Genre & Keywords: M/M, Romance, Urban Fantasy / Paranormal, Action, Cyberpunk, Enemies To Lovers, Interspec...moreOriginally posted on Rarely Dusty Books
Genre & Keywords: M/M, Romance, Urban Fantasy / Paranormal, Action, Cyberpunk, Enemies To Lovers, Interspecies, Contract Killer, Hacker, Future, Vampire
~~~~~ Rating: 4 out of 5 stars Heat level: 2.5 out of 3 ~~~~~
A Chip In His Shoulder is a thrilling read thanks to the fast paced and action filled plot. Combined with a good suspense arc and an engaging and interesting world building it makes this novella a page turner. Add two memorable main characters and one would think we have a winner. Well, yes, I can definitely recommend this story, but I have a few niggles as well. I'll get to them later, first the good stuff.
It's not easy to say something about the story arc without giving away the plot. And that would be a pity because a great deal of this story's power is in that rather suspenseful and action filled arc. So, let's start with the general world building: essentially it comes down to the existence of the Sky vs the Gutter. In the Sky the rich and corrupt people rule. The Gutter is populated with the shunned and poor people, the working class, who gets suppressed by the elite. Then there's humans vs vampires, who seem to exist in both societies. Big business is mods. Humans have large and successful companies that build modifications for vampires (or at least vampires are big purchasers and financiers because they have lots of advantage from the mods). Since mods mean big money, this business is sensitive to corruption. I found this world building interesting and well drawn without it being too much in the foreground. It's been gradually presented while we are from the beginning in the midst of Liam and Daniel's story. It's not complete by far though and I found myself wondering about a few things involving this world, after finishing the story.
With the existence of the mods we get to the conflict between the two main characters. Liam has a lot of mods in his body, while Daniel is against the principle of mods. Their fall out as lovers five years ago has to do with their difference in opinion on this subject. A fall out that turned them into enemies. Daniel's father is one of the very rich and influential mod manufacturers. He's corrupt and willing to kill to get what he wants. Daniel is fighting him and his practices. Which makes him his father's next target, a nuisance that has to be eliminated. Liam is a contract killer and he is the one who gets hired to do this job. And there Daniel and Liam meet again, after five years in which they've become to hate and distrust each other.
We're witnessing how the duo learn they've been double crossed by Daniel's father and they have to find a way to work together as a team to escape death. And what follows is a suspenseful, intriguing adventure. The testosterone filled action and the way Liam and Daniel are rather masculine and explosive together, reminded me a bit of the Cut & Run series by Urban and Roux and its couple Ty and Zane, one of my favorite m/m couples ever. Liam and Daniel certainly do have the potential to become another fave couple, although they would need at least another book with more adventures and more relationship development to accomplish a place on that fave couples list... The characters are both intriguing and unique personalities who have the prospect of depth and growth. I thought they are memorable and three dimensional heroes. The writing style in this novella is very good at showing the feelings, emotions, thoughts and inner conflicts of the characters (as opposed to merely telling about them). This makes it easy to picture the heroes with all their gestures, movements and positions within their surroundings. However, (and here's one of my niggles) the relationship building is lacking as opposed to the character building (so far). Their getting back together is mainly driven by external motivation (a very valid but not very romantic motivation: trying to escape death) and I think they have a long way to go before the lack in trust between them will be repaired completely. And there's still the fact of all the mods Liam has and are hated by Daniel. The ending is far from a solid HEA for these two men, even if it's presented as one, because I can see a few relationship conflicts coming up in their near future. Nevertheless, their physical chemistry is super hot and I would not mind at all to see more of that in a possible sequel, along with a new arc of them handling their precarious HEA.
About that sequel…, I suspect there will be one, it is kind of obvious, (and honestly, I want one, I need one, there has to be one! lol) but why not give it all to us in a novel instead of two or more novellas? I truly don't understand why A Chip In His Shoulder wasn't a novel or extended novel, instead of a novella. Not only the world building asked for a novel, but a novel also could've given more room to the process of forgiveness which came a bit easy, especially from Liam. I also would've loved to see more details of Daniel's expertise and hacking abilities to bring his father down. And we definitely need a sequel for revenge and justice to take place, because there was no room for that in this novella either. This story asked for and deserved more pages in my opinion. I feel sort of frustrated because now all we can do is hope and wait for a sequel.
