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angelsredemptionTitle: Angel’s Redemption
Author: Azalea Moone
Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Length: 31k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Fantasy Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Angels, Fallen Angels, Rockers/Musicians, Metal Music, Roommates, Luck, Insta-Love
Rating: Not Feelin’ It

BLURB

Twenty-four-year-old Blaine Schneider is seasoned to hardship. Since the age of eight, he’s experienced nothing but a swarm of bad luck: from the funny electrical fire in shop class to failing grades and relationships gone sour. He believes he’ll never get past it; only his band, ‘Til Dark, and their dream, keeps him going through it all.

Shortly after he mysteriously inherits a beautifully carved angel statue, Blaine also finds an apartment big enough to display the lifelike sculpture, and he thinks his luck has finally taken a turn for the better. But when he discovers the spell inscribed on the statue’s base, he frees Lynsael from his stone prison, a handsome fallen angel who claims to be Blaine’s former guardian angel, and then his luck really improves.

But while Blaine is falling hard for the angel’s blue eyes and lively personality, in the shadows, dark forces are working to keep Blaine and Lynsael apart. It will take more than luck for the pair to come through unscathed—it’ll take a miracle.

REVIEW

I shouldn’t apologize for my feelings and I try not to usually, but I will, because I tend to do that. Sorry ahead of time to those who put a lot of love and care into the creation of this book, this isn’t really going to be a positive review 😦

I have a love/hate relationship with angel stories. I think that maybe people are turned onto angels for a few different reasons, but a lot of it has to do with the loss of innocence. There are so many directions an author can take an angelic character — an exploration of literary history and popular angelic mythos, playing on the fallen angel theme and the dichotomy of innocence and corruption, angelic and human. Many romance novels place a lot of importance on world building as a backdrop to the reason their angel falls and then some place the romance itself as the focus of their story. Many of those stories are where I find myself not as interested. I like seeing an author’s imagination in world building of angel stories. I think that what I really don’t like is that I sometimes find angels in romance stories to be somewhat… vapid? without personality? They convey all of that innocence but it seems one dimensional. It’s hard to connect with a character like that, and even though it might be a purposeful choice because angels are in fact, not human (who knew?!), that doesn’t necessarily make it a good choice for the story.

That’s where I started to encounter some problems for me with Angel’s Redemption. I like this author’s prose, no doubt about that. And that is probably why I continually come back to read her stories even though, in the past, I’ve not been very kind in my reviews. So for me, taking a gamble on this story for review was… well, a gamble, what with the angel theme and my past history with not liking some of this author’s characters so much. The premise of this story is the freedom of an angel who is bound in a statue. Blaine received the statue, which has always mystified and alternately unnerved him, from his father’s best friend, an artist who worked on the statue for a long time and for some unknown reason left it to Blaine in his will. When Blaine moves to an apartment with enough space to showcase the beautiful rendition of the male form (au naturel), he puts it in a place where he can showcase it, even adding a spotlight to show it off.

In the meantime, Blaine is trying to make his sucky life better. Ever since the age of 8 he’s been terribly unlucky. Prior to that, his life was wonderful. Now that he’s 24 and with a band he’s proud of he thinks he might be able to master his own luck and make his life happier. There’s a chance for his band to play a weekly gig at a popular club, which will give them lots of visibility and even a bit of cash. His life and luck is looking up, if they can actually get the gig. It looks promising, if only his bandmates would get their shit together.

But Blaine is still mystified by the statue of the beautiful angel. Sometimes… he swears that when he walks by the eyes follow him and occasionally he sees a feather ruffle. It can’t be true, but further investigation of the statue reveals a strange phrase in latin marked on the base. Blaine’s curiosity could be the best, or worst thing that has ever happened to him.

