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Tag Archives: Netgalley

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

BLURB

Liverpool, 1891

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

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

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

REVIEW

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

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

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

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

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

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


theadornedTitle: The Adorned
Author: John Tristan
Publisher: Carina
Length: 101k words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Indentured Slavery, Sexual Slavery, Tattoos, Art/Artists, Magic, Major Class Distinctions, Alternate World Historical, Slow Burn, Revolution, Netgalley
Rating: LOVED it!!!!

BLURB

My name is Etan, and I am Adorned.

A living piece of art, I exist to please the divine rulers of Kered. With nowhere to turn after my father died, I tried my luck in the capital city. Little did I know how quickly I would be robbed, beaten and forced to sell myself into servitude. But I was lucky enough to gain the attention of Roberd Tallisk, an irascible but intriguing tattoo artist who offered to mark me with enchanted ink for the enjoyment of the nobles. I was given a chance to better my station in life, and I could not refuse.

But the divine rulers want not only the art but the body that bears it. In their company I can rise above the dregs of society and experience a life most only dream of, at the cost of suffering their every desire as a pawn in games of lavish intrigue. Their attention is flattering, but I find I’d rather have Tallisk’s.

Caught between factions, I learn that a revolution is brewing, one that could ruin Kered–and Roberd and myself along with it…

REVIEW

I got this book for review on a whim, and I am so happy that I did because it completely took over my life yesterday. I started reading it in the early morning and I couldn’t put it down — I read all day. And to be honest I was a little worried after I requested it because I had previously read a book by John Tristan that I DNF’ed and I think it might have been his first book. I just couldn’t get into the writing and I kinda liked it but also didn’t. So I couldn’t believe that I had none of the same issues with this book that I did with that earlier book. And if this author keeps writing books like this then I’ll definitely stick around and keep reading!

When his father dies with a multitude of debts, Etan is forced to sell his home and all his belongings and travel to the capital city of Kered to look for work. His only skills are his ability to read and write, and while those are rare abilities for a country boy, with no money to garner an apprenticeship, his only choice is manual labor, something he’s unable to do because of a sickness as a child that stunted his growth. He’s pale and petite, and saved by a man in a rickshaw when beaten in the street. The man offers to send him to a place to stay, where he learns after a few days is a home for indentured servants. His only option thereafter is to sign away his rights and work for this man in trade for a place to stay and food to eat.

When the man sees Etan without bruises and washes he almost doesn’t recognize him, but he has an even better idea of work for him. Etan is introduced to Roberd Tallisk, a tattoo artist whose patron is the head of the Council, run by the Blooded, the ruling class of Kered society who possess magic believed descended from the gods themselves. There, Etan’s slave bond is bartered between the two men when Tallisk agrees to take Etan on as his new work of art, an Adorned. The Adorned have always mystified those of the lower classes. They’re those of beauty who are tattooed by master tattoo artists with enchanted ink to become living works of art for the pleasure of the Blooded. Their art is not allowed to be seen by those who aren’t Blooded or the artist. And no one else but the tattoo artists are allowed to wear ink.

Etan’s new life seems wonderful and exciting. He’s protected now for life with gifts of riches from patrons and by the ink he wears on his skin. But there is also an aspect of being Adorned that he never expected. He soon learns the hard price to pay when he starts to mingle with the elite of Keren society and exactly what they expect from him. And he finds himself a pawn, a sort of Mata Hari in the political play between two warring factions for the future of the Keren society.

There are two things that I love most about this story and they go behind the tattoo art (which is super cool) and a lot of the other little details that made this story come alive for me. First is the epic quality of the story. We really get to see Etan’s life played out over a lot of major changes in his life that also herald major changes for the whole world. We meet Etan when he’s young, still living at home with his father and before he’s had to completely depend on himself and we get to see how he changes over time. I typically prefer characters who are alive, present and very decisive about their lives in fiction, especially in fantasy worlds. Etan is alive and present, certainly, but he’s also like a piece of detritus in a massive current once he makes it to the city. He’s buffered on all sides by those making choices for him. I can’t see him acting any other way certainly, as someone who has very little choices, but he’s also very internal and cautious. I didn’t see those parts of his personality changing until much later because it was such a slow change, but Etan grows as the world changes around him and as he needs to take more of his own care for himself.

