A Stella Review: Bratty Angel by Chris T. Kat

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

A bratty angel…

Bratty Angel coverFirst Patrick is accosted by a hellhound with a yen for fries and ketchup. Then he encounters a beautiful, but bratty, angel who doesn’t seem to understand the concept of ‘no’… or personal space. Not to mention he demands Patrick pleasure him, which Patrick refuses to do. So why does Patrick feel a connection to this unruly seraphim? And why can’t he forget him?

Two weeks later, the brat is back, making more demands. But Patrick makes it clear he doesn’t do demands. That should be the end of it, right? Or not… Maybe there’s more to this bratty angel than meets the eye. If Patrick has the patience to get past his bratty ways.

A bratty angel with a hellhound as pet!

Forget everything you know about angels and hellhounds. Chris T Kat rewrote all the rules, showing us an hellhound scared of a little cat and an angel specialized in pouting.

In a world where the humans and the supernaturals aren’t separated anymore, Patrick is been trapped in his human form for twenty-three years. Now he is escaping from a creature, a hellhound hungry for his fries with ketchup. King Kong is the “pet” of a beautiful naked angel with no name, an arrogant and spoiled brat, who demands a reward since he rescued Patrick from his (not scary at all) hellhound. Does a blowjob work? Patrick can’t believe Angel’s request and leave him, but the sparkle is already on. They meet again after two weeks when Angel goes to Patrick’s home with the same request. Used to get what he wants, even with spells, Angel doesn’t know otherwise, he can only demand and order.

“I swear if you’re going to use the phrase I demand of you or even just the word demand one more time, I’ll put you over my knee.”

Angel gazed at him in confusion. “Why would you do that? Is that a good position for me to be in to receive my reward?”

After spending the last twenty-three years mourning the loss of his lover, Patrick is intrigued by this angel, naive about the human world. But the bratty-angel is not so bratty at the end.

I’ve  read other books by this author and I’m a huge fan of her works, especially her writing style.  I simply love how she writes. This little story was no exception, funny and easy to read but well done.

The author created an intricate world of angel, demons and hellhounds. Of course this incredible world could be better explained in more pages, this story is really short, just 47 pages.  But I loved how everything developed and was explained at the end, I wasn’t left with questions or doubts. Still we got a lot of details that I’m sure didn’t get enough space.

Be ready for a little surprise at the end, totally unexpected but very welcome. Now I’m just hoping for more.

Cover art by Latrisha Waters. This cover didn’t win me. I’m not sure I like the choice of the colors and the wings don’t seem real.

Sales Links: eXtasy Books    Amazon             Buy It Here

BOOK DETAILS

Published February 15th 2015 by eXtasy books
ebook, 47 pages
ISBN13 9781487402327
Edition language English

 

Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review of Take Heart by Willa Okati

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Rating; 2.5 stars out of 5

takeheart_exlarge_PNG-210x336Dr Brendan West arrives at St. Hawk’s Medical Center for two reasons: first, because he’s onboard as a temp in the ER to cover for another doctor on leave, and second, because he’s heard great things about this area— stories that made him feel that there’s a charm to the town that brings good things to good people. He starts to feel the peace and serenity of the area and enjoy the charm of the town but is afraid to jump in wholeheartedly because he knows his time here is only temporary.

He meets Evan, a heart transplant patient who’s there for an annual checkup and is immediately attracted, then disappointed that Evan is taken when his partner, Griff, walks in. Griff is sending signals that Brendan is afraid he might be misinterpreting. He feels Griff checking him out but that couldn’t be—because he and Evan are a couple, aren’t they? It turns out that Griff and Evan have been known to take on a third over the years and they would like Brendan to join them for a night, or more, of ménage. He finally takes them up on their offer, and it’s more than he could have hoped for. They want him to stay permanently, but he’s sets his boundaries knowing he’s going to be leaving. The story is mostly about that push-pull struggle to decide what to do, i.e. self-inflicted angst as Brendan hovers between wanting to commit to them and wanting to stay detached.

It’s hard to put into words why this story didn’t grab me, but the easiest way to describe it is that it was as if I went to see a movie where the characters spoke quietly in short, staccato sentences, grunts, and mumbles, and the videographer set the scene too dark to be able to make out which characters were speaking, and then to top it all off, it was hard to see what they were actually doing at the time. I had to reread passages and entire pages multiple times to verify who was speaking. I also had trouble visualizing exactly what position each character was in during the sex scenes, but that may have been complicated by the fact that I wasn’t sure who was speaking so it was just hard to imagine. And why have a sex scene if the reader can’t visualize it?

