Rating: 2 stars out of 5
Published February 12th 2018 by Tricia Owens
Edition Language English
Rating: 2 stars out of 5
Book Title: Damaged
Author: Tricia Owens
Cover Artist: Tricia Owens
Genre/s: Contemporary M/M romance, BDSM
Heat Rating: 5 flames (Graphic scenes of rough sex, BDSM)
Length: 44 000 words
This is a standalone story
Release Date: February 12, 2019
Buy Links – Available on KindleUnlimited
After Detective Jack Beckam’s partner is killed during the line of duty, Jack retreats to a small Indian casino in the Colorado mountains to deal with his guilt. There, he encounters the mysteriously hostile casino manager, Taylor Brant.
Jack is on a downward spiral. Unfortunately for him, the strange forest surrounding the casino only increases his desire to do something reckless. Something desperate. Taylor Brant is not only dangerous, he’s damaged. He’s someone Jack should steer clear of. Yet Jack, hurting and needing to pay penance, tumbles into a series of dark, highly charged encounters with Brant which threaten to shatter them both.
Amusement briefly lit Brant’s gray gaze. “You’re an interesting man, Jack. Under other circumstances I’d enjoy feeling you out.”
“I thought you hate cops. Sounds to me like you’re flirting with one.”
He was immediately embarrassed for having said it. Taylor Brant was one of the most attractive men he’d ever seen, much less had dinner with—but Jack recognized the nugget of fear rolling around in his own gut. He was in foreign territory, literally and figuratively. All his experience as a detective, all his street smarts, meant next to nothing when it came to his occasional and unwanted attraction to specific men. It was like a flare-up of a rash—unpredictable, unwelcome, and woefully incurable.
“I’d be reckless, wouldn’t I,” Brant said, “to flirt with a detective?” Brant’s gaze grew intent. “I’m not reckless.”
“Sounds to me like you’re a masochist.”
“Would it take one to know one?”
The restaurant was emptying out. Jack wished it were busier. Louder. He wished that the waiter was intrusive. He could feel himself sweating and felt ridiculous; he was only sitting there eating dinner.
Brant didn’t appear to be all that relaxed, either. The casino manager was tense. Nervous. Jack was too experienced in studying people to miss the signs. Was Brant regretting his boldness? Maybe they were both stumbling around in the dark in their own ways. It was strange to look at Taylor Brant and consider him anything other than one hundred percent sure of himself.
Or was it? He was well groomed and sophisticated, yet the broken nose hinted at his past experience with abuse. The book, too, suggested deep waters and a hint of vulnerability.
But Jack wasn’t completely sold on Brant being a man you could easily take advantage of. Maybe back then, back when Brant had dated those cops, he had been a man like that. But not any longer. The man sitting across from Jack had been honed by pain, anger, and disappointment. Brant had gone through hell and come out the other side as a more powerful man. It was there in those steely eyes, a hint of the danger he presented: he needed to control every situation he entered because he would never allow himself to be at anyone’s mercy again. He was using his fear to become something—someone—unbreakable.
Jack’s cock pulsed at the prospect of being under Brant’s control, even for an hour. It wasn’t something he’d ever experienced, and the fantasy of it was probably better than the reality. Hell, he didn’t know how he’d react to someone attempting to take the upper hand with him. There was a good chance he’d throw a punch.
About the Author
Tricia Owens has been writing m/m fiction since 2000, after stumbling onto the term ‘slash’ and thinking it referred to horror stories. She is the author of the Sin City, A Pirate’s Life for Me, and Juxtapose City series, among several others. She lives in Las Vegas.
RELEASE BLITZ SCHEDULE
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Jack Reardon, former SAS soldier and current Australian Meta-State asset, has seen some messy battles. But “messy” takes on a whole new meaning when he finds himself tied to a chair in a torture shack, his cover blown wide open, all thanks to notorious killer-for-hire Ethan Blade.
Blade is everything Jack doesn’t believe in: remorseless, detached, lawless. Yet, Jack’s only chance to survive is to strike a bargain with the devil and join forces with Blade. As they trek across a hostile desert, Jack learns that Blade is much more than a dead-eyed killer—and harder to resist than he should be.
A year later, Jack is home and finally getting his life on track. Then Ethan Blade reappears and throws it all into chaos once more. It’s impossible to trust the assassin, especially when his presence casts doubts on Jack’s loyalty to his country, but Jack cannot ignore what Blade’s return means: the mess that brought them together is far from over, and Ethan might just bring back the piece of Jack’s soul he thought he’d lost forever.
