Title: The Battle for Galerir (The Galerir Saga #2)
Author: Anna Lee
Length: 68k words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty (1 really hot scene!)
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Dragons, Sweet & Light, Battles/War, Warriors, Knights, Royalty, Death, Established Couple, Meet the Parents, Magic, Mages/Sorcerers, gods, Secrets & Lies, Middle Book
Rating: Pretty Good
**Review contains spoilers for those who have not read the first book in the series**
Sword against sword, magik against magik, dragon against dragon, the Battle for Galerir is being waged and victory will come with great sacrifice.
A traitorous plot seals King Antony’s fate and the enemy is days away from reaching the kingdom of Galerir. Prince Tomas must become regent and ensure Galerir is prepared for war. Tomas must also learn to balance duty and love when he lifts the ban on magik and fights for the chance to openly love his knight, Griffin. Together, he and Griffin face their destiny.
After reading and reviewing the first book in this series, The Prince of Galerir in February of this year, I was excited and interested to see where Anna Lee would take this story. I had quite a bit of criticism for her then, even though I really enjoyed reading the story, and I was particularly interested to see the writing in this sequel. I wasn’t disappointed 🙂
We left Tomas and Griffin in the end of the first book in the capital city of Galerir and in the castle. Tomas has been accepted by the people and crowned as Crown Prince Tomas, nephew of King Antony of Galerir. Tomas didn’t know his uncle for all of his life, and only learned about his real heritage and family in the first book, after the events were set in motion for war for Galerir from a lost descendant eager for the throne and the weakened health of Antony. Until then, he was the son of a lord and his best friend is Griffin, now his knight. The two grew up together and fell in love. And only when it was the choice of a life married to a girl he doesn’t care about (and he’s gay) or running away with Griffin did the two admit their feelings — with a little help from a baby dragon they found and bonded with that helped them share their true emotions. But then, Tomas found out that King Antony was really his uncle and that he’d been hidden away until he was needed to secure the lineage and the throne.
This sequel carries forward in the outside plot more than the romantic plot. Tomas and Griffin are quite in love and committed to one another. They are engaged, and ready to change the laws that say one man cannot marry and love another, and eager to come out to the people themselves. Until that time however, they have a lot to deal with. Galerir is preparing for war from the lost descendant of one of the past kings and the rogue, evil dragon named Ator that he convinced to help him in his cause. King Antony is growing weaker and may be dying if they cannot find a cure to what is ailing him. And that means that Prince Tomas has even more duties than normal, acting as interim Regent while his uncle Antony is bedridden. Can they find those across the border that once had to flee Galerir when magik was made illegal? Will the elves, centaurs and dragons there help them in trying to unite Galerir as it once was? And will it be in time to stop the war that is coming?
I was really, really pleased with the writing in this story. I thought that Anna Lee’s writing grew leaps and bounds between the first book and this book. Perhaps it is also that Griffin and Tomas have been together a while and now are committed rather than very new lovers, but I also felt that the overly sweet and constant declarations of love were way toned down. Their relationship is still very sweet, but most of the tension and conflict in this series is not internal, but rather external. However, I really liked that their relationship grew in this book, and that was partly done because they, at times, but heads and argue. I loved that. I liked seeing a more dynamic relationship between them. The other reason that they grew together was the appearance of Griffin’s family, especially his father whom he has a rocky and abusive relationship with.
I got confused a few times. I’m not going to really spoiler you here, but I will tell you that this book ends with the end of the war. At least, I assume that’s the case unless the next book is going to introduce an even bigger villain that we didn’t know about. But, a few times I wondered if I had it wrong and this wasn’t the second book in a three-part series. Was this a duology and the battle and the end of the war was the end of the series? That is typically the end of the series arc in fantasy stories. But, according to the info at the end of the book, the third book Reuniting Galerir is to continue and I assume finish the series with Tomas and Griffin’s adventures to visit the magikal creatures I mentioned earlier to reunite the country. If that’s the case, then I’m really excited for the third book. The structure of the overall plot arc was not what I was expecting at all, but I’m excited by it. The forte of this story isn’t the politics of the world and the war, those act simply as a catalyst to explore the magikal world, creatures and people and mostly the relationship between Tomas and Griffin. It is, if I could describe it well enough, a more sweet and gentle exploration of a fantasy. I like that. I liked the first book okay, but after reading the second one I’m really interested and hooked on the series.