The second thing I really loved was the cast of characters. We meet a multitude of secondary characters, most of whom are a good sort, and a faction of those who are good people who make some bad choices. As the world in the story changes, it reveals the best and worst of the characters and each of them are made to understand their regrets, in particular Isadel and Lord Haqan Loren. All of them, however, are well rounded characters that we get to know rather well. And this was done sometimes in a rather subtle fashion. The writing requires the reader to be present and active in piecing the world together and in drawing connections, and I can’t tell you how often I find myself wishing for writing like that.

You might not find this story to be perfect, or it might not impact you as much as it did me. Part of how you feel about it, in the end, will depend on what you like most in your romance books. The relationship between Etan and Tallisk is very slow to build and it takes almost the full length of the novel for the two to really come together. The bulk of the story is rather Etan’s journey and finding himself, someone who still feels like a country boy, realizing that he’s a good person with heart amid vultures who would pick at him until there’s nothing left. He has to realize what he really wants out of life, if it is security or love and if those things are separate.

I finished the book wanting more, sad that the story ended and hoping there was a way a sequel could be written, lol. I don’t think that’s really possible. But I know now that I’ll definitely keep my eye on book by John Tristan and I hope that it isn’t too long from now that I find another book that I get so lost in.


skyhuntersutherlandTitle: Sky Hunter (Skybound #3)
Author: Fae Sutherland
Publisher: Carina
Length: 53k words
Genre: m/m Sci Fi Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Sex to Story
Keywords/Tags: Series, Series Finale, Netgalley, Space Opera, Royalty, Second Chances, Secrets & Lies, Unrequited Love, Bounty Hunter, Coup d’état, X-Dress
Rating: Pretty Good

BLURB

Jeret hasn’t looked back since running away from life as a crown prince and joining the Crux Ansata’s crew, but when the Ansata returns to his home system, he finds his father ill and a traitor maneuvering for control. Now that he’s a full-grown man, he can’t just walk away again.

Letting Jeret escape was the biggest black mark on bounty hunter Dagan Nu’aim’s otherwise distinguished years as a royal guard. When he catches Jeret back in-system, Dagan seizes the chance to regain his lost honor and bring the wayward prince home.

Jeret’s not so sure he wants to go, but the reignition of his old crush on Dagan complicates the issue. As the two unravel a tangled plot against the crown, their old friendship lights up with a fiery new desire. And when the traitor strikes and the two men must choose between duty and freedom, neither is certain which to pick.

REVIEW

I’ve been looking forward to this Skybound series finale ever since the first book when I knew I wanted to read Jeret’s story most. I think that a lot of other readers have felt that way too, at least from what I’ve seen. Of all the crew of the Annie, Jeret is the one who seems to have the most secrets. He’s secretive himself, but enigmatic and funny at times, always with a smart quip in response to the others and always wanting to prove himself since he’s the youngest and in many ways considered the baby on board by Torrin. Whether it was intended by the author for Jeret to become such a favorite, I’m not sure. But it does mean that a lot of people who read this series were eagerly awaiting his story, which gives this third book in the series a lot of pressure to stand up to.

Of all the secrets that Jeret could have had… I never expected that he’s a runaway prince! That in itself was a surprise, that I wish that I had found out in the book and not the blurb. But, it’s a good hook to bring people to the story, even if they haven’t been reading the series up till now. The runaway prince is a solid character that always seems to draw in readers. Torrin, Rain and Jeret are the only ones left on the Annie after Cookie left in Sky Runners to live with his new love Neith, who the crew rescued from an intergalactic brothel where Neith had been sold and kept against his will as a whore. Now, with the crew reduced to three and two of those — Torrin and Rain — in a relationship themselves, Jeret feels a bit like the third wheel. Add in the fact that he was always seen as the baby of the crew anyway, and it had Jeret thinking about his past.

