A Paul B Review: Makepeace (Taking Shield #3) by Anna Butler

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

makepeace-by-anna-butlerA year has passed since Shield Captain Bennet was rescued from Telnos.  Having spent the past year doing his research at the Strategy Unit and teaching at the Thebaid Institute, Bennet is anxious to get back out into space.  However, he must rotate out of Shield for three years and serve in Fleet.  Before that happens, Bennet comes to a realization that the Maess have been using Makepeace, an old Albion colony that was overtaken over a century before.  If his analysis of the information he took from T-18 is correct, the Maess are holding humans as prisoners on the former farming colony. 

Having passed his theories along to IntCom, Bennet is assigned to the dreadnought Corvais as their Flight Captain.  Having served onboard for almost eight months, Bennet formulates some chilling possibilities what is happening on the lost colony of Makepeace.  Surmising that the Maess are using the prisoners for scientific experiments, he alerts his superiors of his theories.  When confronted with the possibilities of what is going on, the Albion president authorizes Bennet to rescue the prisoners, with the proviso that if the humans are being in any way controlled by the Maess, he is to not only destroy the base but take out the prisoners as well.  The ultimate decision would be his alone.  The prospect of killing almost 200 “innocents” weighs heavily on Bennet.

Bennet is assigned to the Caliban, a dreadnought whose commander happens to be considered an uncle by Bennet.  Warwick has been friends with his father Caeden since they were in the Military Academy together.  Known for his exploits, Warwick cannot wait to get behind enemy lines like Bennet has been doing all along with Shield.  When Bennet gets on board the Caliban, he finds that Warwick has developed a cult of personality around him to the point the crew almost worships him.  They too are excited to get behind enemy lines and attack instead of defending what territory they have left.  Bennet, having been behind enemy lines, knows that there is no real glory to being there and wonders if the crew is in for a rude awakening when they get to Makepeace.  But Bennet has enough to worry about with the prisoners and the side project that has been given to him.  He hopes this far deep into Maess territory there aren’t any problems…

The third book in the Taking Shield series once again has Bennet in the thick of a military campaign while trying to sort out his feelings not only for his family and lovers but also for the new crew of the Caliban.  He alone really knows the full extent of the mission that he is to undertake and the strain of it puts a stress on his daily living.  Because of this and his usual obliviousness to personal situations, Bennet is both surprised and yet in retrospect not shocked at the actions Warwick undertakes during the battle for Makepeace.  The results of the battle have far reaching effects on Bennet not only militarily but personally as well.  Seeing that one of his theories about the colony having been proved correct, Bennet feels isolated as to the decisions he has to make and a having taken a step away from humanity.  Bennet will have to deal with this when he joins his father on his next assignment on the Gyrfalcon.  I am waiting impatiently for the next book in the series.

The cover art by Wilde City Press once again is well done.  It has what has been described as a Maess form inside the standard Shield badge that has been on the previous covers. 

Sales Links

Wilde City Press

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Book Details

EBook, 330 pages

Edition Language:  English

Published:  July 6, 2016 by Wilde City Press

ISBN:  978-1-925506-19-8

A New Addition to the Garden, the Week Ahead in Reviews and the Sazerac, an American classic cocktail

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So, here we are again.  It’s a rainy Sunday in Maryland, perfect day for reading and snoozing with the pooches.  I was out earlier in the week, gallivanting around and made a quick stop into one of our local nurseries to check out their perennial sale (50 percent off woo hoo!) and what did I behold? A zen froggy waiting for someone to take him home.  Really how could I pass him up?  Here’s are 2  pictures.   He is now perched in all his zen-like concentration behind the fish pond to Kirby’s everlasting confusion.  I watch Kirby looking at him every time he goes out and can just see the slow wheel turning in our third smartest dog’s mind.  Like “hmmmm, didn’t see that before, wonder if it is edible” “will he play with me?”.  Cracks me up everytime.  So I believe our zen froggy deserves a name.  Any suggestions?

