Review: Please Remember Me — by Jacob Z. Flores

Please_RememberMEOther Reviewers: Goodreads

This is an advance reader copy given to me by the author for an honest review.  As with all of my review, these are my own opinions.

I have never read a novel from Jacob Z. Flores, so this was an opportunity to find new works for my library.

Basic Plot:

Santi Herrera has everything in his life, a track into partnership at his law firm, great friends, and a fiancé that was going to walk down the aisle in weeks.  But what happens when Hank is ripped out of his arms by an accident and now there is nothing in common between them.  Will they be able to find that spark again?

Santi Herrera:

Our perspective comes from Santi 99% of the book.  He is a workaholic, spending most of his time trying to make partner.  His motivation is to make his parents’ proud of him.  Yet, his social life really is only advanced when his “fag hag” friend Jill gets him out of the house and down to the club.

“Santi, are you sure you’re gay?”  She asked as she rose from the bed and crossed over to me.  Her black boots clicked against the hardwood floor of the five-star hotel room she’d made me book.  “I ask because you dress like a Republican.”  She sighed in exasperation.

“Can it, smartass,” she said as she spun me around. “Look at yourself in the mirror.  You’ve got good muscle definition in your arms, which the muscle shirt shows off nicely.  Plus the ribbed material makes your flat stomach look even tighter.  And with those tight jeans displaying your bulge and tight ass, you’ll definitely be getting some play tonight.”

I stared at myself in the mirror.  Was she serious?  I couldn’t look any more ridiculous if I tried.

I think this is the portion of the novel where I thought, “I can relate to this guy.”  Even this man, who obviously is attractive, smart, and rich is self-conscious.

Hank Burton:

Hank is a mystery to us, one as a plot device, but also because we must rely on Santi’s perspective on his actions.  The beginning of the relationship is set to us as flash backs, so we jump/skip into important events in their courtship.  Hank seems to be a great guy, his roommates/friends Darren and Mitch have become a family because Hank’s family kicked him out as a youth because of his sexuality.  Here we see a conversation later in the book about Hank and Santi:

“I’ve got to ask,”  Darren said.  “When did all this happen?”

“I’m not really sure,” Hank answered.  He stared down at me  instead of looking at Darren.  “It’s been gradual.  I guess I’ve been hurt so many times in my life that I didn’t want to hurt someone who obviously cared so much for me.  What else but love makes someone take care of someone else the way Santi has taken care of me? “

Here we get a look into Hank’s post-accident mind as he tries to assimilate into his life.  He sees Santi’s actions and is overwhelmed with how much Santi must really love him. The problem here is that we don’t know if Hank feels the same way because he does or if he “should”.  How can anyone fall in love without having memories of getting to know each other?

Theme Summary:

Finding a theme can be difficult sometimes within romance novels I review.  It often determines what number of stars I assign.  But there was a passage that spoke to me here:

But don’t focus too much on that.  We all make mistakes.  Look at his actions now and what he’s trying to tell you today.  I know sometimes cutting our losses is what we need to do to get over the pain, but I don’t think that’s the case here.  He’s trying and he’s the only father you’ve got.”

The entire relationship (post accident) is about not giving up.  Santi is forced to hold back his actions toward Hank while he struggles to just learn how to be again, let alone remember their past.  That we need to move forward no matter what roadblocks impede us comes through as a theme for me here.

Strong Points:

I enjoyed the humor in this book.  Jill, the secondary character gives us a break throughout the novel as it gets too deep.

What could be better?

Here is where I get picky.  First person drives me crazy.  I had a difficult time attaining immersion level with this novel.  Also, not getting Hank’s perspective as he struggles to remember his past limited my enjoyment.  That being said, it certainly did give us that “blank” feel about him, because the only way we learn about him is through Santi’s flashbacks.

The last thing I did not like was the flashbacks themselves.  For me, the concept itself annoys and  comprehension challenging.  It wasn’t Memento level flashy, but it did jar.

Conclusions:

I am glad that I had the opportunity to read this book.  I now have a new author to check out all of his other works.  I think the biggest challenges I faced with this book were in writing mechanics, rather than quality of writing or plot line.  Perhaps, someone who enjoys those aspects would give this a four or five-star.

