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Helleville - Hayden ThorneTitle: Helleville
Author: Hayden Thorne
Publisher: JMS Books
Length: 76,977 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal YA Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Homophobia, Coming of Age, Self-Discovery Focus, Single Moms, Awesome Moms!, Bullying, HEA, Alternate Reality/Otherworlds, Ghosts/Spirits, Ghouls, Zombies, Vampires, First Times (Kisses Only), Magic, Mystery, Magical Realism, Nerds/Geeks
Rating: Pretty Good

BLURB

All fifteen-year-old Noah Hipwell wants is to go through high school in peace. Yet he finds himself suspended after a bully pushes him too far, and Noah’s forced to defend himself. His mother, fed up with the school’s indifference to his plight, pulls him out completely and leaves Noah uncertain of his future while they look for a good and safe school for him.

All Dorothy “Dot” Hipwell wants is to go through single motherhood in peace. Yet she and her son are harassed by weekly phone calls from her evangelical family hell-bent on guilt-tripping them both back into the fold. Then Noah’s grandparents ask strange questions about their old van after dropping cryptic references to a group called The Soul Warriors. Fed up, Dot takes Noah away for a much-needed getaway, only to find themselves suddenly transported to an alternate world, where a town called Helleville awaits them and all other condemned souls.

Along with warm-blooded, living human beings, the Hipwells rub shoulders with zombies, vampires, house ghosts, and occasional “green vomit piles” while picking up the pieces and sorting out what could very well be an eternity in a bizarre, fanciful, and humorous world of ghouls and banned books.

When residents suddenly disappear one by one with no trace and for no logical reason, however, doubts being “housed” in an alternate world for their sins are raised, and time suddenly becomes of the essence as Noah and the rest of Helleville’s condemned race to find answers to what’s quickly turning into a dangerous puzzle.

REVIEW

It’s been a while since I read a Hayden Thorne novel and now I remember exactly why I always want to read them! She has a particular quirky brain that makes her books unique in a way that always pulls me in. This wasn’t my favorite of her books, but it might be hard to top the Masks books anyway. Still, by the end of this book, I liked it and I really liked Noah.

Noah is fifteen and out of school. After a bad situation at his last public school, where some kids bullied him and he fought back, getting suspended, his super awesome single mom Dot went ape-shit on the administration for their blatant disregard of the bullying in their school and pulled Noah out. Since then, he’s been staying at home while his mother works two jobs and looks for a new, more inclusive school. Noah and his mom are pretty close, they’re their only family and they stick together. Well, Noah does have grandparents (Dot’s parents), but they really aren’t considered family — more like righteous stalkers. The calendar by the phone with bloody X’s mark the days that they call to harass them about their wicked ways (which include that Noah is gay and that Dot had him out of wedlock). It isn’t until his grandmother threatens to set The Soul Warriors on them that they get a little more worried.

When Noah and his mother decide to take a weekend road trip to a B&B to get away from all the phone calls, they find themselves transported to a strange alternate world that seems to be a ridiculous mockery of Hell — a town called Helleville filled with residents with similar experiences as them, full of banned books like Harry Potter and science textbooks that teach evolution, and weird and strange creatures like ghosts, vampires, zombies and ghouls. The strange thing is that though no one there can really figure out where they are and why they’re there (other than the fact that The Soul Warriors are behind everything), it isn’t the classic representation of hell that you’d expect. They’re well cared for with all the food they want for no money, the kids don’t have to take school (although they can sit in a class with Satan as a teacher if they want), and they’re surrounded by pristine nature with no need for jobs. The people there have formed a community of sorts with a mayor and everything, but they all have time to relax and enjoy the things that they didn’t have time for in life. Dot decides to take up crocheting.

They are, however, haunted by one serious problem. Every so often someone disappears. Soon after Noah and his mother arrive in Helleville, the fourth resident goes missing and no one can ever find them, no matter how many times they organize search parties and a night watch to try to catch anything abnormal. It isn’t until Noah makes a friend named John who loves to take pictures that they start to piece together the strange occurrences and what could be behind it all. But before Noah can get too attached to his new hobby of playing Sherlock Holmes he meets Alex, a boy his own age who seems to like him. Alex invites him to hang out with a few of the other teenagers in Helleville and finds that he’s not the only one with a crush on the nerdy teen. Matt, a cool seventeen, muscular and gorgeous, highly intelligent and the most popular kid involved in the community has a thing for Alex and he doesn’t intend for Noah, who he looks at like a bug under his shoe, to get in his way.