When Torrin announces that they’re headed to a planet near the one that Jeret escaped from, he does everything he can to convince Torrin and Rain that heading for a job there is a bad idea, especially when he learns that Torrin has agreed to ferry a shipment that must have come from his home planet. Jeret knows that something is wrong if those on his planet are smuggling off the expensive ore, underneath the nose of the COP, but his caution is ignored by the others.

When they land on the nearby planet, Jeret has no idea that Dagan — once the man who was his guard, his best friend, and the man who held his unrequited love as a 15 year old crown prince — has resumed the search for the heir to the empire under the name of his king. When Jadakira (Jeret’s real name) escaped as he always wanted to do at 15, Dagan lost everything. His failure to protect the prince led to the loss of his whole world and his ultimate banishment from the planet. But Dagan knows Jadi well and it only takes him six months to track his whereabouts and learn about his tenure as part of the Crux Ansata’s crew.

But Jeret, no matter his remaining feelings for the man he once loved as a kid, will not allow anyone to return him to his home planet. He has never had a desire to be king and what he loves most is the mechanics of the Annie, his crew and their adventures in space. His birthright is a cage he escaped years ago. But when he learns that his father, the King, is dying and a traitor planetside is angling to steal the throne, Jeret knows that he has to find the culprit. But he’ll fight Dagan and his “duty” to the King the whole way, and hopefully in the end be able to return to the life he wants to lead.

There are parts of this book that I really enjoyed. There is quite a bit of history between Jeret and Dagan and I thought that their relationship played out beautifully. Both are stubborn and refuse to budge from their ultimate goal: Jeret to return his home planet to the way it should be and then return to the crew of the Annie; and Dagan wants to help Jadi, still not quite understanding his true desires. The fact that Dagan failed in his duty all those years ago is a mark against his pride and he will do everything to return Jadi to his father before his death. The reconciliation of their desires takes most of the book and we really get to see their stubbornness play out against each other over and over, though not too far as to be frustrating. The push and pull between them gave the story the most enjoyment for me, because as the story evolves and they learn to work together for a common goal their true feelings come to matter more than their pride.

On the other hand, I was pretty disappointed in the external plot. The plot to overthrow the king and Jeret and Dagan’s plan to ferret out the traitor. For most of the book the tension mounted and they moved closer and closer but the ending really fizzled for me. First, the traitor was not who I expected, but that was because I never felt as if they were introduced into the plot to even become a suspect. I’m not a big fan of when authors do that. The culprit should have been introduced much earlier. And second because the final confrontation, while a bit satisfying for the characters, seemed a bit… anticlimactic.

So the real interest for me in this story was Jeret, and his love interest Dagan. I enjoyed their back and forth courtship, and I will admit that the tension created by the external plot was more of a device to play into their feelings for one another than the other way around. I think that if you read this story alone, without reading the first two then you might not have the prior interest in the characters to make this a very satisfactory read. I read this because I’d read the first two, and I had an interest in learning more about Jeret. And while I did find what I wanted, this book as a complete story was a little bit disappointing.

So, I recommend this for those of you who, like me, have read both Sky Riders and Sky Runners. For all the books, I found the romances in them the best part of the books. Looking back at this as a series, I would have probably enjoyed more of a central story arc over the whole series that drew them together. But, they are the way they are 😉 And I did find enjoyment from them.


skyrunnersTitle: Sky Runners (Skybound #2)
Author: Fae Sutherland
Publisher: Carina
Length: 51k words
Genre: m/m Sci Fi Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Series, Space Opera, Middle Book, Captive/Kidnapped, Slave, Rent Boy (forced), Dramatic Rescues, Drugs (forced), On the Lam, Bisexual
Rating: Pretty Good

BLURB

Crux Ansata second-in-command Killian O’Neal has a plan. The governor’s son, Neith, has been enslaved in a high-end brothel. Killian’s going to break him out, take him home and collect a reward. It’s a daring mercenary rescue. What could go wrong?

A lot, as it turns out. The governor doesn’t want his son back, the ship and crew are on the run from the slavers, and Neith is in withdrawal from a drug that instills in him a desperate lust.

