Title: Angel’s Redemption
Author: Azalea Moone
Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Length: 31k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Fantasy Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Angels, Fallen Angels, Rockers/Musicians, Metal Music, Roommates, Luck, Insta-Love
Rating: Not Feelin’ It
Twenty-four-year-old Blaine Schneider is seasoned to hardship. Since the age of eight, he’s experienced nothing but a swarm of bad luck: from the funny electrical fire in shop class to failing grades and relationships gone sour. He believes he’ll never get past it; only his band, ‘Til Dark, and their dream, keeps him going through it all.
Shortly after he mysteriously inherits a beautifully carved angel statue, Blaine also finds an apartment big enough to display the lifelike sculpture, and he thinks his luck has finally taken a turn for the better. But when he discovers the spell inscribed on the statue’s base, he frees Lynsael from his stone prison, a handsome fallen angel who claims to be Blaine’s former guardian angel, and then his luck really improves.
But while Blaine is falling hard for the angel’s blue eyes and lively personality, in the shadows, dark forces are working to keep Blaine and Lynsael apart. It will take more than luck for the pair to come through unscathed—it’ll take a miracle.
I shouldn’t apologize for my feelings and I try not to usually, but I will, because I tend to do that. Sorry ahead of time to those who put a lot of love and care into the creation of this book, this isn’t really going to be a positive review 😦
I have a love/hate relationship with angel stories. I think that maybe people are turned onto angels for a few different reasons, but a lot of it has to do with the loss of innocence. There are so many directions an author can take an angelic character — an exploration of literary history and popular angelic mythos, playing on the fallen angel theme and the dichotomy of innocence and corruption, angelic and human. Many romance novels place a lot of importance on world building as a backdrop to the reason their angel falls and then some place the romance itself as the focus of their story. Many of those stories are where I find myself not as interested. I like seeing an author’s imagination in world building of angel stories. I think that what I really don’t like is that I sometimes find angels in romance stories to be somewhat… vapid? without personality? They convey all of that innocence but it seems one dimensional. It’s hard to connect with a character like that, and even though it might be a purposeful choice because angels are in fact, not human (who knew?!), that doesn’t necessarily make it a good choice for the story.
That’s where I started to encounter some problems for me with Angel’s Redemption. I like this author’s prose, no doubt about that. And that is probably why I continually come back to read her stories even though, in the past, I’ve not been very kind in my reviews. So for me, taking a gamble on this story for review was… well, a gamble, what with the angel theme and my past history with not liking some of this author’s characters so much. The premise of this story is the freedom of an angel who is bound in a statue. Blaine received the statue, which has always mystified and alternately unnerved him, from his father’s best friend, an artist who worked on the statue for a long time and for some unknown reason left it to Blaine in his will. When Blaine moves to an apartment with enough space to showcase the beautiful rendition of the male form (au naturel), he puts it in a place where he can showcase it, even adding a spotlight to show it off.
In the meantime, Blaine is trying to make his sucky life better. Ever since the age of 8 he’s been terribly unlucky. Prior to that, his life was wonderful. Now that he’s 24 and with a band he’s proud of he thinks he might be able to master his own luck and make his life happier. There’s a chance for his band to play a weekly gig at a popular club, which will give them lots of visibility and even a bit of cash. His life and luck is looking up, if they can actually get the gig. It looks promising, if only his bandmates would get their shit together.
But Blaine is still mystified by the statue of the beautiful angel. Sometimes… he swears that when he walks by the eyes follow him and occasionally he sees a feather ruffle. It can’t be true, but further investigation of the statue reveals a strange phrase in latin marked on the base. Blaine’s curiosity could be the best, or worst thing that has ever happened to him.