Posted by Cole in 4 Pretty Good, 41-75k, Authors J-L, Fantasy, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Anna Lee, Battles/War, Death, Dragons, Existing Relationship, gods, Knights, Light & Sweet, Mage, Magic, Meet the Parents, Middle Book, MLR Press, Royalty, Secrets & Lies, Series, The Galerir Saga, Warriors
Title: Show and Tell
Author: Kate McMurray
Publisher: Loose Id
Length: 79,641 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Fantasy Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often
Keywords/Tags: Kate McMurray Week!, Time Travel (not really, just visions of a sort), Fated Lovers, Mythology (Gaelic), Gods, Reincarnation, Love Triangle, NYC
Rating: Really Liked It
One of the few joys in Dan’s life is the TV show Junk Shop, a reality show about antiques hosted by the handsome and charismatic Malcolm Tell. Then an old music box turns up, and Dan’s sister encourages him to try to get on the show and meet the object of his affection. He does, and his life changes completely.
When Dan and Malcolm first meet, they have a sudden vision of a couple from the past. Is it a glimpse at a past life or something else entirely? They agree to work together to figure out what is going on, and they stumble upon a forgotten Celtic myth that may explain everything. If the myth is true, then Dan and Malcolm could be a pair of lovers who have been reincarnated over and over again over two thousand years. That seems impossible, but it’s hard to deny that something very strange is happening.
As Dan and Malcolm work to find the truth, they fall for each other hard. But searching for who they really are puts them both in grave danger, and they find themselves racing against time to keep their happily ever after.
Okay…. I’ve just got to say this: What the hell is wrong with everyone? I had tempered my excitement for this book after it came out because so many people have written very luke warm reviews. I didn’t expect it to be bad, but what I found was a really fun, un-put-downable read. I mean, it’s not perfect and I’ll talk about that in a bit, but for the most part this book was highly enjoyable for me. So yeah, ya’lls on crack is all I can say.
Just like me ;), one of Dan’s favorite shows on tv is a reality show about an antiques shop where a guy buys/sells/pawns things and goes through the provenance of the items in detail for the viewers. Of course, a lot of Dan’s enjoyment is his attraction to sexy star of the show, Malcolm Tell (great tv name!). So when he comes across an old music box, his sister encourages him to use it to try to get on the show. When he gets to the store, he finds that they’re taping, which means Dan has to go through a whole song and dance just to get to the good part. Dan’s nervous, and meeting the man he’s found himself fantasizing about is much more important than the music box. When Malcolm comes out and it’s his cue to start talking about the music box, he is finally able to look in the man’s eyes and finds that they seem strangely peculiar. The strange thing is that Malcolm obviously feels the same way. It isn’t until Dan hands it to him and both touch the box at the same time that the visit gets really interesting. Both share a peculiar vision that includes a tremendous amount of pain and anguish, which abruptly ends when they remove their hands.
The visit goes to hell after that. The box isn’t really that interesting at all, except for an inscription. But Malcolm is reluctant to let Dan leave. And when he does, Dan finds that he’s got a date for the next evening for dinner and to examine the box again in private. Will whatever happened happen again? And what does it mean if it only happens when they both touch it?
The music box sets off a strange series of occurrences where different objects tend to show up giving them different visions. When they start to put the pieces together and find out what is really happening, they’re thunderstruck by what it all means and what it means for their now-growing relationship. But the inherent problem with repeating history is that they repeat their mistakes, as well as a tragedy that follows them. They have to follow each object and vision until they can find a way to change history and secure a real future for themselves.
I think what I loved so much about this story is the different visions they have. I won’t get into what they are of, but it’s pure gold for a story because it’s a mine of different settings and scenarios to explore. That’s exciting for a reader because it makes the book exciting. It also gives the book a really great pace, with so much forward movement in the story, so I never got tired of reading it and I was always interested to discover what would happen next. Of course, I did have one big problem with the story — I just found the ending anticlimactic. You can see it coming from a mile away. But, the way the story is set up makes for good, natural tension. Except, maybe too much tension. By the time the end rolled around the stakes were so high that I ended up just finding the ending a bit… lame and comical. However, though that might sour a bit of the story, I still found that I loved the rest of the story and it didn’t bother me too much. So, it wasn’t enough to mark the story down very far for me.