I did enjoy how the author treated the amnesia in a realistic perspective.  Life does not just magically get better and everyone (friends and family included) have to adjust.

It is the best amnesia romances I have read in a while, so if you are looking for a sweet and angsty read with a happy ending, this book is for you.

Bea

Review: Smoky Mountain Dreams — by Leta Blake

Smokey_Mt_dreamsOther Reviewers: Goodreads

This is an advance reader copy given to me by the author for an honest review.  As with all of my reviews, these are my own opinions.

I have previously read and reviewed a few books by Leta Blake.  What I love about her books are that they are not “typical” romances, meaning someone does not “rescue” the other one and no one has anything perfect.  While our men are very well matched and “Perfect” for each other, they have a significant amount of baggage that it takes the entire book for them to accept themselves and each other.

This format allows the reader to follow the character development and unveiling plot with anticipation, because you will never get what you think will happen!

Basic Plot:

Christopher Ryder is a singer, who tried to become a “star” in Nashville, but never had the talent to break through.  Now he is back to his grandmother’s home town, trying to make a living and settle down.  But he is lonely and the life he has been living is no longer satisfying him. Jesse Birch is a father of two, and struggling to be a single parent father with significant emotional problems due to his wife’s accident.  Now he has met Christopher, who seems to fill something that Jesse thought was missing in his life.  Can they put their pasts behind them enough to try for a future together?

Background:

The description sounds simple, but there is a lot of back story and baggage with Jesse and Christopher.  We spend much of the book understanding how they got this place in their life.  It sounds simple, but there is so much more to this book than a simple romance.

Christopher Ryder:

I loved Chris.  I think he is what we all feel like at some point in our lives.  One of the Blake trademarks is Chris:  a man with passion, but not enough raw talent to make it “big”.  To some degree, that is frustrating, because we want to see Chris “make it big”, but what we come to find out is that he just wants to be happy and fulfilled in life.  This is a lesson we all should learn, you do not have to be “famous” to make people happy and have a purpose in life.

Christopher wondered, not for the first time, what it would be like to have that kind of talent.  He always sensed the audiences’ disappointment when he stepped out onto the stage for the lead parts instead of Lash.  In the end, he usually won them over and they enjoyed his performance–he wasn’t Lash’s second for nothing– but he wished he knew what it was like to step out and see even one person’s eyes light up.

Chris has a wonderful spirit.  He could be bitter, but instead he embraces what he CAN do, and tries his best.  He just wants to be happy:

He put down the chili and rubbed his face.  It wasn’t the whole heteronormative package he wanted, but he just wanted someone to hold and be held by.  He wanted a man who would willingly brave a Ryder-Jenkins family event with him even if it got Christopher disowned.

Christopher’s back story is one that we have seen before, the conservative southern religious family that does not understand or accept anything but traditional heterosexuality.  Living in the south, I have experienced and seen this type of relationship in action.  So it was easy for me to relate and understand how Christopher feels.

Jesse Birch:

Jesse is a little harder to understand.  He is a bisexual, as a youth he was “Out and proud” mostly to piss off his father and married his wife after their friendship moved to something more.  Now he has two kids and she is somewhat out of the picture.  I do not want to spoil some of the plot here, so forgive the vagueness.

Blake also throws themes throughout and I found something profound about Jesse’s discussion on the hidden value of jewelry:

“Yeah, but buildings talk.  Jewelry– it’s full of magic because it keeps its secrets safe.  And, here’s the thing about jewelry — any given piece can change and transform the person wearing it.”

To  me, this mini-theme describes Jesse in so many ways: he has been living his life with other people as his own jewelry.  He was “gay” to transform into pissing his father off, he conformed by becoming “straight” with his wife.  All the time he was keeping his true secret self safe.  Note, this is not a knock against any sexual orientation, just that his life seems to be more about reacting to others rather than discovering and accepting himself.

Theme Summary:

What have we done in our life that we really didn’t expect to have done, but did it anyway because it was expected or what the road of least resistance?  For both Christopher and Jesse, they have taken actions in the past for those they loved.  While they might not fully regret their actions, it took them to the places they are in their life.  Jesse describes why he thinks Christopher wants him to make a piece of jewelry for his grandmother:

“Because you want her to have it.”  Jesse studied him a bit longer and added, “Because you feel like you owe her for something, and  you’ll never be able to repay her, and you want her to know that you’re grateful, and that you love her.”