There were many secondary characters in the story so I kept expecting that some action would take place with them, but they either weren’t important to the story or the interaction didn’t take place on page. One example is Brendan’s boss, Dr. Gabriel. We see him outside of office hours but the “important meeting” he’s supposed to have with Brendan is glossed over in that scene. Most men in the story were apparently gay as well, so perhaps the author was introducing characters who will be featured in future installments of this St. Hawk’s Medical Center series.

And my last issue is that I never really understood why Evan and Griff felt that Brendan was so different that they wanted to make the offer to join them permanent. They certainly had no reason to do so from the beginning since they really didn’t even know him at first, and they had previously played with other men in a threesome, so why he was special just didn’t seem to make sense. Perhaps if the author had filled in more on their background or indicated in some way that they had been searching for a permanent third for a long time, it would have made a bit more sense when they got together with him.

The more I write this review, the more I realize that it feels like I’m trying to remember details of a fuzzy dream, and they aren’t coming to me. I’m going to assume that’s because of my above description of how difficult it was to follow the storyline. So I’ll just end the review by saying that if you love ménage, you might like this, but it’s not something that I would recommend to others looking for a romance novel with a strong storyline.

Cover Art by Posh Gosh depicts a handsome, bare-chested man with a scenic landscape background. Although the cover is attractive, it does not depict details of the story.

Sales Links:  Totally Bound Books    All Romance (ARe)   Amazon    Buy It Here

Book Details:

Novella, word count: 34341
ISBN: 9781784303891
eBook
genres: gay, menage, contemporary, series

St. Hawk’s Medical Series:

  • Take Heart
  • Give Chase

A Stella Review: The Biker’s Pup by Sean Michael

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Rating 3 stars out of 5

The Biker's Pup coverWhip came to the Gay Riders Carnival fundraiser weekend looking for a good time, but what he found was infinitely better.

Whip always has a good time at the Gay Riders Carnival, and this year he’s hoping to meet up with some studs and top last year’s festivities. The last thing he expects when he walks into his cabin is to be nearly bowled over by a skinny lad with a bruised jaw.

Nick came to the Carnival with his so-called Master Dirk, but instead of having a good time, things moved quickly from bad to worse and Dirk responded to his safeword with a punch. Running away and hiding was Nick’s only option.

 Broke, alone and not entirely sure how he’s going to get home, Nick thinks Whip is a dream come to life and he’s just waiting for the other shoe to drop. For his part, Whip is drawn to the sweet pup and falls hard for Nick over the course of the long weekend.

But what’s going to happen when the weekend is over?

 

Being a huge Sean fan, I try to be objective in the rating and not going with 5 stars, so I give this book just 3 stars cause I have to complain with the author about the sex part. I’m used to high levels of hotness and unfortunately The Biker’s Pup wasn’t so hot. And I want to add that if you have some issues with the BDSM world, you don’t have to worry, in this book it’s very light. There’s just a short demo of a figging (I had no idea something like that existed, if you are curious have a look http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Figging).

Speaking of the sex aspect, can I have a rant moment please? Some people like to define some of the Sean’s books using the PWP acronym (Porn Without Plot). I know I’m biased cause I’m a Sean fan but I really hate this description, although I’m the first to say there isn’t a lot of plot in this book and in other ones. That’s one of the the reason I read them. The other reason is that I don’t like watch porn, I prefer to read about it. A couple of weeks ago I read Guns, Leather and Tinsel and that was so hot and sexy, I found it compelling. Then a week ago I start the Mannies Incorporated series and there was a plot, not just steamy sex, but a sweet and funny story. I love this author’s writing cause, looking at all his works, I can find the perfect book that fit my day mood.

The Biker’s Pup by Sean Michael is not one of that dark biker’s stories I lately read. What I read was a sweet and tender story, sometimes a little too much, but it was very welcome.

Whip goes to the Gay Riders Carnival weekend to enjoy some fun times with a friend or a sub and to join the Mr Leatherman contest. When he comes to the cabin he rented, he finds Nick, a young man abused by his ex dom, the worst dom ever, who actioned Nick as a slave and beat him frequently. The poor Nick is lonely, without money and without a future.

“…just tell me what you want.”
“A place,” Nicky finally finished. “Like somewhere I belong.”

But Whip is sweet and protective of this scared twink. They soon feel a bond that will lead them to hope for more. Whip will find his pup and Nick an angel, who will help him to straighten out his life.

