “typical” and “normally” are banished to the realm of others.   If Megan Derr is  writing an story that might seem historical on the surface, you can be sure that dragons, or trolls, or something magical or mysterious is lurking just around the corner, alongside carriages and horses and things.  In the world of Megan Derr, the young heir to the title and lands is not the twin brother but his twin sister, Mavin, a force of nature of her own.  Mavin, the cigar smoking,gun wielding, imperious and yes, impulsive wild child and head royal here.   Her twin brother, Max, also has his moments of wildness and peculiarities but they are nothing when stacked up against those of his sister.  I loved that its Mavin who fills the role of the  “typical” uncontrollable heir instead of her brother.  And its her exploits that set off the explosive and crazy events to come.  But back to Max and Kelcey.

Max is your “preoccupied disheveled scientist” in a historical context.  But what is Max researching?  Troll magic, an unpopular if not totally rejected subject for research and scientific study.  Not typically an historic element.  Apparently, there was a Troll War and Max is determined to research what he thinks is the use of magic during that war.  Max is most at home in his study or at the various bookstores where he is known as a generous patron.  But  when he gets the idea to find a replacement for his sister for Kelcey to marry, Max must once more take up the trappings of society and his royal status to achieve his ends.  This is just the sort of character Derr does so well.  Irritable yet soft hearted, highly intelligent and isolated, and truly in need of love.  He finds his match in Kelcey, an enigmatic man who pushes all Max’s buttons.  The courtship between them starts off slow and then takes off at a gallop. No, really a gallop at they flee town together.

There are quite a few obstacles to happiness and HEA thrown in their way.  That they are raised by the actions of Mavin in the first place, ones she shows little accountability for later on, might take away some of your enjoyment of her character and this story.  I thought her thoughtlessness of others around her and her self centered outlook was perfectly in keeping with her character.  Did I want to see her throttled? Of course but I found her a viable and interesting persona.  You need a character like her to add a prickly tartness here and she does that well.  And how Max and Kelcey react and adjust to the following chaos is lovely to behold.

The resolution is a little drawn out in a manner that might put off some readers.  Mavin’s actions has some real consequences, and as in real life, the person responsible is not always the person who pays the price.  I thought it realistic but for some this might be a tad unpalatable. I do wish a troll or two had shown up or even a magical wand.  That would have been stupendous (although not necessary for the plot).  I would love to have known more about the Troll Wars and past history that Max was researching, that got my interest going too.  But this story?  I still enjoyed the heck out of it.  Like them or not, I think you will find yourself empathizing with their circumstances, relationships and events to follow.  I loved the plot and the twists Megan Derr wove into a typical Regency novel.   Consider A Suitable Replacement totally recommended.  Now off to find the other stories in this series.

 Cover artist: Aisha Akeju.  Terrific cover, totally works here.

Sales Links:    Less Than Three Press     All Romance eBooks (ARe)        Amazon         A Suitable Replacement

Book Details:

ebook, 218 pages
Published August 6th 2014 by Less Than Three Press LLC (first published August 4th 2014)
original titleA Suitable Replacement
ISBN 1620044013 (ISBN13: 9781620044018)
edition languageEnglish
seriesDeceived #5

Review: In Despair (Princes of the Blood #3) by Megan Derr

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Rating 5 stars out of 5

In Despair coverSixteen year old Prince Telmé Guldbrandsen has been groomed to become a Prince of the Blood and take over as Commander of the Legion.  Equally young Korin is heir to the Reach of the House and the Temple of the Sacred Three. Expectations run high for him as well since it has been foretold that he will be the next High Priest.  Telme’ and Korin are also engaged to each other, an unfortunate affair since neither boy can stand the other.  Between the constant fighting and endless quarreling, the Halls of Castle Guldbrandsen have been ringing with shouts of anger and  fists hitting flesh instead of calm and the silence of boys at their studies to the displeasure of the royal family and all the others around them.

Monsters and dark mages left over from the last war lurk all around the kingdoms.  Princes of the Blood, and their fellow supernatural beings are the only things that stand between them and the remainder of humankind.  But humans that will allow their children to be tested to see if they have the right percentage of Demon blood are few as are pure blooded humans.  When found, they are brought to the Castle Guldbrandsen for testing and to strengthen ties through marriage.  Just such an happening at Castle Guldbrandsen ends in a devastating and unthinkable event, leaving those still standing awash in grief and anger.  Telme’ and Korin are Castle Guldbrandsen’s last hope but can they put aside their distrust and personal hatred long enough to save the kingdom and each other in the bargain?

In Despair marks the end of the Princes of the Blood trilogy by Megan Derr and I am so sad to get to the end of this marvelous tale of love, loss, and magic.  From the beginning, Megan Derr made the fascinating and quirky decision to write this trilogy backwards.  The first book, Of Last Resort (Princes of the Blood #1) takes place towards the end of the trilogy’s timeline, and each book thereafter moves the story back towards the beginning years and the history that is only hinted at in the first book.  It’s a challenging and imaginative format and its has worked beautifully here.

