Hello Everyone! Please welcome Poppy and Mary to the blog today! If you don’t know already, these are two of my favorite authors and when I heard from Poppy that they were doing something together, I was unbelievably excited 🙂 I first fell in love with Mary’s work when I reviewed Change of Heart and Trusted Bond and started chatting with her, realizing what a lovely person she was. And since, I’ve only come to love her work as it finds a niche of it’s own among my favorite reads. When I first read and then reviewed Mind Magic by Poppy Dennison, I honestly just loved it. I’m not ashamed to admit that I stalked her online and made her answer if there were going to be sequels or not 😉 And since we’ve chatted and met last year at GRL in Albuquerque. They’re both delightful ladies who are on my auto-buy list and having them here, together, makes my day.
So my friends, here are a few of my questions after reading Creature Feature. There’s a bit about the book, a bit about them, and a bit of other things. Enjoy!
**Color Coded for your further ease of reading:
Me in comments: Purple
Hi Poppy, Hi Mary! First of all, thank you so much for visiting us today! I have to tell you, I was speechless when I first heard that a book was coming out with both of your names on it. Both of you are already on my auto-buy/review list, so envisioning a project where you work together in any capacity was very exciting for me.
How did Creature Feature come about? Is it something you decided to do together? Or was it a marketing decision?
First off Cole, thank you so much for having us.
Poppy: A while back, Mary and I were chatting and thought it might be fun to do something together. Neither of us had any idea what we wanted to do though! Our schedules were also crazy, because at the time she still lived in Hawaii. We came up with the idea of each doing our own paranormal novella and packaging them together for fun.
Mary: An anthology is a nice way of doing something together where there is no chance that you will step on the other person’s toes.
Poppy: Yes, Mary and I are both very protective of our characters. I think that’s why we get along so well!
How about the origin of the name — Creature Feature — and why it fits so well? Did the idea of compiling stories into one offering (ala Creature Feature) come first, or was it just an eye catching title?
Mary: Poppy was thinking that the anthology would be called Silver Lining which would have been cute but it was already taken so we were thinking of something that could incorporate both stories and came up with Creature Feature.
Poppy: You should have seen the chats with us trying to come up with a name. I must admit to pouting quite a bit when I learned another story had taken the name Silver Lining. I thought it was the perfect name. I was wrong, though. The moment Mary suggested Creature Feature, I knew we’d found our title. And then when Paul Richmond showed us his concept for the cover art, I was even more convinced we’d made the right choice.
Before reading the stories, I wondered just how much of a connection there would be between them, either from entirely interconnected in characters and the world to completely standalone. And after reading, the only thing I really recognized was the setting of Myerson, Arizona. Did you intend to draw further connections between the stories? Did I miss something?
Poppy: Nope! You didn’t miss anything. We thought about interweaving our worlds a bit more, but to be honest, we both wanted to be surprised with what the other came up with. We decided to set them in the same location and then see what the other did!
Mary: Yeah. What she said…
Poppy: Mary, did you just “that’s what she said” me?
Both of you have written several paranormal books in addition to your stories here. Do you have a preference for paranormal stories? What do you like about writing in the paranormal sub-genre of m/m romance?
Poppy: For me, it comes down to “write what you know”, or in this case “write what you read”. I love reading paranormal romance so I knew my ideas would center on paranormal for a while. I think what I like most about writing in this sub-genre is the “otherness” to the characters. In this novella, Caleb is a werewolf…how does having that animal side of his personality affect him? It fascinates me and inspires the muse!
Mary: I have a fondness for paranormal because of the world building and the ability to create something from scratch. Without the rules of real life, you can do anything you want. (That’s why I like reading paranormal, and especially fantasy)
How do you two know each other? What made you decide to want to work with each other?
Poppy: We started with me fangirling all over Mary. (heh-heh, sounds like me!) We had the chance to work together a bit on another project and really hit it off, so we started chatting. I’m a huge fan of Mary’s work, so when we first had the notion to work together, I jumped all over it. I’m happy to say we’ve met in person a couple times since then and I’ve found a true friend.
Mary: Awwwwwwww. Same to both things. I’m her fan too. I got her to sign her books at the Olde City New Blood con in February so that was fun.
Do you have a favorite book or story that the other author has written? And why?
Poppy: Um, is all of them an okay answer? LOL. I really can’t pick a favorite. How about a top five? Change of Heart, Matter of Time, Frog, Acrobat, and Steamroller. My favorite thing about Mary’s work is that her characters come to life for me. They’re people I know, or people I want to be friends with. (Change of Heart [the whole series] and … aw shit, all the others too! are my favorites as well)
Mary: I love Poppy’s Triad series and because I get to read early, I can say that I adored Soul
Magic and seeing her stretch her wings and deepen her craft. You will love the newest addition. (yes! I can’t wait to read it!)