I’ve heard from friends who read this that they found Dan a bit too weepy and whiny. I’m not sure if it’s just a case of some people not really liking for their guy characters to cry too much (I know some people don’t — that’s fine), or that I just felt like the circumstances were justifiable (if I was facing possible death and loss of my newfound and totally awesome love of my life and counting down the days for find a remedy I think I’d be a ball of angst and tears!), but it just didn’t bother me at all.
So, while I might caution some readers who these things will automatically send up red flags, I would encourage you to give this one a try. Because while it may not be perfect, it’s still a really fun and exciting read with quite a few twists and turns that I wasn’t really expecting. Expect for the book to take a turn towards real fantasy and be a bit surreal toward the end, but I found that part of the fun 😉
Kate’s new book, Save the Date, is out tomorrow along with my review!
Posted by Cole in 5 Really Like It, 76-100k, Authors M-O, Contemporary, Fantasy, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Romance, Sex Freq 4 - Very Often Tags: Fated Love, gods, Kate McMurray, Kate McMurray Week!, Loose Id, Love Triangle, Mythology, NYC, Reincarnation, Time Travel, Villain
Title: 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
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.
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.
Posted by Cole in 4 Pretty Good, 41-75k, Authors A-C, Fantasy, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: Alternate Worlds, Demons, Enemies to Lovers, Fae/Elves, gods, Kayla Bain-Vrba, Less Than Three Press, Magic, Quests, Second Chances, Warriors
Title: Love & War
Author: Jack Greene
Length: 7,100 words
Genre: m/m Fantasy/Paranormal Romantic Erotica
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Gods, Greek Mythology, Established Relationship, Cheating (technically, but didn’t bother me, read the review for details)
Rating: Pretty Good
**Look for Giveaway Information at the bottom of the post**
Zachary’s lover, Alex, is an actor playing Ares, the god of war, in a new movie.
But when Ares himself decides to interfere, Zachary’s life gets complicated–and hot.
Ares feels wronged, and it’s up to Zachary to make things right–in any way he can.
I always look forward to Jack Greene’s releases (Including his upcoming novel!) because I always enjoy them. Usually more erotica than romance, but with a bit of both and always extremely sexy little stories that are a perfect pick-me-up between reading something longer. I’ve found that my favorite of his stories have a fairly equal dose of both erotica and romance, but in this case, this story was pure erotica. So while the story was still enjoyable to read, and definitely sexy, it isn’t my favorite written by him.
Zachary absolutely adores his boyfriend Alex. It isn’t just that Alex is somewhat famous, or even that he’s big and stacked and completely swoon-worthy. He’s a really awesome guy, and they get along great. Their relationship isn’t really lacking anything, and it’s getting better and better as the months have turned into years. Of course, their difference in size makes Alex a bit reticent to overpower Zachary in bed, and while Zachary wishes Alex would let loose on him once and a while, he knows what a good thing they have. Still, Zachary has fantasies…
The god Ares is watching on, trying to ignore the pathetic humans who continually misrepresent him in plays and movies, like Alex, who is playing him in a movie they’re filming. Ares is angry, but taking his anger out on Alex and company with petty filming problems isn’t satisfying enough.
Readers will feel differently about this book depending on how far they can suspend disbelief. This isn’t romance, at all, although there are some cute moments between the couple. But the story is taken up by the sexual games played by Ares on Zachary and there is little else shown. It is blatant cheating, which some will be turned off by. I’m normally turned off as well — not enough that I will not read a book, but I often am upset by it — but in this story it really didn’t bother me at all. And I think that is because I saw this not as a romance, but as erotica, and I can allow and enjoy things in erotica that would really bother me in romance. So how you will feel about this story depends on how well you know yourself, and how you feel about this, as a reader.