In Despair starts out with the characters in deep despair, a state that will follow them into the past.  Telme’ stands at the bedside of Koren who is terribly wounded from his fight with an angel from Of Last Resort.  That momentous battle came at the end of the first story and it left Koren in a coma.  Now as the trilogy comes to an end, Derr puts us down at Castle Guldbreandsen to get at glimpse at the lives of those impacted by that battle.  While Telme’ waits at Koren’s bedside, he remembers back to when they were teenagers and at odds with each other.  And from that time on, In Despair  starts its own tale of war, black magic, loss and love.

Megan Derr is one of my favorite fantasy authors.  In the Princes of the Blood trilogy she weaves together romance, action, adventure, fantasy and magic into stories that both the YA and adult readers will love.  As with all her stories, we start off with some amazing world building.  From Castle Guldbrandsen whose rulers have a very close connection to demons as well as all the fantasy beings that make up the incredible magic protectors of the realm,  the army of mixed-blood beings known as the King’s Legion: dragoons, shadowmarch, sorcerers, titans…and of course, the Princes of the Blood.  Derr has folded so many rich details and layers into this world.  The trilogy starts after a cataclysmic war has occurred that brought forth all sorts of demons and set them loose in the world almost destroying it.    While the war ended centuries ago, the aftermath has left demons scattered throughout the kingdoms, the human population with varying degrees of demon blood in them due to intermarriage, and necromancers others still trying to reopen the door’s to hell and start the war all over again. And with each story, Derr reveals more about the past through the characters battles in the present time and their interactions with each other.

In Despair is a standout from the other two stories in the trilogy in a number of ways.  First, the characters here are the youngest of all the main characters whose tales and romance unfold in these three books.  Telme’ and Koren are but sixteen (with Koren slightly younger than Telme’).  Telme’ and Koren exhibit all the stubbornness, impetuousness, and capriciousness of youth.   Quick to anger, unable to communicate, and equally quick to assume hurt and humiliation, these two young boys yet have the weight of the kingdom on their shoulders.  Both are expected to assume two of the highest positions in Castle Guldbrandsen and neither has the maturity or knowledge needed to make that leap to power and responsibility.  Sullenness and fights are the rule for both as are misunderstandings and punishment.  Derr makes both boys come across so real, so human in their insecurities, pain, and anger.  It is easy for the reader to see both sides of the picture for each teenager because it is such a recognizable stage of human growth.  Between hormones and pushing back against parental expectations, Telme  appears not only “bratty” as the adults term him but overwhelmed by the responsibilities he doesn’t want to assume.  And the reader gets that too, particularly as becoming a Prince of the Blood means turning into a demon or half demon at a young age.  By his behavior Telme has delayed the test but time is running out.  Derr makes both boys so young in their mental and emotional development that we connect with them easily.  Then she jerks their foundations out from under them and the tale really gets underway.

As with all marvelous coming of age stories that include high adventure and fantasy, it must also include the darkness of evil and absolute loss.  As Castle Guldbrandsen falls under the destructive powers of both, Telme’ and Koren must pull together, grow up (somewhat) and assume the duties they have been avoiding.  It’s a timeless, dramatic concept and Derr’s treatment of it and her characters growth is as compelling as they come.   That’s possible because no matter what challenges these boys face or hurdles they must overcome, they remain the teenagers they are.  They still make poor judgement calls, make assumptions about each other and the events that occur that adults with more experience would disregard, and suffer from the lack of practical knowledge and maturity that age would have given them.  I love that there is no “instant adult” changeover in persona.  No, these are still kids trying to fill adult shoes and mostly succeeding  to mixed reviews from the grownups around them.  How can you not empathize with a sixteen year old who has just kind of “saved the day” only to come back to adults who don’t like the way he did it?  As an adult, you can see both sides but the teenager in you will be just as dumbfounded and angry as Telme’ is. That’s one of the real beauties of this story and this trilogy,  Megan Derr tells it in such a way that we believe so deeply in these characters and their lives that we can see all sides to every argument and still come down on the side of youth and fragility no matter our own age.

At the end, Megan Derr brings the story back around to the time of the first story, Of Last Resort, with Telme’ still waiting to see if Koren lives.  Her circle is complete, and her trilogy is almost over.  All the characters from all three stories appear and their stories resolved in scenes and mentions of events happening inside the castle.  Did I love the way In Despair ended?  Absolutely.  Do I recommend In Despair and the entire Princes of the Blood trilogy?  Without question.

Of Last Resort, With Pride and In Despair will all be at the top of ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords Best of 2014 lists this year.  Check them all out but read them in the order that Derr wrote them.  It will make for some magical reading and leave you sighing for more at the end.  Just like me.

Cover art by Aisha Akeju who is quickly becoming a new favorite artist of mine.

Buy Links:           Less Than Three Press              ARe                 Amazon               In Despair

 

Book Details:

ebook
Published July 9th 2014 by Less Than Three Press
original titleIn Despair
ISBN139781620043233
edition languageEnglish
seriesPrinces of the Blood #3

Princes of the Blood Series include (written in reverse sequence)

Of Last Resort (Princes of the Blood #1)
With Pride (Princes of the Blood #2)
In Despair (Princes of the Blood #3)

Review: With Pride (Princes of the Blood #2) by Megan Derr

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

With PrideKristof never expected to have to take his brother’s place as betrothed to one of the King’s Princes of the Blood.  But when his older sister became ill, then the eldest son moved forward to take her place, leaving the youngest Kristoff to become the Duke of Stehlmore, and the only one left to marry a notorious Prince of the Blood.  All Kristof wanted was to continue his role as a Paladin and keep the borders of his mother’s kingdom safe but fate clearly has other ideas.