Name 3 Currently Reading or Most Recently Read books:
Poppy: My most recently read is Too Stupid To Live by Anne Tenino (LOVED). On Mary’s recommendation I’m reading Dirty Kiss by Rhys Ford and I’m also reading Dark Sun by M.J. O’Shea. (I loved TSTL too, and the whole Cole McGinnis series is amazing, the books just keep getting better and better!)
Mary: Too Stupid To Live (also loved it), Tell Me It’s Real by TJ Klune (LOVED) and Hainted by Jordan L. Hawk (loved that too) (Oh, I’ve yet to read Hainted, but I’ll be sure to read it. I’ve read other books by Jordan L Hawk, though and really liked them)
Do you plan to work together again? Is there another Creature Feature in the future, perhaps?
Poppy: *eyes Mary* Answer this question carefully, my friend. *g*
Mary: LOL. She wants zombies and I told her to read Sean Kennedy’s novella. As far as zombies go I love that one:)
Poppy: Yep. That’s what she said. (Ha! Got you back Mary!) BUT since there’s that new Zombie anthology coming out soon, I think we should come up with something different for Creature Feature 2! Come on, you guys. You’re going to have to help me convince her! Maybe give us some paranormal creatures you’d like to see us write? (mummies! no one writes mummies in m/m. okay, maybe that’s because they’re totally not scary and totally lame. never mind. you should do mythical creatures, like the Chupacabra or Nessie :D)
What do you have coming soon? What are you working on now?
Poppy: Next up for me is Soul Magic, the final book in the Triad trilogy. It comes out in late April/early May. After that, I have a novella with a shapeshifting liger and his oh-too-human mate coming out in June/July. (I can’t wait for Soul Magic! I got the first two in paperback so now I can re-read before the last one is out :D)
Mary: I am working on the sequel to After the Sunset which is Glenn’s story and a book with Cardeno C. Next out will be a novella, Still, which is a contemporary, in early May and then another novella that is part of the Daily Dose set from Dreamspinner on June 1st. And then hopefully in July/August Duncan and Aaron’s book. (Oh I can’t wait for the sequel to After the Sunset!)
Where can we find you online?
I really enjoyed the book and I’m excited for others to get to read it as well. Thank you so much for visiting! And please, come back any time, you’re both always welcome 🙂
Poppy: Thanks for having us, Cole! I can’t wait to see you again in Atlanta!!
Mary: Yes thank you Cole, and I look forward to meeting you in person.
I can’t wait to see both of you!!
Diagnosis: Wolf by Poppy Dennison
Thanks to his good-for-nothing brother, Andrew Hughes is up to his eyeballs in debt and needs a job fast. When a nursing position opens up in Myerson, Arizona, Andrew has no choice but to take it, despite a warning about how difficult a patient Caleb DiMartino can be. Andrew can deal with a little trouble—but Caleb’s strange family, the armed guards, and the unknown cause of Caleb’s mysterious illness may be beyond his skill set.
Landslide by Mary Calmes
For three years, paranormal courier Frank Corrigan has been working for incubus demon Cael Berith. Cael knows Frank is his mate, but Frank is pretty sure Cael doesn’t even like him, never mind want to spend the rest of his life with him, so their personal relationship is at an impasse. When Frank’s sister, Lindsey, gets bitten by a werewolf she’s sleeping with—and possibly witnesses a murder—Frank rides to her rescue. If he’s lucky, he might just save his love life too.
So, what about you guys? Have any questions for these two? Or, what type of creature would you have them write about if they were to do another Creature Feature?
Title: Three Fates
Author: Andrew Grey, Mary Calmes & Amy Lane
Length: 103,075 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance
Keywords/Tags: Anthology, Author Backlist Project, Mythology
Rating: Pretty Good
For time immemorial, the goddesses of fate have decided which human threads will shine and which will be cut short. But even the fates have off days.
Fate Delivers a Prince by Andrew Grey: Finding love shouldn’t be that difficult for a diplomat’s son, except Cheyenne is part of a grand tradition of werewolves, and a werewolf with a skin condition needs more help than most mortals. When Chay meets the prince of his dreams, it takes Clotho’s intervention to keep him from letting go.
Jump by Mary Calmes: When two lovers die, their threads of life are collected instead of scattered, as one of them was the brother of a god. Can the fates reunite two lovers whose threads should have twined together for eternity? Or will Cassidy allow Raza’s interest to pass his pale, mortal self by?
Believed You Were Lucky by Amy Lane: The gods’ meddling isn’t always welcome. It’s given Leif good luck but poor fortune, and Hacon a family curse he’s lived in fear of all his life. But when Leif’s good luck saves Hake’s life, Hake has to reevaluate everything he’s ever believed about luck, life, and love.