What words do I use? Highly entertaining! Incredibly suspenseful and thrilling! Full of unforeseeable twists and turns with characters to die for! Where Death Meets the Devil by LJ Hayward is all that and more. I can’t remember reading anything by this author before but in one story Hayward became a must read author. In a story so smooth, so compelling that I stayed up until the wee hours, caught up in the gripping tale of Jack Reardon and Ethan Blade. And then that ending! Swoon!
The format Hayward chooses to help tell this tale definitely pulls you further into the intrigue and drama. The story switches effortlessly back and forth between the first time Jack encounters Ethan Blade in the torture shack to the present. You are caught up reading, then you are flipping at just the right time in the narrative to emphasize the power of the moment. Brilliant. You get to see the differing mindsets, the history between the men, the change perhaps in dynamics…I don’t think I’ve ever seen this format work so well or contribute so much to the overall energy of the narrative. It’s perfect.
So too are the characters. I can’t say too much except that you will believe in these men, their flaws as well as their strengths. They have true chemistry and given their tough conditions and situations, you will believe in that and them over and over again. I’ll say no more.
Where Death Meets the Devil by LJ Hayward has a camel named Sophia, more plots twists than can fill a pool in an oasis, and a ending I absolutely adored. It also sent me running to the publisher begging for information about any news about sequels. Yes, my readers, apparently there’s one in the works. Be still my heart. So now I’m off to read this story again. Yes, I loved it that much. You will too. Put Where Death Meets the Devil on your TBR list and the author LJ Hayward on your must read list as well. You won’t be sorry. I highly recommend them both.
Cover art: L.C. Chase. I like the cover. It works for the story. Very jazzy.
ebook, 395 pages
Published February 26th 2018 by Riptide Publishing
Original TitleWhere Death Meets the Devil
ISBN 1626497168 (ISBN13: 9781626497160)
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
First impressions fool recently dumped Rory into thinking Shannon’s a walk on the wild side and the perfect way to get over a failed relationship. Shannon’s not about to argue. Not when Rory coaxes him into some of the hottest, roughest sex of his life. But who is Rory falling in love with? A fantasy lover or the real man?
Fighting to keep Rory happy, longing for romance as well as the steamy sessions that leave them bruised and breathless, Shannon’s got a lot on his plate even before family and friends complicate matters further.
There’s only one solution. Turn up the heat, and hope it doesn’t burn their relationship to the ground.
I really enjoyed this story. Rory goes out on a limb to have a one night stand with Shannon and take a walk on the wild side. Shannon tries to keep up with Rory’s requests but it just seems to go farther and farther out of his comfort zone.
Rory makes an immediate assumption of Shannon’s life and just keeps pushing for more. I can see how awkward both of these characters are in their first interaction and most of those following but neither of them seems to be able to tell that anything is off about the other.
Rory just wants the chance to actually have sex since he hasn’t in a long time but he doubts that anyone will want to have a relationship with him and the drama that his brother brings. Shannon works hard but doesn’t realize how much he wants a real relationship until Rory peaks his interest. We can see how each character feels during their encounters through their eyes but they both hide so much inside from each other. These two are the kings of not talking to each other, they would talk in questions and around in circles, which hurt their ability to really know what the other was thinking. That said the story was great and the sex scenes were hot.
Cover art by Valerie Tibbs is great and gives nice visuals of the main characters.
ebook, 232 pages
Published: April 10, 2017 by Loose Id
Edition Language: English
Rating: 5 stars
Entomology grad student Adam Ellery is trying to get his clothes washed at the laundromat when drunken frat boys start to harass him. Just as things start to escalate out of control, Adam is saved by a muscled mountain of a man who dispatches the frats after making them apologize to Adam. His rescuer’s name is Denver Rogers, a bouncer at the local gay bar. Every thing about Denver pushes Adam’s buttons and, unbelievably to Adam at least, his thanks turns into a sexual encounter the likes of which Adam has never experienced before.
Denver Rogers knows his physique ensures his bed is never empty and the bar is the perfect place to find players for his games but something about Adam is so different from his usual bedmates. Denver can’t get Adam out of his mind, and starts to pursue the Entomology student with a passion for bugs and rough sex. But Denver comes with a background of abuse, self esteem issues, and no formal education. Denver wonders what the brilliant Adam will think about a man who doesn’t even have a GED?
