Rainbow Mac 1.0 is long gone, leaving a more hardened, determined, black-leather-wearing Mac 5.0 to unravel the final mysteries surrounding the Sinsar Dubh and the King of all the Fae.
***** There are no outright spoilers in this review! If you have not read the first four books in this series and want absolutely no information or hints about what will happen in them, then do not read this review. While there are no actual spoilers, there are some vague hints that are intended for readers who have already finished up through Dreamfever. *****
Title: Shadowfever Series: The Fever series - book #5 Author:Karen Marie Moning Prominent Characters: Mac Lane, Jericho Barrons, V'lane Recommended reader age: 17+ Sexual content level: Moderate, somewhat explicit
This series really grabs you and takes you along for a mysterious, dark, and sexy ride! In my review of Darkfever (the first book in the Fever series), I complained about all the self-indulgent "I'm so pretty" commentaries the reader is forced to endure from Mac as she learns her way around Dublin and starts investigating her sister's murder. Thankfully, we see the last of that in the third book (and it is much less prominent after Darkfever anyway) when Mac is forced to deal with some very traumatic circumstances of her own. By book 5, Mac is a weapon forged of diligence, suffering, and self-discovery and she is more determined than ever to get to the bottom of the chaos her world has become.
For a series with such a violently and sexually volatile male lead, there is a whole lotta sexual tension and buildup. How does Mac keep her hands off Barrons for so long?! Barrons is the ultimate alpha male, seemingly invincible and terrifyingly reliable at keeping Mac alive. After the shocking events at the end of book 4 (Dreamfever), I raced online to download Shadowfever and find out what would happen next. This book does not disappoint! It successfully resolves multiple plot questions and hanging threads, while continuing to drive the main storylines and relationships.
There is OH so much more I'd like to say about this book and the characters in it, but I'm trying really hard not to post spoilers, so we'll leave those discussions for the comments below. Consider yourself warned! *grin*
Conversations with the Sinsar Dubh...
TIME IS THE ONLY TRUE GOD, AND I AM FOREVER. THEREFORE, I AM GOD.
Your logic is flawed. Time is not forever. It is always. Past, Present, and Future. There was a time in the past when you did not exist. Therefore, you are not God.
Arguing with Barrons is either sadism or foreplay...
I didn't say I didn't like you. 'Like' is such a puerile word. Mediocre people like things. The only question of any significant emotive content is: Can you live without it?
On parental wisdom...
Daddy told me once that we believe others are capable of the worst we ourselves are capable of.
If you like Shadowfever of The Fever series...
If you enjoyed Shadowfever and the Fever Series, you may also like the the Cassandra Palmer series (starting with Touch the Dark) by Karen Chance. Cassie shares the same "it's a good day when no one is trying to kill me" philosophy, and also frequently finds herself in amusing-yet-dangerous situations where she has to use her wits and still-developing special skills to prevail. Both are more urban fantasy than paranormal romance, and both focus on a central young strong female character who is instrumentally necessary in solving some big world-wide crisis.
If you enjoy the intensity of Barrons and are looking for more male leads with his authority and style of presence, check out the Black Dagger Brotherhood stories by J.R. Ward, starting with Wrath's book, Dark Lover. The brothers typically each get a book, meaning less time with each couple, but their storylines arc throughout the entire series, making it a really compelling ensemble piece.
If you like Barrons for his cheeky wit and prowess in bed, definitely read the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost, starting with Halfway to the Grave. Bones is sexy, smart, loyal, powerful, and has a British accent - just about everything you could ask for in a hero.
If you have not read this series, START IT NOW! Barrons makes even the Black Dagger Brotherhood males pale in comparison to his intensity and authority. Bold claims, I know... but true! It probably helps that Barrons and Mac get a whole 5 books devoted to their journey, and the journey is not (like so many other series in this genre) based around their relationship, but rather world-changing catastrophic events and consequences.
The Fever series is an addicting coming of age story in a world where nothing is as it seems and secrets are the new currency. From books 3-5, I literally could not stop reading! I was on a two-week Pacific Northwest vacation getaway and all I could think about was finding out the next shocker in Mac's journey. I was initially drawn to the series when Barrons beat out some other major male players in the paranormal romance/urban fantasy genres in an online "alpha" competition. The rabid loyalty of Barrons' fans piqued my interest (he's more popular than Bones!), and I am SO glad I chose to read this series. Here's what I recommend: find some down time, a week or so, and read the Fever Series start to finish. Don't get discouraged in the first one (which is still excellent, just annoyingly narcissistic) - read all the way to the end of book three (Faefever), then just TRY to put it down! *wink*
The oldest living vampire and the last queen of the Far East Clan, Lady Elyssa Amaterasu Yamato Wentworth, still suffers from the pain of losing her human servant and her husband. Jacob Green is, among other things, a vampire hunter trained to hunt and kill her kind but is strangely drawn to Lyssa in ways he does not yet understand. Even a perfect match takes a little breaking in, and Lady Lyssa excels at control. Struggling for dominance and honesty, Jacob and Lyssa's unusual relationship takes them far beyond the bounds accepted by both their societies and challenges the very core of their souls.
Title: The Vampire Queen's Servant, The Mark of the Vampire Queen Series: The Vampire Queen series - books #1 & #2 Author:Joey W. Hill Prominent Characters: Lady Elyssa Amaterasu Yamato Wentworth, Jacob Green Recommended reader age: 18+ Sexual content level: heavy and explicit (vulgar language typical of erotica)
Jacob's journey toward full human servant is both tender and traumatic. During the first novel, it is difficult to comprehend why Lyssa treats him as she does, but when all is finally revealed, it makes your heart break just a little for the both of them. Of course, that's when you're not taking cold showers or jumping your significant other from the sheer HEAT of their chemistry. If those book covers at the top of this post make you raise your eyebrows, well hang on to your granny panties sister cuz you ain't seen nothin' yet! The Mark of the Vampire Queen has one of the hands-down-hottest scenes in a book I have ever read, eclipsing even One Foot in the Grave's infamous Chapter 32. The scenes in The Vampire Queen's Servant are no slouch either. Ms. Hill delivers such beautiful imagery, heart-touching tenderness and discovery, amidst the visceral, intense sexual spectacles.
These books read like one novel. The first feels almost incomplete at the ending, knowing there is more in store for them and the battle is far from over. To give the most honest review possible, I'm reviewing them together. Hope you don't mind. :)
Now, it did take me a little while to get into the first book, but I'm so glad I stuck with it because it was well worth the effort. Lyssa's attitude really annoyed me at first, and Jacob came across as a little one-dimensional. Why would this random guy just turn his life over to this seemingly-cruel vampire he's never met? Not knowing all the details up front makes the journey that much better as the full story unfolds. So if you find yourself stuck, keep reading. Get to book #2. I promise it is worth it.
For readers with a history of abuse, parts of this story, especially the first book, will be difficult to read. As I continued reading, I went from apathetic about the characters to being deeply moved by them. I think the journey will be different for each reader, based on each person's individual life experiences. Personally, I found it complicated and not without conflict, but intensely touching.
