Anne Reviews: Knight of Sherwood by NB Dixon

Title: Outlaw’s Legacy, Book 2: Knight of Sherwood

Author: N.B Dixon

Publisher: Beaten Track Publishing

Pages: 365

Characters: Robin of Locksley/Will Scathlocke

POV: 3rd

Sub-Genre: Series, Historical

Kisses: 5

Blurb:

Robin returns to England after four years fighting in the Holy Land. On arriving at Locksley, he discovers that Guy of Gisborne, his most hated enemy, has been made Sheriff of Nottingham. Forced to flee into Sherwood, Robin sets himself up as champion of the poor.

But Robin has a secret. His feelings for his friend Will Scathelock have deepened, but to acknowledge the truth would mean facing up to his past. Meanwhile, Lady Marian Fitzwalter, heiress to the vast Huntingdon estate, is determined to claim Robin for her own.

Review:This is the second book I’ve read in this series, and I’m totally hooked. Robin Hood has long been a favourite of mine, and I think this series does him justice.

Knight of Sherwood picks up at the tail end of the Crusades, which Robin and Will left for at the end of book one. I thought the imagery of the post battle ravaged land, and the comparison with the jackal was very powerful. I liked that the author didn’t shy away from the horror of the Crusades, and that it wasn’t romanticized.

Back in England, and the story catches up with what happened while Robin has been away. Robin and Will’s relationship has shifted too, but Robin wrestles with his demons, which I thought were realistic given the time period.  He has been raised a noble, so it makes more sense that he’d struggle with his sexuality and the expectations of his position more than Will would.  He’s also haunted from his experiences in the Crusades, and I thought the way the author wrote them felt very authentic. I also appreciated the way the author wrote King Richard—although he’s not very likeable in places his actions are realistic for the time, and for a man in his position.

Guy shows no signs of the boy he once was in the first book, and he more than deserves his fate.  Sadly several other characters do not deserve theirs, and I liked that the author didn’t pull any punches as Guy’s part of Robin’s story plays out.

As the story progresses more familiar faces from the Robin Hood stories make their first appearance, as do some other original characters. I liked the women in the story, and the way they took their place among the bandits of Sherwood.  Although Marian wasn’t very likeable, she acts as she does because of the impossible situation she is in. I didn’t agree with her choices, but it’s very clear why she chooses the path she does. I liked that way the author showed took the time through her POV to show her motivations.  I also thought her reaction to her discovery about Robin was realistic. Unfortunately that is one of the harsh realities about historical fiction, and having all the characters react with modern day sensibilities would have felt like an anachronism. In saying that, though, I really hope fate deals her the hand she deserves as the series continues.

While I enjoyed the first book in this series, Heir of Locksley, I thought the author did a fabulous job with this story, and lifted the bar still further. I sat up late reading several times as I had to find out what happened next. Although Robin’s story is a well known, the twists in this series meant that I couldn’t predict the plot.  Although this part of Robin’s story has finished, the author hasn’t left him—or Will—in a good place, so now I’m holding out for book three, although I suspect they still have a rough road ahead.

I’d recommend Knight of Sherwood to readers who enjoy well researched historical fiction. An interest in the stories of Robin Hood isn’t necessary though I did enjoy the easter egg references throughout the book.   This story is action-packed, easy to get caught up in, and has interesting three dimensional characters. More please, and soon.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed By: Anne

BUY LINK: http://www.beatentrackpublishing.com/knightofsherwood

 

 

 

Gabbi Reviews: Chilling with Max by Bonnie Dee

Title: Love Off Leash, Book 3: Chilling with Max

Author:  Bonnie Dee

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages: 85

Characters: Grant Edgerton, Max Thompson

POV: 3rd

Sub-Genre: Contemporary Romance, Series

Kisses: 4

Blurb:

High tension meets laid back in a collision of opposites.