“Oh… Are you for real? You’re like an angel in leather who showed up just when I needed you.”
Whip snorted. “I’m not an angel, pup.”
“You’re starting to seem like my angel.”

They will spent a weekend together at the Carnival, having fun and some (not too hot) sex and Whip will try to convince his pup to come home with him. But Nick is used to people treating him badly and wanting him just for the sex. Can he convince himself that Whip is for real and for the long haul?

“I’ll hold on tight.”
“I’m counting on it, pup.”

So, if you like some light BDSM with a caring dom and a sweet sub, I can totally recommend The Biker’s Pup to you.

Cover art by Posh Gosh. I’m sorry to say I don’t like it. Of course it’s well done and surely could have been used for another book, cause in my opinion it doesn’t fit the story, or better the characters. The models on the cover really aren’t how I imagined Nick and Whip in my mind.

Sales Links:   Totally Bound Books   All Romance (ARe)      Amazon     Buy it here

Book Details:
Published January 9th 2015 by Totally Bound
ebook, 74 pages
ISBN13 9781784303556
Edition language: English

 

It’s Cold Outside! Need Some Storming Love? Meet Seth and Casey From RJ Scott!

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magnifying glass and book

Storming Lose: Seth and Casey by RJ Scott

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banner_StormingLove_blizzard-sm

Seth Wild is a fire fighter who has lost everything. Nearly dying in a building collapse, he is scared and angry and chases away the only good thing in his life—school teacher Casey McGuire.

When a sudden and violent snow storm hits their town he receives a message Casey and ten kids are trapped in an education center with no way out. There is no one else who can help, he’s the last fire fighter in town with his bum leg and his icy heart.

He doesn’t hesitate. He always promised he would be Casey’s hero, but will he ever again be Casey’s love?

Buy Links   RJ Scott

 

About RJ Scott

RJ Scott has been writing since age six, when she was made to stay in at lunchtime for an infraction involving cookies. She was told to write a story and two sides of paper about a trapped princess later, a lover of writing was born.

As an avid reader herself, she can be found reading anything from thrillers to sci-fi to horror. However, her first real true love will always be the world of romance where she takes cowboys, bodyguards, firemen and billionaires (to name a few) and writes dramatic and romantic stories of love and passion between these men.

With over seventy titles to her name and counting, she is the author of the award winning book, The Christmas Throwaway. She is also known for the Texas series charting the lives of Riley and Jack, and the Sanctuary series following the work of the Sanctuary Foundation and the people it protects.

Her goal is to write stories with a heart of romance, a troubled road to reach happiness, and most importantly, that hint of a happily ever after.

Contact/Follow RJ Scott at:

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rj@rjscott.co.uk
www.rjscott.co.uk/
https://twitter.com/Rjscott_author
www.facebook.com/author.rjscott
www.librarything.com/author/scottrj
www.tumblr.com/blog/rjscott (some NSFW (not safe for work) photos)
www.pinterest.com/rjscottauthor/

Excerpt from Seth and Casey…

 

 

He pushed the door shut against the howling wind and snow and stamped off his feet coming face to face with a terrified looking probie.

“We have school kids and a teacher trapped up at Shorefields,” Seth snapped out. Probie blinked at him. He recalled the guy’s name was Evan or Eben or something. And it seemed like Evan/Eben was in complete panic mode and meltdown. He glanced worriedly from side to side, like some kind of divine intervention was going to answer Seth’s statement.

“There’s no one here,” Evan/Eben said.

Seth waited for a second then exasperated that there wasn’t more of an immediate reaction he pushed past Evan/Eben and into the main area. Both trucks gone.

“I said, they’re not here, ladder one didn’t come back in from the interstate, and engine two went out to Middleton Springs. There’s been a building collapse. It’s just me.”

Seth rounded on the guy and was so close he could see the panic in blue eyes.

“Get on to other stations and call this in—“

“I can’t. Sir, we have nothing. No comms, no Internet, nothing.”

“Give me a sitrep. What’s your name? Evan? Eben?” Seth ordered.

The probie blinked at him then visibly pulled himself together. He was new since Seth had been put on leave. He’d had training, but this was probably his first real situation.

“Evan sir, Evan Pritchard. Uhmmm… Both engines out, reports of major incidents, last said the storm has taken out power. I’m alone here…” He paused. “And sir, I’m not sure what to do.”

Seth considered what he’d been told. Ten kids, Casey, Shorefields, trapped in the bus, which meant they had maybe managed to get away from Shorefields itself and had no way of getting back. He doubted they were set for extreme weather.