Overall, I loved this cyberpunk romance in which enemies turn to lovers. As an admirer of L.A. Witt's writing style and a fan of her contemporary romances I suspected I would but couldn't be sure since I'm not much of an urban fantasy reader. However, no matter the genre she chooses, this author can turn every story into a compelling and thrilling experience for me, meanwhile tugging at my heart strings and keeping me engaged with a fabulous plot and three dimensional heroes. Despite my few niggles, I can only highly recommend A Chip In His Shoulder. You won't be bored for a minute, if you're anything like me, you’ll just want more once you've finished it. ~(less)
I really liked this story about a widower and his son who both find happiness again when Jake comes into their lives. I was in the mood for a sweet st...moreI really liked this story about a widower and his son who both find happiness again when Jake comes into their lives. I was in the mood for a sweet story with a nice touch of angst and the right amount of hurt and A Nanny for Nate delivered just that. I thought the author handled the element of Parker's guilt about falling in love again very well, not too overwhelmingly dramatic. Still, I might have used one or two hankies. ;) Recommended read: 4.5 stars.(less)
This has amazingly well-written, three-dimensional characters for such a short story. It almost felt as a novel, thanks to an interesting plot with a...moreThis has amazingly well-written, three-dimensional characters for such a short story. It almost felt as a novel, thanks to an interesting plot with a punch and the engaging heroes. I truly enjoyed reading this emotional, heart-warming - and let's not forget scorching hot - love story! Recommended when you like hot gay alpha heroes. 4.5 stars.(less)
Very romantic and touching. I loved Tony, he's a wonderful and endearing hero and perfect for making the injustice of Don't Ask Don't Tell palpable. H...moreVery romantic and touching. I loved Tony, he's a wonderful and endearing hero and perfect for making the injustice of Don't Ask Don't Tell palpable. His interaction with his teammates was entertaining. Adam's role brought some angst and emotions to the plot. Overall the pacing of this story was good, I just wished it had been longer. Much longer. 4.5 stars(less)
This is a hilarious and endearing story which shows realistically and makes very palpable how terrifying it is/can be to come out of the closet. Jason...moreThis is a hilarious and endearing story which shows realistically and makes very palpable how terrifying it is/can be to come out of the closet. Jason is the first person narrator of Anything For You and he is uniquely funny but extremely in the closet. Finding true love makes brave so that Jason can continue being hot and sweet together with his super hero gay rights activist Chad. Highly recommended! 4.75 stars(less)
Synopsis in short: Nate recently joined Quinn Security and for...moreGenre & keywords: M/M, Romance, Contemporary, Suspense, Investigation, Abuse, Violence
Synopsis in short: Nate recently joined Quinn Security and for his first case he’s partnered with Logan, the man he met three years ago. Since then his crush has only grown. Logan has his own secret desires, but he also has rules when it comes to relationships. However, sweet Nate threatens to break down all his defenses.
Setting: Logan and Nate’s story is set in the world of Quinn Security and the characters of the previous books in the series are making small appearances. Both Logan and Nate are investigators at Quinn Security and their first joint case is to find a missing young socialite. This brings some suspense and mystery to the plot, which is not too complicated but nicely done.
POV: Third person narration, from both heroes' perspectives. That’s how I like it best with most stories. It gives equal insight in both characters’ thoughts and feelings, but with well timed switches to the other perspective, so that we as a reader don’t know everything at all times (because that would be boring).
H/H & characterization: Logan is the tall, dark and brooding type and Nate is the sweet, cute and happy one compared with Logan. Yet, Nate also has some darkness from his past to deal with. However, Logan is the one who has to come to terms with his cheating former lover, the reason why he has all those laws. Both Nate and Logan are very likeable and sexy characters, with more layers than one. Their pairing is one of opposites attract, but they match, not only in bed and in daily life but also as investigating partners. I also enjoyed the presence of their friends, old and new ones. The interaction with this supporting cast showed a lot about our main heroes and made them three-dimensional as well.
Empathy level: These heroes moved me. Their conflict (mainly Logan’s set of laws) wasn’t too big but it was executed well, probably because the author succeeded in making me feel invested in them by the time things started to blow up.