Adam is OCD, with a side of clinical anxiety and just getting through the day takes all his strength and determination. His only long term romance ended because of his mental illness as well as the fact that they did not mesh sexually. But his encounter with Denver has fulfilled him and left him satiated and his mind quite for once. Denver is everything Adam could want but how will Denver feel when Adam tells him he has obsessive compulsive disorder? Will Denver be able to deal with Adam’s illness? Adam and Denver each have their share of dirty laundry in their closet. Will they be able to come clean so they can see a bright future together?
Cullinan had me at Sphingidae. An author who gives me a main character who is an entomologist specializing in hawk moths, be still my heart, watch as this Park Naturalist swoons. But that one thing shouldn’t surprise me as Cullinan continues to bring us characters so human, so realistically flawed and interesting in their emotional makeup that it is a wonder that I haven’t seen someone like Adam in her stories before now.
Tucker Springs is a town full of amazing people and Cullinan has just contributed two more town citizens so remarkable that I still stay up at night thinking about them. Both are, as I said, beautifully realized human beings, with their flaws and emotional issues. But Adam and Denver also have the ability to disarm the reader with their vulnerability and surprising decency. First let’s talk about Adam whose OCD and clinical anxiety is something thousands face in their lives today. Cullinan has made this mental illness accessible and understandable through the character of Adam. As he fights his way through his demons at every step in his day, from the lab to just getting out of the house, we really start to comprehend just how overwhelming it must be to just try and stay a functioning human being, let alone one successfully getting through college. Adam has heart, and bravery, and a need for kinky sex in which he can give up control. Adam kept surprising me all through the story, love him.
Then Cullinan delivers Denver Rogers to Adam via the laundromat. Denver Rogers has his own demons in his head (none I will list for you here) and a need for rough sex and to be the one in control. Everything about Denver will surprise you as it does Adam. He could have easily degenerated into a stock character, but that never comes close to happening here in Cullinan’s capable hands. Denver is a decent, multilayered human trying to work through his past and starts to think that he might just have a future with his “bug boy”. I adored this man.
We must also talk about the characters sexuality because it is such a huge component of the story and their relationship. This is not your vanilla sex but rough, consensual hot sex. It is bdsm and D/s and both are absolutely necessary for the story and this couple. While neither is something I normally read, here it makes total sense for the characters and that helps the reader who either is not familiar with bdsm or reads bdsm to not only accept it but enjoy it. Adam and Denver need this part of their relationship. It is an integral part of who they are and it satisfies a deep seated need for Adam to be submissive and for Denver to be the dom. Not only that but it calms Adam’s OCD as nothing else has. I won’t get into the explanations but needless to say, the author does the same exemplary job of bringing the reader into Adam’s head to help us understand his thoughts and feelings on this element as well as the others. So, even if this type of sexuality is not something you normally enjoy, Cullinan helps you understand, if not outright accept and enjoy this as a mutually healthy expression of their love and outgrowth of their relationship.
Cullinan then to proceed to slowly build an engrossing, heartwarming love story between Adam and Denver, one complete with a step backward for every two they manage to go forward with. Adam and Denver must over come one obstacle after another, ones both small and large, including each other. By the time, their story is finished, as a reader you are so throughly invested in this couple’s lives that you don’t want it to be over. Not by a long shot. My hope is that we will see them in other Tucker Springs novels just as El and Paul did here. I would also love to see more of Louisa, a trans character equally memorable and endearing. I highly recommend this story and all of the Tucker Springs novels. This is a town full of people you will never tire of visiting with and listening to their stories. And while you are off to get the book, make sure and add Heidi Cullinan to your list of must have authors. Really, she deserves to be there. Sphingidae, indeed!
Cover art by LC Chase is perfection and works in every way for this story and overall appeal.
Here are the Tucker Springs novels in order they were written:
Where Nerves End by LA Witt (Tucker Springs #1)
Second Hand by Marie Sexton and Heidi Cullinan (Tucker Springs #2)
Dirty Laundry by Heidi Cullinan
Plus there is a website for Tucker Springs novels. TuckerSprings.com
Rating: 2.5 to 4.5 stars
Moonlight Cove Detective Zack Stewart and his partner Claire Keaton get the call for a murder at a downtown gay nightclub Inferno. When they arrive they find a young gay man strangled in the alley in back of the club. The victim reeked of recent sex and was strangled with his own underwear. Inside Inferno Zack and his partner find plenty of people who knew the victim, had had sex with him including the club owner, Dante Jardin, their chief suspect.
