A MelanieM Review: Saving Crofton Hall (Stately Passions #1) by Rebecca Cohen

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Saving Crofton Hall400x600Benjamin Redbourn, Earl of Crofton, has enjoyed his life of wealth and leisure.  And he had every intention of continuing that lifestyle until a frantic phone call from sister interrupts his idylls in New York City.  His widowed mother’s secret gambling debts lead her to forgery, putting up Crofton Hall as collateral. Now the family faces the possibility of foreclosure by the bank, and Benjamin is forced into opening their beloved estate to the public.  But he must act fast and he has no idea how to accomplish turning her into a historical venue.

Enter Ashley Niven.  A friend of Benjamin’s sister, Ashley has experience managing events, and he also loves history. Ashley is also in need of a job when his current employer cuts back in the staff. Being in charge of opening Crofton Hall is a dream come true, one he has held from the moment he saw the estate.   But its not just the charms of Crofton Hall that Ashley finds himself drawn to but to the dashing Earl of Crofton as well.

Much like Crofton Hall herself, there are layers to be discovered under the charming fascade of Benjamin Redbourne, if only Ashley can lower his barriers of self defense enough to undercover them.

Crofton Hall has many secrets, and something hidden for over four hundred years is about to change all their lives.

Picking up Saving Crofton Hall was a true delight.  First I was returning to a setting made familiar with The Crofton Chronicles, a trio of stories set in the mid 1500’s that revolved around the lives and relationship of Anthony Redbourn, Earl of Crofton, and actor Sebastian Hewell.  I adored those stories and this author’s ability to bring those times and her characters vividly to life.   Secondly, I hoped to have more insight into Crofton Hall’s history to discover any additional details of Anthony and Sebastian’s life together.  Did I get it?  Hmmmm, yes in a totally unexpected and wonderful way, something I will let the readers discover for themselves.

Saving Crofton Hall brings that grand old estate into modern times, along with the Redbourn family.  Benjamin Redbourn is the 16th Earl of Crofton, his father having recently passed.  The oldest son and heir, Benjamin has been blithely yet determinedly pursuing the wild life since an earlier breakup left him devastated.  His search of the fast life and faster men have taken him far aboard, leaving Crofton Hall in the hands of his mother unequipped to handle it with a younger brother and sister unable to deal with their mother and the situation.  Once more, Rebecca Cohen delivers us into the middle of this historic and charming estate but this time to a family facing ruin and the loss of everything that has been in family for hundreds of years, including Crofton Hall.

Crofton Hall continues to act as an important character in this story.  Objects found along her halls or in the gardens, will instantly bring up fond recollections of those earlier stories, much like visiting an old friend will make older shared events and joint memories fresh once more.  The hall also serves as an intimate and immediate frame of reference for Benjamin Redbourn.  As the 16th Earl of Crofton he faces challenges to his family and estate the previous owners would never have thought of while retaining those responsibilities and duties that come with the title.  Benjamin remains a combination of the old and the new,  history and honor,  with a sense of entitlement that gets an adjustment in face of an unthinkable loss.  I liked Benjamin immediately.  He’s a good person hit with a series of personal and emotional shocks, the first of which is a mother with a hidden gambling problem.  He’s believable, relatable, and sexy.  I adored him.

Next up is Ashley Niven, another character who makes this story and romance both real and endearing.  Like some of those drawing room comedies, Ashley’s drawn towards Benjamin and spends an inordinate amount of time fighting his own impulses…much to our delight.   Lively dialog ushers in two men in flux.  Each has qualities that mesh with the other and how they find their balance makes their romance and relationship sweet, sexy, and as charming as Crofton Hall herself. And the scenes with Ashley, Benjamin, and the people who come to “rent out” Crofton Hall are some of the most poignant and humorous scenes described.  When the members of the local UFO society have their meeting at the Hall, its as  funny as you would expect, then its followed by a wedding so moving that sniffling is sure to occur.  But the character of Ashley also has quite the unusual pedigree and that surprising background just adds more spice to an already delicious dish of a story!

There’s Mrs. Weather, Billins, Kitty, and so many others that give Saving Crofton Hall the feeling of a close-knit community pulling together to save home and hearth.   None feel extraneous to the estate or the story, more a needed ingredient that gives a depth that would be missed without them.

Here is a story rich in history and appreciation for family and tradition.  Saving Crofton Hall is the first in a new series, Stately Passions,  by Rebecca Cohen that features various estates in the UK.  I can’t wait to see where this terrific author takes us next.  While Saving Crofton Hall can certainly be read as a stand alone, for the wealth of history and romance lurking in the halls and foundation, pick up the three stories that make up The Crofton Chronicles.  I have listed them all for you at the bottom of this review.

I highly recommend Saving Crofton Hall by Rebecca Cohen, an author with an ability to make history feel alive, and give modern times a rich patina of culture and tradition that sets her narratives on strong foundations from which they can grow and become memorable.

Cover artist:  Reese Dante.  Terrific  cover, and that estate looks exactly the way I pictured Crofton Hall.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner ebook & Paperback     All Romance (ARe)   amazon    Saving Crofton Hall

Book Details:

Published November 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781632165084
edition languageEnglish
series Stately Passions #1

The Crofton Chronicles in the order they were written and should be read:

The Actor and the Earl (The Crofton Chronicles #1)
Duty to the Crown (The Crofton Chronicles #2)
Forever Hold His Peace (The Crofton Chronicles #3)

A MelanieM Review: Solitude by Anna Martin and Tia Fielding

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Rating:  4. 25 stars out of 5

Solitude coverGael Torres met Liam Barton when he costarred in an adult movie for Woodspring Manor Entertainment, the company that employed them as actors for their porn films.  Liam, also known as Lithium in the adult film industry, had just signed up with Woodspring although he was already a legend in the porn industry.  Gael, known as Gabriel Knightly, was already an established star at Woodspring for over 5 years.  In their first scene together, sparks flew, their attraction to each other igniting far past what the script and acting called for.

But obstacles were already in the way to any relationship between them.  Gael was living with John, known to his fans as Johnny Depth, and it was well known that  they were  a popular established couple and good for Woodspring’s image and advertising.  And Lithium?  The secrets he was hiding were huge, and one night he simply disappeared.  No note, no phone calls.  Gone.

