Review: Betwixt and Between (Edge of Night, #1) by Alexis Duran

Reporter Ian Evers, obsessed with magical creatures since childhood, never experiences satisfying proof that the magical realm actually exists until he falls into an entrapment spell set by a handsome but dangerous elf. Barely escaping with his soul intact, Ian is able to undo the hex, but he can't escape the very real infatuation he's developed for the fierce, alluring elf.

Ezekiel Stormshadow is a svarta, a dark elf who serves the queen of the dark realm. The realm of darkness needs the power of light to survive, and while hunting the last few magical beings on earth, Ezekiel discovers Ian, a light elf who's unaware of his true nature and ripe for the plucking. Their brief encounter awakens a great hunger in Ezekiel, and he's determined to feast on the light elf's power and body before the queen intervenes and claims Ian for herself.

Ian knows only he can save Ezekiel from the grasp of the dark queen. Driven apart by the ancient imbalance between the dark and light realms, an evil queen starved for power, and their fear of each other, Ian and Ezekiel are relentlessly drawn together even though their union might destroy them both.

Ian has always been curious of the paranormal. He is a writer for a tabloid that specializes in the magical world. A dark elf, Ezekiel recognizes what Ian truly is and casts a hex to ensnare him. But Ian is able to thwart him. Surprising the dark elf. The two are drawn to each other. Ian begins to search for answers about his shady past, he was an orphan at the age of nine, raised by his deceased mother's best friend who is also a witch.

Ian is surrounded by a peanut gallery of humans who are drawn to his "light". I must say the world and elven mythos created was interesting. The beginning half of this novella was intriguing, the war between the elves and banishment and the mystery of Ian's parentage.

It was riding the 3.5 Hearts rating because while the ideas were solid, sometimes the execution wasn't as up to snuff.

The story nosedived around 70%. It made an effort to be exciting but it lost momentum. The good guy enters the forbidden world to save his man. And once he does, they end up switching places repeating the same plot twist on the evil tree instead of confronting the evil queen.

And then magic trampoline/acrobatic sex happens in time of peril. It read more like filling a sex quota or word count quota instead of adding to the action of light vs. dark finally coming together.

And the story ends with a HEA for the pair but the villain aka the queen is still around? Doesn't matter because there was time for more sex. *sighs *

The plot fell off. This isn't the best far romance I've read but it could have been better: lose the repetitive tree scene, actually have the protagonists face the antagonist, the antagonist was wishy-washy. That queen caused the rift between elven factions? She should have had a tenth of that gumption to actually make a difference. She ruled more from her throne instead of doing anything for herself. It was boring to read. She tried to talk the talk but couldn't walk the walk.

And the secondary characters. Oh dear. They tried so hard and I wasn't a fan of the peanut gallery. They too much face time for my preference, they didn't add much to the story. Cleona tried to protect Ian by letting him roam about looking for paranormal? :/

If the next book in this series continues with the same couple, I'm not interested in continuing. They could only be stretched so far.

For more information on Goodreads or Booklikes!

Review: Overly Dramatic by Rebecca Cohen

Andy Marshall moves to London looking for a fresh start after breaking up with his long-term boyfriend. To stave off boredom from his day job as an accountant and to meet new people, Andy joins a local amateur dramatics society called the Sarky Players based in Greenwich, South London. Despite his best efforts to avoid it, Andy is cast as one of the leads in a truly dreadful play called Whoops, Vicar, There Goes My Trousers, written by a local playwright.

The play might be bad, but the Sarky Players are a friendly bunch. Andy quickly makes new friends and finds himself attracted to Phil Cormack, a local artist helping with the props. But life doesn’t run to a script, so Andy and Phil will have to work hard to improvise their own happy ending.

From page one, I had high hopes for this author's writing style. The humorous tone and witty observations were right up my street. It was these two things that kept me reading, I enjoyed the nod to modern culture - Andy and Naomi's gif war. I mean, who hasn't reposted/tweeted/pinned/e-mailed ridiculous animal gifs? No? Really, well you must have at least laughed at them right? Come on, nobody will tell your little secret, hell there are whole TV programmes dedicated to ridiculous animals! Well, I'm not to proud to admit I like a good animal gif and laughed at this bit. Mentally recognising many of the gifs mentioned may have added to the liking...

