Review: Murder and Mayhem — by Rhys Ford

MM_RFOther 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.

Rhys Ford has become one of my favorite authors in the Male/Male world.  You can see some of my favorite blog posts here.  So, I might be a bit of a fan girl here.  Just your warning.

Basic Plot:

Rook Stevens “stumbles” into a murder accusation, literally.  Now he tries to fight for  his innocence and find out who is framing him.  He meets again the detective that tried to put him in jail before, Dante Montoya.  The chemistry reheats between them is just too much to overcome.  Can they put both of their pasts behind them to make something work?

Rook Stevens:

Rook is our “bad boy” and most of the mystery of this book revolves around his past.  So, no spoilage here, although just note that he is not squeaky clean and he is actually one of the more grey characters that I have read in this genre.  There are points in which I hear about his past and I question if I would want to fall in love with him.

But then I think about the changes he made in his life and I have to respect his efforts at redemption.  At one point, I thought Rook was going to run, but then he takes his stand:

Charlene was right.  He’d earned his fucking normal, an neither Dani Anderson nor Los Angeles’s finest were going to take it from him.

Rook is one of the more dynamic characters in a romance book I have read.

Dante Montoya:

For Dante, he is a by the book type of detective.  Early in his career he learned what could happen if someone tried to get “dirty” to break a case.  Now he understands that.  However, he can’t keep his mind off of Rook and we see how he fights his attraction:

“Everybody fucks up, Dante.”

“I’m a cop, to, People depend upon me to be objective.  I want Stevens to pay for what he’s done, but it’s got to be done right — by the book.”  Dante scrubbed at his face with his bare hand, rasping his palm over his stubble-rough jaw.  “I just need to be fair, you know?”

“Of course you can be, Dante.”  His uncle patted his arm.  “You’re the fairest man I know.  But what you need to be more is honest with yourself.”

So, outside of the sex/romance and the mystery, this is about a man who learns to think beyond what he has experienced and understands to empathize.

Theme Summary:

While this is overall a book about love and a really good mystery, I also took the idea that redemption is possible.  That we can look beyond our narrow vision of what the past was and move on to becoming better and more fulfilled individuals.  Both of our main characters make this move.  For Rook, it was an actually physical and lifestyle change, but for Dante Montoya, it is more that he changes his black and white views on life to understand what he is missing.

Strong Points:

I always love the underlying theme of Ford’s books:  You are who you are.  So often we become persecuted by our neighbors or family for our sexuality, beliefs, or lifestyles  if they do not fit a “norm”.  This novel explores how you can first find acceptance within yourself and then create a “family”of outcasts like yourself.

“Uh-uh, I hear you talk like this, and I think I hear my grandfather or my own father, and that is not who you are.  Remember, tio, they tried to bury us.  They didn’t know we were seeds.”

Think about that last sentence.  “They didn’t know we were seeds.”  Everything that people have done to bring down these people, to make them assimilate has only given them more growth.  Don’t let someone bury your true “self”.  Such profound words buried in a romance novel.

Ford’s writing was fast paced as always;  she gives us heat but not too much that we get bored.

What could be better?

I think at this point, Rhys Ford’s strengths might lead to weaknesses.  Any director or writer will tell you that once you get a formula for success, you keep going. Obviously the fans enjoy it, they continue to buy tickets.  Just think about the new Avengers movie;  I could have predicted every plot twist as the formula has not changed in that movie series.

So, in Murder and Mayhem, we get those things we have come to love and enjoy:  exciting entrance, international culture within the American melting pot, hot cop, and reticent bad boy.  The problem becomes when every one of her series have the similar formats.  Did I enjoy it?  Yes.  Look at authors like Johanna Lindsey or J.R. Ward.  Their formats are always the same and they sell millions of copies of books.  So, writing in a format is possible, you just need to make sure that there is something different in each series that makes them stand out.

In Murder and Mayhem, the use of the Carnie and thief ring makes it stand out from others.  I would have liked some more background into that world and perhaps have seen more of the old Rook in action.

Conclusions:

Ford has once again given us a fast-paced mystery that was enjoyable.  I actually didn’t come to the “who done it” until the end, although I was feeling suspicious.  The secondary characters were great and they made me want to learn more about this new family Ford built.

Overall, very enjoyable. If you enjoyed the Cole McGinnis series, then I think you will enjoy this one.