I hate to sit and list the problems I had with this book. I mean, for the most part I still enjoyed reading it and I definitely didn’t hate it. But, I also found some things here that have bothered me with past Azalea Moone books and stories. One of those things, and the one of the biggest problems that I had here was the world building. It’s almost non-existent. I read through this whole book having no clue what was going on. It wasn’t because the characters were purposefully keeping secrets — they were — but, we’re often given references of things that have happened in the past. This is great because it helps us put the pieces of the story together ourselves, but there has to be a framework in which to fill in those gaps — a world. I read the blurb again when I finished the book and it had more detail than was in the actual book. Also, throughout the book, Lynsael continually asks Blaine to help him find out what happened with the statue. Both of them don’t understand how he broke out, how he was bound, or what the sculptor (Blaine’s father’s friend) really knew about any of this, including Lyn. Blaine offers to help, about a million times but something always seems to come up to distract him. This is just one of my pet peeves. It didn’t seem like a very good reason to stall them, to put off talking about their situation and finding out what is going on. It seemed more like an easy way to stall them until the ending of the story. It was just… frustrating to read, honestly. I would have liked to see them talk, not only to figure out why everything was happening as it was, but also to get to know one another — their history, their lives, their feelings — and by extension for me to get to know the characters.
I ended the book feeling like I didn’t really understand the story, only the few events that happened but no background at all to fill in the details and gaps. I also felt like I didn’t really know the characters well. I understood Blaine a bit better than Lyn, but not well. So I didn’t connect with them and I didn’t really see a connection between them. In another story by this author that I read and reviewed (“On Clouds of Obsession” in the Fraternal Devotion anthology, reviewed here), I felt like I didn’t really like one of of the main characters. And I felt that way about Blaine somewhat too. While he wasn’t the kind of asshole like in “On Clouds of Obsession”, he still pissed me off most of the book with his words toward Lyn and his refusal to help him and his general attitude of pissy and then, suddenly, he loves him. I didn’t get it, really.
I think that pretty much says everything. I didn’t really like the book and I feel like it needed more work to fill out the story. That and I just couldn’t connect with both of the characters. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this one.
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 2 Not Feelin' It, Authors M-O, Contemporary, Fantasy, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: Angels, Azalea Moone, Fallen Angels, Insta-Love, Luck, Metal music, Music, Musicians, Roommates, Storm Moon Press
Title: Dance Only for Me (Dance with the Devil #6)
Author: Megan Derr
Publisher: Less than Three Press
Length: 70k words
Genre: m/m Paranormal Fantasy Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Magic, Demons, Angels, Vampires, Djinn, Cowboys, Dragons, Secrets & Lies, Past Trauma/Abuse, Mystery
Rating: Pretty Good
Jackie Black is a cowboy and sorcerer and proud of both. He spends his days breaking curses and locating items of interest for other abnormals. His pride and joy are the alchemy-enhanced pistols at his hips. The love of his life is Roman, a businessman and witch. Tired of living several states apart, Jackie decides to surprise Roman by moving closer.
But instead of being a happy surprise, Jackie finds himself the victim of an unpleasant one. Alone in a strange city, with nowhere to go and his world in pieces, Jackie is taken in by an old man who says he is a paranormal detective and could use someone of Jackie’s power and abilities to catch a killer.
I started reading this when it came up earlier this year as a sequel, and around the 40% mark I stopped reading, so I could wait until it was finished. Honestly, I think that I’m just not that good at reading serials unless they’re the never-ending kind, because I’m not that good at waiting, and no matter how good the book is I eventually lose interest having to wait. Still, I’m glad that I got to read the beginning of this when I did back in January, because it made me instantly fall in love with Jackie Black, gunslinger and man of charming words 😉 And that meant that I was really excited to see how his story ended.
Jackie Black, youngest in the long line of gun-slinging cowboy sorcerers is in love. He’s had a rough ride of it in the past, but he thinks that Roman is the one — enough to move from his long-time home in the country and live in the city. When he surprises Roman after Roman canceled their date to tell him the happy news, that he’s househunting closer, he finds a complete surprise that ruins their relationship irreparably. Now, Jackie is alone in a strange city he doesn’t know well with nowhere to stay.
But the cowboy Blacks have a way of stumbling across trouble, and they’re duty bound as honest men to help in any way they can. So when Jackie meets a old man who is on the hunt after a ruthless woman stealing power he does everything he can to help. What he doesn’t know is that by getting to know the old man, he stumbled into an even larger and longer unsolved mystery involving the old man himself, a scarred vampire, and his father, the Black before him (currently off who knows where and not returning his calls). Backing down would be better — it seems that everyone who has gotten involved over the years has been killed off — but Jackie’s honor won’t let him. And maybe a touch of stubbornness that says that whatever impossible creature is picking off the people around him, he hasn’t met a sorcerer like Jackie Black yet.