Shocked, Gael waits as the rumors pile up, many saying that Lithium had died, a notion Gael couldn’t accept.  Determined to find Lithium and extract some answers, Gael still wasn’t prepared for what he finds when the missing Lithium is located.

Liam Barton has left his identity as Lithium behind when he fled LA for the ski slopes of Solitude Ski Resort in remote Utah.  Haunted by his past, burdened by circumstances he left behind in L.A., Liam craves the peace and isolated existence found in this small town.  The only thing he misses is the actor he thinks he can’t have, Gabriel Knightly.

When Gael arrives at Solitude to find Liam alive if not completely happy, the shock is almost overwhelming.  Gael is determined to get his answers and show Liam the depth of his feelings.  Liam has built a fortress to hide behind.  Can Gael break  down his walls so both men can find the love and relationship they have been dreaming about?  Or will Liam’s past destroy any chances they might have for a future together?

What a terrific love story!  Solitude by Anna Martin and Tia Fielding works on many levels, as a romance, a study of porn actors and their industry, and as a plot storyline that  relays the fact that even a HFN commitment takes work and compromises in the name of love.  All of these elements and more combine to bring a realistic and even handed look into an industry (and actors) that seldom are given such a non-judgmental point of view.  Love and romance are on display in this story in many forms, including the deep love and caring relationship of Gael’s parents,  great secondary characters whose loving relationship acts as a support and example for those who know them.

Authors Martin and Fielding use characters Liam Barton and Gael Torres to show the different facets to the people who act in porn film and the various types of adult film companies who produce the prodigious amounts of porn filmed each year.   It starts off with the company Woodspring Manor Entertainment, a firm whose owners like Preston, take care of their performers, from contracts to health insurance to housing.  Woodspring and its owners represent the  best of the adult film industry.  Among its established stars are Gael (Gabriel Knightly) and Johnny (Johnny Depth), a “couple” favored for their relationship as well as their gorgeous bodies and acting abilities.  Gael Torres is a porn star in the business because he loves sex and is good at it.  He comes from a loving and open minded family who only want their son to be happy and aren’t ashamed of his profession.

Gael Torres is that person you infrequently hear about…the well adjusted porn star.  That such a person exists is a certainty but one the media seldom  picks up on.  Gael is a marvelous character whose believable and appealing personality makes the story and romance. And he comes with one of the loveliest set of parents around, his Finnish mother Leena and Spanish father, Diego, secondary characters who light up the page whenever they make an appearance.

On the opposite side of spectrum of the actors in the adult film industry is Liam Barton, known as Lithium.  He represents those who comes from abusive backgrounds, men accompanied by their own painful set of circumstances, a reality of this world as well.  His background?  That of a ultra conservative Latter day Saints family he escaped from but barely.   The background created for him by the authors feels as complicated, haunted and real as Gael’s does open, happy, and accepting.  The pairing of these two dissimilar men helps to create the drama and believable relationship dynamics that the pair must work through. And all the adjustments and compromises they achieve makes their romance and love seem not only viable but heartwarming and real.

The narrative begins with Liam already in Solitude, Utah but then it switches back and forth between Gael and Liam, the past and the present.  The effect that changeover has upon the story can feel jumbled at times but the story is such a good one that an uneven narrative can be somewhat overlooked.   These are easy character to learn to care about and the other characters in their orbit are just as believable as they are.

I absolutely recommend Solitude by Anna Martin and Tia Fielding.  The romance is complicated and heartfelt, the characters believable and compelling, and the story plot marvelous all the way to the end.  And did I say it was sexy and hot too?  Well, it is!   Grab it up today and find out for yourself!

Cover Art by Reese Dante  is lovely even if it doesn’t exactly speak to the plot and characters.

Sales Links:    Dreamspinner Press eBook  Paperback      All Romance (ARe)       Amazon            Solitude

Book Details:

ebook, 214 pages
Published August 27th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1632161613 (ISBN13: 9781632161611)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.annamartin-fiction.com/#!coming-soon/ccbp

A MelanieM Review: Yakuza Courage (The Way of the Yakuza #2) by H.J. Brues

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Yakuza CourageEx-Navy SEAL Brendan O’Farrihy’s life was never the same after his SEAL team deployed to Afghanistan on a near suicidal covert mission. It ended disastrously, killing two of his team members and shattering the lives of the remaining SEALS. Now Brendan works for a Washington lawyer and boyfriend, helping his clients by conducting investigations and acting as security.  Then Brendan is sent to Honolulu on a new job for their client, Senator Harris.  It seems that the Senator’s youngest son has gotten involved with the Yakuza and brought them back with him from Japan where he had been kidnapped.  The Senator’s son, Kenneth Harris,  is living and working at Honolulu dojo , a suspected front for a yakuza syndicate.  Brendon’s job is to investigate and extract the son as necessary. The first step in Brendan’s investigation? Enroll in a kendo class being given at the dojo in question to get close to his subject and observe the situation.

Kendo instructor, the cocky, short-fused, gorgeous Kinosuke Yonekawa has arrived in Honolulu along with his former yakuza underboss Shigure Matsunaga, other ex yakuza members and of course, Ken Harris, Matsunaga’s gajin lover who is helping to see them established in the US. Kinosuke feels cutoff from all he knew, especially his place in Japanese and Yakuza society. American culture and customs confuse him and he feels adrift from the very people who make up his family. Then a new student arrives in class. Freckled, outgoing, handsome and yet respectful. The feelings he engenders in Kinosuke just add to his jumbled state of mind.

As Brendan becomes more involved with Kinosuke, the less sure he is that the Senator has been telling him the truth. The Yakuza are protectiave of Ken and seem to have left their criminal connections behind them in Japan. So what exactly is going on?  When Ken disappears from the dojo, Brendan must decide whether to stick to his original plan or reveal his investigation to Kinosuke and the others in order to help them find Ken and bring him home.  But will Kinosuke ever forgive him?  And will it all be in time to rescue Ken from a danger closer than Brendan had imagined.

Yakuza Courage, the second story in H.J. Brues’ The Way of the Yakuza series, represents yet another new series and author for me.  Her special combination of suspense, romance and all the elements that a variety of cultures bring really made this story (and series) a real highlight for me.  I am working backwards here so I was missing the first installment, Yakuza Pride, where Ken Harris and Shigure Matsunaga met in Japan and the kidnapping that occurred there.  However, I didn’t feel as though that lack of a complete backstory was necessary in order to get connected to the men, the romances and histories central to the plot here.