Accept who you are (and how you got to where you are in life by those decisions) and make a new path while celebrating those who helped you along the way.

Strong Points:

I love the risks that Blake takes in her writing.  Things don’t all end Disney-like, we get realistic (yet happy) endings and our characters go through some shit to get through to the end.  That’s called being a great storyteller.

But my fave?  The humor!  Christopher’s Gran is so much how my grandmother was that I was laughing out loud (and crying when things happened).  I would hope we could all be that spunky when we get old:

She finished up her burger before asking, “Will he be at Thanksgiving?”

“God, no!”

“Why not?  Can’t you just imagine Bob’s face?”

“Yes, I can.  He’d have a stroke.”

“Perfect.  Then we’d be done with him.”

“Gran!”

“What?”  She smiled innocently.  “I’m old.  I have dementia.  I don’t even know what I said.”

She reminded me so much of my grandmother.  Blake writes such colorful and deep secondary characters that it creates a vivid picture in our heads.

What could be better?

I really can’t think of anything that I would improve.  The only thing I would say is there is a lot of sex in the book, so make sure you enjoy reading descriptive hot sex scenes.  I will admit that toward the end I did skim a little on the sex.  Not that it was bad, just that I wanted to see what was going on with the storyline.

Conclusions:

Blake writes novels that are more than merely saying “romance”.  She paints a vivid picture of people who struggled with their family, lives, careers, anything and everything about who they are today.  But what we get is an amazing story about survival and perseverance to finally accepting who you are, how you got to where you are and where you want to go in the future.  I loved this book and I loved the characters.  You will cry, you will certainly be aroused.  And when you finish, I bet you will call your friends and family (blood or chosen family) and thank them for supporting you in difficult times.

All I can say is, “read this book.”

Bea

Review: Down and Dirty — by Rhys Ford

down_and_dirty_rhysfordOther Reviewers: Goodreads

There is no hiding or denying that I love Rhys Ford’s writing.  No matter what series, I tend to enjoy it.  She manages to write in imagery; the opening scene is usually some sort of action hook and we are invested in the characters by the end of the first chapter.  In Down and Dirty, we get more of a sexually intense exploration rather than a Jason Bourne type thriller.

As always with my Advance Reader Copy blog posts, I try to be as unbiased as possible and give an impartial review.

This is not a short series, and Down and Dirty is book 5 in the  Cole McGinnis Series.  The majority of these books focus on Cole and Jae, but Bobby and Ichiro have been strong secondary characters that as readers, we wanted to learn more.  I always found Bobby intriguing and knew there was so much more to his character.

First things first, you MUST read the rest of the series to get the full power of this novel.  Down and Dirty happens in the same time-line as the previous book;  you will not necessarily be “spoiled” but I do fear that you would learn something that did not want to know if you had not read Dirty Deeds.

If you want to read any of my previous reviews on this series go to the following links: Dirty Kiss, Dirty Secrets, Dirty Laundry, and Dirty Deeds.

Basic Plot:

This book picks up during book 4 of the series Dirty Deeds.  Bobby Dawson is Cole McGinnis’ best friend, someone who has always been there for him.  He is a former cop, who after he retired came out as gay and has been making his way through scores of twinks vowing never to settle down.  But everything changes for him when he meets Cole’s brother Ichiro.  Ichiro is captivating and challenges Bobby to want more in his live than just existing.  But can Bobby and Ichiro put their personal experiences behind them to find a happy future together?

Bobby Dawson:

I admit that Bobby has almost overshadowed Cole in the past when he was in a scene for me.  There was just something about him that intrigued me.  Maybe it’s that older, “daddy” aspect with him, I just always wanted to see more of him and find his motivation.  What we learn about him is that he is an aging, hardened male warrior who fights to remain in the prime of his life by punishing himself:

The man definitely spend time pushing his body to its limits.  It showed in every long plane of muscle sculpted over his broad shoulders and flat belly.  Bobby’s thick thighs rippled with power when he braced himself and pushed Ichiro down onto the bed, his tongue licking his top lip as if he were debating where to start on Ichiro’s body.