These stories are the perfect blend of erotica and paranormal romance, tying together a soul-deep love story and a physical connection with more sparks than a ribbon of Black Cats on the 4th. These books pack some serious punch, so this is not for the sheltered or for readers easily offended by creative public sexual displays designed around group & bondage situations! Sound interesting yet? It's positively scandalous and I DARE you to read this series!!
I'm quoting for two books, so get comfy! =D
Jacob, on tattoos...
"It's rare to see a completely unmarked man your age. Why is that?"
He pulled his attention away from the thing she was treating as jewelry and he was viewing as potential torture device. From the slight smile on her lips, he suspected she recognized his struggle to focus.
"My brother always said if you mark your body with a symbol, it means you stand by it forever. Only things branded on the soul can be branded on the body. So far I've found the only constant is that everything changes."
All work and no play...
"Yes, wicked stepmother. I'll have everything planned to the last detail while the mice sew my dress together." He tapped the top of the legal pad with the menu. "You'll have the full proposal with all the details by tomorrow when you rise."
A servant's musing of his Mistress...
"She has the mindless courage of a predator, the broken heart of an angel, and a woman's unconquerable soul."
"Life is never as dramatic as we pretend it is in a normal life. But we can be intensely amazing, or quietly desperate, as Thoreau said. If you woke each day with a genuine awareness which allowed you to appreciate everything as if you were seeing it for the very first time... or the last."
Sex: sin or devotion?
In fact, there was a spiritual power to it so overwhelming, Lyssa thought the religions that used it as a form of worship made more sense than those that called it a sin.
A jack of all trades...
Such was a human servant's life. Dry cleaning, home repair, gardening. Arranging a table centerpiece and then replacing that centerpiece to perform as a sex slave in front of dinner guests. All in a day's work.
More money than God...
"That's such a ridiculous saying. What use would God have for money? Hence, a pauper has more money than God."
If you like The Vampire Queen's Servavnt and The Mark of the Vampire Queen of Vampire Queen series...
If you enjoyed The Vampire Queen's Servant, The Mark of the Vampire Queen, and the rest of the Vampire Queen series for its paranormal ties (vampire society with humans who serve as blood hosts), check out the Night Huntress series (Cat & Bones, starting with Halfway to the Grave) by Jeaniene Frost. The NH books are not erotica but they feature strong ties between a central couple and they definitely have their share of steamy scenes.
This series, The Mark of the Vampire Queen in particular, is seriously carnally addicting. If I bookmarked every memorable, steamy scene, my poor book would double in size from all the squished corner pages. The bond between Jacob and Lyssa is something truly special... for even a "normal" romance. This is erotica with heart. An achingly scintillating path travelled in a world of heavy dominance and submission, where sex could all-too-easily eclipse the more vulnerable and tender moments. Even before I read the books that follow, this series was an instant favorite of mine.
Yes, this is erotica. Those with serious aversions to the vulgar language typically used in that genre may be uncomfortable at first. BUT!! Don't let that scare you! If you're new to erotica or even new to BDSM, this is an excellent series to get you started and I highly recommend reading it.
Sometimes a pixie sprinkles fairy dust and glitter to tempt you onto a new path, and sometimes she flits over and just drags you away with her. You know who you are. Thanks for convincing me to read this fantastic series!
Rating: The Vampire Queen's Servant 4.5 fangs: BITE IT! Rating: The Mark of the Vampire Queen 5 fangs: DEVOUR IT!
TLDR recap: Banished from the Iron Kingdom, cast out by his true name by the woman he loves, bound by an unbreakable oath, Prince Ashallayn'darkmyr Tal...moreTLDR recap: Banished from the Iron Kingdom, cast out by his true name by the woman he loves, bound by an unbreakable oath, Prince Ashallayn'darkmyr Tallyn will either find a way to become human and return to her side, or he will die. Filled with fantastical adventure, uneasy cameraderie, ethereal beauty, and vivid imagination, this fourth and final installment in the Iron Fey series will have you up all night, speeding through the story only to crave more and wish it would never end. The Iron Knight is a GraveTells Fave!
Title: The Iron Knight Series: The Iron Fey - book #4 Author: Julie Kagawa Prominent Characters: Ash, Puck Recommended reader age: 13+ Sexual content level: very little, practically none Genre: Young Adult, romance-driven fantasy
*** This review is SPOILER-FREE! Read on with confidence! ***
Thoughts: Prince Ash and Robin Goodfellow are two of the most vibrant and magnetic characters I have ever read. I've read a lot. A lot of fantasy, a lot of scifi, a lot of romance... a LOT... and these guys continue to haunt me. I wish they were real so I could hang out with them or just watch them go about their every day activities. Their relationship is so complicated yet so deep, and their personalities are extremely different yet so very similar. I am far past the age of plastering my walls with teen magazine posters, but thinking of these two makes me seriously tempted to hang some discreet Team Ash and Team Puck banners... because who can choose between them?! I do not envy Meghan Chase! Ok, maybe a little... *grin*
The Cheshire Cat, the Big Bad Wolf, trees that move and a raft that propels itself to the End of the World. Practically every fairytale you can think of is touched on in this story, and some you wish you didn't know. Dreams, nightmares, and the mysteries of the subconscious all float by our heroes as they venture closer to their impossible goal. The world Ms. Kagawa builds is immersive, fantastical, and wonderfully imaginative. It is a playground for the mind and a feast for the spirit. This story is something that must be experienced to be truly appreciated.
Many stories have fairies and some even talk about how they're related to the old myths and beliefs, but The Iron Knight really takes that lore and enriches it. The fey are created by human imagination and dreams. They exist on their continued belief and remembrance in human minds. They strengthen and wither as humans fear, revere, and forget them. Our imagination is what births and kills them, giving fragile humans ultimate power over the immortal and mighty fey. Ash's quest is to become human, looked down on as something less, weak, but the lessons he learns on his journey are lessons for us too.
Don't be fooled into stopping at the Acknowledgments page, either! Tucked into the very end of the book are a Survival Guide to the Nevernever, a Q&A with Ms. Kagawa (and some surprise guests), and some discussion questions about the book. Very cool extras, especially the guide and the interview!
One last thing... this is the 4th book in the Iron Fey series, so you might wonder "Do I need to read the others first?" The answer is "No, not if you don't mind spoilers." I am completely new to Ms. Kagawa's world of Winter and Summer and Iron Fey, and I was absolutely not lost at any point in the story. I also never felt like I was in a history lecture. The relevant details and happenings of past books are skillfully written into the narration and dialogue, and Ash's first-person POV gives us a rare view into his pragmatic, determined, warrior's psyche. Keep in mind that this story is the conclusion to the series, so you will definitely learn what happened in previous books. If you'd rather know absolutely nothing going in, I recommend you start with the first book, The Iron King. Else, dive right in and enjoy this masterpiece of a story... then come back and read the first three when you just MUST HAVE MORE!!