Really, the best thing about this book is Jackie. He’s such a great character that you can’t help fall in love with him. He’s straight out of the old west, honor and stubbornness and all, trying to fit into a modern magical world. He’s almost comical at first until you really see his human side, and after that it’s so easy to get swept up in his adventure. I must admit that because I read the first bit of this as serial and then stopped I was under the misimpression of who Jackie’s love interest in this was. At first, I was a little miffed, but it’s only because it had been around 7 months that I’d been thinking he ended up with someone else, and I just hadn’t read that part of the story yet. But it didn’t take long for me to see that his real love interest here fit him so much better. I only hope that the really interesting character that latches onto him earlier in the book (and isn’t, of course, his love interest) will get his book, because I was a little sad that he seemed to disappear a bit after the halfway mark. We didn’t get to see him as much, even though I found him really endearing and one of the most interesting characters so far in this series. It makes me wonder if Megan Derr does have plans for him later in the series because he’s such a puzzle that never get’s solved in this book.
Fans of the series will want to continue and read this book. Honestly, it wasn’t my favorite, no matter how much I loved Jackie. I’m finding that even though I’ve enjoyed the last couple of books in this series I don’t have the same feelings as I had about the first three, which I just really loved and have read over and over. I’ll always continue to read, because even if Megan Derr’s books don’t turn out to be ones that I want to buy in paperback and keep as a comfort read, they’re still enjoyable, fun and a great escape. They’re some of the easiest and most comforting reading for me, and that only makes me even more excited for the next books to come.
Posted by Cole in 4 Pretty Good, 41-75k, Authors D-F, Fantasy, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Angels, Cowboys, Dance with the Devil, Demons, Djinn, Dragons, Less Than Three Press, Magic, Megan Derr, Mystery, Past Abuse, Past Trauma, Secrets & Lies, Series, Vampire
Title: The Adorned
Author: John Tristan
Length: 101k words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Indentured Slavery, Sexual Slavery, Tattoos, Art/Artists, Magic, Major Class Distinctions, Alternate World Historical, Slow Burn, Revolution, Netgalley
Rating: LOVED it!!!!
My name is Etan, and I am Adorned.
A living piece of art, I exist to please the divine rulers of Kered. With nowhere to turn after my father died, I tried my luck in the capital city. Little did I know how quickly I would be robbed, beaten and forced to sell myself into servitude. But I was lucky enough to gain the attention of Roberd Tallisk, an irascible but intriguing tattoo artist who offered to mark me with enchanted ink for the enjoyment of the nobles. I was given a chance to better my station in life, and I could not refuse.
But the divine rulers want not only the art but the body that bears it. In their company I can rise above the dregs of society and experience a life most only dream of, at the cost of suffering their every desire as a pawn in games of lavish intrigue. Their attention is flattering, but I find I’d rather have Tallisk’s.
Caught between factions, I learn that a revolution is brewing, one that could ruin Kered–and Roberd and myself along with it…
I got this book for review on a whim, and I am so happy that I did because it completely took over my life yesterday. I started reading it in the early morning and I couldn’t put it down — I read all day. And to be honest I was a little worried after I requested it because I had previously read a book by John Tristan that I DNF’ed and I think it might have been his first book. I just couldn’t get into the writing and I kinda liked it but also didn’t. So I couldn’t believe that I had none of the same issues with this book that I did with that earlier book. And if this author keeps writing books like this then I’ll definitely stick around and keep reading!
When his father dies with a multitude of debts, Etan is forced to sell his home and all his belongings and travel to the capital city of Kered to look for work. His only skills are his ability to read and write, and while those are rare abilities for a country boy, with no money to garner an apprenticeship, his only choice is manual labor, something he’s unable to do because of a sickness as a child that stunted his growth. He’s pale and petite, and saved by a man in a rickshaw when beaten in the street. The man offers to send him to a place to stay, where he learns after a few days is a home for indentured servants. His only option thereafter is to sign away his rights and work for this man in trade for a place to stay and food to eat.
