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Tag Archives: Aliens

Agamemnon Frost and the House of Death (Agamemnon Frost #1) - Kim KnoxTitle: Agamemnon Frost and the House of Death (Agamemnon Frost #1)
Author: Kim Knox
Publisher: Carina
Length: 26k words
Genre: m/m Steampunk Romance
Heat: 2 – Tame
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Series, Netgalley, Alternate World Historical, Aliens, 1890s, Victorian, England, ex-Military, Class Differences
Rating: So So

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Liverpool, 1891

Decorated artilleryman Edgar Mason was forced to find new work when the British Empire replaced its foot soldiers with monstrous machines. Now he waits on the Liverpool elite as a personal servant. He has just one rule: he won’t work for fashion-addled dandies.

Agamemnon Frost, however, is far from the foppish man-about-town he appears to be. He’s working to protect the Earth from an alien invasion being planned by a face-changing creature known as Pandarus. And on the night he plans to confront the aliens, he enlists Mason to assist him.

For a man to love a man is a serious crime in Victorian England. But when Mason meets Frost, his heart thunders and his blood catches fire. And when Pandarus drags the two men into the torture cellars beneath his house of death to brainwash them, Mason’s new passion may be all that stands between him and insanity.

REVIEW

This is certainly of a different pace than what I’ve been reading lately, and if you consider the steampunk nature of the story, then certainly different from what I usually read. In a way, I found that refreshing. On the other hand, this is such a short first part of a trilogy, that if it holds to a similar word count pattern as the first two, will only (in all) add up to around 75k words. I had a bit of a difficult time getting into the rhythm of the prose and piecing together the confusing details. And once I did, the story ended just as it was coming together.

Mason has given ten years to the army, marching through Afghanistan and India, only to return to England with so many of his other comrades that it is difficult to find a job. Sent to an estate to be the valet for one of the home’s guests for the night is work — so he’ll take it — even though it isn’t permanent and he’s warned right away that Agamemnon Frost is a bit, er.. peculiar.

In Agamemnon Frost, Mason finds a clear candidate for a mental hospital, yet at the same time a curious intelligence and the spark of a different personality under his foppish exterior. What at first seems to be a typical dandy, Mason soon sees a man underneath using that exterior in a game of sorts, though Frost’s make believe players don’t offer him much trust. But if it is a game that Mr. Frost wants to play, it is only his job for one night — though the undercurrents may promise he serve the magnanimous personality in another way.

That still may come to pass when Mason quite quickly realizes that the stakes in the game are real and that the world has he knew it has been ripped away from him completely. Suddenly he doesn’t understand anything of what is happening save that he’s on the run from aliens. And later, that he’s being pulled in both directions, with only Agamemnon Frost as his anchor to reality.

The official blurb gives you quite a bit more information that my summary did, but I like to think that my summary gives a bit more of the confusion that I felt. The thing is, it’s not terribly confusing, it’s just that when the story does finally start to come together and you finally put more of the pieces together about who is what and the myriad of different creatures there really are, the story ends. I was finally ready to settle into the story only to be ripped out again. So my rating of So So really has to do with the way this story is separated into a trilogy. If I had been able to read the second one right after the first, I might have been more into the story. The writing itself is fresh and inventive pulling humor through the social mores of Victorian England, as if Mason and Frost are at once playing their game of same sex attraction amid an outdated structure, but at the same time poking fun at the grander scheme, the aliens in their midst. The writing showcases that fun through lots of little detail like their body chemistry amid something as simple and yet sexually charged as bathing or shaving.