I was interested in this quasi-anthology (?? — collection?) from the get-go and bought it mostly because of two of my favorite authors — Mary Calmes and Amy Lane — were in it. But, now that I’m reading a book by both of these authors a week, or at least trying, for my Author Backlist Project, I knew it was time to get this one out and see what to make of it. While I mostly liked it, the three stories within are all very different, so I’ll refrain from talking too much in this general part of the review and save it all for the individual stories.
However, all three stories do deal with the mythology of the Three Fates/Sisters/Morai. Known in Greek mythology as Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, there are many things you might associate or remember about them from different sources — the one eye they share, how one allots the yarn or string, one weaves them and the other cuts them. These three different authors dealt with this mythology in different and interesting ways. Andrew Grey didn’t associate them with any of our known mythologies, but made them rather independent and changed their tools from fiber to wheels (though this might be from another cultural myth, I’m not sure). Mary Calmes gives us a the classical Greek definition with a bit of ancient Egyptian flair. Amy Lane, however, took the cake with her representation of the sisters, I think. Much more heavily involved in the lives of the characters of her story than the other author’s stories, her sisters were firmly entrenched in Norse mythology along with some other famous gods you might recognize, Loki and Thor. I found the interludes where they watched and discussed the lives of Leif and Hacon to be some of the best parts of the story and I loved that she inserted a bit of her own fiber knowledge (spit-slicing!) in there for comic relief. Of all the representations of the gods throughout these three stories, I have to say that not only were they the most enjoyable to watch, but they acted the most like the gods from mythology, at turns flighty and careless of their human charges, while at the same time playing favorites and taking a very firm hand in the mortal realm.
Fate Delivers a Prince by Andrew Grey (So So)
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Wolf Shifters, Germany, Royalty, Mate Bonding
Coming in at around 20% of the overall length of the book, Andrew Grey’s story is the paranormal tale of a wolf shifter named Cheyenne, an American in Bavaria with his family. Chay is the youngest of three boys in their diplomat family, his father a powerful Alpha. Cheyenne is a rather weak wolf himself and not at all like his brothers, the oldest just like their father in strength and personality and the middle cruel and callous. What Chay wants more than anything is so find a mate he can love, but he knows that won’t ever happen. He’s afflicted with a mysterious skin condition, but when he’s a wolf and a human that covers his skin in large and red flaky patches that drive him crazy with discomfort and pain. He’s a bit of an embarrassment to his family really — who wants to sit next to the boy constantly starching himself at a state dinner?
So Chay might be the most surprised of all of them when he finally gets a whiff of his mate at a ball. And not only is it a man like he expected (and his father feared), but it’s Arthur, a prince. Chay is doomed. Not only is his mate entirely out of his league, but he’s human. The intervention of a mysterious and divine woman will change all of that.
I suppose that I was just a little bit disappointed by this story. I mean, it isn’t bad, but it really isn’t great either. It’s cute, but we never really get to know Arthur that well. It was frustrating to see the climax of the story hinge on the stupidity of the characters rather than a more original plot twist and the behavior of all of the characters was a little annoying. It doesn’t quite read “Big Mis” standards, because the miscommunication doesn’t last all that long, but I was hoping for a more interesting turn of events. In many respects it’s a werewolf Cinderfella (Cindercubba?) story, with the rich prince falling in love with the skin-afflicted commoner (no matter how rich he is), but I found the tone of the story to be more in line with a typical paranormal story rather than a fairy tale.
In all, this was my least favorite story in the collection. However, it takes a really ingenious, original and interesting shifter story to really get my attention and I know that many readers will like this story. It’s cute, a bit fluffy and an easy read. It just wasn’t what I was looking for.
Jump by Mary Calmes (Pretty Good)
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal/Fantasy Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Cops/Agents, Crime, The Mafia, Psychics, Mythology, Reincarnation
Taking up about a third of the overall length of the book, Jump is the story of Cassidy, a short-term psychic matchmaker who is urged by his gift to interrupt the pattern of Raza’s life, in order to safe him from death. Raza is a mysterious figure, surrounded by guards, but Cassidy can immediately see that for as dangerous as he looks he has a big heart and a sweet disposition. Cassidy, who is rather self-effacing and seems desperate to remain lonely and guarded from his lovers, and the two immediately take to one another.
What they don’t know is how their lives are fated to continually cross after their death in a past life in ancient Egypt. It isn’t just Cass’ gift that shows they have an extra-strong connection to one another, but also interference from the gods. Because this divine intervention from the gods is set up in the prologue, I didn’t really mind too much that Raza and Cass fall immediately in love. If they were fated and felt like they knew each other upon meeting because of their past-life history, then I can suspend disbelief for that. I actually found Cass to be an interesting Calmes character, because though he has the token magnetism that she always seems to give her characters, where everyone is drawn to them as if they’re sent down from Heaven, Cass was actually rather nerdy and had quite a strong streak of low self-esteem.
