Review: Justice (Leopard’s Spots #10) by Bailey Bradford

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Rating: 2. stars out of 5

Justice Leopard Spots 10 coverAfter being rescued by his twin brother Preston and his brother’s mate, Nischal, Paul Hardy is suffering horribly from the aftermath of his capture and two years being tortured and sexually abused as a shifter’s “pet”.  Prior to his experience at the hands of a human trafficking ring, Paul had no idea that shifters even existed, now he can’t get their existence or his trauma out of his mind.  And with his brother mated to a  shifter, Paul can’t even escape from the day to day contact he dreads. Paul, Preston, Nischal and his brother Sabin are all headed to Colorado and the snow leopard family compound hoping to find sanctuary and therapy for Paul.

Snow leopard shifter Justice Chalmers and his sister Vivian are traveling to Grandma Marybeth’s place in Colorado.  Justice was working at his dream job of being a police officer in Phoenix, Arizona when the call went out from his family about a human with a connection to them needing help immediately.  That call irequired Viv with her new therapy license to travel to Colorado and she doesn’t drive.  So Justice is currently on leave to drive his sister to their family compound.  Justice knows that there is more to the story than they have been told and his experiences as a Marine and cop, tell him to be on his guard.

A chance meeting between Paul and Justice on the road to Colorado changes the lives of both men permanently as Paul turns out to be Justice’s mate.  But their future together is cloudy.  Paul is severely damaged from his years of abuse and his abusers want their pet back.  Can Justice and Paul fight their way to happiness or will Paul’s past bring them both down?

Well, here we are at book ten in the Leopard’s Spots series and I am just as conflicted about this series as I was at book one, perhaps even more so.  To reach the tenth book in a series is sort of a benchmark for an author, an occasion to bring various plot strands together and move the entire series forward with new vigor, purpose and cohesion.  And I wish I could report that sort of growth happened here with Justice but it didn’t. There are so many missed opportunities here, so much jumbled nonsense, and quite frankly irresponsible writing that it is hard to know where to start.

Just the title alone starts the book off in a misleading fashion.  The book is called Justice but it really should be called Paul as it revolves around Paul Hardy, twin brother to Preston Hardy, Nischal’s mate  in book nine.  Justice almost serves as a secondary character here and the book suffers from that element.

Then the trajectory of the book really goes askew with the character of Paul and the author’s treatment of his traumatized state.  Back history for a moment.  Paul was captured two years ago (Nischal, Leopard’s Spots #9) by human slave traders and sold to a pack of wolf shifters keeping humans as pets.  For two unrelenting years, Paul was tortured,in every way possible from being sexually abused included gang rapes, being raped by the shifters in wolf form. Paul was tortured mentally, emotionally, and physically until he was broken so throughly that he could not even look his brother in the eyes or raise his head when rescued.  The author supplies us with all these facts and much more, although thankfully no explicit scenes of torture.  No, the reader gets flashbacks, nightmares, and stories about his numerous scars to help cobble together a picture of his time with his torturers.  Bradford wants us to believe in Paul’s traumatized state and at the beginning we do.

When we first meet Paul, the character is having multiple, desperate sexual encounters while feeling nothing. He is acting without consideration of his own safety and physical well being, trying to see if he can get himself killed without actually having to do the job himself.  His actions are understandable and the compassion the reader feels for this character is well grounded in reality.  Then he meets Justice and Viv and all that flies out the door.  Why?  Because of mates and sex, the bandaid of bandaids.  Sigh.

Apparently with Justice, he wants to have sex with a shifter, lots of it (although to be fair, it is mentioned that Justice being a snow leopard shifter instead of a wolf makes some difference).  Not only that but Paul has five therapy sessions, yes only five, with Viv, who just graduated and got her license and he’s soooooo much better.  No mention is made of a new therapist having the experience to deal with someone as traumatized as Paul.  Nope, he just improves rapidly.  Not 100 percent, as he still has flashbacks and nightmares but nothing so substantial as to immobilize him.  Now balance that picture against the one that the author built up for Paul in captivity.  It just doesn’t match up.  If the author wants the reader to buy in on Paul’s past and the horrors he endured then there is a reasonable expectation on the reader’s part that his recovery would be just as slow, hard and realistic  to deal with all the things that were done to him and that he was forced to do.

