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
Author: AJ Rose
Publisher: Voodoo Lilly Press
Length: 110,000 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary BDSM Mystery Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Sexy to Story
Keywords/Tags: Series, Sequel, Cops, Psychologists, PTSD, Serial Killer, Family, Child Abduction & Abuse, Obsession, Paparazzi!, HEA
Rating: Loved It!
Reviewed by Sadonna
This is a sequel to Power Exchange and as such contains quite a few spoilers for that book. It is NOT recommended to read these books out of sequence.
Everywhere Detective Gavin DeGrassi looks he’s reminded of his attack by the Breath Play Killer. It’s in the house he lives in with his partner and Dom, Ben Haverson. It’s in the sympathetic yet pitying looks he receives from his fellow detectives when he returns to the force after a year-long hiatus. It’s in the suffocating coddling of his entire family, and the relentless reporter demanding an exclusive of his ordeal.
Most of all, it’s in his lack of submission to Ben, who isn’t convinced Gavin’s recovered enough to trust the power exchange between them.
The miraculous recovery of two teen boys from a twisted kidnapper gives him heart, and Gavin’s determined to prove he can handle anything despite increasing strain between him and Ben, painful nightmares, and panic when anyone touches him.
But his next case is too close for comfort: a friend and colleague found raped and murdered in a fate chillingly similar to what could have been his own, and this killer isn’t stopping with one cop. As the body count rises and taunting souvenirs are being hand-delivered to Gavin, he faces a frustrating lack of leads, a crushing need to prove himself, and a sinking suspicion the imprisoned kidnapper’s reach is further than originally thought. A miasma of uncertainty and fear threaten to suffocate him when he asks a question with which he’s overwhelmingly familiar: what happens when a victim is pushed too far?
Safeword begins about a year after the events of Power Exchange. Gavin and Ben are still together and Gavin has just returned to work after a year’s disability leave. He’s been through intensive therapy with Ben’s partner Laura and he and Ben are also seeing her as a couple. Things seem to be going OK with his return to work and his partner, Myah, who is now engaged to his brother Cole. While Gavin is still dealing with some residual anxiety, he is able to work effectively even when his first case back turns out to be the murder of a fellow police officer. And it’s not just any officer, but a colleague of Gavin and Myah’s who broke a big case involving two abducted teens and the man who was holding them hostage – one for a number of years. This case may or may not be related to his murder.
As Gavin and Myah are investigating the case, there doesn’t seem to be any real motive or potential suspects but Gavin can’t help feeling there is some connection between the murder and the victim’s last big case. While there are no real leads in the case, another cop is murdered and there are some potentially disturbing similarities between the murders and some coincidences that can’t be ignored. This of course brings more stress to Myah and particularly Gavin who is still dealing with his own recovery and anxiety. The other annoying issue is the reappearance of Gavin’s former partner Trent, who it turns out is still with Gavin’s ex-wife. Trent has done nothing but bad-mouth Gavin since he was run out of their precinct after being caught in bed with Victoria, Gavin’s ex. He’s a complete pain in the ass, but it turns out that he has a really disgusting skeleton in his closet that he doesn’t want public, so he tows the line – at least being civil. And only for a little while.
Things have not gotten back to normal between Ben and Gavin in their sex life and while they haven’t given up getting back to their Dom/Sub relationship, things are moving much more slowly than Gavin would like. However, Ben is unwilling to risk Gavin’s psyche any more than it already has been compromised. They are continuing to work on their relationship and Gavin’s limits, but he has to push Ben to get any forward movement. This is further complicated by a third cop murder and the murderer’s fixation on Gavin. Regardless of what precautions Gavin and Ben and the force take to protect him, there continue to be breaches in Gavin’s security. Needless to say, Gavin once again being in the crosshairs of a killer takes a toll on him and Ben.
If you read my review of the previous book, Power Exchange, you know that I was somewhat disappointed in the mystery and particularly with the resolution of the case and the identification of the murderer. No such complaints with this book. The murder mystery is really well done with some surprising twists and turns and some good police work by Gavin and Myah along with another nail biter of a climax. There are plenty of villains to hate in this one and some pretty good payback as well, which really did give me some perverse satisfaction unlike the end of the first book 😉
The other central story of this book is the ongoing love story of Gavin and Ben. I though the first book was incredible in describing the progression of their relationship. It was incredibly intimate and intense and hot and so well written. This part of the story in this book does not have that same level of intensity, but it is still really well written and very intimate. Ben and Gavin are still trying to find their way back to themselves and each other in the aftermath of their ordeal in Power Exchange. They are working through all of the issues together and they are incredibly committed to making things better and getting back to where they were before. There are some really hard moments for them in this story but the one fundamental factor that prevails over everything else is their love for each other and what they are willing to do to fight for that love.
