The King's Conquest by Valentina Heart is a fantasy romance between Prince Rinin of Kari and King Merinej of Jede, two men brought together to seal thThe King's Conquest by Valentina Heart is a fantasy romance between Prince Rinin of Kari and King Merinej of Jede, two men brought together to seal the peace between countries in a longstanding war. Prince Rinin, as the war prize, must pay for the peace with his body. An arranged marriage between the heirs of two warring nations is the basis of King's Conquest.
Heart creates an alien world where men of a certain lineage can give birth and some can wield magic. There are plots and counter-plots throughout King's Conquest. The story is interesting because of the world building that Heart does. Both Rinin and Merinej are clearly from a different world; Rinin can physically give birth to a child!
The science fiction/fantasy elements of this story add nice color to King's Conquest. Heart speaks in Prince Rin's voice throughout the story. From his perspective, there are glimpses of magic-assisted technologies and alien physiologies. The one shortcoming of this story maybe that Heart tells it through the voice of Prince Rin. What are the motivations on King Merinej? Why is he accepting this marriage arrangement? How does Prince Rin's best friend and cousin, Tyn feel about Rin leaving him behind when he goes to Jede? And what about the villain of the tale, the former harem member plotting against the two men as they try to create a working relationship?
Many questions remain unanswered at the end of King's Conquest. It's the opening chapter in the Mending the Rift series, so the next chapter might address them. Still, King's Conquest is a good start.
The Gallows Tree by RJ Scott is a tale of recovering from abusive physical and emotional trauma. Cody is running from an extremely abusive lover and hThe Gallows Tree by RJ Scott is a tale of recovering from abusive physical and emotional trauma. Cody is running from an extremely abusive lover and he's been running for the past six years. Coming to England to restore Mill Cottage is just an opportunity to get farther away from his pain.
When Cody meets Sebastian Toulson-Brown, the youngest brother of his contractor all his plans go awry. He and Sebastian finds themselves embarked on discovering just what happened to two hapless young lovers lost centuries ago. During the process of finding the truth and settling old hurts, Cody and Seb develop a passionate, but gentle and tender relationship.
Some of Scott's scenes in The Gallows Tree are touching while others are heart-breaking in their pain and pathos. Scott's descriptions of the environs of Mill Cottage are very real. You can almost hear the sounds of crunching fresh powder snow as Cody and Seb trudge across the fields. Likewise, the intimate moments shared by Cody and Seb are sweet in the care they take of each other's feelings.
The Gallows Tree is a story about finding the strength and courage to stop running and facing your fears. It's worth 4 stars for the quality of the writing. It's a sweet tale of love.
For the Bite of It by Viki Lyn and Vina Grey is a departure from the usual vampire fare. One of the main characters, Vincent Esposito is a vampire andFor the Bite of It by Viki Lyn and Vina Grey is a departure from the usual vampire fare. One of the main characters, Vincent Esposito is a vampire and a baker who runs around in the daytime. Vincent is not only hiding the fact that he's a vampire; he's keeping some serious family secrets. Meanwhile, the other main character, John Reeder is a detective hunting up a killer and hiding firmly in the closet.
Lyn and Grey work well together as a team in this opening episode of Vampire in Exile. The scenes between Vincent and John are fraught with sexual tension as they try to solve the mystery surrounding the death of Vincent's landlord.
The story moves back and forth between Vincent's life as a vampire and baker, and John's life as young detective trying to resolve a puzzling mystery. For the Bite of It successfully combines a murder mystery with a romance and a paranormal tale of vampires.
The Vampire Council and the world of vampires weaves cleverly into the murder mystery, as does the romance between Vincent and John. Some entertaining secondary characters, Detective Free Norman and Angelo DeLuca also spice up the story.
For the Bite of It is a refreshing read with some interesting plot twists. There are some weaknesses in the story, particularly, the ending, which feels somewhat rushed. Still, the next episode promises to answer some of the questions left unresolved in For the Bite of It. This romance is definitely worth 3.5 stars.
Feral Lust by Mia Watts is a historical gay romance with paranormal twist. Main character Viscount Lord Atherton is a lonely werewolf hiding out on hiFeral Lust by Mia Watts is a historical gay romance with paranormal twist. Main character Viscount Lord Atherton is a lonely werewolf hiding out on his reclusive country estate. He needs to get married and produce an heir to end his life of pain and change every full moon. Being unsure of his social skills, Atherton hires Michael Hastings, the third son of an earl to coach him in the niceties of high society etiquette.
The chemistry between the two men is interesting. There's passion, but there's uncertainty. Atherton plans to fulfill his goal of marriage, despite his attraction to Hastings, while Hastings is not sure what to make of the secretive Atherton.