This was definitely an enjoyable read, something that I’m used to getting with Mary Calmes’ stories. I still had a few problems with it, though. I felt it was rather short for the plot. I’m used to quite a fast pace from this author, where the scenes bleed into one another and seem to go directions I hadn’t expected, but I felt like since the mystery behind the men who want to kill Raza isn’t the primary focus of the story then we could maybe have gotten some more time for the romance to develop. I’m not even saying to make it not insta-love, but they only know one another for one day before their jumping into an HEA (and they really jump into it!), but a couple extra days together wouldn’t have hurt anything and I would have liked to have a little more time to settle into the relationship and see the characters getting to know each other better.
Believed You Were Lucky by Amy Lane (Really Liked It)
Genre: m/m Contemporary Fantasy Romance
Heat: 3 – Mild & Sexy
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Norse Mythology, Fiber Arts, Family Issues, Mystery
The last story in this collection takes the remaining half of the book, coming in at a much longer story than the others and around 50k. It’s certainly a much larger story, with more characters and more time for the characters to develop a relationship. I already talked about one of my favorite aspects of this story, the heavy intervention on the part of the gods at just about every turn. The thing that made this story so absolutely charming, though, is Leif, who is lucky. Leif’s luck is a tangible thing, a little piece of string he sees in his mind which makes his decisions for him and keeps him out of trouble. It’s hardly scientific and sometimes it leads him into trouble only for him to learn that with that trouble is an even luckier payoff at the end. It also doesn’t mean that Leif has lived a charmed life. The luck/string goes hand in hand with his personality, however. It has shown Leif to look on the bright side of every situation, which leads him to have the sunniest disposition of any person or character I’ve ever seen. Some might even think him naive, but he’s a completely unique and utterly enthralling character, and so absolutely charming that you’ll be cheering for him to have his happily ever after.
There is quite a bit more that I could talk about with this story, there are (funnily enough) multiple strands running throughout that all give greater meaning in reflection of one another. But, I’ll let you find out all about this one on your own. Sure, I liked the other stories — I liked Mary Calmes’ story a lot — but this story is worth buying the whole book for. Even if you don’t read the others, get this book to read this story. Leif charmed me so much that I want to say he’s one of my all time favorite Amy Lane characters, which is saying something considering I finish every book of her’s and think, ‘WOW… those are my new favorite characters!’
Posted by Cole in 101-125k, 3 So So, 4 Pretty Good, 5 Really Like It, Authors A-C, Authors G-I, Authors J-L, Contemporary, Fantasy, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: Amy Lane, Andrew Grey, Anthology, Author Backlist Project - Amy Lane, Author Backlist Project - Mary Calmes, Cops/Crime, Dreamspinner Press, Family Issues, Fiber Arts, Germany, Greek, Mafia, Mary Calmes, Mate Bonding, Mystery, Mythology, Norse, Psychic, Reincarnation, Royalty, Short Story, Wolf Shifters
Title: The Guardian
Author: Mary Calmes
Length: 58,903 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Fantasy Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often
Keywords/Tags: Author Backlist Project, Multi-Dimensions, Alternate World, Highlander, Guardians/Warriors, Alpha Men, Cheating Exes, Shifters, TGBT (Too Good to Be True), Mate Bonding, HEA, Pets/Animals
Rating: So So
Jude Shea’s life is turned upside down when he rescues a dog he names Joe. Even though Jude has enough trouble taking care of himself—he doesn’t even have a job—he can’t resist the animal that needs him. Then one night, a man shows up on his doorstep looking to claim Jude’s new companion. As they run from a surprise attack, Jude finds out that “Joe” is not what he seems.
Eoin Thral is a guardian from an alternate dimension, and once he leads Jude through the veil that separates their worlds, he transforms into a handsome hulk of a man known for his fighting skills, not the capacity for love. Jude finds himself immersed in Eoin’s world, and he’s faced with the fight of his life to secure a happy future for them both.
This book is one of the main reasons I decided that I wanted to do an Author Backlist Project. Mary Calmes was my first choice from when I first thought of the idea directly to it’s debut last Fall, and this was one of the handful of books that I’ve had forever and intended to read for years now. Somehow, it never seemed to happen, and even in the case of a book like this, which I always had such high hopes for but ultimately didn’t live up to my (possibly) too-high expectations, it is still really nice to read more of Mary’s backlist and assuage my curiosity about this book.
