on m/m romance, baking, knitting, and occasional smut

Tag Archives: Action/Adventure

neilplacky_underthewaterfallTitle: Under the Waterfall (Have Body, Will Guard #5)
Author: Neil Plakcy
Publisher: Loose Id
Length: 80,618 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Mystery Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Action/Adventure, Bodyguards, Existing Relationship, ex-Military, Teachers, Coming Out/Closeted, Abduction/Kidnapping, France, Corsica, Family/Kids, Multiple Romances, Expat
Rating: Pretty Good

BLURB

As soon as they’re settled in their new home on the French Riviera, bodyguards Aidan and Liam are sent to the island of Corsica to protect a mining executive and his family. Though they’re still in love, and having lots of sex, the disruption, and the discovery that the client’s son is gay and in a touchy relationship, causes both bodyguards to question their skills and their commitment to each other. Can they engineer a happy ending for Michel and his boyfriend, while protecting the family from deadly adversaries?

REVIEW

What a wonderful surprise for me to find another Aidan and Liam book out! For some reason, I thought that after book four, Olives for the Stranger that the series was finished, so getting a new book and the possibility of even more after this (it sure seems like it) makes me so happy! Liam and Aidan are a couple that I’ve kept with since I read their first book Three Wrong Turns in the Desert several years ago. Each book is heavy on action/adventure and a serious dose of hot and heavy macho action. How could I not fall in love? Besides, I’ve always been drawn to Mr. Plakcy’s work. I really enjoy his style.

The fifth installment in this series diverges from the rest right at the start. Though we know Liam and Aiden well in Tunisia where they met and have previously worked as bodyguards, they moved at the end of the fourth book to France and are now living in Nice. Both of them think that they moved to primarily make the other happy, but the truth is that having less freedom is somewhat constricting to them both, because Liam doesn’t always like being told what to do and because Aidan usually does what he can to defer to his more senior partner and lover and because he generally ends up trying to please him anyway. This results in it’s own set of complications and when Liam and Aidan take on a new case in Corsica protecting a mine owner’s family from threats by Corsican nationalists to preserve the island from drilling, they both spend much of their time there working through their own issues about their relationship. Aidan wonders if he’s doomed to play the doormat when once again Liam takes the active role in their operation and Aidan feels that he’s undervalued. Liam is forced to confront his past when they find that the son in the family they’re protecting, Michel, is in the closet and secretly in love with his father’s biggest adversary’s son. It might be a classic star-crossed lovers tale with a bent twist, but the interactions between scared, closeted and teenaged Michel and his blithely criticizing father force him to confront his own feelings about his past and his development into his only real relationship — with Aidan. Liam has never considered himself as any kind of commodity, until recently mostly avoiding his sexuality except in the basest of situations, but their friend Louis makes a comment that shows him he just might be attractive to other men. That leads him to consider his relationship with Aidan and his feelings about sleeping with other men.

Their main issue in Corsica, nonetheless, is keeping their client’s safe, not angsting about the issues in their relationship.

This book (like the last one) was both an enjoyment to read and a bit of a disappointment. The pure adventure and excitement that I’m used to from the earlier plots in this series seem to have gone away. On the other hand, I think that Plakcy, better than most writers in the m/m romance genre anyway, seem to have a real knack for writing about the issues that crop up in long lasting relationships. They’re the everyday issues — communication, self-esteem in relationship to your partner, jealousy — and they’re handled responsibly. Sure they might cause a bit of angst, but I like the format of this series because the external adventure/mystery plot takes some of the focus away. The plot doesn’t need to be built on those internal relationship issues to carry the story, so those real-to-life relationship issues seem to carry the modest weight that is natural. Of course they’re important but they aren’t life or death issues that need to much focus. I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy a classic relationship-centric contemporary romance, but Aidan and Liam feel more real to me because while I might have to occasionally suspend disbelief at their gun-toting, crime-solving antics, the relationship at the center is down to earth and totally believable.