“Okay. I want you here. You’re not to leave and you’re to keep your eyes on comms, see if we can get more intel. I need supplies in a bag from the kitchen, water, energy bars.”

“What are you going to do?”

Seth looked directly at him. Evan needed to know where he was going. “There’s a bus load of kids trapped up at Shorefields and I’m going to help. I’m taking the Land Rover.”

He didn’t leave room for discussion, simply presented the facts a done deal. He should wait for a team, for backup, but there was nothing stopping him from getting to Jamie and the kids. And Casey.

“Yes, sir.”

They split, Seth checking the truck he was going to use, a modified vehicle capable of getting through most of the shit life could throw at it. It was equipped with most of the things he could need. Then as an afterthought, he grabbed coats from the supply room. He knew the kids would be dressed warm. After all, the whole day had been a winter experience in a beautiful place.

He was supposed to be there with Casey. He’d said he was staying at home. Time is not right to start thinking I’ve fucked up.

Contest:  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Review: Eye of the Beholder (Winterfield series) by Edward Kendrick

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Review:          3.5 stars

Eye of the BeholderPreston Davison and his friend Cary Fielding were friends in high school and then their lives took two wildly different paths.  Cary went off to college and Preston went on to become ‘The Sergeant’, a minor star in gay pornographic movies. The two kept in touch and it was Cary who finally gave Preston the push to leave the adult film company he was working for and try to start over.  But on the very night Preston quits his job, he is brutally attacked and his face destroyed by an unknown assailant.  Now afraid to go outside with his “monster” of a face, Preston lives with his friend the nurse who treated him and starts working on his own web design company, secure in the fact he will never have to meet any clients face to face. But one of his new clients has a very familiar name and soon Preston is writing to his old friend under a pen name.

Cary lives with his boyfriend, Hugh, and has tried to move on with his life after failing to find his friend after the attack.  But memories of Preston won’t go away.  Then one day, Cary’s firm decides it needs a new  website.  The designer Cary chooses only conducts their meetings online and corresponds only with email.  But something about the way this person “talks” feels so familiar to Cary….

Can Preston overcome his fears and tell Cary who he is? Unbeknownst to Cary and Preston, the person who ruined Pres’ face is still around and waiting for his chance to strike once more.  What will win out?  Fear or love?  Is beauty truly in the eye of the beholder?

I really liked this story and wavered in assigning a rating.  The true strength of this story is the character of Preston Davison, the ex porn star disfigured by a gruesome attack.  The attack happens “off stage” so we jump immediately to the aftermath and it’s devastating effect upon Preston and his life.  We are there as Preston grapples with the remnants of a face that once was beautiful and the lack of a career to land on.  I actually wished there was more of this section of the story.  What Kendrick gives us as Pres starts to pull whats left of his life together is so realistic, so heart wrenching, especially a scene in a part with a little boy, that I wanted more of his recovery.  And I wanted the payoff promised by the interaction with the young boy (more about this later). Pres is helped by his “Tabby Cat”, the nurse who cared for him in the hospital and became his friend.  I loved that character too.  Tabitha is a lovely creation, and I really enjoyed every part of her friendship with Preston.  This part of the story is a solid 4 star rating.

It’s when we turn to the other characters and elements of the story that the rating starts to waver downward.  Cary is a less substantial figure here with respect to Preston.  Cary’s present relationship is not fulfilling but he stays in it more out of habit than anything else.  I could wish for a more  forceful or lively presence here but Cary comes across as just too passive a character for this to work as well as the author had hoped.  The other part of the story that didn’t work as well for me was that the attacker was easily identifiable early on in the story. And although this didn’t really bother me,  the resolution at the end came far too easily for everyone concerned. No big denouement, no great dramatic”aha”, so it didn’t ring true considering the heinous nature of the attacks on Preston. Given the strength of the first part of this story, the last half just sort of petered out.

I did notice that this story seems to be the beginning of a series titled Winterfield which is the town they all live in so I am hoping that the boy and his brother will figure in one of the books to come.  Really, that was such a tantalizing scene and its promise has stayed with me all through the rest of the story as I kept hoping the boy would make a reappearance.  So I am still going to recommend this book with reservations.  Forget about the suspense tag and look at it as more of a romance.  I am hoping the stories that come will fill in the narrative I feel is lacking here.  Let me know what you think?  I look forward to hearing from you.

Cover by Reese Dante is nice but really doesn’t speak to the story.

