Amy Lane on Writing, Books and her new release in the Little Goddess series ‘Quickening, Vol. 1’ (author interview)

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Quickening Vol. 1 (Little Goddess #5 Vol. 1) by Amy Lane
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SP Publications
Release Date:  May 2, 2017

Buy Links

Vulnerable Amazon | Vulnerable DSPP | Quickening Amazon | Quickening DSPP

~Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words’ Interview with Amy Lane~

How much of yourself goes into a character? That depends on the character—every character has a little bit of me or somebody I know in them—but some have more than others.

Do you feel there’s a tight line between Mary Sue or should I say Gary Stu and using your own experiences to create a character?  Not really—very early on, I learned that when you put your own experiences in the hands of another person they become a different thing altogether. For Lady Cory, when she was an alienated adolescent, she got pissed off. I got mousy—and I liked her reaction better.

Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write?  Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures? 

LOL—anybody who says you don’t do research when world building hasn’t paid attention.  Research to me usually means answering the question, “Hey, is that plausible?”  Sometimes it means defending yourself to your editing staff. I once wrote (in a fantasy) that it got colder right after sunrise. The entire editing staff jumped my shit and said it was impossible, and I had to pull three different sources that said it was totally possible. Even when you’re writing fantasy, you’re building on a long collected established code of wisdom and lore, and it’s good to know who’s ground you’re treading.  No—I choose my genre depending on what I like to read at the moment. The research follows.

Has your choice of childhood or teenage reading genres carried into your own choices for writing? Holy Goddess yes. The Blue Fairy Book, Norse Myths, To Kill a Mockingbird, Alice in Wonderland, The Hero and the Crown, and countless Harlequin Presents are all battling for supremacy with every damned story.

Have you ever had to put an ‘in progress’ story aside because of the emotional ties with it?  You were hurting with the characters or didn’t know how to proceed? No. Once only have I put a story aside, and it’s because I was 70K in, and it was only halfway, and I needed my Christmas story before I’d be finished. Other than that, no. I start, I work to the finish, and I hope for the best.

Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?  I like HEA, but I don’t mind series that work for it—for example, Fish Out of Water, there are going to be a few more books there, and those guys are continually working for their balance.

Do you read romances, as a teenager and as an adult?  Absolutely.

Who do you think is your major influence as a writer?  Now and growing up?  (I listed a few above so I’ll skip this one.)

How do you feel about the ebook format and where do you see it going?  I think there are already two kinds of e-book audiences. One is the potato chip audience—reads absolutely everything, one or two books a day.  This is the type of reader that Kindle Unlimited was made for—and that’s wonderful, because that kind of addiction could bankrupt a person.  Also, I started out as an indie-pub, and my editing was not great, and people still found my books and treasured them—so I’m glad to see there is a growing outlet for that writer to get discovered and loved. 

The other reader is more the steak and salad audience—has either limited time or limited income or both, and will read all of an author’s backlist, from beginning to end, because this author has pleased the reader in the past, and it’s worth the reader’s time and effort—and possibly more money—to stick with one writer because there’s a component of trust there. These are often the authors who have a press and a slightly higher book price—there are gatekeepers there to make sure the product is as good as it can be. The thing is, this audience is starting to find itself. For a while, after KU came out, established writers were floundering, but as this audience realized they couldn’t read ALL the books and started relying on their favorite authors as they had before, and things are stabilizing again.

The fact is, e-books as entertainment are still one of the cheapest and most popular forms of entertainment—it’s up to authors and publishers to figure out how best to utilize their accessibility.

That being said, I still remember being part of the Rainbow Book Fair in New York City—where people brought suitcases and filled them with paperbacks, because, as hard as it is for us to believe, there are still people who devote their love of reading to print books. I think print still has a while to go on the favorite list—but e-book will continue to rise.

How do you choose your covers?  (curious on my part)  I usually ask for an image or a set of images, and the cover artist the company provides submits drafts for my approval. I actually have a very funky, odd visual sense—one of my favorite things to make as a knitter is a blanket or sweater put together out of scraps. This isn’t the greatest thing in marketing—it’s taken me a few years to figure that out—and I think it’s one of the reasons the New York publishing houses usually just hand an author a cover and say, “Yes. This is your cover. Deal with it.”  Because some of my covers are STUNNING, but some of them make me wonder what was in the water when I was having that conversation.

Do you have a favorite among your own stories?  And why?  My favorites are the underdogs. The Little Goddess stories will always be my favorites. Fish Out of Water—totally my favorite. Racing for the Sun—top of my list.  I know that I have stories that are more popular than those—and I’m proud to have written them, but some of them get so much love I’m like, “Oh, Beneath the Stain has been soooooooo appreciated. This other one needs my support more.”

What’s next for you as an author?  Well, I’m trying to write a little more paranormal and urban fantasy—the trick is getting it to sell, because it doesn’t always do what we want it to. Coming out I have Quickening 1& 2, Manny Get Your Guy, Red Fish/Dead Fish, Familiar Angel (a paranormal) and Regret Me Not (the Christmas story I just finished), followed by Stand by Your Manny. 

So, something for everyone, I hope

Blurb

Little Goddess: Book Five
Volume One


Cory thought she’d found balance on Green’s hill—sorceress, student, queen of the vampires, wife to three men—she had it down! But establishing her right to risk herself with Green and Bracken had more than one consequence, and now she’s facing the world’s scariest job title: mother.

But getting the news that she’s knocked up takes a backseat when a half-elf hunts them down for help. Her arrival brings news that the werewolf threat, which has been haunting them for over a year, has finally arrived on their doorstep—and it’s bigger and more frightening than they’d ever imagined.

Cory throws herself into this new battle with everything she’s got—and her men let her do it. Because they all know that whether they defeat this enemy now or later, the thing she’s most afraid of is arriving on a set schedule, and not even Cory can avoid it. The trick is getting her to acknowledge she’s pregnant before she gives birth—or kills herself in denial.

Excerpt

Bracken nuzzled my cheek and, very carefully, put his hand on my abdomen again. I felt nothing but a little bit of hardness there, like I’d had a very full meal, except lower.

“What did you do? Why did it hurt?” I asked, half-afraid he’d put the pregnancy at risk in an effort to get through to me. I should have known better.

“Just talked to it,” he said. “One of them shares my gift. It was painful to have us talk through your blood.”

I noticed the way he said “one of them.” Elves did not pass down their own traits in the DNA. In fact, nobody really knew how elves and trait heredity really worked. Bracken’s parents were both lower fey. His mother was a pixie—three and a half feet of sex kitten with violet hair. His father was a redcap—same height, but built like the forgotten corner of a rock quarry.

Bracken was six feet six of beautiful, broad-shouldered, mostly smooth, pale-skinned, big-eyed sidhe perfection.

For all I knew, I was carrying a rock quarry and a pixie in my womb—but somehow I didn’t think so.

I blinked very slowly, wrestling with one thing at a time. “Does that mean I’m going to bleed out every time I pop a zit?” Yes, it was a gross analogy, but my skin hadn’t been this cluttered with acne since I was a junior in high school. Click. Oh, hell. Of course I was a big pimply mass of estrogen. Fucking Jesus—this was not going to get better.

“No,” Green said, his eyes meeting Brack’s. “In fact, we’re pretty sure the other one has my healing power. We think it was, perhaps, the Goddess….” He trailed off delicately.

“Trying to make sure I don’t die of my own stupidity?”

The lingering tension that had been present since I’d first gaped at Green and said “Oh fuck no!” began to dissipate.

“Not stupid, Corinne Carol-Anne,” he said softly. “Just very, very young.”

I usually railed at that. I’d finally reached twenty-two, right? Hell, there was a time I didn’t think I was going to live past twenty—and given how many scary things had tried to kill me, getting here was quite an accomplishment.