Ussie also made me laugh. Hell, she was my favourite character; 
"An octogeneraian with too much time on her hands."
She not only pens farcical plays full of double entendres, she games as a sexy elf and wishes to write erotica. Go you Ussie, grow old disgracefully and have fun!   I mean, who doesn't want to be like that when they hit their eighties? I know I do!

Unfortunately the characters was where it fell down for me, mainly because the only one I truly liked was Ussie. This means it is probably a  personal thing, because the writing wasn't bad, I just didn't really grow attached to any of the characters, not even Andy the MC, and this is a big thing for me. I need to... not even like the characters, but have an attachment to them. 

Andy seemed a bit know-it-all, Phil blew as hot and cold as a British summer, and the others seemed to be stereotypes. Naomi - cool, collected Naomi, Andy's office mate and first proper friend ends up having a slanging match with Jeanette because of some texts sent to Naomi's husband. That whole storyline annoyed the living daylights out of me, especially Andy's advice to Naomi, not that she join the players too, but that she keep an eye on Mark and Jeanette. Interfering bastard. I hate the implication that you can't have a laugh with someone (usually of the opposite gender) without it meaning you are flirting. Not even just flirting, but flirting with intention. Pisses me right off! I found it all the ,more irritating that Andy had only just become friends with these people and was dishing out advice. 

Yeah, I found it difficult to become attached to the characters, but as I said, this is truly a personal judgement and just because I didn't overly like them, doesn't mean you won't. I did enjoy the story as a whole, but I do need to invest in the characters for the story it really resonate with me.

A couple of times things were mentioned, that I stored away thinking they would be important to the story later, yet they never became an issue. This felt like a rooky writing mistake. At the start of rehearsals it is mentioned dates to keep clear and Andy notices a clash with his mum's surprise party. I really felt, the fact that this was mentioned, meant it was going to be significant to the plot later...but it wasn't at all. There is a quote by someone, possibly Alfred Hitchcock, that I can't find, so here is my mangled version of it (if anyone knows the actual quote and context please mention it in the comments):
" If there is an umbrella in scene one, it had damn well better rain by scene four."
Seeing as I seem to be particularly grumpy this morning I am going to mention a bugbear, and this is purely indulgent, definitely a me thing, and probably more to do with the publisher than the author but... I hate when books are set in England yet have an Americanised spelling. I have nothing against American spellings, nine time out of ten they make way more sense than the British version, but if it's set in England, use the English version. Please. Every time I came across the word theater I had a mental tantrum and said THEATRE, THEATRE, THEATRE. 


Sorry. Totally personal to me. I don't care about the spelling if the book is set in America, it wouldn't cross my mind (actually, the English version would then send me into my mental rant). I've just seen it in so many books and it really bugs me and takes me out of the book...again I reiterate, this is a personal thing.

Okay, so, all in all a fun book that I'm sure will be loved by many. Don;t let my personal dislikes put you off - sometimes a book is just not for everyone and I certainly didn't hate it. I'm tasked with writing a review about how I honestly felt about a book, and this is it.

A copy of this book was given in exchange for an honest review.
Find out more at Goodreads.

Review: Eye of the Storm (Key West Shifters, #1) by Arielle Pierce

Nathan has never been in love. He's never felt the pleasure of falling in love, never felt that sense of belonging that comes with being in love. Ever since the dolphin shifter's pod was broken up by the appearance of a ruthless new leader in Key West's shifter community, Nathan has turned his back on the one aspect of his life that always gave him joy--becoming Dolphin. Now, he hides in the shadows and pretends that the life he's built for himself with a domineering, abusive boyfriend is exactly the life he wants.

Jacob has no intention of falling in love. The orca shifter has tracked Aiden, the Key West shifters' leader, halfway around the world, and all he wants is to avenge his brother. Claiming a mate is the last thing on his mind, especially a mate as damaged as Nathan.

Caught in the path of a hurricane and the boiling maelstrom of their own feelings, Nathan and Jacob soon realize that their goals align as harmoniously as their bodies. Can they work together to defeat Aiden and bring back peace to the Key West shifter community and their own damaged hearts? Or will the coming storm leaving nothing but pain and destruction in its wake?