On the journey to Guldbrandsen. Kristoff and his company are attacked by goblins.  Overwhelmed, they are saved by the appearance of two Princes of the Blood.  Kristoff had never met a Prince of the Blood before and now he had two to thank for his rescue. But the two Princes could not be more different in appearance and demeanor.  One is courteous, handsome and tall.  And the other?  Well he is small enough to remind Kristoff of a piskie.  He is also arrogant, insulting, and rude.  And Kristoff can’t wait to be rid of him once they reach the castle.

Unfortunately, upon reaching castle grounds and his meeting with the King, Kristoff finds that the Prince he is to marry is none other than that tiny abomination that rescued him from the goblins.  Kristoff is unprepared for his new life at Guldbrandsen or for all the magical beings and demons that walk the hallways.  As a Paladin, he is overly sensitive to the presence of demons, but the pain he feels in the hallways of the castle or even standing next to his fiance is almost more than he can bear.

Then a demon plot is discovered that  could destroy not only Guldbrandsen but his mother’s kingdom of Stehlmore too. Every warrior, Prince and Paladin is need to find the culprit and save the lands. Kristoff is determined to honor the contract and not to shame his heritage or mother by his cowardly fear of the Princes, especially now that he is needed for the fight. But the pain and stress is increasing daily.  What is a Paladin to do?

I loved the first novel in the series, Of Last Resort.  That story launched us into a dark and tortured world still trying to recover from a centuries old war that shattered kingdoms and loosed all types of evil upon the lands.  Now such magical beings as giants, werewolves, trolls, goblins, necromancers, wraiths, and many other unworldly beings are assisting the humans to search out and  destroy the evil remnants of that war still looking to overthrow human rule. Of Last Resort  introduced us to the Princes of the Blood. Human but with the right amount of demon blood running in their veins through intermarriage, the few found that met the requirements were tested, and if successful were forever changed into Princes of the Blood, supernatural beings that feed on blood and helped protect the King and his realm. It was a powerful tale told mostly from the point of view of Raffe’ who became a Prince of the Blood and his lover Algrin.  Once at the end, the reader just needed to know more.  More about all the characters Megan Derr introduced us to in her story but also more of the ongoing quests to search out and destroy all the leftover demons and evil forces that still remain.

Now ordinarily we might expect the second story in the series to pick up where the first left off, but Megan Derr has something far different in mind for this series. The second story, With Pride, takes place prior to the events in Of Last Resort.  In the first story, Raffe’ meets Algrin, a Dragon, and his mated ,deeply in love friends, Hakon and Kristoff, a totally unlikely couple.   Hakon, a tiny, blond Prince of the Blood, couldn’t have looked any less a bloodthirsty demon if he had tried.  And Kristoff, his besotted husband?  A tall imposing Paladin that glowed with holy fervor!  How did such an improbable pair come about?  With Pride marvelously answers that question as it takes us back to their first disastrous meeting.

One of the first things that charmed me about this story is the change in perspective with regard to the Princes of the Blood.  Raffe’ looked forward to becoming a Prince in lieu of his brother who disappeared prior to the testing. For Raffe, being a Prince meant a release from a life and future he never wanted.  To be a Prince of the Blood if, big if, you passed the test, was the ultimate goal for Raffe, one he never felt he was good enough for.   Definitely not the case for Hakon and Kristoff, a pair of reluctant and bitter participants from the beginning.

Kristoff, again the first point of view here, loves his family, home, and ruling mother.  Kristoff is content with his role as a Paladin as well as that of a lessor son within his ruling family.  He is so happy with his status quo that he knows nothing of his older brother’s future role as fiance to a Prince of the Blood, only that they are somewhat monstrous and drink blood to live.  And as he  fights demons and monsters as a Paladin, his ignorance about  the Princes is not something he is curious to inspect further.  Until a sister’s illness means a shuffle in the expected futures of himself and his siblings.  Now he is the one to marry a Prince and he fears it like nothing else in his life.  Only his honor and that of his family keeps him from fleeing back to his kingdom.   Kristoff is full of complexities, including his belief that he is a coward and  is in constant pain due to an allergy to demons he is not aware of.

And then there is Hakon, your second pov.   Your and Kristoff’s first perception of him is that of a fierce yet supremely offensive mite.  He’s white blond, delicate, and super tiny.  Not one to inspire confidence on first contact.  Yet his overwhelmingly obnoxious demeanor more than makes up for a lack of height.  Like a noxious unassuming weed, there is much more to Hakon than is apparent.  To go into Hakon’s background is to spoil some of the best elements of this story but I will say that like Kristoff, Hakon too was an unwilling participant in this marriage as well as in the choice to be a Prince of the Blood.  By the time the book is halfway through, your opinion of Hakon and his of Kristoff will have done a complete changeover.  Yes, he’s not thrilled about Kristoff being his fiance either.  Misperceptions and misunderstandings abound throughout to our horror and delight.