When the man sees Etan without bruises and washes he almost doesn’t recognize him, but he has an even better idea of work for him. Etan is introduced to Roberd Tallisk, a tattoo artist whose patron is the head of the Council, run by the Blooded, the ruling class of Kered society who possess magic believed descended from the gods themselves. There, Etan’s slave bond is bartered between the two men when Tallisk agrees to take Etan on as his new work of art, an Adorned. The Adorned have always mystified those of the lower classes. They’re those of beauty who are tattooed by master tattoo artists with enchanted ink to become living works of art for the pleasure of the Blooded. Their art is not allowed to be seen by those who aren’t Blooded or the artist. And no one else but the tattoo artists are allowed to wear ink.
Etan’s new life seems wonderful and exciting. He’s protected now for life with gifts of riches from patrons and by the ink he wears on his skin. But there is also an aspect of being Adorned that he never expected. He soon learns the hard price to pay when he starts to mingle with the elite of Keren society and exactly what they expect from him. And he finds himself a pawn, a sort of Mata Hari in the political play between two warring factions for the future of the Keren society.
There are two things that I love most about this story and they go behind the tattoo art (which is super cool) and a lot of the other little details that made this story come alive for me. First is the epic quality of the story. We really get to see Etan’s life played out over a lot of major changes in his life that also herald major changes for the whole world. We meet Etan when he’s young, still living at home with his father and before he’s had to completely depend on himself and we get to see how he changes over time. I typically prefer characters who are alive, present and very decisive about their lives in fiction, especially in fantasy worlds. Etan is alive and present, certainly, but he’s also like a piece of detritus in a massive current once he makes it to the city. He’s buffered on all sides by those making choices for him. I can’t see him acting any other way certainly, as someone who has very little choices, but he’s also very internal and cautious. I didn’t see those parts of his personality changing until much later because it was such a slow change, but Etan grows as the world changes around him and as he needs to take more of his own care for himself.
The second thing I really loved was the cast of characters. We meet a multitude of secondary characters, most of whom are a good sort, and a faction of those who are good people who make some bad choices. As the world in the story changes, it reveals the best and worst of the characters and each of them are made to understand their regrets, in particular Isadel and Lord Haqan Loren. All of them, however, are well rounded characters that we get to know rather well. And this was done sometimes in a rather subtle fashion. The writing requires the reader to be present and active in piecing the world together and in drawing connections, and I can’t tell you how often I find myself wishing for writing like that.
You might not find this story to be perfect, or it might not impact you as much as it did me. Part of how you feel about it, in the end, will depend on what you like most in your romance books. The relationship between Etan and Tallisk is very slow to build and it takes almost the full length of the novel for the two to really come together. The bulk of the story is rather Etan’s journey and finding himself, someone who still feels like a country boy, realizing that he’s a good person with heart amid vultures who would pick at him until there’s nothing left. He has to realize what he really wants out of life, if it is security or love and if those things are separate.
I finished the book wanting more, sad that the story ended and hoping there was a way a sequel could be written, lol. I don’t think that’s really possible. But I know now that I’ll definitely keep my eye on book by John Tristan and I hope that it isn’t too long from now that I find another book that I get so lost in.
Posted by Cole in 101-125k, 6 LOVE IT!, Authors S-U, Fantasy, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Alternate World Historical, Art, Artists, Carina, Class Distinctions, Indentured Slavery, John Tristan, Magic, Netgalley, Revolution, Sexual Slavery, Slow Burn, Tattoos
Title: Stealing the Wind (Mermen of Ea #1)
Author: Shira Anthony
Length: 69,784 words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty**
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between**
Keywords/Tags: Series, Shifters (Merfolk), Sea/Rivers/Sail, Under the Sea, Slaves/Prisoner, Indentured (Sexual) Slavery, m/m/m scenes, Multiple/Other Partners, Spies, Civil War, Resistance, Dreams, Superpowers, Reincarnation, Sex in Shifted Form (underwater mermen sex, which is much more interesting than underwater basket weaving)
Rating: Pretty Good
Taren Laxley has never known anything but life as a slave. When a lusty pirate kidnaps him and holds him prisoner on his ship, Taren embraces the chance to realize his dream of a seagoing life. Not only does the pirate captain offer him freedom in exchange for three years of labor and sexual servitude, but the pleasures Taren finds when he joins the captain and first mate in bed far surpass his greatest fantasies.