I remain a fan of this series. I probably always will be. But, I think I might need to shift my expectation of the future books. From here on, I’m going to look forward more to the relationship than the external plot. It might bring me some enjoyment, but so far the last few just haven’t been nearly as satisfying as the first ones. I will say that I found Liam and Aidan’s physical relationship in this book somewhat disappointing. I’m not sure why the author didn’t include much sex (hardly any!). One of the draws to this series for me has been the hot and heavy sex between these two men. Maybe the author is trying to shift the overall arc in another direction? Or, perhaps, the plot in this book just didn’t fit with the two getting hot and heavy. But I sure hope that when these two come back for book six that they’ll be getting it on in all kinds of weird places like they used to!


blackdogbluesTitle: Black Dog Blues (Kai Gracen #1)
Author: Rhys Ford
Publisher: Self Published (Coffee Squirrel Press)
Length: 92,479 words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Series, Urban Fantasy, Fae/Elves, Futuristic, Post-Apoc, California, Graphic Violence (and other…things), Blood & Gore, Dragons, Past Abuse, Action/Adventure, Unusual Creatures, Magic, Tattoos
Rating: Really Liked It

BLURB

Ever since he’d been part of the pot in a high-stakes poker game, elfin outcast Kai Gracen figured he’d used up any good karma he had when Dempsey, a human Stalker, won the hand and took him in. Following the violent merge of Earth and Underhill, the human and elfin races were left with a messy, monster-ridden world and Stalkers were often the only cavalry willing to ride to someone’s rescue when something shadowy and dark moved into the neighbourhood.

There certainly were no shortage of monsters or people stupidly willing to become lunch for one.

It was a hard life but one Kai liked. And he was good at it. Killing monsters was easy. Especially since he was one himself.

After an accident retired Dempsey out, Kai set up permanent shop in San Diego, contracting out to the local SoCalGov depot. It was a decent life, filled with bounty, a few friends and most importantly, no other elfin around to remind him he wasn’t really human.

That was until a sidhe lord named Ryder arrives in San Diego and Kai is conscripted to do a job for Ryder’s fledgling Dawn Court. It was supposed to a simple run; head up the coast during dragon-mating season to retrieve a pregnant human woman seeking sanctuary with the new Court then back to San Diego. Easy, quick and best of all, profitable. But Ryder’s “simple” run leads to massive trouble and Kai ends up being caught in the middle of a deadly bloodline feud he has no hope of escaping.

No one ever got rich by being a Stalker. But then hardly any of them got old either. The way things were looking, it didn’t look like Kai was going to be the exception.

REVIEW

Pretty much all of you who read my reviews know that for the most part I’m rather reluctant to read anything angsty or intense. My tastes change and fluctuate of course, but for the last year to year and a half I’ve mostly left those alone. So somehow, I suppose because at the time I didn’t really know Rhys Ford’s writing all that well, I got into her writing even though she really flirts with the edge for me at times, no matter how much I end up liking the books. It takes me a bit of mental cheerleading to work myself into the frame of mind to start her books, and really it’s mostly the anticipation; fearing that the book will get too intense for me is more than half the battle, because I usually don’t mind as much once I start reading. But now that I know I’ll read anything by this author, it still means that I’m nervous starting her books. I was actually most excited about this one, mostly because I was really interested to see how she’d deal with urban fantasy when most of her writing that I’m familiar with are contemporary mysteries. And once I started, I was immediately sucked into it. Even though it was in many parts intense — it was just a different kind of intensity than I expected.

Kai Gracen is an anomaly among the lower denizens of San Diego. Taken in by Dempsey when only a feral elfin boy, the grizzled and uncouth hunter raised Kai in his shadow, among the human hunters of the black dogs, the spawn of the unsidhe that threaten the human population and whose hides earn money from the government. After a war between humans and the elfin races (both sidhe and unsidhe), the land is split between areas for each race to inhabit, with land specifically designated for the elfin to set up their courts. It also left the world full of monsters and beasties like the black dogs, making travel between those areas often difficult and dangerous.

As a hunter, Kai is skilled and extremely knowledgable about the area, which is why he’s called into the local government depot (where he gets paid for his kills) to take a non-negotiable contract to ferry a new elfin lord up the coast during dragon mating season. The run through Pendle is dangerous even without the complications that the sidhe lord brings, the first being their passenger on return. Ryder, the sidhe lord, is new to San Diego, setting up a new court (the Dawn Court). He needs to retrieve a pregnant human from the sidhe city in Los Angeles and needs Kai to take him, serving as guide and bodyguard.