Bea

Review: Power Exchange — A.J. Rose

Other Reviewers: Goodreads

BDSM romance can come in different styles, from the light “bedroom kink” to an intense psychological journey through submission.  Both are valid examples of the lifestyle and romance sub genre, they simply call for different emotional impacts.  The book, Power Exchange, by A.J. Rose falls into the later category.

The title itself leads the reader to the heart of the novel: Power Exchange.  The literal, the process found within BDSM when the sub gives their power over to the Dominant.  The Dominant receives the “power” from the sub by gaining control.  Of course, the sub still has a certain power by being able to stop everything by using a safeword.  For more information you can go to this article.  Power Exchange explorers this aspect of a D/s relationship, as well as dealing with a hot romance, and a murder “who done it”.  But this book is so much more than face value;  I found Power Exchange deeply moving and emotionally challenging.

Basic Plot:

Detective Gavin DeGrassi investigates a murder that points to the BDSM lifestyle.  Under pressure to solve the case quickly and quietly he finds help in psychologist Ben Haverson.  But what Gavin discovers along the way is his own hidden sexuality and submission.

Gavin DeGrassi:

Once again, we have a book set in first person, in this case, Gavin.  He is someone who is hiding his homosexuality, and is indeed married.  While discovering the murder of the BDSM case, he discovers his own submission through Ben.  We can easily relate to Gavin.  Where in our lives have we felt trapped and suffocated?  He is stuck in the closet, married to a woman who is slowly emasculating him.  He withdraws into the only passion he has left, his job and through this job he finds his liberation.  We see his relationship with Ben here:

My chest flooded with warmth, at how this confident man– this person who had not once judged me for my inexperience or my uncertainty, had only held my hand and unhesitatingly walked with me through the scariest revelation of my life — had wormed his way behind my closet door and given me what I’d been afraid no one else could.

Acceptance.  Before I’d even found the courage to admit I was in the closet.

There is much to say about Gavin’s emotional and character development, but I do not want to spoil the story.  I felt such a kinship for Gavin, and the beginning of the book there were so many scenes with his partner, his family, and his wife in which he was overwhelmed.  The author did such an excellent job of allowing us to feel his emotional claustrophobia.

Ben Haverson:

Because we are not allowed Ben’s perspective, everything we know about Ben we see through Gavin’s eyes.  It is through the suspense dialogue, play scenes, and romance that Ben’s character comes through.  He is a leading Dom in the lifestyle, and a psychologist who helps those within the BDSM world.  He comes into Gavin’s life understanding that he is in the closet and by being his friend helps him to step out of it.  He also helps him to understand his submissive nature.

“Ah, the power exchange.  A submissive’s greatest gift is giving someone else control.  As I said last night to you and your partner, it takes more courage to kneel before another than to stand beside them.  Subs are not weak.  They simply choose to let someone else fulfill their desires, and trust that person to do so.  They put their Dom’s wishes ahead of their own, and their payoff is a happy Dom, who also rewards them with praise and love and the safety net of guiding them around life’s obstacles.”

Ben is a man who we would all want to be friends with and he has a kind soul.  He is the example that all Doms are not “Domly Doms” assholes.

Theme Summary:

A quote early on in the book discusses the theme:

Submissives enjoy making other people happy, and it doesn’t have to be only in the bedroom.  It’s an exchange of power.  Believe it or not, the subs have more power than you realize.  They have the power to choose whether or not they give themselves to a Dom.  Once the exchange is made, the Dom takes up that power to use as they see fit, but it’s a power they earn.”

As I hinted in the beginning of the post, on one level, this book is about a developing BDSM relationship.  On another level, we see it as the awakening of one man from his submission of self his entire life and understanding to exchange the control of power from outside to within.  This sentence is repeated throughout the book:

“They say it takes more courage to kneel before another than stand beside them.”

This is such a beautiful story about one man’s liberation.

Strong Points:

The strong point of this book is the writing.  A.J. Rose is an amazing writer, bringing a complex story to life in vivid descriptions.  He balanced an intense crime story with a romantic love story in a BDSM setting.  So often we find a BDSM story in a light fashion, it was refreshing to find something that delved into the psychology of a D/s relationship.

Another strong point is the murder mystery.  I had figured it out before the end, but there was a great deal of suspense as we eliminated suspects and the body count increased. I spend a lot of time in reviews discussing the personal growth of a character or the relationship because that is what I find interesting.  But this book is also a very good crime story and it is important to remember that.