I really loved this book – so much so that I went back and reread Power Exchange again because I couldn’t get enough of Gavin and Ben. I don’t know if A.J. Rose is planning to write more about these two, but I’d definitely read it!
Posted by Sadonna in 101-125k, 6 LOVE IT!, Authors P-R, BDSM / Kink, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Mystery, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: AJ Rose, Child Abuse, Cops, Family, HEA, Kidnapping/Abduction, Paparazzi!, Power Exchange, Psychologist, PTSD, Sequel, Serial Killer, Series, Voodoo Lily Press
Title: Sweet Young Thang (Theta Alpha Gamma #3)
Author: Anne Tenino
Length: 108,400 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 5 – Off the Charts!
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often
Keywords/Tags: Series, College, Fraternities/Frat Boys, May/December, Firefighter Paramedic, Family Issues, Closeted, Coming Out, Sexy to the 9999999s!, Past Couples’ Cameo, Mystery, Homophobia
Rating: LOVED It!
When Plan A fails, turn to Man A.
Thanks to Collin Montes, Theta Alpha Gamma now welcomes gay and bisexual students. Persuading his Uncle Monty, president of the TAG Alumni Association, that the open approach won’t adversely affect TAG’s reputation is Collin’s own first step toward coming out. As long as there are no repercussions, he’ll escape the closet by graduation.
Enter repercussions, stage left: someone rigs the TAG House water heater to launch through the ceiling, then plants a bomb—thankfully unsuccessful—in the fraternity’s basement. Now Collin has his hands full not only trying to convince his uncle that this might not be the work of homophobes, but also dealing with a fratful of brothers worried about their kegger fridge.
Paramedic Eric Dixon can’t stop thinking about the kid he met during a call at his former college fraternity house. The age gap between them is trumped by sexy eyes, so when Eric sees Collin again at the bomb scene, he pursues him. Soon, Eric is dreaming of being a househusband, fighting to keep Collin safe from whoever’s trying to destroy the fraternity, and helping his sweet young thang realize that repercussions sometimes have silver linings.
Well, Anne, you’ve made me do it again. Every time I pick up one of your (long-awaited) books I find myself even more in love than before. I think this time around I really fell in love with this book, simply because it had so many different qualities to love and pinged on so many different emotions from so many different characters. And, it was touching. Anne takes us satisfactorily deep into Collin and then allows us to experience the moments of clarity and insight as he feels them and deals with them.
In this third installment of the Theta Alpha Gamma series, we head back once again to the fraternity that first saw an open gay student with Brad in Frat Boy and Toppy. We meet Collin briefly (if I can remember correctly) as Brad’s friend who gives him a pretty big failure of a blowjob, one that acts as somewhat of a catalyst in Brad and Sebastian’s relationship.
In Sweet Young Thang we see that experience from Collin’s perspective. He is…/was? Brad’s best friend but not out himself. He did a pretty good job of pretending to be straight before that, but now he has a good circle of friends at the college that are all gay men. He’s the Alumni Liaison for TAG, a position secured for him by his Uncle Monty, the President of the Alumni Association with a heavy hand in current TAG politics — the biggest of which is the recent change in policy that says that Theta Alpha Gamma now accepts gay students. Of course, it always did, but it was more of a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell kind of situation. Brad changed all that. Collin convinced his Uncle Monty to support him in his lobbying to change the policy and in return promises him that there will be no repercussions from those who might be unhappy about the change.
All of that is blown out of the water when someone plants a bomb and sets the TAG house on fire. A frat brother is injured and the house is totally a lost cause. And Uncle Monty starts putting on the pressure to change the policy back. But part of Collin’s reasons for lobbying the change so hard were to see his Uncle’s reactions in the first place. His whole life has been planned out by his uncle, his prep school, college, classes and degree, including his position in the family olive oil import business after graduation. It isn’t until he meets sexy paramedic Eric (who has his own secret history with Uncle Monty), an alum of TAG himself in the bomb fiasco that Collin starts to feel like he finally has someone in his corner. But their relationship is picking up quick and heavy and the pressure from all directions in his life is starting to get to Collin.
