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

Tag Archives: Enemies to Lovers

Man OnTitle: Man On (Black Jack Gentlemen #1)
Author: Liz Crowe
Publisher: Tri Destiny Publishing
Length: 131 pages
Genre: m/m Contemporary Erotica
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often
Keywords/Tags: As the tags are very spoilerish, I don’t want to put them here but if you really want to see them, check them out at the bottom of this post but beware! They contain spoilers!
Rating: Not Feelin’ It

Reviewed by Nikyta

*****This review contains major spoilers to the contents of this book*****

BLURB

Bad boy of European football, Nicolas Garza is about to hit American shores with a vengeance. Signed by the Detroit Black Jack Gentlemen as lynch pin for their expansion club, Nicco only half believes he’s making the right move. But with a past full of ghosts and rotten behavior chasing him from his homeland, he has no real choice.

Parker Rollings is a college soccer superstar, but his parents’ plans for their only son do not include professional athletics. When the Black Jacks approach him to finalize their roster, Parker leaps at the chance to keep playing, leaving behind medical school, stability and his first and only college sweetheart.

Nicco and Parker face off as bitter rivals for a coveted starting spot at midfield and are forced to channel their negative energy into something positive for the sake of the group—and themselves.

All eyes are on the fledgling team in its debut season. It’s crucial that the Black Jacks prove all the doubters wrong. They must make a good showing in the league and with new fans. But player drama, club dynamics, and misplaced priorities may tear it apart before it even begins.

REVIEW

The first thing I want to say is if you’re coming into this book thinking it would be a real sports story, you won’t get what you expect in this one because it follows Nicco through his journey to finding love in Parker but doesn’t contain many scenes regarding the actual sport.

I liked Parker because he was so innocent, naive and vulnerable. He comes from money but he’s not an obnoxious spoiled brat. He’s very sweet, dedicated to soccer and just wants a simple life where he can be himself. I adored the fact that he blushed so much at the littlest provocative comment. I found it so cute. Nicco is a different story. I won’t lie, I didn’t like him at all. He’s arrogant, stubborn and doesn’t give a crap about anyone else but himself. He does what he wants to and won’t care if someone objects to it. His reaction to Parker is instantaneous and intense. The lust he feels for Parker consumes him to the point he can’t stop thinking about Parker. However, Nicco is a sex addict and he’ll take that lust out on anyone.

The biggest issue I had with this story is that the blurb is very misleading. Coming into this book, I was expecting some intense sexual tension of enemies with a lot of sports related scenes, showing the rivalry between Nicco and Parker, the aggression and face offs for the same spot and ultimately the soccer season that they play together in. Unfortunately, that is not what this book is about and you don’t actually see any of those scenes but are told about them in just a few short paragraphs throughout the story.

To be honest, I didn’t like a majority of it because it is so focused on showing Nicco’s sex addiction (which is not mentioned in the blurb and considering it is SUCH a huge part of the book, I have to wonder why). I struggled to get through at least the first half of the story because Nicco would do anything that had two legs, even indulging in threesomes and orgies with women and men. I will say that while Nicco does have a lot of sex, thankfully most of it (especially with the women) were either glossed over or fade to black. Even with that, however, the constant talking about his conquests and how many he did last night, the orgies he partook in, the soft flesh of so and so grew extremely aggravating and annoying. I kept asking myself, “Why is this in here? Shouldn’t we be focusing on more of Parker and Nicco?”

A lot of the book revolves around that aspect of Nicco and I can’t say that it endeared me to him. It made my opinion that he was selfish and couldn’t understand the concept of monogamy nor be able to uphold it even more intense. It also made me think that even if he did get into a relationship with Parker, that he wouldn’t be able to keep it in his pants long enough to not break Parker’s heart. Regardless, the physical showing of Nicco’s clubbing and conquests took away from the actual Parker/Nicco story, IMO. By the end of the story, we are told and somewhat see the love and supposed devotion (as I said, it’s hard for me to believe Nicco won’t cheat eventually) but we didn’t see the lead up to this love and devotion. Out of the whole story, Parker and Nicco only spend maybe a third of it actually together that we see. The rest is either told to us (such as the time they spend on the field, their teamwork together and this long vacation they took) or of Nicco and Parker getting some action from other individuals.