Watts develops a passionate romance between Atherton and Hastings and the exchanges between the two of them are colorful. Feral Lust has some week points, namely, the werewolf aspect of the story.
Watts short changes the reader regarding the nature of Atherton's "curse". Wolves are not solitary creatures, but Atherton appears totally isolated. How is that he's the only remaining member of his family? An estate the size of Atheron's takes a sizable staff to run. Where is everyone? How did his family come to be under the "curse"? Feral Lust misses several opportunities to develop a more interesting and entertaining story, particularly the werewolf aspect. The sex scenes with the bondage flavoring are fine, but Feral Lust seems like it's an opening shot at a story that could be very fine.
Unfortunately, Feral Lust appears peopled only by Atherton, Hastings, and Mr. Leedy, the solicitor. Feral Lust is a nice read worth 2.75 stars, but it needs work.
Cinder by Marie Sexton recounts a childhood fairy tale with a twist. Eldon Cinder has the role of the harried young Cinderella, while Xavier is the PrCinder by Marie Sexton recounts a childhood fairy tale with a twist. Eldon Cinder has the role of the harried young Cinderella, while Xavier is the Prince desperately in search of a bride. The two young men find themselves caught in a dilemma: the Prince must marry or become a pauper.
How Sexton works out the challenges of this story that everyone knows is entertaining. The story has all the elements expected in a Cinderella tale, namely a stepmother and stepsisters, witchery and magic, as well as new elements to make the story fresh.
There's no sex between Eldon and Xavier, but there is chemistry and a great hulking dog named Milton. Cinder is a fresh look at an old tale handled with much skill and romance. It's worthy of 4 stars for its creativity and sweetness. Cinder is a real charmer.
Horny, Hard and Hare-y is a short story by Mia Watts about three shifters, Charlie, Duncan, and Gibbs and a Michigan Department of Natural Resources oHorny, Hard and Hare-y is a short story by Mia Watts about three shifters, Charlie, Duncan, and Gibbs and a Michigan Department of Natural Resources officer, Ben. The premise of the story builds around the historic race between the tortoise, Duncan and the hare, Charlie, with Gibbs the owl overseeing the competition.
Duncan, Charlie and Gibbs are close friends and roommates who live together and play in the woods of Michigan. Watts develops a cute story around the tortoise and hare fairy tale. For Duncan and Charlie the annual race is a reason to get together and have fun challenging each other. Watts creates some fun characters that enjoy playing games with each other.
Horny, Hard, and Hare-y lacks any sort of back story. Three different shifters somehow come to be living together in the wilds of Michigan and there are no other shifters associated with them. The mystery surrounding where these shifters came from and how they are such great friends distracts somewhat from the story. Still, it's an enjoyable read worth 3.5 stars for the fun.
Crate Trained by Julia Talbot is part of Torquere Press' short story series, A Sip. The characters are likable and the story is interesting. I hope thCrate Trained by Julia Talbot is part of Torquere Press' short story series, A Sip. The characters are likable and the story is interesting. I hope this is going to be the beginning of a new, longer story, since much of the back-story is missing.
Crate Trained is a brief look into the possible relationship between Gary and Chey, two roommates. It leaves some key questions unanswered in revealing just what happens to Gary when he ventures out to a gay bar alone looking for a hook-up.
The pace of the short story is frenetic and the writing is strong. Talbot is a good teller of tales. The scenes between Chey and Gary are passionate and fun. Crate Trained is a nice tease and worth 3.5 stars.
Temple Boy by Heidi Cullinan takes up the tale of Timothy and Charles, lovers and gods in the world of Etsey. This chapter of the story is equally asTemple Boy by Heidi Cullinan takes up the tale of Timothy and Charles, lovers and gods in the world of Etsey. This chapter of the story is equally as complex as the opening salvo. Cullinan is a gifted storyteller. To fully enjoy Temple Boy you must leave behind ideas regarding the flow of time and the uniqueness of person, or even sex.
Charles and Timothy fragment themselves to such an extent that new characters step onto the stage to help reunite them. Male and female characters who contain shards of the Charles and Timothy move through the story weaving a great spell. Jonathon and Madeline are again key figures, as are some new villains and heroes.
Aurel, a young temple boy of Mantua takes center stage in this episode. He has a great task, saving the world. How and if he achieves this lofty goal is the focus of Temple Boy. In Aurel, Cullinan creates a sympathetic figure that evokes empathy as he confronts situations dealing with the existence of God and the Goddess. His bewilderment is real; his pain and confusion are real.