Memorable quotes: Who can be serious when fighting giant bog trolls? Obviously not Goodfellow...
There was movement on its broad shoulders, and Puck appeared, clinging to its back, a huge grin splitting his face. "All right," he announced grandly, as the troll jerked and spun around, trying in vain to reach him, "I claim this land for Spain." And he planted his dagger in the base of the troll's thick neck.
When are dreams more than just dreams? When they fuel the lives of those who exist in the Nevernever...
"Just as story, belief, and imagination make us stronger, the lack of them slowly kills, even those in the Nevernever, until there is nothing left. That giant we saw? He is one of them, the Forgotten, clinging to existence by the thread of those who still remember him. It is only a matter of time before he is simply not there anymore."
Offensive? Robin Goodfellow? Nah...
I looked at Puck, smirking. "I think you offended him, Goodfellow."
He snorted. "If I ever worried about that, I'd never open my mouth."
If you liked The Iron Knight of the Iron Fey series... I'm having a tough time with this one. Usually I pick something that has similar elements and good writing, but in this case... a) it's Young Adult, which we rarely review here on GT, and b) it's romantic fantasy without ANY romance. And c) it's incredibly vivid and leaves a haunting impression. I just can't think of anything similar in the current GraveTells archive to recommend for you, so I'm going to go outside of our PNR/UF bubble and say The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It's a female-friendly retelling of the infamous Authurian legends, and is beautifully crafted.
If you like the fey universe but don't mind a good deal of smuttiness in your stories (i.e. you don't need to stick to YA), Laurel K. Hamilton's Merry Gentry series (starting with A Kiss of Shadows) is great. Be duly warned - this material is not for young eyes! It has graphic sex, violence, and gore, and makes no apologies for any of it. An excellent series for mature readers who like a little blood, scheming, and magic with their erotica.
Final thoughts: The Iron Knight is a story of love lost and found, hope and hopelessness, brotherhood and regrets. It is a book about choices and consequences, sacrifice and acceptance, and ultimately, about understanding... really, truly understanding... what being human is all about. The Iron Knight is a beautiful, shining, heart-breaking story about life, and as poignant as it is, as conflicted as it made me feel, I want to live there in the Deep Wylds of the Nevernever on an endless adventure with Ash and Puck and the whole gang.
The Iron Knight is a GraveTells Fave, a must-read that you will keep on your bookshelf and read over and over.
TLDR recap: Slowly and painfully losing his connection to his animal since his imprisonment in the mage spirit trap, Hawke is head over wings for the n...moreTLDR recap: Slowly and painfully losing his connection to his animal since his imprisonment in the mage spirit trap, Hawke is head over wings for the new Feral's mate-to-be. He'd never betray a brother like that, but newcomer Maxim is testing everyone's patience, including his intended - Faith. Faith is a Therian nomad, moving from city to city every few years, helping get human women off the streets and into stable, promising situations by pretending to be one of them. While Faith feels a compulsion toward Maxim, she also feels a strong connection to Hawke, and life at Feral House is about to get very interesting. Ecstasy Untamed is a GraveTells recommended read!
Title: Ecstasy Untamed Series: The Feral Warriors series - book #6 Author: Pamela Palmer Prominent Characters: Hawke, Faith, Maxim Recommended reader age: 17+ Sexual content level: Moderate
Thoughts: If you've ever caught yourself wondering "Do the non-feline shifters have fangs and claws when they go feral?" or "How do they decide what to name new shifters?" or "Will Vhyper ever recover enough to rejoin the ranks of the Ferals?" or "Will we ever see The Seventeen again?" or "Can women be shifters?" or "Just HOW MUCH of his body can a Feral lose and still regrow?", you need to read this book. I'm not going to spoil it for you and give you any of the answers, but I will tell you this: all that and more is finally answered in Ecstasy Untamed!
Something I find really impressive about this series is how Ms. Palmer seems to effortlessly create a completely different hero and heroine for each story. It wouldn't be surprising if all the men were virtual carbon copies of each other, having only different animal spirits and abilities to set them apart, but they are as unique as the animals they embody. And the women! Oh the women are such a pleasure to read about! This is the sixth book in the series, so there are now six distinctly different female personalities (seven if you count Pink, but she's not really that fleshed out... no pun intended). Faith could easily come off as a boring self-sacrificing volunteer worker who swoons for her new man, but she doesn't. Faith has real innate strength and drive, and her own deep-seated insecurities, hidden under that 1,000 watt smile.
The Ferals are hot. They always have been and, Ms. Palmer willing, they will continue to be. Hawke is a bird shifter (the Ferals' only flying form) and has always been respectable, intelligent, and loyal. In previous books, I don't remember thinking "man, I really wanna read Hawke's story!" (I most definitely thought that about Jag! Oh how I <3 Jag!!) because, while he was always prominent in the action and a friendly, attractive member of the team, he never stood out for me. Hawke really took on new life in this book and came into his own. Not only is he yummy, smexy goodness, he's got a brain and he's not afraid to use it. We see why he's possibly the luckiest of the Ferals with his ability to fly, and get insight into how the Feral-Spirit shifter bond works.
One of the hallmarks of this series is its cliffhanger endings. Ms. Palmer always wraps up the main romance plot and then leaves us with something shocking to worry about for the next 6-12 months. Well Ecstasy Untamed is no different, so if that bothers you, "brace yourself, Effie!" If you DO enjoy the anticipating and the waiting, you won't be disappointed with this ending! One thing to note: if you have NOT read the rest of this series and don't want to see major spoilers for it, start with Desire Untamed (Feral Warriors book #1) and work your way up from there. =)
Memorable quotes: One must always be prepared when meeting the rockstars of the immortal world...
"The Chief?" The words were out before she could stop them. She wrinkled her nose. "Sorry, I'm afraid I'm a little starstruck. I wish I had an autograph book."
Blasting stereotypes since 2009...
Faith had always imagined the Radiant to be a queen among immortals, reserved, royal. Kara stood in bare feet, a pair of jeans, and a t-shirt that read Team Jacob across the profile of a howling wolf. And called herself a power plug.
Is a woman truly ever "too old" to appreciate good man-candy?
Olivia sighed. "I'm afraid you're probably right, Faith, as much as I hate to admit it. Half the women on the planet would lust for our Feral Warriors if they got anywhere near them. The other half are too young, too old, or into other women."
I was thinking "stronger", but this works too!
"What doesn't kill you makes you obsessed."
On pain and priorities...
"There's nothing in this world more painful than regrowing a penis," Kougar said quietly.
"It better come back good as new, that's all I'm saying."
It's good to have you back, Jag...
"Hey." Jag shrugged. "Someone has to cause the trouble. This place is going to get dull with me all happy and sh!t."
Finally, someone with a comeback!
Jag snorted. "I'm not missing this show. Just wait til you see what she can do, Foxy."
Fox cut Jag an amused look. "Looking forward to it, Jaggy."
