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    REVIEW: The Assassin’s Dragon by W.M. Fawkes & Sam Burns

    Fire and Valor: The Assassin’s Dragon – W.M. Fawkes & Sam Burns

    In Atheldinas, everyone’s secrets have been uncovered. Tristram is a half-dragon, Nicholas is a villain scheming to take the throne from his cousin Roland, and eternally sharp Bet is nothing less than a hero.

    The cost has been high, and now Tristram is forced to amass the armies of Llangard to save his king from Jarl Vidar, the mysterious figure who’s hellbent on tearing Llangard in two. To get his king back and defeat the impending Tornish invasion, Tris will need the help of not only all his Llangardian allies, but the dragons of the Mawrcraig Mountains. If he cannot bring his two peoples together, no other stands a chance.

    But one last secret remains hidden in the harsh north, and uncovering it might be the undoing of all that Tristram and his allies have fought to protect.


    It’s unfair to compare every high fantasy to LOTR, just like it’s unfair to associate every magical academy plot to Harry Potter. However, I couldn’t help imagining the scenes from Return of the King when reading the war scenes of The Assassin’s Dragon.

    The 3rd book of Fire and Valor pulled out all the stops in this series finale. Last we know, King Roland was captive of Jarl Vidar, and Bet and Tristram are setting out for a rescue mission.

    Meanwhile, Princess Gillian is at the helm and trying her best to work with the dragons. Sidone and Rhiannon, with child mages-in-training in tow, arrive at Atheldinas to warn them of feral beasts about to attack the city.

    The story continues to cycle through several POVs, and by this time, everything flowed seamlessly.

    Bet Kyston – still shadowy and surly and working overtime to keep the Lord Regent, his beloved Tristram, safe from yet another assassination attempt. Bet’s relationship with King Roland is one of my favorite parts in the entire series. Since the 1st Book, The King’s Dragon, the half-elf has been kind to the neglected boy, and he fought to protect the young king to the very end.

    Tristram Radcliffe – Tris is now more settled and more comfortable with his dragon self. Loving the dynamics between him and his newly discovered dragon brother and father. Like Bet, Tris was fond of Roland since the beginning, and they are the two people the young king fully trusts.

    Sidone – the fierce protector and honorable knight, along with her lady dragon, Rhiannon, is helping the city prepare for war. If I knew how to draw, I’d make a fanart of her astride her dragon. Most anime/game female knights are horribly, impractically dressed, so I’m loving the image of Sir Sidone in full proper armor with her lovely copper hair in braids. So cool!

    Rhiannon – She is back in fighting form! Also, standing side by side with her brother Maddox against Jarl Vidar’s army. Rhiannon plays city defender and mediator between the rather difficult Queen Halwen, her dragons, and Atheldinas.

    Maddox – this dragon prince took me a while to warm up to, but Maddox eventually won me over after he got along with Tristram. His mom, Queen Halwen, was a tough nut to crack, but Maddox was stubborn enough to break through her walls and strong enough to lead the dragons to war. It’s time for a dragon king!

    Princess Gillian – Girl gave me the high-level spells I’ve been dying to see! She not only saved the city, she saved the entire country! She could have been Queen of Llandgard. She’d rather be the Mother of Dragons.

    Bowen – the grizzled warrior continues his life mission to protect the young and the weak. Bowen is the definition of competence and strength. He is a close confidant of the dragon Queen Dorteia, who saw the warrior could use some spark of joy in his life. She helped him finally come to terms with his feelings for the young dragon, Hafgan.

    Hafgan – this twink has an old dragon wrapped around his little finger. Hafgan is protective of the dragon eggs they retrieved from the Jarl, having lost his entire clan previously. In Book 2, The Prince’s Dragon , he was forced to leave his brother, Dragon, behind. The much-awaited reunion between the two did not disappoint.

    Rhys – dragon daddy is the first to admit he’s not a warrior, but the mage scholar still fought fiercely in the final battle. Took Rhys a couple of decades, but I’m glad he finally has his entire family together.

    Roland – this king is only nine-years old but has seen things that would turn most adults’ stomach. Super amused with how this young boy could run circles around a centuries-old enemy. His POV, along with Dragon’s, is my favorite. I loved how it was written as a child’s perspective but with wisdom well beyond his age.

    Dragon – Dragon’s POV is my most anticipated of all! The most cinnamon roll of cinnamon rolls, this poor child has been held captive for years and purposefully underfed to keep him under control. Roland befriended him while the king was also a prisoner of the Jarl. Their scenes were the most moving, especially that feather quill, that thing hurt my chest!

    There were some parts, especially in the first chapters, where my attention waned. Past that hiccup, the story flowed smoothly and swiftly. It was also more action-packed. The multi-specie horde, with the feral dragon beasts, is why LOTR comes to mind.

    The battle scenes were short and to the point. I loved that it spared me the tedious details, but they were almost too short for me to savor the badassery of the characters. The fight scenes were over before I knew it. Still, it was a spectacular finale.

    The Assassin’s Dragon unites former enemies to fight against the real enemy of Llandgard. This heart-stopping conclusion to an epic series has the kind of thrilling scenes that would make every high fantasy geek swoon!

    Here be dragons, knights, assassins, mages, royals, and one clever boy king holding the fate of Llandgard in their hands!

    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: Freedom
    Artist: Ado
    Album: Kyougen

    Fire and Valor should be read in order.

    There’s something sinister brewing in Atheldinas in The King’s Dragon.

