Gabbi Reviews: My Fair Captain by JL Langley

Title: Sci-Regency, Book 1: My Fair Captain

Author: JL Langley

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 244

Characters: Nathaniel Hawkins, Prince Aiden Townsend

POV: 3rd

Sub-Genre: Science Fiction, Series

Kisses: 5+

Blurb:

A Sci-Regency Novel

When Intergalactic Navy Captain Nathaniel Hawkins goes undercover to investigate the theft of an IN weapons stash, the mission raises painful memories from his past. Using a title he fled nearly two decades earlier, Nate once again becomes the Earl of Deverell, heir to the Duke of Hawthorne, in order to navigate the ins and outs of a Regency world. But planet Regelence—where young lords are supposed to remain pure until marriage—has a few surprises for Nate, not least of which is his attraction to Prince Aiden.

A talented artist, Prince Aiden Townsend isn’t interested in politics and the machinations of society gentlemen, and he adamantly rejects the idea of marriage and a consort. Aiden wants the freedom to pursue his art and determine his own future. But the arrival of the dashing and mysterious Deverell awakens feelings of passion and longing the young prince can’t deny.

As Nate uncovers a conspiracy reaching far beyond the stolen weapons, his future is irrevocably altered by the temptations of a life he never thought he could have. Drawn into the web of intrigue, Aiden is in danger of losing his life… and his heart.

Review:

My Fair Captain by JL Langley is one of my all-time favorite books. I read and have re-read the first edition years ago and it has been one of my comfort reads ever since it was published in 2007. When Dreamspinner Press republished it as a second edition, I jumped at the chance to read and review this re-edited and revamped edition of it.

Since the blurb does an excellent job at describing the story, I won’t rehash it. Instead, I thought I’d write about why I love this story and why I consider it a desert island keeper.

Ms. Langley writes heroes that are easy to identify with. They are flawed, likable men who is so easy to come to care for. It’s also easy to see that Ms. Langley loves her heroes because they live and breathe off the written page. You feel as if you are experiencing their journey with them. I loved every minute I spent watching their lives intertwine with each other, and I’m always enraptured by the story they have to tell.

The romance between Nate and Aiden is beautifully told. From the first moment they meet, sparks fly, and it seems to be a natural transition for them to fall in love. What’s even better is…these two men genuinely like and respect one another. Their admiration for their partner is something, as a reader, that I love to watch unfold before me. I love how they love each other and the sexual chemistry between them truly sizzle up the pages they are written on.

Not only will you love Nate and Aiden, you’ll fall in love with the secondary characters, too. Every character in this book *and beyond* have something to bring to the story. I quickly found myself wishing Ms. Langley wrote faster so I could about their lives and future loves. Out of all the secondary characters, you’ll fall in love with Aiden’s two fathers…omg…they are a hoot and soooo sexy together. I hope Ms. Langley writes a prequel about them one day…hint, hint.

The romance drives the story but there is a whodunit mystery that is also intriguing. Between the suspense, danger, and romance, My Fair Captain, will keep you captivated with Nate and Aiden’s story from start to finish.

I simply adore this book and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I’m glad I read the second edition and enjoyed it as much as the original one. If you love highly romantic tales that will live with you long after you finish the book, then My Fair Captain is the book for you.

Highly Recommended!

Reviewed By: Gabbi

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Kimberly Reviews: The Best Worst Honeymoon Ever by Andrew Grey

Title: The Best Worst Honeymoon Ever

Author: Andrew Grey

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press, Dreamspun Desires

Pages: 190

Characters: Tommy, Grayson, Petey

POV: 3rd

Sub-Genre: Contemporary

Kisses: 4.5

 Blurb:

How can heartbreak turn into happily ever after?

Tommy Gordon is all set for happily ever after—until heartbreak strikes when his husband-to-be leaves him at the altar. In a bid for distraction, his best friend, Grayson Phillips, suggests he takes advantage of the luxury honeymoon anyway! But the last thing Tommy wants is to go alone, so he invites Grayson and his son, Petey, along.

Beautiful Bonaire lends itself to romance, and along with close quarters, relaxing on the water, and a matchmaking kid, Tommy and Grayson soon find themselves closer than ever… and considering more, much to Grayson’s delight. But before they can plan the best best honeymoon ever, dark clouds descend in the form of Tommy’s ex and a sting from paradise that could ruin everything.