I feel badly for Bobby.  He struggles with his personal history and is afraid to move forward.  It is because of his attraction and curiously about Ichiro that he is willing to try to change.

Ichiro Tokugawa:

So much that we see of Ichiro revolves around his tattoos.  They are his armor:

“I’m covered in bad ideas.”  Ichi sat up all the way, straddling Bobby’s hips.  Sucking his sleeves back, he bared the ink embedded under his skin.  “See these?  They’re supposed to be my idea of running in a burning building, because what I’ve done to myself is everything my family hates.  The symbols, the ink — everything.  But it’s my decision, and I took the consequences.”

Ichi has committed the first step to finding himself: making life decisions for independence rather than allowing others to change him.  Yet, he has only altered his cover, not the book inside.

Theme Summary:

No matter how much you attempt an outer metamorphosis to forget the past, you need to change the core within to move forward.  We see both of this in how Bobby and Ichiro change their form.  Bobby punishes himself for his past by brutally working out making his body perfection.  But at what cost?  For Ichiro, he leaves his father and Japan behind him by painting himself with a new skin:

His tattoos were less a rebellion and more of a birth, the wash of ink marking his break from his familial placenta, and he’d thrust himself gasping into a world where he’d wear who he was on his skin.

Yet, while both men have moved on in one way, they forgot to change the center.  It is not until they see each other’s struggles that they admit to themselves they need to change on the inside.  Luckily they have each other to show themselves the way.

Strong Points:

Rhys Ford’s writing style is always her strength.  As readers, we see it in her action scenes and humorous dialogue.  Her humor:

“Please, call me Charles.  Mr. Howell makes me sound like I should be stuck on an island with a bunch of incompetent sailors and a bevy of pretty women.”

I think in this case, I might have been missing the strong action scenes.

What could be better?

While I truly did enjoy this book, it did feel like something was missing.  Maybe I am spoiled with the action scenes from the other books.  This one revolved around the action of the last book, but we really do not see much of it.  In a way, that is a good thing, we would get bored if we were just getting a rehash of the previous book.

If there is not a lot of external conflict, then to provide some level of suspense, we need to have some internal conflict.  We get this with our theme, yet I felt there was a level of “oomf” missing.  Maybe that is the danger of writing a book about secondary characters and making them primary in their own book.

Conclusions:

Overall, this is a great addition to the series and it was needed.  I wanted to know Bobby and Ichi’s story, which we got.  The way the story ended, we still have some conflict to explore.  Bobby and Ichi certainly could have a second book to continue this story arch.  I think that if you liked the other books in the series, you will enjoy this one.  Just remember this is less action and more love story;  well a hot, sexy love story!

Bea

Review: A Desperate Arrangement — by mikkimouse

Other Reviewers: Goodreads

Fan-Fiction.  It has become something that I read 75% of the time now.  I keep going back to my Goodreads list of to-reads and no of my published books look interesting enough to spend money on.  Maybe I am getting burned out.

So, I have been checking out Archive of Our Own, checking out my favorite worlds:  Sterek, Larry, and Drarry.  I found a historical royalty AU for Sterek and it looked very interesting, it is always great when we get to see our characters in a new setting (and actual plot).  For some other Sterek fan-fiction recommendations see this review.

Basic Plot:

The kingdoms of McCall, Hale, and Argent are in a battle for control and land.  The tentative treaties are not holding and war is imminent.  Now there is a possible treaty between McCall and  Hale — the solution?  Marriage between Stiles and Derek.  But can this loveless marriage truly be happy and can it stop war?

Stiles Stilinski:

The personality of Stiles is consistent with the character on the TV show.  Stiles love his father and his brother (actual brother in this universe), Scott.  Stiles is the illegitimate brother of King Scott and acts as his advisor and magician.

The reminder stung, and Stiles bit his lip and turned away.  He and Scott had been not-so-subtly playing matchmaker ever since Queen Melissa’s official mourning period had ended, and Stiles didn’t want to take that chance at happiness away from Scott’s mother or his own father.  But… “So you’d ask me to be trapped in a marriage instead?”