A passionate heat flares between Killian and Neith–but is it just the effects of the drugs still in Neith’s system, or could it be something more permanent? They both need time to figure out if what they have is real–but Neith has taken a valuable item from his old masters and they’re not going to let him go easily. When the slavers catch up with the Ansata, Killian will have to choose between the safety of his ship and its crew, or life with the man he’s falling in love with.

REVIEW

I had a love/dislike relationship with the first book of this series, Sky Riders (reviewed here), mostly because though I liked the overall story I found myself drifting throughout the middle of the book. It just didn’t keep my concentration (that is, admittedly, hard to do!). So I went back and forth for a few days before deciding if I should accept this book for review. As you can see, I decided to review it in the end. And though I feel like I had some of the same problems with this book that I had in the first, I’m still glad I made the decision I did. Even if most of that reason is that I need to be caught up for book #3, about Jeret, the one I’m really looking forward to!

Killian, “Cookie” as he’s known to the crew of the Crux Ansata (or affectionately,”Annie”), is the second in command and has watched his captain and best friend Torin fall in love with bad boy Rain. The two are now happily settled and married, for the most part, and life has gone on as normal. Though he loves them all as family his life is still lonelier than the In Between. That all changes on their next rescue mission. Well, call it a rescue mission if you must, but they’re really out for themselves. They’re a mercenary crew and though they don’t go out of the way to hurt others they’re still criminals and happy to take what they can. When they hear of a son of an influential man has been taken hostage and is being kept as a whore on Kalliope 9, they make a plan to rescue the kid and bargain him back to his father for payment.

The plan goes off without a hitch, mostly. They do indeed rescue Neith. The first problem is that he is Rain’s ex-boyfriend and the father in question the man who Rain delivered a major fuck-you to at the end of the first book. Besides the fact that Torin doesn’t want Neith anywhere on board near Rain, Neith’s father isn’t going to pay them shit for his son — both because he hates their whole crew and because he doesn’t really give a shit about his son either. Complicating things further, Neith’s captives are fast on their heels and they’re not sure what they want. Is it Neith, or something he took from them? Neith is keeping secrets. But, it’s natural, he’s been tortured, raped and drugged to want it all with a new designer chemical called Pandora’s Cure, a drug that makes the user crave sex from whoever or wherever they can get it, simultaneously shutting down any worries or fears or ability to think for themselves. With the drug moving out of his system, Neith is dangerous to the crew and to Killian, who wants to be the one Neith wants, even though he mostly wants Rain. Do the drugs affects negate any of the real feelings between the two? Or, is a relationship between rich and beautiful Neith and a big, brawny criminal a pipe dream to Killian?

I had the same problem reading this story as the previous one, in that I just had a hard time keeping my concentration. I’m not sure why. I wasn’t sure with the last one and I’m not sure here… if it’s my problem or something to do with the books. I think the most likely case is that I need quite a bit of sci-fi plot to get me interested in a space opera type story. That’s not the case here. I mean, we do get an overall plot, with the slavers chasing them and all that. But for the most part and for the middle half of the book, this reads mostly like a contemporary romance, just with a few details added in here and there to make sure we remember that they’re in an alternate world/spaceship. The setting fades into the background and the focus was on the couple. And there’s definitely an internal conflict between Neith and Killian. Neith is mistrustful of his own feelings because of the drug in his system and Killian just wants to do everything to protect Neith, while at the same time hope he realizes that what they have is real and for the long haul. I just had a hard time keeping interest. I noticed that my concentration picked up again as the tension mounted in the chase.

But, for the most part this is a good story. I think that you should definitely read Sky Riders first. Not because you’d be completely lost if you read these out of order — I don’t think you would — but because these stories are quite similar in theme and style and if you like the first one you’ll know that you’ll like the second as well. I really want to read the third book, which is coming out pretty soon. It’s about the last of the crew, 18 year old Jeret, who is always the guy who seems to draw my attention whenever he’s in the scene. I just love him, he’s quite a unique character that I can’t describe, but you have to read to see for yourself. So even if this book was only so so for me, I’m glad that I read it so that I could read Jeret’s upcoming book 🙂


FindingMasterRight_500x750Title: Finding Master Right
Author: LA Witt
Publisher: Riptide
Length: 45,700 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary BDSM Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Friends to Lovers, Nasty Exes, On Vacation, Conventions, Leather, Toys, Multiple Partners, Kink, Just Talk to Each Other Already!
Rating: Pretty Good

BLURB

It’s all fun and games until somebody falls in love.