I would have liked to see some more interaction between Zachary and Alex. We get just a little bit, in the beginning, but not more. I wondered as I was reading if this was going to turn into a kinky threesome, with the addition of Alex in some respect, but that didn’t happen. I would have actually liked to see that, to see Alex drawn more into the story. As it is, I didn’t feel like I understood their relationship enough to know how to frame the sex between Zachary and Ares alongside the relationship. No matter the choices made by the author, however, I still found this to be a fun and sexy, lighthearted story and I’d recommend it (as long as you’ve read my review, of course!) 🙂
Please leave a comment below to win an ebook copy of Love & War. The giveaway will last until Midnight CST on Monday, November 26th. I will choose the winner using Random.org and email the winner who will then have 48 hours from the time of the drawing to reply to my email. I will then forward the winner’s information to Jack so they can receive their book.
Please enter the email you’d wish me to contact you at in the comment form, or if you prefer, leave it in the message.
Thank you and good luck!
Posted by Cole in 4 Pretty Good, Authors G-I, Erotica, Fantasy, Giveaways, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Paranormal, Sex Freq 4 - Very Often, up to 15k Tags: Cheating, Existing Relationship, gods, Jack Greene, Mythology, Phaze, Short Story
Cole: My comments are in purple! Welcome to the blog, Lisa 🙂
Welcome to the Riptide Publishing / Lisa Henry blog tour for He Is Worthy, part of the Warriors of Rome collection now available. The collection is available for pre-order here, as a collection or individually, and all pre-orders enter you in a drawing to win a Nook Simple Touch.
Every comment on this blog tour enters you in the draw for a copy of my two previous eBooks–Tribute and The Island–and a $10 Riptide Publishing credit. Entries close at midnight, U.S. Eastern time, on November 18, and winners will be announced the next day. The contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries.
And thanks so much to Cole for inviting me to The Armchair Reader today. (Welcome, Lisa!) I like it. It’s cosy. Can I put my feet on the armchair, and is there wine? (Hell, yeah! … wait, ummm sorry, I drank it all….) That’s okay—I bought a bottle. You knit though, Cole, really? I’m jealous. My mum tried to teach me to knit once. I wanted to knit a stuffed penguin. We both gave up when I said, “So, a purl is just a backwards knit, right? Wait, which way am I holding this?” She confiscated the needles and knitted the penguin for me. My mum’s awesome. (Sounds like the time I tried to invent left handed knitting … yeah, probably all that wine.)
But we were talking about Rome, right? Or we were supposed to be. So what can I tell you about He Is Worthy?
Saying He Is Worthy is kind of dark is like saying the sun is kind of warm. I wasn’t going to write something so dark, but come on…it’s Nero. It was never going to be a walk in the park Gardens of Sallust, was it? Which is not to say that that all the research I did was dark and bleak and violent and bloody. Some of it was fun, it just never made it into the book. Here’s something I picked up off the cutting room floor for you:
Polytheism: pick a god, any god…
I love ancient polytheism. A god for every occasion. If I ever start a cult based on the ancient Roman model—and it is an ambition of mine—I will have T-shirts made up that say “It’s no stupider to worship Jupiter”. What we lack in faith I expect to make up in merchandising. Here are five of my favourite obscure ancient Roman deities:
Summanus was the god of night thunder. Not just thunder, but night thunder. That has to be a niche market, right? He at least had a temple, and a feast. On the 20th of June (my birthday!) he was offered cakes. I don’t know whether that was to prevent night thunder, or to encourage more. He has been previously identified with Pluto, but that was probably only to boost his ego.
The goddess of the sewer system. Typically, a woman was in charge of keeping the place clean. Strangely, she was also the protector of matrimonial intercourse. I’m trying hard not to see the link.
The patron goddess of bees. I’m sure she had a lot free time to pursue other interests.
Cacus was originally a powerful fire god, but, fire gods being passé, was later demoted to giant. The only good thing about being a giant was that he could make cattle walk backwards. I like to think he performed this awesome party trick many times before Hercules killed him.
The god of cattle worms. Definitive proof that the Romans had a god for everything.
Lisa lives in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She doesn’t know why, because she hates the heat, but she suspects she’s too lazy to move. She spends half her time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting her escape.
She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. She studied History and English, neither of them very thoroughly.
She shares her house a long-suffering partner, too many cats, a dog, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how she imagined life as a grown-up.
Rome, 68 A.D. Novius Senna is one of the most feared men in Rome. He’s part of the emperor’s inner circle at a time when being Nero’s friend is almost as dangerous as being his enemy. Senna knows that better men than he have been sacrificed to Nero’s madness—he’s the one who tells them to fall on their swords. He hates what he’s become to keep his family safe. He hates Nero more.