But not now. I had never felt so young in all my life—not even the morning I’d woken up in Green’s arms and we’d realized that our vampire lover had died the night before, and it was the two of us alone and grieving.

I snuggled in more tightly, and Bracken got a little closer. His hand brushed my breast as he did so, and my nipple gave a little shriek of pain. I gasped but kept it to myself—because hey, what girl hadn’t endured a boob shot when snuggling with one of her ginormous husbands, right?

Bracken grunted and stared at me through eyes the color of a weedy, brackish pond in shadows. “That hurt,” he stated.

“Yeah. The girls have been a little tender ever since Monterey….”

Just that quickly a kaleidoscope of our adventure down by the sea flickered behind my eyes. In particular, there was the moment when Teague, our alpha werewolf, and his husband, Jack, passive-aggressive pain in my ass, had both teamed up to protect me.

“Oh, hell. Was that why Jack decided to side with me? Because I’m pregnant?”

Dammit! Of all the…. I’d wanted to win Jack over with my leadership abilities, or with my ability to protect his lover, who was one of my captains and one of my best friends, or even with my friendship with their wife, Katy, whom I both adored and was dazzled by.

“You have a problem with that?” Brack asked curiously. Yeah, Brack’s brain worked along straightforward lines—as long as the result was that I was protected, he didn’t give a crap why.

“I would have liked it if he’d just thought I was a good enough leader to serve,” I grumbled. “I mean, what’s a girl gotta do?”

Bracken pulled out from under my arm, his eyes blazing. He ran a distracted hand through his dark hair, setting it on end like an angry hedgehog, and stared at me.

That’s what you’re worried about?” he asked, sounding outraged. “Do you know how many dangerous, foolish things we did in Monterey? And you’re worried that Jack followed you for the wrong reasons?”

I shivered—which was one of the by-products of having an emergency field transfusion of his blood, which I didn’t remind him of, because hey—one more thing to be pissed at me for, right?

So instead of arguing, I actually thought about what he was saying. Then I wished I hadn’t.

’Cause, well, we’d jumped out of a helicopter to be caught by my magic and my magic alone, which was a first for me in the flying department. We’d stood up to a gigantic rabid wolf pack with nothing but exhausted, injured werewolves and a few tired Avian shifters as support, and I’d….

Oh God, I’d….

I’d been forced to mass kill again, when I’d sworn I’d never do that. Not on purpose. Not so soon after having to issue a death warrant on vampire children because they’d had the bad luck to be turned by a pedophile and would never be sane, never be safe, never be human again.

In my mind I went back to that moment, the lot of us trapped under the force field I’d erected out of magic and desperation in a back alleyway. We’d been just far enough from the sea for us to lose the smell of hope. The rogue wolves had been throwing themselves against it for what seemed like forever, and I’d been growing tired. I could make the shield lethal. I’d been able to kill with my power from the very beginning, but I just kept hoping they’d see sense, that they’d stop somehow, that I wouldn’t have to waste so many fucking lives….

And I’d been teetering between trying to fight our way out and simply making the shield enough to kill them all, when Teague—my captain, my right-hand man, my friend—had looked at me and whimpered. His back end had dropped then—as it should, since he’d been recovering from breaking every bone in his body less than a week before—and I’d seen it in his eyes.

Please.

His mates were there, Jack and Katy, and he wanted them to live.

Or that’s what I’d thought.

Instinctively I placed my hand over my lower abdomen, thinking of what we could have lost there. What Bracken had known I’d been risking.

“You didn’t say anything,” I whispered. I looked over my shoulder at Green. He was gazing at me levelly, with no apologies and no regrets.

“No,” Green said. He and Bracken were staring at each other as though they were reliving a terrible conversation of their own.

“But—” But why? Why would two men who had made my health and welfare their bloody science for the past two years not protest, not try to protect me, not try to talk me out of my own stupid pride when I had their children on board?

“You never would have forgiven….” Bracken looked around the living room like he was looking for words. “Anybody!” he burst out. “Any of us. You, me, Green—hell, the children-to-be. And if, Goddess forbid, anything had happened to Teague, it would have been—” He stood for a moment and flailed his arms. “Cory-a-geddon. You would have self-detonated. This whole… baby thing would have begun under a—”

“A black karmic funk of epic proportions,” I supplied, feeling a little queasy just thinking about it. Of course, since I’d been feeling queasy pretty much for the past two and a half weeks, that was no big news. “But….” I could have died? Well, I could have died a lot of times in the last two years. I kept arguing that I would be fine—there were no promises, and my entire purpose was protection.

But….

Nothing.

“I asked for this?” Quiet revelations do sometimes sound like questions. “I did. I… I said I knew best, and… and….”

“And we trusted you to know best,” Green said quietly. “We trusted you with you, and our children.”

I closed my eyes, somewhat reassured. “That’s….” But I couldn’t do it. Maturity had apparently gotten me into this mess. It was time for honesty to get me out.

Terrifying!” I wailed, and then I dissolved into stupid tears on Green’s chest.

Bracken sighed and plopped behind me, and I cried until I fell asleep.

About the Author

Amy Lane has two kids in college, two gradeschoolers in soccer, two cats, and two Chi-who-whats at large. She lives in a crumbling crapmansion with most of the children and a bemused spouse. She also has too damned much yarn, a penchant for action adventure movies, and a need to know that somewhere in all the pain is a story of Wuv, Twu Wuv, which she continues to believe in to this day! She writes fantasy, urban fantasy, and m/m romance–and if you accidentally make eye contact, she’ll bore you to tears with why those three genres go together. She’ll also tell you that sacrifices, large and small, are worth the urge to write.
 
Twitter: @amymaclane
 
 
 

A MelanieM Review: Candy Land (Hidden Gem #3) by Lissa Kasey

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5       ★★★★★

candyland_final02Cameron “Candy” Michelson Jr. doesn’t have time for distractions. He’s too busy restructuring the red-light district into an adult playland for City M and running the Hidden Gem. But when his companion, Avery “Ivy” Laurent, grows closer to Jack, an investigator for the Institute of Scientific Study, Candy can’t hide his jealousy. Nor his own interest in Jack.

Ivy is crazy about Jack, but he’s also in love with Candy. Ideally, Ivy longs for all three of them to be together, but between Jack’s nonexistent libido and Candy’s supercharged needs, Ivy isn’t sure how to make it work.

When Jack gets called in to help the City M police department investigate a series of violently murdered companions, both Candy and Ivy brace for trouble. But nothing prepares them for Candy becoming the prime suspect.

In a future landscape of corrupt government officials, brutal BDSM crimes, and a host of dark creatures, Candy, Ivy, and Jack must work together to find the killer, save themselves—and learn how to trust each other.

The Hidden Gem stories by Lissa Kasey captivated me from the very beginning with her horrifying vision of a world in chemical ruin, its environs toxic and governments reduced down to geographical areas, even cities where populations clustered, clinging to life such as it was.  Throughout the populations were AMs, mutants both forced by experimentation and born into their genetic forms naturally by evolution…but all hidden from the citizens due to fear.

In each story, the title refers to a pleasure place.  The Hidden Gem, is the top “house” in City M, and Misaki “Aki” Itou is its highest paid  and most sought after “companion”. He will find love with detective Shane McNaughton, and their story sets in motion all the action and relationship dynamics to follow.  Its a 5 star magnificent ride and I couldn’t figure out how Kasey would top it. But of course, she did with Cardinal Sins (Hidden Gem, #2). Again its the name of a house of pleasure and gambling that the owner of the Hidden Gem finds, renovates and reopens for an unimaginable reason…its amazing tunnels of fish tanks that thread through its halls.  Here its the enigmatic Paris Hansworth, former “companion” turned senator and all powerful man who ends up finding the love of his life, Rain,  in the most unexpected place.  Each story gives a clue through the beautiful covers of Shobana Appavu. Yes, its in the blurb but its doesn’t prepare you for the power of the finding and the story itself.