    Secrets are not so much as coming out, but more like, hurtled into the open in The Prince’s Dragon 


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    REVIEW: His Fatal Love by Leighton Greene

    West Coast Mobsters: His Fatal Love – Leighton Greene

    Easily bored, completely manipulative, and utterly deadly…and that’s just in bed.

    As an assassin for the Castellani Family, I live for the thrill of the job.
    I’m devoted to my Family and my Don, because they keep me safe.

    To Leo Bernardi, I’m a monster.
    A killing machine.
    And a puppet that his Family can use for their own ends.

    To me, Leo is just a pawn in a game that I’m playing.
    A means to an end.
    And if I have a little fun with him along the way, who cares?

    Leo thinks he can seduce me. Tame me. Use me.
    In this game of cat and mouse, the Bernardi Lion is about to get a big surprise.

    But the more entangled we become, the more I start to feel…

    Things I didn’t think I was capable of feeling.

    Things I’ve never wanted to feel.

    In my line of work, love is a fatal flaw. But the more time we spend together, the harder I fall.

    Leo Bernardi is my greatest enemy…
    Could he also be my greatest love?

    **

    Dive into a forbidden romance between a psychopath assassin and a Mob Enforcer. Get ready for seductions and betrayals, scorching love scenes, and an unforgettable romance as a cold case comes back to haunt two Families sworn to destroy each other.


    If you have read the Morelli Family series, Julian Castellani most likely made himself memorable with his specially made intimate jewelry, attempting to seduce a well-placed Morelli. Unlike Alessandro, who prefers a low-key profile, this Castellani brother embraces the limelight and his notoriety.

    His Fatal Love is Julian investigating the murder of his beloved mother he witnessed when he was five years old. A lil mystery that I didn’t realize until the big twist was revealed was why Julian was questioning the identity of the killer despite seeing the crime happening right before his eyes.

    Julian has been called many names, psychopath being one. To which he is quick to reply, “undiagnosed“. An expert assassin on par with Jack, Julian is practically a ninja the way he can go in and out any tightly guarded place. He either feels nothing or feels too much, no in-betweens.

    Two complicated relationships are with Alessandro and Jack.

    Alessandro and Julian have always been antagonistic. There were even moments I felt Julian was going to kill his brother. Book 2, His Brutal Heart, put that to rest, and happily, Alessandro and Julian have somehow come to a truce, and along with Jack coming back to the fold, it makes for a stronger Castellani Family.

    I think Julian has a teeny-tiny bit of brother complex. Alessandro has a thing for blonds, and light-haired Julian always tries to provoke his brother by mentioning this in his on-going game of notice me, onii-chan.

    Also, the way he describes Alessandro by smell that was somewhat too intimate for brothers, even half-brothers. Turns out, he catalogues everyone’s smell. There’s a reason for this and I loved the stealthy way the story connected it to everything that’s happening.

    Trust is one of the major themes, and Julian is known to be spectacularly untrustworthy. Jack, the top Castellani assassin from His Lethal Desire, wouldn’t let his boyfriend, Miller, anywhere near the younger Castellani.

    When Jack tried to explain what trust is and why he doesn’t trust him, Julian struggled to understand the concept. This psychopath assassin is somebody who will kiss you passionately then, quick as a snap, give you a Sparta kick down an oubliette. 

    As Leo Bernardi discovered.

    Leo is the second son of Don Bernardi and works as the Enforcer. He struggling to gain his father’s respect, which was doubly hard since his father is homophobic. The connection between the Bernardi Lion and Julian is a convoluted scheme cooked up by the don that makes use of the fact that Leo is gay and has to seduce the younger Castellani to the Bernardi side.

    The plot was a thrilling game of seduction, secret identities, double agents, hard bargains and rough sex. It was gripping and twisty turn-y, weaving Julian’s investigation and mafia politics with his character development, relationship with Alessandro, growing feelings between him and Leo, and a surprising secret vulnerability that explains many quirks.

    Leo might be less flashier than Julian, but the Bernardi Lion has a dominant presence, similar ruthlessness, and indomitable will to finish a mission. Used to being the brawn, he’s a lot smarter than he gives himself credit for.

    Leo is loyal to a fault but has no qualms withdrawing that loyalty when a person is no longer worthy of such gift. So when his loyalties shifted to Julian who earned it the hard way, it stayed with him for good.

    I couldn’t imagine before who Leighton Greene would pair Julian with. But now that I’ve meet him, Leo Bernardi is the perfect match. He softens Julian’s rougher edges without stifling the feral wildness that makes Julian who he is.

    We may have come from different worlds, but we fit together perfectly. We have our own secret language—a language of revenge, of love, of passion and violence.

    My favorite parts were the scenes where Julian was confused why his chest feels tight or almost painful. He was so endearingly bewildered, not realizing he was feeling emotions he never felt before. Feelings like concern, fear, happiness, and love. All because of Leo.

    His Fatal Love is a fascinating tale of vendetta, blood ties and Family vows. It is one man’s heart-opening journey and a second son coming into his own. All in all, intensely feral, wildly passionate and fatally emotional!

    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: Love and War
    Artist: Fleurie
    Album: Love and War

    P.S.

    West Coast Mobsters should be read in order. They’re delicious mafia romances with a fairy tale flavor.

    Witness a Cinderfella hitman style in His Lethal Desire and a darker take on Beauty and the Beast in His Brutal Heart.


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    REVIEW: His Lethal Desire by Leighton Greene

    West Coast Mobsters: His Lethal Desire – Leighton Greene

    There’s nothing more lethal than a hitman in love.