So, for the most part, I’ll save my feelings about this story until I read the next and can get a better picture of the story as a whole. I’m certainly intrigued to find out what is next for Achilles and Patrocles 😉


outcast185Title: Outcast
Author: Alex Douglas
Publisher: Torquere Press
Length: 63k words
Genre: m/m Scifi Romance (sorta)
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often
Keywords/Tags: Alcoholics, Aliens, Bisexual, Co-Workers, Emotionally Damaged, Interspecies, Mate Bonding, Mercs, Otherworld, Past Abuse, Physical Injury/Trauma, Psychic/Empaths, Secrets & Lies, Space Travel, Tentacle Sex, Yearning
Rating: Pretty Good

Reviewed by Nikyta

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Prez has been in the arms – or tentacles – of one too many brothel workers in his time. The memory of long-lost love is all he has, and it’s not enough. But no one in the Belaar-Andra system wants an alien half-breed for a partner, so life is as good as it can be. He’s making money, he’s going places, he’s got friends and a spaceship he loves – a decrepit cargo ship named Outcast. And now he’s got a new co-pilot, from the remote world of Aldor. Lan’s mysterious and doesn’t say a lot, but as they get to know each other, Prez starts to feel something he hasn’t felt in a long time – hope.

But the past hasn’t quite released him, and the Outcast isn’t done yet. On its final mission to deliver a mysterious cargo for the Belaari government, long-buried secrets start to stir. When his old co-pilot – and best friend – is finally himself again, Prez has a difficult decision to make, but Lan has other ideas about his own destiny. A rich man at last, can Prez finally get the things he really wants?

REVIEW

Prez is the captain of the cargo ship Outcast and in desperate need of a new co-pilot since his old one becomes temporarily unavailable. Lan from Aldor answers his prayers but while Prez is considered a freak even among all the aliens, Lan is the one with the mysterious heritage. When Prez gets a contract to deliver some secret cargo, Prez thinks he’s finally made it big. What none of them expected was for the cargo to cause a lot of problems for not just Prez but for Lan, as well.

The world this author painted was a fascinating thing. I loved the variety species, planets and how they were all different and unique. I gobbled that up because it was such an integral part to the story in relation to who and what Prez was but also because it was interesting to see how Prez was treated just because of what he was. I loved Prez most of the time because of his quirky sense of humor but Lan was probably my favorite. He’s like a robot almost that doesn’t understand Prez and the others but eventually finds not only friends in them but a home with them. I loved how different Lan was but I really wished there had been more focus on him and his world! More than that, Lan’s situation broke my heart. He was so confused at times and had to handle things on his own but the eventual outcome of his situation had me so sad, I almost cried! And, no, I won’t spoiler you on that!

While I loved the story and the world, I can’t deny that I got annoyed over the sex with other characters outside the MCs. Generally, I don’t like this but sometimes I can see the merit of it. In this case, there were more sex scenes between Prez and others from brothels than there was between Prez and Lan. Not only that but I didn’t feel the connection between Prez and Lan. There weren’t many feelings of love, admiration or even lust between them until the very, very end. Granted, Lan is asexual BUT I took offense to the fact that Prez was his mate yet some unknown princess took Lan’s virginity after Lan realizes his connection to Prez. It annoyed me more than anything else in the book did. With that said, there still wasn’t any middle ground between their friendship during the whole book to all of a sudden this love they have for each other by the end. It was confusing and didn’t feel like it fit with the story. Beyond that, some aspects of the world were confusing because the words were either not explained or some scenes that I felt like were vital were glossed over.

All in all, I felt like there was too much focus on others and their sex together but not enough on the actual couple, which really hindered the story. However, the journey Prez, Lan and their friends go on was a great adventure. I loved the universe and the unique species the author created because it made for not only a fun and enjoyable ride but for some funny moments as well. For those sci-fi fans out there, give this one a try because it does have a great setting.


privatedicks400x600Title: Private Dicks: Undercovers
Editors: Samantha M Derr
Authors: Siobhan Crosslin, K-Lee Klein, Holly Rinna-White, Alison Bailey, Megan Derr, EE Ottoman, Isabella Carter & Sasha L Miller
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 135k words
Genre: m/m + m/m/m Mystery Romance
Keywords/Tags: Anthology, Short Stories, Private Investigators, Undercover
Rating: Pretty Good

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Temper by Siobhan Crosslin—Reese hates deception, but that’s all his life has been since he was sent to investigate a wolf pack on clashing sets of orders. Keeping his lies separated is all that’s keeping him alive, and it’s a job that grows harder by the day—especially with the unexpected complications of the alpha he’s investigating.