Dolphin Shifters - 2; SRAL - 0

DNF - 40%

This is the second dolphin shifter story I've tried that just didn't work for me. It's not the shifters either, them I like. It's the plots behind the stories that I just couldn't get into.

When reading, to me, it's something like searching for the common thread and patterns. Some books are intricate tapestries, tightly woven, complex and just a marvel to behold. And sometimes I have to do some work for the find the thread but I can piece it along and come out with a handkerchief or something. But I couldn't do that with "Eye of the Storm", I'm still holding different length threads and I can't knit them together.

And I tried.

The book starts off with MC Nathan, a spotted dolphin, who shuns the Key West shifter community and leaves life like a human with a human boyfriend (Paul) who abuses and bruises him. He stays with Paul because he doesn't have to work and can focus on his art. But Nathan also cheats on his boyfriend with the shifter bullies (bottle-nosed dolphins) and has a semi dub-con menage in the beginning 2% on the beach. Nathan figures their rough treatment is deserved. Nathan's a mess inside to say the least. But we barely touch the surface with him by 40%.

However the bullies seem to be so-so in the bully department, maybe if they were the one spying on the newcomers and enforcing whatever the villain wanted, it could have read stronger. 

There are things that stick out to me: if Nathan is in abusive relationship, wouldn't it be in his best interest to make sure 1. Paul never suspects anything, 2. Keeping Paul happy by not roughly fucking two dudes because evidence? Paul is a lazy abuser too. Nathan doesn't fear him, the power dynamics are then null and void to me.  If the only reason he stays is for the money...couldn't he find another wealthy guy? I think the abused angle could have been dropped, it wasn't necessary if the abuse wasn't necessary for either man.

And another lazy character is the big bad villain who is hinted at being in charge but at 40% so far little land and air shifters are doing his spy work for him and when confronted by the other MC, he eats pizza and weakly speaks with no authority. It's a lot of talking about what he used to do, has done, could do, but isn't you see me apprehension about continuing down this path? I love a good villain and this guy is nothing but a crumb on my shoe.

I don't even know what the villain did in the past but it couldn't have been that great if he can't seem to stick to rule whatever shifter society he slugs himself into after a few years. (And this guy has moved a lot around the world in a number of years) And if he's a whale shifter who can't shift, what's the point of him being in charge? How does he get in charge with that lackluster attitude he displayed? The shifters have sub-leaders but that guy rules them all? Inconceivable.

And was this set in modern day, because a naked man strolling around Key West for over a minute in public is bound to get noticed. How is the shifter society keeping themselves that much of a secret if Michael the cat tends to walk about naked a lot in public? And why is a cat shifter working for a whale shifter anyway if  cats have their own leaders? This is another thread that I didn't get.

Which brings me to my biggest problem, the repetition.

The point is made over and over. An example, the point about the original Sloppy Joe's vs. the new restaurant, or that Hemingway ate at some famous locale. A lot of the characters repeat the same point a lot.It made it a chore to get through a number of sentences because of this.
So let me focus on the stuff I did like:

I like that there was various shifters of all sorts of animals - deer, puffer fish, orca, sharks, cats, etc. I like they there were different ethnicities represented in the shifter society as well.

Being as I read only up until 40%, maybe the story got better.
But I give up.

I have read and enjoyed this author in the past. I'm guessing this is just one I'll have to ignore.

 For more information on Goodreads or Booklikes!

Review: Home to Cedarwood (Single Father Society, #1) by Megan Slayer

Colin Baker owns a book store and he’s back in Cedarwood with his son. He’s looking for a new start after a bad breakup, but he never expected that start to include his old crush, Officer Jordan Hargrove. Jordan hasn’t come out, but if he can score with Colin, then he’s all in. He’s dreamed of hot nights with the quiet man.

After a speeding ticket and some hurt feelings, sparks fly between the bookstore owner and the police officer, but Cedarwood is a small town with small town values, and a gay couple isn’t what the town expects. Colin’s created a support group for single gay fathers and he feels he’s making some difference in Cedarwood. Some folks in Cedarwood are fine with these two men reconnecting, but some aren’t.

Will the naysayers be enough to drive Colin and Jordan apart, or will they make their way together in this small town.
This book and I had some issues. I really liked the premise even though I tend to shy away from the stories where small town homophobia is touted as a main theme in the blurb. But, my love of small town boys always wins out. The characters in Home to Cedarwood were pretty strong separately and I was especially fond of Farin, Colin’s brother. Together though, I wasn’t feeling it too much and I had to do some pondering as to why that was.