    Johnny “Jack” Jacopo was once the Castellani Family’s top hitman, but one terrible mistake saw him kicked back down the ladder. So when the Boss orders him to look into the disappearance of a Hollywood starlet, Jack sees an opportunity to rise back up the Family ranks.

    His first move is to question the missing actress’s twin brother. Miller Beaumont is charming, gorgeous, flirty…and he’s the same guy who was hitting on Jack in a bar the night before.

    Jack tries to keep things strictly business, but Miller has access to inside information that Jack needs to solve the case. And it’s just too tempting when Miller proposes that they team up to find his sister.

    As their search leads them into danger, Jack finds he has more to lose than he ever expected. Someone is coming after Miller, and Jack finds himself torn between duty to his Family and his own foolish heart.

    Because despite himself, Jack is making one more mistake, the biggest of them all, the one dumb thing he swore he’d never do.

    He’s falling in love.

    ***

    His Lethal Desire is the first book in the West Coast Mobsters series. Follow the men of the Los Angeles underworld in this page-turning romantic suspense series as they find love, danger and mystery in the most unexpected places.

    Each book in West Coast Mobsters tells the love story of a different couple who find their happy ending, as well as a resolution to the mystery they’re investigating, but there are cliffhangers to the wider suspense plot for the series.


    I picked this up only because I was intrigued by the 5th Book’s premise about a virgin butler framed for murder. And since I always have the compulsion to read a series in order, I have to start here.

    His Lethal Desire, Book 1 of West Coast Mobsters, quickly made me realize it’s more than just a necessary hurdle. It has everything I love about mafia romance!

    The thrill of flirting with danger, the possessive smoldering passion, the intriguing mix of dark and good wrapped in a gorgeous bad boy persona. And if we’re lucky, there’d be a lot of bi-lingual sweet nothings and cusses, too.

    The story also has a bonus twist that caught my attention immediately. Johnny ‘Jack’ Jacopo, formerly top hitman for the Castellanis, was demoted to foot soldier and bar security. It’s rare for me to encounter a demoted mafioso, usually they don’t even get second chances when they fuck up.

    The WCM series is a spin-off of the Morelli Family, and in the last book, a Vegas mob boss put a hit on Jack. Don Ciro Castellani offered protection, so Jack is stuck in LA.

    Jack is in the unique position of being very good at what he used to do to just be thrown away. Also, he saved the Don’s son, Sandro’s life in a way that forced him to do something Sandro considers betrayal. The two used to be close friends, but Sandro has reserved the rights to kill Jack. He’s only alive because of the Don.

    Now, the Don is giving him a chance for a re-promotion. He’s tasked to find a missing actress, Anais Beaumont, and he’s given a lead, the actress’s twin, Miller. The same person Jack’s been eyeing across the bar for weeks. The person who shamelessly flirted and kissed him the night before.

    I’m not too familiar with the technicalities of a story, so I my reviews are just me squee-ing at stuff. But sometimes, I hear people say it’s a character-driven story. Not sure if this book is like that, but I could definitely say Jack is the main driving force for me here.

    He’s your typical mafioso, a bit jaded and too used to violence. But he’s internal dialogues are compelling, showing his vulnerable side, his fears, and sometimes, when he dare hope, his plans to get away from LA.

    And my favorite part about Jack is his loyalty. Even Ciro Castellani recognizes that Jack’s brand of loyalty is not something that could ever be bought by money. That’s why he wants him to guard Sandro, but sure as hell, the two will end up killing each other.

    The best part is when that loyalty shifted to Miller.

    We Jacopos only ever got one shot at love, my father had once told me. You won’t give a damn about anyone until suddenly you do, and that’ll be it. Forever. Even if they leave, even if they die. You’ll still love them, and you can try with someone else, even make it work for a while, but it won’t be the same.

    One shot at love, Johnny. It’s just the way things are for us Jacopos.

    Miller and his sister were child actors. But unlike his twin, who still a star, Miller is mostly forgotten, and he spends his time partying hard to fill the emptiness. He doesn’t do substance abuse, thankfully. Secretly, he’s a talented painter, but years of being belittled did a number on his confidence.

    I didn’t warm up to Miller immediately, but the more I knew about him, the more I learn that he has a big heart. He puts the people he loves first, and it is unfortunate that those people are narcissists. Miller doesn’t deserved how his family treated him.

    From their meet-cute at the bar to the very last page, Jack and Miller’s chemistry is DELICIOUS! Their romance developed organically, not too insta and not too slow-burn. And it’s just FANTASTIC all the way through! Jack’s world is Miller, and our boy Miller, with his selfless heart, deserves all the love in the world.

    Aside from the romance, the rest of the book was a solid read. The mystery was fascinating. There were a lot of clues and personalities involved, and I didn’t put it together until the part Miller saw the USB.

    The action and suspense were engaging, and I loved how the resolution left room for more Jack and Miller in the succeeding book. The only thing I didn’t like was how the thing with Annie was left open.

    There were plenty of secondary characters whom I’m super excited to read about, like Sandro and Teddy, Sandro’s half-brother and resident psycho Julian, as well as Miller’s friend Nate and Jack’s friend Freddy.

    And I really appreciated Leighton Greene‘s writing style. Aside from her well-executed storytelling, she writes in short paragraphs. I hope other writers would keep this in mind because most people read ebooks nowadays. Short paragraphs are easy on weak eyes if you’re reading from a screen.

    His Lethal Desire is a story of dysfunctional families, shifting loyalties and plans gone awry, where a demoted hitman falls in love with a washed up Hollywood star, and the powers that be lay claim to their bodies, their souls, and their lives.

    Overall, squee-tastic like butterflies in the stomach, lethal like arrow straight to the heart.