The PI and the Rockstar by K-lee Klein—Mason is a detective. He’s not flashy or hip and he doesn’t have an office conducive to entertaining wealthy clients. But when made-of-money Durango and his gum-snapping daughter hire him to do surveillance on a popular rockstar named Jade Jonathan Lee, Mason’s business world collides with his personal life, and the result is a mystery that must be solved.

Glamour by Holly Rinna-White—When his little brother is kidnapped, Jason hires Eric, PI and long-time crush, to find him, terrified of what will happen if people learn his brother is unregistered psychic. But when Jason is kidnapped as well, he learns he and his brother are not the only ones keeping secrets.

The Virginia Gentleman by Alison Bailey—When the Virginia Gentleman rides into town, it’s a sure bet that trouble ain’t far behind. He’s quick on the draw, feared by all, and one sad little group of train robbers is about to find out why it’s never wise to bet on trouble.

The Royal Inquisitor by Megan Derr—Esmour is one the best Inquisitors in the kingdom, but the penance bracelets on his wrists serve as constant reminder that once he was not a master of deception, but a victim. To solve his latest case, he must work alongside the liar who changed his life, and the love he learned too late was never real.

Regarding the Detective’s Companion by E.E. Ottoman—Jamie is desperate: he has no money, rent is coming due, and if he doesn’t do something soon he’ll be forced back into a life of charity and pity. So when he is brought a case, Jamie takes it—even if it will mean lying to his client, manipulating the suspect and propelling himself into the middle of a plot involving murder and political intrigue.

The Demon Bride by Isabella Carter—One dead body left at the door is more than enough, but after three are left on the stoop of his father’s agency and no one else is willing to investigate, Quinton decides he’ll just have to solve the mystery himself.

Too Dangerous by Sasha L. Miller—Shi is good at what he does, no matter what his stupid ex thought. Danger comes with the territory, especially when that territory includes a special license to do select work for the government. But when the government needs him to fix something that defeated even their most elite, Shi learns that some situations are too much even for him.

REVIEW

I’ve been sitting on this anthology for a while, but if there’s anything that I know about anthologies from Less Than Three Press, it’s that they’re usually some of my favorites, it not my overall favorites from a specific publisher. So I was excited to read it and I found several stories within that I really liked.

Once again, as with the LT3 anthology I reviewed earlier this week (Something Happened on the Way to Heavenreviewed here), I was delighted with the diversity in the stories presented. Each story deals with a Private Investigator and a mystery, but the stories cross all genres, from Paranormal to Steampunk to Science Fiction, Contemporary and Western. I really enjoyed the steampunk story, “Regarding the Detective’s Companion” by EE Ottoman. Even though it isn’t the best story in the anthology, I really liked the characters, the mystery and the world. Having a steampunk world was also nice because there are so few m/m steampunk stories. The first story is one of my favorites. With a very distinctive style, Siobhan Crosslin takes us into an extreme werewolf society with some really fine writing.

So, look below and I’ll give you a bit about each story. The reviews will be shorter than usual, because this was a longer anthology, but the tags and info about each story will give you quite a bit about what each one has to offer 🙂


Temper by Siobhan Crosslin (Pretty Good)
Genre: m/m Paranormal Mystery Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Shifters (Wolves & Dragons), Mate Bonding, Enforcer/Thug, Violence, Undercover

Siobhan Crosslin takes us into a highly segregated world of the different paranormal races. Werewolves form highly structured packs, and Reese has been sent by his alpha to investigate an alpha of a different pack. He infiltrates them easily. Reese was raised and groomed into a killing machine and his loyalties are clouded by his feelings for each alpha — his fear of the old one and his shifting loyalty to the new one, the one he’s lying to, and the one he’s falling in love with.