 

Now on to the Week in Reviews.  There were just some lovely books this week. Lashings of Sauce was a standout based on just the shear number of great authors who contributed to this anthology. We run the gamut from contemporary romance to supernatural lovers this week:

Monday:                           (Un)Masked by Anyta Sunday & Andrew Q.Gordon

Tuesday:                           Shelton’s Homecoming by Dianne Hartsock

Wednesday:                    Wick by Megan Derr

Thursday:                         Lashings of Sauce-a British Anthology

Friday:                               Weekends by Edward Kendrick

Saturday:                           The Cool Part of His Pillow by Rodney Ross

Cocktail of the Week: The Sazerac

The Sazerac, created in New Orleans in the 1800’s, an American Classic Cocktail

Ingredients:

1 1/2 teaspoons (1/4 ounce) club soda
1 sugar cube (preferably rough-cut and unbleached*) or 1/2 teaspoon raw sugar, such as turbinado or Demerara
4 to 5 dashes Peychaud Bitters
5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces) VSOP Cognac
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) absinthe
1 cup ice
1 lemon
Directions:

In chilled cocktail shaker or pint glass, pour club soda over sugar cube. Using muddler or back of large spoon, gently crush sugar cube. Swirl glass until sugar dissolves, 20 to 30 seconds, then add bitters and Cognac and set aside.
Pour absinthe into chilled double old-fashioned glass or stemless wineglass. Holding glass horizontally, roll between your thumb and forefinger so absinthe completely coats the interior, then discard excess.
Add ice to cocktail and stir until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain cocktail into chilled glass rinsed with absinthe. Using channel knife, cut thin 4-inch strip of peel from lemon directly over glass, then place peel in glass and serve.

Review of Inertia (Impulse #1) by Amelia C. Gormley

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Rating: 4 stars

Detroit handyman, Derrick Chance, has life just the way he wants it after recovering from period of excruciating loss and emotional turmoil brought on by the deaths of his grandparents and brother.  Safe, unexciting, normal. some would say routine even and they would be right.  Everything in its place, everything in order. and especially no unwelcome surprises lurking to throw up his hard won equanimity.  It has taken Derrick 10 years to get to this point in his life where he feels balanced and safe and he doesn’t want anything to change.  Just look at his home and furnishings.  The house is much the same as when his grandparents had lived there, nothing updated, even the appliances.  Heck, he didn’t even have texting on his phone.

Then Derrick gets a phone call from Gavin Hayes, an accountant who needs his home office outfitted with some shelves.  One look at Gavin, a quick handshake and all Derrick’s comfortable and predictable life is shaken up. Derrick gave up trying to date and all personal relationships when trying to recover from the loss of his family at a young age.  He just didn’t have anything left over to give so why bother? Now Derrick doesn’t know how to handle the emotions Gavin is bringing back to the surface after a long absence.

Gavin too is fighting the impulse to get to know his skittish handyman better.  Gavin has just removed himself from an abusive relationship and the thought of trusting another at this time leaves him uncertain and more than a little afraid, given a secret he is hiding.  It is going to take more than time and an attraction for Derrick and Gavin to decide to risk it all on a chance at love.

Inertia is the first book in the Impulse series that looks to follow the course of a relationship between two men, Derrick Chance and Gavin Hayes. The title of the book is an accurate description of the state of Derrick’s life.  Derrick has remained unchanged, and happily so since the trauma of his grandparents death. Then his brother died as well leaving him so emotionally empty that he was unable to do more than react as his life changed forever.  From that time on, Derrick froze himself into a lifestyle of emotional stasis that comes complete with a house full of relics from his grandparents time, a business based on fixing things from the past, and an isolation so complete that his only friends are his dog, his elderly neighbor and his friend, Devon.  When a work order leads to a meeting with Gavin Hayes, their mild flirting shakes him up, to the point of  Derrick reevaluating his choice of a solitary life.