What could be better?

I really have found nothing lacking about this novel.  But I do want to warn folks who are new to reading BDSM, this might not be the best choice for your first try.  The murders are graphic, the violence intense.  While this does have a HEA,  there are several aspects of play that is edge play and not just “entry level BDSM.”

Conclusions:

When I find a book that I rate a five star, it has to have an emotional impact on me.  This book had me laughing, smiling, and crying at various points of the story.  I learned many new things about BDSM (especially edge play), that challenged my comfort zone.  To me, then a good book challenges you to consider a situation from another perspective, often in the end you learn something new about yourself.  For me, this book taught me that I am lucky to be in a relationship where I can be honest with my partner about my wants, hopes, and desires.  That sometimes you confuse loyalty and duty as absolutes, that sometimes you have to think of your own self first.  You can always change your path.

Read this book.   It is well written and provides characters that are flawed and endearing, and if you are lucky, you will find something about yourself that you never knew.

Bea

Review: Dirty Secret — by Rhys Ford

   

Other Reviewers: Goodreads

Intro:

When I was in my early twenties, my father’s parents disowned me.  The reason was silly on the surface, I had taken my husband’s name and I no longer played my flute.  Which, you have to understand that there are several generations of professional musicians in my family, so because I no longer playing after college was disappointing.  I was devastated by their actions.  Genealogy was very important to me and it was as if they had told me that I was no longer Irish.  We are still estranged, 13 years later.

So when I received the request to review this book by the author, the idea of being disowned for just being you struck a chord with me.  I especially was intrigued by the details about a culture I was not familiar.  While this is a review for book two (Dirty Secret) of the series, by Rhys Ford, I remark on aspects from both novels.  Keep in mind that this is book two of a series, so you should read book one prior than reading Dirty Secret.

Basic Plot:

This book picks up immediately after the end of Dirty Kiss.   The protagonists are Cole Kenjiro McGinnis (former cop and currently a Private Investigator) and Kim Jae-Min (cousin to the suicide victim he investigates in book 1).   Now a couple in the second book, their relationship remains closeted to Jae’s family and acquaintances.  Cole takes an investigation job from Scarlett (singer friend) to find an old acquaintance.  In the process, friends and family are endangered.  Can Cole discover the long-buried secret before he looses everything?

Cole Kenjiro McGinnis:

To me, Cole represents the reader and in today’s world we are a melting pot of ethnicity;  Cole’s father is Irish (Catholic) and his mother was Japanese.   His mother died when he was so young that he does not remember her and his mother figure has always been his stepmother, Barbara.  The story is in first-person, while it is not my favorite point-of-view, as Cole we see things through his eyes.  In this way the author can explain the differences in cultures and events without burdening the reader with pointless exposition.

Cole’s partner, Ben when he was still a police officer, killed Cole’s lover, emotionally ravaged, Cole withdraws and sets up a private investigation business.  It has been several years and he realizes he is lonely and lacks human contact; enter Jae.  Cole’s best feature is his sense of humor, and his quirky comments.  His discoveries made me laugh out loud:

I did what any sane man would do when a pixie-faced grandmother lined him up in her sights: I jumped.

Hitting cement is never pleasant, especially after an eight-foot drop.  The top of the fence exploded, going the way of Mr. Elephant’s head.  It was raining wood on my head, and off in the distance, amid the echo of the shotgun blast reverberating in my ears, I heard sirens approaching.  Definitely time to get into my car and speed away.

Cole is really one of my favorite male leads I have read about in a long time.  He is a combination of rugged independence, self-deprecating humor, and loving partner.  While he is not perfect, we get to see a man who struggles to regain his emotional balance after such a deep trauma of his partner’s betrayal and lover’s death.

Kim Jae-Min:

Jae-Min is a beautifully complex human.  He is trapped in a life where most men live closeted.  Cole sees Jae-Min as the following:

As much as he hated being what and who he was, I trusted at least one of the things hidden in my tough guttersnipe lover… the young man who saw the world as an oddly beautiful creation only he could capture on film.  He saw love amid the weeds and broken cement.  He saw the beauty in the aging skin of a man who lived his life as a woman.  Even if he couldn’t see happiness for himself, he exposed it for others.