Heat level: This couple certainly does steam up the pages, mainly in the second half of the book. There’s first quite some build-up with excellent sexual tension and once they finally give in to their attraction there’s no stopping them! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining per se, but these hot scenes were a bit out of proportion with the rest of the plot at that time. They could’ve been shorter and much better dosed. Still, 3 out of 3 flames
Angst level: Both heroes tugged at my heart strings in the same measure and I think I’ve probably used 1 or 2 out of 3 hankies
Overall entertainment level: Both the love story and the ongoing investigation held my undivided attention until the last page. Although the pacing felt a bit off once the hot smexing took place, this story kept being entertaining on more than one level. For me, the outcome of both the suspense plot and the romantic arc were satisfying. The extended cast with ‘real’ characters was a nice bonus. And thinking about Nate (and Logan) still makes me smile even now, almost a month after I read their story.
Synopsis in short: On the surface, the only thing single dads Peter and Aaron have in common...moreGenre & keywords: M/M, Contemporary Romance, Fatherhood
Synopsis in short: On the surface, the only thing single dads Peter and Aaron have in common are their eight-year-old loner sons. They develop - reluctantly at first - a friendship thanks to the friendship of their sons, Morgan and Sammy.
Setting: A modern city, probably San Francisco (Fisherman's Warf is mentioned). The men first meet in a city park where they take their kids to play. Other settings where the events take place are their apartments and other sites in the city.
POV: First person narrators, alternating between Peter and Aaron's point of view per chapter. Both have their own, distinct voice.
H/H & characterization: Peter is a divorced single dad and has to deal with his ex-wife and seeing his son Morgan only every other weekend. I felt for him and his difficulties with finding a serious partner. Aaron on the other hand is a single dad because his wife died. After her death his life only exists of his work and his son Sammy who has health problems. His loneliness was saddening and I was glad for him that he met Peter. At first Peter and Aaron don't like each other very much, but then a platonic friendship blooms after which they gradually grow into a more physical relationship. The slow build-up is nice and makes for a believable emotional connection. The author does a good job 'showing' instead of 'telling' who the heroes are, what they feel and think.
Empathy level: Thanks to the alternation first person perspectives and the excellent characterization you get a very good insight in the heroes’ feelings, thoughts and doubts. This made it very easy to empathize with them, and also with their sons to a certain level.
Heat level: The sex scenes were scorching and plenty, although it took the guys a while to get there. I really liked it that they didn't jump into bed from the start. I also felt the growing emotional connection through all the physical hotness. 2.5 out of 3 flames.
Angst level: There was a bit of a misunderstanding about what both men were expecting from the sexual arrangement they had, which made my heart squeeze a bit, especially for Peter. 1 maybe 1.5 out of 3 hankies.
Overall entertainment level: From the first to the last page this was a greatly entertaining story. The men were not only fun to observe together but also in interaction with their sons. The little guys were as engaging and lifelike as their adult cast members. Kids and romances are not always a good combination, but here it was a great addition. So, yes, overall a very enjoyable read.
Synopsis in short: When Jon ‘accidentally’ watches an amateur p...moreGenre & keywords: M/M, Romance, Contemporary, age gap, prostitution, twink/young hero
Synopsis in short: When Jon ‘accidentally’ watches an amateur porn video, and sees the lithe, blond young man who's doing naughty things with a bearish, older man, he's seduced...and feels like a pervert afterward… because Ethan, the youth in the video, seems a little too young, despite the fact he runs his own escort service. Worse yet, Jon gets the nagging feeling he's seen him before. When they meet in a Chicago hotel room, Jon’s past, present, and possibly his future begin to converge in alarming and confusing ways.
Setting: The protags ‘meet’ via internet and when they first meet in person it’s an escort type of date. This ‘porn and prostitution’ setting is what piqued my interest and made me want to read this story, but I guess it won’t be to everyone’s liking. Anyhow, it was an intriguing and well-executed theme which bypassed becoming stereotypical in my opinion.
POV: This story is told from Jon’s point of view, in first person. I did miss Ethan’s thoughts, for I had hoped to get a (better) explanation of how he ended up in the world of prostitution. But beyond that, I loved Jon’s narrator’s voice. It’s laid-back with sharp twitches of humor: “All the starch seeped out of my sense of decency. Suddenly I was nothing more than a twenty-eight-year-old man with a boner, and not even a call from the pope would’ve made me soft.”