This book drew me immediately in. It feels… literally jam-packed with action and plot. It’s almost as if there’s no stopping. And after reading the book and then seeing that it’s only just shy of 100k words. Honestly, I felt as if I’d read twice that. There’s so much to this story, starting with the world and the characters. This book does well as the first of a new series to set up the world, but so much of it is in great detail. It is rather smartly done, too. We don’t need a history lesson, because while we don’t really know how the war between the humans and elfin came about or how it played out, it’s fairly self-explanatory by how the world is set up. Both races have their positive and negative qualities, and Kai is uniquely placed to give us perspective on both of them, while having his own unique one about where the two races collide. Over the course of the book we learn quite a bit about his history, which is fairly graphic in detail but shows the evil and the good in the world. And also, there is so much world, plot, characterization that this story really can’t have it all. The romance is really non-existent in this book, except in the sense as a prelude to future stories and in the building of the relationship between Kai and Ryder. But I appreciated that there wasn’t a rush and that Rhys Ford didn’t (perhaps) bow to pressure to include it too early.

I’ve gone the route of deciding to urge you to read this yourself rather than really dig in and explore the book in my review. I would actually love to do that, but there’s honestly just way too much to talk about. And I was really surprised by how well balanced all of that was. I felt like Rhys showed quite a bit of restraint in parts of the book, which makes me eager to see what she’ll write for the sequel… there’s just so much more story left to tell.

I will say that if you might be squeamish about blood and gore this might be a difficult read for you. I was expecting more emotionally intense writing than what I got, but I didn’t expect so many physically intense scenes. There’s one scene that made even me sick to my stomach (which… I don’t know that that has ever happened to me actually), where… Well, all I’ll say is that Kai gets something really nasty in his mouth. And the blood and gore was a few times almost comical, like a Tarantino movie. I really enjoyed that part of it, though some people really might not.

But, in all, this was a really fantastic read. While I applaud the author’s decision to take the romance slow (which is really needed because of Kai’s emotional growth throughout the book), I would have liked maybe a bit more connection between him and Ryder before the ending of the book. It got there, sortof, before the end, but for a book that for most of reading it I wasn’t sure if it even was going to develop into a romance, I wanted a bit more assurance of the direction their relationship was moving in before we left them for a year or however long it takes before the sequel is ready to read.

Beautifully and smartly written. And, I think, one of the best books so far this year. Definitely recommended!


Here’s a Repost of my review of Spirit Sanguine
Orignally posted on May 6, 2013

All New Review for Late Night Snack below!

SpiritSanguine72lgTitle: Spirit Sanguine
Author: Lou Harper
Publisher: Samhain
Length: 74,562 words
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Vampires, Vampire Hunters, Veg/Vegan Vamps, Mystery, Action/Adventure, X-Dressing!, Chicago, Diverse Couple, Funny Guys, Las Vegas, Private Investigators, Roleplay
Rating: LOVED It!

BLURB

Is that a wooden stake in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

After five years in eastern Europe using his unique, inborn skills to slay bloodsuckers, Gabe is back in his hometown Chicago and feeling adrift. Until he’s kidnapped by a young, sexy vampire who seems more interested in getting into his pants than biting into his neck.

Harvey Feng is one-half Chinese, one-hundred-percent vampire. He warns Gabe to stay out of the Windy City, but somehow he isn’t surprised when the young slayer winds up on his doorstep. And why shouldn’t Gabe be curious? A vegetarian vampire isn’t something one sees every day.

Against their better judgment, slayer and vampire succumb to temptation. But their affair attracts unexpected attention.

When Chicago’s Vampire Boss makes Gabe an offer he can’t refuse, the unlikely lovers are thrust into peril and mystery in the dark heart of the Windy City. Together they hunt for kidnappers, a killer preying on young humans, and vicious vampire junkies.

However, dealing with murderous humans and vampires alike is easy compared to figuring out if there’s more to their relationship than hot, kinky sex.