Chase has just arrived at a much anticipated leather convention, and he’s about to lose his mind. Not only is his ex attending, but Chase is also rooming with Derek, a submissive he’s been dying to top. Although Derek is in search of a Dom, he made it painfully clear when the two of them hooked up for a very hot—but very vanilla—night just before the convention that he wasn’t interested in submitting to Chase.

Derek isn’t stupid. No matter how desperate he is to submit to Chase, he wants no part of a rebound relationship. As long as Chase is still pining after the sub who broke his heart a few months ago, Derek’s keeping him at arm’s length. Besides, there’s another Dom at this convention, the gorgeous Master Raul, who Derek is determined to attract.

But when Chase and Derek are confronted with all their kinks, from ropes to leather, bondage to flogging—not to mention each other—they can only ignore their mutual attraction for so long.

REVIEW

I decided to pick this up to read and review on a whim. It’s actually been quite a while since I’ve read any BDSM, I just haven’t been in the mood a much this year. And it’s been a while since I’ve read a standalone LA Witt book, so I was excited to dig in and see what I thought of it. I really like the BDSM stories that are set at Leather conventions. I think it all comes down to my curiosity as to what going to one would really be like. Plus, now that I’ve been to a convention I sortof get the atmosphere there, and though it fluctuates wildly from one event to another, there is an excitement inherent in coming together with other people who share a common interest. Because of that, it means that a character can be whoever they want to be during their vacation, especially at a place where role-play and scene play offer a possible diversion from one’s typical personality.

Chase and Derek have been friends for a long time. They’re traveling to the convention together and sharing a room, and their unspoken attraction to one another has gone… well, unspoken up to this point. That is, until they sleep together their first night. But right when the clothes start flying and Chase is gearing up to put on his Dom voice, Derek asks if they just play vanilla. It’s a good idea (most likely) and a slap in the face at the same time to Chase, who has always admired Derek and his mind-blowing ability to sub so beautifully for different Doms. Why won’t he sub for Chase? And does it have anything to do with the fact that Derek is set to meet his longtime crush and internet friend, the popular Master Raul?

Meanwhile, Chase is going through his own problems. His three year relationship with Ian recently bit the dust. And even though their last year together was terrible, complete with Ian cheating and lying and finally walking out on him, facing the end of what was originally a perfect relationship and Dom/sub connection and trying to move on are much harder in practice. The problem is compounded by the fact that Ian is at the convention and seems to be eager to speak to Chase and sort things through.

Neither of them expected how difficult it would be to deal with their crush and admiration of the other while having to spend so much time together in close quarters. And it isn’t just their room situation. Watching the other participate in scenes with other Doms and subs leads them both to the conclusion that the one they really want is right next to them, and that they’ve already decided to put their valued friendship above all else.

One thing that I know about LA Witt is that as far as the Spectrum of Angst goes, any one of her books could be anywhere. She’s good at writing really angsty books and sometimes she writes books where the level of angst could be through the roof but because of the characters, who don’t wallow or have a lot of internal dialogue, there isn’t anyway. This fell somewhere in the middle for me, and it was a bit frustrating. No matter how much I liked the setup and most of the characters, a lot of that internal waffling back and forth was just a little much for me. It’s one of those books where you just want to lock the characters in a room together, slowly filling with… water, or a biological agent, or something to get them to freaking talk to each other! It isn’t as if I misunderstood or judged the characters. It’s hard to think about having feelings for a friend, I’ve been there. But, I also have a hard time dealing with that in the fiction I read. It’s personal taste. And that is my main disclaimer about this book. I think LA Witt is a good enough writer to draw the connections needed to help the reader understand why the characters make the decisions they make. That doesn’t mean, however, that readers will be all that pleased with it. It is just my opinion and my own understanding of fellow readers, but I think that there will be some readers who find the back and forth annoying. And they’ll probably be a lot less nice about it than me, lol. At least, that’s how it usual goes.

