A Chaos Moondrawn Review: By Way of Pain – Criminal Delights: Assassins by J.M. Dabney

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

This is part of the Criminal Delights series, which are standalones by different authors revolving around dark themes. Pay attention to the trigger warnings. This book is about a lawyer named Cowan Kingley, who is a hired assassin. The reader sees him at different ages to establish him as not quite right, and much of the book is in his first person POV. The reader also gets the first person POV of the man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and ends up kidnapped instead of killed. The key here is the why of it. What would make an assassin not kill a witness right away?

The warnings say dubcon, but I would say this is noncon. The Stockholm Syndrome contributes to the confusion. As a virgin with no experience, the captive has never had the chance to find out what he likes. Once Conway starts with the humiliation, whipping, spanking, choking, and breath play…his captive realizes he likes it. I don’t think this will convince anyone who isn’t predisposed to liking this sort of book. The book really has two acts. The first half is more intimate with just the two of them. The second half has John Wick style action sequences. While the whole book is actually effective, well written, and way more entertaining than it should be with a satisfying conclusion…there is a major issue.

Although Conway thinks of himself as a sociopath and has studied human psychology, I can’t agree since he is able to become obsessed, possessive, and caring–genuinely caring as the reader knows his POV–towards his captive. In the thank you note at the end, the author calls him a psychopath. These are not interchangeable words; they are two different things. One lacks empathy and the other lacks conscience, but neither would care about anyone else, let alone fall in love. This is the downfall of the book. If you are willing to ignore clinical definitions of these mental illnesses and suspend disbelief, it is well done for what it is.

The cover by was done by Natasha Snow. The covers of the whole series are stylized and match

Sales Links:  Amazon | Universal Link: books2read.com/CriminalDelights-Pain

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 166 pages
Published May 20th 2019 by Hostile Whispers Press, LLC
ASINB07PKQZ23C
Edition Language English

New Release Blitz for By Way of Pain – Criminal Delights: Assassins by J.M. Dabney (excerpt and giveaway)

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ReleaseBlitz-ByWayofPain

By Way of Pain

Criminal Delights Series, Book 11

J.M. Dabney

M/M Dark Romance

Release Date: 05.20.19

BY Way of Pain Cover

Blurb

Double lives were just the way it was for a man like me. By day I was a man with a reputation above reproach. Even assassins needed backup plans. For fifteen years, life was going without a hitch until I had to take out a witness. When it was time to kill him, beautiful eyes filled with fear urged me to do something else. Yet, in order to do that, I had to break him, and by way of pain, my captive would experience pleasure he’d never dreamed.

This book is part of CRIMINAL DELIGHTS. Each novel can be read as a standalone and contains a dark M/M romance.

Warning: These books are for adult readers who enjoy stories where lines between right and wrong get blurry. High heat, twisted and tantalizing, these are not for the fainthearted.

Trigger Warnings: Title contains the following possible triggers. Humiliation, Violence, Master/slave elements, Male Chastity, Murder, Imprisonment, Dub-Con, and Brief Torture.

Universal Link: books2read.com/CriminalDelights-Pain

By-Way-of-Pain-Teaser-Because-I-Can

By-Way-of-Pain-Teaser-Cowen-Abnormal

Excerpt

It was a place created for a hunter. Big, sprawling and dirty—victims roaming the streets unaware of their status as prey. They all felt they were safe from the monsters because they were all easily spotted, but they knew nothing about my kind. We were just an abstract concept on some true crime show they watched in the middle of the night—evil reduced to caricature. My reputation was above reproach, but I was the most prolific killer of my kind.

In moments of respite where I hid away in my cabin, I’d analyzed when I’d become broken. I believed my sociopathy was a result of conception. Maybe something as damaged as I shouldn’t have survived to birth. A shell without a soul. I’d attempted suicide a time or two, and I bore the marks from years of self-harm. I’d hoped to feel something—pain proved you were alive—and yet the more I cut and burned, it became nothing more than a minor inconvenience—wounds to heal.