A story rich in texture and with an almost encyclopedic wealth of details is a hallmark of a Megan Derr fantasy novel.  With Pride is another magical addition to the great fantasy reads that has come from this author.  Inside the pages we meet characters who must dig deep to find the best of themselves in order to triumph over overwhelming odds and almost certain destruction.  There is an abundance of pain, deaths of innocents, and treachery.  And to accompany that all, there will be glorious adventures, powerful battles, a dragon or two, dark magic, and of course, a troubled and tortured path to true love.

Ah, the romance.  Well, to be truthful there isn’t as much of it as I would have loved.  It takes some time for each character to overcome their assumptions and misperceptions about each other.  That’s a great thing because those are some toweringly poor judgements each one of them has made of each other.  And when they finally do get together it ends a little quickly without delivering a little more of a satisfying look at the future of Kristoff and Hakon.

Or least that’s what I thought at first.  Then I realized we already had that.  We just didn’t realize it at the time.  It’s in the first story Of Last Resort!  And that realization sent me running back to that novel and a fully married Hakon and Kristoff.  And its that little detail that made this story and it’s ending all the more gratifying.

Now I have two stories to reread while I am waiting for the author to release the third book in the series, In Despair (Princes of the Blood #3).  At the heart of this story is Prince Telmé Guldbrandsen and  Korin: descendant of the Reach of the House, heir to the High Priest of the Temple of the Sacred Three. In Despair works the series backward even further to the time where Prince Telme’ and Korin detest each other even while being betrothed since birth.  I can’t wait!  After the scenes of them  lovingly together and hauntingly apart in the first two tales, I am left deliciously in suspense as to their beginnings and romance.  It should be quite a tale!

All three books can be read in any order but it is quirky and totally amazing to watch the couples, romances and events move backward.  This and the first story are must reads for me.  If you are a lover of fantasy and m/m romance, they will be a must read for you too.  Consider With Pride one of Scattered Thoughts highly recommended stories and on our Best of 2014 lists.

Stories in the Princes of the Blood series are:

Of Last Resort (Princes of the Blood #1)
With Pride (Princes of the Blood #2)
In Despair (Princes of the Blood #3) expected release July 2014

Cover art by Aisha Akeju.  It really references a major plot of the story.  Dark and lovely.

Book Details:

ebook, LT3 Link
Expected publication: April 16th 2014 by Less Than Three Press LLC
original titleWith Pride
ISBN139781620043202
edition languageEnglish
seriesPrinces of Blood

Covers of the Books in the Series include:

In Despair coverWith PrideOf Last Resort cover

 

ScatteredThoughts Week Ahead in Reviews, Author Guest Posts and Contests

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It’s already midApril and I have just realized that I missed posting my March 2014 Review Summary and Best Covers.  Sigh.  Sometimes Gardening_Tools_Clip_Artthings just get away from you and this certainly did last month.  So I am posting the review to run later today.  There are so many wonderful authors and books represented that you are sure to find several to add to your TBR or Must Read stack of stories.   Included in the reviews are the penultimate story of the Cut & Run series from Abigail Roux and the first 2 stories in the second group of Pulp Friction 2014 series.

Spring has finally come to Maryland (although it may only be here a week).  My cherry blossoms are blooming as are those around the tidal basin.  So I am off to grab some weeds and bird watch in the sun.

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books headers blk and white

Here is the week ahead in reviews, author guest blogs and contests:

 

  • Monday, April 14:                 Author Spotlight: Jim Provenzano and Book Giveaway
  • Tuesday, April 15:                 Memories of Love by Jim Provenzano
  • Wed., April 16:                       With Pride by Megan Derr
  • Thursday, April 17:               Megan Mulry :Author Guest Blog and Book Tour (Contest)
  • Friday, April 18:                    Bound to be a Groom by Megan Mulry
  • Saturday, April 19:                Floodgates by Mary Calmes

Review: Come To Me ( A Black Magic short) by Megan Derr

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

come to me400 coverUpon their return to the kingdom (Black Magic), the Lord High Paladin and High Necromancer have found precious little time to spend with each other as the duties of the kingdom and the battles against the kingdom’s enemies have conspired to keep them both busy and away from each other.  Both Soran and Koray are still trying to adjust to their new relationship and Koray’s new role at court and castle, as lover and mage. But when the lovers find themselves alone in some much needed privacy, they find that it is their own insecurities and uncertainties they must overcome.

This is the second story in the Black Magic series, another terrific fantasy from Megan Derr.  The first book tells the beginnings of their romance, as they meet over the death of one of Soren’s closest friends and relatives and work together to find the murderer who is plotting against the kingdom.  Come to Me picks up after the events of Black Magic with Koray now ensconced as the High Necromancer, bringing the once reviled mages and necromancers back into favor in the Kingdom of Vendala where once they were all outlawed.