    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: Arrow
    Artist: Teagan and Sara
    Album: Sainthood

    P.S.

    I wanted this so badly in audiobook. This deserves a Michael Ferraiuolo performance!


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    REVIEW: The Prince’s Dragon by W.M. Fawkes & Sam Burns

    Fire and Valor: The Prince’s Dragon – W.M. Fawkes & Sam Burns

    The last place Lord Tristram Radcliffe ever expected to find himself was right hand to the Llangardian throne. His parentage should have seen him banished, but he managed to keep his draconic secret. Now, King Reynold is dead. Long live King Roland.

    The boy ascends to rule a kingdom in chaos, and Tristram must undo the damage of the last king’s reign to save his people from lean winter and wolves in the palace itself. Reynold’s former shadow, Bet Kyston, is determined to root out King Roland’s enemies, but his version of help may cause as much harm as good.

    There remains a traitor near to the throne, and when the king falls mysteriously ill, Tristram’s strongest ally is forced to leave court. As his enemies move closer, the strength of Tristram’s regency is more precarious than ever. Abandoned and friendless, Tristram must sacrifice everything to protect his homeland or risk not only Roland’s life, but his own.


    The Prince’s Dragon is the second book of Fire and Valor, an engrossing high fantasy series by writer duo W.M. Fawkes and Sam Burns. The books are not standalone since they end in cliffhangers.

    The story picks up immediately after the events of The King’s Dragon. The new king, Roland, was poisoned and now lies in his sick bed. The Regent, Lord Tristram Radcliff, with help from his lover, Bet Kyston, does his best to balance court duties and going toe to toe with traitorous Cavendish relatives hungry for power.

    Meanwhile dragons are attacking dragons and holding captives. Among those captured was the young dragon Hafgan. The summer clan suffered severe losses, and are moving south to somewhere near the court. (I have no idea how to spell the names of places since I’m audiobooking this so I will not attempt)

    The book is still in multiple POVs, with new ones introduced. Now that I am familiar with the Fire and Valor world, the shift in POVs didn’t hinder anymore. I was able to focus more on the narrative and enjoy the tale as it unfolds.

    This time, the different POVs worked better at giving us the bigger picture and a more detailed look at the world, especially outside the court, connecting different faraway characters.

    Lord Regent Tristam Radcliff – not interested in the throne, never will be now that he knows first hand what a headache it is to run a kingdom. But as the only person King Roland trusts to be his proxy, Tris takes his duties to heart and will defend king and Llandgard, and a certain half-elf, to death. His big scene in the ending was BAM!

    Bet Kyston – ninja elf, a.k.a. assassin, a.k.a. king’s shadow, became my favorite character here. I felt sorry for how he was abandoned by his mother. I loved how his character grew. Bet has no problems sticking a knife to whoever hurt the boy king, legalities be damned. That he loves sticking things in the lord regent, is an ongoing bet in knightly circles.

    Rhiannon – currently healing in the special pool in the monastery. The fierce dragon is surprisingly shy, or is it vain, to show herself to Sidone while she’s recuperating. Struck a bargain with Princess Gillian while there. I’d love to see Rhiannon in battle once more.

    Sir Sidone – this knight stuck with her lady through thick and thin. Not much going on with her in this installment, but I’d love to see her in action in the future astride her dragon because that would be so cool!

    Bowen – a grizzled old stone dragon forced to sell his fellow dragons to slavery. That his hoard is pretty delicate flowers might be a sign that his tough exterior hides a marshmallow heart.

    Hafgan – our sweet sunshine dragon who might just win the heart of an old warrior like Bowen.

    Lady Elinor – Tris’s beloved mom is in for a surprise reunion with a long lost love, who is a mild-mannered bookworm, or should I say, bookdragon.

    Princess Gillian – learned more magic and found romance outside the castle walls. I’m counting on her for spectacular displays of magic. It’s unfortunate that the plot is about lost magic so there’s barely any spells here. Gillian on the tower protecting the city is the most we got.

    Maddox – was pretty surly at first, but this summer dragon turned out to be a great love interest for the princess. His internal thoughts, a.k.a. grudges with Tristram, whom he has yet to meet, were amusing. Turns out they got along splendidly.

    Dragon – a cinnamon roll dragon in captivity. Rescue this sweet little soul now!

    This series gets better with each installment. The pace here is faster, the tension is tighter, and overall, more dynamic as new secrets are revealed and various groups are in motion, either as enemies, fugitives or rescuers.

    Woven through the already potent mix of court politics and dragon action are the romantic threads that give us more things to get hooked on. And there’s something for everyone. The main couple are Tristram and Bet, and their romance is giving me LIFE! Rhiannon and Sidone took theirs to another level. Gillian and Maddox are fantastic together after their initial antagonistic encounter.

    Overall, Fire and Valor hit its stride with The Prince’s Dragon. It had me in its grip from beginning to end. The intrigue, the romance, the adventure, this is more than just slow burn magic. This is a thrilling dragon ride!

    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: Hadaka no Yuusha
    Artist: Vaundy
    Album: Replica

    P.S.

    Fire and Valor should be read in order. Witness royals come and go, and dragons in and out of scales in The King’s Dragon.


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    REVIEW: Fool’s Gold by Ki Brightly & M.D. Gregory

    Fool’s Gold – Ki Brightly & M.D. Gregory

    The Bad Boy from the Trailer Park

    There are certain unwritten rules in the Lakeview Trailer Park, and number five is clear—No Gay Stuff.