I hate to sit and list the problems I had with this book. I mean, for the most part I still enjoyed reading it and I definitely didn’t hate it. But, I also found some things here that have bothered me with past Azalea Moone books and stories. One of those things, and the one of the biggest problems that I had here was the world building. It’s almost non-existent. I read through this whole book having no clue what was going on. It wasn’t because the characters were purposefully keeping secrets — they were — but, we’re often given references of things that have happened in the past. This is great because it helps us put the pieces of the story together ourselves, but there has to be a framework in which to fill in those gaps — a world. I read the blurb again when I finished the book and it had more detail than was in the actual book. Also, throughout the book, Lynsael continually asks Blaine to help him find out what happened with the statue. Both of them don’t understand how he broke out, how he was bound, or what the sculptor (Blaine’s father’s friend) really knew about any of this, including Lyn. Blaine offers to help, about a million times but something always seems to come up to distract him. This is just one of my pet peeves. It didn’t seem like a very good reason to stall them, to put off talking about their situation and finding out what is going on. It seemed more like an easy way to stall them until the ending of the story. It was just… frustrating to read, honestly. I would have liked to see them talk, not only to figure out why everything was happening as it was, but also to get to know one another — their history, their lives, their feelings — and by extension for me to get to know the characters.

I ended the book feeling like I didn’t really understand the story, only the few events that happened but no background at all to fill in the details and gaps. I also felt like I didn’t really know the characters well. I understood Blaine a bit better than Lyn, but not well. So I didn’t connect with them and I didn’t really see a connection between them. In another story by this author that I read and reviewed (“On Clouds of Obsession” in the Fraternal Devotion anthology, reviewed here), I felt like I didn’t really like one of of the main characters. And I felt that way about Blaine somewhat too. While he wasn’t the kind of asshole like in “On Clouds of Obsession”, he still pissed me off most of the book with his words toward Lyn and his refusal to help him and his general attitude of pissy and then, suddenly, he loves him. I didn’t get it, really.

I think that pretty much says everything. I didn’t really like the book and I feel like it needed more work to fill out the story. That and I just couldn’t connect with both of the characters. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this one.


KC_When_I_See_You_SmileTitle: When I See You Smile
Author: Karenna Colcroft
Publisher: MLR
Length: 16k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, MLR Mixtapes, Rockers/Musicians, Music, Famous, a bit of BDSM, Coming Out, Light & Sweet
Rating: Pretty Good

BLURB

Rocker Kieran West is ready to go public about his relationship with his lover–and submissive–Deacon Shea.

Although rocker Kieran West is openly gay, only a handful of people know about his relationship with his lover–and submissive–Deacon Shea. Although he knows the BDSM part of their relationship must remain a secret, Kieran wants the world to know that he and Deke are in love, and he wants to make Deke a permanent part of his life.

REVIEW

It has been a while since I read and reviewed one of Karenna Colcroft’s short stories — that last one being Chance Met, which I gave a So So rating — but I was excited to read this one because of the rocker theme. And I’m glad that I did, because this story did what a short romance does well. It doesn’t try to pack a whole romance into a short format but it gives us a glimpse into the life of the characters and their romance.

Kieran is a forceful presence, a musical star combining country and rock with a solid fan base, and publicly gay after coming out over a year before this story starts. But he also has a secret life that he’s held in check, mostly at the urging of his manager and boyfriend, who just wants to support his career and not jeopardize it. Kieran is a forceful presence, yes. He knows what he wants and he takes it, which makes him successful. But he also likes to carry that power into the bedroom, and he has a permanent partner there who likes to submit to him. Secretly, Kieran has been dating the man who works at his right hand, doing much of the behind-the-scenes work for his music and on his tours. Deacon is known to most as his best friend, but they’ve been lovers in a part-time BDSM relationship for a year now.

But Kieran is tired of hiding. He finally made the leap and convinced his management and studio that he should come out. But so far they’ve convinced him not to admit to his relationship with Deke, hoping to continue to play on Kieran’s heartthrob status and unsure if the same people who supported him coming out as gay would feel similarly about him as a gay man in a relationship. For Kieran, however, it is past time. When a man from the studio tells him to record a cover on his next album of the song “When I See You Smile” from the 80s, it serves as a catalyst for Kieran to stick it to the man. Kieran West doesn’t do covers, and he sure as hell isn’t going to keep Deke a secret any longer. But will Deke agree?