Product Warnings
Fangalicious man-on-man action, a troublesome twink, cross-dressing vampiress, and role-playing involving a fedora.

REVIEW

I hadn’t planned on giving this book a proper review, but when Sunday rolled around and I was still thinking about this book, so I decided that it really needed one. For some reason, and I sincerely hope that this is just my 2D, rather limited view of the m/m romance reading community, this book hasn’t seemed to have had a real splash yet. And that’s a damn shame. Here’s what I said on Goodreads immediately after I finished the book Satuday:

This has the most eclectic mix of tags I’ve ever given a book. Surprisingly, they all went together! And even more, it kinda represents this book, which is a bit of a hodge-podge of different quirks and ideas, even plotting and pacing which I found rather refreshing. Definitely not typical vampire fare!

Now, the tags here are pretty much similar to the ones on Goodreads, but since I can more easily edit and add tags here at the blog, they of course have a bit more flair 😉 I have to admit that I’ve fallen into a bit of a pattern in my mismanagement of my m/m reading, where many of the most exciting releases seem to slip through the net (there are many factors, though it still makes me a dolt) mostly because of reviewing duties, but Lou Harper is perhaps one on the top of the list of those stellar authors that I haven’t given their due. Perhaps I should do a backlist read. Anyway, this book wasn’t just well written, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable read, for many reasons I’ll talk about later. But that brings me to another point. Another byproduct of my reviewing duties is that I tend to analyze first rather than enjoy the book first, and having not originally slated Spirit Sanguine as a review book and (imagine this!) actually making myself sit down and read a book for pleasure instead of work on reviews I should be getting up to date, meant that this one just slipped right through and knocked me flat. I didn’t really have to think about an analysis of the book, of styles and pacing and plot and characterizations, but… I just enjoyed it. It was a refreshing read, and not something I was expecting from the vampire angle.

Lou has an interesting take on her book up on her review on Goodreads, which you can read here. In it, she says:

Bloodsuckers are everywhere; you can’t walk down a dark alley without a couple of them jumping out and accosting you with their dark and broody eyes. They do that a lot–mope and sulk. That’s what got to me, all the melodrama. I mean, they are practically immortal, don’t get sick, grow old, don’t need to watch their weight or work out. What the hell do they have to bellyache about?

(That’s the truth.)

And that’s the point. In a sub-genre where melodrama rules and/or kinky vampire sex clubs are the forte, humor takes precedent here, brought forth by the vivacious and quirky Harvey (I love the name, and not just the Feng/Fang part, the fact that her vampire is named Harvey), who isn’t really like any other of his kind. In actuality, I’d rather not go into characterization here, because I’d rather not cut him into pieces to analyze him. He’s best enjoyed as it’s written… plus, you’ll find plenty in other reviews, I’m sure. The same goes for Gabe, who is perhaps the undervalued of the pair, though it’s important that he’s the lens we see the world through, and even more in which we see Harvey through. His understanding of and feelings for Harvey are how we understand him best, in reflection.

What was really refreshing about this book for me was also in a second part — the style, which is reflected in pacing but also the plot. Both were atypical in that they don’t follow the usual structure. Broken into three parts, each concentrates on a different aspect of the story while they, in succession, follow a continual arc. Some readers might find this off-putting. I’m not really sure. I quite enjoyed it. Because while the first is a typical setup to the story and introduces the relationship between Gabe and Harvey, the second and third both have a somewhat separate plot, though they’re tied together. But you do get the feeling, between the transition between Parts 2 and 3, that there’s a bit of a jog. And consequently, you’ll find two climaxes (one at the end of each part) around the 55% mark and the end of the book.

Nikyta noticed this as well and made a remark to me about it (in our many back and forth book gabbing emails) and probably described it better than I did, asking if I had noticed authors using this style more lately, the (in her words) “multiple mini stories in one book of the same couple” style. We both automatically thought of Megan Derr, who sometimes writes in a similar though pretty different style from what I’m describing in Spirit Sanguine. Perhaps it’s that Gabe and Harvey really only have two distinct adventures and Megan Derr often writes books that are split between the many adventures one couple has, a sort of extended vignette style. Nik thought that maybe it was a style that was becoming more popular. I’m not sure, but suffice to say that it is something that we’ve both enjoyed. And definitely something that I found made Lou Harper’s book infinitely more original — though, of course, anything with a vampire named Harvey Feng could hardly be called conventional.