But that doesn’t happen.  Instead Bradford uses the mating urge to slap a bandage over the pain and scars left by the experience.  It’s slapdash and insufficient, believe me.  Shortcuts rarely work in fiction, and this one certainly doesn’t. Instead the reader feels as shortchanged as they should by being denied the satisfaction of seeing Paul slowly work through the horrendous events and traumas of the past two years.  That just isn’t a missed step, that a whole Marianna Trench!

And this type of plot device and jumbled narrative happens over and over again.  A wolf shifter named Cliff pops up like some vengeful enforcer but does his thing “off stage” as it were.  Totally unsatisfying too.  His captors come after  Paul again and Justice acts with such unbelievable stupidity for someone whose character was portrayed as a Marine for 10 years and then a cop, that I almost thought that Bradford had shifted the story over to a parody.  Totally lacking in any authenticity, watching Justice in action was similar to watching those actors run into spooky houses on Scary Movie.

And after all this nonsense, the author ends it with a cryptic message and not much else.  Trust me when I say my head hurts from banging it against the wall in frustration over this story, series and author.  So much promise is thrown away so casually and repeatedly over a series of ten books that it boggles my mind.  And still I want to know where this series is going and how much worse is it going to get.  I expect that the answer is much, much, worse.

How to balance an author who gets the reader to commit to believing in a character’s degradation and two year ordeal only to see that author then negate that commitment by not treating it seriously? And all within a framework of ideas that remain compelling and new? I just don’t know.  As I said I am conflicted over this series and author and so I am not even going to say whether I will recommend this or not.  I will leave it up to you.  But if you continue on as I will, get yourself prepared to encounter all sorts of frustrations and puzzling events and characters.  This is a wild grab bag of story elements and I never know what will appear.  Consider yourself informed.

Book Details:

ebook, 145 pages
Expected publication: October 4th 2013 by Total-E-Bound Publishing

Cover art by Posh Gosh is gorgeous as always. Models are on target and perfectly represent the characters involved. Just beautiful.

Here are the books in the Leopard’s Spots series in the order they were written and should be read (mostly)

Levi (Leopard’s Spots, #1)
Oscar (Leopard’s Spots, #2)
Timothy (Leopard’s Spots, #3)
Isaiah (Leopard’s Spots #4)
Gilbert (Leopard’s Spots #5)
Esau (Leopard’s Spots #6)
Sullivan (Leopard’s Spots, #7)
Wesley (Leopard’s Spots, #8)
Nischal (Leopard’s Spots, #9)

Scattered Thoughts May 2013 Book Reviews

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mayIt was a great month in book reviews.  While most of the book fell into the contemporary fiction category, there was a book in just about every genre.  One of my favorites this month was Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler, a science fiction gem of a story from Riptide Publishing. I have also found new authors like Sue Brown and her outstanding The Sky Is Dead.  Don’t pass either of these by. And if you loved Country Mouse by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov, then you won’t want to miss the followup novel, City Mouse (Country Mouse #2).  I thought it was even better than its predecessor.

There are stand alone stories and new books in continuing series. This includes one series (The Night Wars) that I will be reevaluating on the basis of the third book in the series, a real stunner called The Hellfire Legacy by Missouri Dalton.  This is a terrific book and I had not rated the second book very highly.  Now I am going back in June, reading all three together and write a  review of the series in June (and probably a mea culpa or two on my part as well).

The titles are linked to my reviews.  Really, there is something for everyone here.  Here are May 2013’s book reviews in order of rating:

5 Star Rating:

City Mouse (Country Mouse #2) by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov (contemporary)
Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler (Science Fiction)
The Sky Is Dead by Sue Brown (contemporary)