Review:

Friends to lovers stories are always a favorite of mine, as are kids-fics, so The Best Worst Honeymoon Ever hit all the right buttons for me. Left at the altar, poor Tommy Gordon feels like his life is over and just wants to be left alone to sulk inside his house in isolation. His best friend, Grayson, isn’t going to let that happen. Instead, they’re going to take the honeymoon trip that Tommy’s already paid for and have a great vacation together, along with Grayson’s son, Petey. And what develops in the island paradise of Bonaire will change their lives for the better.

In terms of character background, I felt like we got quite a rich and cohesive story for the main characters. We find out how Petey entered Grayson’s life and what his current status is, as well as what befell Grayson’s past relationship in terms of prioritizing his son. And we got information on how Tommy and Grayson became friends, standing beside each other over the years, as well as how Tommy’s been a part of Petey’s life since Grayson started raising him. Should we get a sequel within this universe, I’d like to see some more exploration around Petey’s mother, as well as Tommy’s aunt. Both of these women got a bit of time within the story, but there is much more to delve into for both of them. Perhaps we’ll get to learn more later.

I enjoyed seeing how both Tommy and Grayson’s unsaid attraction to each other finally got to come to the forefront. They had such an easy relationship as friends, and Tommy already treated Petey as a beloved nephew, so the transition was pretty smooth to being lovers. There were hints towards the need to ease Petey into the changed status, but overall there didn’t appear to be any real issues ahead. Even the supposed threats from Tommy’s former fiance, Xavier, didn’t put any real barriers towards their eventual committed relationship status.

If you enjoy happily-ever-after stories where best friends become a family, The Best Worst Honeymoon Ever is a great choice! Life can throw curve-balls, and threats might be lurking around the corner, but in the end, it all works out. I look forward to what else Andrew Grey brings us with these characters.

Reviewed By: Kimberly

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Lydia Reviews: Crocus by Amy Lane

Title: Crocus

Author: Amy Lane

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 244

Genre: Contemporary, Series

Kisses: 5

Blurb:

Saying “I love you” doesn’t guarantee peace or a happy ending.

High school principal “Larx” Larkin was pretty sure he’d hit the jackpot when Deputy Sheriff Aaron George moved in with him, merging their two families as seamlessly as the chaos around them could possibly allow.

But when Larx’s pregnant daughter comes home unexpectedly and two of Larx’s students are put in danger, their tentative beginning comes crashing down around their ears.

Larx thought he was okay with the dangers of Aaron’s job, and Aaron thought he was okay with Larx’s daughter—who is not okay—but when their worst fears are almost realized, it puts their hearts and their lives to the test. Larx and Aaron have never wanted anything as badly as they want a life together. Will they be able to make it work when the world is working hard to keep them apart?

Review: 

Crocus is the second book in the Bonfires series.  It continues the story of Larx and Aaron, as well as their children.  Because of this, if you have not read the first book you may want to skip this review because it will have spoilers.

Since the end of Bonfires, Larx and Aaron have moved in with each other, blending their families.  They also have foster child Kellan living with them.

Both men are also dealing with problems surrounding their oldest daughters.  For Larx, it is Olivia’s radical behavior and now that she is pregnant he is even more worried.  For Aaron, it is Tiff and her reaction to the changes in her father’s life.  I will say that more than once I wanted to smack her because of the way she carried on.  Thankfully it appears as if their youngest, and Kellan get along perfectly as siblings.  While life at home is busy, and the two men are having a little trouble finding alone time, it is the problems at work that may end up throwing a monkey wrench into their relationship.

Two of Larx’s “kids” from school are going to bring a world of problems to Larx’s doorstep.  Unfortunately, they also fall onto Aaron’s radar and what results makes Larx’s think twice about him and Aaron.  In the end, though he knows that his happiness lies with the Deputy

I love the way these two men are with each other and their children.  I also love the way they are so open to adding to their brood, bringing those in need close to them.  In Crocus, the men add Jaime, Elton, and Berto.  Elton is Olivia’s boyfriend who shows up looking for Larx’s daughter.  I had to laugh at the nickname the family gives him but am glad he was not upset to be known as wombat willie.  As for Jaime and Berto, they are brothers who left gang life behind them.  It was not easy for them and Berto now suffers from PTSD, as well as guilt that he is not able to take better care of his younger brother.  When one of Jaime’s classmates, who happens to be his neighbor ends up in trouble the boys get pulled in.