Once again the subtly layered characters of Soren and Koray come to life as the stress and strain of their new relationship and duties within the Kingdom give birth to doubts about their love and commitment to each other.  The author takes the realities of present day life and the toll it takes on committed couples and transfers it to her fantasy world and its inhabitants.  The reader will easily relate to and commiserate with the busy schedules, missed messages, and misunderstandings that rise up between Soren and Koray, especially considering the how new their relationship is.

And makeup sex, no matter what universe or event that precipitates it, is still as hot and satisfying no matter the couple or argument behind it.

All the usual wondrous Derr elements are present.  Battles, horses, magic, castles and of course, love.  Her writing is crisp and rich in detail, the sexy encounters white hot and the dialog in keeping with her characters and world building.

If, however, you are new to the Black Magic series, the missing context as far as the narrative is concerned might leave you wondering about the events that lead up to this story.  Immediately retreat backward and grab up the first story, Black Magic (Black Magic #1) to find out how it all started.  Them return to Come To Me to see how the Lord High Paladin and High Necromancer are adjusting to life together.

Book Cover by Megan Derr.  It fits in with the series brand but I find it a little dark to make out.
Books in the Black Magic series to date:
Black Magic ( on sale at LT3 Press for 20% off)
Come to Me (a Black Magic short)

Book Details:

ebook, 45 pages
Published February 12th 2014 by Less Than Three Press LLC (first published February 11th 2014)
original title Come to Me (A Black Magic short)
ISBN13 9781620043318
edition language English

The Wanda Alston Foundation and the Week Ahead in ReviewQ

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Wanda Alston Foundation logo

So, great news! The Washington DC Metro Area now has a shelter for LGBT youth, the Wanda Alston Foundation.  For those of you familiar with our area, this name may sound familiar and it should.  Wanda Alston was a LGBTQ activist in Washington, DC. She was a cabinet member of the DC government and served on the Board of Directors for National Organization of Women. Highly respected and admired, she worked and campaigned for the Democratic party and Human Rights Campaign. Sadly she was killed inside her home in the District in 2005.  Her activism and legacy lives on today in the Wanda Alston Foundation.

The Wanda Alston House was the name of a previous organization that operated a shelter for LGBTQ youth that closed.  Now newly restructured and reorganized, the Wanda Alston Foundation is fully operational and needs our help and support.

First, it needs donations.  Here is a list from the director of immediate needs for their shelter:

  • Toiletries: Toothbrushes; Toothpaste; Brushes, Combs; Deodorants and lotions
  • Houseware: New blankets; pillows; sheets and towels.
  • Travel: token and fare cards for youth travel to appointments such as interviews
  • Donations: Donations to support programmatic needs are great too: visit our website for information or now donate via credit card/pay pal.

Secondly, it needs volunteers.  If you live in the Washington, DC area and have a skill or craft that you believe could beneficial to residents ( ie. math tutor), then contact the foundation’s director at the address listed below.  I also have a link to the foundation located to the right of the blog itself.

Or connect with them online at Facebook, Twitter, YouTube

Organization Contact Info:

Kenneth J. Pettigrew
Director of Programs
Wanda Alston Foundation
300 New Jersey Ave NW Suite 900
Washington DC 20001  (202) 465-8794 Phone (202) 347-0130 Fax

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Now for the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, March 3:         Convergence by Talya Andor

Tuesday, March 4:         Heidi Belleau/Lisa Henry’s King of Dublin Book Tour & Contest

Tuesday, March 4:         The Professor #4 Every Inch of the Way Book Tour

Wed., March 5                 Song of the Spring Moon Waning by E.E. Ottoman

Thursday, March 6:       King of Dublin by Heidi Belleau & Lisa Henry

Friday, March 7:              Come to Me by Megan Derr

Sat., March 8:                  Know Not Why by Hannah Johnson

Review: Of Last Resort (Princes of the Blood #1) by Megan Derr

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Of Last Resort coverRaffe and his family have traveled to Castle Guldbrandsen, the court of King Waldemere, to attend his older brother Tallis’ take The Blooding, a test which if he survives will see him transformed forever into a Prince of the Blood, members of the King’s Legion and warriors of unimaginable strength,  magical powers, and near invincibility.  Now on the day of the test, they have been informed, along with the king and all the members of the court, that Tallis has fled the castle, leaving behind only a note to say farewell.  The humiliation and threat of death he and his family face because of Tallis’ actions is shameful and overwhelming.

Raffe had always envied Tallis for his prospects and physique.  Tallis was the golden boy,tall, handsome, deft with weaponry or a charming word.  And Raffe was he exact opposite, small, dark and nondescript. He was also an accountant, destined for marriage to an affluent merchant who already had three wives.  But before he even realized what he was doing, he heard himself say “take me, your Highness, take me in his place”.  And after some private discussion, King Waldemere did.  For only those families and sons with the correct percentage of demon blood in their veins could be a Prince of the Blood and if nothing else, Raffe had the same blood as did Tallis.

If Raffe survives The Blooding, he will become a Prince of the Blood, who,along with dragoons, shadowmarch, sorcerers, titans , protect the kingdom from the dark forces, the beasts and terrors of an ancient war, that threaten them all.  But Raffe’s test comes at a time when an ancient evil is rising once again, more powerful than any that  has been seen in hundreds of years.   Can a weakling survive the most crucial test of his life to become the warrior his Kingdom needs the most?

