Monthly Archives: November 2016

Zero at the Bone by Jane Seville

Zero at the Bone

Zero at the Bone by Jane Seville

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on April 6, 2009
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Dr. Jack Francisco was just minding his own business in the parking garage when he stumbled upon a murder. He managed to hide and escape with his life, but as a witness to a crime connected to a notorious crime family he can’t just go home. And he finds himself placed into witness protection with a new identity and a new home.

D is a hit man, but he’s a hit man with a bit of a heart. He will only take a contract on someone who he feels deserves to be taken out. No innocent people. No cases where the client just wants someone out of the way for convenience. But he finds himself blackmailed into accepting a job to take out a witness in a murder trial.

When D comes face-to-face with Jack, however, he can’t go through with it. Despite the blackmail, there are some rules that he just cannot break. But he knows that by not carrying out the hit, both he and Jack are in danger. And so they set out on the run–from the people who want Jack dead and the people who want D to be the one to make it happen. And when they’re on the run with only each other to turn to, who knows what could happen…

I very much appreciate that this didn’t go right into a “I’m immediately in love with the man who saved my life” type of story, as that’s where I was worried it was headed when I started reading. The relationship develops over some time, and both men also spend some time dealing with how they feel about both themselves and each other. Overall, it probably runs just a tiny bit longer than I would have preferred, but the action-packed scenes around the climax of the story definitely make the build up worth the wait.

A Matchless Man by Ariel Tachna

A Matchless Man

A Matchless Man by Ariel Tachna

Series: Lexington Lovers, Book 2
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on October 1, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

After several years of school and work to become a medical doctor, Navashen Bhattathiri is finally returning to his hometown of Lexington to start the next chapter in his life. He connects with high school classmate Brent Carpenter, who is now a realtor and helps Navashen to find the perfect house to settle into when he moves to town. Brent also considers himself to be a bit of a matchmaker, so he also offers to help fix Navashen up with the perfect guy. While Navashen appreciates Brent’s efforts, his busy schedule and responsibilities make it difficult for him to initiate or sustain a relationship with any of the guys Brent comes up with. But Brent is a constant for Navashen, and he sees Navashen’s busy schedule and his work as a sign of dedication and commitment–something to be admired. If Navashen were to be honest with himself, he would love for Brent to offer himself up as a potential date. But could Brent really feel the same way?

I associate Ariel Tachna with well-written and developed characters, and this story provides no exception. I found it easy to get a real sense of Navashen, what motivates him, where he’s come from, and what he wants from life. The characters around him were just as easy to follow, even those that only popped up once or twice during the course of the book. I took away a strong message that we need to be prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and our own happiness. There will always be things that we see as standing in our way–career, family, confidence–but if we’re not willing to confront them or try to get past them, then we really don’t have much standing to complain about not getting what we want…

Restless Spirits by Jordan L. Hawk

Restless Spirits

Restless Spirits by Jordan L. Hawk

Series: Spirits, Book 1
Published by: Widdershins Publishing on January 5, 2015
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Henry Strauss has no time for psychics or mediums. His own experience witnessing their deception has led him to develop machines that can detect spirits without the need for a medium–total objectivity. And he’s determine to prove that they work. So when he receives an invitation from Dominic Gladfield to investigate a haunted house and exorcise it of any malevolent beings, he jumps at the chance. Of course, the $500 prize is just as enticing.

Vincent Night received a similar invitation, but he doesn’t bring any fancy equipment with him. He has his skills as a medium and those of his colleague. And he is equally determined to win the prize. But what neither Vincent or Henry count on is the spark of attraction that pops up when they meet and lingers between them as they investigate Reyhome Castle. And they don’t exactly have time to explore the attraction while they’re still competing for the prize and trying to stay safe from what appears to be a powerful, angry, and violent spirit. To get out alive, they may just have to put all of their misgivings aside…

I actually enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I was going to when I read the blurb. Paranormal mysteries with a romantic subplot seem to be all over the M/M romance sphere. But this one stood out as unique to me. For one, the author doesn’t rely on tropes to carry the story. Yes, you can see them in the story since this is such a common framework. But aside from being the framework, the characters and their interactions have a spirit to them that is fresh and original. And each of the characters–including the side characters–has a rich backstory that comes into play at various points throughout the plot. Everything that happens is grounded in advancing the story, which keeps the momentum and the buildup to the climax going on an even pace.

I give this one a strong recommendation.