I closed my eyes, drew oxygen in through my nose and pushed it slowly past my lips, repeated until I opened my eyes. As with any normal person ending work, I gathered up files and my laptop, stowing them inside my satchel briefcase. Everything in my life was routine and repetition, nothing deviated. I arrived at my office at six in the morning and promptly left at six at night. Meetings were scheduled as needed. I appeared in court. I was successful at my chosen cover, but as with all aspects of my existence, they were disguises.
JM logo

J.M. Dabney is a multi-genre author who writes mainly LGBT romance and fiction. They live with a constant diverse cast of characters in their head. No matter their size, shape, race, etc. J.M. lives for one purpose alone, and that’s to make sure they do them justice and give them the happily ever after they deserve. J.M. is dysfunction at its finest and they makes sure their characters are a beautiful kaleidoscope of crazy. There is nothing more they want from telling their stories than to show that no matter the package the characters come in or the damage their pasts have done, that love is love. That normal is never normal and sometimes the so-called broken can still be amazing.

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/J.M.DabneyAuthor/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/jmdabney_author

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/authorjmdabney/?hl=en

Reader Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/585182991553194/

Amazon Author Page – https://www.amazon.com/J.M.-Dabney/e/B006QZIFLE

Website – www.jmdabneyauthor.com

Mailing List – http://eepurl.com/dzWnIn

Vibrant Promotions Logo

RELEASE BLITZ for By Way of Pain (Criminal Delights:Assassins) by JM Dabney

Standard

ReleaseBlitz-ByWayofPain

By Way of Pain

Criminal Delights Series, Book 11

J.M. Dabney

M/M Dark Romance

Release Date: 05.20.19

BY Way of Pain Cover

Blurb

Double lives were just the way it was for a man like me. By day I was a man with a reputation above reproach. Even assassins needed backup plans. For fifteen years, life was going without a hitch until I had to take out a witness. When it was time to kill him, beautiful eyes filled with fear urged me to do something else. Yet, in order to do that, I had to break him, and by way of pain, my captive would experience pleasure he’d never dreamed.

This book is part of CRIMINAL DELIGHTS. Each novel can be read as a standalone and contains a dark M/M romance.

Warning: These books are for adult readers who enjoy stories where lines between right and wrong get blurry. High heat, twisted and tantalizing, these are not for the fainthearted.

Trigger Warnings: Title contains the following possible triggers. Humiliation, Violence, Master/slave elements, Male Chastity, Murder, Imprisonment, Dub-Con, and Brief Torture.

Universal Link: books2read.com/CriminalDelights-Pain

By-Way-of-Pain-Teaser-Because-I-Can

By-Way-of-Pain-Teaser-Cowen-Abnormal

Excerpt

It was a place created for a hunter. Big, sprawling and dirty—victims roaming the streets unaware of their status as prey. They all felt they were safe from the monsters because they were all easily spotted, but they knew nothing about my kind. We were just an abstract concept on some true crime show they watched in the middle of the night—evil reduced to caricature. My reputation was above reproach, but I was the most prolific killer of my kind.

In moments of respite where I hid away in my cabin, I’d analyzed when I’d become broken. I believed my sociopathy was a result of conception. Maybe something as damaged as I shouldn’t have survived to birth. A shell without a soul. I’d attempted suicide a time or two, and I bore the marks from years of self-harm. I’d hoped to feel something—pain proved you were alive—and yet the more I cut and burned, it became nothing more than a minor inconvenience—wounds to heal.

I closed my eyes, drew oxygen in through my nose and pushed it slowly past my lips, repeated until I opened my eyes. As with any normal person ending work, I gathered up files and my laptop, stowing them inside my satchel briefcase. Everything in my life was routine and repetition, nothing deviated. I arrived at my office at six in the morning and promptly left at six at night. Meetings were scheduled as needed. I appeared in court. I was successful at my chosen cover, but as with all aspects of my existence, they were disguises.
JM logo

J.M. Dabney is a multi-genre author who writes mainly LGBT romance and fiction. They live with a constant diverse cast of characters in their head. No matter their size, shape, race, etc. J.M. lives for one purpose alone, and that’s to make sure they do them justice and give them the happily ever after they deserve. J.M. is dysfunction at its finest and they makes sure their characters are a beautiful kaleidoscope of crazy. There is nothing more they want from telling their stories than to show that no matter the package the characters come in or the damage their pasts have done, that love is love. That normal is never normal and sometimes the so-called broken can still be amazing.