All signs pointed to loving these guys together, but I finally pinpointed what wasn’t working for me and it was the setup to their relationship. Made sense why I couldn’t buy into it as they got together. The setup from the first couple of chapters was that Colin had been “in a simple kind of puppy love” with Jordan and that Jordan had been a “major prick” to Colin, “He’d been an ass to Colin and teased him about being gay.” Ok, so, got it, puppy love and a prick.

A couple of pages after the puppy love statement Colin admits that he came out for Jordan because he wanted to ask him out and didn’t figure he had any other choice. To me, that seemed pretty fucking major, especially if the guy you’re crushing on sounds like a total ass and you live in the alleged hotbed of small town homophobia. To me that was much bigger than typical teenage puppy love. Then, a page or two later Colin says, “He’d known all along that Jordan was gay.” Wait, what!?!? Again, pretty fucking major thing to gloss over especially when there was nothing to support the statement. The rest of the story kept referring to them as old friends and the whole thing left me a little confuzzled as to where they were coming from. If I don’t get a solid start with some tension I end up dissatisfied and that’s where I was with their relationship.

For a novella length story, this one had a lot going on and I would have loved some editing to the point the story could have focused on the relationship, the history and the family. The characters were strong enough that the homophobic small town angle wasn’t necessary and drew me away from the parts I wanted more of. The book told me stuff about the town but I didn’t see a lot of evidence to back up most of the statements, turning the statements into irrelevant filler. Which was too bad, because the bones for good character interaction were there making the statements distracting more than anything else.

Some awkward sentences, poor editing and statements with no support drew me out of scenes, “Colin moved with grace as he removed the spent condom” - hmmmmmm, no, that just sounds weird. And in one scene when Jordan was talking to his chief and at the beginning of the conversation he “clasped his hands together at the small of his back”, in the second paragraph after that “Jordan clasped his hands behind his back.” Colin was referred to as “terminally shy” and liked to “remain a wallflower”. Yet, he started a support group for single fathers, was very adamant about being true tohis sexuality and never backed down from anyone. So, who is Colin? Because I'm not getting shy from any of his behaviors.

Again, the foundation and idea for the story were solid. The characters had a ton of potential, but it just didn’t come together for me unfortunately. I would be seriously tempted to read Farin’s story though, because his comments and conversations were consistent throughout and I really liked his protective streak.

For more information on Home to Cedarwood, check it out on Goodreads

***a copy of this story was provided for an honest review***

Tag-Team Review: A Fashionable Indulgence (A Society of Gentlemen, #1) by K.J. Charles

In the first novel of an explosive new series from K. J. Charles, a young gentleman and his elegant mentor fight for love in a world of wealth, power, and manipulation.

When he learns that he could be the heir to an unexpected fortune, Harry Vane rejects his past as a Radical fighting for government reform and sets about wooing his lovely cousin. But his heart is captured instead by the most beautiful, chic man he’s ever met: the dandy tasked with instructing him in the manners and style of the ton. Harry’s new station demands conformity—and yet the one thing he desires is a taste of the wrong pair of lips.

After witnessing firsthand the horrors of Waterloo, Julius Norreys sought refuge behind the luxurious facade of the upper crust. Now he concerns himself exclusively with the cut of his coat and the quality of his boots. And yet his protégé is so unblemished by cynicism that he inspires the first flare of genuine desire Julius has felt in years. He cannot protect Harry from the worst excesses of society. But together they can withstand the high price of passion.

Cupcake 5+++++ Hearts

I wish I could give this all the hearts.

This is my first K.J. Charles and I was captivated. I dragged it out because I didn't want it to end. I'm a fan of series wherein a cast of characters, that aren't blood related, are family nonetheless and if that cast of characters are all intriguing then I can hardly ask for more.

All of these characters are expertly drawn:

The unflappable Cyprian
The detached dandy Julius
The impetuous Harry
The imperious and compassionate Richard
The sensible and proud Silas
The intransigent Dominic
The "sapheaded" Ash
The resolute Verona
The asshat Gideon

That last one hurts a bit. My poor name kink took a hit. The only member of The Ricardians I didn't truly get a sense of was Francis. Otherwise, Charles breathed life into these characters with her magnificent words.