This is quite a long novel, but it really doesn’t seem like it because it’s really jam packed with action and a super quick pace. The only real downtime in the story are the times alone with Collin and Eric, which thankfully are a fair few. Normally, I would probably prefer the story to be less sex heavy and more plot-centric, but Anne Tenino knows how to write sex and intimacy together, while keeping the relationship moving forward and the sex important to plot. And that’s all while making it some of the hottest sex I’ve read this year! Whew, Eric and Collin have a serious connection from the moment they meet and it really shows throughout the book, slowly translating from lust into something real. Even though it’s made known several times throughout the book how fast their relationship is moving (a week total over the whole book) this NEVER felt like insta-love. It isn’t about the overall time that the couple has in getting to know one another, but about how they spend that time. Eric and Collin go through a lot together and each step along the way they communicate those changes between them, so that you can see them growing together.
All i can really do is urge you to read this book yourself. I know that this book will have a fair few amount of fans excited to read it already, because of the popularity of the series previously. But all I can really say is that I feel like this series gets better and better with each book, and while your preferences for the plot of each will change how you feel about each book (they’re all fairly different), I think that Anne’s writing has grown in leaps and bounds since Frat Boy…. There are so many great things about this book, a kick ass opening chapter which really introduces us to Eric well and some absolutely pure hilarity from the frat boys:
This moment between Collin and Eric pulled it all together for me:
Collin felt as if Eric had just dropped his full weight on his chest, denting in his ribcage and making it harder for his lungs to expand.
Eric kissed his other palm.
“Shit. Maybe. Why would I feel ashamed?”
“I don’t know. For not being what your — what people wanted you to be.”
Oh God, now he felt nauseous. “That’s so unfair.”
Eric smiled sadly. “It’s unfair that you felt that way?”
Collin swallowed, nodding…
I admit I did wonder a few times if Collin ever went to class! Of course, that doesn’t matter, but it does illustrate the enormous pressure I felt for him. Collin has everything bombarding him at once with enormous pressure on him to hold the weight, to deal with it, to figure it out for everyone else. I really felt for him. And it made his time with Eric and their marathon sex chapters not just an expected byproduct of a romance novel, but needed as de-stressing time for him.
So, yes, I definitely recommend this one. I know a lot of you will be reading it anyway, so I’d love to know what you think. Please leave me comments!
Posted by Cole in 101-125k, 6 LOVE IT!, Authors S-U, Contemporary, Heat 5 - Off the Charts!, Romance, Sex Freq 4 - Very Often Tags: Anne Tenino, Closeted, College, Coming Out, Family Issues, Frat Boys, Homophobia, May/December, Mystery, Paramedics, Past Couples' Cameo, Riptide Publishing, Series, Sexy to the 999's, Theta Alpha Gamma
Title: Blood Bathory: Like the Night
Author: Ari McKay
Length: 123,500 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Co-Authored, Vampires, Shifters, On the Lam, Past Trauma/Abuse, Cops (FBI), Friends to Lovers, Best Friends, NYC, Paris, Artists (Photographer), Grief, Second Chances, Sexy to the 999s, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Villain, Mythology
Rating: Really Liked It
Evan St. John, a young fashion photographer running from the pain caused by the death of his younger sister, is thrilled when he is offered a job with House of Nadasdy, a leading fashion house in Paris. What he doesn’t know is that Elizabeth Nadasdy, the elegant and powerful owner, is a centuries-old vampire with a penchant for collecting beautiful people. To Evan’s horror, he is turned into one of her “children”.
Unable to bear what he has become, Evan flees to New York and to his best friend, police officer Will Trask. For years, Evan has nursed an unrequited love for Will, but he also knows Will is the one person who might be able to help him. As Evan and Will try to deal with Evan’s condition, they are drawn into the world of the theriomorphs: shape-shifters who are guardians of life and the sworn enemies of vampires. Caught in an ancient war between two powerful supernatural forces, Evan and Will find they must choose sides — because if they are to have any chance of a future together, they must destroy Elizabeth Nadasdy before she destroys them.
These two authors have been one of my favorite writing teams for a while now, and I knew that I wanted to review this book before I’d even heard of it or read the blurb. So when I finally did read the blurb I was even more exited, especially for such a long book. And finishing it took me a couple of days, mostly just because I wanted to enjoy it, so I spent my time reading it totally for pleasure and enjoying every twist and turn.