Then, during a storm, Taren dives overboard to save another sailor and is lost at sea. He’s rescued by Ian Dunaidh, the enigmatic and seemingly ageless captain of a rival ship, the Phantom, and Taren feels an overwhelming attraction to Ian that Ian appears to share. Soon Taren learns a secret that will change his life forever: Ian and his people are Ea, shape-shifting merfolk… and Taren is one of them too. Bound to each other by a fierce passion neither can explain or deny, Taren and Ian are soon embroiled in a war and forced to fight for a future—not only for themselves but for all their kind.
Believe it or not (and I can’t), this is the first book I’ve read by Shira Anthony. I have several and there are many of her books that I’ve really wanted to read, but somehow never found the time to. So when I saw this on the Dreamspinner Coming Soon page I made sure that I made room for it in my schedule. It wouldn’t only be a chance to try out this author, but also a book about mermen! Just like unicorns, I’m really an 8 year old little girl who loves the cute and cuddly fantastical creatures. Except, you know, when they have gay sex and aren’t as cuddly anymore, except maybe in a post-coital fashion.
I’m glad that I made room for this book, it was quite fun to read. The whole book takes place over a somewhat short amount of time — about 8 weeks — but the book starts with Taren at a young age and the first few chapters traverse his teenaged years as he’s sold and stolen as a slave and passed through several masters’ hands. The journey that Taren takes in this first book of the series is pretty big. He learns quite a bit about his life and goes through many transitions of change before the end.
Taren doesn’t know anything about his parents, save that his master told him they gave him away. He longs for the open sea and though he’s just a rigger for his master’s shipyard, he hopes that one day he’ll be able to travel the seas and be a proper sailor. When he’s sold to pay off his master’s debts, Taren becomes a slave to a man who runs an inn. He’s not sure how old he is, though he thinks around 18 or 19. He’s been mostly sheltered in his life, so when a handsome captain introduces him to his sexuality in a room full of watching sailors at the inn, he finds himself excited rather than scared and violated. He’s submissive and clings to the safety he feels in a man like the captain, whom he later knows as Rider, because of the man’s kind, yet firm dominance.
Stolen by the sailors of the ship that night, he wakes to find himself the captain’s prisoner and introduced to indentured slavery of the sexual kind. But, for a young man like Taren who has always been a slave, sexual slavery aboard a ship on the open ocean is a kind of freedom that he’s never known. Taren revels in it, especially when he comes to be a loving presence in Rider and his lover’s bed and allowed to put his knowledge of sailing to use aboard the ship.
But there is so much that Taren doesn’t know or understand — why he has such vivid dreams and the extra-sensory feelings that he has in reading the water and weather at sea. When he’s knocked unconscious and lost at sea, he washes up to their rival vessel, captained by Ian Dunaidh. Ian is enamored of Taren immediately and their connection, once he wakes, pushes and pulls between them as they sail to Ian’s home island where a shadowy presence called The Council awaits to judge Taren as a spy in their war against a resistance group of their own people who live on the mainland. Living through the hell of their torture, the betrayal between Taren and Ian and the possibility that he might never be free takes everything in him. All he knows to get him through is that he is destined for a higher purpose than this, if it is true that any higher power is guiding them.
I went pretty far in summarizing the story for you, but that is because there is such a long and twisting plot in this story. Taren goes through so many changes, homes, and relationships with other people for only 70k words. It makes me curious how many books this author has planned for this series because I didn’t feel as if I started to understand the larger picture until the very end of the book. I have no doubt that that was intended for the reader, that we should pull the pieces together at the very end, but it also meant that I had to wait through the whole book to really understand what was happening. Which, ultimately, meant that I really had to enjoy the story for the present, for what was happening to Taren in the moment without understanding where the story was headed to really enjoy the book. Sometimes I felt as if I was right there with him and Ian and I was really sucked into the present of the story. But, sometimes I wasn’t and I felt as if the story lulled, perhaps because the relationship between Taren and Ian is so freaking complicated. For much of the book they’re separated, though not for any very long pieces of time. It takes the whole book for them to really reach the same page, relationship-wise, because they each needed this book to progress themselves. Taren is searching for his destiny, a shadowy purpose that we and he knows is there, somewhere, for him to understand one day, and for him to understand his race and his history. Ian is battling his own demons — regret and guilt — that stand in the way of his happiness.