Before all of you m/m romance readers out there get excited, the romance in this story is kept on the back burner. Instead, this story is really Noah’s coming of age tale and his road to self-discovery. Helleville and the alternate reality they’ve been sent to acts as a catalyst to force Noah to grow. Before he was sent there, a lot of his own exploration of himself as a teenager had been stunted because of the bullying he experienced at school. He calls himself an introvert, but he’s really afraid to get back out into the world and try again, making friends and even meeting a guy he likes and taking a change. He has a lot of latent social anxiety and Helleville acts as a skewed kind of microcosm of the real world to get him to open up again. In Helleville, Noah can be someone new. He can meet and go on dates with a boy like Alex, he learns that he can have friends. And most importantly he learns that people can rely on him, that he has worth. Alex acts as part of that self-discovery, of course, and their relationship also is a somewhat significant part of the story, but it never progresses very far on page.

The pace and plot mimic Noah’s journey in a way. The POV is strictly Noah’s, so the first half of the book is quite sedate. I even read one reader’s review on Goodreads before I started reading that said that this book was boring. I wouldn’t say that, I quite enjoyed it. But there were a few times in the first half of the book that I set it down, read some other things and then picked it up later. I think that as long as you don’t go into this book expecting it to focus on Noah’s romantic life and that the story will be more about action than reflection, you’ll enjoy it. Also, if you haven’t read much of Hayden Thorne’s work by now you might not realize that most of her work is cerebral. This book is a reflection of Noah’s life, in almost an allegorical way. If you’d rather just read for fun and not want to focus on the meaning of it all, then you might find this story a bit slow … in the first half anyway, the second half was much more exciting.

So I definitely recommend this one. I really like Hayden’s work and I’ll always pick up her books when a new one is out. She always has a really great point of view coming from gay teenagers that it’s so easy to connect with. That, and sometimes this book just makes you go — What the FUCK?


The Queen's Librarian - Carole CummingsTitle: The Queen’s Librarian
Author: Carole Cummings
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Length: 68,666 words
Genre: m/m Fantasy**
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None (a couple, fade to black)
Keywords/Tags: Established Relationships, Magic, Alternate World Historical, Animals/Pets, Otherworlds, Royalty, Funny Guys
Rating: Really Liked It

BLURB

All Lucas Tripp wants is prosperity for the tenants of his family’s estate; good weather for the harvest; suitable matches for his sisters; a little money left over at the end of the month; and more quality time with his boyfriend, Alex Booker. That’s not so much to ask for, right?

Wrong. When his sister’s new suitor suddenly disappears, Lucas is drawn into an adventure of a lifetime—kicking and screaming all the way. Magical beings who were allegedly banished hundreds of years ago are coming through portals that were supposed to be shut against them—and that’s only part of Lucas’s problem. The rest consists of missing princes, breaking and entering, suspicious magicians, well-meaning women who are far too interested in Lucas’s sex life… the list goes on. Lucas is decidedly Not Amused, but he’ll get over it someday. Probably. After all, there’s always Alex.

REVIEW

Oh Carole… I just had so much fun reading that. You know, Carole has said several times that she thanks Fen for this book. Fen, for those of you who might not know, is her main character from the Wolf’s-own series and his head is just a mess of angst. It’s all for good reason because Fen lives in a really messed up world, but back to Carole. She has said that she needed to go somewhere happy, somewhere carefree after spending so much time (4 novels!) in his head. And I’m glad she did. This book is definitely the antithesis of those, of course with the exception of writing talent. I’m glad that I knew that about this book going in, because otherwise I might have been expecting a more serious style than her previous two series.

The book opens with one of the most hilarious chapters I’ve ever read. It is so easy to become endeared with Lucas, especially in the inner drunk ramblings of his mind at his first visit to a tavern. Trouble doesn’t really come until he’s had one too many and decides that it wouldn’t be too unseemly to have a pee outside, where he promptly becomes entangled with a bush. In a cruel twist of fate, someone seems him — pants partially open and wrestling with the arms of his coat — a man with long silver hair and speaking a lot of nonsense. It doesn’t seem too strange in his ale fuzzy brain when the man simply disappears after a whole lot of yelling words that neither understands back and forth but well, he’s still stuck in the bush.