    Ethan “Shep” Shepherd has grown up hiding his true self so he doesn’t get kicked out of the only home he knows, but that doesn’t mean he can’t dream of a better life with the beautiful man who lives across the river. As a criminal, Ethan knows Jonas is too good for him, but when another one of the trailer park guys decides to attack Jonas, Ethan steps in and changes the course of their lives.

    The Good Boy from the Religious Family
    Jonas Nomikos is trying to survive his parents and their conservative views until he gets to college, where he can finally be himself. It isn’t an easy task to pretend to be the son they want, and when his best friend tells the truth to Jonas’s parents, he’s sure his life is over. Until Ethan. Ethan gives him hope and makes him smile, and Jonas wants to be with him, even if it means saying goodbye to the only life he knows.

    The Road to Being Who They Are
    If Ethan and Jonas want to be together, they’ll need to make sacrifices. The journey to happiness is filled with surprises, and Ethan isn’t sure Jonas is ready to accept the reality of his life—which includes motorcycle clubs, breaking the law, and living payday to payday. Jonas might shock him, though.

    Fool’s Gold has a theme of overcoming prejudice and contains depictions of homophobia and discrimination, including scenes in a conversion camp. The authors do not condone homophobic behavior or discrimination of any kind.


    New Gothenburg is a sprawling New York-based universe created by writer duo Ki Brightly and M.D. Gregory. It spans a multitude of interconnected, though frequently standalone, books and series usually involving motorcycle clubs, mobsters, sex workers, and even lawyers and law enforcement officers.

    I have this vague urge to read all of them, but it’s a hit or miss. Many times, I am more enamored with the premise as the actual book left much to be desired. Then, there are times I struck gold.

    Fool’s Gold is one of those that panned out. And fabulously at that! This is also a standalone.

    It’s a new adult tale of the boy from the wrong side of tracks crushing on the boy on the right side. Ethan ‘Shep’ Shephard is a trailer park bad boy who rescued Jonas Nomikos from a thug. And that was how Ethan finally spent some time with his crush, whom he has been making heart eyes for years from across the river.

    Jonas is from an ultra-conservative Methodist family, his father the pastor. A friend outing him to his parents had him sent to a conversion therapy camp. And it sparked a series of events that led him and Ethan to crime, violence and unlikely allies.

    First, I really loved the YA-ish vibe of the book. It felt like I was reading a cute manga about high school boys and adorably awkward first love moments. The fluff is tempered by the more somber scenes of homophobic people doling out the don’ts and the cannot’s. Ethan and Jonas’s relationship is forbidden on both sides of the river.

    Second, the Good Omens dynamic never fails to make me swoon! Who doesn’t squee at bad boys who hate the world being soft for no one but their angelic boyfriends! Ethan is crazy about his angel and has no qualms giving anyone who hurt his Jonas their just desserts. Well, the bad guy got served his, and I was surprised, Jonas didn’t make much fuss given who it is and how it was given.

    Third, the duo’s writing was particularly effective here. Most of their books have BDSM-ish or daddy/boy relationships, and while I loved some of them, the rest are repetitive and cringey. Here, the relationship is between two older teens. The plot moved steadily, and there were no lulls at all. I loved the anticipation whenever Ethan and Jonas are about to meet or when Jonas did something unexpected.

    The darker second half was a suspenseful hunt for the missing Jonas, a fateful meeting with the notorious motorcycle club, Kings of Men, and a tender night of firsts. It was action-packed, exhilarating, and sweet, a roller-coaster of feels!

    Ethan being uber protective of Jonas and giving the big bad bikers attitude was endearing and amusing the way a puppy might snarl. Thing is, puppies are cute, yet their bite has more rabies. Ethan gathering an army and storming enemy camp was complete badass! Jonas riding in his sidecar is adorbs! This angel is not meant for the bitch seat.

    The only reason why this is not a 5-star read is because of one glaring error. There was a scene where Ethan and Jonas were chased by a rival biker, and Jonas dropped his cellphone. It was even mentioned it cracked or broke. Then some time after, they were chased by more bikers, and Jonas was magically trying to call the police using his phone. There were no mentions that he picked up his dropped phone beforehand.

    Fool’s Gold is a thrill ride, a swoony romance, and a blushy BL manga. It’s a story of forbidden love and a coming-of-age tale of two teenagers caught in a world of bad bikers and worse pastors. This has some dark moments, so heed the trigger warnings. All in all, genuinely brilliant!

    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: Gold
    Artist: Loi
    Album: Gold


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    REVIEW: Beloved By The Boss by Leighton Greene

    Morelli Family: Beloved By The Boss – Leighton Greene

    M/M Mafia Romance

    It’s good to be the Boss. That’s what I thought my whole life.

    Now I am the Boss. I’ll shoulder that responsibility with my beloved husband beside me. As long as I have Finch, I can handle whatever life throws at me.

    But what they say is true: Be careful what you wish for.

    My Family has been decimated. My allies are few. I’m holding onto power by a thread.

    And the truth is, my husband is more vulnerable than ever. He’s always been a lost soul, and now he’s suffered yet another crushing loss.

    I can’t protect him from Fate’s cruel blows. But I’m determined to protect him from our enemies, no matter what it takes—as soon as I get my own house in order.

    Because I’m starting to wonder if there’s a traitor in the Morelli Family…

    If I can’t even trust my own men, how can I keep my beloved safe?

    Beloved by the Boss is the sequel to Married to the Mobster, and is the second book in the Morelli Family Mafia Romance series.


    My mafia romance streak continues with Leighton Greene‘s Morelli Family. This series has one of my all-time favorite couples, Luca and Finch.