Aenor is a newly-enslaved Bructeri trader, brutalized and humiliated for Nero’s entertainment. He’s homesick and frightened, but not entirely cowed. He’s also exactly what Senna has been looking for: a slave strong enough to help him assassinate Nero.
It’s suicide, but it’s worth it. Senna yearns to rid Rome of a tyrant, and nothing short of death will bring him peace for his crimes. Aenor hungers for revenge, and dying is his only escape from Rome’s tyranny. They have nothing left to lose, except the one thing they never expected to find—each other.
You can buy He Is Worthy or read an excerpt here.
Thanks for stopping by Lisa! Sorry about my strange interjections! I’m still suffering from a fever and I’m pretty hopped up on cold medicine 😦 I had to delete a whole paragraph I wrote about how awesome it would be a sit up and listen to storms and eat cake on my birthday… yikes!
Also, every please remember that Lisa is offering a copy of The Island and Tribute to one commenter, and Riptide is offering a $10 Riptide Publishing credit, where you can be sure to pick up a copy of He is Worthy 🙂
Title: Devil’s Night
Editors: SL Armstrong & Kristen Pavka
Authors: SL Armstrong, K Piet, Alina Ray, Azalea Moone & Tali Spencer
Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Length: 42,500 words
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Keywords/Tags: Anthology, Short Stories, Demons
Rating: Pretty Good
The infernal host is on the prowl. They want your soul, and they’re not afraid to bargain for it. They’ll promise you everything you could ever desire, but the price tag may be steeper than you can handle. Whether tempting and seducing mortals, defiling angels, or reveling among themselves, the fiendish creatures in these four haunting tales know that while good is okay, evil is just more fun.
Thaddeus sold his soul to save his family long ago, but the deal he struck with the demon Belial has him spending eternity managing Le Carnaval du Diable, filled to the brim with other’s damned into servitude. Belial wants more than Thaddeus’ soul, though, and his constant advances only add to Thaddeus’ stress as he faces a threat to The Devil’s Midway.
Craig Peters finds himself Hell Bound and destined for an eternity of torture at the hands of the demon Karawan, despite having no memory of the sin that condemned him to this existence. Over time, though, those memories return, along with an unnatural attraction to Karawan, which leads them both down a path neither of them could have possibly imagined.
When the Hounds Come Out to Play, Ryu and Keir are released from their chains to hunt the wayward damned and drag them down to Hell. A breath of freedom is an opportunity for fun, however, and Ryu isn’t about to waste it, even if it means getting caught in a case of mistaken identity with a handsome stranger.
Finally, Beltran is a man of heritage and honor, and when his cousin is brutalized, he has few qualms about consulting a local Inca shaman on her behalf. Little does he know the price of the charm he seeks will make him The Seventh Sacrifice in the amir demon Kitara’s ancient quest for revenge.
I’ve gotten a bit behind on my reviews lately (partly due to GRL) and several of the ones that have backed up have been anthologies. I have to tell you that reviewing an anthology, for me, is quite daunting. I just can’t seem to do a review without reviewing each story — even if I don’t set out to. But the great thing is that the anthologies released by Storm Moon Press recently seem tailor-made for me. And when you add in one of my favorite sub-genres of paranormal, demons (and sundry), I knew that I had to accept this one for review no matter how far behind I was. Surprise, surprise — I pulled it out first, completely neglecting the others.
I want to apologize to all those authors because I just couldn’t resist. And while none of these stories were my favorites (none were my least favorites either) I’ve found in SMP’s past anthologies, the diversity between them was really wonderful. These four stories work really well together simply because they’re all incredibly original in different ways. Don’t expect your typical demon/angel trope here. They do however take the atmosphere of this time of the year into the tone of each story without it becoming … Halloween-y.
They each have something to praise about them, so in the end my review format for anthologies works for this one.