Personally, that is not something I’m fond of. I like to SEE the development between characters but this book didn’t have any of that until the very end and I found that disappointing. I wanted to like this book but it started off really bad for me because I don’t appreciate seeing to this extent how much of a whore a character is. I want to see the connection between the main characters not between ONE main character and other people. We aren’t shown the connection between Nicco and Parker until very far into the book and at that point, many months have already past between them, none of them where we see them together and this happens more than once where weeks or months pass without us seeing any of what I believe were crucial moments to these characters relationship. More than anything, I really wished we had seen them play together on the field, during practice, at a game, anything to show that not all these boys have is lust because the emotions of love they share, I didn’t see and couldn’t FEEL.

In the end, I will freely admit this isn’t the type of story I like. I prefer to have stories that focus on the emotions that characters share and seeing them NOT on the physical releases of the flesh. Readers that enjoy books that have layers of sex and decadence will enjoy this but if you’re looking for a story about sports and love, this won’t exactly fit the bill. I will say that while I didn’t enjoy the story as a whole, there were pieces that I adored but those happened at the very end and by then, not enough was focused on that to lift my overall opinion. Still, I encourage readers to make up your own mind about this one because I know others will enjoy it much more than I did.

One last thing I want to say is that this book seems to be somewhat of a spin-off of another m/f series by this author. I say this because a few times it was hinted that we should already know a side character’s background and having looked up the author after reading this book, I can say that some of the secondary characters have books of their own in other works by this author.


Cold Hands (College Fun and Gays #6) - Erica PikeTitle: Cold Hands (College Fun & Gays #6)
Author: Erica Pike
Publisher: Self Published (Ice Cave)
Length: 13,900 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Sequel, Series, Short Story, Enemies to Lovers, Ex-Bullies/Bullying, College, Past Abuse, Hurt/Comfort, Second Chances, Grovel you Bastard!, Public Sex, Carnivals
Rating: Really Liked It

BLURB

“Hot-Hands” and Casper have been dating for a month, but their relationship is about as smooth as shattered glass. It doesn’t help that Hot-Hands is racked with guilt over his high school bullying of Casper, or that Casper darts away whenever his boyfriend gets a little too frisky.

Desperate to hang onto Casper, Hot-Hands tries to earn back the trust he destroyed years ago, so they can face their disastrous past and have a chance at a happy future.

Note: Cold Hands focuses on high school bullying for being gay. This is the sequel to Hot Hands and contains big spoilers if read first. Hot Hands is free of charge here.

REVIEW

Hot Hands was by far my favorite story in Erica Pike’s College Fun and Gay series, so you can imagine my excitement when she said that she was writing a sequel. Cold Hands is almost as much of an antithesis to that first story as it’s title. Hot Hands introduces us to Casper — a college student who was brutally bullied, more like abused, in high school for being gay — and his ex-bully and middle school crush Jaime. Casper shows up to college and is surprised and devastated to learn that one of the ring leaders of the guys who tormented him is not only there but also in some of his classes. He does everything he can to avoid Jaime, but doesn’t know that a lot of Jaime’s bullying stemmed from his own awakening homosexual feelings towards Cass. His physical and emotional abuse for most of his teen years have really impacted him. He’s shy and doesn’t understand why he’s still attracted to one of the men who abused him, which also messes with his head. His attachments soon turn to another man, however, a man he starts to call “Hot-Hands” because of the way the man’s hands draw him out and make him feel sexy and interesting whenever he’s accosted by this same hard-breathing man in the dark. It’s a serious case of having a secret admirer, but Casper has his suspicions and soon finds them proven wrong. All that time, Casper had inadvertently been giving himself up to the man who caused him so much pain and now he’s more confused than ever.