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:
Adapting Instincts (Instincts #4) by S.J. Frost
Bad Attitude (Bad in Baltimore #3) by K.A. Mitchell (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Bullheaded by Catt Ford (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Closet Capers Anthology (4.25 stars) mixture
Damned If You Do: The Complete Collection by J.L. Merrow
Leaving Home (Home #4) by TA Chase (4 stars)
Moments by R.J. Scott (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Never A Hero (a Tucker Springs novel) by Marie Sexton (4.5 stars) (contemporary)
Night of Ceremony (Notice #4) by M. Raiya (4.5 stars) (fantasy, romance)
Noah by Ben Ryder (4 stars) (contemporary)
Shy by John Inman (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Still by Mary Calmes (4.75 stars) (contemporary)
The Hellfire Legacy (The Night Wars #3) by Missouri Dalton (4.5 stars) (supernatural)
The Isle of…Where? by Sue Brown (4.5 stars) (contemporary)
The Unforgiving Minute by Sarah Grainger (4.75 stars) (contemporary)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:
Chateau D’Eternite by Ariel Tachna (3.75 stars) Fantasy
Fire Horse by Mickie B. Ashling (3.75 stars) (contemporary)
His Heart To Reap by Erin Lane (3 stars) (supernatural)
It Takes Practice by Willa Okati (3 stars) contemporary

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

 

Snow on the Ground and the Week Ahead in Book Reviews

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What Do You Mean It’s Going To Snow?

We had our first taste of winter here in the region recently and parts still bear a light coat of white to prove it.  Schools let out  early, as did many local governments.  The federal government had a liberal leave policy in effect and the stores were crowded with people buying out all the bread, bacon and booze.  Yes, its true, we here in the Washington Metro area go completely bonkers when we think it’s going to snow.  How much snow fell? Perhaps one inch.  Sigh.  But continuing our seesaw season, we are expected to hit  65 degrees F by Wednesday and it doesn’t help that the seeds and nursery catalogs have just started arriving by mail.  Some people are tempted by jewels and clothing, not me.  For me it’s yarn stores and nurseries full of plants and flowers of every shape, size, and color.  Yesterday alone saw me dog-earing page after page of new plants for the season as I scribbled their names along with possible locations in the yard.  Was I a contented camper?  Why yes I was!

And this afternoon sees me off to Busboys and Poets to meet up with the Metro Area M/M Romance group for wild and wonderful conversations and discussions over everything book oriented.  We are a great group of readers, bloggers, authors, and publishers and boy, do we have a lot to say!  I can’t wait.

One more thing…one of my favorite blogs is The Blood Red Pencil where they blog “sharp and pointed observations about writing”.  I adore them.  This week the topic is “Mystery, Magic, and the Aha! of the Reveal”.  It is just a terrific article and shouldn’t be missed.  Here is the link, don’t pass it by. Trust me, these people understand that writing is not for the fainthearted.

So here is the week ahead in book reviews.  I am all over the place.  There is contemporary romance courtesy of Andrew Grey, RJ Scott and Ariel Tachna, three of my favorite authors.  The latest book in Caitlin Ricci’s shifter series and LA Witt’s science fiction/shifter novel that is the first in The Tameness of the Wolf series.  New series, continuing series and great authors, so just be prepare to add to your reading list by the end of the week. What?  It’s February already? *head desk*

Monday, 1/28:                      A Troubled Range by Andrew Grey

Tuesday, 1/29                       Pack Business by Caitlin Ricci

Wed., 1/30:                           Overdrive by Ariel Tachna

Thursday, 1/31:                    A Shared Range by Andrew Grey

Friday, 2/1:                            The Fireman and the Cop by RJ Scott

Saturday, 2/2:                       Eye of the Beholder by Edward Kendrick

It’s the Holiday Season! It’s all about Books, Holiday Books and the first Winter Cocktail Recipe

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I am definitely in the mood for the holidays this year.  I am singing carols under my breath, holiday songs are playing on the radio, the tree is getting decorated, and the aroma of Frasier firs and cinnamon waft through the house.  Of course the last bit is because our tree is a Frasier and cinnamon Glade was used liberally in every room Kirby ran into after rolling around in some dead guts he found in the  backyard.  In all my 25 plus years as a naturalist, I have smelled some rotten things but nothing prepared me for Kirby as he ran past me back into the house.