When the man starts turning up in strange places to again shout incomprehensible words at him, Lucas starts to become alarmed. Especially when the man starts stealing his books. But it isn’t until his sister’s suitor disappears and Lucas is begged to find him that he runs into the man again, this time speaking some words Lucas understands. What he hears alarms him, especially because it appears that the man wants something from him and in the meantime intends to kidnap his cousin the prince as a trade. Lucas is so dead for losing the prince, but he knows that he has to do something to get Laurie back.

Really, the best part of this book are the characters. There is such a wonderful cast of characters that all have their own well-rounded personalities, characteristics and motives. But they have such a great banter. In reading the prior work from Carole Cummings, I always admired her writing which is at the same time intelligent and accessible, but I also never knew that she could write in such a playful way! It is really a delight to read. And just the same as it was for her, I think this is a really good book to read when you need a break from something, or from reading a more intense book. When I first talked to her about this book she referred to it as fluff, to which I immediately replied that I thought she could probably never write fluff. But I know exactly what she means now. This is a book you should read just for the pure enjoyment of getting out of your own head and into someone else’s for a while. And Lucas’ head isn’t a bad place to be 😉

There is quite a lot of banter between the characters, but mostly in the narration. Carole has written Lucas to have an imaginative mind that often banters with itself. That’s why I think this is a good book to read when you really need a break, because while the plot in this story is interesting in and of itself, sometimes the focus wavers from it to Lucas’ own thoughts, and those often take precedence over the action. Now, if you followed my advice then this is just a nice detour, but if you’re really focused on the plot and pacing then you might find yourself swept away on the tide of his thoughts. Sometimes the banter — Lucas’ runaway thoughts — seem to get in the way of the action a bit. And while I always enjoyed what he was thinking (and occasionally talking about with Alex) sometimes the timing is inopportune. Occasionally I wanted to smack him and tell him to pay attention!

Still, that is minor criticism on my part and I really, sincerely hope that Carole continues to explore this quirky side of her writing. Hopefully in the future we can get those style alternately — a book like Fen’s that rips out your heart and completely sweeps you away and then something later to cool you down and look on the sunny side of life.

**I didn’t categorize this as a romance. This is really a fantasy book to me. Sure, Lucas is madly in love with Alex and vice versa, but the story isn’t about their relationship. Their relationship is part of the story.


Conflict__ContactTitle: Conflict: Contact (Conflict #1)
Author: Jack Greene
Publisher: Phaze
Length: 13,650 words
Genre: m/m Sci Fi Erotica Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Sex to Story
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Series, Space Travel/Opera, Military, May/December, Cheating (it’s no biggie, more info in review), Married, Affair with the Boss, Genetic Modification, Other Worlds, Artificial Worlds, Battle/War, Alliances, Stranded
Rating: So So

**Some Spoilers! Sorry 😦

BLURB

Conflict is a serial in three parts: In the not-so-distant future, the people of the Earth are repressed by the iron rule of the Emperor. The Space Colonies have resisted, and as a result are at war with the Emperor.

In Conflict: Contact, Lieutenant Colton Santarelli and the Colony Special Forces undertake a desperate mission to keep the Emperor from building the ultimate weapon, an army of supersoldiers. But amidst the terror of war, Colton is secretly in love with his dashing–and married–commanding officer Colonel Vance Hohler.

REVIEW

The first of a three part serialized novella called Conflict, Contact sets up this science fiction and space exploration erotic story about a colony Lieutenant named Colton who is in lust and moving toward love with his Colonel. Before setting out on a dangerous mission to overpower the Earth Emperor’s forces, Colton shares a mind-blowing moment with Vance, his Colonel, on the balcony during the party to celebrate their new venture. The problem is that no matter how much Vance shows interest in him as well, the fact remains that Vance is married.

Colton leaves with mixed feelings of lust, guilt and a little bit of love only to find that the Colonist’s offensive is in serious trouble. Before long, Colton finds himself all alone in a battle where most of his men have died and his ship is alone fighting the Emperor’s forces. In a bid to recover possible success in their mission, Colton heads to land and infiltrate the enemy base. What he finds there both horrifies him and confirms that the Emperor has been up to what they expected.