If you liked Ecstasy Untamed of the Feral Warriors series... If you liked Ecstasy Untamed and the rest of Pamela Palmer's Feral Warriors series (starting with Desire Untamed), you might also enjoy Lord of Rage by Jill Monroe (book #2 in the Royal House of Shadows series). Like the Ferals, Osbourne is large-and-in-charge, and his honey has a fighter's spirit in that petite princess' body.
You might also enjoy Redemption (book #2 in the Lost City Shifters series) by Eleri Stone. Adriano and Sophie have a combustible chemistry, and the setting is adventurous enough for an Indiana Jones flick.
Another great series featuring shapeshifters is The Psy/Changeling series (starting with Slave to Sensation) by Nalini Singh. It has jaguars, leopards, wolves, psychic humans, and the mind-numbingly scary Psy. Hot, intense, and addicting... that's how I'd describe that series. =)
Final thoughts: If you were thinking that the Feral Warriors series was becoming a little too predictable and formulaic, Ecstasy Untamed will reinvigorate your love for the series. All the things you've been wondering, all the unspoken restrictions you questioned, all the little mysteries we've been teased with throughout the last five books are finally revealed... and some of them are things you may have just taken for granted! This book breaks all the rules and breathes new passion, danger, and intrigue back into one of paranormal romance's best series. Ecstasy Untamed has everything you've been waiting for, and more! If you're a fan of the Feral Warriors series, you do not want to miss Ecstasy Untamed!!
Rating: Ecstasy Untamed
*Thanks to NetGalley and Pamela Palmer for allowing GraveTells to review this book as an Advanced Reader Copy. No payment or compensation was received for this review and the opinions herein are honest and unaffected by any outside factors.(less)
What a great book! Hell, what a great series! I devoured all three of these in less than two weeks and really enjoyed all three of them. I read Love S...moreWhat a great book! Hell, what a great series! I devoured all three of these in less than two weeks and really enjoyed all three of them. I read Love Slave for Two first and it reminded me in some places of Safe Harbor (which I read first). LSFT is a less-intense, less "alternative" story than Safe Harbor, but in no way less emotionally fulfilling. I really love Tyler and Thomas, and I didn't find Nevvie whiny or annoying at all (as some other reviewers have). I loved the dynamic between the two men and Ms. Dalton worked Nevvie in perfectly.
I absolutely loved this book, and I don't give a real full 5 stars easily (sometimes 5 stars really means 4.5 based on my GraveTells reviews). It is t...moreI absolutely loved this book, and I don't give a real full 5 stars easily (sometimes 5 stars really means 4.5 based on my GraveTells reviews). It is the WHOLE PACKAGE!
Heart-warming, emotionally devastating - do not read this without a box of tissues nearby, and yes, you still get your HEA. In spades! Perfect holiday read and I loved the not-so-in-your-face environmental spin.
This book was excellent! Erotica with heart. Yummy, steamy scenes that don't feel awkward or forced, and good characte...moreThat 5 rating is actually a 4.5
This book was excellent! Erotica with heart. Yummy, steamy scenes that don't feel awkward or forced, and good character development of people you actually like and would want to be friends with. Highly recommended, a "must read"!
Of the three books in this series, this one is my favorite, although I do also really love Double Shot.(less)
First of all, the is one of the hottest book covers I’ve ever seen! I initially wanted to read it solely based on the “shiver factor” of the hot man on the front. Then I read the book blurb and knew this was one for me. Serious props to the artist who created the cover art and to Loose-ID for commissioning it in the spirit of the story.
On to the hotness… I kept imagining the Breakers were like Mord’Sith from the Sword of Truth series… all bad-ass Mistresses dressed in leather pantsuits and employing all sorts of twisted tortures to break their prisoners down mentally, physically, and emotionally. I would have liked to have seen more initial resistance from Devnar during his training with his assigned Breaker, Melania. He submitted to her a little too quickly after his encouragement to his men and his own determination to be free. It was also difficult to get a feel for what a Breaker really does, since Melania tended to let him steamroll over her. I get that her technique is intentionally softer and that his growing mate bond made it difficult for him to deny her but I think just a tad more struggle for dominance between them would have racheted up the tension deliciously.
This book is definitely for D/s and menage lovers. Seeing Dev with other men (Khilam was quite yummy!) was just as hot as seeing him with Melania. While there are some m/m elements, it is tastefully done and doesn’t infringe on the bond between Devnar and Melania. Readers who shy away from anal play should have no problems with the scenes in this book.
There is also an underlying message of environmental and political responsibility in The Breaker’s Concubine. I liked that, while it is there for us to acknowledge and learn from if we choose, it’s not pushy or overly transparent.
This story is a relatively quick read, and filled with sizzling, creative, intense encounters… some low-key, some more sensually overt. Devnar certainty lives up to the sexy mancandy promised by the book’s cover, and brings along an addictive personality combination of aggressive dominance and loving submission. If D/s, menage, bondage, and exhibition get you hot under the collar,The Breaker’s Concubine is a recommended read!(less)
The first chapter of Hunted hits the ground running. Strong personalities, high tempers, steamy chemistry, powerful longing, and unexpected consequences fairly fly off the pages.
Moira is a powerful witch, and we’re not talking Sabrina nose-twitching magic. This is smart magic, requiring decades of study in quantum physics and string theory. When it comes to kick-ass heroines, Moira Dunne is the gold standard. Innately magically gifted, fiercely physically trained, and determined to do her duty to both her people and her mate, Moira is a firebrand of crackling, spunky, red-headed temper and focused power. With the combined lethality of her and Connlan, this is one duo you never want to cross.
I really like the idea that mated pairs share their supernatural skills. It makes them a united front, a team that backs each other up and builds on each other’s strengths… very much like a marriage. It also means Connlan is far above average intelligence, and is there anything sexier than a man who is built, strong, confident, a natural leader, downright deadly with his body and with his energy, AND smart enough to bend spacetime with his mind?
Conn is the most lethal vampire alive, the ultimate soldier. His personality reminds me a little of Christian Grey from the Fifty Shades Trilogy: alpha and authoritative, determined like a freight train, a powerhouse in the bedroom, and incredibly good at his job. He’s not quite as micromanaging as Fifty, but he certainly believes in trying to keep his mate under constant lockdown for her safety, regardless of her 30+ years of serving as an Enforcer for the witch’s council. Their attraction both smolders and scorches. Intense, and as powerful as an atomic bomb, the energy between these two is off the charts.
If this couple had their own series, Connlan could be the new Bones. Yes, I know that’s saying a lot and, no, I’m not kidding! This guy is everything I like.. no, LOVE… in a PNR hero and I want to stash him away for myself!! It’s a damn shame he and Moira only have one book!
This book has it all… action, danger, passion, political intrigue. Ms. Zanetti has created a rich world of supernatural creatures hiding in plain sight of Earth’s human population; demons who can trick your mind, witches who manipulate atomic energy, and vampires both good and bad who have a myriad of talents, from teleportation to controlling nature. This is not some cheap imitation quickie story universe. Alluring in its plausibility, the world of the Dark Protectors is thought-provoking and well-planned. The author doesn’t devalue her audience’s intelligence and the characters hold nothing back, and make no apologies for it!