Temple Boy is fast-paced covering vast areas of land and sea, space and time. Cullinan takes the reader from warm temples in Manua, to the vast deserts of Peshani, to the desolated lands of Catal, the childhood home of Timothy. While the scenes change with dramatic effect, the central focus of the story is never lost.
Temple Boy is a successful addition to the Etsey series, full of passion, love and pain. It is as thought-provoking as Seventh Veil and as entertaining.
The Seventh Veil is a journey through Time; it’s a story of gods and goddesses, daemons and demons, and men and women; it’s a story of witches and alcThe Seventh Veil is a journey through Time; it’s a story of gods and goddesses, daemons and demons, and men and women; it’s a story of witches and alchemists. The Seventh Veil is also the love story of bisexual bastard and genetic construct, Charles Perry and Timothy Fielding, a Catalian palace concubine, but that’s just at the surface.
This is not a light read. The novel encompasses the beginning of all creation and the main characters have more than one aspect of themselves on the stage at any given time. Charles Perry the wastrel confronts himself as the god-like White Charles on more than one occasion. His lover, Timothy also has a duality of personality and spirituality. Other main characters have similar confrontations with aspects of themselves.
The Seventh Veil is the first novel in a six book series that takes place primarily in Etsey, a place of Cullinan’s creation. It smacks of England in the Middle Ages, but there’s magic great and small, as well as scientific capabilities such as genetic testing and manipulation.
Heidi is a great storyteller. She handles this complex novel with considerable aplomb. The characters of Charles and Timothy, Charles’ brother, Jonathan and the apprentice witch, Madeline move on and off the stage with fluidity. She evokes considerable empathy with the suffering of one of the main characters at the hands of Martin Smith, the evil alchemist. This is definitely a 5 Ravens book.
I am very much interested in seeing what Cullinan develops in book two, The Temple Boy which is due out this Fall.
Review originally published on Blackraven's Reviews...more
Undertow tells the story of Derek Meredith and Tad Archer’s life together. Derek is a member of a hidden race of sea-dwelling creatures called merrowsUndertow tells the story of Derek Meredith and Tad Archer’s life together. Derek is a member of a hidden race of sea-dwelling creatures called merrows. He abandons his life in the ocean to become human and live with his lover, Tad.
Snyder tells Undertow in flashbacks from Derek’s perspective. Derek spends much of the story in grief over the loss of Tad, the victim of a tragic drowning accident. Derek moves through his days in pain and sorrow. Not much of the story occurs in the present, since the focus is on Derek and Tad’s relationship and the life they shared together. Current action focuses on the interaction between Derek and Kellen and involves anger and a great deal of sexual tension.
Kellen, a fellow merrow and childhood friend, is the other main character in Undertow. Kellen is bitter and angry over the desertion of Derek, his childhood friend and lover. Kellen meets Derek to let him know that he can bring Tad back to him. He will give Derek the secret to recover Tad, but the knowledge will cost him dearly. Kellen wants to teach his friend a lesson about love and desertion.
I found the story of sea creatures living beyond the eyesight of humans interesting. Some of the language Snyder uses in Undertow is quite lyrical. Undertow is a dark tale about the cost of not honoring those who love you, even when you can’t love them back. Undertow is worth 3 stars.
Review originally appeared on Queer Magazine Online...more
Long, Lonely Howl is an entertaining werewolf tale about lonely Y counselor, Casey Keller, his erstwhile boyfriend Adam, and Casey's best friend NathaLong, Lonely Howl is an entertaining werewolf tale about lonely Y counselor, Casey Keller, his erstwhile boyfriend Adam, and Casey's best friend Nathan. Casey Keller is at a turning point in his life. He loves working at the Y making a difference in the lives of young inner-city boys, but his turbulent relationship with his boyfriend Adam is about to crash and burn and he's not even sure he cares. Adam is out and in your face proud and he can't understand why Casey hides their relationship behind the fiction of "the girlfriend Abby".
Feeling at loose ends after a fight with Adam, Casey heads up to the mountains for some down time with his friend. Nathan is gay but he doesn't appear to have a problem with Casey keeping secrets since he has a few of his own. A ranger used to living in the wild, Nathan has a strong, forceful character that's not threatened by his friend's secrets. He respects Casey's choices. There's a strong attraction between these two secretive men.
Gala develops some strong supporting characters in Long, Lonely Howl. Amadi, the African with his wry wit and odd sense of humor, as well as Vince, the young werewolf with a dark history and a musical spirit, both lend color to the story. Long, Lonely Howl is a fun read worthy of 3.5 stars filled with some interesting werewolf lore and the sparking chemistry between Casey and Nathan. It would be nice to hear more about the back-stories of Amadi and Vince, and Nathan's confrontation with the older werewolf, Wright. Perhaps there is a forthcoming sequel?...more