On the other hand, I enjoyed reading the story. Including my feelings about the characters’ lack of communication, I still liked this book even though I had one other problem with it. I liked both Chase and Derek for the most part through the whole books, but I did find Derek to be somewhat hypocritical at times, which bothered me. Plusses to the author for including scenes with other men. Even though it causes a fair amount of angst and Derek and Chase aren’t technically together (like how you usually get in those situations, with an open and healthy relationship), I still enjoyed those parts of the book. I would have looked forward to them anyway, because it’s something that I like in my m/m romance (where it fits), but I actually enjoyed those scenes for themselves as well. They all included secondary characters I really liked, especially the two bears and even Master Raul, who I was unsure of at first and firmly expecting to hate purely for Chase’s sake 😉

This is a solid offering from LA Witt, but still has many elements that I think will turn off some readers. Perhaps, though, we’ll see that the parameters for m/m BDSM readers are a little more open…


**Note: this review contains spoiler tags, which are shown only on the bottom of the review and are not included in the book info at the top. If you don’t want to be spoiled, avoid the bottom of the post please!**

neveraheroTitle: Never a Hero (Tucker Springs #5)
Author: Marie Sexton
Publisher: Riptide
Length: 45k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Tucker Springs series, Neighbors, First Times, Veterinarians, Animals, Physical Injuries/Disabilities, Music (Piano), Behavioral Disorders (Social Anxiety), Horrendous Mothers!, Stutters, Awesome Female Characters!, Halloween
Rating: Really Liked It

BLURB

Everyone deserves a hero.

Owen Meade is desperately in need of a hero. Raised by a mother who made him ashamed of his stutter, his sexual orientation, and his congenitally amputated arm, Owen lives like a hermit in his Tucker Springs apartment. But then hunky veterinarian Nick Reynolds moves in downstairs.

Nick is sexy and confident, and makes Owen comfortable with himself in a way nobody ever has. He also introduces Owen to his firecracker of a little sister, who was born with a similar congenital amputation but never let it stand in her way. When she signs the two of them up for piano lessons—and insists that they play together in a recital—Owen can’t find a way to say no. Especially since it gives him a good excuse to spend more time with Nick.

Owen knows he’s falling hard for his neighbor, but every time he gets close, Nick inexplicably pulls away. Battling his mother’s scorn and Nick’s secrets, Owen soon realizes that instead of waiting for a hero, it’s time to be one—for himself and for Nick.

REVIEW

To be honest, I was a bit daunted when I started thinking of writing this review. Not because of the book itself, but because I read this book about two months ago and then didn’t write the review promptly (not a surprise, honestly!). But, in a twist I didn’t expect, but should have, I find that this book comes back to me in detail that books I read two months previously usually never do. And that just shows how much of this book stuck with me. I remember thinking about it for a couple of weeks afterward, and when I consider that I usually hold books that stay with me for a few days in high esteem, then this was a really special read for me. And without doubt, the best book in the Tucker Springs series by far. Admittedly, my feelings about the books in this series so far have been so so; while I liked them all, none of them really stuck with me (a statement I’ve made in past reviews of those books). Enter Never a Hero to make me eat my words…

We first meet Owen sequestered in his dark apartment, the main floor of a split level home in Tucker Springs. He rarely leaves, working at home on his computer and getting his groceries delivered. His life is a pretty depressing one. Raised to be ashamed of his missing arm, the result of a congenital amputation (that’s where the blood supply to a limb is cut off by the amniotic cord in the womb and the fetus is born without a limb or with a partial limb), Owen was further humiliated by his mother’s negativity and verbal abuse as a child to the point where he has extreme social anxiety that goes even beyond his embarrassment over his missing arm and his stutter. Even worse, his mother’s campaign of abuse frequently centered on his obvious homosexuality and her relative displeasure at such a prospect of a gay son. Naturally, as an adult Owen’s life is rather tormented and lonely, and even though his courage stretched far enough to move away from her influence, his mother’s work was done. Owen takes hardly any pleasures in life, and the one he cherishes is soon to end. Owen has fallen in love with his downstair neighbor’s daily piano playing and by proxy, Owen fancies himself in love with the woman himself.