Evan St. John and Will Trask have a tumultuous past. Roommates their Freshman year of college at Columbia, they soon grow to be friends. Evan is openly gay and an art photography student, always carrying around his camera, while Will is a manly jock through and through. For reasons that Evan never understands, Will sticks by him and the bullying he was experiencing dwindles when people start to realize that Will will aways have his back. As they grow closer Evan starts to understand Will better, including Will’s White Knight Complex, his need to protect and care for those he loves, to an almost fanatical, save-the-day to-the-rescue level.
Their dynamic changes when Evan’s sister is dying of cancer and their relationship grows during the emotional period — Evan is distraught and barely keeping himself afloat while trying to understand and come to terms with her turn for the worse. And Will picks up the slack, in more ways than expected. But the grief sends Evan running to Paris and three years go by, where Evan becomes a famous fashion photographer taken on by The House of Nadasdy, run by famous and infamous Elizabeth Nadasdy, and Will becomes an agent with the FBI.
We’re first introduced to Evan in Like the Night as he escapes Paris during the day to fly to New York City and seek help from Will. He’s a newly made vampire under the gruesome and tyrannical rule of Elizabeth Nadasdy, a modern day remnant of her famous human days as Elizabeth of Bathory. Above all (except herself), she loves beauty and hoards a collection of “children” all turned by her for their extraordinary beauty, which she believes deserves to be preserved for eternity. Evan was a prize for her, and his rejection of her extraordinary “gift” is tantamount to the ultimate betrayal, something she relishes punishing him for. But Elizabeth doesn’t expect the trouble it will take to find and deal with Evan. With him, someone whose beauty hides his intelligence and cunning, are a group of allies who seek one common goal: the eradication of Elizabeth Nadasdy. And of course Evan has Will, his White Knight, ready to stand in front of any threat to his best friend.
I really just loved this book. I took a while to read it because it is long, but it is also totally packed with plot and, just about everything under the sun, making the book seem even longer than it is. There’s an economy to the writing which gives you SO much story for just the first book of a series that it gave me the time and the opportunity to really sink into the story. What came through in this story most strongly for me was the pervasive mood of fear and impending doom. This is all because of the fact that Elizabeth is built up to such supervillain status that she’s made to be almost omniscient, with unlimited power. Add to this a connection between vampires and their sire, or maker, and the fact that Elizabeth could peek in on Evan at any moment and even make him do things or spy on his relationship with Will, or their planned resistance of her make the story suffused with tension.
I found the villainous characters in this novel to be quite interesting. We have Elizabeth who is the typical diabolical character. She relishes in the pain of others and not only causes death and despair because it gets her something (money, fame, power, etc.) but also because she enjoys the suffering of others. She firmly believes that she’s more worthy than anyone else to have the status that she does because of her beauty and the vision she has for the future. But, sometimes diabolical is boring. No matter how outrageously cruel Elizabeth can be, she’s still a character that doesn’t take too much effort to understand. My favorite villainous character is her daughter Anna, who I suspect will become a crucial and central character to the future books. Anna is raised in the shadow of her diabolical mother. She’s always second best, but raised to revel in the same cruelties as her mother. She’s made a vampire both because of her beauty which is similar to her mother’s, but also as a gift from her. But hundreds of years of oppression make Anna rather different from her mother. Though I suspect that they both have similar depth of cruel possibility inherently in them, Anna’s choices are governed by her hate of her mother and her acceptance that her only meaning to her mother is what she can do for her. That makes her cruel, but much more interesting than her mother. And of course, it’s going to be great when the two really turn on one another 😉
Anyway, I’m super excited for the second book. I hope it isn’t too far away. But honestly, I can’t really be sad because this is the first book in a while (that is the first book of a series) that actually gives us enough story to satisfy us for the first installment. 123k words is pretty long, yes, but it allows the book to give full and adequate world-building while also giving us a real story that will be carried on in the second part. We have a full and self-standing plot with only a few loose ends to pick up in the next book. If this is the case for the next books as well, then I can only imagine where this story will go before it ends!
Please leave a comment below to win an ebook copy of Blood Bathory: Like the Night by Ari McKay. The giveaway will last until Midnight CDT on Tuesday, July 16. I will choose the winner using Random.org and email the winner who will then have 48 hours from the time of the drawing to reply to my email. I will then forward the winner’s information to the author so the winner can receive their book.
Please enter the email you’d wish me to contact you at in the comment form, or if you prefer, leave it in the message.
Thank you and good luck!