This one ended up being on the high end of Pretty Good for me, almost Really Liked It. In fact, for most of the story I really, really liked it. Most of all, I loved the writing style. The story thrusts you into the lies and deception from a point of view that is compromised, confused and unable to accurately bring the reader up to speed about what is actually going on and who is who. I admired that and fell into the story, excited by the challenging point of view. It soon grew to be tedious, however, and I ended the story upset that I never really learned much about the world or the people. I had hoped that the writing I loved so much was just being choosy about how to impart information to the reader, but what was held back never came to light.

I’ve since read the sequel to this story (Weld), or rather another story by this author, not a direct serial but also in this world. I ended up liking that one even less, because it carried on with this same writing style, but at an even higher degree, which made for an unpleasant read, unfortunately.


The PI and the Rockstar by K-Lee Klein (So So)
Genre: m/m Contemporary Mystery Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Rockers, Private Investigators, Piercings!, Sexy to the 999s, Closeted

Mason is a private investigator with a rather famous boyfriend. Though that’s all on the hush hush. Of course, that secret means that when a teenage client and her father come into his office asking him to find a musician that got the girl pregnant and then ditched her, he can’t tell them that the man they’re trying to frame is, in fact his boyfriend, the lead singer of a popular rock group. So what is the girl really up to? And how will the added level of duplicity affect Mason’s relationship with Jade?

This was an okay story for me. I was a bit sad that there weren’t any surprises for me — as soon as the girl came in with her father and explained “what happened” with the rockstar, I had a feeling I knew what was going to happen. Sadly, I was right. Add to that the fact that I never really felt like I got to know the characters well, made this story just a So So read for me.


Glamour by Holly Rinna-White (Pretty Good)
Genre: m/m Science Fiction, Paranormal, Mystery Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Brothers, Undercover, Private Investigator, Psychic, Aliens, Kidnapping

Most of my enjoyment of this story came from the world, which I found rather interesting. Jason and his brother are both unregistered psychics, in a world where those with abilities have to come forward to be assessed by the government. While Jason has mild precognition, his little brother is a different case, with a powerful precognitive sight that puts them all in danger. When Jason’s little brother is psychic, he must go to the man he’s had a crush on for months. Eric is a private investigator with secrets of his own, the least of which is that he’s as interested in Jason as Jason is in him. Searching for the men who kidnapped Jason’s brother, and then trying to rescue Jason himself when the fool rushes in to save his brother, brings both of them closer together.


The Virginia Gentleman by Alison Bailey (So So)
Genre: m/m Western Historical Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Undercover, Cowboys, Thieves, Kidnapping, Private Investigator

I admit, I had a little trouble with this one. I read half of it, finished the anthology then came back and re-read this story. I enjoy westerns, but most westerns in m/m romance are simply contemporary cowboy stories, and this story harkens to a much more authentic historical Old West. The story moved a little too slow for me, but that is all personal preference — the pace suits the plot and sub-genre.

While a man is searching for a boy that was taken years ago as a child, the Virginia Gentleman is looking for some helping hands for a train robbery. Finding the boy and his ogre of a keeper, as well as a man looking to score money to settle with his fiancee, the Virginia Gentlemen leads them across the west to a planned heist of a princess’ carriage. Along the way the VG gets to know the young boy, now a young man but shy and quiet and scared, all while holding some rather big secrets of his own.


The Royal Inquisitor by Megan Derr (Pretty Good)
Genre: m/m Alternate World Historical Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few & Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Royalty, Thieves, Second Chances, Undercover, The Big Mis

I really, really enjoyed this story. You all know how much I love Megan Derr’s writing, and I really got into this story. Sadly, I felt like the tension was created by a misunderstanding, and while it isn’t classic Big Mis type situation, having to do with some duplicity from other nefarious characters, it was still a little disappointing to me that the hurt Esmour feels in this story is because of pride and miscommunication. Still, that was only a shadow on the ending for me, and for the most part I really liked this one.