I was transported back to Regency England with its curricles, whist, settles, cravats, foxedness and waistcoats. 

The depiction of the seedy underbelly, the side that's overlooked and underrepresented in historical Regency books and I appreciated that. It's clear Charles researched the era by the presence of historical events she incorporated seamlessly into the story. There may have been a little heavy-handedness with the political rhetoric of the era, but I like politics and history, so I was happy as a clam. I don't mind saying that I'm crazy stupid excited for the next one in this series with Silas and Dominic.

Two words:  HATE FUCKING! 

Julius and Harry, the protagonists of this story, are thrown together on a bet. Harry must live up to his surname and to achieve that end he's to study with the crème de la crème of dandihood, Julius. I was drawn to Julius from the start. He's sharp, cutting, witty and outwardly haughty, but I got the sense underneath that bombastic exterior was a man desperately trying to conceal his pain. 

Harry is just the ticket.

He's exuberant and... he reminded me of a puppy actually. He's eager to learn, easily overwhelmed, in need of guidance, impulsive and prone to blundering. He was brought up in the stews to radically liberal parents who were both outcast by their families because of their ideals. In order for Harry to blend into the ton he requires a strict taskmaster and Julius is certainly that. 

Be careful what you wish for for you will surely get it.

The problem is the more time they spend together they become friends and have inside jokes. Followed shortly by Julius coming to realize he doesn't want Harry to change altogether. Harry, for his part, is smitten, but his grandfather's expectations for him to marry and produce an heir weigh heavily on him. 

Julius needed fucking, in Harry's opinion, and a lot of it. Biting Harry's shoulder, gasping into his ear, whimpering under his hands and mouth-no wonder he shielded himself against passion, when it undid him so completely. Undid him and made him.

A Fashionable Indulgence is more passionate than erotic. Julius and Harry are hungry for each other no doubt, but their relationship is built on a foundation of friendship and trust. Their relationship progression was dazzling. They are evenly matched in attributes and flaws.

The suspenseful whodunnit added to the upbeat pacing and I'll tell you I did not see that end game. Kudos to Charles on throwing me for a loop.

Highly recommend this entertaining and charming initial book to what's sure to become a favorite historical series.

He kissed with such precious care, as if every time was a gift, as if to be together was a small victory to be celebrated.


Regency era through the mighty pen of K.J. Charles. 

My favorite historical period written by one of my favorite authors? You know I was all over that.
This wasn’t fabulous on-dit with the Ton and clandestine meetings at molly houses (I like those too) Charles brought her fabulous vocabulary to the London streets of 1819 where the working class continues to suffer under British society. The upper class aren’t listening nor helping the lower classes. The class system is unjust. For a quick minute while I was reading, if you switched some of the main players’ names around to today’s US big wigs – it’s like reading the today’s news. :/ Don’t worry I won’t get political. 

A Fashionable Indulgence” is a story that features action, the effects of classism, rags to riches and an ice man who melts for the one he loves…and doesn’t lose his acerbic tongue in the process. Oh, oh and has the best choice dandified clothes. Ever. 

Julius is just--(timeout: He brought to mind Lucius Malfoy and I know, he’s evil, but I have such a crush on him and I kept picturing Lucius as Julius, same ice queen, ice blond, sharp tongue ways and I just melted. Okay time-in) If you look up the word dandy, you might have a picture of Julius cutting you with his eyebrows, slaying you for days.

Harry Vane is the son of radicals. He has lived life on the run and knows nothing else. He flees to France with his parents while an adolescent, only to return a near-man, penniless and an orphan. His parents radical friend, Silas, is the only one who takes him in. and there he works until a windfall with strings is bestowed upon him. He can become one of them, the Ton. A life without having to worry about being arrested or worse for helping Silas fight for the cause.

He takes it (he’d be crazy not to) but those strings. See, Harry has to learn how to ape like his betters. He inherits a family with all sorts of society connections including Lord Richard Vane and friends. Lord Vane and his friends form a sort of society where the man love can be free if you know what I mean and I think you do. They’ll help carry the rest of this series (Also can’t effing wait – good lord)
But this first book is all Julius, flawless dressed (he really loves his fashion) dandy on the outside, damaged ex-soldier on the inside who knows how to move and shake within the Ton. He becomes Harry’s mentor in all things except one. 