Words that come to mind when trying to describe the characters, and plot?  Densely packed, beautifully constructed, and always complex.  That applies to everything here.  The characters are especially marvelous.  On one side you have Brendan O’Farrihy and the remaining members of his SEAL family, a damaged, closeknit, and over the top competent group of warriors devastated by a mission gone wrong.  And soon to be reunited in Hawaii.  On the other side?  A closeknit group of Japanese warriors…a segment of the criminal gang that is Yakuza.  They too have been separated, not from each other, but from their material and emotional foundation in the Yakuza organization in Japan.  Two teams or families adrift by circumstances and one man who will bring them all together.  What a great plot!  And to make them all feel alive H. J. Brues steeps her story and characters deep in the culture of Hawaii.  Here  it is the white people or haole who are outsiders.  Not so those of multiracial backgrounds found throughout the Hawaiian Islands, where it can take a true polyglot to understand the mixture of dialects, colloquialisms, pidgin mashups of  English, Japanese, Samoan, and much, much more that has become the language of the people there.

I loved the manner in which Brues folded her knowledge of the various cultures (of Japan, Yakuza, Hawaii, and SEAL) together in such a way that they remain distinct yet commonplace elements of the people and story lines.  Her characters speak the language of their home and cultures and it feels as natural as breathing.  Along the way other details and facets are thrown in, such as the clothing worn by kendo masters and the slippers and furnishings found there. Want to know more about what it is like to don (and take off) the hakama pants worn by Kendo Masters and students? Then read the scene that highlights the difficulty and time it took Brendan and Kinosuke to remove their hakama pants while half crazed with lust.  It comes across as both authentic, and funny.   Dialects swing back and forth from Japanese to colloquial Hawaii then to standard SEAL  speak and English and then around again.   A tremendous merry-go-round of  vivid imagery, local flavor, and layering that can make your head swim if other cultures and languages are not your thing.  For me it felt as if each new page brought another present to unwrap.

There is a tremendous amount of information here and plot complications to  include so at times the reading can slow down, the narrative sluggish under the weight of all those great elements and tactical maneuverings.  Then its starts to pick up as the other SEAL team members arrive and the rush is on to accomplish several missions, save Ken, and complete a HEA for all.  That race towards the resolution is really gripping, the author’s sentences creating a picture of tension, danger, and imminent discovery.  So  many great action sequences coming together for a jam packed explosive finale.

I loved this story so much that I went back and grabbed up  the first in the series, Yakuza Pride.  But that is a review for a later time.  But if you haven’t read that story, don’t worry you can start here as I did.  From that glorious cover to the equally stunning story inside, this is one of ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords Best of 2014 and highly recommended reads!

Cover artist Reese Dante’s cover is lush, beautifully rendered and spot on for this story.

Sales Links:         Dreamspinner Press (on sale)      All Romance eBooks       Amazon        Yakuza Courage

Book Details:

ebook, 336 pages
Published August 1st 2014 by Dreamspinner Press LLC (first published July 31st 2014)
ISBN139781627988667
edition languageEnglish
seriesThe Way of the Yakuza #2

Book in the Series to date:

Yakuza Pride (The Way of the Yakuza #1)
Yakuza Courage (The Way of the Yakuza #2)

A MelanieM Review: Head-on by John Inman

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Head-On coverAt 24 Gordon Stafford had it all. A rising career as a tv meteorologist, a loving family, a wide circle of friends…everything anyone could want. By 26, Gordon Stafford had lost it all. And all it took was the decision to drive home drunk from an awards ceremony. That decision shattered three mens lives immediately. For one man, the driver of the other car, it cost him his life. His passenger? Multiple injuries and the love of his life. And for Gordon, the driver that hit the other car head on, it cost him his career, his home, his friends, his self esteem…everything that had mattered to Gordon at the time.

Two years later, Gordon is a changed man. Consumed by guilt and shame, Gordon spends his days thinking about suicide and working at court appointed community service at Mama’s Soup Kitchen, the local shelter for the homeless. It’s there he meet’s Squirt, a young man barely surviving. At first meeting, Gordon realizes that Squirt is special. He seems shy and fragile. But when Squirt saves Gordon from a beating or worse from thugs under a nearby bridge, Gordon realizes that looks can be deceiving and that Squirt is much more than he appears.

From that moment on, Gordon finds a new meaning to his life. He rediscovers his will to live and perhaps even found love. And it’s all due to having Squirt in his life. But Gordon still needs to find forgiveness. Forgiveness for himself and the destruction he caused.  And that the forgiveness Gordon needs the most will come from the one person he least expects, the one closest to his heart.

Head-On is a huge departure from the comedic stories John Inman normally writes.  Unlike those novels which are full of laughter and humorous moments, Head-On naturally has little to none, which should  be expected given the nature of the plot and the gravity of the subject matter at the heart of this story.  With Head-On, John Inman demonstrates he has as deft a gift for writing characters full of pain and poor life choices as he does people with lives filled less with drama and more the search for romance.

The opening chapter of Head-On is astonishing for a number of reasons but the most important of them is that Inman pours us into the seat next to Gordon, first at the awards dinner as he consumes multiple congratulatory drinks and then in the passenger seat of his car as he makes that fateful decision to drive home drunk.  We’re in his head, and his thoughts could so easily be that of anyone who has taken one drink too many and decides to drive.  But this time Gordon’s poor judgement results in a fatal car crash that we catch in shocking glimpses just before Gordon passes out after the cars collide.  That one scene will stay with you for some time to come.

From there we move to Gordon’s life post crash, and here Inman pulls no punches, makes no excuses for Gordon who is mired in guilt and self loathing.  And yes, still drinking.  Inman’s realistic portrayal of  Gordon shows a man totally aware of the consequences of his actions, the life cut short, the destruction of families, someone who is living with a pain that has no balm.  Gordon exists in a prison of his own making.  And for those who get frustrated and angry when they hear of drunk drivers getting off with a so-called “slap of the wrist”, especially those whose actions caused the deaths of others, this feels like a window into the post accident life of one of those drivers who “got off lightly”.

Just the subject matter of drunk drivers is inflammatory.  That category covers the range from repeat offenders to those who make a one time bad decision when they decide they are sober enough to drive home. And while this book opens up the conversation about drunk drivers and asks the question “what is ample punishment for their deeds”, it remains focused on those drivers like Gordon.  For some, like Gordon, theu are their own warden, turning their lives into a sort of prison of their own making.  It’s a wretched life John Inman constructs for Gordon and it reeks of authenticity and despair.