Esmour wears bracelets that show his penance toward the crown. Unknowingly involved in a sting operation in the past, he came down on the wrong side of the axe when all was said and done, only spared from the noose by his connection and faux-relationship with the undercover prince. Now, the prince has need of him to solve a mystery slave trade in a city in the kingdom, and Esmour, despite his bracelets, is still the best investigator working for the crown. The case will force the two back together into a situation that for all the hurt it may cause might ultimately lead to a reconciliation that Esmour could never have envisioned.


Regarding the Detective’s Companion by EE Ottoman (Really Liked It)
Genre: m/m Historical, Steampunk Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Disability, Injured Character, Nerds/Geeks, Politics, Science, Awesome Female Characters, Present Tense

**Spoiler Alert! The review of this story in the anthology has some spoilers**

Jamie was rescued from certain death by a priest. With no working legs, he hobbles on crutches, but manages to get around a steampunk Victorian England trying to solve enough cases to make a name for himself as a private investigator. If he does, he might finally be able to make rent, but as it is he’s facing another week of near starvation and one step closer to being back on the streets… or worse, falling up on the Father’s mercy. In his desperation, Jamie takes a case from a man who he’s certain is aiming to frame an innocent man for murder. So what if he didn’t explicitly agree to finding the man guilty? If he investigates, he can find the real murderer and bring real justice. The case could make his career. Plus, they’re paying him up front.

I really liked this story, mostly because of the characters. Jamie is great, but the really great characters are the friends he makes during his time undercover, as well as the sweet romance that develops with his employer and the man he’s meant to frame. I think what I really liked was that this story diverted from the norm. What I expect when I read a story with the lie/undercover plot device is that the deception will go on until the characters are in love and then the secret coming out destroys the trust and is the climax of the story. Instead, when the truth of Jamie’s deception is revealed, the characters band together, almost making their relationship stronger with the real truth. It brings down the barriers that previously existed as boss/assistant and teacher/student and put the characters on an equal footing. Plus, that allows the two to continue the investigation, but now together. And I really liked that, because the best parts of this story are the interactions between these two characters. It’s sweet, awkward, funny, and totally nerdy. And I loved it 🙂


The Demon Bride by Isabella Carter (Not Feelin’ It)
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few & Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Serial Killer, Demons

For some reason, I really just could not get into this story. I think it was the fact that both the romance and the mystery felt a bit incomplete to me. And even more, I didn’t really understand any of the characters, and to a smaller extent, what was really going on in the end. This could obviously be in my own mis-reading of the story, but I still never really latched on to this story like the others, no matter how little I understood about the end. Plus, I didn’t ever feel like this was really an m/m/m story.

Quinton has now found several bodies lying at the door of his father’s detective agency. No matter how many times he brings the subject of what to do about it up to his father, his father refuses to give him any information about it, despite the fact that Quinton feels he deserves to know, not only because he’s now older and wants to investigate the mystery himself, but also because he’s found the bodies, and he knew them. But when the third body is left of the stoop and Quinton finds a letter addressed to him, he decides he must investigate.


Too Dangerous by Sasha L Miller (Really Liked It)
Genre: m/m Science Fiction Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Action/Adventure, Second Chances, Military, Futuristic, Secrets & Lies, Kidnapping/Hostage

Ending this anthology with a Science Fiction story was a nice change of pace from the previous ones. And I really like Sasha MIller’s work, so this story, which was more of an action/adventure story was very nice to end the book with.

Shi is a successful private investigator, but he’s thinking about letting his military consultant status (at the highest clearance) lapse. Working a case for the military was how he met his ex-boyfriend in the first place and Shi is still trying to get over their breakup several months previously. So when he arrives at his office to find an unmarked hovercraft, he knows that the military has come to call once again. He fully expects to turn the offer down. After all, he made sure that provision was put into his contract. But when he finds out that he’s the only man for the job — to infiltrate the operate of a space crime syndicate to rescue the remaining member of the special ops team being held captive on the man’s ship — he knows he has to consider. Especially when he finds out that the man held captive is… his ex-boyfriend. No matter the hard feelings, he can’t leave him there. So despite the fact that he’s in way over his head, he’ll do what he has to to get the man out of there, and hopefully get some answers in the process.