As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, this story works as a glimpse into the lives of our characters at an important moment in their relationship, without using conflict to drive the plot. Of course, there is a little bit of conflict. The people around Kieran are pretty adamantly against his decision to go public about Deke, but there’s no real conflict because Kieran has already made up his mind, and like I said, he’s a strong personality. His resolve only serves to make us closer to him because we always respect people/characters who are steadfast and self-aware, especially in defense of their partner. And Kiernan’s decision to go public is really about honoring Deke, who deserves to stand up as his boyfriend as much as Kiernan wants to stand by his side. The BDSM flows outwardly from that, in the sense that it’s an extension of their personalities, but also that their sexual lives take a backseat to their romantic lives and their public lives. There is a touch of BDSM in the story, but it isn’t the focus.

The removal of real conflict works here if you’re looking for a light and sweet story, and it isn’t really needed to push the plot forward at 16k words. The story is short enough to keep a steady pace just from getting to know Kiernan and Deke, and the little bit of conflict that propels the story in the beginning as we start to see the dynamic in their relationship and how it changes when they move out of bed and return as equal partners. Deke remained a bit of a mystery for me, and to rate this story higher I would have liked to get to know more about him. The story reads well as it stands, however, and is definitely good for you if you’re in the mood for something sweet and heartwarming. And of course, rocker characters always draw attention and Kiernan does well playing the bad boy with a heart of gold.


GSW_Crocodile_Kevs_Merry-Go-RoundTitle: Crocodile Kev’s Merry-Go-Round
Author: G.S. Wiley
Publisher: MLR Press
Length: 7,000 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Australia, Co-Workers, Famous(ish), HFN(ish), May/Dec, Musicians, Short Story, Sports
Rating: So So

Reviewed by Nikyta

BLURB

Kevin Ballantyne is a hugely successful children’s entertainer, but his personal life is no laughing matter. Will an encounter with a grown-up fan give him an Australia Day to remember?

“Crocodile” Kevin Ballantyne has been entertaining kids in Australia and all over the world for more than twenty years, fan-favorite Kazza the Kangaroo always by his side. When the dancer playing Kazza backs out of an Australia Day gig at Sydney’s Hyde Park, Kevin is left scrambling. High dive artist and longtime Crocodile Kev fan Lachlan Clayfield steps into the breach and the kangaroo costume. As they get to know one another over the course of the day, Kevin finds himself wondering whether Lachlan might be able to lend a hand in other, more personal, areas of his life.

REVIEW

Kevin Ballantyne has been entertaining kids for decades as Crocodile Kev with his trusty sidekick Kazza the Kangaroo. When he’s scheduled for a slot at Hyde Park in Sydney for Australia Day, the woman playing Kazza can’t make, putting him in a horrible situation. Lucky for him, he finds a fan in Lachlan Clayfield, another entertainer for Australia Day, who’s willing to put on the kangaroo suit. The two hit it off right from the start not just on the stage but in other ways.

When this story starts, it’s to Kevin not wanting to do the gig in Hyde Park and he wants to do it even less when he realizes his Kazza won’t be there. It was hard for me to connect with Kevin because I felt like he didn’t have much of a personality and didn’t like his life. Lachlan, however, I really enjoyed. I loved his bubbly attitude and the high dive entertainment he was part of. The two together are pretty cute. Kevin is much older than Lachlan which made things a bit awkward when he finds out how much of a fan the much younger Lachlan is.

This is one of those stories, though, that had a lot of potential but fell short of the mark. While I liked the premise of the story, I felt like it was too short to achieve its potential because there wasn’t much depth to the characters or the conflicts. The entire story felt rushed but also lacks a lot of important details, which made the ending feel abrupt and open ended. There’s inconsistencies but I also felt like there was too much pointless emphasis on the way Australians talk. Granted, I’m not Australian but the way Lachlan in particular was talking felt forced and awkward.