It is so difficult at first to identify with Jae-Min’s character.  For me, ultimatums make me say “screw-you”, and the idea of pretending to be something that I am not just to keep my family who would disown me anyways just seems wrong.  But after awhile of reading the book, I realized that we all can identify with Jae.  Consider your life, what aspects of your life do you keep separate?  Do you talk about the erotica you read to your boss or your mother/father?  Do you have different type of friends who you keep separate because they wold not get along?  There are many things in life that we end up compromising to keep a balance.

Theme Summary:

While these are two separate novels, I think we can find an overarching theme.  If I had to take a theme from these two books, it would have to be that life is full of sacrifices.  In many ways these two characters share the same story, merely from difference perspectives.  Both men have lived in a world of intolerance.  For Jae, he struggles to remain closeted in his family’s world because he knows he will loose them, which is illustrated thoroughly in other examples within the series.  For Cole, he has lost his father and stepmother because their Irish Catholic beliefs say he is an abomination.  Cole, because of the American “F-you” attitude made the sacrifice to remain out, while Jae still remains closeted.

Now, I go with Cole’s “F-you” philosophy, but we should be sensitive to others who might not have that luxury.  Yet Ford does not just point a pretty picture of “coming out” where everyone cheers and claps the character’s bravery.  No, she paints a picture realistically, painfully, and yes, bloodily.  Sometimes the answer is not just black and white.  I think in the end, both Jae and Cole will be “out”, but this honesty of self will cost.

Strong Points:

The humor.  What makes a good romance or a good drama is the moments of levity.  Ford does such an excellent job of sprinkling humor into intense scenes.  Take for example:

His squirming turned to near seizures, and he swung his arms, smacking me across the cheek.  Of course it was the hand with the brick.  I saw stars and rolled over.  If Rocket got shot at, maybe he could deflect it with his brick, like Wonder Woman.

There are also other times where Ford sprinkles references to other classics like The Princess Bride, it makes the characters so much more relatable.

The writing.  I read a lot of books, easily 7 books a week.  So with the high volume, I read a lot of “meh” books, within these books I find no inspiration or thought-provoking discussion.  But then there are times like these, when I laugh out loud with humor and highlight a quote because it moves me.  When these moments hit me, it is like gold.  Ford made me consider my life and how lucky I am.  In my life I can walk down the street holding my husband’s hand.  I can tell my mother how much I love my husband.  Some people can’t.  So, to me, this book is more than just a sexy romance book.  This book is about politics, religion, love, and culture and the costs associated.

What could be better?

I really want to respond to some complaints other reviewers have had toward this book.  This part might be a little ranty.  Let’s get the qualifiers out first:  not everyone likes the same things, and that’s ok!  It reminds me of one of the BDSM slogan: “your kink is not my kink, but that’s ok!”  So, what bothers me are the complaints regarding the confusing Korean names.  Now, the author actually answered this complaint within the novel.  Korean families tend to name their offspring’s similarly to help identify them to the house.  From the novel:

“Yeah, most families use a generation name, so everyone in your… group…” Jae made a face at the word he chose.  “They’d all have the same first sound.  Not everyone does it, but almost all do, especially if the family’s old.”

So this brings me to the arrogance of the reader who complains about the accuracy and depth of research the author took.  Should the author have named all of the Korean characters “Tim Smith” and “Bob Jones” so that the reader would not have to think?  Get real!

To sum up, I actually enjoyed the immersion into the Korean culture and felt that I learned something.  In fact, I found nothing lacking within either of these novels. I usually hate first person, but in this case it worked because of the culture clash.

Conclusions:

In simplest terms, this book is a sexy male/male suspense romance novel.  But if the reader is willing to listen, it also tells the story of what happens when you love honestly and in the light.  We make sacrifices every day.  What will you sacrifice to be with your soul mate?  This was a brilliantly written novel and I look forward to reading much more by Rhys Ford as we watch her writing grow and mature.

Bea

Review: The Druid Stone — by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane

 

 

Other Reviewers: Goodreads

Intro:

I ran across this novel when a friend on Goodreads gave it a 5-Star review.  This is a first time read of this author (although really two authors), Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane.  From what I can tell, this is their first book and was recently published this month.  The Druid Stone is hard to actually set a genre, a little horror, a pinch of suspense, and a cup of history.  What amazes me and speaks to the high quality of writing is how seamlessly the authors 1) work together and 2) write a united tight story.