Jude Shea is job-less and boyfriend-less, which all stems from one terrible betrayal. Now, all alone in his new (and sad) studio apartment, Jude is woken in the middle of the night with an inexplicable desire to take a walk in the park. While there, he comes across a pack of dogs killing another dog. The dog is absolutely huge and almost dead, but Jude has a sudden bout of confidence and runs off the pack of dogs. He soon starts to call the dog “Joe” after their trip to fix him up at the animal clinic, where the vet, vet techs and workers of the clinic are at once awed and afraid of Joe. To everyone else, he’s a wicked beast, but when he’s around Jude he turns into a big teddy bear. In a small amount of time they become best friends — Jude has never had a dog before and finds the companionship strangely comfortable, and Joe The Dog seems very attached and protective of Jude for such a short relationship. Jude is inconsolable when faced with the thought that Joe’s real owner might come looking for him.
When a man shows up at Jude’s apartment claiming the dog has his own and calling him Eoin, Jude is wary. The man seems strange, not only in his speech and mannerisms, but in his completely lack of emotion when talking about Joe/Eoin. Soon, both man and dog find themselves being chased through Chicago at night, only to disappear into a very strange fog bank.
Eoin isn’t just a dog, he’s a guardian for a baroness in the land across the veil. Guardian’s are the fiercest of protectors, with no love for anything but the safety of their charge. Across the veil, in his homeland, Eoin is a man like any other, but in Jude’s homeland he reverts to his shifted form, a dog. In rare instances, a guardian might find his cairn, his heart, in a mating bond that immediately severs ties to their old allegiances, purely because their mate will now forever be foremost in their mind. Now, with the gryphons once again on his tail, he knows that he must get Jude across the veil and back to his home in order to protect him from their pursuers and give their bond a chance to solidify, something that Eoin will not allow to go undone. He has found his mate, and he won’t give him up.
But life across the veil is very difficult for Jude, not only because he doesn’t understand anything about the lives they lead, but because of the political turmoil that followed them across the veil in the first place. Navigating their allies and enemies will test their relationship and Jude’s own self-worth, as he puts his life back together and looks forward to a possibly incredible future with Eoin back in his own world.
I didn’t really know what this book was about, honestly. I really liked the story — it’s almost a time travel story, but without explicit description about the veil and the technical aspects of the fantasy world and how it is connected to our world. I liked the characters also. Jude is a pretty typical Calmes’ character, almost perfect in every way, while it is impossible to hate a character like Eoin with a heart of gold, completely noble and loyal and moral and self-sacrificing, who speaks in a thick brogue and is the epitome of rough highlander warrior. The book is heavy on the sex (which I didn’t mind because it was so hot), but in the end, I had a lot of problems with it.
Perhaps my feelings are indicative of the upward trajectory of Mary Calmes’ writing. Reading this, one of her earlier novels, I could definitely see where her recent work has been of higher quality. The change in POV over the story bothered me somewhat. At times it is very frequent between especially Jude and Eoin. I actually liked getting the POV of secondary characters in this instance, though the transitions between all of them are what bothered me, usually because it got confusing. I also felt rather jarred when Jude and Eoin when through the veil into Eoin’s homeland. The first part of the story, in our world, was really enjoyable and easy to read, but once in the other land things sometimes became dreamlike and at other times simply confusing. With only small pieces of information about the political issues, I felt a bit like I had one foot in the world and one foot out. I wanted to know what was going on, but nothing was ever really described past a superficial level, which made my investment in the story less than usual.
So even while I enjoyed parts and liked the characters, it wasn’t even near my favorite Calmes’ books. I am certainly glad I have read it though, and if you haven’t either it is something to consider. It might be more your cup of tea than mine, or you might at least not feel the same way as I did about these specific issues. Now, I’m forward into the backlist and looking forward to next week’s book by Mary Calmes!
Posted by Cole in 3 So So, 41-75k, Authors A-C, Contemporary, Fantasy, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Romance, Sex Freq 4 - Very Often Tags: Alpha Men, Alternate Worlds, Animals, Author Backlist Project - Mary Calmes, Cheating Ex, Dreamspinner Press, HEA, Highlander, Mary Calmes, Mate Bonding, Multi-Dimensions, Pets, Shifters, TGBT (Too Good to Be True), Warriors
Author: Mary Calmes
Length: 18,440 words
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Heat: 5 – Off the Charts!
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Shifters, Gargoyles, Firefighters, Author Backlist Project
Rating: Pretty Good
Stopping to offer help one sultry summer night, Mason James is unprepared for the change that this simple act of kindness will bring. After giving an old man a ride home, Mason discovers a new, magical, and even dangerous world he cannot hope to understand. But he also finds Luc Toussaint and is intoxicated at first sight… and even the secret Luc protects won’t be enough to keep Mason away from the truth of his heritage and their love.
Mace is a firefighter, who after a double shift is on his way home when he almost runs over an old man wandering in the middle of the Kentucky mountain road. After stopping and getting the man into his truck to get to help, he can’t help but notice that something about the old man isn’t quite right, and against his better judgement allows the old man to insist he be taken home instead of the hospital. When he finds the place the old man says he lives, it seems to be some sort of hippie compound, with lots of people running around naked around a bonfire. Though tired as he is, he seems to be taking it all in stride, though the non-answers they keep giving him are a bit frustrating. When he decides to stay because he’s too sleepy to drive home, he meets Luc, a massive beast of a beautiful man who takes his breath away and has a raw confidence and sexuality that stuns him. He’s smitten, and much more very quickly, even when it all starts to hit the fan.