Even worse than the prospect of the absence of his unrequited hetero love, Owen’s new neighbor is a beautiful gay man. Owen could easily resent Nick’s presence — he’s confident, sexy and doesn’t deal with the same sort of social anxieties as Owen (proved by the loads of gay male friends who come to help him move in) — but Nick’s charm and easy going nature seem to deflate Owen’s bubble of derision and longing. As the two get to know each other, Owen starts to find it difficult to pretend that he still wants his old neighbor, the woman, especially when Nick cooks for him (nasty healthy food) and little by little starts to draw Owen out of his shell and out of his apartment. But the best thing about Nick is his reaction to Owen’s missing arm. He doesn’t stare, but he doesn’t ignore it either. He’s comfortable talking about it.

Of course, Nick isn’t perfect. As his self-confidence grows with Nick’s patient encouragement, Owen finds that as much as he needs a hero (and found one), Nick needs one too. He’s full of secrets that he’s extremely persistent to keep and each subsequent intimate step forward in their relationship leads to Nick taking two steps away.

Take one look at the tags for this book, even without knowing what the book is about or having read the blurb, and you’ll be able to tell that the characters in this story deal with a shitload of adversity. It’s enough to pound on the angst button and send me clamoring for the hills! But, once again, Marie Sexton won me over by the charm of her writing. Some writers just have a way of connecting to the reader through their words. Sometimes I like to think of it as if I’m reading the book out loud. Would it sound and feel like I’m telling a story? It doesn’t necessarily require a strong or unique character voice, but the narration immediately takes a spark in you and you’re hooked. I shouldn’t have been surprised… Marie’s words have done this to me before in other books of hers. Nevertheless, I felt as if the charm and honesty in the writing cut through whatever natural angst exists from dealing with characters who have such enormous difficulties.

While the growing relationship between Owen and Nick is central to the story, the real star of the story is Owen and the ongoing catalyst to keep the story moving is really Owen’s personal growth. Like the blurb says, Owen soon realizes that instead of waiting for a hero, it’s time to be one—for himself…. It is important that Owen take the steps to take control of his life himself. I think it’s also important that Owen has a goal other than his own self-worth. I think that having both characters dealing with really heavy issues isn’t only to show that the two much rely on one another in any kind of relationship, but it’s important to motivate Owen, to show that he can help not only himself but Nick as well.

There’s something I found unique to this book in the series that I was really happy to see. You can see in the book that Marie made a decision to incorporate all of the past characters from the books into the story, and not just the ones that are affiliated with her books. I really appreciated this, because the opposite has been true for some of the other books and showing the other characters really helped build a feeling of community in the story. It refreshed all of the connections between the men in a way that wasn’t as apparent before. When I first heard that there was going to be a multi-author series based on interconnected stories set in the same town, I think I got a (perhaps) misconstrued notion of a series that was going to be much more interconnected that it has been thus far, which has been somewhat disappointing to me. This book went quite a way appease that disappointment and I hope that in the future the characters from other books start to pop up here and there, or even better that characters would have a more important part to play in books that aren’t their own. Maybe authors have an unspoken rule not to fuck up other authors pet characters 😉 Maybe not. Maybe this isn’t even in the cards for this series, but I would love to see these authors having a more hands on approach to the other authors’ characters, perhaps even working together to plan character trajectories over each other’s books so that the stories are more integrated. Just my own wish 🙂

The fact that the stories are by and large separate means that though this is a series, you can feel free to enter at any stage and read whichever books take your particular fancy. If that’s the case with you and you haven’t read any of the Tucker Springs books, or even if you’ve read the others, this remains my favorite and as good of a place as any to start reading. You can always go back and read the others if you find yourself interested in the secondary characters in Never a Hero. Definitely Recommended!