Based on Ms. Belleau’s blog, she has a degree in History and Irish studies, so we can certainly see where the strength of history comes through in The Druid Stone.  Her love of gory stories and urban fantasy account for the aspects of horror we find in the novel.  A quick tour of Violetta Vane’s Goodread’s page gives us insight that she studies philosophy and medieval Spanish literature, which again we can see facets in The Druid Stone.

What does this mean?  Two heads are better than one!

 

Basic Plot:

We begin by seeing that Sean O’Hara is in psychological trouble: he can’t stop dreaming about a young man’s violent and horrific murder.  Drugs, psychoanalysis, support of his aunt; nothing is helping, his psychosis is only getting worse.  He needs help and quickly before he goes mad.  He hears of this druid, Cormac Kelly, who can possibly help.  But when Sean gets to Ireland, Cormac refuses to help him, thinking that Sean is just one of those new age freaks.  But with Cormac’s refusal, of course Sean gets in trouble and the adventure ensues.

 

Background:

Recently I have been reading almost exclusively male/male romances (since March), the few male/female romances I have read have often been a struggle to finish.  I am not certain if it is my preferences that have changed or if it is just the selection process.  As I have said before about erotica, male/male seems to suffer from the same abundance of more porn than plot problem.  So when I find a book that actually has character development and hot sex, it is always a winner for me. .

 

Sean O’Hara:

Sean is someone who life has shat upon, but somehow he still has a positive attitude and a willingness to help others.  He is half Cuban and half Irish (of Boston), never fully fitting into either side.  In fact, the Irish side mostly has disowned him, his father assholian.  He has traveled and backpacked around the world, fitting in everywhere, but never finding his place.  Yet we see a poignant scene with Cormac’s family at a Druid holiday May Day fire festival (Beltane):

But now that he was here, he was happy.  It wasn’t an uncomplicated kind of happy, but still.  Something about the warm atmosphere, the way Cormac’s family teased him the same as they teased each other, fussed over him and brought him drinks, included him seamlessly in their conversation, just…recognized him.

This is something that recurs throughout the book and is tied to the theme.  He finds with this Druid family a place where he finally feels comfortable with himself and feels accepted as who he is.  I also loved the way Cormac describes Sean:

For Cormac, every touch was shadowed by regret and anger and desperation, although he tried not to show it.  Sean was being so clear, so brave.  Doing the right thing because it was the right thing to do, like he always did and always would do.  Cormac could learn a lot from him.

Sean’s life is a history of violence, abuse, and drugs.  A story that I will not go into to ruin any plot, but the fact that Cormac can describe Sean in this manner demonstrates Sean’s strength of character.

 

Cormac Kelly:

Cormac is the Druid and our Alpha male character of the book.  He is dark and complicated; his former lover Michael was killed ten years before and he is still haunted by his death.  He has not been in a serious relationship since, partly devoting his life to his work as a Druid.  He has the calling, but there still seems to be something lacking, still torn by his past.  We see his conflict in this quote as he reflects on Sean:

Cormac wanted that, that understated sense of self that Sean occupied against all odds.  Cormac was a lot of things, took on the mantles of many labels, assumed the responsibilities and expectations of a lot of roles and perceptions all pieced together like a cubist portrait, but it had been a long time since he’d been able to just trust that under all that, there was something essential, too.  Something he could hold onto, rely on.

He is alone in a crowd, surrounded by family, yet not letting anyone truly inside his heart.

Theme Summary:

To me, the theme is about belonging and finding happiness with yourself, your life and each other.  A portion of this theme can be seen from a Spanish quote:

‘A sincere man am I / From the Land where palm trees grow’, and then ‘I’m a traveler to all parts, / And a newcomer to none.’”

Remember my quote for Sean about the family?  Sean has traveled the world, and while he might be able to blend into the environment, he never felt like he belonged.  This is juxtaposed to the quote above, which to me means that we should not be bound by one place or one aspect of ourselves.  All of three of the main characters are so focused on certain aspects of their lives that they don’t see that they can belong anywhere, as long they are with someone special.

What is extraordinary is that we can all relate to this fear.  How many of us have feared rejection either by strangers or our friends and family?  Have you found that special person who you can just be with each other and feel at peace?

Strong Points:

The writing.  The story was fascinating and intense, the authors able to mix what could have been boring historical facts into exhilarating action.  There were compelling reasons for our two heroes not to get together immediately, yet I did not feel the romance was drawn out.