The Devil’s Midway by SL Armstrong & K Piet (Pretty Good)
Genre: m/m Historical Paranormal
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Demons, Carnival, Battle of Wills, HFN
Though he should be an old man by now, Thaddeus finds himself managing the traveling Le Carnaval du Diable, the demon Belial’s pet project. But, though he generally can keep the carnival and all it’s traveling act and crew under wraps, he’s frustrated that the badass demon still has his sights set on him. Owing to the catalyst that brought him to sell his soul to the Devil and how that intersects with his faith, Thaddeus has always remained autonomous. Though the big man below owns his soul and therefore his long, unending future, he doesn’t own his mind or actions, which makes him the only one who can deny Belial. But the chase seems to turn the demon on and he uses every advantage he has to break Thaddeus down and get him into his bed, some of which are devious enough to be worthy of the demon he is.
The place this story succeeds the most is in the sexual tension created between Thaddeus and Belial. They’re both incredibly stubborn, and Belial has enough arrogance for both of them, that their sexual come and go turn into a game of wills. Thaddeus is afraid that if he did give into his carnal desires and sleep with the demon he would lose his independent thought he cherishes. It is all he has left that hasn’t been laid claim to and he doesn’t want to chance it. Belial, though, is very difficult to say no to, especially as he continues to find ways to try to torment Thaddeus into submission. While there were some other small bits of plot that help to expand the world, this is the essence of the story.
The problem then for me, was that I didn’t really understand the ending. I have no doubt with these two authors that the choices they made were deliberate, but they either didn’t work for me or I didn’t understand the story as I thought while I was reading. It was certainly enjoyable, and I really liked the world (I’d love to see more!), but the ending didn’t seem to add anything in particular to the story other than follow through on what is probably Thaddeus’ true characterization. So, I ended up feeling like this story wasn’t much more than a snippet of a larger world. No real romance, per se — or at least the story didn’t progress enough for me to consider it a romance. And, like I said, that’s probably what the authors were going for, but this time it didn’t work as well for me.
All of what I expect from these authors is in this story, the quality of writing is undiminished. I simply had a bit of a snag with the direction of the end of the story and my hope that there would have been more before it ended. A good, strong start to the anthology!
Hell Bound by Alina Ray (So So)
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Demons, Hell, a bit of BDSM, Kink, Amnesia, Insta-Love (or, too quick for me), HEA
Craig wakes to find himself in darkness — a shifting void that slowly reveals a dreamland resembling Hell. He learns quickly, though, that he is indeed dead and has traveled to the underworld for punishment and redemption for his actions in life. Too bad Craig can’t remember anything about his life except random details like pop trivia. He’s ushered through punishments and recollections by the demon Karawan, a sexy young red-skinned hunk that gives Craig “Ideas”, even during his rather harsh punishments that are intended to cause pain. A human who derives pleasure from pain is something that Karawan has never heard of before, but something that he admits intrigues him, along with the human himself. When Craig starts to regain his memories, they’re both in a for a surprise. Is Craig in the right place? or, did he do something terrible in life that he hasn’t remembered yet? Either way, they both find themselves finding pleasure in a place where happiness is supposed to be impossible to feel…
I am of two minds about this story. I originally gave this story a Not Feelin’ It rating simply because it ended on a low note for me, after starting quite strong. But after a little reflection, there is actually a smart and original hook to this story. The first half of the story, where Craig arrives in Hell and Karawan introduces him to the various tortures meant as punishment, is quite strong. There’s an atmospheric quality to the writing that portrays Hell as a void which is incredibly eerie. The addition of Craig’s amnesia means that his point of view is rather distorted. Karawan is shown to have a more trustworthy point of view, and interestingly enough, a rather naive and sheltered one. I could never quite tell if it is his lack of experience, his own personal quality, or a representation of the whole race of demons, but Karawan isn’t the cruel master one expects by allowing us to see his reasoning behind torturing humans.
The problem I had was the very quick transition from “getting to know each other” to the ending and a quick change in tone (from suspenseful and mysterious to almost sappy). There is a very quick series of events that revs up the pace and it really didn’t work for me. It left me feeling like the two wouldn’t have as strong of feelings as they did at the end because we don’t get to see the point where they actually get to know one another, just hear about a bit of it. It goes hand in hand with the ending, and I could see that the author had an endgame in plan from the very beginning. I had actually wondered if that was the way the author was going to go right at the beginning, and for the most part I was right. It’s an interesting little trick of reasoning which made the story stand out a bit more for me, hence the raised rating. Unfortunately, the execution left some things to be desired and because of that, this was probably my least favorite story of the anthology.