Shizu is a genetically modified human that was abducted as a child and has been through a horrible hell of testing and modification along with several others. Now, he thinks he’s the only one left, at least in this base and the sight of a man who takes him out of the base and tries to get him to freedom bonds them together. But Shizu still harbors feelings for the man who was with him, who tried to escape with him before they were caught and separated forever. Hiding in a cave with Colton while they await rescue with a downed ship, the two get to know one another and forge a friendship of mutual respect and goals that might just be a bridge between the Colony forces and Earth’s grassroots rebellion that could help them overthrow the planet’s tyrannical rule.

I’m always excited to get a new Jack Greene story for review, but lately his work has been turning from more erotica to romance. He still writes highly erotic stories, such as this, but there’s definitely more plot to work with and to keep me interested and I like the fusion of styles and his growth as an author. It certainly makes me look forward to the next two stories in this “serialized” story. As the first of such a series, a large part of this story serves to set up the world. We’re presented with a world split into three factions: Earth, where a tyrant has united the world under one rule; the colonies, artificial worlds in space that use artificial gravity and other futuristic technological advances to create a sort of mirror earth in a controlled atmosphere; and lastly, the grassroots resistance on Earth, living hardscrabble lives with little food or supplies and actively defying the Empire while remaining under the radar. Conflict gives us the initial outlook in this conflict while paving the way for the next couple of stories through the connection made between Colton, Shizu and Shizu’s lover.

The relationship between Colton and his Colonel, Vance, is a different matter. Vance appears quickly in the beginning and then later in the story, but is largely removed (so far) from the actual conflict. His motivations seemed hazy to me for much of the story before he seemed to do an about face and admit deep feelings of love for Colton, despite his marriage, which he claims is unhappy and more of convenience. There’s one brief bout of cheating in the beginning of the novel, but it seems that there won’t be anymore, going by what we learn later in the story. So if you find cheating a huge turnoff, you might be initially disappointed in the story. Otherwise, I found their interactions together to be really steamy and satisfying on an erotic level, but at the end of the story I remained unconvinced in any true feelings between them. Perhaps, hopefully, that will change in the next two stories. I’d rather have an all or nothing approach, all romance and development of those feelings, or pure erotica. But a mishmash of the two where I’m not shown any of that progression cheapens the story a bit for me.

I’m definitely excited to see what’s in store for these characters. Of course, even though I had problems with some of the story, for the most part I’m pretty forgiving (always, of course, lol), but especially because this is the first story in a three part arc and there’s room for the characters to grow into the feelings presented here.

Be sure to comment below to win a copy of the story!

GIVEAWAY RULES

Please leave a comment below to win an ebook copy of Conflict: Contact. The giveaway will last until Midnight CDT on Friday, August 2. I will choose the winner using Random.org and email the winner who will then have 48 hours from the time of the drawing to reply to my email. I will then forward the winner’s information to the author so the winner can receive their book.

Please enter the email you’d wish me to contact you at in the comment form, or if you prefer, leave it in the message.

Thank you and good luck!

GIVEAWAY CLOSED


outcast185Title: Outcast
Author: Alex Douglas
Publisher: Torquere Press
Length: 63k words
Genre: m/m Scifi Romance (sorta)
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often
Keywords/Tags: Alcoholics, Aliens, Bisexual, Co-Workers, Emotionally Damaged, Interspecies, Mate Bonding, Mercs, Otherworld, Past Abuse, Physical Injury/Trauma, Psychic/Empaths, Secrets & Lies, Space Travel, Tentacle Sex, Yearning
Rating: Pretty Good

Reviewed by Nikyta

BLURB

Prez has been in the arms – or tentacles – of one too many brothel workers in his time. The memory of long-lost love is all he has, and it’s not enough. But no one in the Belaar-Andra system wants an alien half-breed for a partner, so life is as good as it can be. He’s making money, he’s going places, he’s got friends and a spaceship he loves – a decrepit cargo ship named Outcast. And now he’s got a new co-pilot, from the remote world of Aldor. Lan’s mysterious and doesn’t say a lot, but as they get to know each other, Prez starts to feel something he hasn’t felt in a long time – hope.

But the past hasn’t quite released him, and the Outcast isn’t done yet. On its final mission to deliver a mysterious cargo for the Belaari government, long-buried secrets start to stir. When his old co-pilot – and best friend – is finally himself again, Prez has a difficult decision to make, but Lan has other ideas about his own destiny. A rich man at last, can Prez finally get the things he really wants?