So once again I say that while I really enjoyed this book, it’s as a first book of a series. I still feel as if I don’t know much about where this series is headed. In a way, I like that because it means that this author is doing a fine job of withholding information until the correct (and perhaps most artful) time to release it. On the other hand, I fear not knowing enough to keep me interested in the big picture, and that it makes my reading experience different. So, I’m excited to read the next book and hoping that the ending of this one — seeing the formation of a more solid relationship between Taren and Ian — will carry forward through the rest of the series.
**There is a pretty big imbalance in the heat level and sex frequency in this book, as far as trying to rate it goes. The first several chapters are hot and heavy, with m/m/m scenes (spitroasting, exhibitionism) that really raise the heat, and frequent sex in those chapters. The rest of the novel has little to almost no sex at all and what intimacy there is is very romantic and tame (the underwater mermen sex).
Posted by Cole in 4 Pretty Good, 41-75k, Authors A-C, Fantasy, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Captive/Slave, Civil Wars, Dreams, Dreamspinner Press, Indentured Slavery, m/m/m scenes, Merfolk, Multiple/Other Partners, Prisoner, Reincarnation, Resistance, Sea/Sail/Rivers, Series, Shifter Sex, Shifters, Shira Anthony, spies, Superpowers, Under the Sea
Title: The Queen’s Librarian
Author: Carole Cummings
Length: 68,666 words
Genre: m/m Fantasy**
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None (a couple, fade to black)
Keywords/Tags: Established Relationships, Magic, Alternate World Historical, Animals/Pets, Otherworlds, Royalty, Funny Guys
Rating: Really Liked It
All Lucas Tripp wants is prosperity for the tenants of his family’s estate; good weather for the harvest; suitable matches for his sisters; a little money left over at the end of the month; and more quality time with his boyfriend, Alex Booker. That’s not so much to ask for, right?
Wrong. When his sister’s new suitor suddenly disappears, Lucas is drawn into an adventure of a lifetime—kicking and screaming all the way. Magical beings who were allegedly banished hundreds of years ago are coming through portals that were supposed to be shut against them—and that’s only part of Lucas’s problem. The rest consists of missing princes, breaking and entering, suspicious magicians, well-meaning women who are far too interested in Lucas’s sex life… the list goes on. Lucas is decidedly Not Amused, but he’ll get over it someday. Probably. After all, there’s always Alex.
Oh Carole… I just had so much fun reading that. You know, Carole has said several times that she thanks Fen for this book. Fen, for those of you who might not know, is her main character from the Wolf’s-own series and his head is just a mess of angst. It’s all for good reason because Fen lives in a really messed up world, but back to Carole. She has said that she needed to go somewhere happy, somewhere carefree after spending so much time (4 novels!) in his head. And I’m glad she did. This book is definitely the antithesis of those, of course with the exception of writing talent. I’m glad that I knew that about this book going in, because otherwise I might have been expecting a more serious style than her previous two series.
The book opens with one of the most hilarious chapters I’ve ever read. It is so easy to become endeared with Lucas, especially in the inner drunk ramblings of his mind at his first visit to a tavern. Trouble doesn’t really come until he’s had one too many and decides that it wouldn’t be too unseemly to have a pee outside, where he promptly becomes entangled with a bush. In a cruel twist of fate, someone seems him — pants partially open and wrestling with the arms of his coat — a man with long silver hair and speaking a lot of nonsense. It doesn’t seem too strange in his ale fuzzy brain when the man simply disappears after a whole lot of yelling words that neither understands back and forth but well, he’s still stuck in the bush.