Astounding! by Kim Fielding

Astounding

Astounding! by Kim Fielding

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on June 26, 2015
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Carter Evans founded the speculative fiction magazine Astounding! because he wanted to have an impact on the genre. And while he did help launch several authors–including his ex-boyfriend–the magazine is on its last leg. He expects he may only be able to publish one more issue. Which is why the stories from J. Harper are a distraction he doesn’t need. They’re among some of the worst writing he’s ever read, they follow the same general format, and they just keep coming. So Carter writes a brutally honest rejection letter on a lark while he’s drinking one evening with no intention of ever sending it. But when he wakes up the next morning, he realizes he’s done just that. Feeling awful about being so rude, Carter drives from Seattle to Portland to apologize in person. And when he meets John Harper, he discovers that he is a sweet and charming (and attractive!) man, who is a fan of the magazine and graciously invites Carter into his home. There’s something else: John also claims to be from another planet. It’s a lot for Carter to take in, but as a fan of science fiction, shouldn’t it follow that some aspect of those stores might somehow come true? Despite his uncertainties, Carter decides he wants to get to know John better. What could it hurt?

This is a fun and entertaining read. It’s not necessarily a comedy, but there’s a lightness to it that I really appreciated. Carter’s in a rut, but he doesn’t wallow. And John is just so incredibly endearing that I think it would be impossible for a reader to not be drawn to him. Another great romantic journey from Kim Fielding that I highly recommend!

With Caution by J.L. Langley

With Caution

With Caution by J.L. Langley

Series: With or Without, Book 2
Published by: Samhain Publishing on November 20, 2007
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Remington Lassiter is still adjusting to his new upside-down world. Overnight, he went from not knowing werewolves existed and that his best friend was one to being one himself. At the same time, Remi finds himself trying to do all he can to protect his younger brother from their abusive father. But Remi also carries some deeply-rooted secrets that he doesn’t even realize are hidden in his past. They will need to be confronted before he can truly be free. And then there’s the attractive and mysterious private detective, Jake Romero, who keeps popping up to help Remi out whenever he needs it. And Jake has his own bombshell to drop on Remi when the time is right…

The character development in this one is pretty solid. Each of these guys is a distinct character with complex backstories that come to bear on who they are and what they do. It’s hard not to feel for Remi at so many points while reading, but I appreciate that he has moments where he can find his strength and try to move things forward at the same time. I also appreciate that the author didn’t rush the relationship here, knowing full well that Remi has other things to deal with on top of confronting the possibility of being in a relationship with a guy. An interesting read, though there are some unpleasant moments in the lives of these characters.

Content warning: discussions of child abuse and domestic violence, virulent homophobia

Soldier Mine by Amber Kell

Soldier Mine

Soldier Mine by Amber Kell

Series: The Thresl Chronicles, Book 1
Published by: Total-E-Bound on March 11, 2013
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

During an attack by a group of colleagues, Kreslan Piers is saved by an unlikely hero. And he learns that his life changed in that moment. The Thresl–a shape-shifting companion creature–has imprinted on Kres, and that is something that cannot be undone. A soldier like him wouldn’t normally have a Thresl companion, so he’s sent off to learn more about his new relationship and how to connect with his likely new beau. But Kres’s Thresl is no ordinary Thresl. Vohne is actually royalty. And he has memories of past lives in which he and Kres keep finding each each other, and he believes that destiny has a part to play in their lives. But there are challenges that come with being royal and having power–challenges that may not only threaten Kres and Vohne’s relationship but also their lives…

This is an interesting and relatively quick read. As a reader, I was quickly immersed in the world and never left it until I finished the book. It’s a good choice for fans of science fiction, romance, and stories of a hint of mystery and betrayal.

Hemovore by Jordan Castillo Price

Hemovore

Hemovore by Jordan Castillo Price

Published by: Samhain Publishing on July 28, 2009
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Mark Jensen would describe his boss, Jonathan Varga, in many ways. Mysterious would be a big one. And he’d also probably say sexy too, but it’s not something he could ever act on. Not only is Jonathan Mark’s boss, but he’s also V-positive–a vampire–and it can be passed on through sex. So they carry on a professional relationship with Jonathan often holed up painting in his studio while Mark runs his errands, keeps the office clean, and procures cat blood for his boss. But when a major sale comes through on several of Jonathan’s paintings, he decides they should have a night out. The night itself is innocent enough, but it ends with someone from Jonathan’s past resurfacing. And that someone appears to be anything but friendly, leaving death and destruction in his wake. So Mark finds himself on the run with Jonathan, not really sure where they can hide or where they can turn. They both know they can only run for so long, and they can only hope they will make it out alive…

The idea of vampirism as a virus is a rather interesting concept. It adds a whole layer to the vampire-human interaction piece that doesn’t exist in more traditional vampire narratives. It also draws parallels to it as more of a medical condition than a “you are now a demonic monster overnight” condition. But clearly that doesn’t mean there isn’t drama around being “turned” or people using the virus to threaten or intimidate other people. Some vampire drama here with a few very interesting twists.