In the end, I liked the story but I felt like there could have been much more to it than there was. I loved Lachlan but Kevin came across dull in comparison to him. The age gap between them created some good conflict but there were too many other issues within the story that made this potentially good read only an okay one.


EvolutionLGTitle: Evolution
Author: Sam Kadence
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Length: 68k words, 230 pages
Genre: m/m YA Paranormal Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Famous, GFY, Ghosts/Spirits, Injured Character, Musicians, Past Abuse, Pets, Phoenix Shifter, Physical Abuse, Psychic Abilities, Secrets & Lies, Under Aged Character, Vampires, Young Adult Characters
Rating: Really Liked It

Reviewed by Nikyta

*This review contains some tiny spoilers*

BLURB

Gene Sage has only ever wanted to sing, but his band, Evolution, is pushing him toward the big time. He finds it hard to focus on making musical history when he’s dreaming of graveyards and seeing ghosts. And while all he can think of is hiding who he is from a world unforgiving of anyone different, he discovers he’s also the ultimate snack for vampires and demons. When Gene literally runs into—over—his idol, Kerstrande Petterson, rock god, vampire in hiding, and music cynic, his life falls over the edge into chaos.

Jaded by the world and nearly a decade in the music business, Kerstrande thinks Gene wants to use him to make Evolution immortal in more than one way, but he can’t seem to brush aside the young singer’s enthusiasm.

Getting involved with Kerstrande drags Gene into otherworldly power struggles. Between the ghosts stalking them, the media painting supernaturals as villains, and a vampire out of control in the city, the only way for Gene and Kerstrande to survive is for Gene to embrace his powers—and his destiny.

REVIEW

I adored this story because I had so much fun reading it!

One thing I really enjoyed about this book were the characters. Genesis and Kerstrande have two very distinct voices that are nothing alike. Gene is almost too innocent and forgiving, sweet and nice but fun and eccentric. Kerstrande is grumpy, snarky, and more likely to give an insult than a compliment. They’re yin and yang and balance each other out nicely. In fact, the balance they give each other is a bit crucial to the story and explains some of the troubles they go through. Both Gene and Kerstrande have had a hard life but while Gene has made it his motto to just go forward, Kerstrande still lives somewhat in the past. Ashamed of who he is and what he has to do to survive, it’s not until being with Gene for a while that he realizes he doesn’t have to make things worse for himself. On the other hand, Kerstrande is able to give Gene the one thing he wants most – and that’s to be accepted and loved for everything he is, warts and all, even if Kerstrande doesn’t actually come out and say it. More than that, I loved how soft Kerstrande got around Gene (even when he was fighting those feelings) and even more that he let Gene nickname him KC.

This story took me on a slow but wild ride. It grabbed my attention from the beginning with the spectacular way Kerstrande and Gene met. There’s possession, jealousy, lust, love, distrust and heartbreak and a boat load of other emotions. Gene goes from a nobody to a star over night. From someone who barely knows his own powers to being thrust into the paranormal world without even knowing it or the dangers associated with it. Kerstrande is very hot and cold so a majority of the story is him trying to push Gene away but not being able to let him go. Overall, this book is about their journey, finding out who they are and accepting themselves and each other. One of the highlights of this story, though, is the back and forth between Gene and Kerstrande and the passion they have together. I felt like they had amazing chemistry with KC insulting Gene and Gene taking it in stride. It’s sort of sad but Gene understood why KC was so mean sometimes. Although, they don’t exactly know much of each other in the traditional sense, I was able to overlook that because of how much they go through together.

While I enjoyed this book immensely, there were some problems I had. Mostly, there were times when I was confused on what was going on, how and why some things happened but others didn’t, such as how Joel didn’t burn from the inside out but Hane did. Another thing, though, is that Kerstrande in the beginning was very firm on the fact he wasn’t gay to the point that was one of his main responses to whatever Gene was saying. However, he quickly overcame that objection so it had me wondering, was he in denial? Or was he just gay for Genesis? It’s not quite clear but either way I would have liked a little more detail on that because of how forcefully Kerstrande would tell Genesis that.