Scott had the decency to look a little guilty.  “I know what I’m asking, ” he said, “and I swear I wouldn’t be asking it if I didn’t think you’d be at least content in the end.”

So we see Stiles sacrificing his own personal happiness for the good of the country.  This action demonstrates his sense of duty and integrity.

Derek Hale:

Derek’s character has alway been a complex one.  In A Desperate Arrangement,  Derek is the second son who already had a horrific engagement to Kate Argent which ended with Derek’s father’s death.  The guilt has beaten down Derek so much that he is a shell of the man he was before.  It certainly does not help that his brother, the King is a big ‘ol A-HOLE that I want to beat silly.  But to Derek, pack is everything and he is willing to destroy his life (based on his experience in the previous betrothal) to save his country.

Now, he rested in the corner of the courtyard after a grueling training session, doing his best to burn off excess energy and get his mind off everything.  Like his father, who would be scarcely three months dead when Derek was married.  Or the getting married, which reminded him of the rules Stiles had set down.  Or Stiles himself, whom Derek had done an equality good job of avoiding because he didn’t trust himself to be around his betrothed for five minutes without attempting something abominably stupid, like tracing the outline of those blue tattoos with his tongue.

I feel badly on how Derek has been treated, like an asset to be used, even by his family.  You get the feeling of how trapped he feels, which is even more powerful due to the werewolf nature.  The author does an excellent job of describing the inner animal and his PTSD reactions.

Theme Summary:

A simple theme of “Don’t judge a book by the cover” could be applied here.  Stiles is a bastard son, but he is loved and deeply valued member of the court and family.  He is easily discounted, but his verbal acuity has made him an asset.  On the same hand, Derek is a fierce warrior who has a sensitive soul that only wants to be of value to his family and country.  His sensitivity is also hidden, and his relationship with Stiles brings that to the surface as he heals.

Strong Points:

The world building in A Desperate Arrangement had me turning the page to learn more.  I loved how the author turned the Teen Wolf tension and character profiles and made it into an alternate world.  The author did a great job of describing the action scenes:

Derek immediately went on the defensive, but the captain seemed to know how to turn each parry into another attack.  If Derek pinned the staff to the ground, the captain slid forward to kick Derek’s knee.  If he knocked the staff to one side, the captain rolled it across his back and came at him from the other.  And when Derek aimed his staff at the captain’s legs, trying to knock him off-balance, the captain slammed his staff into the ground and used the momentum to swing himself around and kick Derek in the hip

I also enjoyed the chemistry between Stiles and Derek and their dialogue.

What could be better?

The only improvement I would suggest is that the mystery/adventure plot was to be expected and was tropey.  To be fair, this is due to the fact that all of the characters are from the TV show, so we can expect certain people to behave in the way that they did.  It did not dampen my enjoyment of the story, but I could see that if it was not so much fan-fiction the author would have had room to create more original side characters.

Conclusions:

Overall, I enjoyed the book, it was different that many of the other Sterek fan-fiction out there.  I will certain keep this author in mind for other works.

 

Bea

Quickie: A Wizard’s Touch Series by Amber Kell

 

Jaynell's Wolf by Amber Kell

Jaynell’s Wolf by Amber Kell

Kevin's Alpha by Amber Kell

Kevin’s Alpha by Amber Kell

Farren's Wizard by Amber Kell

Farren’s Wizard by Amber Kell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Reviewers: Goodreads

Page count: 90 to 116 pages

I normally do not review a series in one blog post, but rather than have several reviews, I figured I could do one blog post.  This series was given to me by the publisher for an honest review.  For my previous thoughts on book four of the series, Elijah’s Ghost, go here.

Basic Plot:

  • Jaynell’s Wolf:  Jay’s father’s dying wish was for Jay to become a wizard.  But once he gets to the Wizard Academy, he feels out of place and alone.  His powers are just so unusual, he feels as if he would be better somewhere else.  However, he meets werewolf Thomas Sparks who suspects that Jay is his mate.  While they begin their bonding, external forces begin to pull them apart.  Can they survive or is Jay destined to be alone?
  • Kevin’s Alpha:  Kevin is a wizard and James Sparks is the Alpha of the local werewolf pack.  There is instant chemistry, but Kevin is afraid of commitment.  Danger enters by the kidnapping of his friend Jay, and Kevin and cast go to help battle the enemy.
  • Farren’s Wizard:  Farren’s djinn’s blood has always put him in danger.  Now that he is at Wizard Academy, the danger is even more potent.  Farren meets fellow wizard Dan Stewartson and there is instant chemistry, however their timing always seems to be off.  Now that they have finally started going out, can their relationship survive Farren’s past?