When the man starts turning up in strange places to again shout incomprehensible words at him, Lucas starts to become alarmed. Especially when the man starts stealing his books. But it isn’t until his sister’s suitor disappears and Lucas is begged to find him that he runs into the man again, this time speaking some words Lucas understands. What he hears alarms him, especially because it appears that the man wants something from him and in the meantime intends to kidnap his cousin the prince as a trade. Lucas is so dead for losing the prince, but he knows that he has to do something to get Laurie back.
Really, the best part of this book are the characters. There is such a wonderful cast of characters that all have their own well-rounded personalities, characteristics and motives. But they have such a great banter. In reading the prior work from Carole Cummings, I always admired her writing which is at the same time intelligent and accessible, but I also never knew that she could write in such a playful way! It is really a delight to read. And just the same as it was for her, I think this is a really good book to read when you need a break from something, or from reading a more intense book. When I first talked to her about this book she referred to it as fluff, to which I immediately replied that I thought she could probably never write fluff. But I know exactly what she means now. This is a book you should read just for the pure enjoyment of getting out of your own head and into someone else’s for a while. And Lucas’ head isn’t a bad place to be 😉
There is quite a lot of banter between the characters, but mostly in the narration. Carole has written Lucas to have an imaginative mind that often banters with itself. That’s why I think this is a good book to read when you really need a break, because while the plot in this story is interesting in and of itself, sometimes the focus wavers from it to Lucas’ own thoughts, and those often take precedence over the action. Now, if you followed my advice then this is just a nice detour, but if you’re really focused on the plot and pacing then you might find yourself swept away on the tide of his thoughts. Sometimes the banter — Lucas’ runaway thoughts — seem to get in the way of the action a bit. And while I always enjoyed what he was thinking (and occasionally talking about with Alex) sometimes the timing is inopportune. Occasionally I wanted to smack him and tell him to pay attention!
Still, that is minor criticism on my part and I really, sincerely hope that Carole continues to explore this quirky side of her writing. Hopefully in the future we can get those style alternately — a book like Fen’s that rips out your heart and completely sweeps you away and then something later to cool you down and look on the sunny side of life.
**I didn’t categorize this as a romance. This is really a fantasy book to me. Sure, Lucas is madly in love with Alex and vice versa, but the story isn’t about their relationship. Their relationship is part of the story.
Posted by Cole in 41-75k, 5 Really Like It, Authors A-C, Fantasy, Heat 1 - Sweet/None, Sex Freq 1 - None Tags: Alternate World Historical, Animals, Carole Cummings, Dreamspinner Press, Existing Relationship, Funny Guys, Magic, Otherworlds, Pets, Royalty
Title: Blessed Curses
Author: Madeleine Ribbon
Length: 42,533 words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Magic, Weddings, First Times, HEA, Hurt/Comfort, Nerds/Geeks, Light and Sweet
Rating: So So
Though he’s a sorcerer with a talent for creating blessings, David can do very little with any other magic. He works the night shift for his cousin’s magical supply shop because he’s cursed—his brother did it when they were kids—and now people can’t stand to be near David since he inspires irrational fear. Many experts have tried to remove it, but the curse has proven completely binding. Then David meets Vaughn at his brother’s wedding.
Vaughn works for the magical enforcers, picking apart complex curses and making sure sorcerers stay within the law. He has the ability to dampen magical effects around him and loves solving supposedly irreversible curses like David’s. He quickly develops a more personal interest in David. Despite the distance David attempts to keep between them, he finally realizes when Vaughn is injured on the job that he doesn’t want to stay away anymore. But what about the curse?
I believe this is the first book by Madeleine Ribbon that I’ve read. I was excited about this book because it has a great premise — a man cursed by his brother at a young age who repulses everyone and everything around him until a man who excels at breaking curses and has his own natural resistance to others’ magic is the first man who can get close enough to him to try to remove it. And indeed, that is what immediately drew me into the story when I picked it up. We first see David as a young boy. He’s completely jealous of his older brother Todd (by one year). Todd has more magic than David; David can only do Blessings, not Curses and Charms like Todd and just about everyone else in the magical world. And Todd has friends. When Todd goes away to a magical camp one summer where David cannot follow, David finds that despite what his brother told him, Todd’s friends are happy to play with him. But when Todd comes home to see David with his friends he get’s jealous, and in a typical move towards his younger brother, he curses him. Only this time David tries to protect himself with a blessing and the combination of the magic creates what will become known among the magical world as the impossible curse, and David as The Impossible Kid.