Again, each book is building towards something more but I had no idea how strongly the author was preparing us for the final story in the trilogy until I came to Candy Land.  If I could give a book more than 5 stars I certainly would do so here.

Candy Land picks up the story almost immediately from Cardinal Sins and the three characters, one recently introduced and two we’ve come to know and love in all the other stories.  They all seem to be headed for something interesting as far as a matchup together, a triad, if they can communicate and overcome the enormous physical demons they have and plot hurdles ahead of them.  Cameron “Candy” Michelson Jr we met in the first book as the best friend of Aki and as high a paid companion as Aki was.  Now Candy is running Hidden Gem, has matured and is having trouble finding his way in staying Candy and the boss.   Avery “Ivy” Laurent,a psi paid companion at the Hidden Gem, Candy’s love interest is also interested in Frank, a AM who was partnered with Shane back when they were both cops.  Yes, circles upon circles of relationship dynamics and it all works.  Its important because these Venn diagram relationships are needed when the AM murders and explosive government politics start to intrude upon City M and their lives to the point of horrifying consequences to all.

One of the things I most admired about this story was Kasey’s ability to balance the need to bring the characters maturity along together and apart (especially Candy and Frank) while keep the suspense and deep intrigue mounting on the larger plot level.  Candy had to come to understand and accept Frank’s asexuality if their triad was to work, Frank also had to understand Candy’s need for dominance and Ivy’s need for them both.  It was a delicate give and take between all three and it works so beautifully here.  We get their vulnerability, their strengths, their humor and their pain…in short, we get them as whole viable people. I loved them all and together even better.  That’s saying a lot as threesomes usually aren’t my thing.  And this one is outstanding.

Even better?  The plot!   That nail biting, hold on to your seats because you won’t believe what’s coming next plot.  I ended up reading whole pages twice because they were so damn good.  Had the popcorn going, just hunched over the action, the drama, and the sequences that unfolded on the Kindle before me.  It had it all, angst, parts that had me weeping in anger, sadness and then unbelievable joy.  Yep, this book is over the moon.

When I got to  the end, I was so thrilled, I was stunned with joy.  It was everything I had wanted for each and every character.  How many times do you say that in a story?  Or a trilogy?  That you were completely satisfied with how everything worked out?  Now would I be happy if Lissa Kasey goes back and give Ono his own HEA?  You bet.  I think he deserves it after all this.  And then there’s that little matter of the boat people.  But the main characters?  Happy, happy, happy.

So do I recommend this book?  Silly question.  Of course I do.  All of them to be precise.  And Lissa Kasey too.  I will be picking them all back up and reading them in a row now that I have the trilogy complete to see what I may have missed.  Do yourself a favor, grab them all up, do it too.  Make yourself some popcorn while you’re at it.  You will be there for a wonderful fantasy ride!

Cover art by  Shobana Appavu is as outstanding as the book.  Each cover a clue as to the major element inside.

Sales Links:  Amazon |Dreamspinner PressAReBarnes & Noble

Book Details:

ebook, 274 pages
Published April 25th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634771672 (ISBN13: 9781634771672)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Trilogy: Hidden Gem

hiddengem_final03Cardinal Sins covercandyland_final02

 

Love A Hidden Gem? Candy Land (Hidden Gem#3) by Lissa Kasey is the Amazing Trilogy Finale (excerpt and giveaway)

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Candy Land

Candy Land (Hidden Gem#3) by Lissa Kasey
Release Date: April 25, 2016

Goodreads Link
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Shobana Appavu

Blurb

Cameron “Candy” Michelson Jr. doesn’t have time for distractions. He’s too busy restructuring the red-light district into an adult playland for City M and running the Hidden Gem. But when his companion, Avery “Ivy” Laurent, grows closer to Jack, an investigator for the Institute of Scientific Study, Candy can’t hide his jealousy. Nor his own interest in Jack.

Ivy is crazy about Jack, but he’s also in love with Candy. Ideally, Ivy longs for all three of them to be together, but between Jack’s nonexistent libido and Candy’s supercharged needs, Ivy isn’t sure how to make it work.

When Jack gets called in to help the City M police department investigate a series of violently murdered companions, both Candy and Ivy brace for trouble. But nothing prepares them for Candy becoming the prime suspect.

In a future landscape of corrupt government officials, brutal BDSM crimes, and a host of dark creatures, Candy, Ivy, and Jack must work together to find the killer, save themselves—and learn how to trust each other.

Pages or Words: 100,000 words
Should be read as a series
Categories: BDSM, Fantasy, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, Ménage, Paranormal, Romance, Shifters, Urban Fantasy

 

Excerpt

Candy groaned when he realized he was the most innocent in the dark side of the world of the three of them.

Him innocent. Unbelievable.

Dom, whore, and pimp, he shouldn’t inch at the idea of death and blood, but he did. Fuck. Had Paris known how worthless he was going to be when it came to monsters, gore, and the supernatural shit of the world?

He glanced at Jack, sighing over his natural boy-next-door beauty. His dark blond hair was long, curling around his ears, and somewhat unruly. It looked soft, and Candy longed to run his fingers through it. He’d met more handsome men than Jack, Paris and Shane being prime specimens of men, but something about him drew Candy in deep. His eyes were a soft shade of honey brown, with specks of dark chocolate that glistened if the light hit them just right. He always held himself apart, shoulders squared, head high. Con dent, Candy thought. But every once in a while he’d get a glimpse of something lurking beneath all that bravado—a childlike innocence and fear. It was the little boy hiding his heart behind the badge that made Candy want Jack so bad. He wanted to take that fear away, show him that while the world might not be safe, he wasn’t alone anymore.

Had Ivy even gotten to taste those thick lips? Or experience Jack’s strong arms wrapped around him? Had he chased away the overconfident man and fearful child long enough to see the real Jack? Did Candy have a chance? Should he even care if his death was just around the corner? Fuck. If there was anything he hated it was uncertainty. Whatever Aki saw would happen. Candy had no doubt about that. If he was going to die today or even a year from now, shouldn’t he just live every moment like it was his last? What would Jack do if Candy threw himself at him? Kissed the breath out of him? Asked to be held? Candy growled to himself and shook his head. He didn’t know where to start, but somehow he was sure aggression wouldn’t be welcome.

Jack stayed on his heel while Candy wandered, but seemed to be inspecting the property himself, maybe looking for clues that had been missed by the police. He had this nervous habit of biting his lip when he was deep in thought. Candy had noticed it ages ago, and it drove him nuts. It was an almost boyish cuteness that made Candy want to kiss Jack just to stop him from worrying at his lip, but now he knew it wouldn’t be welcomed and it irritated him. His tight pants bit into his lling cock. It wasn’t fair to be attracted to someone so badly.

He’d looked up the term Ivy had left for him after his last client: asexuality. A lack of emotional interest in sex. There were a dozen divisions within the term, some even sex- or relationship-averse, meaning they were repulsed by sex. Did sex disgust Jack? Was that why he hugged himself whenever he entered the Gem and refused to meet anyone’s eyes? Candy had thought it was just shyness, and maybe it partially was. He just didn’t quite understand. How could someone be physically able to have sex, but not want to? If he asked Jack, would he answer?

Candy sighed to himself and headed up the stairs. Even the stairs were caked in grease and grime. Ivy had lived here for several years, walking those steps in bare feet. Candy didn’t want to see, but he had to get his mind off Jack. The nastiness of the Red Delight client rooms would hopefully wilt his erection. If he’d been home he would have found a spare moment with Ivy to alleviate some tension. Here there was nothing but sticky floors, stained walls, and the stench of years of cigarette smoke.