Relationship:

  •  Jay and Thomas:  Jay has been lonely his entire life and the sacrifice of his parents has filled him with survivor’s guilt.  Thomas has always been powerful, perhaps even more powerful than his Alpha, but he has no intention to lead.  However, his attraction and devotion to Jay is something that Jay has desperately needed.
  • Kevin and James:  Kevin has always felt second best because of his family.  His powers never seemed that strong compared to them and he never wants to compromise like his mother did.  James has always been the powerful Alpha, can he convince Kevin to risk his freedom for love?
  • Farren and Dan:  Farren is a djinn, which is a powerful and unstable creature.  As he hides his heritage, danger makes him turn to Dan.  Dan has always liked Farren, but was too shy to try a relationship.

Summary:

These books are very short as compared to other series, so there is very  little room for character development.  The books are short and exciting, the focus always on external factors.  The first two books, Jaynell’s Wolf and Kevin’s Alpha are almost like one book, following the danger around Jay.  The strength of the series is the world building that we get throughout each of the novels.  Because they build on each other, we get strong secondary characters that eventually become main characters in the next book.  My only negative point on this series is that there is not much depth in the characters, so don’t expect any profound inner thoughts of our characters.   While they do build on each other, you can get the gist of the other books without spoiling the endings.  Although, I would recommend reading them in order.

I recommend this series if you want a fast read that you can read on a Sunday afternoon.  I plan on keeping an eye out for the next installment and see what other adventures in the Wizard Academy.

StarStarStar

Review: Grif’s Toy — by Joseph Lance Tonlet

grifs-toyOther Reviewers: Goodreads

I had the opportunity to review Grif’s Toy, by Joseph Lance Tonlet and jumped at the chance.  When finding a new author, it’s much like discovering a new band or actor.  You get an opportunity to discover his writing style and then watch over the books and series as it matures and develops. So getting a chance to see it at the creative birth?  Magic.

 

As always, when given an Advance Reader Copy, my review is honest and unbiased.

Basic Plot:

Grif has always had issues with the size of his “equipment” and found any type of romantic relationship impossible because of it.  However, when he runs into a man named Wes, his life is changed forever.  The question is, will he be able to accept the possibilities?

Background:

Before you read the review any further, I need to you to realize that this book deals with BDSM in a realistic and detailed manner.  So if you are off put by that type of discussion or read, then this book and review is not for you.  I would consider what happens in this book to be Edge Play, so not something 50 Shades housewife level kink.  Ok, warning over, let’s get to the book.  Oh, and the quotes from this book?  They will be HOT, so no under 18 for this review!

Grif:

This book really is a follow through of Grif’s life from pre-teen to current time, so don’t get disoriented with the Memento time jumps. Without spoiling too much of the plot, let’s just say that Grif has a small penis and his embarrassment and humiliation because of that has kept him from any serious sexual relationship.  In college, he has a roommate named Tate, their relationship complicated but loving. I do not want spoil that for the reader, so let’s just say that it is the beginning for Grif to understand his need for kink.

Grif is, well us.  Let’s face it, there is something about ourselves that we don’t like about our own body.  In Grif’s case, he hates the fact that he has a small penis, but he is turned on by a lover who makes fun of his small package in a sexual situation.  This is called humiliation play and is considered a more advanced type of play.  For obvious reasons, someone could get seriously psychologically scarred because of this type of play.

But for Grif, this type of sexual interaction is a need that he requires fulfillment: a type of masochist, someone physical, but more psychological.  We see how Wes controls his orgasms and has various painful punishments.  You or I might not understand it or agree to the type of relationship that they have, but it works for them:

 And there it was, the key combination.  Sure, I enjoyed the submission, the pain, and the denigration.  But it was the combination — the indubitable knowledge — that he enjoyed my submission, inflicting the pain, and delivering the denigration, as much as I enjoyed receiving it.  That’s where the complete bliss lay.