FragileBond_750x500Title: Fragile Bond
Author: Rhi Etzweiler
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Length: 48,400 words, 197 pages
Genre: m/m Scifi Futuristic
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Aliens, HEA, Assassins/Mercs, Enemies to Lovers, Felines, Prisoner, Mate Bonding, Military, Otherworlds, Pheromones
Rating: Really Liked It

Review by Nikyta

**Warning! This review may contain spoilers! Read at your own risk!**

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Sniper Sergeant Marc Staille and his trusty rifle, Mat, are on bodyguard duty at a mining operation on a backwater planet. The resource-rich valley is crawling with tawnies, the native dirt-colored predators. Huge things that hunt in packs and kill as well with tooth and claw as Marc ever has with Mat.

The rules change when a tawny uses an unexpected weapon: pheromones.

Commander Hamm Orsonna, leader of the fefa clan, is determined to chase off the invading aliens. The one he sets out to capture for intel is scrawny and hairless, not very intimidating—until it takes out his entire squad. Seasoned warriors, felled from halfway down the valley by its metal death stick.

Their sacrifice may be worth it, though. The alien male smells like he’s interested in making things right. He smells of other things too, but nobody else seems to notice. Before long, Hamm finds himself fighting off his own kind to defend the alien, who might be his people’s only hope for peace, and Hamm’s only chance for happiness.

REVIEW

On an unknown planet, Sergeant Marc Staille is on a mission to clear a valley of deadly mindless predators so a battalion can set up shop and strip the planet of a valuable resource. Unfortunately, Commander Hamm Orsonna, one of the predators, captures Marc before he can escape. Except, Marc’s not just overpowered by the Commander, he’s pretty much incapacitated by the shear amount of pheromones the Commander unintentionally uses on him. What neither of them expected was the bond those pheromones created between them and how that affects their loyalty to their own people. The Commander just wants Marc to stay, even if he does cause a lot of problems, but Marc is more confused than ever especially when he realizes he wasn’t killing some random predators but a strange, slightly civilized intelligent feline race.

I really enjoyed this book for a variety of reasons. While I wouldn’t consider it technically romance, I loved the pheromones that shaped the bond between Marc and Hamm. I found it amusing but also sweet in how it could essentially cripple both men with desire, possessive and the need to protect. I loved that Hamm’s race, the furr, were so reliant on scents because of how they used their pheromones for attraction, fighting and dominance in their clan. However, while we get a feel for both men and their current situations, we actually don’t know them beyond the surface details.

The story is shaped around the humans invading Hamm’s world and how the furr must defend themselves against the humans. What it ultimately comes down to, however, is negotiations between the humans and the furr. This is one of those stories that take place in the span of a few hours and is heavy in clan politics and the almost hostile negotiations between the furr and the humans. It is an interesting world because the furr have feline characteristics like their thick manes, purring and roaring. I loved those parts, they always made me smile, because they were innocent yet dangerous. I also found Marc’s reactions to Hamm’s purring and roaring very entertaining.