Jack followed him up the stairs. Neither of them spoke or touched anything. A door at the far end was still marked with the yellow paint used by the police to indicate the crime area. Jack rubbed his nose and grabbed Candy’s arm before either of them could make a step toward that door. “It still smells of death up here. We should go back down. There’s nothing to see, right? You don’t want the actual building, just the land.”

“Ivy is too free with information,” Candy said, somewhat annoyed. How was it fair for Jack to know so much about him when Candy knew almost nothing about Jack?

“He worries about you. Wants to take care of you.” “Funny. I’d say he does the same for you.”

Jack shrugged. “He’s a friend. I thought he was your friend too.”

Candy stepped into Jack’s personal bubble. “I fuck him regularly. We’re more than just friends.”

Jack didn’t step back, nor did he appear to be shocked by Candy’s words, which stole some of Candy’s anger. Ivy had obviously not been dishonest with either of them. Though Candy had never expected him to fully disclose his sex life to Jack. “Why does that matter?” Jack asked finally. “I’m friends with Shane and Aki doesn’t mind. I know they have sex often.”

Did Jack really not know? Maybe he didn’t get that Ivy wanted more than friendship. Hell, Candy would have liked to get to know Jack on a more personal level too, only his hackles were always raised by the man. He had this feeling that Jack would have to be the man of the relationship. The guy in charge, the Dominant, and Goddess knew Candy hated to give up control. Not that he didn’t like occasionally having someone hold him down and pound into him. Fuck, his head was messed up. And why did Jack smell so damn good?

Candy stood close enough that if he leaned forward just a bit he could finally capture Jack’s abused lip. When had he grown tall enough to nearly meet Jack eye to eye? And the strength of Jack’s hand on his arm… Candy knew it could hold him, maybe even be enough to restrain him. He sucked in a deep breath; his cock ached to be touched and leaked in his pants. It made him angry. He was never rational when angry. Paris had been trying for years to teach him to bury that wild emotion and had failed. Candy opened his mouth to say something scathing, only Jack spoke first.

“I never got to thank you for the book,” Jack said. “At least not in person. I’m sure Ivy told you I was grateful. But I really do like it. It’s like owning a piece of history. I’m in awe that you even found it.”

An odd mash of glee filled Candy’s gut. Jack liked the book. He knew that, of course, Ivy had told him so, but it was different hearing it from the man himself. The anger fell away. Did Jack really see him?

“The cake too. That was pretty amazing. I have the rest of it in my freezer. Been eating it a little at a time. Ivy helped me cut it into slices so I could freeze it and unthaw it as I want. I’ve never been a huge fan of sweets, but the lemon and strawberry mix is good. I’ve never had anyone give me anything. Thank you.”

Candy gave in to his need to touch and be touched. Even if it meant Jack shoved him away, he had to step forward, close that space and try. He leaned forward, not daring to kiss Jack, but enough to rest his forehead on Jack’s shoulder, arm loose around his waist. He kept their hips apart so as not to startle Jack with his erection. He almost expected Jack to step back. But he didn’t. His arms circled around Candy’s back, patting his shoulder lightly.

“The new hair color is good,” Jack told him. “Makes me think of flowers. Not that you’re flowery, but I’m sort of hoping spring comes soon. I don’t like the cold very much.” He seemed to be rambling now. Breathing a little hitched. Candy couldn’t recall Jack ever speaking to him so much. “More you than that brown I saw you with at Solstice. And I’m glad the jacket ts. When I saw it last week I told Ivy it would be perfect for you. I don’t know when your birthday is, but if it makes you feel better you can pretend it’s a present for your birthday, or maybe a late Solstice present.”

The clothes, or at least the jacket, had been from Jack? Candy wished they were in a better place. He would have shoved Jack against the wall and proved to him how great sex could be. Only he couldn’t imagine touching anything in here and not coming away with some nasty disease. “Thank you. The coat is nice. Warm.”

Jack rubbed Candy’s arms. “That’s what I thought when I saw it. That it would keep you warm, and the color is nice. Bright, like your hair always was.” He hesitated in his touch, but Candy moved closer to him, assuring him that it was okay. “It’s been a while since I saw you last. I hope you’re doing okay. I mean, I’m sure Ivy would have told me if you weren’t, but it’s good to see for myself that you’re looking good….”

Jack thought he looked good? Manny appeared on the stairs a moment later, saving Candy from doing something stupid, like stealing a kiss from Jack.

“Oscar’s finished,” Manny told him. He said nothing about the embrace that would have embarrassed Candy had anyone else seen.

Candy pulled away reluctantly. He couldn’t meet Jack’s eyes as he made his way downstairs. If he had, he’d have said something stupid, like ask if they could go back to his place afterward. Jack probably would have taken the proposal badly anyway.

Yohan didn’t look any happier. And the offer was even lower. Candy took the screen and added a small sum of money to it. This was their final offer. “Take it or leave it,” Candy told him.

“You’re ripping me off,” Yohan protested. “Just because you can.”

Candy shrugged. Jack took the screen and glanced over it. “Looks fair to me. The condition of the building is questionable. I noticed more cracks in the walls and ceiling than the building code would allow, even for an older structure. There’s substantial water damage upstairs, so the roof is bad. Probably should have been replaced years ago. And then there are the health code violations….”

“I’ll take your offer,” Yohan said, most likely to shut Jack up before he could air the long list of problems with the property. Oscar stepped in to get his signature and thumb print on several e-documents.

Candy couldn’t help but grin at Jack, who gave him a nonchalant shrug. “Everyone out to the bus,” Candy instructed the companions. “You’ll be heading to Cardinal Sins.”

“What will we be doing there?” one of them asked.

“Paris will interview each of you and find a suitable job. Most likely serving drinks, food, maybe cleaning or cooking. He’s pretty well stocked in companions right now.” And all of these whores were well past their prime. Candy would have to find out where Yohan had sold the others to. There weren’t many brothels left in City M, and he hated the idea of any whore being left to be abused by some asshole pimp.

“No more whoring?” another clarified.
“Not likely.” He ushered them toward the door.
Jack still stood between him and Yohan. Yohan had several bags

packed and there was a car that wasn’t part of Candy’s entourage parked near the curb. “Will you be leaving town, then?” Jack asked Yohan. “I’d like to know where to nd you in case more questions come up about this case.”

Yohan shook his head. “Not my problem anymore. That belongs to him now too.” He waved his hand at Candy and made his way out the door and down to the car.

There was another unmarked car parked across the street that Jack saluted lightly. The passenger window rolled up, and as soon as Yohan’s car eased away from the curb, the black sedan followed.

“Ino,” Jack informed Candy. “He’ll let me know if Yohan leaves town or hides out somewhere. I really do want to know where he goes, just in case.”

Candy nodded, a little shocked by Jack’s foresight. If Candy had been thinking ahead, he’d have put one of the guards on the task. It was just more proof that he hadn’t gotten enough sleep. He watched the former companions all board the bus and sent a text off to Paris that they would be in need of immediate healthcare as well as clothing and jobs. Oscar held out the last of the documents for him to review and sign. Moments later, with money transferred, it was time to return to the Gem and to Ivy. If only he could bring Jack with him. He knew for certain Ivy wouldn’t mind at all.

Jack stood less than two feet away. He was looking around, a confused expression on his face. “Everything okay?” Candy asked him. He reached out to touch Jack’s arm. Oscar was already headed back to the car when Jack’s eyes widened in alarm and the same instant something sliced into Candy. For a moment he stood there, startled, confused at the odd, growing, wet heat suddenly pouring down his back, and then the fiery pain that erupted from his back and through his stomach. Hot pokers seemed to melt through his body, driving mind-numbing pain to every nerve.