Only Gordon’s court ordered community service at Mama’s Soup Kitchen provides a temporary relief to the cycle of drinking and hangovers that has become Gordon’s life.  Again, Inman brings Mama’s to life, from the kitchen preparations to the customers who line up for what might be their only meal of the day.  Inman gets the details exactly right, including all those homeless and down on their luck people who need a shelter like this so badly.

Squirt who appears to get a meal isn’t exactly homeless but he is clearly a person who has been damaged in more ways than are visible.  His mental faculties are simplistic while  still remaining that of an adult.  His is a lovely character, vulnerable and easy to connect to.  Which is exactly what Gordon does.  Squirt is  another lost soul and when he rescues Gordon from an attack, he ends up saving Gordon emotionally as well as physically.  Watching this relationship form is such a heartwarming element of this story.

The “revelatory” aspect of Head-On is not as surprising as one might expect.  But here it’s the journey to the “denouement” and not the revelation itself, that drives the story.  Its the twists and turns, the stops along the way as Squirt and Gordon try to figure out a way to move forward towards redemption and forgiveness that make this story such a memorable read.  Inman’s writing style works so beautifully here to bring us into Gordon’s thoughts and life.  And then it does the same for Squirt.  From wretchedness to hope, from personal darkness to atonement and light, this story works on every level.

I highly recommend this moving story.  With it John Inman moves into the ranks of authors who can move easily from one genre to the next, from angst to comedy and any combination thereof.  If he was not a “must read” author for you before, Head-On should bring John Inman into that circle for you now.  Don’t miss out on this remarkable story.

Cover art by Reese Dante.  Explosive and Emotional. Perfect for this story.

Sales Links:         Dreamspinner Press               All Romance eBooks (ARe)          Amazon              Head-On

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Published July 9th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published July 8th 2014)
ISBN 1632160064 (ISBN13: 9781632160065)
edition languageEnglish

Review: Spirit by John Inman

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Spirit coverWhen Jason Day, video games designer, agrees to watch his precocious four-year-old nephew, Timmy, for four weeks he has no idea how his life will be forever changed by his acceptance. Jason works from home and is a confirmed, but not happy about it, gay bachelor.  He is the only immediate family in his his nephew’s life outside of his nephew’s mom as Timmy’s father disappeared several years ago and has never been heard from again.  Jason is surprised to find himself bonding with Timmy, loving the 4 year old’s company even as it exhausts him.

Then a young man arrives and announces himself as Timmy’s uncle too but from the other, still missing, side of the family.  His appearance starts off a series of startling events, not the least of which is a ghostly presence that is getting increasingly agitated by the hour.  Soon Jason finds himself with a burgeoning love interest, a mystery that turns ominous, and a ghost with an alarming sense of humor.   Things are getting out of hand and Jason finds himself and Timmy right in the middle of it all.  Can the weirdest summer Jason has ever had also turn out to be his best?

I found author John Inman about 5 books of his ago after cuddling up to Loving Hector.  Between gales of laughter and more than a few shed tears, I knew that John Inman, with his talent for writing comedic fiction with a heart, would always have a place on my must read author list.  After Loving Hector, came Shy, and Hobbled, and Serenading Stanley, and all the rest leading up to Spirit, a whacky, supernatural infused tale of love and what it means to be a family, ancient Chihuawhatits included. And while I can always be certain that each tale of his will include some gut busting scenes of humor and maybe a dog or two, everything else comes as a surprise.  That’s what I found with Sprit.  Surprise after surprise to my total delight and absolute amusement.

How else can you explain a supernatural love story murder mystery?  Because that is exactly what Spirit is, a conglomeration of elements and genres that swirl around a thirty something video game designer, Jason, and his energetic, intelligent 4 year-old nephew, Timmy.   It is clear that when Jason’s sister drops off Timmy before heading off on vacation that Jason has only spent short amounts of time with his nephew and has no idea what is in store for him during this extended stay.  Why you ask? Because so much of what happens with Timmy here is accurate (ok, supernatural stuff not withstanding). YOu can child proof your house all you want but there will always be something that is missed or not thought of. That haircutting business that Inman throws in?  Perfection and spot on.  Sometime I will recount my college days in Ohio and a certain preschool playground when scissors reigned supreme and 3 to 5 year olds ran amuck inside those concrete cylinders that were ubiquitous at the time. Thank you, John Inman, for bringing those memories so vividly back home.  I had to put my Kindle down because my sides hurt from laughing so much at Timmy and his haircut.

Some readers will look at Timmy with askance.  I can hear them asking “Is that really how a 4 year old will act and speak?”

Let me say, with years of experience behind me as a parent and park naturalist, ” why yes, indeedy, they do”.   Some toddlers and older kids come out just preternaturally smart and smart mouthed.  They can say the most amazing things and have the most acute  and unexpected take on situations that astound those that care to listen to them.  Not all, surely, but a larger amount of children than you would expect.  So when I came across Timmy, I felt as though here was a child I already knew.  And watching the relationship between Jason and Timmy unfold was truly a thing of joy.  From the funny conversations to the walks they had with Thumper who is, in John Inman’s words ” … a mix of Chihuahua, dachshund, miniature poodle, and quite possibly a three-toed sloth” and also 20 years old, this uncle/nephew bonding time felt real and loving.  The love that Jason feels for Timmy grows so strong and heart deep that it becomes ours as well.

That’s the just one of the familial love elements here.  Then Inman introduces us to Sam, Timmy’s uncle from his father’s side.  With Sam’s appearance, a whole slew of new elements come into play.  First there is the love aspect for Jason and Same, who is just as happily gay as Jason is.  Their attraction is immediate but there is no instant love to be found here, thankfully.  Just a naturally occurring affection that turns into something deeper as time passes and the astounding events unfold.   Sam is as realistic a character as the rest of the people to be found within this story.  His cautious acceptance of Jason and his pain over the mystery of his brother’s disappearance are easy to empathize with and believe in.  So we have love, love, and more love.  Terrific and endearing on every level.  Did I mention a dog’s love for a boy too? That’s here as well.