With I really liked the story, I had a few issues with it. My biggest problem was a lack of detail on a lot of areas such as the world, Hamm’s clan, the culture and ultimately the relationship between Marc and Hamm. They form a strong bond but there’s no hint of intimate feelings from that bond so it was just based off Hamm’s pheromones without a deeper, mental connection between them. Aside from that, I found the ending very abrupt. We don’t actually know how anything is resolved or how the couple will live now. How Hamm was able to hold his position or even if he still has his position (I’m just assuming he does because it’s not mentioned otherwise). Also, what happened to Dehna, how is the clan coping with Marc, and a lot of other questions I have. Some parts of the epilogue also confused me. Mostly the reference to Marc healing from his wounds but what wounds and how he got them, I’m not quite sure so it left an impression that there were a few parts of the story missing.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story but its biggest downfall is the lack of details necessary to really love it. The writing is great and engaging and I adored the elements and conflicts brought on by Hamm’s pheromones. The secondary characters are enjoyable, and even the ones you want to strangle, brought entertaining quarrels to the story. I’m hoping Ms. Etzweiler visits this world again (a story for Reccin would be awesome!) so that we can go deeper into this world and see more of what it has to offer.


somethingnewanddifferent400Title: Something New and Different
Author: Beth Wirth
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 18k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Kiss Me at Midnight collection, Aliens, Texas, Diverse Pairings, Swordplay, New Years, High School, Post Apocalypse
Rating: Not Feelin’ It

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Dragged by his stepfather to the edge of civilization in rural Texas, Matthew hates everything. The butt of a drunken dare, Kyle hates Matthew. And that’s when the aliens invaded.

REVIEW

I must admit that I’m a little disappointed. I’ve been eagerly awaiting another story from Beth Wirth since she wrote The Hunt of the Cold Moon (my review) and Less Than Three Press released it as part of The Bestiary collection. I really liked that story, but more than that I admired the writing and made sure to watch out for what seems to be a new, talented author. I have no doubt that she is, but for me, this story missed the mark.

Matthew moved to Texas several months ago and has been making all the wrong choices to fit in. On a dare, he kisses Kyle at a party and makes the man think he really wants him, only to hurt Kyle horribly when everyone starts cheering that he won the bet. The problem is — Matthew actually likes Kyle, and now he’s messed everything up. In an almost allegorical reflection of the utter mess of Matthew’s life, aliens attack during a football game, and Texas explodes into a post-apocalyptic frenzy of alien/human warfare. And while trying to make his way out of it and to his family, Matthew runs into Kyle and his mysterious friend. Not only will he get the answers into the alien invasion, but Matthew will have a chance to repair his relationship with Kyle.

The core of this story really isn’t bad — in fact, I liked it. I simply had a problem with the execution. Most of the story is told instead of shown. There are long passages of narration and summary over time and then, when it isn’t needed and it would be preferable to drop us into a scene and show us what is happening, we’re again told what is happening, what people think, and how people act without seeing it for ourselves. On top of that, I really never understood some of the decisions the characters make. For the whole story Matthew talks about how he has to find his little sister (who he was separated from when the aliens attacked and hasn’t found), but instead of actively looking for her he wanders for days and weeks with Kyle around Texas. It didn’t really make much sense to me, when he wasn’t sure if his little sister was even alive.

Aside from the telling vs. showing, I liked the tone of the story. It’s a bit ridiculous and very casually treads the line between the reality (working to repair his relationship with Kyle) and the absurd (the alien invasion, and the often completely Matrix moves with his sword). It just felt like it was a bit incomplete and needed filling out here and there. I ended the story not really sure what to think and not having connected with the story or the characters.

So, I look forward to what this author will again write in the future, but maybe in a little more subdued way. Among the Kiss Me at Midnight stories, this definitely isn’t my favorite, and there are several others I’d recommend over this one. I say … skip it and read a different one. I can’t recommend this story.


Title: Aliens, Smith and Jones
Author: Blaine D Arden
Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Length: 75k words
Genre: m/m Science Fiction
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between (many scenes are fade to black)
Keywords/Tags: Aliens, HEA, Secret Agents, Organized Crime
Rating: Pretty Good

BLURB

Connor Smith works for Primrose, an organization tasked with monitoring and tracking aliens and alien technology. It’s a job that doesn’t know the meaning of “nine-to-five”. It also doesn’t leave much room for a social life, a complication that Connor hasn’t minded, until now. At the prodding of his best friend, Connor reluctantly puts himself back in the dating pool, even though it means lying about his remarkable life.