Cold Hands resumes this story from Jaime’s point of view, which is a serious change in how we understand the story. Cass is a thinker who constantly analyzes his feelings and thoughts, but because of their unique relationship he knows very little about what Jaime really thinks and Jaime’s motives. The change in point of view starts this sequel off on a different foot. We immediately see that Jaime has real regret about the way he treated Cass in the past and that his feelings now are genuine, and also that he’s a different man now. He understands himself and has grow up in the two years they spend apart. Now, he’s out of the closet and over the shame that he grew up with from a conservative family and town. Still, Cass doesn’t know that. He’s still confused about Jaime’s motives and his own. How can he trust himself and his feelings if he’s seriously considering having a relationship with his abuser?

The real difference between the first story and the second isn’t the point of view, but in the focus of their relationship. If you look at these stories together as one, then this story is the payoff. The first was the setup, the background and the premise — the meetings in the dark with Casper’s “secret admirer” and the subsequent reveal of his real identity — but, Cold Hands is the meat and bones of their relationship. This story carries on to peel back the layers and find out if these guys have a solid base to build any relationship upon and how they go about doing that. The change in point of view facilitates that because by nature of their relationship as abuser/victim, Jaime automatically sees the bigger picture than Cass. Casper is still mired in confusion about his feelings and dealing with understanding Jaime and his actions and in evidence of how that abuse affected him, he’s battling his own self-esteem.

I’m so glad that Erica decided to continue their story because I think that it is only in retrospect that this story feels as if it completed the first. Cold Hands makes the whole story better by giving us a chance to see them work through the consequences of their actions in the first story, and that in turn gives them the HEA they deserve. This also shows in the sex in both stories. So much of the first story takes place while Casper thinks “Hot-Hands” is someone else entirely that a lot of those scenes were exploratory, sexy and hot in a situational way, playing on the mysterious suitor with a dirty and exhibitionist twist. I read that story as a really good piece of erotica with an engaging plot. This story moves their physical relationship into a place of intimacy, so much so that it’s often too difficult for Casper to really handle.

I definitely recommend these stories to all of you, though you absolutely have to read Hot Hands first. Well done Erica and thank you for writing this story so I could spend more time with Cass and Jaime!


RidingtheBoardLGTitle: Riding the Board
Author: Cate Ashwood
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 11,397 words, 46 pages
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: 2013 Daily Dose – Make a Play, Enemies to Lovers, Hostile Work Environment, Light & Sweet, Short Story, Sports
Rating: Really Liked It

Reviewed by Nikyta

BLURB

Blake Emmerich arrives at practice, already apprehensive, to meet his new synchronized diving partner. When he sees Nick Freeman, Blake doesn’t feel confident about their chances. The day begins with Nick pushing Blake off the ten meter and ends with their coach cuffing them together to force them to deal with each other like the adults they’re supposed to be. Synchronized diving is about trust—how can you trust someone you can’t stand, no matter how hot you think they are?

REVIEW

The blurb does a great job of explaining the story so I don’t feel like I need to reiterate it. I will say this right now: I LOVED this book. As someone who was a diver for about a decade, I adore books that feature my favorite sport and regardless of how short this one was, I couldn’t help but enjoy it immensely.

It was easy to connect with the characters because I knew exactly what they were talking about when it came to their feelings towards the water. I loved that there was this instant tension between Nick and Blake. Their ability to antagonize each other made this a fun read but I also found the fact they couldn’t stand each other amusing. I felt bad for Blake at first because of what happened to his partner but I also liked that Nick had this side to him that others didn’t see. While that might be a bit clichéd, I still adored it. I found some of their banter hilarious but I also thought they were really sexy and hot together!

The only way this story could have gotten better is if it had been longer, novella or novel length, so that we could have gotten a fuller story about these boys and their journey beyond where it ended. Seeing them compete in meets and to see if they’re new found relationships allows them to dominate those competitions would have been great. In the book, there’s a mention of the second Nationals and experiencing whether they do good during that time would have been ideal, IMO, especially considering how Nick doesn’t talk to other people during competitions, it’d have been interesting to see how Blake takes that during such a critical time or whether Nick makes an exception for Blake.