The Only One Who Knows by Cat Grant & L.A. Witt

The Only One Who Knows

The Only One Who Knows by Cat Grant & L.A. Witt

Series: The Only One, Book 1
Published by: Samhain Publishing on January 7, 2014
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Lieutenant Josh Walker knew training to become a Navy SEAL wouldn’t be easy. But what he didn’t expect was the hard-assed Chief David Flint to push him harder than anyone else in his class. And he also didn’t expect he’d develop a mad crush on Chief Flint, either. And when the two of them wind up at the same bar on New Year’s Eve, Josh learns that for Chief Flint–David–the feeling is mutual. They launch into a brief fling, cut short by Josh completing training and shipping out.

Fast forward a few years and their paths cross again. This time David–Senior Chief Flint–is under Josh’s–Lieutenant Commander Walker’s–command. And despite all of the reasons they know they should steer clear of each other, their attraction gets the better of them. The two find themselves going around in circles about whether they can truly be in a relationship; there are rules about these things after all. And when a member of their team overhears one of their conversations and uses the information to blackmail Josh right before they deploy on a dangerous mission to North Korea, they find themselves launched on another journey: one where they must decide what they mean to each other and what they’re willing to sacrifice to keep what they have.

When I finished this book, I went back and looked at the word count. I was surprised that the number of pages seemed so much shorter than what I read. The authors have done a great job of packing a lot of action into this 220-page book. It’s paced well, the character development follows a steady and believable arc, and the background characters help bring life to the world of the story. I enjoyed this and give it a strong recommendation, especially if you like m/m military romance…

Without Reservations by J.L. Langley

Without Reservations

Without Reservations by J.L. Langley

Series: With or Without, Book 1
Published by: Samhain Publishing on October 10, 2006
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Chayton Winston has been dreaming of a mate since he was five years old. And despite being part of an American Indian werewolf pack, in his dreams his mate always has blond hair and blue eyes. But his parents always told him he would find his mate in good time, so he forced himself to stop obsessing about it and just let it happen. So when an injured wolf is brought into his veterinary office and he experiences some strange feelings, he’s surprised. Of course, he’s also surprised because if those feelings mean his mate is near, it means his mate is male. He knows that won’t go over well with his mother, but he first needs to figure out how it goes over for himself.

Keaton Reynolds is a powerful wolf who wants nothing more than to leave any fighting in his past. He took a job as a professor in New Mexico, far from his family, to have a new start. So when we wakes up in a strange man’s vehicle after going for a run, he’s not sure what to think. And his thoughts are further clouded when he realizes this strange man is his mate. Not one to force himself on someone, he’s more than willing to walk away from Chay–especially since the man is straight. But the pull of a mate is strong. And Keaton may be in the crosshairs of someone far more dangerous than a mate…

I feel like shifter romances with the whole “unexpected mate” trope aren’t difficult to find. There seem to be several on the market. But the supporting cast and the world in which this takes place are different enough to make this unique. I do wish we got a chance to get to know the main characters a bit better. Once they’re thrown together, it’s all about how they interact and there isn’t much of them alone or with friends or family that might help provide a bit more insight into who they are. And Chay’s decision seems a bit fast for someone who was not expecting a mate like the one he got.

It’s still definitely worth a read, so I give it a recommendation.

Starstruck by L.A. Witt

Starstruck

Starstruck by L.A. Witt

Series: Bluewater Bay, Book 1
Published by: Riptide Publishing on November 3, 2014
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Levi Pritchard moved to Bluewater Bay to retire and get away from all things Hollywood. Although he always loved acting, he loathed everything that came with it. And he disliked needing to live a certain way or keeps parts of his life a secret the most. It was more than enough to deal with on top of his alcoholic, conservative parents. So Levi finds himself conflicted when he’s offered a role on one of television’s hottest new shows being filmed right in Bluewater Bay. It would be the ultimate comeback, but even in the offer there is mention of him doing whatever it takes to make sure the old rumors about his sexuality don’t resurface. And that’s exactly the kind of thing he doesn’t want to deal with.

Carter Samuels is the hot lead on one of television’s hottest shows. He’s been open about his sexuality before he made it big in the business, so there’s no question of where his interests lie. And when he spots the man who inspired him to go into acting, Levi Pritchard, touring the set, he seizes the opportunity to track him down. And while he really does intend to just ask him for some advice, when the two hit it off and become friends, Carter can’t help wanting more. But he knows he can’t have it. Yes, there were rumors years ago, but Levi is straight. Right?

I’m not sure why it took me so long to pick up this series. I remember hearing about it when it kicked off, but I think I just had so much else to read. Of course, they’ve kicked it off with an excellent author, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that it starts off strong. I found this to be an enjoyable read. I did feel like Levi’s decisions near the end seemed a bit abrupt, but aside from that, I do give this a solid recommendation.