I could not believe how brave Candace was.  To travel through the woods at night during a snowstorm takes a lot of guts, even if she is just a fictional character.  This just shows the work the author goes through to make the characters, main and secondary, so believable.

While Ms. Lane may not be for everyone, her stories are some of my favorites and the author is one I go to on a regular basis.  I hope she has plans to add to this series and I would love to see more of Larx and Aaron.

Reviewed by: Lydia

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Kimberly Reviews: BFF by KC Wells

Title: BFF

Author: KC Wells

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 200

Characters: David, Matt

POV: 1st

Sub-Genre: Contemporary

Kisses: 4 

Blurb:

I’m about to do something huge, and it could change… everything.

I met Matt in second grade, and we’ve been inseparable ever since. We went to the same schools, studied at the same college. When we both got jobs in the same town, we shared an apartment. And when my life took an unexpected turn, Matt was there for me. Every milestone in my life, he was there to share it. And what’s really amazing? After all these years, we’re still the best of friends.

Which brings me to this fragile, heart-stopping moment: I want to tell him I love him, really love him, but I’m scared to death of what he’ll say. If I’ve got this all wrong, I’ll lose him—forever.

Review:

I absolutely love best friends turned lovers stories, so hearing the blurb for BFF by KC Wells immediately put the novel on my must-read list. In a first person account, we got to hear how David and Matt grew up together, inseparable throughout life’s major milestones, and went from being best friends to roommates to something more. They were surrounded by a family who loved them and accepted them for who they were, even if the boys did not realize how deep their love for one another actually ran until they were older.

The characters themselves held rich potential. I thought that Wells dealt with David and Matt’s relationship with care and consideration, especially since it was inspired by true events. And the approach of both Matt’s brother, Darren, and Matt’s coworkers towards his sexuality felt truthful, as the world is complex and so is the acceptance of others when revealing who you love. We got to see the depth of the devotion that existed between David and Matt, as well as understanding how one particular incident could push them to finally admit how their relationship had changed. There’s much potential there for more exploration, should we get a sequel.

The framing of the book was a bit interesting, done as if David was writing up their history in the form of a book. While much of the novel developed through the use of timestamps, there were also inserts from the author in terms of notes as if he were looking back from an adult perspective and thinking about what the events meant with the benefit of current knowledge. I wasn’t a big fan of that aspect, since I felt like it broke up the development and timeline a bit too much. I was also hoping that we could get a more cohesive continuance of story rather than the quick check-ins that were presented. Many of the accounts took place during the summer or on holidays, jumping months or years in between. It left me wanting to spend more time with the characters to see them actually develop from one event to the next. It was more of a story where we were told what happened rather than experienced it.

Despite these minor drawbacks, BFF was a heart-warming peek into Matt and David’s lives and made me hope that we might revisit these characters again in the future, perhaps telling a story more in real-time in the next go-around. There’s certainly a rich history and a potentially-rich future to draw from. We saw them go from boys to boyfriends. What is next in their journey? 

Reviewed By: Kimberly

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Jet Reviews: The Wanderer by Rowan McAllister

Title: The Wanderer
Author:  Rowan McAllister
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 176
Characters: Yan and Lyuc
POV: 3rd person
Sub-Genre:  Fantasy, May/December
Kisses: 3.25

Blurb:

After centuries of traveling the continent of Kita and fighting the extradimensional monsters known as Riftspawn, mage Lyuc is tired and ready to back away from the concerns of humanity.

But the world isn’t done with him yet.

While traveling with a merchant caravan, Lyuc encounters Yan, an Unnamed, the lowest caste in society. Though Yan has nothing but his determination and spirit, he reminds Lyuc what passion and desire feel like. While wild magic, a snarky, shapeshifting, genderfluid companion, and the plots of men and monsters seem determined to keep Lyuc from laying down his burden, only Yan’s inimitable spirit tempts him to hang on for another lifetime or so.

All Yan wants is to earn the sponsorship of a guild so he can rise above his station, claim a place in society, and build the family he never had.