Read the book. And please enjoy it!

latenightsnackcoverTitle: Late Night Snack (Sanguine #1.5)
Author: Lou Harper
Publisher: Self Published (Harper Books)
Length: 5k words
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Lou Harper Week!, Sequel, Short Story, Free Reads, Vampires, Vampire Hunters, Vegan/Vegetarian Vamps, Chicago, Mystery, X-Dressing, Roleplay, Playful Sex, Funny Men, Established Couple, Private Detective
Rating: Pretty Good

BLURB

Sometimes life takes strange turns. Gabe is a slayer but his lover is a vampire. And so is his boss. When Gabe is tasked with capturing a delinquent blood sucker, he’s determined to succeed, even if it means posing as bait. There is only one problem: Harvey, his possessive boyfriend, might ruin everything.

Warning: hot fang-on-man action, role-playing, and one pissed off vampire.

REVIEW

This is really a good story to read either before or after reading Spirit Sanguine. For the most part things are explained about their relationship and the story stands alone enough for this to be a good intro for those interested in reading that book and about Gabe and Harvey. Of course, I think it’s great to read after reading Spirit Sanguine, especially as I have — a few months later. It’s a really nice reminder of the couple and the fun I had reading that book and getting to know Harvey and Gabe. There is a short little mystery case that Gabe takes on from his boss, but mostly this works well as a reunion-type story, where you just want to spend a little more time with the main couple. Nothing really progresses in their story, but you get to re-familiarize yourself with the two.

The story is centered around a rogue vampire and Gabe’s job (down from on high, Augustine the head vampire of Chicago and Gabe’s boss) to find the guy, or girl of course. Two humans have turned up as newly-minted vampires, turned against their will. And conveniently for Gabe, or mostly Augustine, both were vegetarians. As Harvey always says, ‘Vegetarians really do taste better,’ and Gabe, who has recently stopped eating meat because of Harvey’s vegan vampire propensities, is neatly lined up as bait.

Of course, Harvey doesn’t want to go along with this. And no matter what Harvey tells Gabe and how much Gabe tries to pretend that Harvey will actually do what anyone else tells him, Harvey shows up to the club in full regalia to assist as only he can, so the two can take the rogue down together. They do work better as a couple, after all.

As I said before, anyone who really liked Spirit Sanguine will naturally want to read this. It’s free, so why not? But, I think that it would be fine for those who might not be sure if they want to read the novel to read this first and see if they like the couple. I don’t see how you couldn’t, they’re one of my favorites!


KMcM_InHotPursuit_coverlgTitle: In Hot Pursuit
Author: Kate McMurray
Publisher: Loose Id
Length: 59,095 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Mystery Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Sex to Story
Keywords/Tags: Kate McMurray Week!, Cops, Closeted, Action/Adventure, On Vacation, Crime/Mob, Kidnapping, Drugs, Grieving Partner, Florida, NYC, Awesome Female Characters!
Rating: Pretty Good

BLURB

Hard-working NYPD cop Noah Tobin didn’t even want to go on vacation. But it’s been a tough eighteen months since the death of his lover, so he’s determined to make the most of it. On his first night in sunny Florida, a chance encounter with a handsome man in a bar bathroom jumpstarts something in Noah that’s been dormant for all those months. Then the man disappears.

Noah’s vacation is thrown into upheaval because he can’t just let it go when he learns that the mysterious man who turned his life upside down went missing. He volunteers to help with the manhunt for his mystery man, a wealthy restaurateur named Harrison Knowles. But finding Harry is only the beginning of Noah’s hot pursuit.