Zack Stewart is in the closet at work but Dante Jardin ticks all his buttons and then some. From the beauty mark on his face to the unusual color of his eyes, Dante Jardin is Zack Stewart’s hottest dream and worst nightmare all rolled into one. Zack is convinced that Dante is the murderer but isn’t sure if that is because of the evidence or because he is fighting his own feelings towards the man. Then another murder occurs at the club, a victim killed in the same manner who also was connected to the first victim. A serial killer is on the loose and all the evidence points to Dante Jardin or does it? What happens when a detective’s increasing obsession with a murder suspect starts to cloud his judgement? As the killer strikes again, Stewart must decide which will rule out, obsession or justice.
Inferno by Scarlett Blackwell is 95 percent of a great book. Here is a recommendation I have never made before. Stop reading about 10 pages before the ending. Just put the thing down. Make up your own ending, or don’t. As long as you don’t finish the book you will have a terrific portrait of a man self destructing over a sexual obsession, the downward spiral of his intellectual and emotional life, and the catastrophic consequences that occur. From our first introduction to Zack Stewart, we get a feeling of a man already in trouble emotionally and physcially. Zack is exhausted by the hours of his job, worn out and lonely due to his closeted state. He is not sleeping or eating well. Then he is called out onto a case that will have ramifications on his job, his friendship with his partner and most important his self image. The catalyst for his upheaval is Dante Jardin, owner of the notorious gay club Inferno.
Dante Jardin has the face of an angel and the body and attitude of the devil himself. All sexual heat and emotional ice locked together in a package that pulls all of Zack’s strings so tight they vibrate. His attitude towards the “dead whore” offends Zack and his partner while Dante’s sexuality turns Zack on to the point of physical arousal while questioning him. From that moment on, Zack finds himself growing increasingly obsessed over the club owner. He masturbates with Dante in his thoughts even in the squad car. Zack starts returning daily to the club because he can’t stay away from the man even as he insults him, committing borderline harassment and assault while shoving Dante against the wall. Zack tries fighting his emotions, aware that he is falling into a trap that he might not be able to get out of. We are there every step of the way as Zack falls down the rabbit hole, we are there as Zack makes one bad judgement call after another, helpless to stop himself. Blackwell does an outstanding job of bringing us into the mind of a man in the throes of an obsession. We hear his thoughts as his emotions spiral out of control even as intellectually he knows it will cost him everything he has worked so work to obtain, fifteen years on the force, the respect and friendship of his partner, even his own self respect. All gone because he cannot turn away from a man he believes to be a murderer and who now owns him completely in every way.
Another amazing thing is that I didn’t even like Zack Stewart very much. He whines (and knows it). He throws his co workers under the bus, expects them to cover up his screw ups to the point of losing their own jobs, he throws an investigation and still we watch all the events happen, much like watching a train wreck. I was never emotionally invested in the character and yet I still couldn’t put the book down. Blackwell doesn’t make Dante Jardin someone you would relate to either. She gives us some backstory on Dante that should make him and his demeanor more understandable but he never really came together for me outside of their sex scenes, which were very hot by the way. And still, Blackwell keeps us turning the pages, wanting to know what will happen next. The easiest character to understand? That would be Claire Keaton, a “by the book” cop who considers Zack a friend and who instinctually realizes he is in trouble and that Dante is the key.
It all works, from the descriptions of the poor guys getting murdered to the club scene with the anonymous sex in the back room. All visually rich in detail, smokey with the smell of sex and weed, the clinking of glasses and the rustle of clothing, Blackwell’s descriptions brings us into the crime scene, into the midst of the investigation and the group of people circling around the periphery. This is a 5 star book right up until it isn’t. And that brings us to the last 15 to 10 pages. Were these written by a doppleganger? Did some nefarious ghostwriter with fluff on the brain sneak in and complete this novel of grime, death and sexual obsession with a goal of inserting a measure of Hello Kitty and rainbowed unicorns? I am still shaking my head over it. It just makes no sense at all. It takes everything, and I do mean everything, that went before and plants a big “Nuh uh!” over top of it, canceling out everything that felt gritty and real in order to throw us a fake HEA and “everything’s alright, boo boo cakes” epilogue. Am I frustrated and irritated beyond belief over this wasteful treatment of talented writing, even by the author herself? You betcha I am. Two stars for the ending, 5 stars for sexual obsession made real. You figure out the rating. I am out of here, still shaking my head in disgust.
Cover: Art by Reese Dante who had done a great job with the coloring and models to achieve the idea of sex, heat, all in flames.