REVIEW

Prez is the captain of the cargo ship Outcast and in desperate need of a new co-pilot since his old one becomes temporarily unavailable. Lan from Aldor answers his prayers but while Prez is considered a freak even among all the aliens, Lan is the one with the mysterious heritage. When Prez gets a contract to deliver some secret cargo, Prez thinks he’s finally made it big. What none of them expected was for the cargo to cause a lot of problems for not just Prez but for Lan, as well.

The world this author painted was a fascinating thing. I loved the variety species, planets and how they were all different and unique. I gobbled that up because it was such an integral part to the story in relation to who and what Prez was but also because it was interesting to see how Prez was treated just because of what he was. I loved Prez most of the time because of his quirky sense of humor but Lan was probably my favorite. He’s like a robot almost that doesn’t understand Prez and the others but eventually finds not only friends in them but a home with them. I loved how different Lan was but I really wished there had been more focus on him and his world! More than that, Lan’s situation broke my heart. He was so confused at times and had to handle things on his own but the eventual outcome of his situation had me so sad, I almost cried! And, no, I won’t spoiler you on that!

While I loved the story and the world, I can’t deny that I got annoyed over the sex with other characters outside the MCs. Generally, I don’t like this but sometimes I can see the merit of it. In this case, there were more sex scenes between Prez and others from brothels than there was between Prez and Lan. Not only that but I didn’t feel the connection between Prez and Lan. There weren’t many feelings of love, admiration or even lust between them until the very, very end. Granted, Lan is asexual BUT I took offense to the fact that Prez was his mate yet some unknown princess took Lan’s virginity after Lan realizes his connection to Prez. It annoyed me more than anything else in the book did. With that said, there still wasn’t any middle ground between their friendship during the whole book to all of a sudden this love they have for each other by the end. It was confusing and didn’t feel like it fit with the story. Beyond that, some aspects of the world were confusing because the words were either not explained or some scenes that I felt like were vital were glossed over.

All in all, I felt like there was too much focus on others and their sex together but not enough on the actual couple, which really hindered the story. However, the journey Prez, Lan and their friends go on was a great adventure. I loved the universe and the unique species the author created because it made for not only a fun and enjoyable ride but for some funny moments as well. For those sci-fi fans out there, give this one a try because it does have a great setting.


FragileBond_750x500Title: Fragile Bond
Author: Rhi Etzweiler
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Length: 48,400 words, 197 pages
Genre: m/m Scifi Futuristic
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Aliens, HEA, Assassins/Mercs, Enemies to Lovers, Felines, Prisoner, Mate Bonding, Military, Otherworlds, Pheromones
Rating: Really Liked It

Review by Nikyta

**Warning! This review may contain spoilers! Read at your own risk!**

BLURB

Sniper Sergeant Marc Staille and his trusty rifle, Mat, are on bodyguard duty at a mining operation on a backwater planet. The resource-rich valley is crawling with tawnies, the native dirt-colored predators. Huge things that hunt in packs and kill as well with tooth and claw as Marc ever has with Mat.

The rules change when a tawny uses an unexpected weapon: pheromones.

Commander Hamm Orsonna, leader of the fefa clan, is determined to chase off the invading aliens. The one he sets out to capture for intel is scrawny and hairless, not very intimidating—until it takes out his entire squad. Seasoned warriors, felled from halfway down the valley by its metal death stick.

Their sacrifice may be worth it, though. The alien male smells like he’s interested in making things right. He smells of other things too, but nobody else seems to notice. Before long, Hamm finds himself fighting off his own kind to defend the alien, who might be his people’s only hope for peace, and Hamm’s only chance for happiness.

REVIEW

On an unknown planet, Sergeant Marc Staille is on a mission to clear a valley of deadly mindless predators so a battalion can set up shop and strip the planet of a valuable resource. Unfortunately, Commander Hamm Orsonna, one of the predators, captures Marc before he can escape. Except, Marc’s not just overpowered by the Commander, he’s pretty much incapacitated by the shear amount of pheromones the Commander unintentionally uses on him. What neither of them expected was the bond those pheromones created between them and how that affects their loyalty to their own people. The Commander just wants Marc to stay, even if he does cause a lot of problems, but Marc is more confused than ever especially when he realizes he wasn’t killing some random predators but a strange, slightly civilized intelligent feline race.