All in all, this was a great story for me. The writing and the pacing were great and it fit my mood exactly — from the hatred in the beginning to the connection they eventually develop. I sincerely wish it had been longer because I can see Blake and Nick’s journey definitely going farther than it is right now! God, I do hope there’s more of them to come!


A Shot At ForgivenessTitle: A Shot at Forgiveness
Author: Cardeno C
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 16,641 words, 68 pages
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: 2013 Daily Dose – Make a Play series, Closeted, Enemies to Lovers (Sorta), Ex-Bullies, Forgiveness, OFY, Interracial, Light & Sweet, Sports, Yearning
Rating: Pretty Good

Reviewed by Nikyta

BLURB

A dozen years, two thousand miles, and a law degree after high school, Rafi Steiner continues to harbor resentment toward Isaac Jones, his childhood bully turned NBA star. When Isaac appears at Rafi’s favorite restaurant acting like a long-lost friend, Rafi bluntly dismisses him.

But Isaac is tenacious and has his heart set on the grown-up version of the boy he always wanted and never forgot. The way Isaac sees it, he and Rafi are perfect for each other, if only he could sink the most important shot of his life: his one shot at forgiveness.

REVIEW

Still harboring bitterness toward his high school bully, Isaac Jones, Rafi is flabbergasted when Isaac stumbles across him and acts like they’re long lost friends. While Rafi just wants to get as far away from Isaac as possible, Isaac has something else in mind, a secret he’s been keeping since they went to school together. Determination doesn’t even begin to describe Isaac when he’ll do whatever it takes to win Rafi over once and for all.

At first, Rafi is standoffish and borderline rude to Isaac. It was interesting to see how angry Rafi was towards Isaac even twelve years after the fact. As the story progresses, Rafi melts to Isaac’s charms, which was definitely entertaining! Isaac, on the other hand, is persistent and will do anything (even breaking and entering) to worm his way into Rafi’s life and heart. It was funny to see Isaac think what he was doing was okay when it was obvious Rafi hated Isaac being there. I found Isaac just so adorable. He’s a bit of a stalker and slightly obsessed but this big, tall guy that wasn’t afraid of anything was afraid of Rafi’s rejection BUT even when Rafi did reject him, he kept coming back and breaking down Rafi’s walls until Rafi admitted defeat.

If you haven’t already guessed, this story revolves around forgiveness. Rafi is very hurt by how Isaac used to treat him. However, as the story evolves, you realize that Rafi’s view on everything isn’t exactly the whole picture. What you come to realize is that Isaac might have said some mean things to Rafi but his actions were quite different. Rafi remembers Isaac as this mean, cruel bully but as it’s remembers (sans flashbacks thankfully!), he’s portrayed as this hero. Constantly saving Rafi from getting injured or hurting himself more than his klutziness already has. It’s sweet in a way but it’s obvious that Rafi was a little oblivious to this because of his focus on Isaac’s words instead of his actions.

The story had a lot of potential but I think, considering the length of the book, it didn’t exactly live up to that potential. While entertaining and enjoyable, I felt like some things were rushed or even were easy platitudes considering the situation. For instance, the resolution to Isaac coming out was nice but we don’t actually see it put into action so that felt too ‘easy,’ IMO. I felt like Rafi also caved too early to Isaac’s pursuits. Rafi was basing his forgiveness off Isaac’s sexual prowess instead of actually making Isaac grovel in a nonsexual way, which had me a bit sad because it would have been funny seeing Isaac doing whatever Rafi wanted without hesitation. I’m not usually one to get hung up on endearments but I didn’t like Isaac calling Rafi ‘boo’ it kept making me feel like Rafi was just a one-night stand that Isaac would forget in the morning. While that is obviously NOT the case, I couldn’t help feel like it wasn’t appropriate to who Rafi was to Isaac. Aside from that, Rafi had a tendency to think of Isaac as ‘Isaac Jones’ as if he was still in awe over Isaac, which got slightly annoying towards the end of the book and even though he was in love and comfortable around Isaac, he still considered him as ‘Isaac Jones.’ Lastly, I wished there had been some scenes of Isaac meeting Rafi’s friends or vice versa just to show that these two are serious because, unfortunately, most of the scenes of them together consist of them in Rafi’s apartment (more specifically his bedroom).