We see where Grif has accepted who he is and what he needs from a partner.

Wes:

We only see Wes through Grif’s masochistic eyes:

“And speaking of aching, I often find it impossibly difficult to believe I’ve been lucky enough to find all of that in someone who not only understands my desire — my need — to inflict both physical and emotional pain, but someone who appreciates it.  Someone who burns with equal desire and gratitude in receiving it, in a way I never believed possible.”

Being a true sadist, which Wes is, is hard to describe and makes someone who is not in the scene understand he is not evil.  After all, how could you “torture” someone who you love?  I follow a podcast called Intellectual Kink (great podcast) and the Mistress there discussed how she had to accept that she was still a good person being a sadist.  Just because you enjoy being a sadist does not mean that you are evil or a mean person.  What it means is that you need to find that masochist who NEEDS the pain and humiliation just as much as Wes needs to give it.

And as we see Wes through Grif’s eyes, we can tell that this is a loving and caring relationship; in fact, Wes is giving something to Grif that no one else has been able to do.

BDSM:

Let’s talk about BDSM for a minute.  There is something called NMKBIO: “Not My Kink, but it’s OK” in the scene.  For example, someone might like to be just paddled in the bedroom, but if you tried to swat them in public it would not be acceptable.  For others, they have a more Master/save relationship and it is 24/7.  It all depends on the relationship.  And certainly, it is always (or SHOULD BE) consensual.  So, it might not be your thing, but it is certainly theirs.

I have written many BDSM reviews that discuss the types of psychological need that some individuals have.  No, not everyone in the scene has been sexual abused, most folks are just fine.  Here are just a few recent reviews:  Training Season, Screwing the System, and Leather + Lace that I also thought got the scenes correct.

In my opinion, I think that Joseph Lance Tonlet got the kink right.  He demonstrated how kink is a life journey.  We first need to find what arouses us and then we have to find safe partners to fulfill our needs.  Sometimes we make mistakes in the beginning and sometimes we get lucky.  In Grif’s case? He got some loving friends and lovers:

His voice was low and husky when he asked, “Chocolate?”

Surprised by the question, particularly in this setting, I paused briefly before swallowing and replying to our coded question with, “Yes, Wes.  Chocolate.”

I couldn’t help but notice the glint in his eye at my response, before he picked the menu back up and studied it.

Remember:  “Safe, Sane, and Consensual.”  This author got it right.

Theme Summary:

We are all searching to find a mate/mates in our lives that complete us. Hokey, maybe?  But not untrue.  For Grif and Wes, they have been waiting for find someone who got their needs, both in the “vanilla” as well the “chocolate” settings.  So, the theme here is that we can find someone who fulfills us, but we also must accept ourselves:

It had taken me a while to say it — hell, to even admit it to myself — as I had given up on the idea of finding someone to love and share my life with, let alone another person who understood me so completely.  But here I was, in love with a handsome, sexy, incredibly compassionate man whose strongest desire was to make me happy and build a life together.

This quote is everything about the book and the development of this relationship.

Strong Points:

The writing in this book was compelling.  I started this book  late one night and stayed up until 2 am to finish it; it was that addictive.  The sex scenes were so descriptive (and hot) that I felt like I was there.  Not a book to read while sitting with your family surrounding you!

But more than that, this was a well thought out book.  The pacing was good and Tonlet gave us the time to develop Grif’s character as we discover what his problems are and learn to care about him.  The accuracy of how the author wrote about kink and played the scenes demonstrates either someone who is in the scene or can do very good research.  I love an author who can give me the sexy kink, but at the same time give me the relationship development and the psychological connections.

What could be better?

This book is set in First Person, with all our focus on Grif’s point of view.  This is fine, but part of me wished I could have gotten into Tate’s and Wes’s head.  The author did a good job of getting their personalities across,  but I would have loved their perspectives.

Conclusions:

Overall, I loved this book, which can be seen by the 5-Stars I gave Grif’s Toy. The only caveat I would give a potential reader is that it is not your typical romance and the BDSM aspects might not be for everyone.  If you are not comfortable with BDSM, then I think you might be overwhelmed with some of the scenes in this book.  It’s not by any fault of the author, simply because of the subject matter.