When the Hounds Come Out to Play by Azalea Moone (Pretty Good)
Genre: m/m Paranormal
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Hell Hounds, Hell, First Times, Shifters, Halloween
I also had a difficult time with this story, but only for a bit. The beginning is almost funny, and certainly cute as we’re introduced to the Hounds of Hell, dog shifters coming to the surface for Halloween night to reclaim lost souls. I liked Ryu immediately, who is like a fish out of water but attracted to the sunlight that burns him. He reminded me a bit about Ariel, from The Little Mermaid, who is obsessed with humanity but gets burned by them in her naivete. The story later got difficult for me and left me with a bit of an uneasy feeling. Trying to understand and feel empathy for Grant is a tall order, and I had to reconcile my own feelings with Ryu’s, all while watching him become a little bit more jaded as the story progressed. I think, though, that this story might have left the most impression on me, even though it wasn’t my “favorite”.
I was initially a bit confused about the direction the story took, when we learn who Grant and Jalen really are, and upset that the story wasn’t a romance, but it made sense after a while. Ultimately, I’m glad that the story didn’t turn romantic, because that would have confused me even more. Of course, part of my uneasiness also comes from knowing so little about Ryu, but then I think that was deliberate. And it makes sense why the author would choose to keep so much detail from the reader, unless she wanted to sacrifice the mood of the story, which is built on the suspense and threat of danger from several different directions. This story had the most Halloween atmosphere for me, and that’s not because the holiday makes an appearance in this story but because to Ryu, who doesn’t really understand humanity before his night away from the graveyard, Halloween only makes everything more confusing, and therefore it is disorienting to him and the reader.
I definitely liked this story and I loved that it was something different. I’d love to hear what other readers think about this one!
The Seventh Sacrifice by Tali Spencer (Really Like It)
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: South America, Bolivia, Gods, Dub Con, Snakes, Magic/Sorcery, Revenge, HEA
Finally, I think this story was my favorite of the anthology. I was waiting for that sizzling chemistry and for a story to take it a little further than some of the previous ones in the anthology. Beltrane, a Spanish descendant of conquistadores, is visiting his cousin in Bolivia, a female TV journalist who was recently horribly abused by her boyfriend. Beltrane follows his friend’s directions to visit a sorcerer in the ancient city to buy a charm or talisman to get revenge on the man who betrayed his cousin, the woman who is like a sister to him. Only, the sorcerer isn’t what Beltrane expected at all. Not only is he surprised that some of this seems to be real, but the man himself intrigues him — not to mention Kitara is one of the most beautiful men he’s ever seen.
Kitara is much more than a sorcerer. Descended from the ancients and shackled to the area around the church for centuries only makes the past betrayal and anger at what the Conquistadores did to the Incan culture. It turns out that he needs Beltane as much as the man needs him, or even more. Strangely enough, the man who he was immediately attracted to when he walked in his store is Spanish, and could be the key to unlocking the imprisonment placed on his people all those years ago. Only, he’ll have to sacrifice him first!
I really liked the dark edge to this story. I think, in the end, I consider this a romance. I’m glad that Kitara doesn’t act human. If he did, this would easily be a romance, but I’d rather him be as he is in this story — larger than life, still retaining his god-like abilities and way of thinking. In many ways, Beltrane is a pawn to Kitara, but by the end of the story I wasn’t so sure of that, even though it seems that way, outwardly. But the dark edge to their relationship and sex in the form of betrayal and sacrifice and slavery.
If I had to choose one story from this anthology to expand into something larger, or a sequel, it would be this story. Not only did I like it enough to want to read more, but there’s the growth of the relationship between Beltrane and Kitara, as well as the plethora of detail and possibility about the world.
Posted by Cole in 3 So So, 4 Pretty Good, 41-75k, 5 Really Like It, Authors A-C, Authors M-O, Authors P-R, Authors S-U, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Historical, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: a bit of BDSM, Alina Ray, Amnesia, Anthology, Azalea Moone, Battle of Wills, Bolivia, Carnival, Demons, Dub/Non-Con, First Times, gods, Halloween, HEA, Hell, Hell Hounds, HFN, Insta-Love, K Piet, Kink, Kristen Pavka, Magic, Revenge, Shifters, Short Story, SL Armstrong, Snakes, South America, Storm Moon Press, Tali Spencer