I had a few problems with this story. It’s not what I think a lot of people complain about Mary’s stories (the perfect men, etc.) because I’m quite used to that and find it charming most times now, but more that there’s actually very little of the world ever given until a somewhat info dump near the end. Also, while I noticed there was care not to be insta-love, in the sense that Mace finds it very important not to give his heart away so quickly and insist on a slower romance, he does seem to fall quite quickly and his actions seemed contrary to his words, so I’m not quite sure I wouldn’t label it insta-love. That however, is a matter of opinion from reader to reader.
What I did like about this story was the unusual world and creatures — gargoyles — which was quite interesting though I would have liked to learn a lot more, especially with so many questions unanswered. Most of all, the chemistry between Mace and Luc, which is completely sexual and didn’t seem very romantic to me, personally, was HOT HOT HOT. Completely scalding, which was very nice to read and I enjoyed that immensely. I ended up feeling that this was mostly an erotic read with a nice world around it. I needed more story for it to feel really romantic to me, or for there to be an organic relationship grow between the two. But I was okay with that, such as it was. It didn’t make the story wonderful to me, but it was definitely interesting and pleasing to read.
I’m a fan of Mary Calmes, a pretty big fan, so I really liked this story where some readers might find more fault with it. Or, at least, they might find that those faults weigh more. I suppose what I’d really like would be to read a sequel, where we learn more about the world and perhaps get to know some more of the characters.
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 4 Pretty Good, Authors A-C, Heat 5 - Off the Charts!, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 4 - Very Often Tags: Author Backlist Project - Mary Calmes, Dreamspinner Press, Firefighters, Gargoyles, Mary Calmes, Shifters, Short Story
Title: Change of Heart, Trusted Bond, Honored Vow, and Crucible of Fate (Change of Heart series #1-4)
Author: Mary Calmes
Length: 74,682 / 91,717 / 97,139 / 68,260 words (respectively)
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty (Overall)
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex (Overall)
Keywords/Tags: Series, Shifters, Big Cats, Mating, Alphas, Egypt, Action/Adventure
Rating: Really Like It (Overall)
Change of Heart
As a young gay man—and a werepanther—all Jin Rayne yearns for is a normal life. Having fled his past, he wants nothing more than to start over, but Jin’s old life doesn’t want to let him go. When his travels bring him to a new city, he crosses paths with the leader of the local were-tribe. Logan Church is a shock and an enigma, and Jin fears that Logan is both the mate he fears and the love of his life. Jin doesn’t want to go back to the old ways, and mating would irrevocably tie him to them. But Jin is the mate Logan needs at his side to help him lead his tribe, and he won’t give Jin up so easily. It will take time and trust for Jin to discover the joy in belonging to Logan and how to love without restraint.
Jin Rayne is having trouble adjusting to the new life he’s supposed to love. Instead of adapting to being the mate of tribe leader Logan Church, Jin can’t get past the fact that his lover was straight before they met. He’s discovered the joy in belonging to Logan but fears his new life could disappear at a moment’s notice, despite Logan’s insistence that they are forever, end of story.
Jin wants to trust Logan, but that desire will be put to the test both by a rival tribe leader and by a startling revelation about Jin’s existence. At stake is Jin’s life and his place in the tribe. If he’s going to survive to see Logan again, he’ll have to release his fear and freely accept the bond, for only then can he truly trust.
Jin Rayne is still growing into his frightening new powers as a nekhene cat and his place as reah of Logan Church’s tribe when he learns that a sepat, an honor challenge, has been called. Logan, who has never wanted to do anything but lead his small-town tribe, must travel around the world to Mongolia and fight to become the most powerful leader in the werepanther world.
Logan won’t be the only one making the journey. As his mate, Jin must fight with him to honor his commitment to Logan, his culture, and his tribe. But the trial is long, involving a prolonged separation between the two men, and Logan’s humanity is at stake. In order to make it through the nightmarish sepat, Jin and Logan must accept their fates, trust each other, and honor the vows between them no matter the cost.
Crucible of Fate
In the secret city of Sobek, Domin Thorne is making his way as the newly chosen semel-aten, the leader of the werepanther world. He aspires to make sweeping changes—he’s set goals for himself and the people he chose to bring with him, modeling his reign after that of his friend, Logan Church. But Domin may have set too lofty a goal: his normal leadership style isn’t working. While juggling a homesick Crane, a moody Mikhail, a bullwhip-wielding Taj, servants with murderous intentions, a visiting ex, and a mate on a dangerous goodwill mission, Domin has to figure out his new role alone. He also must determine how to deal with a conspiracy, all the while falling hard for a man who, for the first time in Domin’s life, reciprocates that love. Whether Domin is ready or not, Fate has stepped in to teach him a lesson: internal threats are just as dangerous as external ones.