What could be better?

There were times when there was too much description.  But, I would rather have too much story than not enough.  It did not deter from my enjoyment.

Conclusions:

Overall, this was a wonderful book!  It satisfied a taste I had for both male/male romance as well as historical/fantasy storylines.  The writing was excellent and the character development and theme well defined and explored.

Well worth the read!

 

Bea

Review: Dangerous Cravings by Evangeline Anderson

 

 

Intro:

* (Please Note):  This post has adult content and is advised to be at least 18 years of age.  Enjoy!

At first glance, labels are just labels.  After all, if we couldn’t categorize things, how would we ever find anything?  But to label something often restricts.  For example, what if I said, “romance book” to a male?  Most men would call them bodice rippers in a condescending fashion and not even think of reading one.  It would never occur that this would contain meaningful content.

Let’s take that a step further and say, “erotica”.  Most see this label as porn for women and dismiss it as smut or trash immediately.  And to be honest, there is much of erotica that is just plain crap (although you could say that about any genre).  But to dismiss every book that is in the category of erotica is to pass up some exceptional novels.   This post is a book review for Evangeline Anderson’s Dangerous Cravings and is one such exception.

Basic Plot:

This is at the core a suspense novel.  We follow a serial murder case from the perspective of both of the police partners.  The victims are sexually assaulted and then murdered with seemingly no connection.  The cops (Alex and Cole) discover a connection to BDSM and must go undercover to find the murderer.  As they go undercover their partnership and friendship goes on the line as they discover each other’s secret desires.

Background:

The topic of BDSM is popular right now in romance.  It seems as if every author puts it into a series, even if they truly do not understand the topic.  For some reason they just throw in threesomes and anal sex and all of a sudden it’s “hot erotica”!  The problem is, these authors don’t truly know the content and their storylines and scene are not realistic.  You know, the anal sex that just immediately happens to a vanilla girl without any physical preparation or the idea that all a Dominant wants is sex in public and spends all his time being cruel to the sub.

 Female Lead:

Alex is the female lead, and her entire life is conformity.  Her childhood was not ideal and her adult life has surrounds a need to fit into a career that is male dominated as a police officer.  We learn throughout the story that her sexual wants are based on a lot of her life experiences, including her childhood.

But with all of these things she is not happy in her life.  She spends so much time in controlled situations; she wants to be able let go sometimes.  Alex’s need is to be controlled, to be weak, and to need the pain is something that she wants out of the bedroom.

“Some people need to be tied down to feel free,” she emphasized.  “Even the toughest, most competent woman needs to be able to feel vulnerable sometimes.  If she trusts you enough to show you that side of herself, you should feel honored and try to be a little more accepting.  You have no idea how much courage it takes to admit to such feelings.”

Alex attempts to try to channel her desires through her erotic writing, never allowing her sexual partners into her private needs.  How many of us who read romance novels such as these as outlets of our secrets desires?

Male Lead:

Cole is Alex’s police partner for five years.  He is tall, buff, and manly and a former Marine.  While he might be a typical Alpha male character, he is not perfect.  We see him struggle with his desires to be a good father and deal with a bitchy ex-wife.  He also discovers that he is in love with Alex.  Is it worth the risk to this friendship and partnership to admit this love?  As Cole learns of Alex’s secret, he must accept her sexual needs.  What kind of man does this make him if he gets off on giving her pain?

“Although I had to admit that the idea of doing some of the things I had described to her was an amazing turn-on.  But damn it, I wasn’t supposed to feel that way for my partner, my best friend.”

I imagine that this would be a conflict that any vanilla male might struggle.  Think how a good Southern Christian boy might fight against years of social morals.

I also liked that Cole doesn’t instantly know everything about BDSM.  You know in many romance books the male automatically knows everything about the scene.  But in reality, it takes practice and training for a Dom to become a Master.  Cole also takes time to come to terms with both Alex’s needs and his desire to meet them.  Again, this is unique that the author took the time for development.

Theme Summary:

In simplest terms, this book is about acceptance and courage.  Consider your own lives.  Is there something about yourself that you are frightened to reveal to your partner?  Are you afraid of rejection and derision?  This novel illustrates how one person has dealt with this and then finally comes to terms with her sexuality.  Alex describes her needs:

“When my Master disciplines me, I feel all his attention centered on me—all his love, all his hate, every emotion—all for me.”