Of Last Resort is another magnificent, riveting tale of magic by that master of fantasy, Megan Derr.  Her world building is incomparable as is her ability to set the stage for the magical pyrotechnics and emotional journey that is to follow.  One of the feature I have always loved about Derr’s stories is the balance she creates between the large scale elements and the small intimacies of thought and emotions running through the main characters. Here the transformations, history and various talents of the Blood Princes reside along the fears and insecurities of Raffe who never imagined such a life for himself.

A fantasy story on this level cannot exist without characters of great heart and great evil, no matter how splendid the world building.  And in Raffe, Alrin, Telme’ and all the rest of the memorable cast of this story, Megan Derr gives us heroes to believe in, whether they be demon, human, werewolf, shade or dragon shifter.  Raffe is one that I took to heart from the opening scene as he bravely steps forward to take his brother’s place even as he expects to die during the testing.  Derr makes it clear that he is of little value to his parents other than as a way to broker a tie to richer class and that all, including himself, find him weak and unassuming.  Here he is at the beginning after it is revealed that his brother is gone:

“Take me” Raffe said before his parents could speak, stepping in front of them to drop to his knees before the throne. He placed his fisted hands in front of him, knuckles to the floor, and bowed his head low. “My blood is the same. Take me in his place, your Majesty.”

Silence met his words, and Raffe’ cheeks flushed as he braced himself for the shame of rejection.  He could all but feel his parents’ mortification, hear the amused derision of the assembled court in their tittering, poorly muffled laughs, the disapproval of his fiance’ in his soft sigh. He cringed when the silence stretched on, but said, “I am not my brother, Majesty, I know. We are the same blood, however, and I have not run away.  I will not run away.”  He dared to look up, meet the king’s gaze, hoping he understood what Raffe’ was not saying: that he would die if his Majesty would spare his parents.

Simple and heartrending, we embrace Raffe’ even as he accepts his fate and finds the courage to step forward.  The first part of the story is told from Raffe’ point of view.  From the man he is prior to The Blooding, to the terrifying ceremony to determine if he can survive The Blooding and beyond.  A lifetime of verbal abuse and treatment as the insignificant son has made Raffe’ insecure, unsure of his own abilities and ashamed of his poor physique.  That is a mental state not swift to change no matter what other transformations may follow.  I loved that aspect of this story as well.  It is reflective of a real person’s nature to see the image their mind imagines instead of what is a true representation of themselves reflected back.  We love Raffe’ because we can understand and empathize with him.

Then another character takes over the point of view for a while.  It’s a necessary switch-off, pertinent to the story.  But to go into details here would spoil some of the twists Derr has in store for us.  Let’s just say, you will be surprised by this character again and again throughout the story.  He is both physically magnificent and emotionally torn.  I found myself falling in love with him as much as I did with Raffe’.   Of course, then I found myself loving Telme’ and the rest of the Princes of the Blood as well and as deeply.

The blurb for the story infers a vampiric need for blood for the Princes which is true, but interestingly it is demons of all types that Derr is creating here.  Within this story there resides a gallery of characters and races, each worthy of their own story.  I hope that occurs because the world and beings that Derr has left us with entertain both our minds and hearts, leaving the reader grasping for more of each one and their backstory.

Megan Derr’s prose moves swiftly and fluidly, building the suspense and anticipation even as she engages our hearts and sympathies for the main characters.  There will be heart stopping battles, deaths so painful it will bring tears to your eyes, and untold acts of villainy as to clench your fists.  What a saga!  I can’t wait to see what the next story brings.  Put this on your must have, must read now list!  Trust me when I say you won’t be able to put this down once you have started!

Cover art by Aisha Akeju.  Terrific cover as is the map inside, simple and elegant.

Update:  The sequel to Of Last Resort, With Pride (Princes of the Blood #2) will be released April 16th.  Mark your calendars!

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: February 19th 2014 by Less Than Three Press LLC (first published July 24th 2013)
original title Of Last Resort
ISBN13 9781620043141
edition language English
other editions

The Sochi Olympics Have Arrived and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Google Gay Doodle for Olympics

So one of the most strained and contentious Olympics has begun, that of Putin’s Sochi Olympics.    Eyes are on NBC to see how they report on the many issues that abound at Sochi as well as on the athletic contests and the olympians that compete.