    Married To The Mobster, Book 1 of the series, was released in 2020, and since then, I’ve been waiting for the audiobooks. It wasn’t until last year that the author announced none other than the great Michael Ferraiuolo would be narrating, and I was ecstatic because his style suits the characters to a T!

    And it was a spot-on performance for Beloved by the Boss!

    In the first book, Luca was forced to marry Finch to save the young man’s life. Unknown to the mobster who forced the marriage, the two had a meet disaster that ended in a magical night and a separation of 5 years. Majority of the book, we see Luca putting Finch at arms length despite obviously worshipping the ground he walks on.

    Beloved by the Boss takes a 180-degree turn. Luca, now smarter and with his priorities straight, is the new Don Morelli struggling to gain the respect of his capos and other families. Finch is the center of his universe, and the two have Friday date nights and open communication. Luca is committed to putting Finch first, consequences be damned! And boy, were there consequences!

    The Commission, an organization overseeing all the Families, is calling Luca to explain Don Augustino Morelli’s death, along with the death of a made man from the rival Fuscone Family. The Morellis also had to find out who is snitching on them to the Fuscones. As if there’s not enough on their plate, the Donovans’, the Irish mob headed by Finch’s sister Maggie, appears to be working with their rival family.

    What I remembered most about Finch is that he is a fun character. He’s a sassy twink and a spoiled rich kid who “wilted like a lettuce left out the fridge” when he was forced to slum it (at that time, Luca was just a regular mafioso and wasn’t rich yet). Now, he’s still sassy and spoiled, and uses his considerable smarts as the unofficial consigliere.

    And because the humor was what I remembered most, I forgot how gritty this series could be. The story is told in dual POV. Luca’s POV showed his struggles as the new Morelli boss dealing with one major loss after another. Finch’s POV is all fun and games until the twists and turns slammed in! It was betrayal and death at every turn!

    It’s heart-breaking because most of the deaths and betrayals are connected to him directly and they hit him hard! Finch wasn’t just there to make saucy comments. He was also a grieving son, a reformed drug addict, a vulnerable target, and a mob boss’s husband trying to roll with the punches life and mobsters threw at him.

    Luca and Finch don’t know who to trust, not even those related by blood. I loved how the two went from strength to strength, working as a team because

    “When you want something done right–”
    “Do it with your husband,” I finished for him.

    Their romance is still as sizzling as ever, the chemistry even better now that Luca reveals an unexpectedly poetic side with his swoony lines. And it tickles me pink every time I hear him call Finch “baby bird” or “angel.”

    And it’s not just the chemistry. I also loved how they grew as a couple and as individuals. The scene where Luca surprised Finch at the wake spoke volumes about how well they knew each other and how far Luca will go just to be there when Finch needed him.

    I love reading about mafia politics and it was fascinating to see the Commission in action or the divide between the west and east coast families. The writing struck a good balance between humorous and dark, and between the action, romance, and suspense.

    The supporting cast stood out as well. Frankie and Celia have always been there, so I hope to see them in future books despite what happened (It was tragic and bittersweet). I’m excited for Angelo’s book and Aiden’s, too. One casualty gutted me because he was such great character, and I’m sorry we won’t be seeing him again.

    Beloved by the Boss is a compelling story of two men deeply entangled in marriage and the mafia. It is an almost perfect sequel to an entertaining mafia romance. I took away half star because it went on a bit too long. Overall, emotional, thrilling, and hella swoony!

    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: Fire On Up
    Artist: Paper Kings
    Album: Look At Me Now

    P.S.

    Morelli Family should be read in order. Witness the meet-disaster and Luca’s pining for his “baby bird” in Married To The Mobster.

    Also, the book models are perfect as blue-eyed devil Luca and golden-haired Finch!


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    One Line Reviews Of Some Books I Read This Year (July – December 2023)

    This is a round up of the books I read on the 2nd half of this year that I’m too lazy to do a full review.

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    REVIEW: Paid In Full by Brea Alepou & Skyler Snow

    Vitale Brothers: Paid in Full – Brea Alepou & Skyler Snow

    I’m used to my life being insanity. A family of a-holes, being locked up, and a few loose screws? Yeah anyone would go crazy. (Not that I am. I’m different, that’s all). My brothers say I’m the loose canon of the family. The truth is that I’m the life of the party!

    The party comes to a screeching halt when I meet Ash. Shy, younger, virgin. He’s everything I’m not attracted to. Give me an experienced partner anyday.

    But there’s something about him that makes me want to keep him. Maybe I want to stoke that fire I see in his eyes. Or maybe I’m just lonelier than I thought.

    Either way, he’s mine. Nobody, and I mean nobody, will take Ash away from me.

    (Blurb may change)
    Gritty M/M romance.


    Look at that cover and know that it is perfect. Wait till you get to the part why!

    Paid in Full is the second book of Vitale Brothers, a mafia romance series that stays true to its gritty promises. This stars Giancarlo Vitale, a.k.a. Gin, the next older brother to Enzo, the youngest and MC of Take Me Apart.

    While Enzo’s appeal lies in his eerie calmness and neat freak ways, Gin is the ex-con, the wild child, the life of the party, and the insatiable playboy who can charm the pants and panties off anyone. For some reason, the narrator, Declan Winters, gave him an accent (Bostonian? New York? Not sure) while his brothers speak in what to me is the standard American accent (sorry, not an accent expert). It might be confusing at first, but I loved how it suits Gin’s personality to a T.

    Initially, I considered the second book kind of a necessary hurdle to get to Benito’s book, which I am super excited about. But Gin and Ash surprised me, and I was completely hooked from the get go!