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/J.M.DabneyAuthor/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/jmdabney_author

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/authorjmdabney/?hl=en

Reader Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/585182991553194/

Amazon Author Page – https://www.amazon.com/J.M.-Dabney/e/B006QZIFLE

Website – www.jmdabneyauthor.com

Mailing List – http://eepurl.com/dzWnIn

Vibrant Promotions Logo

Review: Necromancy and You (Guidebook #02) by Missouri Dalton

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Necromancy and You coverAlter (Al) Skelton is just like  any other 15 year old who is obsessed with death.  He has a purple and black bedroom full of skulls, walls decorated with Day of the Dead posters and a vent where he hides all his copies of Raising the Dead from Cemetery Comics.  Shortly after his 15th birthday, Al sends away for a copy of  Necromancy and You with a coupon out of the back of his Raising the Dead comic along with the box tops from three boxes of Count Chocula cereal. The book he receives in the mail is so much more than he expected.  Instead of a paperback, Al gets a heavy leather bound book addressed to him and immediately his life starts to change dramatically.

From the moment Al starts to read the book, he realizes something is weird.  The spells in the book are working for him as a disastrous incident in his science lab demonstrated.  Al can raise the dead.  Now he’s a boy with a plan and the ability to raise the dead.  That plan? To raise his dead father and get his family back together.  But so many obstacles block his path.  The man his mother is dating is hateful and abusing, too bad he is also Al’s psychiatrist. An evil group called the Coalition operates a school for Necromancers and they will do everything in their power to bring Al into their fold. Suddenly Al’s world is full of ghouls, ghosts, vampires, and talking dead frogs.  What’s a young budding necromancer to do when danger is all around him in a world turned more dark and scary than usual?

Missouri Dalton has created an instant classic for older teens and adults alike with Necromancy and You, the second story in the Guidebook series.  Never have I been so enthralled by a young 15 year old like Al Skelton.  As created by Dalton, Al is a brilliant, depressed social outcast, who lives for his Raising the Dead comics and memories of his old family life.  His father died five years before when Al was 10, an event that happened while his dad was away on business so Al never got to say goodbye. Since then, his mother has turned cold and distant, spending all her time either at work or with her  new boyfriend, a sadistic man who also happens to be Al’s psychiatrist.  With his present life a nightmare, Al would like nothing better than his family back together again, happy and whole, an impossibility considering his dad is dead.  If this description starts to conjure up visions of Harry Potter, then yes, there are similarities.  But for me, I find Al Skelton far more interesting and quite a bit darker.  He is also far more sarcastic and self aware than Harry seemed to be.  But I guess that comes with being a Necromancer. albeit a budding one as well as being a bit of a smartmouth.

Dalton’s narrative is so clever, so enthralling and her main character so charismatic and appealing that the reader is pulled in instantly, immediately hooked on Dalton’s world building and Al’s life. Oh the life of a teenager at 15, it’s such a tough one.  Hormones are raging, poised between child and adult, the world can be a harsh place, especially if that teenager is just a little different from everyone else.  Dalton takes this truism and gives us a darker version.  Al doesn’t just think everyone is out to get him, they really are.  Lonely, upset and missing his father and the way his family used to be? That should sound familiar to any number of kids these days. And if the normal world is scary place for them, what would happen if you then find out that vampires, ghouls, zombies and ghosts are real and you are not quite human?

Lucky for us, we get to find out as Al goes from normal teen to powerful Necromancer and beyond.  This is how it all starts:

When the package arrived, that clear crisp morning on the twenty-third of October, I knew it would be a good day. The package was green, vibrant and shiny, tied with black string. The address label was white with black letters that spelled my name.

Alter Skelton

215 Bridge Lane

Verity, IL 34055

It was a package I’d been waiting for seven weeks and three days. Waiting ever since I mailed in the coupon out of the back of Raising the Dead along with the box tops from three boxes of Count Chocula cereal. The ad had caught my attention immediately, gleaming on the slightly thicker glossy paper of the back cover, in bright green and black and white.

Learn to control the forces of life and death! This book will change your life!

I knew in a heartbeat I would do anything to get my hands on it. So despite my normal tendency toward not eating breakfast, I ate it. I also started to act less strange around my mother to decrease suspicion. And now, on a Saturday morning, I had my book.

I took the parcel immediately to my room. My mother was out shopping, so I had a good couple hours to peruse the book before shoving it behind the vent cover where I kept my issues of Raising the Dead and the pornographic magazine Tommy had foisted on me after his mother started cleaning his room again.

And then later on, once Al is safely in his room:

I cleared the detritus off of my bed, mostly clothes, and unwrapped the parcel.

The book was heavy, and as I tore away the paper, I noticed it was not the paperback copy I’d expected from the photo in the back of the comic. The cover, by the feel, was leather, black. On the very front there was incised decoration: bright green lines indented as a border around a white skull that felt and looked like bone. Over the skull, in silver lettering, was the title.