Gormley does a really nice job of conveying Derrick’s uncertainty about the future and making changes to his life.  From Derrick’s perspective, the future has never held anything but heartache and pain causing him to withdraw from an active social life.  She paints the portrait of a man so hurt, so afraid of emotional pain that he does nothing to move himself forward for fear of being hurt once more.  Derrick has also frozen his sexuality as he has been abstinent for years, remaining a virgin into his thirties. This gives his character a certain innocence that plays off nicely against the character of Gavin Hayes.

The character of Gavin Hayes has also some interesting layers to him.  He is just come from an abusive relationship with a man whose ideas on HIV and AIDS are not only frighteningly self delusional but dangerous.  He too is full of fear for the future and hesitant to start a new relationship. So when the men find they are attracted to each other, each advances forward with all the hesitancy and indecisiveness of ants at a tap dance rehearsal.  For each uncertain foot forward, then is an almost immediate step back, sometimes several so that they find themselves back at the starting point.  But instead of this being a frustrating element, Gormley makes us understand these men and their actions.

Then there is the sex.  There are some very hot scenes here as Derrick discovers that his sexuality didn’t die along with his family but has just been dormant, awaiting a spark to come back to life.  Gavin is more than happy to be that spark.  But this is not a teacher/student relationship as Gavin’s former lover has left him with mental scars where their sex life was concerned.  There is a very realistic give and take here between the men as Derrick discovers he has a slight submissive kink and Gavin explores the idea of reciprocity in sex play.

There is no real angst here although from the sound of Gavin’s former lover, it might appear in the sequel Acceleration, Impulse #2. Inertia is simply the story of the beginnings of a relationship.  It may go on longer than necessary. In fact, the entire book could be tightened up with respect to editing errors and repetitive sections.  This is the second edition of this story after all. All of this might be due to the fact that Inertia is a self published book that could benefit from the efforts of a good editor.  That said, Gormley has done a wonderful job with her story and I look forward to the next installment in the relationship of Derrick and Gavin.

Cover:  Interesting cover by Kerry.  Compelling in its own way but also a little rustic in feel.

Olympic Games, the Week Ahead in Reviews and The Michelada Cocktail

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So many things going on to talk about today.  First let’s get right to the Olympics.  Closing ceremony is tonight, bringing to an end one of the best Olympics I can remember.  I have been glued to the television watching this incredible spectacle unfold from the beginning, from the high drama of the swimming pools and gymnastic mats to the cross country course of the Equestrian events to the river and glistening rowers then to track and field, and all the sports in between.  So many athletes, so many stories, so many tears of sorrow to match the tears of joy.  How not to feel a part of something bigger, to feel connected to other nations and nationalities when you see people cheering the athletes on regardless of the colors they wear or the countries they represent.  Oscar Pistorius? Who wasn’t cheering that man on?  Some of my favorites? Katie Ledecky, Misty  and Terri, Usain Bolt, Jessica Ennis, Michael Phelps, Gabby and the rest of the US gymnastic womens team,  Misty Franklin….so, so many.

And what will the closing ceremony look like?  Who knows?  After the dancing nurses and their twirling hospital beds, massive shrubbery moving, the Tor, and best torch ever, I am waiting in anticipation to be confounded, baffled, and touched beyond measure.  I know we will all be watching it together.

I am also going into this week with a working generator (dances for joy) so once more I am able to enjoy the rumble of thunder, the darkening skies, the sound of pounding rain for their beauty and music, secure in the knowledge that a storm no longer equals loss of power, food and appliances!  Take that, Pepco.  Now only if I could send you the bill.