After hundreds of years of self-imposed penance, all Lyuc wants is Yan.

If they can survive prejudice, bandits, mercenaries, monsters, and nature itself, they might both get their wish… and maybe even their happily ever after.

Review:

In the Wanderer, you’ve got a wizard, a waif, and a magical element, all the ingredients needed for a fantasy tale. While traveling from one part of the continent of Kita, the wizard Lyuc and his magical companion Bryn, happen across Yan, a man looked down upon in society due to his lack of a family name, in service to the caravan their traveling with, trying to find his way in the world, leaving everything he’s ever known behind him.

The story focuses heavily on the pair and there were with a sprinkling of darker machinations. The plot is very linear, with most of it taking place on the road. Peril and pitfalls line the way, but they don’t feel like enough to break the monotony for me. The world Lyuc, Bryn, and Yan reside in is interesting if rife with hard to pronounce names. Yan is pretty straight forward, but the longer versions of Lyuc’s and Bryn’s names are harder for me to wrap my head around. I’m not even sure how to say “Lyuc” but. I’ve settled for something close to “Luke.”

The romance in this book is May/December again (a set up that I’ve mentioned my feelings on in previous reviews so I won’t harp on it too much here), though this one is so extreme, it’s more like January/December. There are parts in the narrative where Yan, the younger of the two, is shown to have a naiveté that bordered on unbelievable for me. He’s in his early 20s, but the way it’s presented, it makes him appear younger. Lyuc is ancient and while he doesn’t appear to be his true age, he is closer to that than the age of his love interest. When Yan has these episodes, it makes the age gap of more than a thousand years feel even wider. It didn’t happen often, but when it did it was a jarring reminder of this gulf between them that bothered me more than it did them.

That said, Eurocentric based fantasy isn’t really my thing for various reasons, but pushing my grievances aside, I did like this book for what it was. The world was interesting, if there wasn’t enough of it shown for me, there are a decent amount of sex scenes that were well done and they didn’t overshadow the story, the characters were engaging (though I’ll admit Bryn was by far my favorite) and though I felt the plot was a little too straight forward, it was tight with no real conflicts in the story or nagging holes.

If you’re a bigger fan of Euro-fantasy than I am, and enjoy long trips with interesting characters, then this might be the book for you.

Reviewed By: Jet

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Lydia Reviews: Sin and Tonic by Rhys Ford

Title: Sin and Tonic

Author: Rhys Ford

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 270

Genre: Mystery, Series

Kisses:5+

Blurb:

Miki St. John believed happy endings only existed in fairy tales until his life took a few unexpected turns… and now he’s found his own.

His best friend, Damien, is back from the dead, and their new band, Crossroads Gin, is soaring up the charts. Miki’s got a solid, loving partner named Kane Morgan—an Inspector with SFPD whose enormous Irish family has embraced him as one of their own—and his dog, Dude, at his side.

It’s a pity someone’s trying to kill him.

Old loyalties and even older grudges emerge from Chinatown’s murky, mysterious past, and Miki struggles to deal with his dead mother’s abandonment, her secrets, and her brutal murder while he’s hunted by an enigmatic killer who may have ties to her.

The case lands in Kane’s lap, and he and Miki are caught in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse. When Miki is forced to face his personal demons and the horrors of his childhood, only one thing is certain: the rock star and his cop are determined to fight for their future and survive the evils lurking in Miki’s past.

Review:

Sin and Tonic is the sixth and final book in the Sinners series by author Rhys Ford.  This book returns to the beginning with Miki and Kane as the MC’s and Miki’s past once again destroying his life.  When Edie, the band’s manager is approached regarding Miki’s mother she is shot during an exchange of information. The shooting messes with Miki’s head, especially since he is already having trouble adjusting to all the changes he has had to face over the last few years.

In my opinion, Ms. Ford always does a wonderful job developing a mystery that keeps the readers turning the pages, and Sin and Tonic is no different.  She pulls the readers back into the mystery of Miki’s birth and how he ended up on the streets and answers all the questions readers may have had.  There are a lot of twists and turns along the way. Some, the readers may see coming, and others that will surprise the reader.