Review of Alien ‘n’ Outlaw by K. C. Burn

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Rating: 4.25 stars

R’kos is the youngest child of the Emperor of Ankylos and the most different.  Unlike his brothers and sisters, he has an adventurous nature and no desire to enter into the standard triad marriage of their species. As the time for his arranged marriage draws near, R’los commandeers a family shuttle and heads out into space, eventually landing on Elora Ki.  R’kos is in search of human male companionship.  Just their smell so intrigues R’kos that he ends up in a bar, sniffing each human who comes in.  But the Ankylos sense of smell is so acute that he can smell hate, fear, corruption along with kindness, love, lust and happiness.  So far, no one smell has agreed with him.  Until Darien enters asking the barkeep for help.

Darien Lancaster is the son of a wealthy industrialist.  His father shipped him off to become a miner when he found out that Darien was gay but  he escaped, traveling the galaxy under assumed names and trading illegally to make a living. Darien hates what his father’s businesses have done to people, including inflicting an incurable disease on miners.  To counteract his father’s actions, Darien has become something of a Robin Hood, stealing from the rich and buying goods for the poor and sick.  Now he owes money to an infamous drug dealer who is hunting him down. Just when he thinks he is cornered a hooded stranger comes to his rescue.  The stranger?  R ‘kos whom Darien calls Ricky.  It takes both their efforts to get off planet where Ricky  accompanies Darien on his trade routes.  Ricky is having the time of his life and Darien is coming to depend on Ricky for friendship and then so much more.  It’s not just passion they feel for each other but love.  Then Ricky is injured and Darien must contact the people  who  seek to lock him up. Darien will risk everything to save Ricky and he must convince Ricky’s father and the Alliance that Ricky was not kidnapped, a crime which could send Darien to prison for the rest of his life.

I will admit that R’kos and I got off to a shaky start.  I mean really, a lavender Mr. Clean? With purple eyes and a nose in overdrive? And yes, there’s that misunderstood thief with a heart of gold, who just needs someone to love and believe in him.  Cliche territory seemed to surround me. And then, none of that mattered. Both R’kos ne Ricky and Darien got to me, I fell in love with both of them, found some really nice plot details  and ended up being swept away on the journey with them. *shakes head*.  Usually I go on about great characterization, or personas flatter than a frozen pancake but here I am just going to say I loved these two, not really sure why they captured my heart. I only know they did.  I cared for them despite his oddball coloring which was never completely explained or why a herbivore has a hive structure for their species.  Interesting details though they didn’t make sense to my naturalist mind.  Didn’t matter.  See what I mean?  I loved that big hairless Ricky who wanted more from life than any other Ankylos and went out to find it.  And ended up meeting Darien who is trying to make up for the pain and suffering his father inflicted on his brother and others. Darien is so alone that he captures both our understanding as well as compassion.  Loved him too.

I appreciated how Burn gave us an updated Robin Hood in space as well as a horrific reason that Darien chose to become an illegal trader.  The creation of a disease that so alters the human minors that they become gnarled twisted mindless beings called Chimera is horrific.  Black lung, asbestos, leprosy and more jumped immediately to mind.  Burn took those and then added even more symptoms to give us an interplanetary disease of nightmares. And then made it personal to Darien and the reader.  Great job.  Some science fiction stories only tweak one or two things, put it on a spaceship and expect it to be real science fiction.  No that does not make a story credible science fiction.  Give us world building, new species and make it seem realistic or possible.  And that definitely occurred here.  So believable that I am with Darien about living on Ankylos.  I felt his panic along with him.  It was just too alien, the complete lack of privacy unnerving and Darien knew he would not be able to adjust.  I found that credible too because I wouldn’t either.

To me, there is really only one substantial mistep.  KC Burns tells us of the big rift between the speciies over a mineral called Wolframite, in fact, the very lack of the mineral caused a protracted war between the Alliance (humans) and Ankylos with huge losses on both sides.  It is a major plot point in this story so imagine my astonishment upon finding out exactly what the wolframite was needed for.  I won’t tell you but to me it showed an amazing disregard to prior story elements, especially considering the  substantial impact on the characters and interspecies relations the war had and all for a throwaway bit of humor.   Why  that was not caught and pointed out to the author who hadn’t shown too many errors up until then I will never know.  Getting past that plot pothole, than my one last quibble is one of backstory.  Darien’s brother became a Chimera and Darien has been looking for him as he has travelled.  I would have liked more of that history. Perhaps KC Burns will give us a sequel and another journey for Darien and Ricky.  I would love a second visit to their universe.  But no more overly “cutsey” elements, they aren’t needed.  You have a good story, trust that to be enough.  So I do recommend this but let me know what you think.  Can you fall in love with characters just because? Either way, I hope to see these again.