Ah, you thought Harry was a nubile virgin? Nope. That trope isn’t played here. Harry teaches Julius a few things as well, more importantly lasting things such as caring and love. Reading someone who comes off as having a hard exterior fall in love is always refreshing and one of my favorite characters to read about. As usual, K.J. Charles brings a different light to the regency era. It’s not society by plays but more about the friends as a whole, their personalities and how they play a part in the larger arc of radicalism. I don’t think I can remember too many regency romances with radicalism, it was different. I equally love society and the working class when it comes to this era I find. 

Since it’s not my first go round with K.J. Charles, I found this to be a very solid start. I’m more intrigued with how she’ll pull off the other two books. There was something about the swiftness of Julius going all hearts in with Harry that can’t make me give all the hearts. Still one of my favorite books of the year. 

Oh and the sex was awesome, passionate and fitting, not overdone. :D

Highly recommended.

An ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Find out more on Goodreads or Booklikes!

Review: Plato for Plumbers by Francis Gideon

The week before an important philosophy conference, Kenneth is struggling to finish both the last chapter of his book and the paper he's writing for the event. His efforts are thwarted by a leaky faucet—and his life as a whole is turned upside down by the plumber who shows up to fix it.

I took philosophy in college. And I sucked at it. I still find it fascinating even though it is not my forte. Still, I'm not a quitter and the Plato wasn't going to scare me away from buttsex or manlove. 

Crude confession:  there is a video on a certain website that contains a plumber and a whole lotta...  plumbing going on. They plumb each other. Twice. It is AMAZING. I had high hopes this story would veer in that direction. 

Sadly, there was no buttsex to be had and a close approximation of instalove that I couldn't make heads or tails out of.

Ken is a tenured philosophy professor who's apparently lost his joie de vivre after surrendering his dreams of becoming an erotica writer. And he has a leaky sink. He calls in plumber Mark to fix said leakage and they spend the day together. I understand being hot for someone on sight, but I don't know why Ken is so besotted immediately. Is it the tool belt? The uniform? The way he looks? smells? I need some context. You have sell it to me if you're selling me instalove.

They talk and Mark's no slouch in the philosophy department; he can hold his own, but this trope of meeting someone, feeling a connection and then planning vacations all within the span of 24 hrs doesn't jive for me. I need some atmosphere, some nuance, something. That just didn't happen.

The writing is interwoven with some lovely philosophical sentiments on love and life that were enjoyable. It does have tendency to be quite tangential and those tangents are squirrely. That page time would've been better spent showing me some relationship progression.

"Love is not a god at all," Plato wrote, "but is rather a spirit that mediates between people and the objects of their desire. Love is neither wise nor beautiful, but is rather the desire for wisdom and beauty."

Aside from the philosophical lessons, though, there wasn't much I could sink my teeth into. The characters are bland. The story is a slice of life that didn't have much substance to it, and most importantly, there was fade to black sex! An egregious offense.

An ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Find out more on Goodreads.

Unicorn Favourites: Love is an Open Road: Week Nine.

The M/M Romance Group on Goodreads hosts a Don't Read in the Closet event each year where they invite members to submit a photo with a story prompt. Interested authors then volunteer to write the requested stories, which are published for free for everyone to read. It's a fun/exciting/stressful process, and a great opportunity to read stories from favourite authors. And chances are, you'll also discover some new authors, who hopefully have a back-list of goodies to check out :)

This year's event was named Love is an Open Road and they started releasing the completed stories on June first. Here at BMBR, we've been following along on comment threads, anticipating the stories from our favourite prompts, and now greedily reading the stories as they become available.

Lorix: Death Chasing Metal Dreams by Kaje Harper
The stories that have come from the DRitC event this year have been amazing. I have read many stories I wouldn't normally have and loved them. I have found new authors and revisited authors I know I love and basically been blown away by the fiction produced. Of course not everything is to my taste - but to get to try all this stuff, for free, is such a wonderful opportunity. 

It is quite often said these days you don't get something for nothing, but in this event that is absolutely not true. Sometimes what you get is more than you dreamed. I know this is the case for me, and this week it was Kaje Harper's 90k novel, Chasing Death Metal Dreams, that blew me away. I totally and utterly loved it.