One thing readers should be aware of is that when Kerstrande and Gene start their unconventional relationship, Gene is underage. A few months shy of 18, in fact, while KC, the vampire, is a few years older…. Or is he… Anyway, they have sex although it’s not detailed but beautiful all the same and while I didn’t have a problem with this, I do understand that some readers might not take kindly to Gene being underage. So, this is me giving those readers fair warning. After all, this is a YA story 😉 I will say that Gene is very mature most of the time to the point I kept forgetting he was so young.

Overall, a great story that I really loved reading. It had its faults but I was so caught up in the book and the characters, it was easy to overlook them. I can’t wait to see what else this author has coming out next because I adored the writing and the style. There’s a lot of stuff that happened within this story but I didn’t want to give many details on it. Mostly because I want the reader to experience it for themselves but also because I would just sound crazy if I tried to explain it all. LOL. I definitely recommend this to those who enjoy young adult paranormal fantasies and I hope those who decide to read it like it as much as I did 🙂


lyricsoflove400Title: Lyrics of Love
Author: Angelina Aniyha
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 50k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Musicians/Rockers, Love Triangle, Famous, GFY/OFY, Bisexual, Bicurious, First Times, Dub Con
Rating: Not Feelin’ It

BLURB

Performing in a club one night, the last thing Steve expects is for the effort to actually pay off. But a popular band has just lost its lead vocals and their manager, after hearing Steve, thinks he might just be the perfect replacement. The only problem is Nero, the band’s rhythm guitarist, who seems to want absolutely nothing to do with Steve for reasons he won’t explain.

REVIEW

I’m always up for a good rocker book, and I’ve noticed that, for some reason, the rocker theme is common among new authors. Maybe because so many people love it? And, maybe it’s just that it’s the common theme I’ve noticed most, among several others. But, whether Angelina Aniyha has written before, this is definitely the first time I’ve come across her work. But hey, it’s a rocker book! So, I dove in. And, for the most part, I was disappointed. I’ll explain why after I introduce the story.

Steve has been the frontman and lead singer for his band for a long time now. They’re not really going anywhere, but that’s okay with Steve. His passion is music and singing, not fame, and he’s the glue holding the band together, the others all have similar feelings. So he’s surprised when a manager of popular band Fate calls him up and convinces him to fly out to LA and audition for their band. Fate has lost it’s previous lead singer to alcohol, drugs and a bad attitude. But going into an already established group brings it’s own difficulties — mostly fitting into an already cohesive family.

Nero doesn’t make that any better. The surly guitarist of the group, he’s the head of the group, or he at least thinks of himself that way. And his decision goes. Being trumped by their manager to have Steve join pisses Nero off, and what Nero is best at is holding a grudge. He does pretty much everything he can think of to not welcome Steve to the group, no matter how much he grows to like him over weeks and months of rehearsal and recording.

But Nero is surprised with the turn in his thoughts when everyone starts remarking about how “pretty” Steve is. Bassist and bicurious Jon can’t stop talking about wanting to make out with him, and worst of all, signs point to Steve having a secret boyfriend (when no one even knows which way he swings). The worst part is that the man in question is both Nero’s enemy and idol, incredibly famous guitarist from another band, Bruce. But nothing will happen, including a cohesive band family, unless Nero can get over his problems and welcome Steve to their group. It just sucks that now he can’t keep his mind off of welcoming Steve to his bed as well.

I think that the real problem with this story is the writing. I don’t want to discourage the author either. And that’s why I mentioned that I don’t know anything about this author other than my presumption that they’re new to writing. I think the author should practice more (which means to keep writing!) because I really think that there were kernels of good pieces in this story, but the writing itself was awkward, as if the story was approached from a “telling the story” view rather than by constructing scenes and stringing them together. There was way more telling, rather than showing and the voice of the characters (in narration and dialogue) was often awkward. The point of view is third person but incredibly close to the characters, so some of their voices bleed into the narration and there are different point of view “sections” for different characters.