Finally, Monday brings my review of Stars & Stripes, the latest in the Cut & Run series from Abigail Roux featuring Ty and Zane.  So many people were trying to download their pre-ordered copies at midnight on the 11th that they crashed the servers over at Riptide Publishing.  Wow.  So was the wait worth it?  Read my review on Monday.  So here is what the week is looking like in books:

Monday:                                Stars & Stripes (Cut & Run #6) by Abigail Roux

Tuesday:                                Synchronous Seductions Trilogy by Haven Fellows

Wednesday:                         Inertia (Impulse #1) by Amelia C. Gormley

Thursday:                             Brook Street: Thief by Ava March (rescheduled from last week)

Friday:                                   Mending the Rift Series by Valentina Heart

Saturday:                               Word Play Anthology by the Story Orgy authors

And finally our summer cocktail of the week. The Michelada, perfect for grilled foods and watching Olympic closing ceremonies!

The Michelada

Ingredients:

1/4 teaspoon piquin pepper
1/4 teaspoon salsa picante
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (12-ounce) can Mexican lager, chilled

Garnish: lime wedge

Directions:

In tall beer glass, stir together pepper sauce, salsa, lime juice, salt, and lager. Garnish with lime and serve immediately.

Happy viewing and have a great week!

Review of A Sky Full of Wings (Notice #3) by M. Raiya

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Rating: 5 stars

Varian and Josh are getting married and all their friends are in attendance, Dragons, Knights, and lots of Humans unaware of their magical presence, all have come to see two of their best friends forever bonded.  Varian’s normal nerves of steel are rattled as never before when facing the prospect of a wedding planned by his unpredictable lover, Josh.  And the fact that his brother and best friend won’t look at him while refusing to tell him what Josh has  planned?  Not at good thing at all.  Plus the new age minister that Josh found to marry them is giving off strange vibes to go with the stranger looks he is giving the couple.  Varian’s wedding jitters continue to ramp up, only his love for Josh keeps him safely anchored instead of fleeing in panic.  Now if only he can overcome his natural dragon’s reticence  for speech in time to speak his vows!  What can go wrong next at the marriage of Varian and Josh from the Notice series? Welcome to their wedding where anything that could happen does and a special wedding present to match all wedding presents is delivered to the happy couple.

M. Raiya’s A Sky Full of Wings was my first introduction to this author and the series.  I knew this short story was part of a series I had not read before but ended up loving it even without the first stories to go by.  Raiya fleshed out enough of Varian and Josh’s backstory for me that I did not feel as though I was missing out on too much information.  I loved the characters the author created almost immediately from Dr. Adrian Varian Kendall, a teacher who just happens to be a black dragon and Josh, his human lover who just might be more than he seems but no one appears to  know what that is exactly.  All the elements here are vividly described, from the multilayered characters to a dragon cartwheeling in joy through the sky.

I felt that this story was so well written from the humorous beginning to the end with its unexpected wedding guests and its portents of things to come that A Sky Full of Wings is sending me back to start from the beginning.(note: I have now read and reviewed them. See below)  I don’t feel that it is entirely necessary to read the other books first to love this story as M. Raiya gives the reader all they need here to understand the characters in the wedding party and some of the backstory. This promises to be a great series for me.  I will let you know how it goes. Until then, don’t wait to grab this one up! You won’t be sorry.

Cover:  Cover artist Alessio Brio.  I love the dragon in the background, but to be honest, I have no idea what those things are on either side.  If you know, please clue me in as my curiosity is up!

Other books in the series, starting from the beginning are:

Notice (Notice #1) read my review here.

The Dragon and the Mistletoe (Notice #2) a Christmas short (my review is combined with Notice – see above)

A Sky Full of Wings (Notice #3)

It’s Series Week at Scattered Thoughts and Our First Book Giveaway!

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This week is series week here at Scattered Thoughts… and Joyfully Jay.  JJ and hubby were hurrying off to Scotland to celebrate their 40th birthdays (yep, won’t see that one again) and 15 years of marriage (not this one either) and wanted to know if Sammy and I had anything we wanted to write about.  Well, little love pandas, I have been reading some outstanding series and loving on the fact that my journey with each cast of characters would not be stopped short at one book! And as my mind wandered over the various landscapes and emotional terrains of those series, a little LED light went off in my head, I waved my hand and piped up “Series!  I want to write about how I love series!”  Sammy and JJ both had favorites series too, everyone got excited and so the idea of series week was born.