Necromancy and You!

Underneath the skull was a secondary title. From A to Zombie

There was no author listed. On the interior page was a notation.

A Stone House publication copyright 1344. Do not redistribute. Books sold without covers are considered stripped books; the house nor the author receives payment. Please refrain from purchasing stripped books.

And on the next page.

Welcome, young master! You have chosen to take the first step in a wonderful journey! Herein are the methods, practices, and rules of the way of Necromancy! Please read the entire first chapter thoroughly before proceeding to the Practical Applications to ensure safety!

Well. Safety was important. One wouldn’t want to raise anyone on accident or anything. No need to get the neighborhood riled with corpses walking about. Or skeletons. Or both.

No, secrecy was key here.

The neighbors were too nosy as it was. Then again, so was my mother.

And from the moment Al opens the book and begins to read, his journey (and ours) has started.  There is no going back, not that he would want to of course, at least in the beginning. Al has a unique voice, it’s quirky, it self effacing and it definitely belongs to a teenager.  It has just that right amount of young perspective and cluelessness while still sounding aware and confident.  How I love this boy.  Al is also remarkably resilient and he has to be. Because before him are so many unpleasant truths about his world and horrifying events to cope with that the ability to take such things in stride is necessary for his survival.

Along his journey he also meets a cadre of remarkable personalities and creatures, some friend, some foe, and some just well….we just don’t know where they stand.  But all of them are exquisitely created.  They team with life or unlife (!) as the case may be.  Some are personalities that we have met already in Vampirism and You (Guidebook #01), including that m/m couple of foster vampire Duncan and 17 year old Louis.  They loom large in Al’s future but more than that I won’t say.  You will have to discover the details for yourself.  All the characters involved are memorable, some charming, some chilling and several downright evil.  But no matter what side they fall on, good or bad, they are all believable and realistic right down to the smallest detail.

Dalton moves her narrative along at a swift and smooth pace and you will want to scamper along with her, wanting to rush to see where the plot is taking Al and you next.  But slow down, don’t miss any of the details, even the ones that seem so insignificant.  There is so much layering here, of plot twists, relationship dynamics, family dynamics, young love (more on that later), the trials and tribulations of growing up….you name it and Missouri Dalton has incorporated it into her story.  But  Dalton does so effortlessly, her narrative never feeling jumbled up or dense.  Really, this is an outstanding book in a remarkable  series.

There are some things that should be noted. Necromancy and You as well as the Guidebook series are categorized as a YA book, a category I do agree with one limitation.  I don’t feel it is appropriate for anyone under the age of 15 (Al’s age).  While a kiss between the hero and heroine is the sexiest this gets, there are mild suggestive comments for the sexual activities of a few other couples.  Nothing explicit, nothing even major, but its there.  My limitations pertaining to age is more along the lines of the traumatic events that occur.  Al is hurt numerous times and while we are spared the details, it happens and younger children might be upset. People die and there are other potentially violent  scenes.  They are necessary for the book and work beautifully within the narrative.  Most of the violence is “off stage” as it were, but the emotional impact is huge.  These events are as beautifully constructed as the rest of the story so yes, you will feel them just as Al does.  This is an emotionally moving, heartfelt and heartrending story.  It has the power to bring tears to your eyes even as they are rolling down our hero’s face.

In addition to giving us an intrepid young man, Dalton gives us an equally resourceful heroine. This is a minor romance happening within the storyline.  Al is straight and there is a slight romance starting here.  One that I suspect will grow over the course of the series, along with that of our m/m couple Louis and Duncan.  Again, like every other teenage, young love finds a way, no matter your sexual preference.  But this series is geared towards suspense and mystery of the supernatural kind.  The romances that occur are secondary to the main focus of the series,  a battle brewing against good and evil, that eternal conflict with surprising elements to each side.  I wanted to order print copies immediately and go running along crowded sidewalks, passing them out and yelling at them to  “read this book”!!!!!  Teenagers, young adults, old adults, and everyone in between needs to read this book, invest themselves in the series.

As you may have guessed, I enthusiastically recommend this book and this series.  I will leave you with a few thoughts from Al himself:

I just couldn’t take normal life seriously.

“Mr. Skelton, are you paying attention?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Good, then you can complete the problem on the board.”

Do. Not. Kill.

That should not be anyone’s daily mantra.

While it may not be ours, I love that it is Al’s.  Run, fly, do whatever you have to do, but get this book!