Then Timmy starts to see a ghost and everything turns into a supernatural mystery that starts pointing towards an dark happening in the not to distant past.  I loved Inman’s ghost, a supernatural entity at turns humorous and chilling.  And you never know which side of the ghost will arrive at any given situation. That’s another marvelous aspect of this story too.  The ghost does what all ghosts should, scare you, entertain you, and provide a certain amount of pathos one would expect from someone who…..oh never mind, Find out that one for yourself.

So yes, a mystery, a ghostly tale, a couple of love stories, both familial and romantic, Spirit is all that and more.  I loved it.  Did I see the ending coming?  Kind of but that in no way lessened my enjoyment of this story.  I don’t think it will yours either.  If you are unfamiliar with John Inman, this is a wonderful place to get acquainted.  Pick up Spirit and then work your way through his back list.  If you are already a fan of this author, then this is another story that you are sure to love.  Either way grab it up now and start reading!  I consider Spirit to be one of ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords Highly Recommended Novels of 2014.

Here is an excerpt from the beginning chapter of Spirit:

I HAD toddler-proofed the house as best I could. The basement door was securely latched so the kid couldn’t tumble headfirst down the flight of stairs leading into the bowels of the house, snapping a myriad of youthful bones along the way. Electrical wires were safely coiled and taped up and tucked under furniture in case Timmy got the inexplicable urge to chew on them. Electrical outlets were covered. All breakable knick-knacks were raised out of reach and all dangerous objects securely stashed away— switchblades, rolls of barbed wire, plastic explosives, bobby pins. (Just kidding about the bobby pins. I’m not that nelly.)

✍My dog, Thumper, who was a mix of Chihuahua, dachshund, miniature poodle, and quite possibly a three-toed sloth, was no threat to Timmy at all. The poor thing was almost twenty years old and hardly had any teeth left. I hadn’t heard her bark in three years. She only moved off the sofa to eat and go potty, and once her business was done, she stood in front of the sofa looking up like the Queen Mother waiting for the carriage door to be opened until I scooped her off the floor and redeposited her among the cushions. Poor thing. (I mean me.) She lay there all day long watching TV: Channel 9, the Mexican channel. Don’t ask me why, but that was the only channel she would tolerate. Couldn’t live without it, in fact. The one benefit to this annoying habit of hers was that, while I didn’t understand my dog at all, I was pretty sure I was beginning to comprehend Spanish.

✍Timmy was at that happy stage of child rearing where he could pull down his own pants and climb onto the commode without any help from squeamish gay uncles. He had brought an entourage of toys with him that would have kept an orphanage entertained. The first thing I did after finding a trail of little black skid marks on my new oak flooring was to confiscate his tricycle, allocating the thing to outdoor use only, which Timmy accepted with stoic resignation, although I did hear him mumble something about chicken poop and peckerheads. I’m not sure if his watered-down-obscenity-strewn mumbling was related to the tricycle announcement but fear it was. While the kid might have gotten my brat gene, there was also little doubt he had inherited my sister’s sarcastic- foulmouthed-snarky gene. God help his teachers when he started school.

Cover art by Reese Dante.  Love this cover.  Spooky and pertinent in every way.  Great job.

Buy Links:    Dreamspinner Press         Amazon          ARe

Book Details:

ebook, 214 pages
Published March 17th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published March 16th 2014)
ISBN 1627986812 (ISBN13: 9781627986816)
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com

Review: Jasper’s Mountain by John Inman

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Rating:  3.75 stars out of 5

Jasper's MountainJasper Stone has few needs.  A writer, Jasper loves his solitude and quiet, something he gets plenty of on his ninety acre ranch, high on the side of the Juniper Mountains.  Living alone in his rustic cabin, Jasper’s only companions are the animal menagerie the kind hearted author has managed to accumulate since his arrival.  While all his dogs and cats keep Jasper from being alone, they don’t always keep him from being lonely.  Then Jasper finds a young man with a fever hiding in his chicken coop and everything changes.

When small-time thief Timmy Harwell carjacks a Cadillac, he tumbles into something much more dangerous than just stealing a car.  That outrageously outfitted Cadillac belongs to Miguel Garcia, aka El Poco, a Tijuana drug dealer, known for his ruthless manner and killer reputation.  And it’s not just the drug dealer’s favorite car that Timmy has stolen, no, its the $100,000 he finds in the trunk as well.  Soon, Timmy is on the run, trying to put as much distance between him and El Poco as possible.

But a storm forces Timmy to hide out on Jasper’s ranch until he falls ill from exposure. Jasper finds Timmy and nurses him back to health, becoming fond of the young man during his recovery.  But Timmy recognizes that Jasper is everything he is not.  Jasper is kind, and honest, valuing trust and the truth above all.  So Timmy hides who he is and what he has done behind lie after lie.  When the past and El Poco catches up to Timmy on Jasper’s mountain, Timmy realizes its not just himself he has placed in danger but Jasper too, a man he has come to love and admire.  When it all comes down to making a choice, will Timmy choose survival?  Or will he decide honesty and Jasper is the only choice his  heart desires?

I first found John Inman through a series of novels with a comedic bent to their plots and characters.  And although each contained a serious element or two in the narrative, they were generally light hearted fare that left you smiling or perhaps even guffawing long after you had finished reading them.  So I found myself surprised by the gravity of Jasper’s Mountain, a novel with a few endearing scenes to lighten a storyline of unusual seriousness by this author of humorous tales.

The characters that John Inman creates have always been people that felt authentic. Their personalities, character traits and relationship issues seeming more those of your neighbors than of created personas.  That holds true here for Jasper Stone and Timmy Hartwell.  Jasper, especially, resonated with me.  Jasper is 32 years old, and more fond of animals than he is of people.  Animals have never let him down the way people have.  And Jasper’s mistrust of people combined with  his awkwardness and dislike of society have caused him to retreat to his mountain sanctuary and the company of animals.  Further isolating this man is his chosen profession of writing, something he is only moderately successful at. Jasper sells enough manuscripts to sustain himself and his pets but not  for anything more.  Everything about Jasper feels real, if not relatable.

Timmy Hartwell also comes across as a believable young thief.  Stealing is a way of life Timmy just fell into, driven by a desire never to be poor again after a childhood spent in foster care.  A lack of discipline, no impulse control and a flexible morality made life as a thief an easy occupation.  If Timmy saw it and wanted it, well, then he stole it.  And thought about the consequences later.  Even Timmy admitted to himself that he probably wasn’t very smart about his life choices, just went with the flow of events and easy choices.  Only the choice of hiding spots causes a change in outlook, not a desire to go straight.  Another beautifully layered portrait from John Inman of a young confused human being with a life of bad choices behind him and more of the same in his future.