His breath faltered as blood filled a lung. He choked on the rising fluid and spit out a gush of red and froth. The world turned into a wild swirl of fading colors, all centering on Jack’s face. His expression was horrified, and then a moment later, Jack was no longer there and a black tiger leapt at Candy.

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Meet the author:

Lissa Kasey is more than just romance. She specializes in depth characters, detailed world building, and twisting plots to keep you clinging to your book reader. All stories have a side of romance, emotionally messed up protagonists and feature LGBTGA spectrum characters facing real world problems no matter how fictional the story.

Where to find the author:

 


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Review: Vampirism and You (Guidebooks #01) by Missouri Dalton

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Vampirism and You coverLouis Von Graves has had an unusual childhood.  His family name is Krekowski but his parents named him Louis Von Graves. It’s almost as though they knew what would happen to him.  You see, Louis’ family are indentured servants to vampires, specifically, The Countess and have been for more generations than can be remembered.  When he was younger, Louis’ name was picked out of a hat filled with the names of children from all the servants.  Why? So that the chosen one would be turned on his 17th birthday and become a vampire, a child of the Countess. It doesn’t matter what the child wants, its wham, bite, death, and you’re a vampire.

So here he is, 17 and a new vampire.  He has been taken away from his family and friends in England and given over to a foster sire who will teach him how to be a vampire and all the rules and regulations that go along with it.  But no one told him he would have to go to America, and no one told him he would have to go to school.  With a bunch of american high school kids no less.  So what is a sullen, pouting, teenager to do when his world has been turned upside down, he has powers he doesn’t know what to do with and a overwhelming desire to drink his classmates blood?  Why be given a guidebook of course.

But the book, Vampirism and You (A Beginner’s Guide to the Change) that his foster-vampire sire Duncan gives him can’t prepare him for everything.  A new vampire appears at the house he shares with Duncan and while Eli appears to be friendly, Duncan hates him and tells Louis to stay away from Eli at all costs. And while Louis wants to eat the girls around him, he doesn’t want to date them.  Does that make him a gay vampire?  Louis isn’t sure what the answer is but increasingly all the questions about his sexuality seem to have Duncan as their focus.

But soon Louis learns that life is not all vampire fun and games.  There is great intrigue,  and evil court politics to contend with. Plus Louis is having nightmares that keep getting more vivid all the time and the answers seem to lie in his past.  Louis must contend with unexpected evil, horny cheerleaders, and the possibility he just might be gay all at the same time.  Hopefully the guidebook can help him, now only if he could remember to read his homework!

I have found a new addiction and it’s not one book or even two.  It’s a new series from Missouri Dalton and Torquere Press’s YA Press, Prizm Books.  The Guidebooks series revolves around a group of supernatural guidebooks, each a part of a series for a group of supernatural practitioners and/or supernatural beings.  Whether it be necromancers or vampires or something more, each book is delivered or given to a teenager as they come of age (whether it is being turned or coming into their powers).  The first book in the series, Vampirism and You (A Beginner’s Guide to the Change) is given to one Louis Van Graves shortly after he is turned on his 17th birthday.

What a spectacular idea for a series!  And with Missouri Dalton, an author I have come to throughly enjoy, as it’s creator, the series has really taken flight into the realm of classic storytelling.  Louis Van Graves is that typical teenager at  17 years of age who has been made to do something he never wanted to do.  Of course, we aren’t talking woodshop here. Louis has been made into a vampire through no true choice of his own.  Not only was his name picked out of a hat but he also was promised something huge by the Countess if he agreed to be turned.   In exchange for his mortal life, the Countess agrees to let his sister live a normal life and his family leave her employ to become “normal” once more after centuries as indentured servants.  But that meant that Louis had to become the sacrificial lamb for his sister and family, something none of them even tried to stop.  So Louis’ feelings here are more than the normal sullen, pouting teenager.  In Dalton’s hands, we have a young intelligent man, separated forever from his family, forced by love to become something he never wanted and removed to the American Midwest, a foreign place in everyway, including culture no matter that we both speak “English”.  Louis is profoundly hurt, not that he would ever let on and he is trying to figure out what it all means. Just as any teenager is trying to do but in extreme circumstances. The character of Louis manages to come across as not only a believable teenager going through the appropriate stages of emotional growth but also as a realistic young vampire trying to figure out his newly dead and supposedly long lasting status.  Such a dichotomy, to walk the halls of high school, navigating the social cliques of that age but having to walk hallways full of newly categorized food.

Louis has to contend with not only relocation and new status as a vampire but a foster sire as well.  Duncan (another marvelous character) has taken control of Louis as the Countess is not “terribly maternally”.   This is Louis’ first introduction to Duncan his foster sire.  Louis has been shipped off in a coffin, wearing clothes more suitable to a 18th pirate than a teenage boy:

Then again — the hearse went over a particularly large pothole, knocking my head into the lid of the coffin. It didn’t budge so much as a centimeter, seeing how I was locked in. Apparently her ladyship thought I might try to make a run for it. How right she was. The hearse quite suddenly rumbled to a stop. I heard the doors open and close. And then my coffin was being lifted and carried. An odd sensation I’ll admit.

There was the sound of doors — sliding doors, sucking sounding, like at the market. Footsteps echoed outside the coffin, not wood floors, tile probably.

They didn’t take me to a morgue did they?

Another ten minutes of jostling and my coffin was set down — not far down, probably on a raised surface. There was a jingle of keys and click of one turning in a lock before the lid was pushed open. I rolled over and sat up, and was met with the speculative look of a man much better dressed than myself. His dark hair was slicked back neatly, and his striped blue button-down shirt was tucked into pressed black slacks.

“Hello, Captain,” he said, blue eyes hiding laughter rather unsuccessfully.

“Bite me.”

“I may take you up on that.” Without a word, he slid his arms under my legs and armpits and lifted me out of the coffin, setting me down on my feet.

“Bloody hell!” I glared, “I didn’t ask for help.”

“Uh huh.” He picked up a clipboard from a table next to my coffin, which itself was on a metal table in the gray-tiled room with gray walls and flickering overhead 6 lights. There were three other tables, two of which held open coffins.

“I see you’ve come to us from Countess Von Graves.”

“Yes.” So the Von Graves name came from her ladyship — it’s still ridiculous.

“She’s marked you as a flight risk — well, first things first, a change of clothes.” He jerked his thumb at the door. “Follow me.” Not having any other choice, I followed. The next room was carpeted, narrow, and long. A table ran along the length of the left side of the room, mirrors covered the right-hand wall — not that I could see myself in them anymore — and there was a door at the very end. The table had a myriad of things. Boxes filled with odds and ends, files, clothes, and a couple of coolers. He grabbed jeans and a plain black T-shirt from the table and tossed them to me. Of course it was black. Never mind that I looked much better in other colors. “Put these on.” He turned around, I suppose to give me privacy, and I stripped down as quickly as I could and redressed in the fresh clothes. Much better.

“All done.”

He turned to me and grinned. “Good.” Walking farther into the room, he dug through the clutter on the table to retrieve a small metal vial and a bracelet that had an obvious setting for the tiny vial at the front. He stepped back to me. “Now, the Countess marked your file, but I prefer to just ask. Are you a flight risk?”

“No,” I snapped.

“So yes then.” He nodded. “You get a tracking device.” He held up the vial and bracelet. The bracelet he snapped around my wrist before I could blink. Then, he bit down on his lip, drawing blood, and dripped one drop into the vial, closed it, and slid it onto the bracelet with a click.

And with that, Louis’ education begins.