Here is the Guidebook stories in the order they were written:

Vampirism and You (Guidebook #01)

Necromancy and You (Guidebook #02)

Book Details:

ebook, 206 pages
Published July 3rd 2013 by Prizm Books
ISBN1610404939 (ISBN13: 9781610404938)
edition languageEnglish
series Guidebook 

Dance in the Dark (Dance with the Devil #2) by Megan Derr

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Rating: 5 stars

All Johnny’s parents had ever wanted for him was to live life as a normal child.  And with the life he has been given, all he has ever wanted was to fit in and be anything but normal. After his parents were killed by a vampire in the throes of a blood lust, Johnny was adopted by The Dracula Desroseiers and raised along side his vampire son, always aware that he was normal in a family of abnormals and a member of the ruling class. Now at 23, he is considered by most “more vampire than the other vampires”, more coldly beautiful, more arrogant and as well as brilliant. Not quite accepted in either human or vampire society, Johnny spends his days with his books, his studies, and mysteries.

Then his best friend needs Johnny to solve a mystery of a pair of magicked Cinderella slippers, that dominos into a succession of mysteries, increasing in complexity and danger until the final mystery Johnny needs to solve is one that involves him and his family. Then Johnny has to wonder if it is better to dance in the dark than be devoured by it.

Dance in the Dark is the second in the Dance with the Devil series but follows the same format as the first, each chapter is a series of detective cases that Johnny solves.  But unlike the first novel with Chris and Sable Brennen, this takes place in The Dracula Desrosiers territory and John Desrosiers is the Sherlock Holmes type sleuth. Although quick to comment on his normal status, he is also proud of his ability to deduce the solution to the mysteries presented to him, using just his mind and powers of observation. In other hands, Johnny could come off as cold, proud and plain unlikeable. However, this is Megan Derr and in my mind, I automatically equate her with complex characters with real emotions and dimension, and with Derr as his creator, Johnny is completely understandable in his prickly behavior.  He may hide behind his spoiled rich brat front but there is true kindness and the loneliness of a orphan behind all his actions.  I adored him immediately, including his habit of using quotes from poetry to answer questions put to him. Johnny is also the Beau Brummell of his day and I looked forward to the descriptions of his garb and matching jewelry as much as I did elements of the case.  His dress said as much about him as does his manners, beautiful details I have come to expect from a Megan Derr character. All that  lonely brilliance needs balance, and Derr provides it with a host of wildly different characters and beings, each unique, each endearing and all memorable.  This includes Eros, a being of darkness who visits Johnny in the dark for sexual encounters that  quickly turn into more for Johnny, as he needs the intimacy but Eros keeps his identity and physical self hidden to Johnny’s increasing frustration.

If you are not familiar with the books of Megan Derr, I will tell you that every name, every object or event that comes up has a hidden meaning that will be revealed later in the story.  It may not seem like much at the time the information is introduced, but I have learned over many books to take nothing for granted and take great joy in the many traps she springs and surprises that  lay in store.  Here Derr plays with Grimm’s Fairy Tales and other fantasy childhood stories such as  Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty but with a much darker take on them then the current Disney versions and much more in keeping with the original folktales.  Each chapter is such a tale as in Case No.004 The Bremen, as in The Town Musicians of  Bremen. And with each case, layer upon layer is added, eventually connecting all the mysteries to one enormous event that will amaze you with its depth and devilry.

In Dance in the Dark, you get the added bonus of meeting with Chris, Phil, Sable and other characters from Dance with the Devil as a case of Chris’ from that novel is the focal point around which the cases here revolve.  All will be involved in the final solution. How I loved visiting with them again and of course, it caused me to return to read that story once again.

Along with great characters, Derr gives you such wondrous stories filled with complex settings of such vivid description, I often wanted to be a pixie myself riding on their shoulders to experience it all myself. Here they be dragons, and imps, witches and succubus, demons and alchemists – all at play, all none as they seem.  Every time I think Megan Derr has outdone herself with a book, she ups the standard with the next one until my mind boggles over her gift with the language and her ability to tell a story.  In olden times, she would have been a Bard of Legend, her tales told far and wide.  Read Dance in the Dark.  You will find yourself believing it too.

Start the series at the beginning, to get the full understanding of the characters complex backgrounds and world building:

Dance with the Devil (Dance with the Devil #1) read my review here.

Dance with the Dark (Dance with the Devil #2)

Midnight (Dance with the Devil #3) – review coming soon.

Cover art by London Burden.  Love the covers for this series, simple, elegant and perfect.