Review of Blood Shackles (Rebel Vampires #2), by Rosemary A. Johns

I won a signed copy of Blood Shackles, by Rosemary A. Johns through Goodreads.

What happens when SPARTACUS meets VAMPIRES? Except the vampires are the slaves… In a divided paranormal London, Light is the rebel vampire of the Blood Lifer world, with a talent for remembering things. And a Triton motorbike. Since Victorian times he’s hidden in the shadows. But not now. Not since someone hunted and enslaved him. When he’s bought by his alluring Mistress, Light fights to escape. Even if he can’t escape their love. But if he doesn’t, he’ll never solve the conspiracy behind the Blood Club…


Who are these ruthless humans? Who’s their brutal leader? And who betrayed the secret of the Blood Lifer world?


London, Primrose Hill. Grayse is the commanding slaver’s daughter. The enemy. She buys Light, like he’s a pair of designer shoes. So why does Light feel so drawn to her? Ashamed, he battles with his desire, even as he burns for her. Can a slave truly love his Mistress? Especially when his family is still in chains. Will he risk everything – even his new love – to save them?


Does a chilling conspiracy lie behind it all? A stunning revelation leads Light to an inconceivable truth. To the dark heart of the Blood Club. If he can face his worst terrors, he can save his family and his whole species from slavery.

Maybe he can even save himself.

Honestly better than I expected. I always approach anything involving slavery, especially romance, very warily. So many ways to go wrong. But this managed not to glorify it or the abuse the slaves endure, physically, mentally and sexually. It was a little glossed over, still uncomfortable though, but not made out to be anything but horrible. This is not something I enjoy and I struggled getting through the book since a decent amount of it is dedicated to man talking about what it’s like to be broken.

I even eventually got used to the journaling format it is written it. But I could not stand the cant the characters spoke. Nut for head, neb for nose, lobehole for ear, mush for mouth, etc, etc, etc, etc. OMG it was endless and annoying. Plus, despite being set in modern London and one of the characters growing up in Boston, they all spoke it. Even the rich people you’d have expected to be well educated.

I also found it a little odd how many opportunities vampires had to kill their captors, even when they weren’t mentally broken, but instead just fought them. They pushed them or broke a bone or talked when they were perfectly capable of killing them and moving on. Especially when Light is made out to be an exceptional fighter.

The writing is very good and the editing fine, maybe not perfect but fine. I don’t know that I’d be interested in more of this series, but I’d be perfectly willing to read more of Johns’ writing. I found a lot of it thought provoking, even if disconcerting.


Review of Hard Wired (Cyberlove #3), by Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell

I was sent an ARC of Hard Wired, but Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell.

Description from Goodreads:
My FallenCon agenda is simple: sit on a couple of panels and let people meet the real me. Jesse Garvy—mod of a famous Twitch channel and, if I ever come out of my shell, future vlogger. I definitely didn’t plan to sleep with a moody tattooed fan-artist, but he’s gorgeous and can’t keep his hands off me. There’s a first time for everything, and my first time with a guy turns out to be the hottest experience of my life.

But the next day, I find out my moody fan-artist is Ian Larsen AKA Cherry—someone I’ve known online for years. And he’d known exactly who I was while shoving me up against that wall. Before I figure out whether to be pissed or flattered, the con ends.

Now we’re back online, and he’s acting like nothing happened. But despite the distance between us, and the way he clings to the safety of his online persona, we made a real connection that night. I don’t plan to let him forget.

I love the Hassell and Erickson team and I’ve enjoyed the Cyberlove series. But I have to admit this wasn’t my favorite. I liked the characters and the story, but aspects of it made me uncomfortable.

Let me start with the good. The writing is stellar as always, the editing good (even for an ARC), the characters distinct, the sex hot, it’s funny and I personally liked the easter eggs. Yep, all good. And honestly, the one big thing that bothered me might be me making a mountain out of a molehill, but it annoyed me. A lot.