In the past, NBC has been almost too reverential towards the IOC and the hosts of the Olympics.  Think Beijing and civil rights.  Now comes their chance to report fairly on all the issues as well as with the athletes participating in the Olympics themselves.  As gay rights or the lack of at Sochi and in Russia are such a large issue, I would hope that when interviewing the athletes and their families, including partners, NBC will be inclusive, interviewing gay participants and their partners and families instead of just the straight athletes as they have done in the past.   I don’t want the athletes to get lost in all the controversy, they have worked too hard for that.  But some of those athletes are gay.  And their identity should be on equal status as everyone elses.  Putin and Russia don’t recognize that.  It is too late to talk about whether or not Russia should have been awarded the 2014 Olympics.  That’s done.  And the IOC continues to be as spineless as they always have been.  But I have hopes for this Olympics that go beyond sporting events into a larger global discussion.  As Google, Chevrolet and even more sponsors show their support for the LGBTQ community through commercials, Google doodles, and PAs, the discussion and support for equality grows.swan-lake-dancer

So today I am including some of the best blogs/segments reporting not on the contests themselves but extraneous issues that have come out of Sochi to date.  The links are below.  I did watch the opening last night.  Wow.  Builders and construction again.  Red baby buggies for an expanding population, hopefully for Putin. Lots of flying Red scythes and what seemed to be floating Stalinistic heads.  There were some lovely moments too. The singing policemen were wonderful. I liked the floating islands and volcano. That segment with Swan Lake as its accompaniment as ballet dancers swirled under amazing contructs that lifted and floated as they danced was my favorite.  So was the Olympic Gods portion with the heavens full of constellations that looked like the various athletes.  The lighting of the torch was memorable too.  And those wonderful athletes from all the countries marching in under their flags, with joy and exuberance, happy to be a part of such a great community.  Nothing Putin does can take that away from them.  What was your favorite moment from the Opening Ceremonies?

Now here are the books being reviewed this week.  Don’t forget to check in with me on Thursday and enter the Riptide/JL Merrow contest for It’s All Geek To Me. I also have a terrific story just in time for Valentine’s Day.  Don’t miss out on Geoffrey Knight’s Be My Valentine, Bobby Bryson and bring a tissue or two. I will be glued to the tv, with my Kindle, popcorn and of course, my terriers!

Monday, Feb. 10:     Reviewing Life by Lara Brukz

Tuesday, Feb. 11:      Of Last Resort by Megan Derr

Wed., Feb. 12:           It’s Only Make Believe by Havan Fellows

Thurs., Feb. 13:        J.L. Merrow’s It’s All Geek To Me Book Tour & Contest

Friday, Feb. 14:         It’s All Geek To Me by J.L. Merrow

Sat., Feb. 15:              Be My Valentine, Bobby Bryson by Geoffrey Knight

January 2014 Summary of Books Reviewed

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Winter trees longs

The new years has started with an explosion of wonderful books and new authors for me.  SE Jakes and two of her marvelous series dropped into my hands and heart so I will be passing those recommendations on to you.  SA McAuley released a new contemporary fiction novel, Treadmarks and Trademarks, the start of a new series.  Ditto Susan Laine with her Sparks & Drops.  LA Witt inspired with her gender shifter novel Static, a must read for all.  Shira Anthony’s Symphony In Blue brought her Blue Notes characters together for a series holiday story, perfect reading for all lovers of romance and music.  Horror, fantasy and comedy are all represented here as well as a great non fiction tale by Joel Derfner, Lawfully Wedded Husband:How My Gay Marriage Will Save The American Family, a must read.

So many great books, see what stories you have missed, and make a list.  And don’t forget to check out the best book covers of the month at the end.
*Key:Winter_2
S series
C contemporary
F-fantasy
SF-science fiction
PN-paranormal
SP-supernatural
H-historical
HR-horror
N-Nonfiction
YA-young adult

Rating Scale: 1 to 5, 5 stars is outstanding
5 Star Rating:

Catch A Ghost by SE Jakes C, S
Long Time Gone by SE Jakes C, S
Static by LA Witt, SF
Symphony In Blue by Shira Anthony, C, S
The Engineered Throne by Megan Derr, F
The Fall by Kate Sherwood C. S

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

A Small Miracle Happened by Mari Donne, (4.5 stars) C, holiday
Dirty Deeds by SE Jakes (4.75 stars) C, S
Home for the Hollandaise by BA Tortuga,Julia Talbot *4.5 stars) C
Horsing Around by Torquere Authors, (4.5 stars) A, C
In Discretion by Reesa Herberth (4.5 stars), SF
Lawfully Wedded Husband by Joel Derfner (4.75 stars) N
Refined Instincts by SJ Frost, (4 stars) SP, S
Serenading Stanley by John Inman (4.5 stars), C
Sparks & Drops by Susan Laine (4.5 stars), P, S
Texas Christmas by R.J. Scott (4.75 stars), C, S
The Dreamer by M. King (4 stars), HR
The Lightning Moon by Sylvia A. Winters (4.75 stars) SP
Tread Marks & Trademarks by S.A. McAuley (4.5 stars) C, S

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Ashland by Lynn Lorenz (3.5 stars) SP, S
The Actor and the Thief by Edward Kendrick (3.75 stars) C, S
Tor by Lynn Lorenz (3.5 stars), SP, S

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

Dime Novel by Dale Chase (2.75 stars) H

1 to 1.75 Star Rating:  None

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Best Book Covers of January 2014

This month includes just an overall gold star to LC Chase whose great covers include the Hell or High Water series and Dirty Deeds.

