Tag Archives: m/m romance

Review of Thorns and Fangs, by Gillian St. Kevern

I picked up a copy of Gillian St. Kevern‘s Thorns and Fangs from the Nine Star Press website.

Description from Goodreads:

Nate is caught between two dangerously hot vampires who can compel people to do whatever they want and a ruthless necromancer who wants Nate for all the wrong reasons—and that’s only the start of his problems.

Escort Nate prides himself on two things: his ability to please his clients and his normality – living in the monster capital of the world, ordinary is rare. Hunter, a darkly charming vampire with more charisma than is good for him, decides Nate is just what he needs. Nate’s sympathetic nature and skill in the bedroom are put to the ultimate test. But Hunter wants Nate for someone else – his brother, Ben. Nate is immediately attracted by the control with which Ben holds his sensitive nature in force. Too afraid of becoming a monster to allow himself to feel, Ben struggles to resist Nate’s generosity of emotion. As a vindictive necromancer makes Ben his target of revenge, Nate discovers that making people feel good doesn’t compare to making Ben feel. As Nate’s normal world crumbles around him, and he desperately searches for a way to save Ben, Nate is unable to escape becoming the necromancer’s latest victim.

But Nate’s death is only the beginning. Coming back to life in the bathroom of Gunn, a Department Seven officer who hates the vampire family that Ben and Hunter belong to, Nate doesn’t know who to trust or even what he is. As the necromancer’s trap pulls tighter around himself and Ben, Nate is forced to let go of normal and embrace powers he doesn’t fully understand. In defiance of Ben’s vampire sire and hunted by Department Seven, Nate and Ben finally learn to trust and rely on each other. But when the necromancer succeeds in capturing Ben, Nate alone can come to his rescue.

Review:

I quite enjoyed this, but I’m not entirely sure it knows what it wants to be. It starts out quite erotic, heavy on the sex (including a 4-way ménage and double penetration). But then all that is set aside and most of the book is a paranormal thriller, with two leads who feel quite young. If not for the way it starts, I might call it a New Adult book. (The main character is 21, after all.) I had some similar complaints with pacing. The book feels longer than it is.

Having said all that, I did enjoy it. I liked the characters. I liked the paranormal world set up. I found quite a lot of humor in it, and the writing/editing is pretty sharp. I’d be more than willing to continue the series.

Review of The Boys of Lake Cliff (Boys of Lake Cliff #1-5), by K. Sterling

I grabbed a copy of The Boys of Lake Cliff, by K. Sterling when it had a free day back in 2018. I didn’t really remember than when I accepted an Audible copy of Hide and Keep recently. But having finished that first book I was please to the rest it hidden in my kindle.

Description:

Welcome To Lake Cliff

K. Sterling invites you to Lake Cliff to meet her most beloved heroes in this anthology of her Lake Cliff books.

Detective Lane West doesn’t do complicated. Especially when it comes to his personal life. Dr. Aiden Sharp is complicated. Complicated in ways Lane can barely get his mind around when he’s forced to babysit Aiden as a favor for the District Attorney. After that, things get very complicated.

Sage Bradley wants to make the world a better place. He’s handsome, smart, wealthy, a talented artist and always follows his heart. Unfortunately, someone wants him dead. Fate brings a mysterious man to Sage’s door and a romantic night turns into a tangled web of passion and danger.

Can you domesticate an international assassin? Can a criminal be reformed and play well with others?

Happily Ever After doesn’t always happen right away or as easily as you might imagine. Lavender must decide how much he’s willing to sacrifice for love and if he can make peace with his past.

Despite his hopes, fate isn’t ready to let Lane West settle into his own Happily Ever After peacefully. A new threat comes to Lake Cliff and he’s forced to team up with his worst nightmare.

This series begins with Aiden and Lane then switches briefly to Sage and Lavender before merging into the Lake Cliff books with all four characters.

Reviews:

Overall, this is one of those series that you academically understand isn’t great. The writing is passable, but the editing is a mess and nothing is believable in the slightest. But you somehow still want to know happens what next. Below are individual reviews.