As with all Inman novels, the animal characters that pop up haphazardly about the story are as vivid and realistic as the people around them.  Whether it is Harry and Harriet, pigs destined never to be bacon,  Guatemala and Fiji, the cats with appetites for alligator lizards and the comforts of home, or Bobber, Jumper, and Lola, the dogs of indeterminate breeding that Jasper adopts, all the animals have larger than life personalities that support and enhance the people they are attached to.  In this instance, the menagerie that Jasper has accumulated makes Jasper’s decision to help and then house another, albeit human, stray feel authentic to the character and situation.  Jasper collects animals in need, what’s one more?  The problem arises in that Timmy is a liar and a thief, someone Jasper cannot count on, unlike the unwavering love and loyalty of his animal family.  It’s a great plot idea, but does it make a great romance?

As I stated before, Jasper’s Mountain is a departure from the typical lighthearted story I expect from this author.  And that more serious aspect runs through the entire narrative.  The biggest issue between the characters also becomes the biggest issue, in my opinion, between the readers relating to and believing in a romance between Jasper and Timmy.  Timmy consistently lies to Jasper throughout the story.  Over his background, over the events that lead him to Jasper’s ranch, over the peril he places Jasper in, and well, everything about the situation Timmy has created.   Timmy is not just in the well, he’s in the Carlsbad Cavern of bad places, so deep and perilous is the position he has created for himself and  Jasper.  And the more he lies he tells Jasper, the more distance Timmy puts between himself and the reader’s emotional involvement in his future.  I am not sure that Inman recognized the extent that the dishonesty of Timmy’s character would decrease the attachment one would feel towards Timmy. It also keeps the reader from investing in their romance.  Even towards the end, Timmy is not honest about the head games he has been playing.  We understand his desperation, the acts he commits in order to survive.    John Inman has made Timmy a thoroughly believable little thief.  I’m just not sure how much a reader will like him.  That may depend on how much empathy you are able to extend towards Timmy and his situation.

The authenticity of Inman’s scenario extends to the story’s resolution as well.  It’s not a HEA or even a HFN.  More like a gritty probability that hope and the right decision will make a future possible.  I liked that the author remained committed to a more likely ending than creating one that discounted all the events and characters that went before.  For me, it was the only way this story could end and stay plausible.  Love and hope sometimes has to be enough.  John Inman understands that as well.

If you are looking for a lighthearted romance, then this is probably not the story for you.  But Jasper’s Mountain has so much to offer.  Its well written, believable, and full of layered characters that will hold your attention from start to finish.  And no matter how I felt about Jasper and Timmy as a couple, I never stopped reading, not once.  Pick it up and decide for yourself.

Cover artist Reese Dante gave Jasper’s Mountain a beautiful, memorable cover.  One of the best of the year.

Book Details:

ebook, 204 pages
Published August 16th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published August 15th 2013)
ISBN 1627980733 (ISBN13: 9781627980739)
edition language English
Author Details:

Review: Where You Lead by Mary Calmes

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Where You Lead coverChicago-based ATF agent Peter Lomax’s past relationships never seemed to work out.  Ex boyfriends had issues with his possessiveness as well as his job.  Then Peter meets Carver Fleming at a friends party and everything changes.  Artist and gallery owner, Carver doesn’t mind that Peter is possessive.  It is a quality that Carver understands quite well as he feels the same. Nor is he bothered by the fact that law enforcement is far from his artistic world. From the beginning Peter and Carver recognize that they are perfect for each other and soon settle in to a committed relationship.

But six months into the relationship, Carver gets a call from home that changes everything.  Carver’s mother has had a stroke and he is needed home to help his father cope with his mother’s changed condition.  Unbeknownst to Peter, Carver agrees to return home, knowing such a move would not be temporary but permanent.   From Chicago to Colt, Carver’s small hometown in Kentucky is a drastic change and he realizes that not telling Peter about his plans will cause major problems between them.

Carver doesn’t want to lose Peter.  He knows that Peter’s friends and career are based in Chicago and that Peter won’t want to leave a city he loves.  So Carver plans for the two of them to visit his parents at Christmas, hoping the visit and his surprise plans will get Peter to agree to come with Carver when he moves to Colt permanently.  Carver is hoping that the charm of his hometown and his loving family will win Peter over.  Can love triumph over the hurt Peter feels at being left out of Carver’s plans?  And can a man with no family attachments of his own find one to love in Carver’s?  At Christmas, anything is possible as Peter and Carver are about to find out.

A trademark of all of Mary Calmes’ stories is that she always populates them with genuinely likable people. Her characters are guaranteed to endear themselves to the reader almost immediately from the moment they appear on the page, and our affections for them only deepen as the story progresses.    It is one of the elements that make Mary Calmes a  must read author for me and so many others.  Where You Lead is another such short story from this prolific author.

While Calmes does not provide too much back history on Peter and Carver, both men still manage to resonate with the readers.  Peter had not had a satisfactory long term relationship and neither has Carver, although for different reasons. They come complete with relationship issues anyone would recognize.  And when Peter and Carver meet, the connection between them snaps into place with lusty enthusiasm that continues throughout the story.

The story begins in Chicago at an art gallery opening to benefit the fallen agents fund.  Peter is there with his ATF partner Elliot and his wife.  The dialogue between Peter and Elliot feels appropriately affectionate and boyishly juvenile, just what you would expect of old friends.  With just a few sentences, Calmes delivers a working partnership that feels real and honest.  I wish we could have seen a little more of Peter’s life with the ATF and Elliot.   As his profession is such a large part of who Peter is as a person, additional background or scenes of his work would have fleshed this part of the character out for me.

As the location switches to Carver’s home in Colt and the situation with his mother, the plot develops further to include not just romantic love but that of family as well.  This for me is where the story really came to life.  I loved Carver’s parents.  His mother is such a strong character, especially as she deals with not only a stroke but the onset of dementia, possibly from Alzheimer’s.  It’s such a loving and painful portrait of a woman who realizes she is losing herself and the effects on those she loves.  Carver’s father is another fully realized persona and the dynamics of the father-son relationship feel authentic and grounded in reality of two such opposite personalities.