Posted by Cole in 101-125k, 5 Really Like It, Authors M-O, Contemporary, Giveaways, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Ari McKay, Artists, Best Friends, Blood Bathory, Co-Authored, Cops, Friends to Lovers, Grief, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Mythology, NYC, On the Lam, Paris, Past Abuse, Past Trauma, Second Chances, Series, Sexy to the 999's, Shifters, Torquere, Vampire, Villain
Title: Sole Support
Author: Kaje Harper
Length: 118k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often
Keywords/Tags: First Times, Commitment Phobia, Nerds/Geeks, Scientists, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Second Chances, Slowly Paced Romance
Rating: Loved It!!!
He can find a use for his lover’s hands…except when he needs help the most.
Kellen is short on cash—at least until his first novel starts to sell—but he has plenty of friends. None of them, unfortunately, share his love of books. For that he turns to IM chats with Mike from his online book group.
Though he manages to coax the shy, socially inept pathologist into a real-time meeting, Kellen has no intention of letting his new friend become more than a casual lover. Shaky finances and ailing mother aside, self-sufficiency is Kellen’s prime directive.
Mike considers himself a nerd of the highest order—short, bespectacled, prone to blurting out the wrong thing at the worst possible time. Meeting Kellen face to face is the biggest risk of his life, and he wonders if they’ll get more body parts together than just their faces.
First meeting leads to first date—first everything for Mike—and soon Kellen’s faced with breaking his just-friends-with-benefits rule. Yet as his elderly mother wanders deeper into senility, Kellen wonders if it’s better to lean on Mike rather than fall.
Oh Kaje… you did it again! I was thrilled (to say the least) when I saw that Kaje had a new novel (a very LONG novel) coming at the Samhain site and even more excited when I was able to procure a review copy early. It’s been a couple months since I first read this, but I didn’t really fall into the trap of reading a book and not writing the review right away. Well, I did, but it didn’t matter because I really liked this book so much that I had no trouble reading it again.
Mike lives with his sister and her husband. It’s a nice arrangement. Mike is able to be a part of a nuclear family and it helps stave off the loneliness, but there are some difficulties. Like most siblings, his sister doesn’t have a problem inserting herself into his life. And she brings up some valid points, which is probably why it grates on his nerves so much. Mike is a pathologist by day but a real book lover by night. And his only real social interaction apart from his family comes from his long time internet friend. They talk almost every day, discussing books and Mike has grown to really care for his friend.
Without realizing it, Mike and his internet friend fall into the awkward category of being rather intimate friends but not really knowing each other at all. When Kellen asks to meet up for coffee, Mike’s neuroses come out to play. Somehow, though Mike can’t understand why, Kellen seems to really like him. What Mike doesn’t like about himself, Kellen finds charming… like his nerves and clumsiness. And Kellen turns out to be even better in person. To Mike, he seems cool, collected, and incredibly handsome.
Over time, Mike and Kellan grow closer in person, but having to deal with significant real life roadblocks that interrupt their new relationship. It seems like when one of them is smooth sailing the other is dealing with a crisis. It doesn’t really help that Mike feels incredibly vulnerable in new, choppy waters. He might be incredibly intelligent and (though he chooses to live with his sister and brother in law) rather successful, but romantically, Mike is just a teenager. At the same time, Kellen refuses to share his burdens which grow over time to be almost unbearable. No matter how naturally they might seem to work together, their choices and fears lead them to build an unstable relationship. And it will take real work to turn it all around into something healthy and stable.
When I first started writing this review, I almost said that I was excited about this book because it’s so solid. I realize that’s not a great descriptor, but what I mean by that is that I feel like when I get a book from Kaje Harper to read, I know that I’ll get a story that is really explored, detailed and have a fulfilling read. This was definitely the case with Sole Support. Like her other characters from past books I’ve also loved, Kellen and Mike came across so honestly and so fleshed out. And though it helps to have a particularly long novel to read when you really like the story, as it was here, that isn’t the reason why I felt this way. This is a story about real life, real relationships and real issues, which make it both heartening to read and also at times heartbreaking. It’s rare for me to find a book where the characters have to deal with such issues, yet don’t delve into their own angst needlessly.
Part of the beauty of this story is how Kaje wrote Kellen’s mother, who suffers from advanced dementia. We witness her slow decline, which is utterly heartbreaking, but more upsetting to watch is the correlating decline of the caregiver, Kellen, and the issues he has to deal with. The issue is handled with care and with intense empathy, and it’s no surprise that Kaje dedicates this book to all caregivers.