Hide and Keep:*
This started out roughly for me and I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. However, it quickly smoothed out and found its rhythm. I enjoyed it a lot by the end.

Granted, I have a strong suspicion that the representation of Aspergers Syndrom isn’t at all accurate (and I feel like that is a term not used anymore). But I also don’t feel like it represented people with Aspergers in any sort of derogatory way. So I chose to accept that this is a fictional book with a fictional representative. Much as I did with the detective and forensic expert aspect of the book. Neither was well developed or integral to the plot.

I also felt the book went on a few chapters (and an epilogue) too long after the story came to a natural conclusion, and other reviews say there are editing issues. I can’t say I noticed them in the audio version I listened to. All in all, this isn’t a perfect book, but I’m awful glad to have a compilation of the first five books.

Safe and Sound:
Meh. Felt very much like an interlude between two books or the beginning of something, but not a story in its own right. If the latter, why break it off into a separate work? I also found it repetitive. I still like the characters, but that’s about all.

Spark and Flame:
Again, meh, only ok. I still like the characters, but the editing is a bit rough and the plot bounces around and doesn’t flow particularly well.

In the Kill:
This was disappointing. It had what could have been two interesting characters, who just weren’t and what could have been a fun plot, but wasn’t. The editing is subpar and the writing feels very much like someone who knows how to plot and structure a novel, but just couldn’t be bothered. Everything about this is perfunctory. Only one character has even a veneer of backstory, the other is a cardboard stand-in. The sex is matter-of-fact and uninteresting; this after the insta-attraction. Nothing invites the reader to feel invested in it, not the story, the characters, the romance, the sex, nothing.

Hide and Kill:
I have to admit I enjoyed this more than all of the others, except for the first one. The reason is mostly because of the banter between Lavender and Lane. I found it implausible but humorous. Actually, the whole plot is ridiculous–the idea that the Chief of Police is willing to work with and stand beside an assassin, as he kills people, is absurd. Nothing about the plot felt natural. But I still laughed as two alpha men needled each other.

That’s about all the book has going for it though. This plotline official killed any belief that Lane is a good Chief of Police and therefore a lot of his credibility as a character. And in doing so, literally whittled all four characters down to sexual partners. Which is especially frustrating since all the sex felt like place holders, even more now that there are two couples for Sterling to give sex scenes to. They held no emotional impact and felt redundant.

Further, both Aiden and Sage are becoming progressively more child-like as the series goes on (Sage especially). What’s more, he reminded me of no one more than Shaggy of Scooby-Doo. So, not particularly sexy even.

Lastly, (and this is a spoiler) the book incorporates one of my most hated tropes. Readers, FYI, if someone in your past (even family) has been toxic and hurt you, you are not required to forgive them. Authors, if a family has abused or abandoned a character in the past, they don’t deserve a redemptive arc. Having that family show up all tears and apologies puts the obligation of forgiveness on the shoulders of the victim. This can be re-victimization a lot of times. And the fact that Sterling had this drop on Lavender out of nowhere and he responded positively, instead of simply saying, “Get them out of my house,” before walking away, felt out of character and unrealistic. From the very first words of the chapter in which I realized this trope was coming, I was angry and I finished the book angry when they were at the wedding. I hate this. It’s too often included for cheap feels (and I think it was here) and doesn’t give due diligence to the painful history of trauma.

Bleed and Seek:
Ah, what am I going to do with this series? It’s always been ridiculous but it just seems to get more so as it goes one. The writing quality is deteriorating and the editing has always been questionable. And with two couples to try and give time to, the sex scenes have become formulaic and redundant. (I skim them at this point.) But despite all that I live for the interaction of the men, or rather Lavender with Aiden and Lane. (That’s Lavender and Aiden or Lavender and Lane. Only in pairs, it seems.) I don’t feel Sage has ever been developed to the same degree. Though the next book looks like it’ll focus on him, so maybe that will change. I am interested in knowing what happens, but not rushing out to buy more.