Grant Edgerton hasn’t had free day in years. From overachieving student to workaholic real estate developer in a high-pressure firm, he’s striven for success to the point of developing a stomach ulcer. When he literally crashes into a dog walker and his charges, it’s time to let loose the hounds of change. After failing to land a very important client, Grant takes an afternoon to play.

Max Thompson rolls through life’s curves with easy grace. Dog walking supplements his gigs as a musician, and he’s content with his easy come, easy go existence. He’s fluid to the point of not standing firm for anything, until an eye-opening encounter with an uptight businessman shakes his cool.

As lust stirs, then love grows, Grant begins to reevaluate what it really means to be successful in life. And as Max teaches Grant to chill, he learns some things are worth making an effort to hold on to.

Review:

As many of you know probably know by now, it is no secret that I’m a fan of Bonnie Dee. There is something special about her stories. They are always well-written, romantic and sexy as hell.

I was anxious to read Chilling with Max. I’m a sucker for a good opposite attract story and throw in a dog or a cat and I’m all in! I’m pleased to say that this story has everything I love when it comes to reading a heartfelt romance and I enjoyed every minute I spent reading it.

Grant and Max are polar opposites. Grant is an overachiever who needs to relax and Max is a free-spirit who needs to take some things a little more seriously. What I liked about these two is how they seemed to fit together. They seemed to bring out the best in each other and I was totally on board with them from the first moment they met until the end.

The story itself is a fast paced one. Their relationship moves at a quick and steady pace without a lot of drama and over the top angst, in which this reader did appreciate. My only tiny niggle was the ending…I wish it had been a little more fleshed out, it felt a little rushed, BUT it is a very satisfying one that left me with a smile on my face.

Chilling with Max is a quick and satisfying sexy and sweet read which is easy to recommend. Fans of Ms. Dee will surely love these men as much as I do and highly enjoy their story.

Chilling with Max is a stand-alone book in the Love Off Leash series.

The Love off Leash books are:

Caring for Riggs by Bonnie Dee

Hot Under the Collar by Summer Devon

Chilling with Max by Bonnie Dee

Reviewed By: Gabbi

Click HERE to purchase Chilling with Max by Bonnie Dee

Lydia Reviews: You Never Know by Mary Calmes

TITLE: You Never Know

Author: Mary Calmes

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 200

Characters: Hagen Wylie and Mitch Thayer

POV:  1st POV

Sub-Genre:  Contemporary

Kisses: 4

Blurb:

Hagen Wylie has it all figured out. He’s going to live in his hometown, be everybody’s friend, explore new relationships, and rebuild his life after the horrors of war. No muss, no fuss is the plan. He’s well on his way—until he finds out his first love has come home too. Hagen says it’s no big deal, but a chance encounter with Mitch Thayer’s two cute sons puts him directly in the path of the only guy he’s never gotten out of his head.

Mitch returned for three reasons: to raise his sons where he grew up, to move his furniture business and encourage it to thrive, and to win Hagen back. Years away made it perfectly clear the young man he loved in high school is the only one for him. The problem? He left town and they have not talked since.

If Hagen’s going to trust him again, Mitch needs to show him how he’s grown up and isn’t going to let go. They could have a new chance at love… but Hagen is insistent he’s not reviving a relationship with Mitch. Then again, you never know.

Review:

You Never Know is a fast-paced read by author Mary Calmes, and one her fans are sure to enjoy.  The story is told in the first person by Hagen Wylie and is a story about second chances.  Hagen, and our other m/c, Mitch, were high school sweethearts with their lives planned.  Mitch would head off to college where he would hopefully catch the eye of an NFL recruiter, while Hagen would catch up to him later.  But as things have a way of working the boy’s plans fall apart and so does their relationship.

Fast forward to the present and Hagen has a successful construction company and a secret, friends with benefits relationship with a well-known actor.  He is also living with the after-effects of his time in the military.  As for Mitch, he went on to find his fame and fortune in the NFL.  He married, had two children, and divorced.   Then he returned to his hometown to raise his boys and win back Hagen.