Change of Heart and it’s sequel, Trusted Bond were my first introduction to Mary Calmes’ work. As two (CoH & TB) of my very first reviews — ever — and in the first week at my gig reviewing at Jessewave, I hadn’t quite settled into my own rating system. So I wasn’t sure if my feelings and ratings would stay the same (then, 4.25 stars and 5 stars, respectively), because I didn’t have much to compare them with. I hadn’t even joined Goodreads at that point! It was later December of 2010.
I knew though, that if I were going to get caught up on this series and read the third book and the fourth, released just this week, that I’d need to read them all again. As much as I love a book, you have to understand, I very, very rarely re-read romance books. There are just so many that I have waiting to read for the first time that I rarely allow myself the luxury of going back to a favorite book. It has to be good, really good. So I was so happy to find out that I loved these books the second time around just as much as the first. And with a whole different arsenal in my possession — better analytical thinking and also a much wider breadth of experience reviewing m/m in particular — I found that I appreciated this series in ways I couldn’t the first time I read it. But really, I just loved Jin and Logan again and I doubt they’ll ever stop being one of my favorite couples.
I love Mary’s work, and in the past I’ve said that her paranormal/fantasy work has been so so while I tend to adore every contemporary she writes (which is the opposite of how I usually feel about romances). But re-reading this series has made me change my mind about that. This is my favorite series of Mary’s over all of them, and it is very paranormal.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this series, it works as a trilogy. The latest book, number four, deals with all of the same characters but with a change in focus from Jin and Logan to Domin and Yuri, two favorites from the first three books. It is a shifter world, focused on big cats and here’s your class on werepanther 101. We meet Jin in the beginning of the first book and he admits himself to be a “reah”. On the run with his best friend Crane (called a “beset”, meaning a companion of a “reah”), we don’t learn much about what Jin’s identity as a “reah” means other than that he’s extremely rare and everyone wants a piece of him, especially “semels”. A “semel” is the leader of a pack or tribe and are always male. They all wish to find their true mate (a “reah”), which is always a woman, but they’re so rare that most of them end up having to take a “yareah”, or a chosen mate. Now you see why Jin is so unique — he’s the only male “reah” known in existence.
In typical Mary Calmes’ fashion, they have enemies, lots of enemies. Everyone covets Jin so much, for his unique qualities and simply for the heart that pulls people to him which makes up a “reah”, that they’ll do just about anything to separate the two. The first three books follow the two as they travel the world making enemies and allies. Two of those are Yuri and Domin, from their tribe in Lake Tahoe. Yuri is Logan and Jin’s “sheseru”, the physical arm of the “semen” (Logan). He is in charge of security, specifically he is Jin’s protector. Domin was once a “semel” just like Logan, but due to his bad choices lost his tribe and was assimilated into Logan and Jin’s, becoming the “maahes” of the tribe, or the prince, whom acts as an emissary to the tribe. They have their own sub-plots during the series, only to be brought together at the end of the third book. Crucible of Fate takes over their story in Sobek, Egypt, their new home. But that is getting ahead of things!
There is something about these books that grabbed me and still hasn’t let go. I could analyze and critique, but the basis of it is that I love these books. And even though there are books I love more than others (in particular, the first and third), I know now that I’ll always love this series. She’s taking it to places that I never, ever expected, but I love it. It isn’t something that is just good, it is addicting, and I was sad when I finished Crucible of Fate.
With this last book in particular, I have to admit that I found it just a little disappointing. Right off there is an acclimatization necessary because it is the first story not about Jin and Logan. No matter how much I love Yuri and Domin, I was sad to say goodbye (even though they’re still there, sometimes) to Jin and Logan. Of course, I warmed up to getting their own story, but Domin’s voice is quite different and much more pessimistic, which took some time to get used to. All of that I could work with — it simply takes time after you’ve been with another character’s POV for so long. I did wish, however, that there was more romance in this book. So much of the love story between Yuri and Domin happens off page in the third book, when they’re first getting together, and then in Crucible of Fate their lives are focused on more pressing issues. But I missed that connection. They were together in a minority of the book and if I didn’t think that there would be another sequel coming (I see no reason it will stop here), then I’d be more upset. I’m hoping that with the way this one ended, that the next one will have them together for more time. And I’m certainly excited about the direction the series is starting to take for Domin, as well as getting to know quite a big part of the world that we weren’t privy to before.