I look forward to seeing the author’s voice develop as he tightens his craft.  I will be “first in line” when the next book comes out!  I have put Joseph Lance Tonlet on my must reader author list!

Bea

Quickie: Elijah’s Ghost by Amber Kell

Other Reviewers: Goodreads

elijahsghostPage count: 115

For full disclosure, I was given this book for review by the publisher for an honest review.

I had only read one other book by Amber Kell, Attracting Anthony.   For that Goodreads’ review go here.  At the time, I was not that impressed with the novel, but there was something about the author’s writing that made me want to try another book.

When I came across this synopsis, it struck me as interesting, after all, who doesn’t love a story about an under-dog who finds out he is special?  In the end, I was glad I read the book.

Basic Plot:

Elijah Trention is one disappointment to most people in his life:  father, brother, and instructors.  Then comes the day when he saves a class from danger and everyone looks at him in awe. Devin Stewartson has had his eye on Elijah for a long time, but never had the nerve to ask him out.  When he finally does, will Elijah accept his friendship or will his past keep him away?

 

Elijah Trention:

Eli’s perspective is someone with whom we can relate.  He has low self-esteem, mostly because of his father’s lack of love and respect.  He is not an overachiever like his brother, in fact, he is behind in much of his studies, never even matching his peers.  We discover more reasoning behind this later on, but I do not want to spoil the suspense here.

 His father eyed Eli, approval in his gold gaze.  After years of seeking his dad’s attention, he now wished the man would just go away.  He certainly had no desire to supplant his brother’s spot in his father’s affections.  Those two deserved each other.  Power seeking and ruthless, the two men had the same goals in life — taking whatever they could get and stepping on as many people as necessary to get there.  Eli wanted nothing to do with them.

Now that Eli has all of this great power, he must learn how to control it and keep friends around him that will support him, not use him.

Devin Stewartson:

Devin is a character that I assume is in the other three books of the A Wizard’s Touch series.  Early on we see Elijah’s view of Devin:

Besides, there was a perk to the class, in the form of Devin Stewartson.  The sexy man sat two rows ahead of Eli and to the right.  Eli spent a great deal of time ignoring the professor and staring at the gorgeous triplet.  It just wasn’t fair that there were three of them.  He’d heard around campus that Dan had bonded with a fire wizard and Dean was straight — that left Devin a his only option.  Not that it mattered — he’d always been attracted to Devin more than his brothers.  Devin’s upbeat personality pulled at Eli.  Maybe because Eli didn’t have a bubbly personality, Devin’s charm called him.

I liked Devin, while he appeared to be popular and had a steady family, even he had questions about getting a partner and a successful relationship.

Strong Points:

I enjoyed the dialogue in this book.  It’s a short novel, at 115 pages, so  the author needs to be able to get us into the story quickly.  Early on we see how great Porter and Eli’s friendship is:

Porter put a hand on each of Eli’s shoulders and looked him square in the eyes.  “You’ll be fine.  If anyone messes with you, you call upon your legion of dead.”

Eli laughed, “So far my legion consists of a single dead assistant teacher who I don’t think is going to do anything other than help me with my studies.”

“Well, legions should be functional,” Porter said in a practical tone.  “Maybe you can build them up as soon as you can figure out which ones are dead.”

Porter is a great secondary character and I wished we had more time with him.

What Could be Better:

Because this is such a short book, there is very little time for getting in-depth character development.  This is book 4 in a series, so I an only assume that at least with Devin, we might have already learned about him as a secondary character.

Remember the phrase, “show” don’t “tell”, when dealing with writing?  Because this book is so short, the author compressed the development to “tell” rather than “show”.  From the writing that we see, I believe that the author has the writing skill to be more verbose.  I hope that in other series we get to see more developed world, plots, and characters.  I can tell by the writing of this story that Amber Kell is capable of writing a more lengthy novel.  I would love to read a longer book Amber Kell.

Conclusion:

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  It was a very fast read and was great for reading on my flight to a conference.  But, that being said, there was not that much deep thinking.  So I give it Three Stars for a score.  I did like this book enough that I will go back and read the previous three in the series.