David feels the curse himself. He’s uncomfortable, full of fear and feels the creepy crawly feeling across his whole body. But that doesn’t compare to how other people feel in his proximity. The closer they get the more they want to run away, the more they’re afraid of him. And because of that impossibility of touch and interaction with all except for his brother Todd who is immune (as the curse caster, and subsequently has devote his life to his care because of his guilt), David has lived a life devoid of physical affection, even from his own parents. Those who take the time to brave their discomfort and get to know David fall in love with him. He’s shy and awkward around people because of his curse and his lack of experience relating to others.
David still has his magic and though he feels it’s rather lackluster in relation to so many other people’s gifts, he admits that he has a real talent for Blessings. It is when he’s fulfilling his promise to be in attendance of his brother Todd’s wedding (and to bless the cake for the couple) that he meets Vaughn. He’s confident, sexy, intelligent and talented and David has no idea what Vaughn sees in him — other than the challenge of breaking his curse. Nevertheless, Vaughn can’t seem to stay away from David. While it started out as a professional interest, Vaughn finds that the man himself is more intriguing than the horrible curse he bears. Getting David, a man who has never received any kind of positive attention from another handsome gay man, to realize that David is worth more than his curse looks to be almost as challenging as finding a counter to the curse itself. But the more time that Vaughn spends getting to know David — wooing him in baby steps the whole way — the more important it is to him to find a way to keep David for good.
I liked this novella but I think that it mostly only kept my interest because of it’s length. It’s short enough that when my initial interest, which covered the first few chapters and maybe the first 25% of the book, started to wane there wasn’t a whole lot left to read. I won’t say that it turned me off in any way, but I did feel like the book stalled a bit and it never really regained the magic even until the end. The premise of the book is really interesting, but once the initial meeting between David and Vaughn at the wedding finished they went into a long and slow courtship, because of David’s fear of forging a connection with someone who he believed would ultimately be turned away by the curse. It made sense for the characters, but it slowed down the pace somewhat. That bulk of the story was really only driven by the internal conflict. And I hate to say it, but for me that really slow courtship which was much more like friendship killed the passion. I’m not sure why I reacted this way because I usually am a big fan of the slow burn. I think that’s why I slowly lost some interest in their relationship — I didn’t feel the “burn” in the slow burn.
There is a side plot throughout the story. Over the months of their courtship is a small mystery keeping the two on their toes. Someone, what seems to be a scrawny kid, is trying to break in and steal a blessed plant from magical shops around town and is quite good at escaping capture. The plant in question is only used for suppressing magic, which leads David to believe that someone might be cursed similarly to him and hoping to stop it’s effects. Vaughn, who works for the Magical Enforcement department of Arcana, the magical government, is involved with the case. This side plot could have remedied the problems that I had, diverting the focus to something else to drive the plot forward. But, ultimately while the conclusion was interesting in it’s own way I didn’t feel like it carried the story through those parts.
On the whole I just didn’t find many surprises with this story. It is good for what it is despite the few problems that I had with it — the premise is wonderful and I liked the characters quite a lot. David is cute in his geeky, online gaming and need-to-be-rescued kind of way, while Vaughn is charming and dashing, popular and sexy and loyal and caring. But after the initial introduction to the story and between the characters, I pretty much had the story already figured out.
This would be a good book for those of you looking for something not too involved, that won’t take up a whole lot of your day and is a relaxing and light book to read. It’s heartwarming in a knight-in-shining-armor kind of way. But if you’re looking for something more intense or more exploration of the magical world and a deeper study of the characters, this might not be for you. Though I enjoyed the experience, I fell into the latter camp.
Posted by Cole in 3 So So, 41-75k, Authors P-R, Fantasy, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Dreamspinner Press, First Times, HEA, Hurt/Comfort, Light & Sweet, Madeleine Ribbon, Magic, Nerds/Geeks, Weddings