H/H & characterization: Jon is a 28-year-old book reviewer with a pretty solid and settled life. Ethan is a 17-year-old twink, turning 18. His choice to work in the adult industry is the focus of this story, like how the heroes deal with Ethan’s choice is the focus of their relationship. But there’s more to these characters. Jon also has to come to terms with one of his former lovers and his own lacking interest in commitment. I appreciated that the choice of POV made Jon a three-dimensional character with his own inner conflicts. He could’ve easily become a stereotypical hero as the older and more mature ‘rescuer’. I missed a bit of that depth in Ethan’s characterization, but he stayed miles away from being a cardboard character, thanks to the excellent descriptions of his personality and behavior through Jon’s eyes. His characterization is also backed up by the presence of his family background, which gives him more layers and shows some of his development.
Empathy level: Due to the limited point of view it was much easier to empathize with Jon than it was with Ethan. Still, Ethan’s situation is a fairly easy one to imagine yourself in, although it stays a bit obscure how he got in that situation to begin with. At one point in the story I had some difficulty to understand Jon’s motives for doing what he did at that time, because it felt as if he was unfaithful somehow. But I can also see how this fits his character, his doubts and insecurities. And how nicely this and the following events show his growth, something Ethan helps him to achieve.
Heat level: The plot has plenty of sex and hot moments in it, but the first real sex scene between the protags takes place when we’re already three quarters into the book. Then we’re treated to a lyrically beautiful love scene which is tender and very sexy. Jon and Ethan’s chemistry is good, even without them having a lot of explicit sex scenes. 2 out of 3 flames
Angst level: This couple’s road to happiness is one with many bumps and holes in it, with quite some leaving and coming back. A very important issue, about how to live your life, is topic of discussion between the heroes. Yet, this wasn’t all too dramatic or heart squeezing. It was dealt with in a thorough and clever way without it becoming a tear jerker. I did sniff a bit at the end though. 0.5 out of 3 hankies
Overall entertainment level: I did not only enjoy Jon and Ethan’s slow but steady growing trust and developing relationship, which was all very well-paced. But I also found the secondary characters, like Jon’s mother and his best friend Vic, highly entertaining. Additionally, Jon’s retrospective view on his past, caused by his former lover Donald, in order to learn something about himself, was interesting. As a whole the plot is cleverly constructed. And the final revelation about Ethan’s screen name - ‘precious_boy’ - made it all come to a full circle in a moving and glorious way.
Final judgment: Unlikely couple plays a game of push and pull which is well-written and cleverly constructed, and brings a highly satisfying and sweet happy ending. 4.5 out of 5 stars ~ http://www.rarelydustybooks.com/2011/...(less)
Genre & keywords: M/M, Romance, Contemporary, Friends to Lovers, Gay For You-ish, Infidelity, Addiction, Hitting rock bottom, D/s-ish elements
Syno...moreGenre & keywords: M/M, Romance, Contemporary, Friends to Lovers, Gay For You-ish, Infidelity, Addiction, Hitting rock bottom, D/s-ish elements
Synopsis in short: Nick and Holly have been friends forever but live in different parts of the country and have lost sight from each other. Until Holly makes the tabloids thanks to some celebrity, and it becomes apparent that his bad habits are making him hit rock bottom hard. Nick comes to his rescue, once more, and takes him with him to New York. Slowly it becomes clear that their feelings for each other go beyond friendship. But Nick is married.
Setting: A great part of the story takes place in New York, in the apartment Nick has rented for Holly. After Holly's recovery he moves to a different city and travels a lot for his new job, but even then the New York apartment is still an important part of the setting.
POV: The point of view, in third person, alternates between Nick and Holly, per chapter.