So what an exciting week ahead here in Maryland to offset the return of 100 degree temperatures and humidity that would not be out of place in the Congo!  I will be talking about why I love a series,  I am listing my favorite series and favorite series covers. I thought about listing my all time worst series but hey we are not about negativity here, at least this week.  There are author spotlights and our first ever book giveaway!  Nicole Kimberling will be giving away a copy of Primal Red, the first in the Bellingham Mysteries series being reviewed this week!  So watch out for her Author Spotlight and the series review.  Make a comment and I will choose a winner by the end of the week!

So here it is, my sweet baboos, the schedule for Series  Week!:

Monday:                               Series I Am Excited About (And Still Reading)

Tuesday:                              Favorite Series and  Series Book Covers

Wednesday:                        Series Spotlight:  The Warder Series by Mary Calmes

Thursday:                           Author Spotlight:  Nicole Kimberling

Friday:                                 Series Spotlight: The Bellingham Mysteries Series by Nicole Kimberling

Saturday:                             Why A Series Makes My Heart Sing!

Also stop by Joyfully Jay this week.  Check out the authors and series reviewed there.  She is having book giveaways from Ava March and Katey Hawthorne! Woohoo.  Love both of those authors and their books so  you can’t go wrong.

Here is another great summer cocktail recipe in our battle against the summer heat and doldrums:

The French 75:

Ingredients:

1 lemon
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) gin
1 1/2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) simple syrup
1 cup ice cubes
1/4 cup (2 ounces) dry sparkling wine, such as brut Champagne, chilled

 

 

 

Preparation:

Using zester or paring knife, slice peel from lemon in long, thin spiral. Reserve lemon for another use and set peel aside.
In cocktail shaker, combine gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Add ice and shake vigorously for 20 seconds. Strain into chilled Champagne flute and top with sparkling wine.
Curl lemon peel around finger to create twist at least 6 inches long. Garnish drink with twist and serve immediately.

Review of Almost Paradise (Pine Hollow Wolves #1) by Caitlin Ricci

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Rating: 4 stars

Liam Glass is on a errand for the Alpha of his pack, Sampson.  His mission?  To buy gifts for  Evangeline, Sampson’s twin sister and equally powerful wolf.  With him are his two young Neapolitan Mastiffs, Lucy and Ethel.  As he is finishing his business at the jewelry shop they frequent, a frazzled man enters with his young daughter.  The stranger is looking for work when his daughter notices the dogs with squeals of joy.  Everything about the man and his daughter speaks to Liam’s inner wolf and his need to protect them both.

Travis and his daughter, Hannah, have been left in dire financial straights after paying off the lawyers in his custody case. After winning his case, Travis was forced to sell everything he owned to pay the bills.  All his attempts to find a job have met with failure when he and Hannah walk into a shop on their way back to the hotel. When an attractive customer in the shop offers Travis hundreds of dollars to watch his dogs for the weekend, he accepts the offer without question as it means a roof over their heads and food to eat however temporary the security is for their small family.

When Sampson calls and orders Liam immediately to leave the city on pack business, Liam uses his need for someone to care for his dogs as a means to aid Travis and Hannah without offending the man’s pride.  Then he realizes that Hannah can see his true self and everything changes. Liam must protect Hannah and tell Travis the truth.  But will Travis be able to accept the fact that Liam isn’t human and cost Hannah the security she needs?