I liked Hagen from the beginning and his reaction to finding out Mitch was back as the book starts had me laughing.  I loved how he acted as if it was no big deal while those around him were spazzing about it.  Even those new to town seem to know the men’s history together and wonder how Hagen is going to react.  When the two do meet up again it is done in a way that readers will not expect and lets you see just how strong a connection the two men still have.

Hagen, however, is reluctant to get involved with Mitch again and rightfully so.  I liked that the author did not have them start over as if nothing had ever happened.  Instead, she makes Mitch work for his chance with Hagen and he even acknowledges that he has a lot to make up for.

While I did enjoy this story, and will be reading You Never Know again in the future, there is one point in the story that I wish would have been different.  Although the story covers a short period of time, the story is to the halfway point before Mitch shows up.  I would have liked to have seen him and Hagen spend more time together, yet in some ways, it seems that Hagen spends more time with Ash, his friend with benefits than he did with Mitch.  While that was a bit of a sore point for me, it did not keep me from giving this book a 4, as the time Hagen and Mitch do spend together was well done.

Those that like Ms. Calmes books are sure to like this one, and for those who have not yet tried any of her books I recommend you give this one a try.

Reviewed By: Lydia

Click HERE to enter the Dreamspinner Press Homepage

 

 

 

Gabbi Reviews: Stitch by Kim Fielding, Eli Easton, Jamie Fessenden and Sue Brown

Title: Gothika, Book 1, Stitch

Authors: Kim Fielding, Eli Easton, Jamie Fessenden and Sue Brown

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 294

Characters: Multiple Heroes

POV: Varies

Sub-Genre: Paranormal, Anthology

Kisses: 4.5

Blurb:

Gothika: Volume One

When a certain kind of man is needed, why not make him to order? Such things can be done, but take care: Much can go wrong—but then, sometimes it can go wonderfully right. Imagine…

In The Golem of Mala Lubovnya, a seventeenth century rabbi creates a man of clay to protect the Jews, and the golem lives a life his maker never imagined, gaining a name—Emet—and the love of a good man, Jakob Abramov. But their love may not survive when Emet must fulfill his violent purpose.

In Watchworks, Luke Prescott lives as a gentleman in a London that never was. His unique needs bring him to famed watchmaker Harland Wallace. Romance might blossom for them if Harland can come to terms with loving a man and keeping him safe.

In Made for Aaron, a young man in an asylum for being gay met the love of his life, Damon Fox. Twenty years later, Aaron thinks his life is over when Damon dies and then disappears from the hospital. Aaron is determined to find the truth, but secrets hide the unthinkable.

Reparations unfolds on the harsh planet of Kalan, where weakness cannot be tolerated. When Edward needs help, his life becomes entwined with exceptional cyborg slave, Knox. But when Knox remembers things he shouldn’t know, the two may pay a blood price for their taboo alliance.

Review:

Stitch is a Multi-Authored Anthology that left this reader yearning for more! Each and every story was intriguing and filled with plenty of romance with unique and well-written characters. I was quickly swept up into the addictive storylines these authors’ created and loved every minute I spent reading it.

One of the things that I’ve come to expect when it comes to reading Anthologies is that there are going to be some stories that I’m going to love and some that don’t resonate with me as a reader. I was floored by all of the creative storytelling abilities each of these authors have and enjoyed the stories they had to tell.

I can’t really pick a favorite story or a least favorite because I loved them all. Each and everyone brings something special to the anthology and if you like plenty of romance and even some nail-biting gothic suspense, this is definitely the book for you.

Highly Recommended!

Reviewed By: Gabbi

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Anne Reviews: The Stark Divide by J. Scott Coatsworth

TITLE: The Stark Divide
Author: J. Scott Coatsworth
Publisher: DSP Publications
Pages: 269
Characters: various LGBTQ/straight. Although there are relationships, the focus of this story isn’t a romance.
POV: 3rd
Sub-Genre: Series, Science Fiction
Kisses: 5

Blurb:
Some stories are epic.