(This might be a little spoilery, but it doesn’t give the end away or anything.) One of the main characters’ goals is to become an animator so that he can create his own art that brings attention to and increases the diversity in media. Yeah? It’s a good goal. And I might have been able to look over how didactic some of it came across with the use of what I call hashtag terms (the ones you generally only see online or in book reviews talking about how authors have failed to include X or are guilty of shaming Y). Except that, well, both main characters are white. So are the parents, presumably the cousin/best friend, as it isn’t stated otherwise, the adversary and both people who will obviously be the couple for the next book. Off hand, I can think of one person Ian spoke to that was described as having a bow in her afro and Garvy’s co-worker was Filipino. That’s it.

Of course, race isn’t the only form of diversity and both characters are gay, they acknowledge the existence of bi-sexuality and one is neuro-atypical. But it still felt like an uncomfortable oversight. Perhaps someone will tell me I’m wrong or that it was actually meant to be illustrative, I don’t know. But once I noticed it I couldn’t not. The book was advocating diversity without including much obvious diversity itself.

And I almost didn’t mention it here, because I know these authors (know being a loose term for follow them online and have exchanged a comment here or there, but it’s enough that I have a general idea what to expect in their books) and I’m certain this is something that’s important to them. But I have to admit that here I don’t think they lived up to their best intentions. (And yes, I do see the irony of stating that I ‘know’ them, given that some of the drama in the book is based on fans thinking they know a whole person when all they really know is an online persona.)

Other than that one big issue, that kind of overshadowed the whole story for me, I generally liked the book. Yes, it was very angsty, I thought Garvy was a little too patient to be believed, the happy ending came a little too easily, and Ian’s trauma and protective measures sometimes came across as disingenuous simply because he seemed a little too introspective about his own psychoses. It made it feel almost clinical, instead of devastatingly emotional. But these last critiques are small niggles that are almost meaningless in the face of other aspects I enjoyed. I’ll definitely still be picking up the next book they write together and any books they write separately.

Review of Single Malt (Agents Irish and Whiskey #1), by Layla Reyne

I received a copy of Layla Reyne‘s Single Malt from Netgalley.

Description from Goodreads:
Eight months after the car crash that changed everything, FBI agent Aidan Talley is back at work. New department, new case and a new partner. Smart, athletic and handsome, Jameson Walker is twelve years his junior. Even if Aidan was ready to move on—and he’s not—Jamie is off-limits. 

Jamie’s lusted after Aidan for three years, and the chance to work with San Francisco’s top agent directly is too good to pass up. Aidan is prickly—to put it mildly—but a growing cyber threat soon proves Jamie’s skills invaluable. 

Jamie’s talents paint a target on his back, and Aidan is determined to protect him. But with hack after hack threatening a high-security biocontainment facility, time is running out to thwart a deadly terrorist attack. They’ll have to filter out distractions, on the case and in their partnership, to identify the real enemy, solve the case and save thousands of lives, including their own.

Oh man, everyone seems to love this book and I just liked it. I mean, it was ok. Whiskey and Irish were fine characters, at least one of them was likable. The mystery wasn’t super obvious. I guessed the culprit, but I wasn’t 100% certain from the very beginning, which I am sometimes. The sex was fine. But none of it came together into something I just loved.

I was constantly confused why Whiskey and Irish were doing other people’s jobs. Both cases they work are someone else’s, though they seemed to be in authority. And when there were cyber attacks, it was Whiskey who countered them, despite the head of the institute’s cyber security—who would undoubtedly know that system better than Whiskey no matter what kind of crack hacker he is—sitting beside him.

I never felt I got to know either character well, especially Whiskey. Plus, I just never bought him as this ex-basketball star, super hacker, who could cook and sing, is courteous, and great in bed. He was too perfect. The man had no flaws, other than his mystery love for Irish. Irish was a dick from the very beginning. Yes, he had reason and all, but what about him was Whiskey so enamored with? I never saw it.

There were a few passages in which I didn’t know what was meant, but other than that the writing was fine. The editing seemed fine. The book was ok. It’s not that I’m even saying I disliked it. I’d read another one. But it was just ok.