Almost Paradis is a short story full of neat twists on wolf shifters and serves as a great introduction to characters in the new Pine Hollow Wolves series.  Where to start? Liam and his pack are chock full of intriguing characters  in a pack structure that appears to be  a little different from those  I have gotten in other shifter books.  For starters their Alpha, Sampson, has a twin sister who is he equal in power, dominance, and statue. And while the author  doesn’t come right out and say it, I believe the Alpha and his sister are both black (a diversity lacking in other shifter  tales).  She is also “the tallest woman” Travis has ever seen with an outrageous love of jewelry and sense of humor.  I can’t wait to get more of her character and her brother’s if she is anything to go by.  I also fell in love with Liam as well.  Who wouldn’t love a wolf shifter with two Mastiffs pups he has named Lucy and Ethel and obviously adores? Elegant and comfortable with who he is as a wolf high in status with his pack, he still loves children and falls under Hannah’s spell immediately.  I loved their interaction as well.

Travis is heartbreaking as a father who has given up everything he owns to win custody of his daughter only to see themselves made virtually homeless, with no support system and no income to rely on.  He and Hannah are statistics all too common in today’s economic reality.  Travis is totally believable right down to the bags of washed and unwashed clothing in the hotel room.  Those who might scoff at a father getting into a car with a stranger who offers food, shelter and money have no idea how desperation effects a persons actions.  In this case, Travis got lucky, he and Hannah bring out the protective instinct in Liam as well as feed Liam’s desire to have children.  Then there is Hannah, a totally endearing tot as well as Lucy and Ethel, the Neapolitan Mastiffs with personalities to match their size.

There is no case of instant love here which I appreciate.  It is definitely a case of HFN and Travis asks for certain rights and promises before he agrees to Liam’s proposal.  I was so happy to see that this book serves as a expositional setup for the additional books to come. I will eagerly await the arrival of Pine Hollow Wolves #2 and the chance to reacquaint myself with Liam, Travis, Hannah, Evangeline and the rest.

Cover: Artist Lee Tiffin.  I love this cover.  How cute is the father/daughter duo?  This would be perfect except that the animal on the cover is a Husky and not a wolf.  How could the artist make that mistake I don’t know but it takes the whole cover down several notches.  They should have done their homework, put a wolf on the cover, and then this would have been one of my Best Cover of the Month.

Review of Full Circle (Sanctuary #5) by RJ Scott

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Rating: 4.75 stars

Manny Sullivan has always been the “ops” in Operations, the person at the center of all of Sanctuary’s communications and intelligence.  As he is running a systems check of all Sanctuary computers and surveillance cameras currently in use on the Bullen case, he spots Josh Headley, son of an important witness, away from the Sanctuary house he was staying with his mother and handlers.  In fact the house Josh is sneaking into is the home of a prime suspect in the case and Josh’s interference can ruin everything the Agencies have worked so hard to compile against the Bullen family. Manny is not just a IT genius, he is also a seasoned agent and he is the one to go and retrieve Josh Headley before his unauthorized visit derails their case.

Josh Headley’s entire life has been turned upside down by finding out that not only is his father a bad cop, his father also murdered  an innocent women for the Bullen family. That his father said it did it to protect his family matters not at all.  In the witness protection program set up by Sanctuary, Josh is finding inaction and safety a bitter pill to swallow, and then he finds out that his boyfriend was using him too per the Bullen family instructions. He breaks out of the safe house intending to make his ex-boyfriend pay and to get additional information. To his amazement,  a small but lethal Sanctuary agent appears to pull him out of the house and bring him back to Sanctuary headquarters.

Manny Sullivan and Josh Headley have a lot in common, both computer geniuses, both have troubled background, and both are gay, a fact that neither man has missed.  Close quarters during a surveillance operation feeds a mutual attraction until it flashes out in a moment of lust and need.  But one man is consumed by his job, the other destined  for the witness protection program.  As the Bullen case draws to a close, what does the future hold for Manny Sullivan and Josh Headley?