I love how beautifully  Dalton incorporates the typical teenage feelings and moods into a 17 year old newly formed vampire with it’s own newly acquired needs.  Louis has not just regular teenage hormones to contend with but the hyped up sexuality of a vampire.  Quite overwhelming to someone who has never dated.  Louis must traverse not only the pitfalls and crevasses of an american high school but those of vampire society, each with its own dangers.

Missouri Dalton never loses track of the age of her main character or of her core audience no matter how dire the circumstances of Louis’ life or unlife becomes. Louis’ has a singular voice, so typically teenage but full of personality.  He is alternately sarcastic and hopeful, wry and hurt, little sparks of youthful arrogance appearing when you least expect to do along with equal amounts of hidden humility.  So engaging, that you become involved in Louis’ plight immediately as the true precarious nature of his status becomes known.  And that leads us into the darker sections of this novel.

Yes, there are plenty of funny situations here but there are also just as many dire ones as well as the book continues, these are vampires after all.  There are references to some horrific events, none of which are described or actually referred to in terms that I think might be warranted.   There is a “blood rape” where one is bitten against their wishes.  That is described but not in overly vivid terms.  Dalton doesn’t need them in order for us to see and feel the horror of the event.  And there is more, also either in the past or not described.  But they do occur.

This is also a book about a teenager finding out not only he is gay and coming to terms with his sexuality.  But it’s also about being a sexual person.  OK, think of teenagers and their hormones and then multiply that.  And Louis’ has to come to grips with all of that and more.  It’s funny, it’s painful and at one point horrific.  And at alls times, it also feels very real.  There are no explicit sexual scenes here, just the wants and emotions associated with sexuality.  Louis’ emotions are those we can easily understand with dealing with growing up and becoming a sexual being.  It’s confusing, confounding, and can overwhelm our senses. Plus with Louis there is something more going on.  The vampires or at least a contingent of them are dark, evil beings and have been so for centuries.  And they want Louis.  Not a good thing, trust me.

Missouri Dalton has also populated this book and her series with one memorable being after  another, each a fully fleshed out (for the most part) character with real feelings and emotions backing up their actions.  Her settings too ring with authenticity from high school plays and social dynamics to the Courts of Vampire Society that feel as real as the high school gymnasium.  Not a hint of a jumbled narrative to be seen here.

My only issue is a slight one and that would be the ending.  A few loose ends still frayed and lagging in the wind.  They are tied up neatly in the beginning of Necromancy and You (Guidebooks #02) but still those bits here keep this from a perfect 5 star rating.  This is a YA story but definitely geared towards the older crowd.  I am thinking 15 to Adult, nothing younger.  There are some very dark issues here that have to be addressed, not just youthful hormones. I can’t say anything further because I won’t spoil this book.  But if you have a sensitive child, read the story for yourself first before giving it to them.  Always a good idea at any rate.

I have to admit I read Necromancy and You first, and then came back to pick this one up.  How do they fare?  Well, I found this story to be a little darker but both are just outstanding and I will be recommending this series as one of the Best of 2013.  Whether you are 15 or 50, this story and this series is for you.  Memorable characters, thrilling narrative, great dialog…really  it has it all.  Start at the beginning  and work your way through.  What a marvelous journey it is going to be.

Book/Series Covers by LC Chase.  Each cover is the cover of the Guidebook given to the teenager in the story.  This a great idea and the covers work perfectly in every way.

Book Details:

ebook, 199 pages
Published January 29th 2013 by Prizm Books
ISBN1610404297 (ISBN13: 9781610404297)
edition language English

The Week Ahead in Reviews and Welcome 2013

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Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and the official end to 2012.  There have been plenty of highs and lows, especially lows that I am ready to let 2012 go and not mourn the loss.  But 2012 also brought me some lovely new friends, especially in our DC Metro Area M/M Romance group, my blog turned one year old and of course, Kirby found his way to our household to liven things up even further.

Today is the Redskins versus the Cowboys game (tonight actually) so this will be short and  sweet.  Yes, I know I said I was going to give them up, but then RGIII arrived, my  backbone noodled out, so I am once more a  rabid followers, sigh.

This is what our week ahead looks like:

Monday, Dec. 31st:                           Frostwick by Megan Derr

Tuesday, Jan. 1st:                             Scattered Thoughts New Year Wishes

Wed., Jan 2nd:                                  Cover Up by KC Burn

Thursday, Jan 3rd:                           Final Look at Dreamspinner Press Advent Stories

Friday, Jan 4th:                                 Bayou Loop by Lynn Lorenz

Saturday, Jan 5th:                             All I Want Is You by Marguerite Labbe

Thank you all for reading and commenting.  I hope you will stay with me in 2013.  Happy New Year from Kirby and myself and the rest of the terriers!

Review of Gregory’s Rebellion (Shifters’ Haven #6) by Lavinia Lewis

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Leopard shifter Gregory Hale has been sent by the supernatural council to pick up a young jaguar shifter in Las Vegas and bring him into Council headquarters as they have determined the young man’s loner status has made him a potential danger to the humans around him.  But Gregory has watched Hayden at a distance for days and everything about the young shifter shouts neglect and pain.  When Gregory finally contacts Hayden, he realizes that Hayden is his mate but there is no acknowledgement on Hayden’s part that the recognition is mutual.  Hayden is skinny to the point of starvation and his face is marred by a raw scar that stretches from eye to mouth on one side of his face, a scar that should have healed when Hayden shifts.  Hayden has come from a traumatized past, but he won’t confide in Gregory, not yet at least. More than ever, Gregory is determined not to let Hayden fall into the council’s hands and he pretends to his superiors that Hayden has slipped away from him, to their immediately displeasure.  Gregory is, in fact, taking Hayden to Kelan’s Crazy Horse Ranch knowing the Alpha will help him hide Hayden and keep him safe.

Gregory still has the corruption within the council to deal with and a new series of murders to investigate.  Someone is murdering the mates of council  members, as Gregory knows all too well. Now with a mate of his own to protect, Gregory needs to get to the real culprit behind the killings before its too late.

The Shifters’ Haven series is built around Wolf Creek, Texas and its pack of wolf shifters.  Wolf Creek is two thirds shifters in population, a situation that the human population is ignorant of as all shifters have worked hard to keep themselves hidden. Each book brings together a different mated pair with a continuous plot line of dissension among the Supernatural Council which is composed of shifters of all types, from hawk to cougar. From the first installment, you are made aware of the Council who governs all shifters with their rules and regulations and the possibility of corruption within that impacts Wolf Creek and beyond.  From book to book, each time a member of the Council intervenes or arrives on the scene, you become less assured as to who the “good guys” are.  Also each book widens the Wolf Creek pack with new family members and sometime new species of shifters are given haven.

Gregory’s Rebellion picks up right where Nate’s Deputy leaves off, with Gregory on his way to Las Vegas on council  business. Gregory is still heartbroken over the events that happened back in Wolf Creek and unsettled because the real leader behind the shifter problems and crimes has  not been fully identified, at least not with proof he can use.  There has been a really nice development of Gregory’s character from book to book, from his first appearance as a council member somewhat rigid in demeanor to the compassionate person he is here.  But my focus was on Hayden, who was kicked out of his home at the age of 16 by his parents for being gay, an all too real occurrence.  Hayden has suffered since being thrown out of his home and family and has done what he had to in order to survive on the streets.  He has no self confidence, he is all shame and humiliation, his trauma written across his face in a scar he refuses to heal as a measure of his torment and degradation.  When Gregory comes into his life, he has just arrived at a modicum of security, with a boss who regards him as more family than employee and a job he likes.  Now all of that is gone in an instant, disrupted by a stranger who tells him the council is after him and wants his trust.  Lewis does a beautiful job in conveying Hayden’s confusion and fear.  I became invested in Hayden from the very beginning and stayed so to the end.  You will too.