Even if you haven’t read the previous books in the series, Hunted is absolutely a MUST-READ! It is powerful, original, explosive, addicting, and stands on its own story arc. And Connlan is to DIE for. Seriously, he should be illegal.
Sometimes when I give a 5-star rating, it means 4.5/5. The Reluctant Dom gets a full, enthusiastic perfect score from me. Anyone who likes menage, eve...moreSometimes when I give a 5-star rating, it means 4.5/5. The Reluctant Dom gets a full, enthusiastic perfect score from me. Anyone who likes menage, even on a basic level (meaning it's m/f/m and not m/m), and BDSM should read this book. Have tissues handy, because you are going to cry. Several times.
I'm a huge fan of Tymber Dalton and have read several of her menage romances, but I can honestly say that The Reluctant Dom is not only my favorite TD book, but one of my favorite romances ever. I'm so glad it was re-released in ebook!!
I'm not going to rehash the plot for you - you can read the book blurb - but even you know it's coming, Kaden's death is a whammy. I cried like a baby. And no, that's not a spoiler - it's the point of the whole plot. The whole book is meticulously crafted, the emotions genuine and natural. The BDSM aspect does not rule the story, either. It does play a big part, but it's therapy for Leah, not a need for exhibitionism or kink... not there's anything wrong with those! *wink*
I also loved getting to see Tony again. He plays a secondary role in The Reluctant Dom, much like he did in Dom by Default. If he has his own book, I definitely need to read that!
Anyway, if you're waffling on whether or not to read this, do it. Yes, it's sad. Yes, it has a little kink. Yes, it feels a little weird at first, one man handing his wife off to another as he dies. But it is delightfully addicting, thoroughly fulfilling, and hands-down one of the best stories I have ever read.
Blaze hits the ground running with fiery tension between ex-lovers & firefighter teammates Kiera O'Shay and Luke Ransom, and a riveting action sequence that introduces more questions than it answers. Watching Kiera and Luke interact is like being around a passionate married couple who can't decide whether they'd rather kill each other or, well, you know; they have major chemistry right from the start. I absolutely loved their banter! Their snarky verbal battles were just as entertaining as the action and adventure, and are just about as consistent throughout the story too... which I really enjoyed. I actually started looking forward to watching them fight!
Kiera O'Shay is a badass, and not the overconfident, leather-wearing, sword-toting kind with an attitude bigger than the Goodyear Blimp. No, our Kiera is a firecracker of a woman who knows what she wants and how to get it, before going after it like a guided missile. She's a smart, take-no-shit, expert markswoman with a shattered heart and traumatic childhood enfortressed behind a wall of emotional steel, packed muscles, and intense S.W.A.T. training, and the only one who can get past that shell is ATF agent and fire cop Luke Ransom.
The most confident man Kiera O'Shay has ever met, Luke is all charisma and wit, a capable agent with a big bad side of get-with-the-program-or-get-the-hell-out-of-my-way. Underneath all that swagger, though, is a man who has never gotten over the love of his life and is willing to give up just about anything to see her safe and happy... even if it means living the rest of his life in misery.
You haven't seen longing and unrequited love until you've seen Luke and Kiera together, sarcastically bantering as if their lives depend on it and fighting their own primal urges to jump each other every other second. Why not just give in and go for it, you might ask? Bad breakups and volatile personalities have a way of leaving you skittish, and these two have hurt each other more than anyone else ever could have. Theirs is a story begging to be told, one expertly crafted from action, intrigue, supernatural science, and some of the most enthralling sexual tension I've ever read. This book is absolutely aptly named; the passion between Luke and Kiera blazes high and sparks fly hard. That man has a soft heart for his woman, but when he gets in the mood, the dominant comes out to play and we get to see Kiera let go and give over control. Sexy, sexy, sexy!
Mitch Foster was introduced in Fever as heroine Alyssa Foster's brother and lawyer extraordinaire. A sharp-witted playboy shark of a criminal defender with unquestionably questionable morals and an admirable streak of loyalty to his friends and family, it was made crystal clear in Blaze's prequel that you never want to earn the ire of this man. In this story, we get a deeper sense of just how connected he is... so much so, that it really makes you wonder just what depth of trouble the delectably sexy Mitch Foster has his fingers in, and when it's going to come back to bite him in the ass. I'm sure his day is coming, and that will be a story to read!
And Cash... I freaking love Cash! He's a brand new character introduced in Blaze, with family connections to Kiera, and I cannot wait to read more about him! Genius, cocky, confident, and daring, he's a hell of a character.
Joan Swan writes action like you're right there in the thick of it; pinging bullets, whooshes of fire, the near-tranquil state of severe injury are all masterfully translated through undeniably talented and creative writing. She doesn't fall prey to technical bad habits like repeated patterns of verbage, and her sentence structure is never boring or predictable. Reading a Joan Swan novel is like living a non-stop, danger-filled, trek through heartfelt friendships and off-the-rails sensual chemistry.
Aaahh, this book was SO GOOD! I did not want it to end! Every character is unique and compelling and every plot twist keeps the story, and series, fresh and addicting. How often do you read a book that wraps up the storyline but still has you jonzing for the next installment without forcing a cliffhanger down your throat, that makes your chest squeeze with every tortured glance and longing touch, whose action scenes make you feel like you just stepped into a Hollywood blockbuster movie? This is why Joan Swan is a master of her craft and why Blaze is a GraveTells Fave and the recipient of our extremely rare, perfect-rating Golden Heart award!
*** Review copy provided by Kensington & Joan Swan. No compensation was received for this review and all stated opinions are true and unbiased.(less)
Jase Kayrs, the youngest and most care-free brother of the vampire nation's ruling family, has been a captive of the demon army for four years now, and a pacifist, eco-loving Demon Destroyer is his only hope of rescue. Now there's a tough predicament for a vampire wanting to use her as a weapon... unless that vampire is Kane Kayrs, and the logical solution is a union that will result in Kane inheriting his mate's abilities. He'd be able to do the fighting himself and share his empathic abilities with a woman who can use every shred of help defending her brain from the demons hellbent on annihilating it. But marriage and life-long mates should be based in love and happily ever after, or so Amber says, and she is strong and stubborn enough to stand up for what she believes in against even the most brilliant Kayrs brother.
The Kayrs men are large and in charge, domineering, and genius scientist Kane is no exception. Instead of using his brain as an excuse to be less involved in his romantic overtures, he taps that vast supply of knowledge & intuition and turns it into sheer, dominating pleasure... and I do mean DOMINATING! I thought Conn was hot in Hunted (and he was, don't get me wrong! *fans self*), but Kane is memorable enough that I am still thinking about him 2 weeks and half a dozen books later. Kane Kayrs is an incredibly dedicated lover, and his combination of meticulous attention to detail and raw force of personality makes for some smokin' scenes between him and Amber.