Where You Lead is only 68 pages long, and you will want the story to continue once the end is reached.  I felt as though a evening with friends had ended before I was ready for it to be over.  I would have loved for a little more exposition, maybe a epilogue to furnish a little more resolution to a heartwarming story.  It was never in doubt as to what Peter would do.  So the only real angst here is the family as it faces the reality of his mother’s heartrending future. That they will do it with love and each other’s support is a gift that they will give each other, another certainty that Calmes shares with her readers.

This story was released at Christmas but can be read at any time of the year.  Its message of love and family reaches beyond any holiday celebration.  I love this author and definitely recommend this story for all lovers of contemporary romance.

Cover art by Reese Dante.  This  cover is exquisite.  One of the best of the year.

Book Details:

ebook, 68 pages
Published December 25th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published December 24th 2013)
ISBN 1627984763 (ISBN13: 9781627984768)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.marycalmesauthor.com/

Review of A Foreign Range (Range #4) by Andrew Grey

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Rating: 5 stars

Country singer Willie Meadows is tired.  He is tired of the fame and the lifestyle that comes with it, he is tired of the hangers on and he is tired of living in houses that don’t feel like home.  Mostly, he is tired of feeling like a fake, of singing songs about being a cowboy when he can’t even ride a horse.  On impulse, Willie buys a small ranch in Wyoming, hoping the change in location will bring him a home, a connection to the land in the songs he wants to write and a return to being Wilson Edwards, his real name.

Steve Peterson is desperate, hungry, out of gas and out of money.  After escaping his father and the cult’s attempt to deprogram Steve of his gayness.  He arrives at the ranch, expecting to find a job promised to him by the previous owner, unaware the ranch had been sold, and his job gone.  Devastated, he sneaks into the barn, hoping just for a warm place to stay for the night.

Wilson finds Steve and sees a young man who is barely hanging on. Steve is shaking from the cold and hunger and when the dilapidated truck he is driving dies at the end of the ranch’s driveway, Wilson decides to give him a job, helping around the ranch, looking after it while Wilson is on the road performing. After the band’s road trip, Wilson returns home to find Steve training horses for his neighboring ranchers and the ranch alive once more.  Wilson loves seeing horses on the land, and watching Steve brings up all the feelings he has put aside in the name of fame.

As Steve and Wilson find their mutual attraction leading into a relationship, both men find their past rising up to block their future together. Steve’s father and his followers find him, threatening to pull him away from the home and people he had come to love unless he can stand up to them.  Wilson too must make some decisions.  He has stayed closeted all these years in fear of losing his fan base and his band.  But now he could lose Steve, who won’t be someone’s dirty little secret.  Can both men find the strength they need and finally come home to love?

It had been a while since I had read one of Andrew Grey’s books and for the life of me I can’t figure out why I have let this terrific writer’s recent books go unread.  I loved A Foreign Range, which is the fourth book in this series, and will now go running back to start at the beginning. But if you are like me and haven’t read the previous books, don’t worry, it isn’t necessary to read those in order to love this one. All the wonderful elements I associate with Mr. Grey’s writing is here.  Real characters, locations described with great feeling and depth, and emotional turning points in peoples lives dealt with sensitivity and warmth.

Wilson Edwards and Steve Peterson are two great main characters whose disparate lifestyles highlight their superficial differences while their true natures and similar values pull them together.  Mr. Grey does a wonderful job with this dichotomy of status  while he is endearing Wilson and Chris to us in scene after heartbreaking scene.  Both men seemed so real to me from the very beginning, and their emotional rollercoaster ride to a shared home and love went straight into my heart. Andrew Grey has a deft touch with creating layered, multidimensional characters and Steven and Wilson are prime examples.  Secondary characters also stand up to close scrutiny. I loved Maria, Wilson’s housekeeper and her daughter, Alicia, is an adorable young character capable of giving the viewer a change in viewpoint of the events and relationships.  Howard, Wilson’s friend and manager, could have easily stayed a one-note villain he appears to be at the beginning of the story but the author shows us that Howard is real person and that his actions, however flawed,  are those of a friend and agent who wants the best for Willy the star if not for Wilson the person.

And then there is the setting, Wyoming’s wide open spaces that come complete with tornados as it does with the  peace, quiet and sounds of nature that speak to your soul and replenish it.  I understood those passages even though it has been years since I set foot on Wyoming soil.  Andrew Grey really gets it and then writes it in a manner that lets the reader feel it as well, even if they have never been there.

So, yes, I loved this book.  I will go back and  now read the others in the series, but no matter what I find there, A Foreign Range will always have a space in my heart.  Pick this one up, I think you will find that you will feel the same.

THE RANGE STORIES

A Shared Range

A Troubled Range

An Unsettled Range

A Foreign Range

Cover.  Cover Artist is Reese Dante who hits all my buttons with this one.  Gorgeous men, palomino horse and beautiful colors.  Sigh.  Loved this!

Review of Stolen Dreams by Sue Brown

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Rating: 3.5 stars

It has taken Morgan 5 years to get his life back on track after he derailed it by cheating on his best friend and lover. After finally climbing out of his drunken depression with help from his friends, he now owns a successful coffee house, has a great career as an assistant direction in the film industry and is happily engaged to Jason, a gorgeous up and coming movie star.  He has it all and then Shae Delamere comes back into his life.

Shae Delamere was Morgan’s best friend and lover all their lives, up until Morgan destroyed their relationship by cheating on Shae in a moment of weakness. For two years, Morgan held out hope that his phone calls and letters would be answered and then he gave up and moved on.  Now with Shae’s reappearance, Morgan realizes that he never stopped loving Shae, even with all that had happened to them both, even his fiance can see it. When it turns out that their friends manipulations that helped keep them separated, the pain of the betrayal combined with the love they still hold pulls them together once more.  But there are still so many lies still hidden and a geographical distance to overcome.  Will both men be able to overcome the pain and past hurt to have a future with each other?