You know they talk about a delayed sense?  That was the horrendous smell that kicked in once Kirby was well past me and up the stairs into the living room.  And then the  smell hit and nausea followed.  And there is no way to chase a dog when you have a cane and no breath, so he romped his merry way through the house spreading foul odors and gunk as he went.  Yeah not a pleasant afternoon, following him with bleach and towels. And then he had to be sheared to get rid of the smell that not even tomato juice helped with.  But not even that deterred me from my Christmas cheer! I am a most determined elf!

So I decided to pile on the pressure and have two reviews a day this week.  One a Holiday story and one regular book.  The end of the week will find me making the first Winter Cocktail recipe that can be found at the bottom of the page.   Let’s try it out together, shall we?

Monday:                              New York Christmas by RJ Scott

                                                Acceleration by Amelia C. Gormley

Tuesday:                              Turkey in the Snow by Amy Lane

                                                Esau (Leopards Spots 6) by Bailey Bradford

Wednesday:                        Snowbound in Nowhere by Andrew Grey

                                                Cupid Knows Best by S.A. Garcia

Thursday:                           Lessons Learned, Wishes Earned by Cassandra Gold

                                               Gregori’s Ghost by Sarah Black

Friday:                                 The Christmas Throwaway by RJ Scott

                                               Willow by Lee Brazil

Saturday:                              Mending Noel by Charlie Cochet

                                                 Colors of Pastor Saul by S.A.Garcia

Winter Cocktail:  The Isle of Pines Cocktail:Isle of Pines Winter Cocktail

Ingredients
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup white rum
1/2 cup fresh grapefruit juice
Ice cubes
Preparation
Bring pomegranate juice and sugar to boil in heavy small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Cool syrup.
Pour 2 tablespoons syrup, 1/2 cup rum, and 1/4 cup grapefruit juice into cocktail shaker. Fill with ice; shake vigorously. Strain into 2 Martini glasses. Repeat to make 2 more drinks.

Recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit!

                                           

Review of Long Hard Ride (Prentiss #2) by Talia Carmichael

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Rating: 4.5 stars

Paxton Lawson and his sons relocated to Prentiss, Texas following the death of his husband to enter into a horse breeding partnership with the Ralston brothers.  Gibson had been a friend of Paxton’s sons in college and a new start in a new place seemed like a way to ease the grief Paxton has been trying to live with. Paxton still missed his husband and the grief he feels has put his life outside the business on hold.  The one person he has come to count on in his new town is lawyer Windsor Broadhurst.  Windsor is a lawyer to most of the ranchers in the area and a close friend to Gibson and his sons so it only seemed natural to Paxton that Windsor would be there when Paxton needed him, brought him books that they read together and discussed, turning into one of his closest friends within the year.  But when Windsor admits to Paxton what the entire community already knew, that Winston had been courting Paxton, he was shocked.  All this time, he had been oblivious to Windsor’s true intentions but now that Paxton was finally aware, he looked at the handsome lawyer in an entirely different manner.

Windsor Broadhurst has been biding his time, getting to know Paxton as a friend first before letting the man know how attracted he was to him.  During the year’s time, Paxton had turned not only into a wonderful friend but Win quickly realized that his initial attraction was deepening into love.  Finally, Windsor admits that he has been courting Paxton all along Paxton seems receptive to dating again.  But Win wants more from Paxton, he wants his love as well.  Paxton must decide if he is ready to move on and accept the love offered  or remain in mourning.  It looks to be a long, hard, ride to a future that both men want and that one is afraid to reach for.

Long Hard Ride is the second in the Prentiss series from Talia Carmichael and I just loved it.  It is relatively short at 87 pages but the author packs a lot of characterization and emotion into this story given the length.  Right off the bat I was hooked by the older characters.  Paxton especially captured my heart.  He is trying to deal with the loss of his husband after a long term illness and not doing a very good job of it.  He and Adam had adopted and raised three boys who have now grown into men.  But those men still love and depend on their father and are dealing with the death of their “Dad” as well. So it is highly realistic that Paxton has buried himself in the new horse breeding venture along with his sons and relocated to another part of the country, away from places that hold nothing but memories of Adam and their life together.  Paxton is someone who grabs not only our sympathy but our understanding at his inability to help himself move forward.  It also feels right that when Paxton decides that he will date Win but only allow himself to give “just this much and no more”.  Paxton also feels guilty about betraying the love he had with Adam, a very genuine reaction to feeling alive and attracted to someone else for the first time since a partner’s death.