I really enjoyed this book for a variety of reasons. While I wouldn’t consider it technically romance, I loved the pheromones that shaped the bond between Marc and Hamm. I found it amusing but also sweet in how it could essentially cripple both men with desire, possessive and the need to protect. I loved that Hamm’s race, the furr, were so reliant on scents because of how they used their pheromones for attraction, fighting and dominance in their clan. However, while we get a feel for both men and their current situations, we actually don’t know them beyond the surface details.

The story is shaped around the humans invading Hamm’s world and how the furr must defend themselves against the humans. What it ultimately comes down to, however, is negotiations between the humans and the furr. This is one of those stories that take place in the span of a few hours and is heavy in clan politics and the almost hostile negotiations between the furr and the humans. It is an interesting world because the furr have feline characteristics like their thick manes, purring and roaring. I loved those parts, they always made me smile, because they were innocent yet dangerous. I also found Marc’s reactions to Hamm’s purring and roaring very entertaining.

With I really liked the story, I had a few issues with it. My biggest problem was a lack of detail on a lot of areas such as the world, Hamm’s clan, the culture and ultimately the relationship between Marc and Hamm. They form a strong bond but there’s no hint of intimate feelings from that bond so it was just based off Hamm’s pheromones without a deeper, mental connection between them. Aside from that, I found the ending very abrupt. We don’t actually know how anything is resolved or how the couple will live now. How Hamm was able to hold his position or even if he still has his position (I’m just assuming he does because it’s not mentioned otherwise). Also, what happened to Dehna, how is the clan coping with Marc, and a lot of other questions I have. Some parts of the epilogue also confused me. Mostly the reference to Marc healing from his wounds but what wounds and how he got them, I’m not quite sure so it left an impression that there were a few parts of the story missing.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story but its biggest downfall is the lack of details necessary to really love it. The writing is great and engaging and I adored the elements and conflicts brought on by Hamm’s pheromones. The secondary characters are enjoyable, and even the ones you want to strangle, brought entertaining quarrels to the story. I’m hoping Ms. Etzweiler visits this world again (a story for Reccin would be awesome!) so that we can go deeper into this world and see more of what it has to offer.


These are the first books that I’ve read by Stevie Woods, whose writing I’ve always wanted to try. I have to say that I was a little disappointed how little these stories had to offer, but I’m hoping that the second set of stories which I’ll be reviewing tomorrow will offer further progression in each relationship.

Series Links:


Title: A Favor for a Friend (Other Worlds #1)
Author: Stevie Woods
Publisher: Amber Allure
Length: 17k words
Genre: m/m Science Fiction Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 1 – None (Fade to Black in Flashback)
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Series, Friends to Lovers, Military, Scientist, Futuristic, Other Worlds
Rating: So So

BLURB

On Alkya, a planet a long way from Earth, the Division of Investigation—Other Worlds—has set up a base where hundreds of personnel live and work. Among them are two men, Major Jake Archer and Captain Bart Hilton, who are part of one of the survey teams.

One evening, Jake asks Bart to do a work-related favor for him, requiring the other man to remain in the underground base. Needing information to complete the report he’s preparing, Bart goes to Jake’s office just as a huge explosion rips through the base.

Jake is horrified and riddled with guilt when he learns that Bart is missing and was last seen approaching Jake’s office before the explosion. Unsure if Bart is still alive, Jake and his team are forced to wait for the engineers to dig out the man Jake secretly loves.

In pain, unable to move, Bart lies amidst the rubble, sliding in and out of consciousness. During his lucid moments, he lets his mind drift to better times, most of them spent with his friend Jake. And he also fears the roof will finally come down and kill him before he gets a chance to resolve his greatest regret—telling Jake how he really feels about him…

REVIEW

This is the first story I’ve read by Stevie Woods, and I liked it. As a romance, I’m not quite sure it worked for me, at least as a standalone, but I’m not worried too much about it because I know that this couple comes back in one of the stories down the line in the series. The story ends with their relationship only just beginning. However, I liked the story because of what brings them together. We often read a story about a couple that is laid low and then brought together, melodramatically by a deus ex machine disaster or accident right around the 80% mark of the story. I hate when that happens, and I often wish that if the author was really dead set on bringing the couple together through a close call with death, that they’d do it in the beginning and let us watch the aftermath. That’s where the real story is, after something scary and horrible happens.