I absolutely loved Hunted (#3 in the series - it won our Book of the Month award in May 2012), but I think what sets Provoked above even that high standard is the integration of Jase Kayrs' storyline. Jase has a rough time in this book. Four years of mental and physical torture in demon captivity have stolen nearly all his strength and fighting spirit. Even if he does survive, who will he become? The scenes where the Kayrs brothers are dealing with Jase's situation are emotionally powerful, and exactly what the series needed to amp up the intensity as it moves into the final stages of the demon conflict.
How Ms. Zanetti functions with all these uber sexy, domineering, hot hot HOT men in her head, I have no idea - I'd be a quivering mess of "yes, please, and thank you" just about all the time! Hah! If you haven't started reading the Dark Protectors series, what are you waiting for? Go go go!!
PS - Amber names her pets after Star Trek characters. Who can resist a heroine like that?!
Hunted was my first trip through the Dark Protectors universe (book #3 in the series) and I fell in love with Conn, Moira, and all the Kayrs brothers. Consumed was an excellent followup and gave us a glimpse into the leadership of the shifter nation, allies of the vampires. Now with Provoked, the storyline has moved from isolated conflicts and ground-building side plots to a full-on sprint into what is sure to be an explosive next few books. If you have never read a book in this series, now is the time to start, so you can get caught up in the release madness of Ms. Zanetti's brilliantly addicting storytelling and world-weaving! This is not a book or series to be missed and is a new GraveTells Fave!(less)
Dani O'Malley, how you slay me. Ill be straight up. I did not want to like this book. Dani drove me nuts in the Fever series and knowing I'd have to live in her head for the entire story had me dreading it enough to put it off for two weeks. She's fourteen. I generally don't read YA. On the other hand, I also didn't like Mac much during the first few Fever series books and she turned out to be a hell of a heroine. Once I started reading Iced, I couldn't put it down. I don't even like post-apocalyptic stories! But even so, each chapter, even through Dani's sometimes-endless ramblings and Dani-isms, sucked me in deeper until I couldn't deny it anymore... this book kicked complete butt.
Anyone who has read Ms. Moning's other works knows what compelling male characters she writes. They are strong, forthright, domineering, often supernaturally enhanced, complicated, and usually unpredictable.... but day-amn are they sexy! Hellloooo Ryodan! Holy smokes, Christian! And Dancer... who knew a plain old (albeit completely self-sufficient genius) human could be so appealing? *wipes away drool* Any guesses what deep dark secret he holds? And who do I want her to end up with? A) I feel dirty even contemplating that (she's FOURTEEN and these big bad men are falling all over themselves to be around her!) and B) I have no idea!! Each of them has his pros and cons... and some of those cons are serious downsides.
On top of that, Dani is smart. Genius smart, and I'm not really even sure she realizes it. One of the things I really liked about this book is the intelligence of the solution. In order to solve this mystery, the characters needed to be more-than-average observant, and had to be able to problem-solve on a college level. Even so, the explanation made sense in layman terms and wasn't so complicated that a normal reader couldn't follow and understand the logic. Very well done.
It was also satisfying to get another glimpse into Ms. Moning's creative abilities through some of Dani's less conventional adventures. If you were worried that, being a young adult novel, Iced might back off on the various visceral details that were such a potent factor in the Fever series, fear not; this book has sex (albeit not explicit, and not involving Dani!) and violence (in gloriously graphic detail when needed), and time is not wasted on frivolous pursuits.
And oh yeah... holy fecking quotes, Batman!
Iced waltzed in and pulverized all of my neat little preconceptions in the first chapter, and didn't let up its relentless pace of mystery, adventure, and edgy attraction for a second. Did Dani annoy me at times? Yeah, but only very occasionally, and there were far more scenes where she really impressed and won me over. Were the men a little creepy with their unnatural interest in a fourteen year old girl? Yep, a little bit (aside from their incredibly addicting animalistic sex appeal), but I also came to see in her what they saw and I agree that she is going to be an incredibly strong heroine for this trilogy. What's next for Dani O'Malley? I can't wait to find out! Iced is a GraveTells "must read"!
This review is spoiler-free! To see the full review (also spoiler-free), complete with Memorable Quotes and similar recommended reads, go here: http:/...moreThis review is spoiler-free! To see the full review (also spoiler-free), complete with Memorable Quotes and similar recommended reads, go here: http://gravetells.com/2013/01/11/revi...
Hot. Badass. Vampire. That's Micah, our sexy, brooding, complicated hero. Not only is he powerful, one of the oldest of his kind, he's got a good heart and his needs run deep. His character is beautifully crafted by Ms. Lynne; where as he could easily have come across as selfish and violently overindulgent, a turn-off to be sure, each chapter brings surprises and I loved watching his personality bloom.
His mate, Samantha, is on the run from an abusive husband and working as a very successful stripper at a local joint. She's ex-army, so she knows her way around the business end of a weapon, and she's kind and sharp-witted. Sometimes it's hard to like the heroines paired with our favorite (usually damaged) heroes, but I was Team Samantha all the way. The connection between Micah and Sam is quick and dirty, and they have some smoking hot sex! I love that Ms. Lynne doesn't shy away from putting several open-door love scenes back to back... there's no wondering what happens "after" as the door is slammed shut on the reader. I can honestly say I don't think I've ever enjoyed knife foreplay before, but yowza! Well done!
There are also hints of BDSM and some m/m in the coming books and I found myself both not wanting to finish reading, I enjoyed the story so much, AND wanting to race to the next book in the series to get my fix....
Which brings me to the mysterious, endearingly vulnerable yet lethal vampire warrior called Trace. Is there anything sexier than a gorgeous, powerful man submitting to another strong male? Needing to be confined and feel the bite of pain? If you're a fan of Vishous from the BDB, Traceon is going to be just your style. He's the self-appointed guardian to one of the most lethal of the AKM enforcers and protects Micah as if he already serves him. Drool much?
Speaking of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, the vampires in All the King's Men are pretty similar: they can't abide sunlight, they must drink blood to survive, some of them have special abilities (like teleportation), they bond strongly with their mates, and they're practically walking arsenals with lethal fighting skills. Micah is one of the older vamps, so he's a pro with both his knives and his guns, and meeting a woman who knows how to handle his weapons (ah, no pun intended! :p) is a real turn on.
The secondary characters all stand out and practically beg for their own books. Its been a long time since a series has snagged my attention as thoroughly as the Black Dagger Brotherhood did, but All the King's Men has that distractingly addictive potential and this first story in the series holds nothing back.
Alluring and compelling, Rise of the Fallen is rich in story depth and likeable, flawed characters... men you can seriously get addicted to reading more about. Read at your own risk, because you just might find yourself wanting your very own Micah (and Trace)!