Also carrying over is the issue of corruption in the council and the fact that someone is murdering the mates of council members, but to what end? Gregory gets caught up in trying to deal with his new mated status as well as his investigation into the problems of being part of a council he no longer trusts or believes in.  Again, all very credible and in keeping with the persona of an honorable man trying to do what’s right when confronted with the reality behind the supernatural council.  Lewis’ wonderful way with location and characterization is in top form here. It is becoming a saga of Wolf Creek versus the old order of council rule, a storyline that has intrigued me since the start of the series.

Once more, I felt the ending rushed and not as satisfactory as it might have felt to have the villain meet his comeuppance. Had the story lasted a little longer and with a more detailed exposition, then the end would feel more complete given the buildup.  Perhaps Lewis is doing this intentionally to keep the thread going in the next book up, Pete’s Persuasion (Shifters’ Haven #7).  I hope so, for it’s an interesting part of all of their stories  and it doesn’t feel finished yet.  So I am waiting impatiently for October and the next in the series.  Pick up the first book, read them all and meet me here for No. 7.  See you then.

Once again Posh Gosh is giving us lush, gorgeous covers for the entire series. Beautiful branding and great design for each and every book.

Here are the Shifter Haven series in the order they were written and should be read in order to fully appreciate the characters, relationships and plots.

Luke’s Surprise (Shifters’ Haven #1) . Luke Morgan and Mark Malone’s story

Cody’s Revelation (Shifters’ Haven #2) – Cody Morgan and Stefan Drake’s story

Kelan’s Pursuit (Shifters’ Haven #3) – Kelan Morgan and Jake Bradfield’s story

Aaron’s Awakening (Shifters’ Haven #4) – Aaron Drake and Cary Lewis

Nate’s Deputy (Shifters’ Haven #5) – Nate and Jared. Read my review here.

Gregory’s Rebellion (Shifters’ Haven #6) – Gregory and Hayden

Pete’s Persuasion (Shifters’ Haven #7) coming in October 2012

Review of Infected: Shift by Andrea Speed

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Rating: 5 stars

Shift is the fifth book in Andrea Speed’s Infected series.  This is a tightly linked series and the books should be read in order.  This review may have some spoilers for previous books in the series.

It’s a typical day for Roan McKitchan in that there was nothing typical about it.  His new client is a wall of a man who just happens to be a hockey player with a 10 year old case involving a transgendered person’s suicide that just might be murder.  Roan’s relationship with his artist/bartender boyfriend, Dylan is especially rocky these days and all his friends seems to think that Roan is so depressed that he is seeking to die.  And then there is that little matter of another possible aneurysm next time he shifts.

When his partial transformation is caught on tape and uploaded to YouTube, the crazies start coming out of the woodwork with vicious attacks on himself and those close to him.  Everything about Roan’s world is in flux, his stress increasing, and yes, his depression is getting worse even as his virus mutates yet again. What is he to do when the shifters start to look to him for leadership just as he is  struggling to handle all the major shifts in his life?  Leader or vigilante? Life or death? Roan needs to find those answers himself and soon.

Shift picks up the story of Roan where Freefall left off as everyone around Roan is still reeling from the aftermath of Roan’s brain aneurysm.  The fact that Roan survived the unsurvivable for no discernable medical reason has left Roan, Dylan and his circle of friends on edge with Dylan especially fragile. Still sustaining himself on drugs and partial shifts, Roan McKitchan tries to continue business as usual.  But his reckless behavior and depression has seen his relationship with Dylan grow increasingly problematic as the daily stress that is Roan’s life and his precarious mental state leave Dylan’s composure in shreds.  What others see as his suicidal tendencies, Roan believes to be his normal state, at least for him. To Roan, his outlook and actions are in tune with someone uncertain of his humanity and life span.  And as we get pulled deeper into latest Infected novel, the story of Roan McKitchan and the cat virus continues to shift and evolve, turning into a series as unpredictable and infectious as the virus itself.

Andrea Speed’s spectacular talent ensures that we are able to absolutely understand and empathize with Roan, one of the most unique characters I have come across.  A virus child who lives and thrives against all odds and laws of nature, Roan’s “fuck you’ attitude is at odds with his bruised romantic soul.  Roan constantly lives with the truth that he is mutating along with the virus and we feel his terror and pain as the virus mutates and shifts his view of himself from human to monster.  One of the threads that keeps him tethered to his human status are his boyfriend/husbands as Dylan continues to anchor him in the present as Paris’ ghost visits his dreams to comfort and annoy. Roan’s such a complicated character as one would expect of a man bedeviled by his abusive past and mutating physique.  One can be reading along, laughing out loud as Roan muses on the state of music, societal goings on, whatever grabs his attention and then suddenly plunges us into tears with remembrances of Paris, the victims that cross Roan’s path, and Roan’s very real fears for his future.  From his music to his t-shirts and books, Roan is a character so remarkable in dimension that  finding words to do him justice is confounding at times. I may not be able to explain satisfactorily explain the beauty that is Roan but it is clear from book one that he is one that will always stay with you.

Dylan is another unexpected character who continues to grow with the series.  As the boyfriend with the unenviable task of  following in the footsteps of Roan’s soulmate, Paris, it would be as easy to dismiss him as other characters in the book do.  A Zen Buddhist, his calm outlook is constantly under attack by his role in Roan’s life,  and by Roan himself as his infected status throws them all into daily turbulence.  Dylan has always seemed to accept his secondary place with Roan, but that starts to change here as the doubts creep in.  I found this so authentic and wonder where Andrea Speed will take this romance.  It is Roan’s nature to be a monogamist but there is more to be considered here.  The lion’s needs must be brought into the equation as well and here the relationship with Dylan seems less certain.  The lion clearly loved Paris, a tiger shifter who was Roan’s equal if not more in so many ways. And as I watched Roan and Dylan struggle to maintain and strengthen their relationship, the thought remained in the back of my mind “what does the lion think of Dylan as a mate?” Can a lion accept a lesser human?  And for me their future together got blurry. And that just points up the strength of Andrea Speed’s writing.  She has the reader constantly thinking about the events and relationships in the story, nothing is concrete, everything is constantly shifting, including our perceptions.

Shift is divided into two stories as is typical of this series. The first is Shift. It is in this section that a wonderful group of characters is introduced, the Seattle Falcons, minor league hockey team.  While Roan has always had a small group of friends, with the addition of Grey, Scott, Tank and others, a  wonderfully crazy element of support for Roan has been met.  All strong, with a love for a fight, these modern warriors have depth beneath the hockey player stereotypes that made them instant favorites of mine, especially Grey.  I hope to see them often along with Holden, Dr. Rosenberg, Dee, Fiona and the rest of the circle that revolves around Roan.  The case Grey brings Roan is heartbreaking in content and conclusion.  Bloodbath is the second story in the novel and aptly named as the blood flows through all the events in this tale of vengeance and vigilante justice.  There is a common link of attacks between the two stories that  remains unsettled at the end as does so much else here.

The virus remains a phenomenal character all it own, as it’s continuing mutations bring new challenges, questions, and pain to Roan, Dylan and everyone else around him.  Andrea Speed has sprinkled some truly tantalizing notions throughout the novel, a sentence here, a snippet there, that had the ability to bring me to an absolute standstill when I extrapolated them out in my mind.  One involves a painting Dylan had in mind when thinking of Roan and wondering if it could happen.  Where that thought took me made me breathless with anticipation for Roan and his future.