Review of Brook Street: Thief by Ava March

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Rating: 4 stars

Lord Benjamin Parker has always thought that he might be gay but never put it to a test.  Until now.  One evening at a gambling hell known to be frequented by men who discretely prefer the company of other men, he sits at a card table next to one of the most attractive men he has ever seen.  That man turns out to be Cavin Fox. Cavin Fox has come, not to gamble, but to pick up a wealthy mark to take home and fleece, leaving the mark’s pockets empty come morn.  But he is enjoying their flirting and conversation and the even drags on more than it should.

When the men do leave the establishment together, the night turns into a evening of sexual exploration that neither man will forget.  And Cavin leaves, taking nothing from Benjamin as being with Benjamin has affected him deeply.  Benjamin feels the same and wants nothing more than to see Cavin again.  When events conspire to bring them together  again, Benjamin vows to keep Cavin with him just as much as Cavin feels he cannot stay and take advantage of Benjamin’s feelings.  It takes a dramatic rescue and confrontation to bring about a solution they both can accept in order for a thief and a lord to live happily ever after.

Brook Street: Thief is the first of a trilogy by Ava March that captures the historical feel of the times and still delivers an emotionally rewarding romantic story of love found among the gutters.  Both main characters are easy to love.  Lord Benjamin comes across as an affable fellow, good natured, and generous hearted.  His story of how he determines he actually may be gay will bring smiles to your face as it did to Cavin’s.  The youngest of five children of a Marquis, he doesn’t stand to inherit the title or lands so he is free to be a “confirmed bachelor” all his life, a quaint way of saying he prefers the company of men.  But it is with Cavin Fox that my sympathy and love were quickly seated.  A guttersnipe who was plucked out of the streets by a man named Hale who prostituted him out as well as trained him to be a thief, Cavin still retains a gentle soul and good heart.  When in his anquish he determines not to see Benjamin again, the reader hurts as badly as he does.  Ava March does such a terrific job with them both, that I never felt they were anything less than real.  A young man named Sam also figures into the story as a young brother figure for Cavin.  I hope to see more of him  in the latter stories.

And there is the setting here.  It is 1822, London, England.  March’s descriptions of the hellish nature of the place where Hale, Cavin and the boys live gave me the shivers.  From her vivid descriptions, I could see the rats and urchins vying for garbage scraps as the consumptive whores with their dirty feet watched from their doorways.  Never was I go glad to be living in 2012 America.  March did a beautiful job of conveying time, place and atmosphere and all in a mere 112 pages.  Quite a feat.

If I have a quibble it is that the ending came about a little too fast and the solution Benjamin and Cavin found seemed too pat an answer for the times they live in.  But considering the happy ending and the promise of more to come, I will leave my quibbling there.  I look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.

Cover.  What a gorgeous cover! Stunning in its emotional appeal and  coloring.  Fantastic job.

Review of The Florist (Workplace Encounters #8) by Serena Yates

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Rating: 3 stars

Dylan White, free spirit and free lance florist designer, is on vacation when he gets a call that will change his life.  His friend, Mike Benton, has died and left him everything he had owned, including a house and florist shop in Jacksonville, Florida.  Dylan lands in Jacksonville and heads to the law offices handling Mike’s will and funeral services.  As Dylan leaves the law firm, he runs smack dab into a human wall in the form of Sean Mellick.  Sean Mellick is a junior defense lawyer with the same firm handling Mike’s affairs and is immediately struck by his attraction to the gorgeous man leaving his law firm.

Dylan finds himself similarly attracted to Sean.  Suddenly, he is finding reasons to stay in town, settle down and run a business.  As Dylan and Sean embark upon a romance, problems with the shop he inherited and a law case Sean is involved in rise up to threaten their new formed relationship.  Can Dylan throw aside his temptations to leave and fight instead for love and a home?

I had a hard time staying with this book but it took me some time to figure out why.  Serena Yates has the elements in place for a riveting story. We have a commitment phobic free spirit and a work obsessed lawyer coming together with a couple of stressful events thrown in their path to happiness.  The characters seem likable and their situations appeared realistic.  So what was the problem?  Why didn’t the story or the people engage me? The answer I keep coming back to is that I just didn’t buy what the author was trying to sell me.