Stolen Dreams is a very well written story of young love derailed by lies, lack of communication and the maneuverings of those closest to them.  Brown’s characters are all too human in their faults and abilities to self destruct.  Morgan is easily my favorite character and the one I empathized with the most.  Morgan made a mistake at 19 that destroyed not only his only love and their relationship but tore apart two families that had been close since the boys were very young.  At 19, the mistake he and Shae made (as Brown makes clear, there were relationship errors on both sides) was huge but it was a mistake grounded in poor communication, worse judgement, and a relationship  already on shaky ground, a fact neither man acknowledges until five years later. Brown’s story is strengthened by her wonderful ear for dialog and the depiction of the areas out there waiting to trip up any relationship that doesn’t have a firm foundation.  This holds true for the young that don’t have the maturity and skills necessary to maneuver the rocky shoals life hands one and make it safely to harbor.

Shae Delamere was a character that felt less authentic and therefore, much harder to like and empathize  with.  This is a problem as he is set up at the start as the main victim here and to my way of thinking ends up more the victimizer instead.  Shae is far too passive, he too easily accepts what others tell him even though he knows they have every reason to lie, he doesn’t follow through on his actions, he lies, he is constantly sorry etc.  Shae just doesn’t have the depth that Morgan’s character has. He seems more a reactive element here and that takes the entire story down a notch.

Another quibble I have with this story is that it is an examination of relationship dynamics but neither Morgan or Shae seem to learn from their mistakes in the past.  When lies continue to surface with the expected reverberations, do they communicate with each other?  No, instead they bury their problems under sex.  A realistic problem in some relationships true but even as Morgan raises the question of why that is their answer to problems, Sue Brown never gives the reader or her characters a satisfactory answer.  They continue to use that as a bandage right up to a devastating revelation that I did not see coming, a final lie that threatens everything that has come before.  This denouement also pancaked the ending of the story for me.

The ending is the final quibble.  Yes, it is a  HEA.  But for me it seems to be a bit self delusional for Morgan.  I could see the ending as a pragmatic and realistic way for Morgan to obtain what he wants but the author coats it all with a saccharine layer of immediate forgiveness for an almost unforgivable event and again a round of sex to blanket the real issues of trust, continuing lies and hidden agendas that plague Morgan and Shae’s relationship from beginning to end.  Morgan is understandably furious and hurt, then it is all glossed over in the name of love and HEA. It did not make sense given the amount of time Brown took to get her characters to a semblance of realistic actions and emotions.  So what started off to be a great book I was really enjoying metamorphosed into a story that ended up with me feeling as though I had stayed too long at a party held by bickering neighbors I never liked all that much.  What a shame.

Cover: Another beautiful sensual cover by Reese Dante.

Review of Ensnared by Dawn H. Hawkes

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Rating: 3.5

Evan’s life during the day is mundane, being a lowly waiter carries little excitement. There is that customer who comes every week but Evan has never worked up the courage to speak to him. Oh, but his dream life.  There the man of his dreams, that sexy nameless customer, makes hot, sexy wild love to him all night long, bringing out his inner hedonist until the early morning hours when Evan awakes exhausted and alone. Between his dreams and seeing weird creatures in his nightmares, Evan is afraid he is losing his mind.

Gar is an alien warrior brought to Earth to hunt down and kill a predator species who escaped from their world.  As a warrior he is expected to fulfill his mission and return to his planet and mate with a warrior his equal to further their species.  So why are all his thoughts consumed by the small Human who waits tables at the restaurant he visits?  So while Gar stays back from the man physically, during the night he visits the Human in his dreams, taking him sexually and making the Human his own.  Each time Gar vows it will be the last time and every night he goes to Evan unable to stay away.

When the creatures attack Evan, Gar saves him. Faced with the one man who fills his dreams and thoughts, Evan is not about to let him go. But after sharing a kiss, Gar decides that the only way to save Evan and remove himself from temptation is to leave the planet.  This is not something that Evan can bear to think about, let alone happen.  What’s a young Human to do?

Ensnared is the first book I have read by Dawn H. Hawkes and I came away with some very mixed feelings.  On the one hand, her characters were wonderful.  I loved the downtrodden Evan, who still managed to show some sparks of fire despite his shyness and sad neglectful upbringing.  Gar  was lovely as the tough warrior who was still able to see beyond Evan’s meek exterior to the real person inside.  I like them as a couple as well as individuals.  And that saved the book.  Otherwise there are so many holes in the plot, that its resemblance to swiss cheese is easily noted.

My first quibble starts with Evan’s background which is presented with its own mystery.  His parents just walked away and left him in foster care but left him their home? Also, Evan has been seeing strange creatures all his life which in turn had him seeing therapists because some people thought he was crazy. I expected Hawkes to work that into the plot, perhaps Evan is not what  he seems sort of thing.  Nope, nada.  Little things here and there kept popping up that I thought Hawkes would pull them all together and make Evan’s past a neat twist to the story.  But it never happened, they all add up to one red herring.

The next stumbling stone in this story is literally a stone, the Ra stone.  A rare gift, Gar uses it to visit Evan in his dreams.  One of its properties is that it can act as a two way method of communication, the person it is used upon can then take the stone and enter the dreams of stone’s owner.  Neat idea that never came to fruition.

Next quibble concerns the attacks on Evan by the K’reet who have a nasty habit of eating people.  Apparently Evan is especially tasty but there is no explanation for the frequent attacks until the end.  And that revelation doesn’t make much sense nor it is fully explained. Then there is Shia, the head warrior.  She is hell on wheels, all the warriors fear  her and apparently she won’t  accept that Gar wants Evan as his mate.   All this buildup only to see it fizzle out at the end.  And that is the primary problem here.  We get set up after set up and our expectations are engaged and then nothing really happens.  It is like expecting to see a humongus tiger to leap out at you and getting a tiny kitten instead. So the frustrations keep building as the story runs its course like a limping greyhound we keep routing for but know won’t win the race.

And finally, my most important quibble.  Gar’s home planet.  I really am at a loss to explain what happened here.  Lack of imagination? Ran out of steam? I don’t think it is laziness because the author clearly has talent and some great ideas sprinkled throughout the story.  But basically Gar’s home plant is almost exactly like Earth, right down to the restaurants.   Yes,  they seemed to have an Oracle of sorts, the warriors dressed like leather daddies at ComicCon, complete with swords but it seems they all live in Mayberry.  And the K’reet came from there?  Nothing made any sense. Much less the ending.  I did check out the author’s bio and book facts to see if this was just the first in a series but it seems to be a standalone novel.  So while I liked Evan and Gar I don’t think I will be visiting with them again.  What a shame.

Cover:  Reese Dante.  The Ra stone is front and center here, along with a very nice design with great fonts.  Great job.