H/H & characterization: Talk about heroes with flaws: these guys have tons of them. Especially Holly is rather self-destructive and his attitude at the beginning of the story is difficult to like. Nick’s most important flaw is his infidelity towards his wife and towards his own feelings. However their characterization is done wonderfully: We get a detailed and thorough view on these heroes and we are made a close witness to their emotions, thoughts and feelings. This makes them well-rounded characters who become more and more irresistible and loveable. I loved the stilled moments between them where it seemed no outside world existed and where they grew closer and closer to each other. Nick’s lies to his wife didn’t bother me very much thanks to the way his behavior was explained via his perspective. Maybe his wife was a bit too conveniently cold-hearted, but what mattered to me were Nick’s feelings toward her and his marriage. Those were shown clearly and gave an insight in his choices.
Empathy level: Thanks to the alternating perspectives and the very close look we get, it’s really easy to empathize with both Holly and Nick. We’re there every step it takes them to come to the realization they’re meant for each other. This is something that takes Nick more time than Holly, because he’s the one with another (female!) partner. I had a little more difficulty with understanding the whole D/s thing that starts to develop between them once they become a couple. From Holly’s point of view it’s explained a little bit better than it’s from Nick’s, but this aspect of their relationship left me in riddles altogether.
Heat level: It takes Nick and Holly two thirds of the pages to share a first kiss. By then, months have passed since the beginning of the book. The first two thirds of the book consist of a long slow build-up with a lot of tension and then the hot stuff takes place - finally, but well-timed. The smexy scenes were well-written, with emotional depth, and were definitely hot, but all the foot kissing was I bit too much for me. Also, I was a little confused to learn during a bed scene that Nick apparently had gay sex before (years ago in college). Until then I was under the impression that this was a ‘gay for you’ themed story. This made me instantly wonder why Nick and Holly hadn’t hooked up earlier on in their friendship. I think it was unnecessary to mention this, because it didn’t add anything to the story, except confusion. 2 out of 3 flames
Angst level: This is an intense story. First we get a lot of heaviness when the focus is on Holly’s addiction problems and later we get more when Nick experiences his own break-down. But this book also has some lighter moments and once Holly is recovered he’s a delightful character. Especially when he’s together with Danner, his new boss and friend, with whom he has a lot in common, like their sense of humor. Those scenes are joyful. But these are definitely outnumbered by the more heart-squeezing, emotional moments. 2 out of 3 hankies
Overall entertainment level: The writing style of this author duo has a way of drawing you in their story real deep and very fast. I started reading the book in the late evening and I couldn’t put it down until early in the morning. And I happily gave up those few hours of sleep. It’s a character-driven story, just how I like them. Nick and Holly kept me engrossed from beginning to end, even when they made me lightly frown a few times during the last part of the book. I regretted finishing their story because I didn’t want to leave them yet. So yeah, this was definitely a highly entertaining and enjoyable read for me.
Final judgment: Best friends have to hit rock bottom before finding happiness together in an emotional, enthralling story that could’ve done with less foot kissing. 4.75 out of 5 stars ~
Holly cupped Nick’s face with slick hands as he met Nick partway. There was nothing tentative or teasing about the way Holly kissed. It was sweet and tender and open with the gentle brush of Holly’s tongue over Nick’s lips. It wasn’t anything Nick had expected—it was better. He met Holly’s tongue with his own, tasting him. Holly was every bit as delicious as Nick had ever imagined him to be and more. He teased at Holly’s tongue and then slowly pulled back to press light kisses to Holly’s lips.
Synopsis in short: Jin and Logan’s story continues in this sequel to Change of Heart, therefore it’s highly recommended to read the first book in this series before reading this second book. Jin is trying to adapt to being the mate of the tribe leader and to accept that Logan’s love is authentic even though he was straight before they met and fell in love. Then, Jin is abducted and a string of events happen. Danger and life-threatening violence have to be survived first before Logan and Jin can be together again.
Setting: The main part of the story takes place in Sobek/Egypt and surrounding places. Sobek is the capital city of the werepanthers and it’s where the most important tribe in the hierarchy of werepanther tribes resides.
POV: The whole story is told in first person from Jin’s point of view.
H/H & characterization: Jin and Logan are mates and more so, Logan is the leader of a tribe (semel) and Jin is a so-called reah, which means a true mate of a semel. Reahs are very rare and it’s even rarer for a semel to find his reah. This makes them rather unique in itself, but furthermore, Jin is the only male reah anyone has ever heard of. Logan is pretty comfortable with all this, because for him the fact that he has found his reah is far more important than the fact that his reah is a man. Both heroes’ characterization is pretty much determined by their roles as semel and reah and their uniqueness. They suffer a bit from being stereotypical powerful, unique and perfect. They are so evidently the good guys, the strongest ones and the survivors that it borders on becoming boring. But their adventures are so engaging and well-written that they’re saved from that fate.