REVIEW

If I’m correct, this book is Kate McMurray’s first published novel. At least, from her Goodreads info and a quick look. It does list her short “In December My Heart’s Full of Spring” as being released first but, as it is available now for free, I’m not sure if it was ever published or not. Anyway, the whole reason for that is that I always find it rather interesting to go back and read an author’s first published book when they’re more well established. Sometimes you find that you hate it and you don’t really understand how an author ever turned their writing around, and sometimes you find that the quality was always there. I think I found this somewhere in between, which is the best place for it now in retrospect, if you ask me. It means that at least in my opinion, Kate’s writing has gotten better and her stories more interesting and dynamic with practice, showing growth and not a plateau in talent.

So, naturally, that means that while I liked this book and found it an engaging read it didn’t really wow me. But, in knowing that I was going back to read an author’s first book, an author I find myself quite fond of, an interesting thing happened. I biased my own expectations and ended up liking the book more than I thought I would. It’s a bit like when I finally ended up watching the Sixth Sense and thought, huh? I had heard too many praises. Only the opposite was what happened here. And that’s a good thing to happen for me, as the reader 🙂

In part, this is a mystery and a contemporary romance, those two things here being somewhat different. The framework of the story is wrapped up in the mystery, how just after NYPD cop Noah meets a cute guy named Harry in a bar while on vacation in Florida, he sees on the news that Harry has gone missing and is pulled into the investigation as the last man who saw him. But the filling in between that framework is much like a contemporary romance. When Harry comes stumbling out of the forest beat up and running from his captors, the two are reintroduced and Noah is set to bodyguard duty until they can figure out just who was wanting to kill Harry and why. That’s the real meat of the story.

And honestly, I found myself wishing that there were a bit more synergy between those two elements. The story easily moves between action, with the two dodging a hail of bullets to quiet downtime in their safe room at a resort getting to know each other and Noah slowly opening up about his past traumas. The problem for me was that at times these two things seemed to get a bit out of proportion, with those moments together taking precedent and leaving the mystery behind to pick up later. And the problem there is that the story, at times, seemed to lose momentum.

In all, this was a really fun book to read. It’s mostly light and easy to read, but the action kicks it up a notch to make it more exciting. And it’s easily satisfying, ending in a solid, feel-good HEA. It’s not a bad book to take with you on vacation, which I suppose is apropos 😉 And at the very least, if you find yourself a fan of Kate McMurray and having not yet read this book, then it’s always interesting to go back and see where an author started.

Kate’s new book, Save the Date, is out tomorrow along with my review!


SpiritSanguine72lgTitle: Spirit Sanguine
Author: Lou Harper
Publisher: Samhain
Length: 74,562 words
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Vampires, Vampire Hunters, Veg/Vegan Vamps, Mystery, Action/Adventure, X-Dressing!, Chicago, Diverse Couple, Funny Guys, Las Vegas, Private Investigators, Roleplay
Rating: LOVED It!

BLURB

Is that a wooden stake in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

After five years in eastern Europe using his unique, inborn skills to slay bloodsuckers, Gabe is back in his hometown Chicago and feeling adrift. Until he’s kidnapped by a young, sexy vampire who seems more interested in getting into his pants than biting into his neck.

Harvey Feng is one-half Chinese, one-hundred-percent vampire. He warns Gabe to stay out of the Windy City, but somehow he isn’t surprised when the young slayer winds up on his doorstep. And why shouldn’t Gabe be curious? A vegetarian vampire isn’t something one sees every day.

Against their better judgment, slayer and vampire succumb to temptation. But their affair attracts unexpected attention.

When Chicago’s Vampire Boss makes Gabe an offer he can’t refuse, the unlikely lovers are thrust into peril and mystery in the dark heart of the Windy City. Together they hunt for kidnappers, a killer preying on young humans, and vicious vampire junkies.

However, dealing with murderous humans and vampires alike is easy compared to figuring out if there’s more to their relationship than hot, kinky sex.

Product Warnings
Fangalicious man-on-man action, a troublesome twink, cross-dressing vampiress, and role-playing involving a fedora.