So this rollercoaster called Infected has come down from the stratosphere, depositing me earthbound once more, leaving me with more questions,more stymied and with more anticipation than ever before. What a magnificent job Andrea Speed has done with Shift.  I can’t wait to see where she takes Roan next.  I will be sure to follow.

Cover:  These Infected covers are fantastic.  Art work by Anne Cain, design by Mara McKinnon.  Dynamic in graphics and design, I just love them.  They are available also as wallpaper on Andrea Speed’s website.

The Infected series in order they should be read to fully understand the characters, their backgrounds and storylines:

Infected Prey

Infected Bloodlines

Infected Life After Death

Infected Freefall

Infected Shift

Review of Battle of Hearts by Valentina Heart

Standard

Rating: 4.5 stars

For years, vampires and shifters had remained hidden from human societies, an uneasy truce keeping the peace between them.  Then a blood crazed vampire kills two shifter cubs and the war is on.  Years later, the war has reduced the numbers of all involved, and the few humans left have been forced to take sides in order to survive.  Valerian, a wolf shifter, is one of three Alphas in a combined pack of shifters of all species.  He is their top hunter and he is relentless in his duties. The constant fighting and killing have taken an emotional toll and Valerian keeps himself isolated in all ways from those around him, his world narrowed down to fucking and fighting.

Teddy, a cougar shifter, has been wandering alone since he was kicked out of his pride by his father, a follower of the old ways of pride leadership.  Weary from constant fighting and hungry, Teddy lets his guard down to sleep and is captured by vampires looking for new sources of blood.  When he awakens, he is hanging upside being drained of his blood. The vampires have a new system, keeping shifters and humans in cages and just alive  enough to drain them daily until they die.  Weakened, Teddy prepares to die until a shifter pack led by Valerian enters the lair and rescues them all.

Valerian is unpleasantly surprised to find his mate among those shifters he has rescued, and a cougar no less.  While Valerian’s wolf howls for his mate, Valerian the man has no time for Teddy and tells him  in no uncertain and gruff terms.  Teddy too is less than pleased with Valerian as a mate and the battle of wills is on.  Can two strong willed and angry shifters let their guards down and accept each other as mate?  Or will the Battle of Hearts be lost?

I loved Valentina Heart’s take on shifters and vampires.  From the very first page, Heart paints a picture of a world so deteriorated that the buildings have turned to rubble, humans are in hiding, shifters of all types control the forests and  both vampires and shifters live in caves underground. All are constantly at war for supremacy and survival, the prevailing sense of desperation so real the reader can almost taste it. The characters here have been stripped down to basics and Valerian is a prime example of that.  He is all snarls and aggression, attributes needed in a professional killer and alpha.  Heart makes it clear that all the deaths and loss have inured him to affection and the possibility of love.  Even his cubs by various nameless females are relegated to the very outskirts of his memory, necessary to Valerian only as replacements for those lost in battle.

Teddy is a shifter you will take immediately into your heart.  He so desperately wants to find a home and a pack/pride that will accept him that when his original joy at finding a mate turns into dismay and anger over finding that Valerian is, in his words, a “dumbass”, you are right there with him in total agreement. Time and again, Teddy has to do battle with the cougar inside him who wants his mate no matter how many times he is rejected.  The name Teddy is a perfect choice for this character as it tells you so much about him.  He’s vulnerable, great of heart, brave and bristly. My heart was in my throat as Teddy goes from hurt inflicted by vampires to hurts meted out by his mate and back again. But as Teddy uncovers the redeeming features of Valerian’s personality, so does the reader and you start to pull for both of them to find the path to each other.

Lets not forget the secondary characters here as Valentina Heart certainly does not.  They are as beautifully drawn as the main ones of Teddy and Valerian.  In fact this entire book is populated by shifters that I would love to visit again and again so easy it is to wrap your arms around them.  How can you not love the idea of two domino playing alphas who never seem to shift away from their game yet still take care of pack business? The story is so well done right down to the smallest detail.  My only quibble here is that the fight at the end between our heros and main vampire  was over far too quickly considering the buildup.  I would have thought it would have been drawn out a little longer with more complications than it occurred in the book.  Still, a very satisfying ending. Valentina Heart was a new author for me and I look forward to reading her other books.  I hope that I will find that they are as well done as this one.  Great job all around.

Cover:  Cover artist is Reese Dante. What a sexy, gorgeous cover.  OK, yes, that is Valerian absolutely!  Love the graphics, love the fonts, and the addition of the sword is the topping!

Available from Silver Publishing, Amazon and ARe.

Review of Levi (Leopard’s Spots #1) by Bailey Bradford

Standard

Rating. 4.25 stars

Levi Travis is feeling overwhelmed during his family’s annual get together with the constant reminders of happy couples and families.  A little time alone in the woods in his shifter form, a snow leopard, will shake off the last of the family reunion hell or so he thinks.

Lyndon Hines is running from his past and a mysterious stalker that has tracked him through many states.  The trucker who gave him a ride has left him by the highway tired and hungry. The woods bordering the road look too inviting to pass up.  Lyndon, in his cougar form, is exploring the woods on the Travis family ranch when a musky aroma catches his attention. It’s Levi dozing in a glade.  Levi is startled as he has never met another shifter outside the family before. But Lyndon is everything Levi wants in a man, strong, dominant, and a shifter. Instant attraction flashes into a frenzied mating.  But afterward Lyndon flees and Levi is left hurt and confused.

The stalker finds Lyndon again and both men must put aside their fears and confusion to come together to save each other before its too late.

This is the first book in the Leopard’s Spots series by Bailey Bradford and she sets everything in place here for the books to come.  The reader is immediately introduced to Levi’s family and their shifter history.  Levi’s family is a large one full of likable and  endearing characters.   Characterization is one of Bailey Bradford’s strong suits and that is evident in this story. I loved them all, especially his youngest brother, Oscar.  Oscar has the second book in the series.

I like Levi too.  His physical body shouts dom while his actual nature is more submissive, something he has never been able to convey to the few sexual partners he has had. Lyndon on the other hand is as territorial and aggressive as his cougar’s nature. Lyndon’s character comes from a background of parental neglect and abuse. The author has added enough layers to each man that they are easy to sympathize with and understand. Both have been raised isolated from other shifters but in very different circumstances.  I can see the difference in histories playing out nicely over several books, including the theme of nature versus nurture in different shifter societies.

My one quibble here is that in setting the stage for Oscar and the second novel in the series, Bailey Bradford has made Oscar such a strong character that he almost takes the stage away from Levi and Lyndon.  I say almost because the blazing hot sex scenes between the two shifters are enough to bring out the fans.  Oscar will have to wait for his book.

Lastly, when I have read about or watched movie/shows about shifters, there seems to be two varieties.  Those that shift seamlessly from person to animal.  You know, one minute a person then instantly a wolf mid-leap (think Twilight commercials). And then there are those Werewolf in London transitions that are so popular as well.  You know, the torturous breaking of bones, stretching of skins, fangs emerging from bloodied mouths sort of thing that takes time and getting naked before hand. ( Reviewer’s note: when it comes to Joe Manganiello’s Alcide from True Blood, the more naked the better is my opinion).  The two types of shifters here each transition in a different way.  Cougars shift instantly into form while the snow leopards are more of the second variety.  I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t going to be a factor in the books coming up as I have not seen both types in one story before.  Either way it is an interesting take.

I am looking forward to Oscar’s story and exploring more of Bailey Bradford’s view of shifters.

Cover:  Art by Posh Gosh. Well, isn’t this just a gorgeous cover.  Gorgeous cats, gorgeous men, great fonts.  What’s not to love?  Again, my only quibble is with the model types here.  Both men in the book are large, masculine and hairy.  Not exactly the body type of the young man in front. He is more in keeping with Oscar.  Where is a truly hairy chest when you need one?