Empathy level: It was easy to empathize with Jin since we were more or less in his head from beginning to end. Because of this one-sided perspective, we had to stay with Jin all the time, even when the heroes were separated from each other for quite a long time. Especially during this separation I would’ve liked to see more of Logan, since that must’ve been a terrible period for him too. Only I couldn’t ‘feel’ it because of the lack of his point of view at that moment. It could’ve also taken off some of the intensity from the feelings caused by Jin’s suffering.
Heat level: Although a large part of the book has to do without, there’s still plenty of smexy scenes left and they are hotter than hot. This probably has a lot to do with Jin and Logan being ultra masculine and having a fixed role of top and bottom. And they are also rather verbal and say the hottest things to each other during these scenes. Their special connection always shines through as well. 2.5 out of 3 flames
Angst level: The heart gripping moments in this book are more often caused by external elements than by relational or inner struggles. I would’ve liked to see more focus on an emotional conflict between Jin and Logan which was nearly absent now or too easily resolved at best. Still, there were some good angsty moments in the shape of truly bad guys causing hurt and raising obstacles. 1 out of 3 hankies
Overall entertainment level: The unparalleled world building is complex but not in an overwhelming way, so it’s easy to enjoy its richness. New information is added when the story asks for it and not sooner. All the (new) rules that come with the tribe hierarchy and all the challenges and tests are somewhat unsettling at times because as a reader you’re not informed in advance about the rules. Aside from that, the author has a compelling writing style and knows how to build an enticing plot. She throws her readers into a rapture with her engaging narrative and loveable characters. It's hard to take your eyes off the pages.
Final judgment: Almost too perfect, hotter-than-hot werepanther heroes survive the worst of challenges in an unparalleled, hierarchic world with unsettling rules, to find happiness and ‘normalcy’ in each other’s arms/paws again. 4.5 out of 5 stars ~
Synopsis in short: It's Rys's 25th birthday. A significant one, because...moreGenre & keywords: M/M, Historical Romance, Regency, Kinky, Birthday surprise
Synopsis in short: It's Rys's 25th birthday. A significant one, because of his inheritance. But the promise of a fortune isn't what gets Rys's blood pumping. After four years together Martin is well aware of his lover's propensity for thrills. He asks Rys to meet him at a formal ton ball to give Rys his dangerous but very hot gift.
Setting: Regency England, 1822. Most part of the story takes place at a formal ball, where Rys and Martin find some privacy in a room. There's a risk of being discovered, which makes their meeting all the more sexy. The last scene takes us to their own bedroom. With just a few accurate descriptions Ava March gives her story a historical feel without it being too much for a non-enthusiast for historical romances.
POV: Third person narration, initially from birthday-boy Rys's point of view, which carries away the reader in the thrill of the danger. Later the perspective shifts to Martin as well, which uncovers the caring and loving relationship the heroes have. Wonderful choice.
H/H & characterization: Given the short length of this story there's not much room for character development. We're provided with just enough information about the heroes' social status, their sexual kinks and the roles they both play in their relationship. At one point in the story the author lets Rys think about his lover: "He made it so easy to slip into the moment." and that perfectly applies to March's writing as well. For a short period of time you can lose yourself in her characters and their adventures. In this case without knowing everything about them (which makes me immediately crave for more, of course).
Empathy level: Ava March has the skill to make you feel completely in sync with her characters. She's a master at interweaving the emotional connection with the physical attraction between her heroes. You're equally scared, excited, hurt, relaxed, happy, aroused... as her guys. That's what makes her characters so real, made of flesh and blood.
Heat level: I honestly don't think sex scenes can be any hotter than this. 3 out of 3 flames
Angst level: No angst here, just excitement and a bit of fear for discovery. Rys and Martin are an established couple and love each other without a single doubt. 0 out of 3 hankies
Overall entertainment level: If this isn't entertaining than I don't know what is! It's 'Beyond Entertaining'. :)