I love slow romances, and I really fell in love with Kellen and in particular, Mike. I can’t help but recommend this book to everyone. It’s a perfect example of the writing talent of Kaje Harper and also an incredibly touching story. And though the characters go through some real turmoil, they come out in the end better people for it. I was carried along for the ride and in the end, it felt cathartic. I have no complaints. I forgot I was even reading this for review most of the time. I just enjoyed the story.
Sole Support will be available on June 4th from Samhain Publishing, and is available for preorder now.
Posted by Cole in 101-125k, 6 LOVE IT!, Authors G-I, Contemporary, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Romance, Sex Freq 4 - Very Often Tags: Commitment Phobia, Dementia / Alzheimer's, First Times, Kaje Harper, Nerds/Geeks, Samhain Publishing, Scientist, Second Chances, Slow Burn
Title: The Druid Stone (Layers of the Otherworld #1)
Author: Heidi Belleau & Violetta Vane
Publisher: Carina Press
Length: 117,000 words
Genre: m/m Alternate World Fantasy Paranormal
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Action/Adventure, Angst-alicious, Bisexual, Emotionally/Physically Damaded, Ex-lovers, Fae, Gfy/Ofy, Injured Character, Kidnapping/Abduction, Magic, Pets, Physical Abuse, Secrets & Lies, Series, Suspense, Time Travel
Rating: Not Feelin’ It
Reviewed by Nikyta
Sean never asked to be an O’Hara, and he didn’t ask to be cursed by one either.
After inheriting a hexed druid stone from his great-grandfather, Sean starts reliving another man’s torture and death…every single night. And only one person can help.
Cormac Kelly runs a paranormal investigation business and doesn’t have time to deal with misinformed tourists like Sean. But Sean has real magic in his pocket, and even though Cormac is a descendant of legendary druids, he soon finds himself out of his depth…and not because Sean’s the first man he’s felt anything for in a long time.
The pair develop an unexpected and intensely sexual bond, but are threatened at every turn when Sean’s case attracts the unwelcome attention of the mad sidhe lords of ancient Ireland. When Sean and Cormac are thrust backward in time to Ireland’s violent history–and their own dark pasts–they must work together to escape the curse and save their fragile relationship.
This story was… hard for me to get into. The world is extremely interesting. If I could rate on just that, I’d give this book five stars but I can’t because I struggled with other factors within the book.
What I liked is how desperate Sean was to stop reliving Cormac’s ex-lovers death. I also liked how shattered Cormac still is about his past. It made for some interesting conflicts between them. I also liked the chemistry they could have had together. Bits and pieces are shown but the full potential there wasn’t achieved, IMO. More than anything, I wished their relationship had been more developed because, while they might have had some attraction, I didn’t feel like there was any connection between them at all. In fact, I felt like there was always Cormac’s ex-lover that Cormac would put before anything else, including Sean, and I didn’t think that was fair to Sean, especially after everything he just did for Cormac.
As I said, the world is very interesting. It’s intriguing and captivating but I didn’t enjoy how it was handled. I was confused most of the time about what was going on. I couldn’t understand how Sean and Cormac would get into these situations, and while they were intense and interesting, it didn’t really make sense. This made reading the story difficult and I think what made the book also drag for me. I just really struggled with it. More than anything, though, the ending is what frustrates me. Sean and Cormac changed the past but nothing in the present changed. That made no sense to me at all. Also, while I found the ending very sweet, it came out of left field for me. Sean and Cormac love each other but I’m wondering how that development happened because I didn’t see it in the writing or the long journey they had together. I also really wished we got to see their time in D.C. because I felt like the ending was very abrupt in not showing that.
All in all, amazing world building but everything else I was just confused on. The events they go through and how they end up where they do, didn’t add up for me. I was confused on so many things that by the end, I was a bit disappointed by not only the journey they go on but the supposed love they’ve seemed to have developed off screen. Some people will really enjoy this one but, unfortunately, it missed its mark with me.
Posted by Nikyta in 101-125k, 2 Not Feelin' It, Alternate World, Authors A-C, Authors V-Z, Fantasy, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Paranormal, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: Action/Adventure, Angst-alicious, Bisexual, Carina, Emotionally/Physically Damaged, ex-lovers, Fae/Elves, GFY/OFY, Heidi Belleau, Injured Character, Kidnapping/Abduction, Layers of the Otherworld, Magic, Netgalley, Pets, Physical Abuse, Secrets & Lies, Series, Suspense, Time Travel, Violetta Vane