Let’s start with the characterizations.  Dylan White is supposed to be this amazing larger than life bon vivant, a true free spirit. But the author never gives us one, not in her descriptions nor dialog.  We are told he is one, because he is on vacation and left the florist shop his parents own. Why?  Because he didn’t like the floral designs they were putting out.  That’s a free spirit?  The only thing that says impulsive free spirit is the statement in the beginning telling us that Dylan is one.  The same goes for Sean Mellick.  We are supposed to buy that Sean is a young man driven to become partner at his law firm, putting that goal above all else, including a personal life.  How do we know this?  A senior partner is surprised he has a date and again, the author told us so.  As far as I could tell, the senior partner could have been surprised because Sean is socially inept.  Again, there is no backstory or pertinent characteristics to support this view of Sean Mellick.    It all comes back to the fact that an author must build a character/characters that a reader will believe in.  If that person has a devil may care spirit, show me in dialog, history and actions. Don’t just leave him flat on the page.  If you want me to  believe a character is driven, convince me of that!  Don’t just tell me he is one.  I never believed in either character because there was never any followup to support that initial description and my interest in the story was gone.

If you can overlook the superficial characterizations, then the next problem lies in the criminal element Yates introduces into her story.  It just never made any sense.  The problem at Dylan’s new shop and Sean’s case are supposed to be connected but little is made of that fact.  Everything is not as it appears at the floral shop.  An interesting element is thrown at us, but this plot line is essentially wasted, as it is not well developed, and in the end not necessary to the story.  Nor is Sean’s job, which we were made to believe was a singular goal of his.  All these roadblocks or issues the author raises for the characters just slide away, another unreal or unbelievable  element in a story full of them.

So in the end I didn’t buy the characters or the storyline.  This is the only book I have read from the Workplace Encounters series so I won’t write them off based on this alone.  But I am not recommending this for anyone other than a hardcore Serena Yates fan.

cover:  Cover Artist is Reese Dante.  The cover is just ok, doesn’t speak to anything inside the book or the story.

Review of One Last Kiss Goodbye by N.J. Nielson

Standard

Rating: 4 stars

Jacen Ives has loved Kayne Henderson since he was 11 and Kayne was 14. Kayne  was kind to him and stopped Jacen from being bullied.  Confused about his feelings, Jacen talks to his older brother, Micah, and dad about being gay and is met with acceptance and love.  But both caution him about being out at school and Micah makes him promise to never reveal his feelings to Kayne.  Jacen keeps that promise until the night of their graduation party. It seems that Kayne has known all along about Jacen’s “crush” and he sends Jacen away to college with a kiss goodbye after telling Jacen that he is straight and has a serious girlfriend.

Six years later, Jacen returns to his hometown after being savagely beaten by an ex-boyfriend he met in college.  His family gathers to support him.  And to his surprise, so does Kayne Henderson.  Kayne is now divorced and has a young daughter. Homeless,they both live with Micah and his partner, Sammy. When Jacen’s ex eludes the Melbourne  police, everyone fears he will show up to threaten Jacen again so Kayne and his daughter move in with Jacen to protect him. But Kayne is hiding a secret, one he has carried since graduation.  When the secret comes out, it will shatter friendships and leave Jacen vulnerable. Can both men accept change when it leads to a future both want with all their hearts?

One Last Kiss Goodbye was a lovely story of unrequited love fulfilled at last with an Australian touch.  Nielson has done such a great job with her characterizations that each and every one comes off as a realistic portrayal of young men conflicted about their sexuality, driven to act under stress and duress that will seem so authentic, so real to the reader that they capture our sympathy and hearts immediately.

Jacen Ives is sweet and loving portrait of a sweet, smart young man who separates himself from his family and support system because he just can’t stand to remain and watch Kayne and his girlfriend.  You have to remember these are the actions of a 15 year old who has jumped ahead in school to graduate with older kids but still has the emotional maturity of his actual age.  In fact, as the story ends, Jacen is only 21.  Nielson understands Jacen’s emotional age and stays true to that level of maturity throughout the book.  In moving away from family and friends, Jacen takes away his security and emotional backing as well. It is easy to imagine a 15 year old on his own for the first time, homesick and grieving over the loss of Kayne being vulnerable to someone who will abuse him in a relationship.  Each of Jacen’s actions are completely comprehensible, including his quickness to tear up given his bruised emotional and physical state of being.  Kayne is another character who jumps to life complete with his many frailties front and center.  With Kayne, Nielson gives us insight into a man who was a 14-year old confused about his sexuality and afraid of his emotions, so much so that he acts “straight” to all around him with grievous consequences. Here again the reader must keep in mind that Kayne is only 3 years older than Jacen, and his actions reflect that as well.  These are two sweet and compelling young men struggling with the repercussions of past actions in their present day reality as well as the feelings they still have for each other.  You will root for them with all your heart.