Equally great at capturing our attention and interest are the characters of Windsor “Win” Broadhurst, Gibson, Blayne, Morgan, HC and all the rest of the populace of Prentiss, Texas.  Some of the people are coupled already, which happened back in Ralston’s Way (Prentiss #1).  But Carmichael is laying the ground for future stories with the characters she introduces here and I for one  can’t wait to see how their courtships play out.  Paxton and Win courtship starts out so easily, too easily in fact, that I thought the realistic touches she had brought to the story were going to be lost.  Luckily that didn’t happen as Paxton must decide to really open himself back up to another person, and the author lets us feel how hard it is for Paxton to let go.

The sex scenes between the men did “creak” a little, but I found that to be actually endearing as Paxton had let his sexual side die with his partner.  And Win with his long hair plaited into a braid that fell to his butt?  Well, let just say I love a man with long hair and Win hit my buttons.  Loved him.  This is the perfect sequel to Ralston’s Way which I just finished too.  I can’t wait to see where Talia Carmichael takes this series next.  Cowboys and men with long hair *waves fan*.  Please don’t keep me waiting too long.

Books in the Prentiss series:

Ralston’s Way (Prentiss #1) read my review here

Long Hard Ride

Review of In The Name Of The Law by Sue Holston

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Rating: 3.75 stars

Mitchell Dawson and Ivan Stanislav are detectives with the Baltimore Police Department where they have been partners and best friends for years. Ivan is engaged and soon to be married. And Mitchell is miserable. Mitchell fell in love with the oh so straight Ivan the moment he met him and now wonders how he will continue on watching Ivan with his wife.  The night of the engagement party Ivan’s fiance’ dumps him after a argument.  A night of drunken consolation leads Mitchell and Ivan to the bedroom and uninhibited sex.

Morning comes and neither  man acknowledges the events of the night before.  It takes Ivan being shot for Mitchell to realize that second chances don’t come around very often and its past time for him to speak up and confess his love for Ivan.

Sue Holston has crafted a very nice short story with a “gay for you” theme with In The Name Of The Law.  Her character of Mitchell Dawson is beautifully realized, with more layers and depth than I would expect from a story of this length.  Ivan Stanislav is a less complete character study. A Baltimore Police Detective and renown horndog he is completely heterosexual until the night his fiance (who is of course a bitch) dumps him.  One drunken night of sex with his partner flips his sexuality switch over to gay, a happenstance that always causes me to shake my head.  It takes a much longer story to make your case for this change in sexuality believable and 46 pages is just not long enough.  With Ivan a less substantial character, Mitchell’s love and longing for him never feels completely real. It is this disconnect that lead to a lower rating for the story.

One more quibble here towards something that happened in the epilogue. Both men tell their Captain that their partnership is both domestic as well as work related and he agrees to  keep their secret.  Realistically that would not happen.  Rules and regulations prohibit that and it is doubtful a Captain would risk his or hers retirement to keep their secret. Nor would they have wanted to put their Captain in such a bad position. It would have been far more believable if the author had them continue to work together and keep the change in relationship secret until either got  promoted out of the partnership.  That would have given Sue Holston’s story an additional touch of authenticity it needed.

With Baltimore as her setting, Sue Holston’s attention to detail and geographic atmosphere is terrific.  Baltimore is about 30 minutes away from me and I can tell you she has done her homework with this great city.  Nothing beats eating our Chesapeake Bay crabs and having a Clipper City Gold Ale from a rooftop deck overlooking the Inner Harbor. I look forward to reading more stories from this author in just such a setting.

Cover: Cover art by Posh Gosh.  Very nice cover.  Loved the harbor in the background.

Available from Total E Bound Press.

Chances to win this, $20  gift certificate and other books visit the following blogs for the rest of the Raise Your Glasses Tour:

Saturday, May 12th: A.J. Llewellyn hosts H.L. Holston
Sunday, May 13th: H.L. Holston hosts Scarlet Blackwell