In the reviews for Beyond Shame, words like "naughty" were tossed around and, after reading books like the Vampire Queen series from Joey W. Hill, the...moreIn the reviews for Beyond Shame, words like "naughty" were tossed around and, after reading books like the Vampire Queen series from Joey W. Hill, the first story in this series didn't quite hit the "naughty" bar for me. That said, Beyond Control was everything I wanted from the first book and more. The intense emotions, the unapologetic violence, the deepening plot, and most of all, the fulfilling of that promise of dominating, hedonistic, voyeuristic menage. It's Sons of Anarchy in a dystopian future, except the women are part of the gang and the money comes from top notch whiskey rather than running guns... with way more sex and way less inhibitions. Dallas O'Kane is the king of sector Four and Lex is his is queen.
Dallas and Lex are outright explosive- emotionally, physically, and sexually- and their plot arc isn't marred by any clumsy, contrived drama or unnecessary filler events. Everything that happens has a reason and furthers the overarching storyline, and does so with signature O'Kane flair.
I loved getting to see Dallas and Lex just be together for a chunk of the book, getting my fill of seeing them both unrestrained, souls bared without excessive unnecessary buildup. If you've read the first book in this series you already know how they smolder, and the building up of sexual and emotional tension between other characters in the gang was both satisfying and, in one case, shockingly appealing (shocking as in "I totally didn't see that coming and should have!" Love it when that happens!). One of the things I enjoy most about this series is how little regard the characters have for race or gender, focusing instead on the pleasure they'll all receive... no macho hetero stereotyping to ruin the moments. Ow ow!
If you love strong women and the alpha males who keep them fighting and coming back for more, who see their ladies as more than just playthings and allow them into their hearts and souls... If you love violence for all the right reasons and vigilante law in a society scraping to survive... If you love seeing characters throw propriety out the window and just DO and BE and FEEL... YOU. MUST. READ. THIS. SERIES!! Start with Beyond Shame and stick with it even if you think it's a little tame. Or, if it completely shames you and you hate that you love it, you're going to be even more shocked and awed by the downright barbarian hedonistic feel of Beyond Control. I SO cannot wait for the next one!(less)
Decadent Publishing's 1Night Stand stories are notoriously short, and for Heather Long's Always a Marine series, that's part of what makes the books s...moreDecadent Publishing's 1Night Stand stories are notoriously short, and for Heather Long's Always a Marine series, that's part of what makes the books stand apart from all the other military romances out there. A Marine and a Gentleman is a particular favorite of mine because of the existing dynamic between the two characters. Good friends since high school, our guys have each had a crush on the other and were never able to explore it (or even admit to it!). Their one night stand has heat, heart, and the possibility of a happily every after, even if we only really get to see the happily right now. I also really enjoyed the brief appearance of some of the other couples from the Always a Marine series and references to their stories. Excellent short read that doesn't require you to read the rest of the series!(less)
There is just something about Mercy Celeste's writing that pulls me in and completely captivates me. Six Ways From Sunday was a fairly short read, but...moreThere is just something about Mercy Celeste's writing that pulls me in and completely captivates me. Six Ways From Sunday was a fairly short read, but intense and emotional throughout and it ended beautifully. I loved both characters, Bo and Dylan, and their connection is soul-deep. I don't want to say too much about the story since it's a pretty quick read and you'll discover most of the main story arc in good time, but between a loveable football badass with the turf skills to make a seasoned pro athlete cry and a solid, stoic Force Recon Marine who sacrifices nearly everything for his country, these high school best friends are a memorable couple and I couldn't stop thinking about what they went through even over a week later. This is also the start of one of my new favorite contemporary male/male series, so if you're new to Ms. Celeste's writing, this would be a good one to start with regardless of whether or not you're a fan of football! Bo & Dylan will captivate and romance you into a book coma!
If you already know you like Ms. Celeste's stories and haven't yet tried Beyond Complicated, give it a go... or at least check out the blurb and some reviews (that story is not for everyone!) It's much longer, addresses serious issues, and is one of the most aptly named books I've ever read. (less)
I am quickly becoming a Mercy Celeste fantastic, as in the truest sense of the word fan. I loved loved loved Six Ways From Sunday, the story before th...moreI am quickly becoming a Mercy Celeste fantastic, as in the truest sense of the word fan. I loved loved loved Six Ways From Sunday, the story before this one in the series (and you really do need to read it first) and I adored Sidelined. Why do I have this growing lady-crush on Ms. Celeste? Oh, let me count the ways!
First of all, I am obsessed with Levi Brody. He's just about freaking perfect as a likable protagonist. He is sexy, sarcastic, confident in a not-always-manly-way, a jock who is also artsy and a foul-mouthed sexual bottom, secretly sensitive and hiding a shockingly flamboyant personality no one would have ever expected, and rarely does what you expect... so basically, he's complicated, enigmatic, and hot. Tracy is equally as likable for completely different reasons. Where Levi is bursting with charisma, Tracy is stoic and in control. This is a man who knows what he wants and doesn't make excuses for going after it. He's not showy or exhibitionist (the complete opposite of Levi) and when he hooks up, he calls the shots.
Ms. Celeste doesn't shy away from dark topics and she tackles real modern issues. The voices of the characters just work and, especially with Levi at the end of Sidelined, I love them more the more I read. This book has become one of my personal favorites and I've read it several times in the past month. I absolutely cannot wait for the third book in the Southern Scrimmage series to be released because I just can't get enough of these guys! I now have a fangirl affinity for Saints gear and the fleur-de-lis symbol! (less)
Half Puerto Rican, with a violent history as an adolescent, Javier Corbray has more reason than most to be stronger, faster, and smarter until he can prove to himself that he's worth someone's love. He lives for his work with "the teams", his fellow Navy SEAL special operators; combat is what he does for a living and killing is what he's best at. Well, that and seduction, because he's damn good at that too. Slow, fast, hard, tender, with a thousand different ways to make a woman feel special. He definitely needs all of that skill when he meets back up with Laura, the woman he never quite got over...
Laura Nilsson has been subjected to the very worst of humanity, treated like a slave, beaten, raped, brainwashed until her sense of reality is so warped she barely remembers her own name. Her path of recovery is slow and tenuous and her tall SEAL savior plays a pivotal role in that. The relationship between Laura and Javier practically shimmers off the pages, it's so intense. They are both exceptionally strong and determined people with fragile weaknesses, and each supports the other exactly how they need it most. The pacing of the romance is perfect; anything too fast would have felt false due to Laura's traumatic past, and taking it much slower would have dragged the plot down. It's also smoking hot. The things Javier can do with his hands and mouth... and Laura is no slouch once she hits her stride again too. I loved his accent (which came through very clearly) and Spanish curses, and her Swedish words interspersed with English phrases. The pacing of the plot itself felt a tad slow around the middle, but once it picked up, it really took off, and the ending is one of the most emotional and fulfilling I've read in a long time. This story has a true Happily Ever After in more ways than one!