This story did that, and though we don’t get to see much of that aftermath, just the situation that brings them together, it was detailed enough that it became the story instead of a place mark for a stock accident. I liked watching the characters deal with the situation — their regrets and the promises they made themselves through it for the future.

If this were a standalone, I would be quite dissatisfied, but knowing there is more coming, I’ll let the abrupt ending right at the beginning of their romance slide.


Title: Lightning Strikes (Other Worlds #2)
Author: Stevie Woods
Publisher: Amber Allure
Length: 18k words
Genre: m/m Science Fiction Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Series, Other Worlds, Friends to Lovers, Military, Scientist, Futuristic
Rating: Not Feelin It

BLURB

On Alkya, a planet a long way from Earth, the Division of Investigation—Other Worlds—has set up a base where hundreds of personnel live and work. Among them are two men, Major Joshua Marsden and Lieutenant Matthew Ronson, who are part of one of the survey teams.

Shortly after Josh and Matthew confess their feelings for each other, their team embarks on a mineral survey mission to another planet. During a ferocious lightning storm, however, Josh is injured. After finding shelter in a cave, Matt looks after Josh while teammate Dennis braves the storm to go for help.

But when the storm’s intensity increases, and lightning strikes closer and closer, Matt grows concerned that their place of safety may turn out to be their grave…

REVIEW

This second story shifts to a new couple than the first one, A Favor for a Friend. It centers on another couple of guys that are mentioned in the first book but that we don’t really get to know. But, like the past story, they are best friends who have recently realized they love each other and their relationship is put on hiatus by an accident. The main difference here is that the two men admit their feelings for each other before the accident.

In a way I liked this setup better, because it gives the guys more time to work through their feelings and develop their relationship. Without going into detail (even a tag would give it away, so I refrained from that as well), I was disappointed by the use of a plot device that I’m not very fond of that sets back the development of their relationship. Of course, that is a personal thing of mine and I’m sure some people like this plot devoid, but it didn’t work for me for that fact and the fact that I felt like the addition of more into the story with very little extra length caused the story to seem rushed. Quite a lot happens in this story compared to the first, and that drastically changed the tone, mood and pace of the story. That worked less for me, even though we do get to see more of the guys in this story than in the previous one.


Title: Best Policy (Other Worlds #3)
Author: Stevie Woods
Publisher: Amber Allure
Length: 18k words
Genre: m/m Science Fiction Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Series, Other Worlds, Futuristic, Friends to Lovers, Military, First Times
Rating: Not Feelin It

BLURB

On Alkya, a planet a long way from Earth, the Division of Investigation—Other Worlds—has set up a base where hundreds of personnel live and work. Among them are two men, Major Rafe Wheaton and Lieutenant Adam Deacon, a linguist, who are part of one of the survey teams.

Rafe and Adam have been experiencing problems working together, and shortly before the current mission, Adam offers to transfer to another team. Rafe, however, convinces Adam that he doesn’t want to lose him and Adam agrees to give things another chance. Now, they are left alone on the planet they’re surveying after the rest of their team takes the ship and returns to base with an important geological sample.

During a particularly nasty downpour, Rafe is heading toward the temple where Adam is working when a landslide occurs. Rafe finds Adam half-buried inside one of the temple rooms, unconscious. Awaiting the return of their ship and the rest of the team, Rafe looks after Adam, uncertain if there’ll be another landslide.

When Adam eventually awakens, time alone with Rafe results in the men sharing some home truths. But is it too late to fix things between them?

REVIEW

The title of the story, Best Policy refers to the saying, Honesty…, and I have to do as the title commands. The further I read into the series, the more disappointed I become. As stand alone stories, these would probably be a little better, but back to back they offer very little diversity. Each story has been about a working pair (military and research), they’re always best friends who are secretly in love, and it always takes a disaster to bring them round. The sad thing is that among these drastic similarities, there is more. The accident is always some sort of cave in or crushing injury. And there seems to be no overarching plot. I could take a lot of this if it were working towards something, like what they’re learning about the planets they’re researching, but we never learn anything about that. With all the lack of detail, this could be a contemporary story set on Earth.

Sadly, I’m committed and must plod along. There are three more stories to go and I can only hope that there is something new offered or I’m going to fall asleep. Like I said, if I had read this story alone, these things wouldn’t bother me. I could tell you about the story and the flaws I found with it, but then I’ve already written two similar reviews.