Overall, this was a very cute short story. It’s light-hearted and liable to give you a silly little smile. The characters were amusing and their journey to forgiveness was entertaining. I really wish this book had been much longer, though, because I feel like a little more groveling on Isaac’s part was needed but other than that, it’s a good story for someone who’s looking for something light and sweet.


KM_AcrosstheEastRiverBridge_coverlgTitle: Across the East River Bridge
Author: Kate McMurray
Publisher: Loose Id
Length: 77,013 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary & Historical Paranormal Mystery Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Sex to Story
Keywords/Tags: Kate McMurray Week!, Author Backlist Project, Ghosts/Spirits, NYC, Brooklyn, Cold Case, 1870s, 1880s, Enemies to Lovers, Academia (NYC History), Hot/Cold (mostly Finn), Second Chances, History
Rating: Really Liked It

BLURB

When Finn’s boss sends him to a museum in Brooklyn, the last person he expects to see is his old rival, Troy. Although Finn and Troy have undeniable sexual chemistry, Finn still blames Troy for sending his career off the rails but Troy has research Finn needs. Troy also has an intriguing story; the museum he curates is haunted by the ghosts of two men who died under mysterious circumstances in 1878. Troy strikes a deal: he’ll help Finn if Finn helps him find out what happened to the men who died.

From diaries, police reports, and newspaper articles, Finn and Troy piece together the lives of the two dead men–and the romance that bloomed between them. As it becomes clear that the men were murdered, it also becomes clear that the ghosts are real and are capable of manipulating the dreams, thoughts, and actions of the living. When Finn and Troy start falling for each other, Finn worries that it’s all an illusion concocted by the ghosts to keep them working together to solve the mystery, but Troy is convinced the love between them is real. But how can he get rid of a couple of ghosts and prove it?

REVIEW

This is such a great book to kick off Kate McMurray Week! To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of this story. I mostly read it on faith because I like the author. All I really knew was that it was about NYC and ghosts. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I did read it to find that it was something that I could really sink into. Part of my enjoyment of the story really comes from a love of history. Not that I’m particularly knowledgable, especially about NYC history, but there’s so much detail in this story that must have taken quite a bit of research and I found it all refreshing and compelling.

Finn and Troy have a turbulent history. Both pursuing advanced history degrees at NYU at the same time, they quickly found themselves to be rivals, with a love/hate relationship — mostly hate. But, every few years they succumb to temptation and fall into bed with one another, promptly returning to hate each other the next day. Finn isn’t where he expected to be when he envisioned his life all those years ago at NYU. He blames Troy for his failure to get his PhD that fuels his continued hatred. Troy was always the golden boy, one step ahead of him and outshining all of his successes. Now, years of regrets have become an ugly and miserable piece of Finn that he carries around with himself. And Troy is easy to hate… except when they’re in bed together.

Now working as a research assistant for a famous biographer (who is a bit of a bosshole), Finn is sent to research a small museum in Brooklyn, only to find that the curator is none other than Troy. He looks good and is, as usual, a consummate flirt. And again like all the other times their NYC circles merge, Finn is at the same time frustrated and spiteful and yet reluctant to admit how well they work together and understand one another. They have incredibly similar interests in the history of the city and between them, share a wealth of knowledge. Finn isn’t really passionate about the research for his boss, but Troy convinces Finn to help him research a mystery of his own. He’s currently going through the journals of the man who once lived in the building and the mysterious circumstances around his death. Troy, though thorough as any historian, is more apt to believe in the strange occurrences in the building — the cold spots, the dreams and as he delves deeper into the man’s story, the physical manifestations he sees with his own eyes. As the two start to uncover the secrets of the dead and piece together a picture of life in Brooklyn in the 1870’s, they start to fall in love. The problem, for Finn, is his reluctance to believe in what could ultimately be the manipulation of a couple of ghosts whose main interests aren’t finally getting the two of them together, but to solve their murder.