So, while I loved this book because I loved the series, I’m more excited about the next book than I am about this one. It was satisfying enough, but since my expectations from the series are so high, it didn’t quite meet up. Also, reading directly after the third book made it difficult to live up to. Honored Vow, which I read for the first time in this read, I absolutely loved 🙂
So, please read this series! It is such a guilty pleasure read and there should be no negative connotations with that phrase here. It is simply that they are a pure pleasure to read and now that I know I’ll love them again and again, I’ll just have to make sure to read them all again the next time another book comes out.
Posted by Cole in 41-75k, 5 Really Like It, 76-100k, Authors A-C, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: Action/Adventure, Alpha Men, Author Backlist Project - Mary Calmes, Big Cats, Change of Heart, Dreamspinner Press, Egyptian, Mary Calmes, Mate Bonding, Series, Shifters
Title: After the Sunset (Timing #2)
Author: Mary Calmes
Length: 53,016 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Western Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Series/Sequel, Author Backlist Project, Established Relationship, Cowboys!, Alpha men
Rating: Really Liked It
Two years after riding off into the sunset with ranch owner Rand Holloway, Stefan Joss has made a tentative peace with his new life, teaching at a community college. But the course of true love never does run smooth. Rand wants him home on the ranch; Stef wants an exit strategy in case Rand ever decides to throw him out. Finally, after recognizing how unfair he’s being, Stef makes a commitment, and Rand is over the moon.
When Stef gets the chance to prove his devotion, he doesn’t hesitate—despite the risk to his health—and Rand takes the opportunity to show everyone that sometimes life’s best surprises come after the sunset.
After reading Timing last week, I knew I wanted to read this sequel, which picked up two years after the end of that book. I’m usually a little nervous about reading sequels, as opposed to the second book of a planned series, but I actually ended this book feeling that it was the perfect accompaniment to the original. The end of this book gave me what felt like Stef and Rand’s true HEA, and in the end, I ended up liking it even more.
Stef has spent the last two years half in love with Rand, and half waiting for the other shoe to drop — ready at a moment’s notice to run. His past has taught him to be afraid of really putting down roots, and true commitment scares him. It’s easier, after all, to not have to deal with the messy stuff. And no matter how much love they share, both Stef and Rand have fiery, passionate personalities. At times they can compliment each other perfectly, but if they aren’t on the same page, and Stef is still to scared to put in the work instead of ditching, then their blowups can be monumental.
With the decision made to make a full commitment, Stef starts a teaching job at the community college and moves in at the ranch full time. But even though Stef has grown to love Rand, the ranch and all the cowboys that make up their little family, he doesn’t know a whole lot about Rand’s family. Sure, he knows Rand’s mother’s family very well — they were a big part of the first book and they all get along wonderfully — but when Stef comes home one night to find the place taken over by Quinn, Rand’s cousin, and some others (all of which know very little about him as well), he starts to realize just how fractured Rand’s family is. And, being Stef, he sets about to restore their family.
Along the way he encounters a lot more cowboys and possibly forced to become one himself. He visits a rodeo and goes toe to toe with some rather homophobic family members, all with his trusty dog Belle at his side.
After the Sunset diverges from the first book, primarily in the absence of Rand and Charlotte, but also in a few more important ways. It might seem strange to some, but I really liked seeing the two apart. While I could read books about these two all day, the absence of Rand allows us to explore Stef’s character in a new way. Now that he’s committed to his new life (though it still takes some prodding now and then), he really starts to grow, and getting him alone, among new characters is a great way to showcase that. Plus, the title of the story evokes the idea that this story is what happens after the honeymoon period, where they really have to start to talk and work on their relationship. That means trust, and getting them apart and setting Stef loose is a good way to do that 🙂
I’m actually really proud of how Mary’s writing has evolved. I am a fan of her writing, always, but she does tend to fall in certain patterns at times — most famously, the ending that tends to involve a surprise kidnapping or abduction, even when it doesn’t pertain much to the story. This story didn’t fall into that pattern at all, and I felt like the more natural ending, which was much more in line with the story, really showcased the lives that these two lead and it fit perfectly for me. I ended up finishing the book with a smile on my face and perfectly pleased. This feels like the second part of the first book to me, just an extension of the story, which is ultimately what it should be. Because of that, I ended up loving this story even more than the first one. Also, Stef is a little more calmed down, less Jory-esque. And while I like the Jory type characters in essence, they can get a little overplayed at times. I felt like Stef was more settled in this sequel, and Rand was too. When they actually mentioned that they compliment one another and that they’ve soothed each others rough edges, I could see it in their actions.
This is one that I’ll definitely read again, and even though I had a few problems with the first book, they’re both absolutely worth reading. I recommend them both!
Posted by Cole in 41-75k, 5 Really Like It, Authors A-C, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex, Western Tags: Alpha Men, Author Backlist Project - Mary Calmes, Cowboys, Dreamspinner Press, Existing Relationship, Mary Calmes, Series, Timing