The things that did bother me about the story might have more to do with the difference laws in the United States and Australia.  There are certain events that take place that if they had occurred here in the States, they would have tagged as a hate crime and the participants jailed.  Also what is described as vandalism here would be classified as an attack, a destruction of property, as well as a hate crime, more serious offenses.  So I think my confusion here is due to the author being Australian with differing laws and not the fact that the events are considered less serious. I am not sure if Australia has a hate crime law in effect there.  The other quibble has to do with Kayne’s daughter’s name.  Jacen is extremely smart so how  does he not get the significance of her name?  Also the ending seemed a bit rushed.  The book is only 125 pages so the length did not seem to match the bigger story contained within.  I enjoyed my time spent with Jacen and Kayne.  I think you will too.

Cover: I loved this cover.  Art by Reese Dante and photography by D.W.S. Photography, it is sheer perfection.  The ages are spot on, the models sweet faced and sensual.

Review of The Wizard and the Werewolf (Mixed Mate Series#1) by Amber Kell

Standard

Rating: 3.5 stars

Peter Moore, Alpha of his pack, doesn’t expect to start his day with a request from his sister Anna’s new Mate, Cyrus Kane.  Always shy in his presence, Cyrus seems especially nervous now.  Cyrus has a request to make of Peter and their pack.  Cyrus’ half brother Justin needs a place to stay for a few days and Cyrus suggested that he stay with him. Which wouldn’t be a problem except that Justin is a wizard, someone not always welcomed by shifters.  Justin also is a bit of a trouble magnet.  Still after granting his request, Peter is not prepared for the gorgeous man on a motorcycle roaring up his Pack’s driveway.  One look, one sniff, and Peter finds he has his Mate in Justin, something neither man is prepared for.

Justin is on the run, a small fact he has kept from his brother.  Justin has stolen a powerful talisman from Tom Frells, member of the Wizard Council and Justin’s exboyfriend. Tom has promised to track him down, retrieve the artifact and make him pay.  Could the timing be any worse on finding out that he has a Mate? Now not only must Justin keep his Cyrus and Anna safe, he has a possessive Alpha as Mate and a psychotic ex-boyfriend chasing him.  Justin must use all his wits and power if there is to be a future for them all.

The Wizard and the Werewolf is the beginning of a new series by Amber Kell and it has the makings of a good one.  This book sets up the story, the characters and the quest/conflict that will involve everyone in the books to come.  I like the cast of characters Kell has presented us with starting with Cyrus and Justin, half brothers superficially opposite and completely similiar inside where it counts, including giving shy, submissive Cyrus a core of steel.  The pack also has characters of note, from Peter Moore and his dominant sister, Anna to Gregory, his beta in the pack. Kell throws a demon and god for good measure.  But at 117 pages, there is just not enough time to satisfactorily and realistically accomplish all she has set down in the first book, which is such a shame. I find that the characters could have been more fully developed and a little less stereotypical.  Peter is a Alpha we have seen before as is the Gay for You element here. I wish she had given Peter her own twist to this character and the same goes for the bad boy  wizard, Justin.

Then there is the plot. We need a little more backstory here, why do the wizards and shifters not get along to the point of extermination? Tell us more about Gaia and her son. The narrative needed more polish and more depth than the length and Amber Kell was able to convey. All the questions brought up by the events in the book never received any answers by the end.  In fact, the book was more of a cliffhanger than anything else, a technique that, in my opinion, only belongs in a free serial story.Yes, one aspect was cleared up but so many more were left hanging. Leave hints, lay a trail or two to set up the next book in the series but finish what you start and leave the reader satisfied with the book they just finished.

Unfortunately the book came across as more of a hastily scribbled book outline that the author wanted to get off to the publisher to show what they were working on next.  I just wish Amber Kell has take the time to flesh out the story that she has created for us.  All the elements are there, including the mixed mates element which I really love.  This book gives us two mixed mates and several cross bondings, all of which adds the potential for this to be a great new series if the author brings the promise I see here to fruition.  I am looking forward to the next book, but if loose ends and cliffhangers leave you irritated and unsatisfied, perhaps you should wait until the series is further along to pick this one up.

Cover:  Nice design by artist Reese Dante but the  models look a little generic for me and nothing speaks to the storyline inside.