    The opening chapters immediately grabbed interest with Gin at a black market auction masquerading as a charity event. Up for auction is the wide-eyed, virgin son of a man who owes the Vitales money. Just to teach him a lesson, Gin bought Ash and let Ash’s abusive father pay the price to cover what he owed.

    Ash didn’t know what to do with his new owner because, frankly, the guy is crazy! The least he expected was an offer to let him buy his freedom through sex. But first, Gin has to teach him how. Our boy is a fast learner!

    Ash has been through the wringer, enduring beatings, forced to watch other people being abused as psychological torture, and always been told he was good for nothing so he might as well be sold as a slave. Most of the sexual abuses weren’t graphic and are off-page, but the violence and torture are on-page (check the trigger warnings).

    Here comes Gin, an unlikely comfort and a giver of tough love who challenges Ash to be angry, to stand up for himself, to be himself. He is exactly what Ash needs. The best part is when Ash harnesses his big dick energy, and yes, you can take that literally, and unleashes his inner beast.

    I totally didn’t see this dynamic coming, but OMG, they’re fantastic! Gin and Ash were fun and amusing together. Gin is full of stupid jokes and dumb ideas. He made me laugh! He’s big, dominant and possessive, and lets Ash go to town on his ass. Ash is an endearing cinnamon roll, innocent as a puppy, as Gin likes to call him, and always eager to please. Then a switch flicks, and our boy is in control!

    One of Gin’s ideas:

    “Gin, I’m ready to go.”

    “I can practically see a tail wagging.” Gin’s dark brown eyes lit up. “Ash, pull your pants down and wag your dick for me.”

    “What? No.”

    It’s not all fun and games. There are demons to conquer. Blackmailing fathers, evil human traffickers, PTSD, panic attacks, and massive trust issues create conflict and drive wedges, leading to one of the most heart-breaking scenes in the series. That’s why the cover slays!

    Paid in Full is a story of dysfunctional families, complicated relationships, unspeakable crimes and invaluable lessons on how to grow a spine. The uncommon dynamics, the humor and heart-warming moments balance out the darker, bloodier scenes. Overall, intense, wild, and totally worth it!

    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: Worth the Fight
    Artist: Broods
    Album: Conscious

    P.S.

    Vitale Brothers books can be read as standalones but why miss out on the Vitale charms? Let Enzo Vitale show you how to own a cop and keep him too in Take Me Apart.


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    REVIEW: Proper Scoundrels by Allie Therin

    Roaring Twenties Magic: Proper Scoundrels – Allie Therin

    Don’t miss this standalone spin-off in Allie Therin’s acclaimed Magic in Manhattan universe!

    Their scandalous pasts have left them wounded and unworthy—and hopelessly perfect together.

    London, 1925

    Sebastian de Leon is adjusting to life after three years spent enthralled by blood magic. The atrocities he committed under its control still weigh heavily on his conscience, but when he’s asked to investigate a series of mysterious murders, it feels like an opportunity to make amends. Until he realizes the killer’s next likely target is a man who witnessed Sebastian at his worst—the Viscount Fine.

    Lord Fine—known as Wesley to his friends, if he had any—is haunted by ghosts of his own after serving as a British army captain during the Great War. Jaded and untrusting, he’s tempted to turn Sebastian in, but there’s something undeniably captivating about the reformed paranormal, and after Sebastian risks his own life to save Wesley’s, they find common ground.

    Seeking sanctuary together at Wesley’s country estate in Yorkshire, the unlikely pair begins to unravel a mystery steeped in legend and folklore, the close quarters emboldening them to see past the other’s trauma to the person worth loving beneath. But with growing targets on their backs, they’ll have to move quickly if they want to catch a killer—and discover whether two wounded souls can help each other heal.


    Proper Scoundrel is the first book of Roaring Twenties Magic, Allie Therin‘s latest paranormal historical romance series. It’s set in the same world as her acclaimed Magic in Manhattan series, also narrated by the always fantastic Joel Froomkin, a.k.a. Joel Leslie. The author excels at creating fade-to-black squee-tastic romances, like my favorite, Liar City.

    I came into Proper Scoundrels blind, knowing only that this is a historical romance, so I was pleasantly surprise to learn magic is involved here. I highly recommend reading Magic in Manhattan first because the events in that series are heavily referenced here. I was scrambling a bit to piece together the events because early on, the names, concepts, and happenings were mentioned as if the reader is already familiar. Also, it might be spoilerish.

    Sebastian de Leon, of the renowned magical de Leon clan, is searching for a killer. The de Leons are guardians of magical artifacts, one of which was stolen and reportedly in the hands of the person committing the murders. The next person on the killer’s list is Lord Fine, who was friends with benefits with the MC of Magic in Manhattan.

    As far as the murder mystery goes, the mastermind is practically a given because you can suss out right away the moment they appear on page and very early in the story too. It was a matter of watching things unfold and come together in the action-packed climax. The fun is in watching Sebastian and his friends use their specialized magical skills during the investigation.

    While I live for spectacular magical displays, I also love that the magic isn’t always bombastic explosions. There’s the bad guy Jack Mercier and his pyrokinesis, and there’s also Sebastian’s cousin, Isabelle, with her magical paintings and tattoos. They’re the kind that stays hidden or unnoticed unless you know where to look.

    There’s ex-spy Jade and her telekinesis, very handy in a many situations, and her scholarly boyfriend, Zhang Wei’s astral projection, very useful in spying. I love worlds like these because they always make me imagine what kind of magic I’ll have if I am a character in the story.