*I technically reviewed this a few weeks back. But I’ll copy it in order to keep all the reviews together.

Review of Fighting for Love, by Aiden & Austin Bates

I haven’t been reading much lately, not even audiobooks. But today I needed to mow the lawn and fold laundry, both great audiobook activities. So, I gave Fighting for Love, by Aiden & Austin Bates a chance. I received an audible code for it at some point.

Description from Goodreads:

Warrior in the ring. Submissive in the bedroom. A dark threat against a promising future. . .and a growing new life.

He trains, he fights. MMA fighter Eric lives for each match because now there’s nothing else to live for. Though he once yearned for the steady, forever kind of love. . .though he craved domination. . .he was betrayed. Walking away from the man he would have married, Eric didn’t look back. And now his future is just as empty as his past.

The day Samuel was fired for wanting to marry the love of his life wasn’t his blackest moment—his blackest moment was the night before, when Eric left him without a word. But Samuel emerged stronger, learned that to survive heartbreak he had to be true to himself. He now craves someone to share his dark desires with—a dominating self Eric never knew.

Where there are secrets, there can never be true love.

When a new client walks into Samuel’s place, he’s shocked to see that the man booking his services as a dom is Eric. Is this a cruel joke, or are they fated to be together?

The only way to find out is to follow this thing to the end. Even if that means wading through blackmail, deceit and a shocking discovery that changes their lives forever. They have no choice but to defeat their enemies and make their love work.

Eric is carrying a baby and Samuel refuses to give them up without fighting the match of their lives.

Review:

You know, what I think amazes me most about this book is that it had two authors. Two people were involved in the writing of this travesty and neither one called a halt to it. It’s a disaster in so many ways. For one, even listening to the audio version, I caught several editing mistakes. The most common (and therefore the one that annoyed me most) was how it kept saying one character’s house was color-coded, but they meant color coordinated. As this was meant to be an endearing trait it was brought up several times and it was wrong every time. But there were also just other random mistakes. At one point someone left the bathroom to go to the bathroom. (He went to the bedroom).

But mostly I hated that the whole alpha/omega trope wasn’t situated in any sort of world. I’m plenty familiar with the Omegaverse. I’m not new to m-preg stories. But you can’t just drop alpha and omega characters into an undefined world. I have no idea if this was common among all people, some people, or a secret. I have no idea if these were human people or shifters of some sort (though I assume not since it wasn’t mentioned). Why were some alphas and some omegas? What makes an alpha or omega? Are there betas somewhere?

How, if at all, do the dominant and submissive traits come into play? Because the book infers that the words aren’t interchangeable, some alphas are dominant, but not all omegas are subservient, and visa versa. I think. I’m really not sure and that’s my point. None of this is defined or explained in any way. What’s more, the dominant character got into being a dom when he lost his job and someone else took him in and showed him the ropes. It’s reiterated that it’s just a job. So, even being a dom isn’t presented as a racial trait. So, what makes him an alpha if not his dominance?

Further, there is 100% no reason both characters needed to be male for this plot to work (as poorly as it worked, but you get my point). I love gay romance. So, I’m not saying the authors needed a reason to write the characters as gay. But the m-preg felt so forced and out of place, so poorly explained (not at all explained) that I feel like it just should have been left out. The sex was abortive and uninterestingly written (how do you make BDSM sex vanilla and boring?) that even it couldn’t redeem it. At least if one had been female one aspect of the pregnancy plot would have made a modicum of sense and one fewer facet would be a basket case.

Lastly (and this is a big spoiler), the whole plot hinges on my number-one most hated trope, the “Oops it all a misunderstanding that could have been avoided with a single conversation” trope. I hate this and it was apparent that this was going to be the case from chapter one and it was dispelled literally in a single partial paragraph. They had been together for years, were engaged to be married and one ghosted on the other based on a text from an unknown person. A text they later decided was a wrong number. It’s beyond ridiculous and predictable to boot. Why didn’t they just have the conversation two years ago?

About the only positive thing I can say is that the narrator did a fine job.