I mentioned at the start of the review that the reason I really liked this book was the research and the history presented of Brooklyn, New York in a different era. I think, though, that this might be a sticking point for some readers. Make no mistake, this book takes history and makes it real and solid, but it’s told from the view of two men who sift through obscure details every day and take them as deep as they go. So, much of this novel is really the journey into history, piece by piece as the two put it together. And there is a wealth of detail that Kate McMurray offers. I could see where some readers, who might not find those details as interesting as I, might find this book a tedious read.

What I really enjoyed was the journey to finding those answers, because the story and the picture of Brooklyn at that time takes shape slowly, and some of the best scenes in the novel were Finn and Troy connecting on the level of historians. It’s their common language, when they have a hard time getting close in other areas (except sex, that one is easy for them!). Those scenes are the best because both will go from sniping at one another and confusion about their feelings to connecting through the project and offering details back and forth, sussing out answers between them. Their relationship really takes the enemies to lovers trope to a realistic level. Most of the raw and angry feelings come from Finn. But he’s the character that we really get to know first and the one who we see this world through. When he actually lets down his guard enough to try to let some of that stagnate anger go, I think he finds that Troy really isn’t the man that he thought he was and that he doesn’t think of Finn in the way Finn thought he did. The dynamic between the two of them was done really well, and another reason that this story really worked for me, because the story starts with a shared history and routine between the two men and in their interactions. The research project is the catalyst to change that behavior. And discovering what life is like for a gay man in 1870’s America not only gives Finn perspective but gives him more ways to connect and understand Troy.

Though I’m partial to this author’s Out in the Field (which I’m going to be re-reading and reviewing later this week), this just might be my second favorite of hers. It’s definitely a book I recommend to you, if you think you’ll like it, of course 😉

Check back tomorrow for my reviews of Show and Tell and In Hot Pursuit!


wordsofdivinityTitle: Words of Divinity
Author: Kayla Bain-Vrba
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 42,500 words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Sex to Story
Keywords/Tags: Enemies to Lovers, Quest, Second Chances, Street Kid, Magic, Warrior, Alternate Worlds, Gods/Demigods, Fey/Elves, Demons (uh… sorta)
Rating: Pretty Good

BLURB

Daniel is a sorcerer, good at magic and taking all the credit—or so it seems to Liam. In Daniel’s eyes that’s vastly preferable to being Liam, a hunter who excels at killing beasts and sleeping with everything else. They cooperate only to keep their country safe—until a new and greater danger calls for desperate measures that takes them to the land of gods, and the only way home again is by facing monsters, gods, and truths they’ve been avoiding.

REVIEW

In many ways this was just the kind of book that I love. A solid fantasy (not high fantasy) that plays with alternate worlds, gods/demigods, demon-like creatures, a magical war, and a quest between worlds and back. Though I had a few problems with the book as a whole, for the most part I really enjoyed it.

Words of Divinity is told from the opposing viewpoints of Daniel and Liam, a mage and a hunter. We first meet Liam on the streets of the capitol. He’s been living on the streets since the age of fourteen, a runaway from an abusive alcoholic father. While wandering the streets at night, Liam is attacked by a giant rat that nearly kills him. But in his fight for his life, Liam is able to kill the rat barehanded, an almost impossible feat that is witnessed by another man who takes Liam to the local regiment’s barracks. Liam is extremely distrustful of authority, but he soon learns that he’s there to recount his impressive tale and immediately offered into the ranks of a new group of warriors, a special subset of the country’s military that has been organized to fight a new menace — the demon spawn called up from the Underworld by the dark mages of a neighboring country.