The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.

Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.

From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.

Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.

Review:
When I read a book by J. Scott Coatsworth I know I’m going to be treated to a story with fabulous world building, and interesting characters. The Stark Divide has all of that and more. One thing I really loved about this story is that although there are romances, they don’t drive it. Also it is populated by diverse characters with differing sexualities IE gay, straight, bi, and trans, which is accepted by this society in the future. The issues here aren’t that, but how mankind has ruined the Earth, both ecologically and because of war. The author has done a great job in taking current concerns and extrapolating where they might lead the future human race if we continue on our current course. The tent city for refugees in one part of the story echoed current news stories scarily well.

I loved the nods to other SF authors, such as Asimov and McCaffrey. Some were direct mentions, others more subtle.

The world building is interesting, and different to anything I’ve read before. Although the ship-mind has echoes of Anne McCaffrey’s ship series, Coatsworth uses it as a springboard, and flies. The ship-mind, world-mind, and station-mind are interesting, developed characters, as are the humans who take centre stage in this story. The idea of growing a planet using biological technology is brilliant, and it was obvious the more I read that it is very well thought out. I also liked how the author split the book into three different time periods, each one jumping forward from the previous. It gives the story an epic feel, which is perfect for what it is—the rebirth of the human race on another world told through the perspective of not only those who are key players in that journey but of the world itself, and the generation ship it becomes. The linking of time periods through both older versions of already familiar characters, and the introduction of the next generation was nicely done, as was the expansion of the planet-mind.

I liked too, that the characters are very human, and take the time to cry, whether in relief or grief. I felt as though I was reading about real people. Not all of them have the greatest of intentions, they make mistakes, and are often driven by emotions that are a mix of good and not so good.

The descriptive of space is wonderfully emotive—“the stars poking brilliant holes in the firmament above.” The descriptions of Forever—the name given to the world by the colonists—are not overdone as to bog down the story, yet make the setting very easy to visualise. I spent several evenings getting lost in the story and staying up far too late in order to read just one more chapter.

I’d recommend The Stark Divide to readers who enjoy science fiction with detailed world building, interesting characters, and an epic story. Highly recommended.

Reviewed By: Anne

Click HERE to purchase The Stark Divide

Kimberly Reviews: High Balls by Tara Lain

Title: High Balls

Author: Tara Lain

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 163

Characters: Theodore, Snake, Andy

POV: 3rd

Sub-Genre: Contemporary

Kisses: 4 

Blurb:

Though only twenty-six, single father Theodore Walters lives with his head in the clouds and his feet firmly planted in reality. At the center of his life is Andy, his seven-year-old son, with whom he shares no DNA, though nobody—including his religious-fanatic in-laws—knows that, and Theodore will do anything to keep them from finding out. Theodore works hard to get his PhD and the tenure and salary that might follow to make a better life for Andy—but the head of his department thinks his dissertation on Jane Austen and romance novels is frivolous. 

Theodore’s carefully planned life goes off the rails when he walks into a popular Laguna Beach bar and meets the bartender, “Snake” Erasmo, a pierced and tattooed biker who sends Theodore’s imagination—and libido—soaring. Snake has even more secrets than Theodore and couldn’t be a less “appropriate” match, but he might be the only guy with the skills to show Theodore that happily ever after is for real.

Review:

An intriguing storyline, a dose of mystery, and some family-time bonding all makes for a wonderful novel from Tara Lain. This novel is part of the Balls to the Wall series and makes for a great new addition.

