A MelanieM Review: Forged in Flood by Dahlia Donovan


Rating: 5 stars out of 5


When one drunken night forever scars three best friends, will they ever find a way to pick up the pieces?

Eaten up with guilt, Ivan Black spends ten years hiding from the world. He retreats to his family forge to wallow in misery. Alone. So lonely his heart aches with it.

Wesley Cook and Rolland Spence have been together since university. They struggle through the physical scars of the accident, building a life in the ruins of their dreams. They find happiness but continue to miss their angry ginger Viking—Ivan.

In all the anger of wasted years, the three men find a way to forge a relationship as hot as the fires in the smithy.

I’ve long been a fan of the novels of Dahlia Donovan, but Forged in Fire may be her best story yet.  It is a deeply moving love story between three men who lost each other and their chance at major careers in rugby directly after the university. Young men drove drunk and disastrously crashed, rolling the car, ending their triad through grievous injuries and the guilt one still carries to this day.  That would be the driver Ivan.

All this we learn in bitter bits and pieces one wet, flooded night as the waters rise about the village of Boscastle and Ivan’s family’s forge high on the hill.  It’s over a decade after the accident and “Ivan the Terrible” as his family calls him has fully retreated from life to his forge, shutting off all contact, including the two men who used to mean the most to him.  He’s plagued by memory loss from brain damage, deep guilt, and a deep seated rage that is his legacy from his father, now in prison.  His past not only haunts him but he fights it every second of the day.  And it mostly wins and tears him down.

Ivan is a savage portraiture of a man.  Driven by his demons yet Donovan continues to make us understand him as she reveals more and more of his past and his struggles to get by them.  They include his father who we meet in prison and who Ivan is named after.

But the heart and soul of this story is the dynamics, return of love and relationship of the triad. Born in the rising flood waters in Boscastle, it’s painful, so slow its like slogging through the rising tide, full of anger, resentment, pain, and loss.  They have a decade of issues to work through…even abandonment.  Incredibly, the author also manages to bring in laughter, giggles, light touches, and some incredibly  sexy scenes that show that the pull between all three men isn’t just some surface attraction.  No, it’s cellular.  These men need each other in order to be complete.  Donovan makes us believe it absolutely.  We feel it as much as the men do.

If Ivan is a complete character, so is Wesley Cook and Rolland “Rolly” Spence, who have been together as an existing couple since the accident.  They have returned to get their third, Ivan, and bring him “home”.  Each one of them, so clearly defined and beautifully written that its a joy to meet them and be included in their relationship.  It’s fun to watch and listen to, the dialog shows the ease of a couple who has been together for years as does the sex between them.  Loving, quick, and warmhearted.  Yet still they yearn for Ivan, all prickles and anger who they’ve missed all this time.  And he’s missed them as well.

The emotions here are huge, the growth, the pain, the fear the oozes off of Ivan as he faces his past, his father, his disabilities and even his future, it will scare even you.  Bring tissues.  For 130 pages, this is a big book.

I can’t begin to tell you all how much I love it and the men here.  It will leave a lasting impact.  One incredibly stupid decision and three lives changed forever.  Now we how the aftermath turns out and lives change again.

I highly recommend this story. The writing is incredible, the descriptions vivid and carry such emotional heft, and the characters so real you believe in them and invest in them absolutely.

And for those of you who are wondering, no this is not connected to her Sin Bin series other than a brief mention of Taine Afoa.  It’s completely standalone.

So yes, go pick it up, dive in and lose yourself in these men and their road back to each other.

Cover art: Claire Smith.  I love this artist’s work and this cover is no different.  It’s perfect for this story.

Sales Links:  Hot Tree Publishing  | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 130 pages
Published July 14th 2018 by Hot Tree Publishing
Edition LanguageEnglish

Forged in Flood is a British contemporary M/M/M romance. With heartache, hot men with foul mouths, and plenty of heat, enjoy getting to know Ivan, Wesley, and Roland.

A MelanieM Review: Dormant Heart by Lane Swift


Rating:  4.75 stars out of 5

Dormant HeartAmateur photographer Josh Thornton is out but not so proud. He’s estranged from his family, his boyfriend dumped him, and his job at an estate agency is in jeopardy—especially after he crashes his boss’s car in the middle of nowhere on his way to Hartley Manor.

Callum Black works at the English country estate and lives there in an isolated cottage. Left mute by a childhood accident, he’s more comfortable in the company of animals than people. But when Josh—literally—crashes into his life with his camera and his friendship, Callum realizes his peaceful solitude has been more than a little lonely.

Josh’s affection for Callum deepens even as he’s consumed by doubts over Callum’s sexuality and whether Callum could ever love him. And Callum is haunted by the secret that stole his voice—a secret that keeps him tethered to Hartley Manor. When the past comes hurtling painfully back into the present, Josh and Callum have to overcome their fears and breathe life back into their dormant hearts in order to have a chance at their own picture-perfect future.

What a beautiful story.  Just as the cover is a feast for the eyes, one where you need to linger to appreciate all the details, Dormant Heart is a novel that unfolds with the pace and depth of a walk in the woods.  Its one in which each move forward should be treasured. Stop look around, admire the beauty of the narrative moment that the author is creating in words and scenes before going forward again.

The story is told from two perspectives, the first from Joshua’s, from the moment he is thrown, horribly, from his parents home to two years later when he meets Callum.  He’s funny, brave, enduring, a bit prickly and he’s feels fresh to me, loaded with his camera and a need to press forward with his life.  Blow after blow, and I mean fists in one case however briefly, to crushed bumpers, Joshua’s inner stamina makes him get up and persevere.  Joshua’s character is one that’s so easy to connect with because his voice is one that bubbles like a spring of hope around him, where with others that would have drained away.

Halfway through the story, Callum takes over, a device that might have derailed  another novel but works here.  Why?  Primarily because  Callum never speaks and here, inside his head he finally does.  We get to hear that voice no one else has heard since he was a young boy.  We hear his thoughts on Joshua, his appearance in his life, and what that interruption has meant to Callum emotionally and sexually.  Joshua is the wind blowing through Callum’s life and the effects are immediate and yet so natural as though Callum has been waiting for him.  Callum is calm on the surface, and nightmares from a childhood injury that has  taken his memory just underneath the calm.  There is so much to this character and Swift peals back the layers slowly, unfolding clues and letting us see Callum only after much effect and love.

Callum is the quiet, the observer to the constant motion of Joshua and together they make an impressive whole.  One slows the other down, and one speeds the other up.  Harmony achieved in pairing and novel. So do the characters that Lane Swift surrounds them with, especially the appealing Heather, daughter of the Lord of Hartley Manor and the sad, faded lord himself.

Yes, Joshua is the key to the memories return.  Those memories.  So shocking from a child’s standpoint and so damaging.  I think that’s where Lane Swift made her best decisions.  It was in keeping with realistic possibilities and repercussions on all involved.  Just a great job.  So why not a perfect score?

The ending…I think I wanted just a   little more resolution or pages to finally draw it out for me. And it felt a little rushed in comparison to the flow of the rest of the story. It was so close.

Lane Swift has written a gorgeous book in Dormant Heart, its one that awakened this reader’s heart for the story and characters and a certain glade with a mother fox and her kits still roam.  Love contemporary romance, and characters that speak to you?  A story that will hold your attention as well as your heartstrings?  Look no further than Dormant Heart by Lane Swift.  I highly recommend it.

Cover art by Anna Sikorska is one of my favorite covers of the year.  Gorgeous, sumptuous even, in content and color. Perfection in every way for the character and story.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

Published February 10th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
Edition Language English