Elsewhere, Noah Jones has led a remarkable life of his own. Stranded on Earth in 1648, Noah was forced to transform himself permanently into human form to survive. He soon learned that in doing so, he’d become effectively immortal, aging only at a glacial pace. Alone, with no way to contact his people or return home, Noah becomes a silent observer of human civilization—always in the world, but never of the world. Then, hundreds of years later, he sees a face in a crowd and instantly feels a connection that he thought he’d never feel again. But he’s too late: Connor’s already taken.



Destiny is not without a sense of humor, though, and the two men are pulled inexorably closer, snared by the same web of dangers and conspiracies. Worse, Primrose is now aware of Noah, and they aren’t ones to leave an alien unrestrained. So while Connor struggles to understand the strange pull he feels toward Noah, forces without as well as within are working against them to keep them apart.

REVIEW

Connor is an agent of Primrose and the PA of a well-known lieutenant within the organization. He’s worked hard at his job, doing detective work in the office and field finding aliens and alien artifacts, and the fact that he was handpicked for his job and works well with his very picky boss shows how well regarded he is by his colleagues. He works strange hours, just like regular detectives, which leaves little time for a love life. His best friend Isa, also a Primrose agent under a different team, is constantly trying to set him up… if only Isa was a good judge of character, or even a relatively competent matchmaker.

Connor is surprised and pleased when Isa sets him up with the perfect guy, Jason. Their relationship is steadily progressing as Connor’s work duties pile up. The whole organization has been working tirelessly for months trying to figure out why their search for alien artifacts has been recently returning empty handed, and where some of the aliens are disappearing to. On top of his dating life with Jason and the work that is always on his mind, Connor starts to feel as if he’s being stalked. He’s almost certain of it when he starts to feel a strange sensation of another being entering his mind.

For the most part, this was a thoroughly satisfying read. Though the situations thrust upon Connor are quite serious and the danger often very high, the tone of the story is light, and combined with the subject matter, somewhat reminiscent of the movie MIB (Men in Black). The story is quite different, however, not limited to the addition of the romance in this story. In addition, the case that Primrose is trying to solve, with Connor thrust into the middle, is engaging. There are really two cases at the heart of the story, the wider investigation by Primrose into the missing aliens and artifacts and the case of the man stalking Connor. It is easy to guess from the beginning that they’re somehow connected, and while the overall outcome was no real surprise to me, the details of it were satisfying enough for me to become increasingly engaged with the progression of the case. Added together, it made the story very easy to become involved in, without an overly intricate plot.

An important part of the progression of the story is the link between the characters and the cases, and I was happy to see that play out with little previous information about how they’re all connected. So, I don’t really want to get into a character analysis, lest I give anything away. Without getting into that, this is the part of the story that I had wished had gone in a bit of a different direction, because I found myself wishing that the central couple would have gotten more on page time to spend together. The time they do have together is often used to explore their psychic connection, which by nature is best shown while they’re apart. I would have liked to see them spend more time together in addition to that. Much of the second half of the book seemed devoted to the resolution to the cases, rather than exploring their relationship while together. The story doesn’t take this to the extreme, or ignore their relationship, but I still wished that they had more time to get to know one another (there’s a reason for this in the story, but I wasn’t quite sure that the idea of it translated through words to it’s best benefit).

This doesn’t seem to be a planned series, but the world created and the resolution of the story seem perfect for a sequel. I’d like to see one, because I enjoyed this story and world so much, and I would like to get to know some of the characters even better. This is the first story I’ve read by this author, and it won’t be the last. This author made some choices in the plot and the writing that I didn’t expect but had impact and intrigued me to read more of her work. I have been looking forward to reading this book for the last few months, and I have to say that I feel it mostly lived up to my expectations. Sometimes the greatest part about being a reader is when a book is so easy to just fall into to pass the time, and the tone of this story in combination with the world allowed me to do that. So I’m pleased 🙂