If you’d like to read all the novels released thus far, the order is as follows:

  • Volley Balls
  • Fire Balls
  • Beach Balls
  • Fast Balls
  • High Balls

Theodore and Snake’s relationship might appear to be a case of opposites attract, but we soon learn that the two might have more in common than first thought. Plus, with Theodore’s son Andy thrown in, they have the makings of a true forever family. I love a feel-good story! There were a number of interlocking plotlines going on in this, which made you want to keep turning the page to figure out where it would go next. Not only is there the developing relationship between Theodore and Snake, but also a custody threat from Andy’s grandparents that might put their ultimate happiness in danger. And if that weren’t enough, there’s also the stress of Theodore going through his PhD defense and working against the departmental disrespect that he’s constantly having to face because of his chosen research topic. It all makes for one grand adventure.

While I liked the story very much, there were a few drawbacks that reduced my enjoyment just a bit. First was the wandering POV, switching between Theodore and Snake, sometimes in the middle of the chapter. I’m more of a fan of a dedicated POV when reading, or at least a switch that comes at a chapter break to give it more separation. Secondly, the reference to Theodore’s fellow TA kept switching between his first and last name. It kept confusing me, and I had to pause to remember that the two names were the same person. Lastly, the character of JP Rellico was very flat and did not pose any sort of threat, nor any sort of real interaction with the plot. He was a seen, but not heard entity that caused little drama since the custody issue was cleared up relatively quickly.

However, even those few drawbacks weren’t enough to detract completely from such a great novel. I loved the evolving relationship between Theodore and Snake, the flawed and complicated nature of both their characters, and how they overcame many obstacles to end up together. I am rooting for their happily ever after. They deserve all the happiness, because they certainly provided me happiness while reading.

Recommended!

Reviewed By: Kimberly

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Kimberly Reviews: Waking the Behr by Pat Henshaw

Title: Waking the Behr

Author: Pat Henshaw

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 88

Characters: Ben, Mitch, Connor, Abe

POV: 1st

Sub-Genre: Contemporary

Kisses: 3.5 

Blurb:

Both Ben and Mitch think they know exactly what they want. Turns out, they don’t even know their own hearts.

Good old boy Ben has dated women his entire life, while gay nightclub owner Mitch has never considered unsophisticated country boys his type. But after they start hanging out, the small-town contractor and the urban entrepreneur are both stunned by the electricity sparking between them.

As they step outside their comfort zones to spend time together, Mitch finds he enjoys rural car rallies, and Ben is intrigued by the upscale bars Mitch owns in San Francisco. When they share their lives and grow closer, they start to question the way they’ve always defined themselves. Then they kiss and fling open the door to love. Now they must step up and travel the road that may lead to happily ever after—even if that path isn’t one they ever expected to walk. 

Review:

Love doesn’t follow the rules, as main character Ben soon learns in Walking the Behr. Although both his brothers, Abe and Connor, have come out as gay prior, Mitch never thought he’d do so as well. That is, until Mitch wandered into his town and into his life. Now Ben is wondering what this new-found attraction means and if he’s been hiding a part of himself all his life.

What I liked about this story is that the author didn’t immediately jump from attraction to acceptance too quickly. Ben has to take time and really consider why he’s suddenly attracted to a man. And he also must consider if that attraction is even real, since it’s a jumble of emotion inside his head and all new feelings for Ben. The ongoing pull between being territorial over Mitch and wondering if his brother, Connor, is actually the better partner for this rich city boy was a great thread that ran through the first part of the book. It made the developing relationship feel more real.

The one component I didn’t like, or perhaps just didn’t understand, was the presence of Mitch’s ex, Glen, throughout their tour of Mitch’s clubs. He was just annoying and always-present, but didn’t seem to pose any real threat, even when he was described as looking for a fight. If he had been utilized as a real threat, I could see him playing a more dynamic role. At present, though, he was just a detour from the story that I could gladly overlook. 

All in all, though, Walking the Behr was a sweet, romantic story of two men who seemed to be such opposites, yet found commonality in their love for one another. I’m not sure what the future holds for Ben and Mitch, but I do know that I enjoyed seeing the two of them becoming one.

Reviewed By: Kimberly

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