Let's not beat around the bush; I am a huge Kaje Harper fan, for many, many reasons, and they all held true in this story.

First - and possibly most important to me - characterisation. I know I harp on about this in my reviews, but it is characters that make the story for me. They are the people I empathise with, sympathise with, laugh or feel angry with. They are the core of the world into which I fall in the pages of a book. They are who I fall in love with. They are the story, and Kaje writes great characters. Better than great. Her characters come from the heart (and I should imagine a heck of a lot of research, because they are all so true to themselves). She can write elderly gentlemen, tough cops, grateful partners. She can write about the world weary or optimistic, about young and old. She never writes a boring characters. She never writes characters that feel like the same old, same old. Each voice is unique and genuine, and by gum do I wish I had that skill.

Carlos' voice in this story was absolutely no exception. In fact it is one of the best examples I have read of real character. Born male in a female body, Carlos knew from a very young age that he needed his outside to match his inside. I truly cannot imagine what it is like to not feel like me. To not be the person I really am. I may not (always) like the package I come in, but it feels like me from the tips of my toes, to the top of my head. 

I imagine writing a trans character and not turning them into a caricature or political statement is especially hard. Kaje writes about Carlos though,and she makes the character more than an f to m trans person. He is more than gay, he is more than a death metal musician, he is more than the Mexican boy sent to live with his aunt and uncle in America. He is more than a dental assistant, more than a tattooed musician, more than a scared 14 year old. He ismore than all those thing yet all those things are part of him. All those things combine to make him, him.

The focus of this story is Carlos dreams to be in a successful death metal band. He writes and plays guitar and lives for his music. The death metal scene though - it's not a place where being openly gay is, at least in Carlos' opinion, viable. 

Carlos is full of attitude. He loves his music, but he takes no shit. Not from fans, band mates or the general public. I could picture him so clearly, with his swagger, his presence, his attitude. He is fun. He is dedicated. Hard working. Focused. Ambitious.

He is brilliant. I loved every single moment spent with him.

Nate is the man he falls in love with - even if all Carlos was after was a quick fuck. Nate's twin brother is also in the death metal band scene and Nate helps him out roadying from time to time. Nate is out and proud, more the kind of guy who likes long term over one night. An artist who is still dealing with lies fed to him by his exes. Together Carlos and Nate are brilliant.

Kaje Harper takes their characters and the story and makes it feel real in a way many other writers would struggle to do (IMO). Never one for an easy get out or an unnecessary amount of angst (i.e. angst for angsts sake) the troubles her characters face feel real. They are led by emotion and circumstance, and not the desire to write a thrilling storyline. (Although obviously the desire to write the thrilling storyline is there, otherwise there would be no story, but it is written so damn well you forget that). I always feel I've learnt something when I've finished one of Kaje's stories. I also know I'm going to have a terrible book hangover.

Because this review is already going on a bit, I would just say - please read this story. It really is fabulous.

Optimist King's Wench: Full Exposure by Amy Jo Cousins and The Supreme Might of Love by Christina Tomlinson
Amy Jo Cousins, welcome to my neighborhood.

*pats sofa cushions*

Come. Sit a spell. Whisper more of your delightful words in my ear.

And this story is delightful. Cousins allows Riley and Evan's relationship to bloom and grow into a palpable thing of beauty right before our eyes.

They meet on a photo shoot and ooze chemistry. It is a foregone conclusion that they will spend the weekend together. We're given glimpses of that weekend. Each window gives kernals of truths about each of these characters.

They compliment each other but neither are perfect. Riley is a bratty and moody rock star who reminded me of The Bieb. Evan is a sci-fi geek with a tendency to word vomit when nervous. Together they are extraordinary.

"What would you pay me to do to you, Riley Flood?" He whispered the words against that mouth, feels Riley's lips open to speak and Riley's breath on his face.


They take advantage of their weekend together, neither wants to part, but obligations call. Promises are made. And broken. Only a grand gesture can possibly rectify the situation.

This story captured my attention from the get go. True, it was the name drop of Neiman Marcus that made my eyes glassy and pupils dilate, but it was the writing that kept me invested and left me with squishy good feels.