It takes courage for her to admit this to Cole.  For Cole, he must accept Alex’s wants and admit that being her Master does not make him an evil man.

Strong Points:

This novel has a compelling suspense story that had me saying, “who did it!” at the end.  We had plenty of time for character development and I did not feel that either character were stock.

What could be better?

I really dislike first person and it took me a little while to get into the book because of it.  However, the content was excellent.  We switch perspective between Alex and Cole, so we still get to see each other’s inner dialogue.

Conclusions:

I give this a 4-Star, both for the suspense story, but also for the psychological depth of both characters.  This is a must read for those of you curious about BDSM.

Bea

 

 

 

Review: Forged in Fire by Trish McCallan

Intro:

This is the first book in Trish McCallan’s Forged series.

Basic Plot:

Beth Brown dreams of a hijacking of a plane (where she works) and is drawn to the boarding gate to try to stop it. She joins with Zane Winters and his unit to try to stop the terrorists. What Beth does not know is that Zane’s family has a history of fated mates and Beth is his mate. How can Zane get her to accept this while trying to keep her out of danger?

Background:

The genre of this novel is a contemporary paranormal suspense romance. While our hero does have some psychic skills, this is about normal warriors not shape shifter or any other superhuman species. This series is actually a unique concept; military based (Seals) warriors with supernatural facets that do not deal with foreign species like werewolves, witches, or genetic manipulation.

Female Lead:

For once, we have a female lead that can hold her own, but also shows her vulnerability. Beth is someone who steps up when something has to be done, in this case, even when she can’t believe that she had a dream of the hijacking. Her moments where she told Mac off were great, I cheered her on when she basically told them to put their penises away and let her make her own decisions:

“If you two Neanderthals are finished with this useless display of testosterone, I’d like to remind you that the only person who has any say over what I do and who I do it with—is me.”

Her character development is how she accepts the risk of letting a man close, and how she struggles to accept this “fate” with Zane. It was refreshing to have in a book with “fated” love to have a character who actually goes, “wait a minute, that’s soo not happening.”

Male Lead:

I adored the character of Zane Winters. He is the Alpha male who has almost given up on finding his mate. We understand that this fated female is something of a family curse (or gift) and he has spent the last 10 years waiting for her to show up. Here comes Beth at the worst time and he must find the hijackers and try to convince a total stranger that they are destined. His struggle with the need to win her and his fear of loosing her could not be better described:

Living without something you’d never experienced was a hell of lot easier than living without something once you’ve been given a taste.

What I like about Zane’s character is that he’s basically whole and functional. While I enjoy the broken warrior types, it was nice to find Zane emotionally ready to love. We didn’t have to spend the book helping him accept the relationship, but rather how he was going to help her accept it. It was a nice twist.

Theme Summary:

A large portion of this book was action, and it is a bit difficult to have a large amount of character development. However, for the romantic theme, we see how two people find each other and trust a bond that in the end saves their lives.

Strong Points:

I love the imagery found within this book. Ms. McCallan does such a good job of using the characters’ perspective to drive the plot forward. My favorite quote of the book:

Mac’s very DNA was wired with suspicion. As a kid he’d probably done perimeter searches before letting anyone out on the playground, checked beneath swings and slides and merry-go-rounds before climbing up to play.

I just had this image of a boy holding his classmates back while he checked out the playground. The dialogue between the men was great; I enjoyed how the different personalities played off of each other. It drew me into each of their characters, which in turns makes the reader want to read their stories.

What could be better?

To some degree, I could tell that this was a first book. I have a feeling the slight reading discomforts that I had will be better in the next.

Conclusions:

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I look forward to Forged in Ice. This was an example that the risk is worth it to take a chance on someone who is self-published. There were some rough spots in readability (i.e. maybe a simile or two that should have been rewritten), but I feel that in future books that will improve. The plot was good and driving, I did not put the book down until I finished. Ms. McCallan took a situation of “fated lovers” and instead of just having them jump into bed first off; she gives them time to develop a relationship. I struggled on what to give this book, a 3-Star versus a 4-Star and finally decided that this was ultimately a well written book. It broke several “tropey” stereotypes of paranormal romances and for that, I gave it a 4-Star for its originality. I can’t wait for Forged in Ice.

Bea

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