Fast-paced and addicting, Striking Distance will keep you chained to the pages long after the story has ended. The good news is that this is #6 in a series, the I-Team (a team of journalists, not fighters, who apparently hook up with special forces men… in case you were wondering), and while there are a lot of characters from previous books, you don’t need to have read those first in order to enjoy this one. The camaraderie between all the couples and friends amps up the feel-good quotient of the story and makes you want to keep on spending time with these remarkable individuals. Striking Distance is an absolute “must-read”, easily one of the best romantic suspense stories of the year!(less)
The Walking Dead meets Julie Kagawa's Blood of Eden (minus the vamps), Strain is a contemporary romance set in a futuristic dystopian world where zomb...moreThe Walking Dead meets Julie Kagawa's Blood of Eden (minus the vamps), Strain is a contemporary romance set in a futuristic dystopian world where zombies (revenants) roam freely, terrorizing Earth's final scattered bands of survivors, and super-soldiers called Juggernauts hunt them down and exterminate the infected creatures. The premise for this story could have easily come across as contrived, where all the societal and scientific rules of the universe felt coerced into funneling the characters along a particular path, but everything meshes together realistically and believably. The Jugs are intentionally biologically altered men and women who were originally US Army ground troops; they have infected blood and are the origin of the zombie plague. Their blood also provides immunity to it and the most effective means for passing on that safety net is sexual transmission... by heavy exposure with multiple partners, in an environment where there is little privacy and few luxuries beyond the necessities of survival. When they save Rhys from a close call with a rev, his only choices are to accept death or let them attempt to infect him with the alpha strain of the virus.
Now, based on that, you might be thinking "hey, that sounds a lot like a rape situation", and that is actually something that is addressed in the story, with the Jugs feeling decidedly unenthusiastic about coercing emotionally unwilling partners. What takes this story to the next level is two-fold: 1) The company of soldiers our protagonist, Rhys, finds himself with are all genuinely good-hearted people and do not make a habit of creating new Jugs, neither as a by-product of recreational activities nor for the purposes swelling their ranks with new soldiers. They keep to themselves, do their jobs, and honor the exile from what's left of civilization their volatile blood forces on them when not out sweeping the countryside for revenants. 2) The setup is ideal to highlight the psychological aspects of a D/s relationship dynamic. Rhys agrees to attempt to become one of the Jugs through sexual transmission of the virus but feels shameful when he submits to the gentler men in the company and won't allow himself to enjoy it even though he is admittedly gay. However, when he feels physically overwhelmed by Darius (the company's leader, who quickly discovers this is what he needs), he can let go of his own emotions and trust Darius with all his choices, feeling no shame or demoralization and finally able to enjoy the process of trying to survive.
Normally, I wouldn't give this level of detail in a review because part of the story experience is discovering the nuances for yourself, but this book won't be for everyone and it's important to know what you're getting into before you start. If you do not enjoy reading about physical domination and submission or if multiple sex partners between men in a public venue is not to your taste, or if you absolutely can't deal with the realism behind a post-apocalyptic world infested with zombies, this book is not for you! However, if all of that makes you sit up and take notice, Strain is an excellent read and is both viscerally realistic and emotionally compelling.
Even though this story features a lot of sex, it's not ABOUT sex or even about a D/s lifestyle. It's about fighting for survival and the life-affirming connections you make with the people you trust to have your back. It's about brotherhood and love and making the best out of a hard life, and it is haunting... absolutely beautiful. The emotional depth is so tangible, Strain is both heartwarming and endearingly painful, from vivid adrenaline-packed start to aching, bittersweet ending. Definitely a must read for fans of male/male romance!
Strain is available February 17, 2014. You can pre-order it directly from the publisher here.(less)
Levi/Liv is one of my favorite characters ever. I love the dichotomy of jock and queen, and the flair he brings to the pages. While this story is abou...moreLevi/Liv is one of my favorite characters ever. I love the dichotomy of jock and queen, and the flair he brings to the pages. While this story is about his brother Jude, we get to see a lot of Levi and learn more about his history, what makes him who he is. Something else I love about this series is how tightly woven the stories are. Each one includes memorable scenes with the couple(s) from previous books and their dynamic as a group is both edgy, as you might expect with a bunch of football players and a marine, and has a solid feeling of brotherhood that is irresistible as a reader.
The dynamic between the three couples is unique. Bo and Dylan are intense. Levi and Tracy are sweet and dirty. Slayer and Jude are antagonist and kinda adorable. They're either pissing each other driving each each other crazy, and that's just the we're-not-really-gay sex. Jude vacillates between reserved and almost cold and a Liv-like exuberance smothered in sarcasm. Slayer spends half his time alienating everyone with his defensive homophobia and the other half trying to get into Jude's pants, verbally sparring with him both ways.
The tangle of relationships the characters all have with each other is more complex than we've seen in previous books, which is totally my thing, and the revelation of events in Offside Chance brings everything full circle in the story. There are so many great moments in this book; I was really sad to see it end. I devoured it in about 12 hours and there's still plenty of room for another book in the series, with unresolved story arcs and new complexities for all three couples so I hope Ms. Celeste keeps on going with it! Jude and Will are just as hot together as any of the other couples and just as complex, and their story feels like it's really just beginning. A note of advice to readers just starting the series: you need to read these in order or you will be completely confused with a lot of the character and event references, so if you're new to Southern Scrimmage start with Six Ways From Sunday.(less)
Tessa Bailey novels always start off with this very special resonating, almost tangible chemistry between the main couple and, while Staking His Claim is (sadly) the finale of the series, it definitely follows the tradition of excellence (and over-the-top sexual tension) set by the previous four books.
Where Daniel was playful and charming and Brent was outrageous and hilarious, Matt is intense and focused. He is a man with serious needs, caged by personal demons and keeping up constant emotional shields. That stone wall around his heart is protecting a very vulnerable core of honor and goodness, and it just about broke my heart. This man is a natural dominant and craves serious submission from a woman… craves it in a very real and physical way, like an addict. I usually prefer the dominant types who tend more toward overwhelming force of personality rather than straight up controlling, but Matt is a good blend of both and is incredibly hot… hot with a capital O-M-G.
He is downright diabolical with some of his sensual punishments and Ms. Bailey’s creativity and ability to build in layers of character nuance is impressive. I hesitate to compare any book to Fifty Shades these days, with so much anti-Grey sentiment going around, but if you like that sort of hero – a man with an unrelenting aura of presence and easy authority who feels compelled to take absolute sexual control of his partner, and knows damn well how to make her fly – Matt is going to take your breath away and make you tingly all the way to your toes. That said, even if you hated Fifty, give this book a chance because where Christian proudly obliterated that line between protector and dictator, Matt strikes just the right balance to leave you understanding his pain yet trusting that he’s mature and confident enough to ultimately make the right choices about his relationship with Lucy.
Lucy is no shrinking violet either, a woman with a free spirit and a giving soul who badly wants to be accepted as a responsible, dependable adult. She has such strength of character and still submits to Matt so naturally, they are practically made for each other. Add in the family drama of her being Brent’s little sister and Matt being his best friend, and Staking His Claim is one hell of a ride.
To borrow a sentiment from the book, holy hell, I so did not want this story to end! I loved the whole thing, from the first word to the very last (I even read all the Acknowledgements!) and I really hope Ms. Bailey writes us a short story about the triple wedding in the couples’ future. *hint hint* Pretty please? *wink*(less)