With Full Circle, RJ Scott brings the investigation of the Bullen family to a close and gives us a 5 star couple to finish it off.  Scott’s wonderful talent for characterizations shines with both main protagonists.  Manny Sullivan has been an ingratiating popup character throughout the series and now he gets the leading role we have been waiting for.  Manny Sullivan created a new life for himself including a new name when Jake Callahan hired him to work for Sanctuary. His family’s Mafia connections lead to the death of his parents and sister, leaving him completely alone at a young age.  Using only his ingenuity and high IQ, Manny finagled a interview with Callahan at MIT, was hired, and never looked back.  Manny is a wonderful mess of contradictions, small, introspective, highly confident in his abilities in a variety of subjects from computers to guns, and until now, content to be alone with his computers or with his Sanctuary coworker family. He needs an equal and Scott gives one to him in Josh Headley. Scott has created in Josh Headley a mirror image that causes Manny to rearrange his thinking and outlook.

Josh Headley is a wonderful character, equal to Manny in so many respects.  Here is a young man who idolizes his father and loves his mother with a bright future ahead of him until it all explodes as his father is arrested for murder and it turns out that his father has been a corrupt cop on the payroll of the Bullen crime family for over 20 years. Josh has lost everything and is forced into hiding with his mother. a situation he intends to get out of.  Josh is bitter and sullen even before he finds out that the boyfriend he was forced to leave behind was in fact just using him for information for the Bullens.  Scott makes Josh very real in his distrust of others, hatred for his dad along with the pain of a son who remembers the loving father in his family memories. Josh is hurting and lashing out, something we can all relate to and empathize with. In fact, he is one of the most relatable characters in the series, pain filled, frustrated, tired and bitter. Josh is taller than Manny but doesn’t see that as an advantage over Manny. This is not a case of true love but rather an attraction built on physical need and the recognition that their mental intellects mesh rather well. I really likes how true that felt. Looking at their backgrounds and their present realities, neither man is a candidate for a “instant love” relationship and the author doesn’t make the mistake of trying to give us one.  Instead, Manny and Josh are realistically looking at what is possible for the future for them.  Every part of the Manny/Josh duo just smacks of authenticity.  Scott also brings back Morgan and Nik from Guarding Morgan, the first book in the Sanctuary series and the one that  starts off the Bullen investigation. A perfect touch in a story bringing all events and people full circle.

Full Circle also brings to a close case of the Bullen crime family that started in Guarding Morgan.  During the investigation into the Bullen family activities, several Sanctuary agents have been shot, evidence has been tampered with, people have vanished, each new lead taking them to new crimes and new accomplices until it ended with uncovering a FBI mole that had acted as liaison to Sanctuary in Clear Water, Sanctuary #4. Scott neatly ties together all the threads from each book into an ending deserving of such a convoluted investigation.  I wanted to see the Bullens brought to justice and Scott delivered that in spades.

But this is not the end of the Sanctuary series as RJ Scott leaves us with an escape and promise of more to come from Sanctuary and its agents.  And for that I am grateful.  There are several mentions of my favorite couple, Dale (a Sanctuary agent) and Joseph, a Navy seal, whose sister’s murder started the investigation. Manny mentions that Dale received a text from Joseph saying he was going deep with his unit for an unknown amount of time. They have a HFN relationship, the only one possible given their responsibilities, but Scott has given us an indication that there is more coming for them.  And Jake Callahan, the owner and CEO of Sanctuary is due for his own story as well. So while it is goodbye and good riddance to the Bullens, more Sanctuary tales are on the horizon.  I can’t wait!

Cover: Reese Dante delivers another great cover for Sanctuary, those models perfectly fit Manny and Josh.  Great details all around.

Sanctuary Series in the order they should be read in order to fully understand the Bullen Family conspiracy and the characters involved:

Guarding Morgan, Sanctuary Series #1 – rating 4.25 stars

The Only Easy Day, Sanctuary Series, #2 – my review here

Face Value, Sanctuary Series #3my review here

Still Water, Sanctuary Series #4 my review here

Full Circle, Sanctuary Series, #5

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

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Rating: 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.