The side of kinky power dynamics didn't hurt. I especially loved how sensual the writing was without being explicit and how tactile they are with one another. And that edging bearskin rug scene.

*stares into space*

Bearskin rug cheesy, you say?

Bearskin rug hot, Cupcake replies.

I will be on the lookout for more from this author in the future and my thanks to her and her team for contributing to the LOR event.

Roman soldier?
Ancient Rome?
God of War?
Frothing at the mouth?

Oh, that was me. My mistake. 

There's something about alpha power struggles that is so titillating. I also lurve me a big un bottom. 

A lot.

Titus is a gladiator who's recently earned his freedom. He's also caught the eye of Kasen, Roman Legate. Kasen antagonizes Titus at every turn.

In fact, these two are at each other so much and so often that they have garnered the attention of Mars on Olympus.

Mars decides he wants to be the creamy filling of that manwich, so he fashions an alluring disguise and goes after his men.

He becomes treasurer of Aquileia and hires newly freed Titus as his bodyguard.

Marius (Mars) has all sorts of hotness working for him. Young, nubile slaves that would look fantastic bouncing on Titus' lap, but he keeps getting cock blocked!!!!!


When Marius makes his move Titus is stunned and thrilled since he didn't think he stood a chance with the nobleman not to mention hornier than a colony of rabbits.

Marius has to use some pretty fancy skills (read: manipulation) to complete the triangle.

You know that saying, "there's a fine line between love and hate"?

Titus and Kasen may have drawn that line. 

I was hopeful for some hate fucking, but they realized their feels prior to the boinking. *sadz*

However, there was some rough sex and a loin cloth wrestling match!!!!!!

The writing and story arch were solid. The storytelling idea and how that worked out in the end, I really liked. Just the right amount of squishy goodness.

The author nailed the prompt and I thank her and her team for the contribution to the LOR event.

SheReadsALot: First Dance by E. Davies and Black Horse River by Robin Studwick
I saw stripper and I got excited. Anytime I see stripper tag attached to a romance I think:

I get my singles ready and everything. 

But this isn't that kinda romance.

This is Fluffy McSugarson with a bowl full of Aw! 

No sex (not necessary), full of college geek awkwardness and a stripper who likes to memorize poetry to help with his anxiety. 

I'm glad both main characters has similar anxieties and their conversations tapped into my barrel of aw! Because they were awkward kinda cute. I'm not really amazed by poetry memorization but I picture Danny (the stripper) and his Scottish accent reciting Shakespeare and I smile.

Maybe do some of this too:

Danny, you could have had a thong full of singles if you turned it into that kinda romance.

His loss. ;P

Sweet and funny at times. Not extremely memorable but there's something about this that made me root for the nerdy bookstore worker protagonist (Kyle) finally coming out of his shell and possibly meeting the other half to his nerd soul.

I'll round up

So I'm going to take my singles and hit the road. The search for that kinda romance with the essence of ratchetness continues.

My thanks to the author and the team behind the event.
I've never watched the entire Princess Bride movie.

Do bits and pieces count? 

*holds out hands* It's on my bucket list of things to do. 

I don't know if this story is close to the movie or not, but I'm going to hazard a guess there aren't kelpies in there. 

I liked the fantasy/historical edge. I liked the legend feel to it. Based on the story written, the tone was subtle and formal. It's told a young, virgin Scottish lord Fionn's POV. It worked for me. I see what the writer was going for keeping the tone like that, some parts read a little stilted because of it. 

Sweet story though. My favorite part is the sensual undertone of Fionn and Bran's sexual tension. It wasn't overt and it fit what was written of the men. Fionn lusts for his stablehand Bran. Always probably since he could have a cockstand. And he thinks Bran doesn't notice. But he wants him to notice.

*grins* He does. 

Men being together back in that time is forbidden but they ride away from prying eyes. Together, they discover the gifts of sweet yearning.

I do wish this was longer, just to see the fantasy world really. I found the kelpie angle unique. But I get to keep in tone with the legend theme, it wouldn't be required.

I'd read something else from this author in the future. I'm curious to read contemporary or paranormal from her, see what she can do. (Just leaving this bit here for future reference ;])

My thanks to the author and the team as always behind this event. The event tends wreak sweet havoc to my reading schedule (Ha!) too many good choices to choose from.