Liam finds a place among the hunters. Completing training faster than any of the others, he finds that he’s exceptional at something and the center of a group of warriors that look up to him. Maybe it’s this new respect that inflates his ego, or more likely just part and parcel of how his experiences so far have molded him — his abusive father, his early sexual experiences and his casual disregard of how he’s been used by both people and authority. Whatever it is, this new and cocky Liam is the epitome of a bad boy — sleeping his way across the regiment, and then into the group of mages traveling with them and the local boys at every village they pass as they march from battle to battle.

Liam soon finds that not everyone is susceptible to his charms. Daniel is a mage that the other mages avoid. He’s held in high esteem by the Crown Prince Erik who accompanies their ragtag company, and they soon grow a friendship, though Daniel shuns any other company. He’s secretive, and for good reason. Daniel is their biggest asset because of his ability to hear the thoughts of the demons they hunt. He has more secret abilities, however, that seem to have a mind of their own, constantly wanting to be used. While he’s fighting the demon spawn with the other mages and hunters, he’s also waging a war among his own powers and his own history, which he keeps locked away among his deepest secrets. When Daniel first meets Liam, he’s taken by his charisma, confidence and sexy swagger. Their friendship, though, is brief when Daniel sees some of his worst qualities — his endless meaningless conquests and his loose tongue. Liam likes to brag about his conquests and getting prudish Daniel to give it up for him is his goal, including spreading the tales afterward to anyone that wants to listen.

Now pitted against one another, they spend quite a long time at odds, only growing in animosity. They’re soon thrust into a quest where they have to open up to one another and rely on each other to survive. And even more than that, they are forced to reevaluate their preconceived notions about the other.

What Kayla V-B did best in this novella is in these two characters. At times I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about them. In fact, for probably the first half of the book I really hated Liam. We don’t quite get a lot of his history until much later in the book so even though we know about his asshole father, we don’t quite understand his vulnerability, which just makes him seem like an asshole. I think that Daniel (at least for me) is a bit easier to get close to. It’s easier to understand him and to really pull for him because his vulnerability is on the surface… he’s extremely tormented. The format of the book (the quest is like an obstacle course they have to maneuver, with tests that manipulate them and their feelings) makes the two come together because, honestly, I doubt they would if they weren’t forced to. They’re so opposed to one another. In fact, I don’t know that I’ve read an m/m romance in recent history that deals with the enemies to lovers trope where the characters hated and misunderstood the other more. And with the world around them manipulating their actions, they constantly seem to come together to be torn apart. It makes for some nice angst that I didn’t feel was too overdone. And I really liked the fact that the characters are who they are with a real fierceness, if that makes sense at all. They’re both passionate, and that makes them alternately rub each other the wrong way, while at other times they can co-exist.

I had a bit of a difficult time getting into the story, though. The first few chapters traverse several years in order to set up the story, introduce both characters and a bit of their history, and then show the few years they travel together and how Liam and Daniel grow to hate one another. I think that it all comes down to pacing. At the start of the story the pace is extremely fast. We’re given a lot of information while time speeds forward every few paragraphs to chapters and then when the characters are forced on their journey together the pace changes. Also, while this part of the story is interspersed with skirmishes and battles that we’re shown in present time, there’s a lot of narration to fill us in on the world and the characters. It wasn’t until I finished the book that I could see the jog in the pace and I started to think about the beginning. Rather than telling us about their past, I would have rather been shown those scenes. It would have meant adding quite a bit more pages, but I think there would have been more balance.

But, in all, this was quite the enjoyable read and I’d definitely recommend it to fantasy fans. I’m not sure whether the author plans to extend the story at all, but I’d definitely be there, in line to read it if she wanted to. The story definitely ends with a pretty solid HFN, on the line to an HEA. I only doubt the HEA because of their past history and we don’t see where their adventures are headed. It’s nicely done to either let the story rest or open it again at a future point.