InDiscretion_500x750Mindscape_500x750Sparks & Drops cover

Tread Marks and Trademarks cover

Static coverCatch a Ghost cover

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In Discretion by Reesa Herberth, Artist Simone’
Mindscape by Tal Valante, Artist LC Chase, who is having an incredible year
Sparks & Drops by Susan Laine, Artist Brooke Albrecht
Static by LA Witt, Artist LC Chase.  A Stunner with it’s Shifting Gender Person
Tread Marks & Trademarks by S.A. McAuley, Wilde City Press, no artist credited

Review: The Engineered Throne by Megan Derr

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Sailing ShipA lifetime of abuse at the hands of his father sent Vellem into the service of Bellemere’s Army Corps of Engineers, first as an apprentice at the age of 10, then in the Royal Corps of Engineers where he became the youngest Captain of the Engineers.  His older brother found a different path at the royal court, anything to stay away from  their abusive drunk of a father and a mother who hid from her life behind drugs in her rooms.

Vellum rose swiftly through the ranks of the Engineers, winning Bellemere’s wars through perseverance and cunning, becoming renown for his engineering skills and intellect.  When his brother arranges a marriage for Vellem with one of the younger princes of the enemy kingdom of Talladith as a way to foster peace and make an political alliance, Vellem agrees. He wishes nothing more than to make a new start for himself faraway from his parents and the aggressive kingdom of Bellemere .

Vellem is looking forward to his marriage and using his skills and the accompanying Corps of Engineers to help Talladith rebuild that country’s infrastructure that had been destroyed through years of continual warfare with Bellemere.  But even as Vellem and the wedding party journey to Talladith, all is not as it seems.  But no one is prepared for the tragedy that will strike and Vellum is left to decide if he can go forward to rebuild amongst the ruins of everyone’s hopes.

I consider Megan Derr is one of the finest fantasy fiction authors writing in the m/m genre today.  Time and again she manages in her series and stand alone novels to capture the essence of the world she is building in such a manner that the universe, her characters and the societies through which they move appear seamless and utterly realistic to the reader, even when dragons fly through the air and mages work their craft in fantastical ways.  A Megan Derr fantasy novel is one where no element of the story is neglected.

Her world building is impressive.  We learn about the land’s topography, the geography, the political layout, the flora and fauna…it all there giving her plots a remarkable foundation upon which to stand.  Important in The Engineered Throne are the rugged mountains and rivers that help define the kingdoms.  As Vellem and his party travel through the region, Derr’s descriptions give the reader a real feel for the area and the treacherous terrain the party must navigate through, making the land as much a part of the story as the characters.

Her plots are always layered and intricate.  In The Engineered Throne, the reader is kept guessing as to where the actions are taking the characters, making it almost impossible to extrapolate the events to come.  And what shocking events they are.  I think that even with some prior warning with some troublesome occurrences along the way, what occurs to the characters we have become fond of is so believably rendered that their pain and shock becomes ours.  Without giving anything or too much away, the plot of the story has such complexity and depth that nothing is as it seems on the surface and as the story continues, layer after layer is exposed making the story that much richer and rewarding.

But in order to pull it all together and make the reader care about the book, you must have characters that the readers will commiserate and sympathize with, relating to the characters so thoroughly that our emotions are tied to theirs.  That absolutely happens here with Vellem, Koit (his brother), Perdith the prince of Talladith that he marries and all the rest.  Although the book is told from Vellem’s point of view, the fullness of characterization of the others comes through nicely as seen through his eyes.  I loved the fact that, instead of the usual warrior or mage, Vellem is an engineer, and that in that capacity, he wins his wars.  That is a lovely twist in this strange world that has both dragons (his little golden dragon is enchanting) and guns.  Vellem, a victim of childhood abuse, does not see himself as others do.  So at first the readers opinion of him is his, then slowly through the words and actions of those around him, the true nature of this man is revealed both to the readers and finally to himself.

Another aspect of this story is that no character is considered a “throw away”.  By that I mean, the “red shirt” actors of the Star Trek series. You know, the ones that were there specifically as the disposable character soon to die in the next scene.  Soon to die, no care was taken to make them people we would care about. Not so here. We care about them all from the beginning as each is such a personable creation that they come alive in only a few pages.

There is a romance situated at the heart of this story but it is a very slow climb to fruition.  Strangers and enemies through politics at the beginning of the story, Vellem and Perdith have many obstacles, including a lack of communication between them, to overcome before love can set in.  If you are looking for a story consumed with romance and a sexual relationship between the main characters from the beginning, this may not be the story for you.  There is far too much going on for Vellem and Perdith to drop everything for romance and it would negate all the carefully crafted personas for that too happen.

This is a long novel at 346 pages but Megan Derr uses every word to craft an enthralling fantasy saga.  In fact at the end, I felt as though there were more stories (and adventures) left for Vellem and Perdith and the rest of the crew.  I hope that Megan Derr will revisit this couple or perhaps some of the other characters in this remarkable story.  I want to know what happens next.  You will too.  Grab this up and prepare for a wildly eventful journey into fantasy and beyond.

Cover Art by Megan Derr is exceptional.  It works beautifully to draw the reader in with its fantasy elements and misty tone.

Book Details:

ebook, 346 pages
Published November 13th 2013 (first published November 12th 2013)
original title The Engineered Throne
ISBN13 9781620042724
edition language English