Another aspect of Sin and Tonic that I enjoyed was seeing all the secondary characters come back, especially Donal and Brigid.  When Miki first met Kane’s parents he was unsure how to act or what to expect. Now as the years have passed, Miki has formed a tight bond with Donal, one that has him calling the older man Dad.  His relationship with Brigid, on the other hand, is still tense. In some ways this is understandable, yet I found myself feeling bad for Brigid. When Miki finally calls Brigid for help, I was as happy as she was.  There is also a change in Miki’s relationship with Damie. In many ways, this is understandable as their lives are following different paths with the loves of their lives. Yet, these two are brothers of the heart and will always find time for the other.

Finally, there is Miki and Kane.  These two have already been through so much and with the new threats to their lives, both men are worried.  But, where Kane is holding things together fighting to find out who is after his boyfriend, Miki is worried that Kane will finally reach the point of no return and break things off once and for all.  This fear leads Miki to act out in ways that are not normal for the young man and those around him are worried.

I sincerely hate seeing this series end.  From the beginning I found myself caring about all the characters, wanting to see them all get their happily ever afters.  The way Ms. Ford wraps up the series, however, is done in such a way that fans are sure to love it.

Reviewed by: Lydia

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Anne Reviews: The Gilded Scarab by Anna Butler

TITLE: The Gilded Scarab

Author:  Anna Butler

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 316

Characters: Rafe/Ned

POV: 1st

Sub-Genre: Series, Steampunk

Kisses: 5

Blurb:

When Captain Rafe Lancaster is invalided out of the Britannic Imperium’s Aero Corps after crashing his aerofighter during the Second Boer War, his eyesight is damaged permanently, and his career as a fighter pilot is over. Returning to Londinium in late November 1899, he’s lost the skies he loved, has no place in a society ruled by an elite oligarchy of powerful Houses, and is hard up, homeless, and in desperate need of a new direction in life.

Everything changes when he buys a coffeehouse near the Britannic Imperium Museum in Bloomsbury, the haunt of Aegyptologists. For the first time in years, Rafe is free to be himself. In a city powered by luminiferous aether and phlogiston, and where powerful men use House assassins to target their rivals, Rafe must navigate dangerous politics, deal with a jealous and possessive ex-lover, learn to make the best coffee in Londinium, and fend off murder and kidnap attempts before he can find happiness with the man he loves.

Review:

This story starts with a full on action scene which hooked me into the story immediately.  One of my first thoughts when reading this story was about how cool the technology is, and how I love the way the author has set up this steampunk type world.  It’s not just the technology which is well thought out and detailed, but everything about this world.  It felt as though I was reading about somewhere with a rich history rather than just something put together for this story.  I loved the way the author takes our technology and gives it a slightly different spin, like the characters using datareaders instead of ereaders.

I thought the social set up was very interesting with the different houses, the hierarchy within them, and the way in which a house pays for an individual’s education but is then owed something in return.  I enjoyed the politics within the story, and the layers it added to the world building.  As an aside, I’m also a big fan of the author’s Taking Shield series—she does a fabulous job with world building and politics in that too, although it’s a very different world from this one.

I loved the characters who inhabit this world, and in particular Rafe and Ned, although I guessed Ned’s true identity very early on.  This story is really Rafe’s as he and Ned don’t meet properly until mid way through the story, but I thought that worked well.  I liked the way Rafe and Ned’s friendship grows over time, and how they want to get to know each other, which is very sensible, especially considering their society’s stance on same sex relationships.   It fits with the time period in which this AU world is set, with its echoes of our own from the mention of Wilde, and WWI which is a few years off here.

I connected to all the characters immediately and found myself trying to work out who was who, and whether they were good guys or not, although I don’t want to comment too much about one character as that would be giving the plot away.  As an aside, I very much enjoyed the mention by a couple of customers from the colonies of New Zealand.  The supporting cast is great, and I enjoyed their interactions as Rafe sets up his coffee shop.

The action scenes as the tension and plot rack up are very edge-of-seat, and had me sitting up late reading as I needed to know what happened next.  Although this is book one in the series, I’ve already read and reviewed book two—which I loved as much as this one— and really hope the author has plans to continue writing about Rafe and Ned, and their life and adventures together.

I’d recommend The Gilded Scarab to readers who enjoy rich world building including a good dash of politics, solid storytelling, and interesting characters.

Reviewed By: Anne

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