    Sebastian’s magic is considered one of the most dangerous among paranormals. He can cancel any magic, and he can also affect normal people by absorbing their auras. Of course, this adorable man has to be a fluffy sunshiny marshmallow who beats himself up for crimes he’s forced to commit under the control of the blood magic.

    Lord Fine is a grumpy, cynical bastard who hates the world and loves only the fluffy marshmallow, Sebby. This trope is one of the swooniest tropes in Romancelandia, and while Wesley and Sebastian weren’t the most squee-tastic couple, their chemistry was sparks and fireworks!

    Watching Wesley’s character grow was a joy to witness! My favorite Wesley moments are him with absolutely no magic in his blood cockily taking on the high-level paranormals with just his wits and a gun. Peak Wesley moment is threatening to shoot Powder Puff, his 70-year-old neighbor’s dog, to make marshmallow Sebby spill his guts. This was when they were still enemies. Cold. Stone cold.

    Proper Scoundrels is an enchanting historical paranormal murder mystery centering around an international group of friends who keeps the world safe. It’s also a cute grumpy+sunshine romance between a sharp-shooting viscount and the cinnamon roll scion of an old magical family. All in all, thoroughly spellbinding, swoony, and fun!

    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: Before You Came
    Artist: Autoheart
    Album: I Can Build a Fire


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    REVIEW: Gloam by Lily Mayne

    Monstrous: Gloam – Lily Mayne

    When a strange woman shows up outside our camp in the Wastes with monsters chained up to her RV, it feels like I’m the only one who actually wants to help them.

    That big, grey-skinned monster with the cage on his head and the chain hanging from his back—something is telling me I need to help him. I need to free him. But I have absolutely no idea how I’m supposed to do that, especially when he can’t even talk to me to tell me how.

    Collector Mary is finally leaving our camp to head back to her monster menagerie, so I do the only thing I can think of to help him. I go with her.

    Now, this big beastie and I are traveling companions for the foreseeable future. Now I just have to think of a way to get that cage off his head, which seems like an impossible task. But I’m not giving up. He has no one else, and when I start to discover who he is beneath the cage, my motivation to free him becomes far more than just a desire to help.

    This is so dangerous. The military is lurking. Vicious monsters are lurking. And when Mary turns out to be even worse than we could have ever imagined, my desperate bid to save this monster turns into a deadly game of cat and mouse.

    I’m pretty sure I’m going to die out here.

    Gloam is Book Four of the Monstrous series, a post-apocalyptic m/m fantasy series that features monsters and human men falling in love. It is best to read the series in order. Warning: This m/m love story contains explicit sexual content and is not suitable for young readers. It also contains graphic depictions of torture and violence.


    Monstrous, Lily Mayne‘s brilliant post-apocalyptic series continues the trek through the monster-ridden wastelands of America with Book 4, Gloam.

    Gloam started with a thirsty young raider, Rig, lusting over the muscles of a huge, grey-skinned monster chained to an RV with a cage over his head. The antoran, along with two other beasties, were captives of a sinister human named Collector Mary. Feeling sorry for the big guy, Rig set out to free the beastie, and he was prepared to take all the risks, including leaving the raider camp and going with Collector Mary.

    We know Rig from Book 3, The Rycke, as Ghost’s impulsive best friend. He’s the camp’s mechanic, good at fixing stuff, hence the name. Rig is also naive and doesn’t have much experience outside the camp, so I was looking forward to see how our boy survives the Wastes.

    Risking his life, limb, and sanity, Rig’s pursuit to free Gloam took him through the Wastes, cannibal cults, the military, Mary’s vile thoughts, and more monsters. It was an adventure as exciting and suspenseful as the others, if a bit less action-packed. The story focused more on building Gloam and Rig’s relationship, which developed beautifully.

    At the heart of it all is a pure-hearted young man who is very determined to do the right thing because nobody, not even beasties, deserves to be abused. What gripped me the most was that Rig broke down, bawled like a baby, and blubbered like an idiot, but never, ever stopped trying to free Gloam. Even before Gloam could talk to him, and even before falling in love with the beastie! Our boy is a fluffy marshmallow with a core of steel!

    Gloam spent most of the story unable to speak, but Rig deviced a clever way for them to communicate. The big beastie might be super brawny, but he’s also surprisingly cultured and scholarly. His voice really showed off that gentle side of him! I recommend audiobooking this and the other books because Michael Lesley is giving us his best voices in this series!

    I loved the big guy! Gloam is one of the sweetest characters in the entire series who kept his innate goodness intact despite being betrayed by his own family, and forced to do the worst, most stomach-churning tasks by his captors, like impaling people in spits while still alive. He didn’t even seek revenge! Gloam has a calming energy that grounds Rig. They are a perfect match!

    There are some loose threads that I hope the author will pick up in future books. Something needs to be done about the cannibal cult! These are the assholes who forced Gloam to do the above-mentioned crime. I hope Samson, the reluctant cult member, gets his own book or will be able to escape. He’s another good guy trapped in a hellish situation. I hope we meet the intriguing beasties from Mary’s menagerie again.

    Gloam is an emotional tale of determination and kindness, a rousing dystopian adventure, and a tender romance that beat the odds. Overall, a moving portrait of the worst and best of humans and monsters.

    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: Run Wild
    Artist: John Tibbs
    Album: Dead Man Walking

    P.S.

    Monstrous should be read in order. Fall in love with the cinnamon roll monster and their adorable humans.
    Soul Eater
    Edin
    The Rycke
    Wyn


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    GLOAM: Kindle | Audiobook

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