REVIEW

I hadn’t planned on giving this book a proper review, but when Sunday rolled around and I was still thinking about this book, so I decided that it really needed one. For some reason, and I sincerely hope that this is just my 2D, rather limited view of the m/m romance reading community, this book hasn’t seemed to have had a real splash yet. And that’s a damn shame. Here’s what I said on Goodreads immediately after I finished the book Satuday:

This has the most eclectic mix of tags I’ve ever given a book. Surprisingly, they all went together! And even more, it kinda represents this book, which is a bit of a hodge-podge of different quirks and ideas, even plotting and pacing which I found rather refreshing. Definitely not typical vampire fare!

Now, the tags here are pretty much similar to the ones on Goodreads, but since I can more easily edit and add tags here at the blog, they of course have a bit more flair 😉 I have to admit that I’ve fallen into a bit of a pattern in my mismanagement of my m/m reading, where many of the most exciting releases seem to slip through the net (there are many factors, though it still makes me a dolt) mostly because of reviewing duties, but Lou Harper is perhaps one on the top of the list of those stellar authors that I haven’t given their due. Perhaps I should do a backlist read. Anyway, this book wasn’t just well written, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable read, for many reasons I’ll talk about later. But that brings me to another point. Another byproduct of my reviewing duties is that I tend to analyze first rather than enjoy the book first, and having not originally slated Spirit Sanguine as a review book and (imagine this!) actually making myself sit down and read a book for pleasure instead of work on reviews I should be getting up to date, meant that this one just slipped right through and knocked me flat. I didn’t really have to think about an analysis of the book, of styles and pacing and plot and characterizations, but… I just enjoyed it. It was a refreshing read, and not something I was expecting from the vampire angle.

Lou has an interesting take on her book up on her review on Goodreads, which you can read here. In it, she says:

Bloodsuckers are everywhere; you can’t walk down a dark alley without a couple of them jumping out and accosting you with their dark and broody eyes. They do that a lot–mope and sulk. That’s what got to me, all the melodrama. I mean, they are practically immortal, don’t get sick, grow old, don’t need to watch their weight or work out. What the hell do they have to bellyache about?

(That’s the truth.)

And that’s the point. In a sub-genre where melodrama rules and/or kinky vampire sex clubs are the forte, humor takes precedent here, brought forth by the vivacious and quirky Harvey (I love the name, and not just the Feng/Fang part, the fact that her vampire is named Harvey), who isn’t really like any other of his kind. In actuality, I’d rather not go into characterization here, because I’d rather not cut him into pieces to analyze him. He’s best enjoyed as it’s written… plus, you’ll find plenty in other reviews, I’m sure. The same goes for Gabe, who is perhaps the undervalued of the pair, though it’s important that he’s the lens we see the world through, and even more in which we see Harvey through. His understanding of and feelings for Harvey are how we understand him best, in reflection.

What was really refreshing about this book for me was also in a second part — the style, which is reflected in pacing but also the plot. Both were atypical in that they don’t follow the usual structure. Broken into three parts, each concentrates on a different aspect of the story while they, in succession, follow a continual arc. Some readers might find this off-putting. I’m not really sure. I quite enjoyed it. Because while the first is a typical setup to the story and introduces the relationship between Gabe and Harvey, the second and third both have a somewhat separate plot, though they’re tied together. But you do get the feeling, between the transition between Parts 2 and 3, that there’s a bit of a jog. And consequently, you’ll find two climaxes (one at the end of each part) around the 55% mark and the end of the book.

Nikyta noticed this as well and made a remark to me about it (in our many back and forth book gabbing emails) and probably described it better than I did, asking if I had noticed authors using this style more lately, the (in her words) “multiple mini stories in one book of the same couple” style. We both automatically thought of Megan Derr, who sometimes writes in a similar though pretty different style from what I’m describing in Spirit Sanguine. Perhaps it’s that Gabe and Harvey really only have two distinct adventures and Megan Derr often writes books that are split between the many adventures one couple has, a sort of extended vignette style. Nik thought that maybe it was a style that was becoming more popular. I’m not sure, but suffice to say that it is something that we’ve both enjoyed. And definitely something that I found made Lou Harper’s book infinitely more original — though, of course, anything with a vampire named Harvey Feng could hardly be called conventional.

Read the book. And please enjoy it!


The Druid StoneTitle: 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

BLURB

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.

REVIEW

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.