There are quite a few other things that bothered me actually, but I don’t want to get nitpicky. The other real problem I found with the story was the love triangle. Having a love triangle isn’t bad in and of itself, though I know some of you readers avoid those books at all cost. I don’t mind so much, but I think in general there must be a real balance between the two suitors (in this case Bruce and Nero, with Steve as the fulcrum). There needs to be a building relationship of some kind between Steve-Bruce and Steve-Nero, and in this case it seemed pretty off balance. Most of the romantic bits are spend between Steve and Bruce and Nero only really starts opening up to Steve in the last third to fourth of the book. Going further, we’re presented with an outline of Nero and we certainly get to spend a lot of time with him, but I never felt like we got to dig deep and really understand his particular neuroses, though we see quite a bit of them. There’s some mention of past trauma in his family, but it’s never approached again. And Bruce. Bruce, Bruce, Bruce. *sigh* Honestly, he made me want to barf. I’m not sure if the author was trying to present Steve with Nero, in all his surliness and with major problems, as an even better catch than the other guy so they made Bruce that skeezy, but that’s the way it seemed to me. He’s full of himself, totally predatory and I felt like he took advantage of Steve. He preyed on his emotional vulnerability in his isolation from his band. There’s even a scene (the first sex scene, and first time for Steve) that I felt was firmly straddling the dub-con line. Steve keeps thinking that he wants Bruce to stop. We know he isn’t comfortable with going forward, but… it continues.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I had some pretty big problems myself with Steve, and I’ve seen a couple other people say the same. He’s a major pushover. I got it at first. He’s totally nervous to open up to this band that doesn’t want to accept him. But after months and months in LA and he hasn’t even tried to acclimate to his new home or make friends or anything? He’s completely passive in life and in the story, waiting on all the other characters to make his decisions for him. And by the end of the book, I just didn’t like him much.

So, I really can’t recommend this one. I will definitely look forward to what this author might write in the future, however. I hope she continues to write and gets better at her craft. I will probably even read something else she’s written in the future. But, I will definitely be more circumspect before picking up the book.


JM_Last_Stop_USATitle: Last Stop USA
Author: Johnny Miles
Publisher: MLR
Length: 6,000 words
Genre: m/m Historical Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Interracial, WWII, 1940s, Racism, Sailors, Musicians, Bittersweet
Rating: Not Feelin’ It

Reviewed by Sadonna

BLURB

It’s a week after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and there’s more than fear in the air. An uncertainty about the future lingers. Still, life must go on and so does the music. Kevin Hardy plays his first gig at a USO dance where he meets white, redheaded sailor Peyton Fitzgerald. The black saxophonist takes an instant liking to him but does the seaman feel the same? Once Peyton admits it’s his last night in the U.S., Kevin dares to dream, takes a gamble, and invites Peyton over for a few hours of passion before shipping off to Europe.

REVIEW

This very short vignette takes place on a night one week after Pearl Harbor and is told in alternating first person. We are introduced to our fist main character, Kevin Hardy, who is a young African-American saxophone player in a USO show. Kevin has been turned down for the armed forces on account of his race. He is in New York, but he still finds the same barriers – Whites Only signs and the difficulties of the realities of racism. While there is bitterness, he is also happy to be playing music and being paid to do so.

Our second character, Peyton Fitzgerald, is a white navy recruit who will be shipping out the next morning. He sees Kevin in the Men’s room and he decides to wait for him outside the hall after the dance. Through Peyton’s eyes we see the fear that goes with leaving the known life and heading off to the unknown. Peyton’s family is unhappy that he is going to war. They even threaten to stop him by whatever means necessary. Peyton wants some companionship before he heads off to war.

Peyton approaches Kevin in the alley behind the hall and Kevin is afraid Peyton is up to no good. Peyton realizes that Kevin is afraid and sets him at ease asking him for coffee. Kevin understands the underlying context and invites Peyton to his apartment so that they can be alone.

I wanted to like this story, but I felt like it was so short and touched on so many important topics that none of them had any depth.